This month’s RPG Carnival, hosted by Campaign Mastery, is all about inspiration. Most role-playing books are designed to provide ideas and kernels of genius, but the activity is that one of those that seems to benefit by mixing and matching a variety of sources. When it comes to a creative endeavor as dynamic and syncretic as role-playing has the potential to be, it often pays to look outside the mental hamster wheels on which hobbyists can run.
I don’t make any bones about the sources I draw from. Citing sources not only helps readers, but myself, because sometimes I may forget where I first encountered a particular idea and have to go hunting for the original to check a fact.
- Paranormal podcasts, namely EERIE Radio and The Paracast, provide a lot of ammunition for horror adventures or incidents of high weirdness to insert in any game as needed. Frequent readers of Held Action will recognize those two shows are frequent sources for the plot seeds I like to generate.
- Doctor Who has long been a source of inspiration for me, and not just in running games deriving directly from the concept. The serial cliffhanger structure is something I like to emulate in my campaigns, closing each session with some kind of plot twist, reversal or impending threat. Doctor Who‘s also a great place to look for inspiration in making the ordinary unnerving: the Autons became synonymous with shop window dummies, for instance, and my personal favorite is the revelation that Egyptian mummies are echoes of Osiran servitor robots — and when you think about it, in the context of the Doctor Who universe, pharaohs underwent the mummification process in order to become like the servants of the Osirans.
- Books. Okay, yes, well, certainly books. But which ones? All of them. Any idea or throwaway reference that catches my attention is likely to give me the start to an adventure or element to throw into the campaign world. For instance, I just finished reading Jim Dodge‘s Stone Junction, about a sort of anarchist conspiracy, the Alliance of Magicians and Outlaws, that could cheerfully drop into any number of settings in which I’d like to run adventures.
- It’s not a Held Action list without an odd man out. Kenneth Hite’s Suppressed Transmission columns are a superb mine of the weird and wonderful to work into any role-playing game. Being intended for role-players, Suppressed Transmission doesn’t quite fit the carnival’s remit, but it’s so awesome, I’ll list it anyway.