Campaign Inspiration

Growing up I was never interested in fantasy books. I could not stand them. To this day I still find them difficult to read. In my minds eye I know what a dragon is supposed to look like and how it’s supposed to act. I never really thought much more about it. It was just one of those things that was.

When I got into Dungeons & Dragons I was caught off guard when it came to creating a campaign. My knowledge of medieval history and fantasy was poor at best. (I still think it is quite poor) I have an image in my mind of what a heroic knight looks like and how he would act. But this one sided, almost two dimensional view does not allow for great game play.

So I have started to look for campaign inspiration everywhere I can.

Rule Books
I think this is a good place to start. It doesn’t matter what the setting is of your game. The core rule books of any Roll Playing Game should have enough information within their pages to point you in the right direction. I try to go back often to re-read my my core rule books.

Dungeon Masters and Friends
If I have learned anything it’s don’t be afraid to ask for help. You don’t know everything. You can always learn, and learning from other people is always a great idea. I have a couple of veteran Dungeon Masters and just some good friends who I chat with about adventures that I am planning. I can pick their brains on how to make my games better and ask them for advice.

Game Modules
Games like Dungeons & Dragons have free and pay-for game modules. A pre-built adventure. These are not only good for people like me who’s knowledge is some what limited. It’s also good for people who don’t have alot of time to sit and plan out an adventure. They generally include all the monster stats, maps and background information you will need to run the adventure. Cutting down on your prep time.

One thing I have been doing lately has been buying old school Dungeon & Dragon modules from Amazon.com. Adventures like the “Tomb of Horrors” and “Expedition to the Barrier Peaks” that I use for their story ideas more then anything. (Expedition to the Barrier Peaks was used with great success in a flash back game recently)

Fantasy Books

God I hate fantasy books. I hate them with the passion of a thousand burning suns. For me it’s as painful as listening to a Lenny Kravitz album. With that said, I am currently trying to read the first DragonLance book. As much as I hate the book and hate reading it I have managed to pull and use some great ideas from the book and I am not even done reading it yet!

Where does the inspiration for your campaigns come from? Where do you get all your wonderful ideas for adventures? What helps you the most when you have to figure out what happens next? Please let us know by posting a comment. We would love to hear from you.

6 thoughts on “Campaign Inspiration”

  1. Maybe if you tried some actually good fantasy books, instead? To these ears your complaint sounds like "I hate Mexican food with a white-hot passion, but I'm choking down some Taco Bell to get some recipes for a Mexican meal I want to prepare for my friends."
    .-= Joshua Macy´s last blog ..Kapow! Playtesting Continues =-.

  2. Youseph, I think your fresh perspective on gaming is a blessing… You get to enjoy it with fresh eyes. When I discovered gaming, specifically D&D, I had read Tolkien and some other fantasy and sci-fi books, but I began playing D&D and almost immediately discovered Dragonlance. It was a BIG influence on my teenage mind, and I went on to Salvatore and other D&D inspired novels. Salvatore I did not like too much even back then and I pretty soon gave up on the TSR novels. I think many of those novels are poor examples of fantasy literature, with some notable exceptions. Even Dragonlance which I liked so much I can not really take anymore. I think Weiss and Hickman are great at creating characters and describing a setting but not all of their novels are good. For me it’s a mixed bag with them. I enjoyed Weiss’ Star of the Guardian series and the Death Gate Cycle novels.

    I must admit I gave up on fantasy for many years. Know this may be heretical, but even Tolkien has lost some of his magic for me. I’d rather see the movies than re-read the books! (I can hear the townsfolk approach with their torches and pitchforks…) However there is some good fantasy out there, George RR Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire has been excellent overall. The last book not so much and I’ve come to terms with the idea I may never read the end of the story.

    I think modules and campaign settings are a great idea at getting the baseline feel for D&D campaigns which is often very different from fantasy novels. I think nowadays movies and electronic games are also great inspirations.

    Something I used to do was look at fantasy paintings and tell a story about that painting or character and weave that into a game and use the art for reference during the session. I used to buy a lot of artist’s trading cards in the early 90’s for this, but this is much easier now thanks to the internet.

    Thanks for that post! Best of luck…

  3. For the love of God, don't read the Dragonlance books first if you already hate reading fantasy. They aren't that well written compared to a lot of books out there. I loved them when I was in high school…20 years ago. I tried re-reading them again and it was painful. Look around for some other good books. I have really enjoyed Raymond Feist's earlier books, but I don't know if even they would stand up now. George R.R. Martin is great, but not for a real magic moderate or heavy campaign. I enjoyed the Jim Butcher "Codex Alera" books and I highly recommend Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy as well as his stand alone novel, Elantris.

    In fact, stay away from the D&D books for the most part. There are a few good ones, but I have noticed that they don't always have the highest standards and I wouldn't want you to slog through lots of bad books and lower your opinion of fantasy novels even more.

  4. @Joshua, Yeah I think you might have nailed it on the head. Though I have yet to read any fantasy books that I really enjoyed (With the exception of Piers Anthony’s Mode series), so I just don’t know where to start looking for good fantasy.

    @Sunglar, Thank you. You know I love playing D&D with people who have never played before because they are more willing to think outside the box. Also thank you for your book suggestions. I will have to check them out.

    @Casey, Thank you so much for your advice and suggestions. I will give them a shot.

  5. Oddly enough, I don't often turn to games for inspiration on games. Rulebooks and modules can occasionally inspire, but more often I find I get better inspiration from other sources:

    Media. If I'm running sci-fi, I'll watch some Deep Space Nine or Babylon 5 or the like. If I'm running fantasy, it's a bit harder, but I'll find a good historical epic or crib from a favorite series.

    Books. Again, I often like to turn outside of genre for ideas on the genre. I've had some great results this way. Reading up on mythology, folklore, and history provided far more inspiration for my urban fantasy game than poring through gamebooks or urban fantasy novels would have.

    Art. Browsing Deviantart or art threads on discussion forums has inspired many, many games and characters. I can get more from an evocative piece of art than half a dozen uninspired modules. (I'm not saying all modules are uninspired, of course.)

    Music. Putting on an appropriate soundtrack and letting my imagination go wild for a bit often inspires me. I've gotten inspiration from lyrics as well — my current campaign was heavily inspired by the lyrics from a pop song.

    Great post — oh, and I would like to join the chorus discouraging the reading of the Dragonlance books… they're pretty bad. I have no idea what your tastes are like, but I'd recommend Glen Cook's Black Company or Dread Empire series, or Greg Keyes' The Born Queen, or Scott Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora. Cheers.
    .-= Daniel Swensen´s last blog ..Collaborative Campaigning: When Player Input Attacks =-.

  6. @Daniel, Thank you very much for your comment. Your ideas sound great and I will have to give them a try. I will also look into your book recommendations. Thank you!
    .-= Youseph´s last blog ..Appholes =-.

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