The Sincerest Form of Flattery by Sean Murphy

by Sean Murphy

Most game masters at some point or another struggle to find ideas for their scenarios or campaigns.   More specifically, they know they will be able to spin colorful stories or cast dire portends once they get the basic story in place.  In this piece, we will talk about the best way to borrow from others and how to best do it.

If a piece of work appeals to you, chances are that you can bring it into your game.  The first step is to identify what appealed to you about that story in the first place.   Did you enjoy the tension as the teenagers made their way through the haunted house in a horror movie?  Try to isolate what made you sit at the end of your seat – the lack of light, the strange noises in the dark, the gothic interior.  You want to identify the specific aspects of the story that spoke to you and figure out how to apply them to whatever genre you are currently playing.   The villain in that spy thriller could easily be the next nemesis for your players in a fantasy game if you can key into what connected to you in the first place.   I recently purchased a book because I randomly opened a page and read one line: “And she never saw him again.”  I really want to find a way to bring that kind of foreshadowing into my next game, whatever the setting.

Once you have pulled out the critical elements of the plot, characters, or setting that interest you, now you will roll them around in your head to put in your own spin on it.  This step is important for two reasons.  First, any story you create should come from you.  In the same way I always modify a published scenario to fit my tastes, you’ll want to do the same with someone else’s creations.  Second, you never know if your players will have seen the same book or film and it is hard to pull off a twist ending if someone has already experienced it.  Even after I’ve contorted a story plot a good distance from where it began, I’ll often have a player say “That reminded me of…..”.  I have a pretty good idea of what media my weekly player groups consume but in a convention setting you never know who is going to sit at your table.   Sure, that issue of Conan may have been published 40 years ago but in this digital world the player sitting next to you might have downloaded just last week.

As a final note, it probably goes without saying but if you are going appropriate someone else’s work it should only be for private entertainment.  You don’t want a situation where you put your “brand new work” on the internet and get a cease-and-desist order from a media company trying to defend their intellectual property rights.   Now go out there and figure out how to bring the elements of your favorite episode of Battlestar Galactica or the latest book by Stephen King into your D&D game.

Media Inspiration: Stranger Things 2 by Matt Wheeler

The Review:

The Duffer Brothers tread a lot of familiar ground in Stranger Things Season 2: a geeky kid and he's in mortal peril, threatened by a supernatural being from The Upside-Down; his mom erects an elaborate DIY project in her living room to help him out; the only people with any real idea about how to stop the monster are the kids who've read the Monster Manual. I did worry that perhaps the Duffer Brothers were running out of ideas already. I hope that is not the case, because overall, I really liked the sequel season, even if some of its tropes were already feeling a little tired. It would be easy to say that season 2 is a weaker version of season 1, but somehow (save for a handful of moments) it all seems to work.

As Inspiration:

What makes Stranger Things 2 really work is the villain. The “Mind Flayer” is a looming presence in the background, pulling the strings and affecting the world from afar. That the monster is some 10 story tall spider in The Upside-Down is as irrelevant as it is far from the normal physical manifestation of its namesake squid headed abomination. What is important is that it is  a very real presence that looms over the protagonists and all they do. Take notes: your big bad villain need not ever be physically present to mess with and scare the characters. Your big bad villain doesn't even need to speak. But if so, how do the protagonists understand how to undermine your villain's plans and ultimately defeat them? Perhaps wisdom passed down through the ages or found in a dusty book in someone's basement. Stranger Things 2 provides much that can be mined for how to present such a threat to your PCs.

Welcome to our Blog

Welcome to our Blog!

Just the Beginning

Hey gang, great news! We’ve got a great new blog starting up where we will try to get a gaming article to you all every week or so. Our very own published author and Game Master, Ian Eller, will be heading the project along with our Media Vixen, Johanna Legault.

There will be hints and ideas to make your gaming experiences better written by our very own Game Masters and staff! Every week a different one of our crew will pen some cool info about their own experiences, about ideas for games, plot points, world creation, all kinds of stuff. We hope to have something to interest everyone!

We hope you enjoy our new blog, please feel free to give us some feedback, we welcome the discourse and discussion!

Thanks, Scott