April 11th, 2011 | Add a Comment
I wanted to take a minute to talk about inspiration, adaptation, and organization. Have you ever seen a show or movie and thought it would make a great game? Well there are definitely ways to make that happen. It really all comes down to adapting it well and keeping yourself organized in such a way to make it easy to do. In one of my previous articles I mentioned my ideas notebooks that I keep for my various games, I’m going to show you how to create your own so you can create some fun and unique stories for your players to enjoy.
While creativity is fantastic, and I don’t mean to hinder that at all, as we get older we gain lots of new responsibilities. It almost seems to happen on a daily basis. With work, family, chores, television, internet, computers, and all the other little distractions and interruptions that take hold of our lives it becomes incredibly difficult to dedicate a decent amount of time to sit down and prepare for a game. If you want a good game and want to put some real effort into designing encounters or props, you generally can’t put as much time or energy into crafting the story in great detail. So, a great way to handle that issue is by theft. Yeah that’s right, I said theft. Steal your story idea from somewhere else. At the very least, steal the basic plot and adapt it.
Let me give you an example of what I mean. Here soon I plan to run a Star Trek game using Savage Worlds for my game group. I was inspired to do so because I’ve been watching reruns of old Star Trek episodes. Voyager is my newest incarnation of Trek that I’ve been watching and in season 1 there is an episode called “The Phage.” In this episode the Voyager crew comes up against a race of aliens who have contracted a horrific disease that causes their organs to fail quickly. They have in turn developed medical technology that allows them to remove the organs of other aliens and then adapt them to their own physiology so that they can survive longer. One of the ideas that I had was to take that basic premise and twist it a bit. Imagine an alien race that wants to make their own species the best it could possibly be so they abduct members of races they find and do various tests on them to find out what it is that is best about that race. They then take that information and adapt it into their own genetic code. I think it could make a great story for a sci fi game.
Honestly though it doesn’t stop there. You could take the same basic plotline (bad guy abducts good guy and experiments on them to create something new) and put it into a lot of different genres. Use it in fantasy. The bad guy in that case could be a psychotic wizard who wants to graft magic directly to his own body, but needs a test subject first. A superhero game. The supervillain is abducting superheroes so that he can extract their powers and holding them in some sort of stasis and selling them to the highest bidder. The possibilities are endless if you take the time to think about it, and that’s where organization comes into play. That is why you need an ideas notebook.
Grab yourself a brand new notebook. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Do you have a notebook now? Good. Now, decide what this notebook is for. Is it going to be for a specific genre? A specific setting? A specific system? If so, put that on the cover. If this isn’t going to be a generic notebook I highly recommend making multiples. Once you’ve labeled the book, crack that puppy open and look at the expanse of college ruled goodness. The first thing you need to do is title the page. Generally I title it with whatever inspired my idea. Let’s use my previous example here and I’ll title my page “The Phage.” Toss in a sentence or two to remind you what the gist of the inspiration is, so you don’t forget in a couple of days what it was you were watching at the time. Now it’s time for notes. You have the front and the back of this sheet for notes. Anything that hits your brain in reference to this idea should get scribbled down. If you only have a few things, that’s fine just write those down. You can always come back later.
Keep this notebook handy. I’m lucky to have a storage ottoman right next to the couch where I usually sit, so I keep my notebooks in there so they are always close by if I need to put more information into them. Now all you really need to do is keep gaming in the back of your brain while you’re watching TV, surfing the net, watching a movie, listening to the radio, whatever it might be. If you do that then occasionally you’ll run across something that piques your interest, write it down! When you have time, go back through the notebook and add some more tidbits if you think of them, and flesh out what’s already in there. The things in this notebook don’t have to just be plot ideas either. I also use it for characterizations. When I’m watching something and I see a really interesting character I will add that into the book too as NPC inspiration. You can even use it for setting inspiration if you try.
If you do this as often as I do, every time you see something interesting, you will quickly build yourself a huge resource for your games. Right now I have three different notebooks. I have a Pathfinder/fantasy book, my Star Trek book, and a catch all book for other ideas. The Pathfinder book has been pretty well used and has a lot inside it, the Catch All is not as full as the Pathfinder one but still has a decent amount of stuff inside, and the Star Trek so far only has two pages full as I just started it. I know though, when I finally get a chance to run my Star Trek game I will have lots to pull from to create an awesome experience.
I know that for some people organization doesn’t come as easily as it does for me, but I really think it will make your prep life incredibly easier and will lead to far fewer headaches leading up to a game. I also think it will lead to far fewer headaches at the table. Everyone knows that no matter how much you prep, your players will do something you didn’t predict. You can’t help it. If you have a notebook like this, it takes just a few moments to flip through the pages to get an idea of where to go next. Seriously, give it a try, I promise you won’t regret it.
Written by SirGuido
SirGuido has been a Happy Jack's RPG fan since the first moment he heard Stu on Kicked in the Dicebags. He hopes one day that he will get to meet all of these great people and play lots of games with them.
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