Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What's your inspiration?

As a GM, I have found that, since I first entered this hobby, books have been my primary inspiration. As a voracious reader since age 5 or so, it's only natural that this would be the case, and RPGs are a very adaptable framework to hang those inspirations from.

But I can't help but wonder: if I were, instead, primarily a movie buff, historian, video gamer, or so on, if those would have influenced my games more, and how much different would they have been.

What's your primary gaming inspiration, and how do you think that affects your hobby differently from other inspirations?


  1. I get inspiration from many sources, books (fiction and nonfiction), movies, documentaries, historical rights and general travel. I find things mixing is more inspirational than any one source. E.g. A trip to Chicago plus "The World After Us" plus a blog review of "Coming of the Horseclans" inspired a couple of campaign ideas.

    One of the best inspirations ever was from a Barry Mantilow song. My players still wince when they hear it and it's been almost 15 years.

  2. @Derek "One of the best inspirations ever was from a Barry Mantilow song"

    I winced just reading that. I hope it wasn't "Copa Cabana" ;)

    A member of my high school group DM'd a one-off based on Eagles' "Hotel California". Kinda cool, actually.

  3. Mostly books, notably Leiber above all others.

  4. I get my ideas from a mix of media really; books, movies/tv, and pictures.

    At the moment my inspiration is based on three books, one on medieval life, one on Victorian life, and one on Steampunk.

  5. Books, primarily. Comic books, movies, and fantasy art follow after--probably in that order.

  6. Hm, I'll have to go with a mixed approach. Books for sure but also comic books, music and art. Movies and TV provide surprisingly lesser influence (except for way back in my 80's gaming heyday when we based a Top Secret campaign on Miami Vice - hehehe).

  7. Novels & histories of course, but more than that stories my grandmother (and other old ladies) told me. A lot of old folks will tell you some really fantastic stuff if you can get them talking, especially in rural areas.

    Deviantart & Music (Johnny Cash / Outlaw Country, lately). Movies & TV really only for the costuming & set design, whether Deadwood or Excalibur. Hell, even Xena works for that.

  8. Books are a constant, but I am a huge movie buff as well and would be lying if I did not admit that the classic James Bond films (Connery - Moore - Brosnan era) have been a major inspiration. The idea of journeying from locale to exotic locale seeking clues to defeat an ultimate villain hiding in a secret lair has influenced my campaign design principles more than any other text.

  9. Drinking. I find that just the right amount of booze puts me in a very creative mood.

  10. I'm not sure if I can explain it well, but I am inspired by the way I felt when I first discovered games in '82. When I sit down to work on my city ofr Labyrinth Lord I ask, "What kinds of things did we do and what did we see back in the day? What made me happy? What did I hate?"

    Elements that pop up are things like a surly dwarf willing to fist fight, just to see if you are worthy enough to have a conversation with, mysterious NPCs, coins sewn into the lining of a cloak, mysterious shadows dancing around your torches.

    So yeah, I just get in the Way Back Machine and polish the rough bits off the 80s.

  11. Books nearly exclusively. However, I do draw quite a few influences from history, but the only way to learn history is... books. Howard, Lovecraft, and the Roman Empire are my main draw-ons these days.

  12. I guess I consider myself a mythopoeic magpie: fiction, history, mythology, art, animation, music, parks, zoos, you name it, I'll rummage through it for the shiny bits. I find myself enjoying lots of things on two levels: the ordinary level and the eye out for something I can use level.

  13. Books. I devour fantasy, sci-fi, horror and weird fiction and have done so since childhood.

  14. Two words: quest coordinators.

    I started playing CRPGs at the same time I started playing tabletop games. I read plenty of historical novels, so my plots were pretty advanced compared to the CRPGs of old, but one thing carried over and remained constant: the concept of a quest coordinator. The party had to agree who they were working for, and going against that person was unthinkable.

    (Similarly, no one expected a betrayal from the coordinator, unless he were replaced by a doppelganger or mind controlled or the like.) It was never stated explicitly, but everyone understood that without that one guy there would be no quests and no game.

    Aside from this metagame realization, the coordinator held no power over the PCs. He or she was typically a person of some renown (a knight commander, a resistance leader, a sage) but never someone of great personal power who could order the PCs around. Like the tour manager of a rock group. The PCs were always volunteers. Theoretically, they could walk away from a quest - but who in their right mind would?

  15. As a kid, I was sold on Dungeons and Dragons when I made the realization that I could play Link from the Legend of Zelda games and have him adventure through Middle Earth. Plus, the first time I ever saw the ADnD rules was playing Pool of Radiance. So, video games have figured into my tabletop games pretty much the whole time.

    When I ran DnD in grade school, my inspiration was pretty evenly split between video games and books. Amazingly, despite all of us being fans of the Final Fantasy games, I don't think that airships ever made an appearance.

