Sep 11, 2009

DM Tools: Inspiration

In previous posts, I've mentioned some of the tools I use as a DM (Post-it Notes, and Heromachine), but one of the fundamental tools is inspiration, or more importantly, where to get inspiration.

Madonna once sang that "you can dance for inspiration", though anyone seeing me dance might only be inspired to think "that poor man is having a seizure... right there on the dance floor!" So, other than Madge's advice, where do I find inspiration as a DM? A lot of different sources, actually, and hopefully a few you haven't thought of yourself.

I think anything can be a source of inspiration, from an automobile, to a sudoku puzzle, and for everything from a character name (Katera-- as in Cadillac Catera), to a method of random dungeon generation. The real trick for the DM is keeping their DM hat on (in the background) as they go about daily life. Here are some of the sources that routinely inspire me.

  • By far and wide the best resource I've found is the History Channel (and History International). Many of the programs can provide any number of adventure ideas. Programs looking at Nostradamus or Edgar Cayce can provide details and backstory for a villain, sage, or PC. Programs on Pirates or Sailors/Explorers can help flesh out a module or campaign, and shows like Secret Passage can provide details on dungeon passages.
  • Music isn't as obvious a source for inspiration, but listen to the lyrics of a song like "Wrapped Around Your Finger" by The Police... that's the beginning of a module in under 6 minutes!
  • Another source is in great literature... I've created modules based on "Romeo and Juliet", and "Othello". Even Dungeon magazine did modules around "MacBeth" and "The Tempest" (I think).
  • Lastly, keep your eye out for strange or interesting news... The following are two news items I read (one over a year ago). Each inspired me to want to use elements or details in my own campaign.
If you have a unique or unusual source for inspiration, please leave a comment...