Finding Inspiration for Your Next Game

This should go without saying, but we gamers are very fond of creating stories; that is why we play games, is it not? Unless you are one of the hyper-creative types that can literally build a story from nothing, chances are something sparked your creativity. This article is a look as some of the sources the Rolling Boxcars team regularly uses to inspire our creativity.

Podcasts – Audio drama podcasts are a rich source of inspiration. You can easily take a drama’s premise and weave it into a new story or “hack” the drama into your next game’s story, but make sure you find the right ruleset to use with it. Audio dramas are just one type of inspirational podcast we use, just about any podcast can spark the creative process. Modoc is currently working on a new Ten Candles RPG story arc that is using an ongoing audio drama as the basis for his upcoming game.

Comic Books – This area of geek culture is perfect for finding your next inspirational idea. There are obviously lots of superhero plots to inspire but indie comics offer a broader range of inspirational ideas. Indie comics cover every literary genre from love stories to slasher horror and everything in between. There is no shortage of creativity to read and, thus, to find inspiration in.

Books – Books are the quintessential source of inspiration for many of our games. Whether it be a fantasy, Sci-Fi, or some other genre of fiction, we can all easily find inspiration within the pages of our favorite books. One area of literature that we all use that is often overlooked by many is non-fiction. Using non-fiction as a source of inspiration is something all of us excel at. It’s a fantastic experience to take a historical event or known truth and adapt it to the game table. Even if our players are familiar with the facts surrounding a historical event, the creative process will twist it enough to keep them on their toes. Our horror-themed games are routinely inspired by works of non-fiction. Our Call of Cthulhu games are a great example of taking historical events and using them as inspiration for an investigation.

Movies – Movies are an excellent source of inspiration for many gamemasters. We have been to know to take plots threads from some of our favorite films and weave them into one-shot games. Like with books, there is never a shortage of inspirational ideas with movies.

Art – We can’t overlook works of art. For centuries, works of art have been used to provoke and inspire others, we use art as a source of inspiration for the tabletop as well. One amazing example within the industry is the roleplaying game Tales from the Loop. The game itself was inspired by an art book by Swedish artist Simon Stålenhag. We, as gamemasters, find inspiration in the artwork we see in game books, literary sources, and on the internet. It’s not a source we overlook.

Music – Music is a very often overlooked source of gaming inspiration, but oddly enough, it’s one of the first things mentioned when talking about old school fantasy games. “This game is so metal!” is a common phrase in OSR communities. While I can’t cite a specific instance where any of us used a song as an inspirational spark, I can say we all have our favorite tunes to listen too while we are working on game material. So, in a sense, music is integral to our creative process. Post World Games went so far as to create a story roleplaying game called Holy Diver where characters and events are drawn from the lyrics of Ronnie James Dio.

The World Around Us – The world around us is a veritable gold mine of inspiration. We have found the spark of creativity in simple trips to the bookstore, the reading of a news article, seeing something happen on the street while out shopping or driving around town, or even while having a conversation over dinner. Creative sparks don’t always have to come from literary sources, but we need to be mindful of them to recognize them for what they are. In recognizing them, when they happen, we can use them to weave wonderful stories for our players to enjoy.

So, where do you find inspiration? Comment below and let us know; we’re always looking for new ideas and sources of great inspiration.

~ Team Rolling Boxcars

Follow Modoc on Twitter at @DM_Modoc
Follow Stephen on MeWe, or on Twitter at @DadsAngry
Follow Daniel on Twitter at @DStack1776
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