    Mainly, I remember most of my campaigns starting with the characters all being foot soldiers in the closing days of some war, giving me a chance to introduce the world 'on rails' before they made any decisions about where to go and what to do. That, I'm fairly certain, was something I borrowed from the games I was playing - at that point, it seemed like a lot of console rpgs opened up with main characters in that position. There were probably other things as well, but that's the single biggest trope that I know I got from video game inspiration. At the same time, I know I lifted characters and villainous schemes whole cloth from various books I read.

    I don't run games any more, and, admittedly, don't play video games as much as I used to. Inspiration now is limited to characters I make, and comes from books and movies - and, on some occasions, music. (Not every character *needs* a theme song or a play list, but sometimes, there is one that's particularly appropriate.)

  16. As a kid, I had difficulty reading, so I gravitated towards movies, cartoons, video games and comic books. Many of them shaped my view of fantasy in my early years of gaming. The 80s was full of fantasy movies, like Conan and all their clones, Willow, Krull, and so on. Cartoons at the time also liked to use fantasy themes, even if its a sci-fi show, like Thundercats, Thundarr, and even G.I.Joe and Transformers. As a fan of anime, back when it was called "Japanimation", I find a number of shows that are vary inspirational. A comic that stood out to me at that time, was Elf Quest, although my step-father - who introduced me to D&D and Japanimation - also had a lot of "mature" graphic novels (Epic, Eclipse, Warren, and such) lying around, and meany where fantasy. For video games, Legend of Zelda was a major source of inspiration, with its thick and informative booklet, unique creates, and a huge world full dangers and mysteries.

    As I got older, I started reading more, and I gravitated to ANYTHING fantasy. I really enjoyed D&D, and I wanted to be inspired. Eventually, all the bland tolkienesque fantasy got really old. Discovering REH's classic Conan (and other works) changed my outlook on that I always thought was just a simpleminded brute. I have been looking around the internet for classic years from the pulp years. I have also learn to embrace technology in my fantasy, thanks to Gamma World.

    When I first discovered Gamma World (1st ed), I did not think too much about it. I was too "Hard Si-fi", and it was too campy. Then I learn to love the camp, and I became a huge fan. I go out of my way to find inspirational material for my GW games. I have not found too much with books (A Princess of Mars, West of Eden, The Lost Continent), but I found a lot with cartoons (Thundarr, Heavy Metal, Light Years), movies (Zardoz, Damnation Ally, Omaga Man), and comic books (Kamandi, Mighty Sampson, Axa, Heavy Metal, and lots of obscure titles).

    Lately, I have been in a classic Cyberpunk mood. I first got my foot wet with Shadowrun, but I never liked all the D&D elements, so I ignored the genre for years (The Lawnmower Man did not help my mood ether). I then discovered Cybperpunk 2020, and I fen in love with all that 80's glam rock style, and hard-edged outlook. With this genre, there are a lot of inspiration! Even from unlikely places; A Clockwork Orange, .hack//, Solarbabies - yes, they are all mostly movies, but I would not have made any connection before reading CP2020. Then again, I Google "Patrick Nagel", "Hajime Sorayama", and "Jem and the Holograms" for ideas on the styles for the setting.

  17. My inspiration is very different: books, movies, music, pictures, games,...

    Everything of strange, fantastic and science fiction material inspires me for my rpg-worlds.

    But I love documentations of ancient history, astronomy, science and so on.

    For my two main world I made some influence maps with the main inspirational points for this worlds. It helps to visualize the world for your own goals and your gamers for the feeling.



  18. @Logan - those "influence maps" are pretty compelling. Are those from some sort of online template?

  19. These days, hands down, it;s blogs.

    Players are often inspirational. Movies too. Books don't stick with me like the visual/audibles of movies. So aren't as useful.

  20. Orientalist art, Fortean Times, Riven.

  21. Great topic, and an interesting question.

    My main inspirations come from history, pulp fantasy books (Conan, et al), and other RPG campaign settings.

    You can check out my blog series on "inspirations" for my homebrew campaign world with these two first posts:

    World History

    The World of Conan

    Some other inspirations can be found by searching with the "Inspirations" tag here.


  22. That's an excellent question.

    My main sources of inspiration are myth and legend, in the broadest possible sense. So, besides the things you'd expect include in that superhero comics, Theosophical writings, Forteana, urban legend collections, The Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone, and swords & sorcery and other pulp fiction.

  23. @Al: Sorry for the late answer!
    I found the template for the influence maps at Deviant Art. Here is the original one:

    The original idea is that artist show their influence on this maps, but I thought this would be a nice idea for world builders and rpg design. If some will ask you "Hey! What's your world/campaign setting look like?", than you can shown him the influence map.

    Pictures can say more than 1,000 words! ;)



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