Current Influences & Resources


Out of curiousity; what resources, materials, books, etc are influencing everyones campaigns currently? I get stuck in my groove too often sometimes and want to see what everyone else is flipping through when looking for ideas these days.

Well, I guess I'm the first.

Hmm, I don't wanna say too much as a couple of the players in my current campaign use this site, and I don't want them scouring through books, going, "Oh, he's going to use this - I am so totally gonna buy me an anti-half-dragon bugbear sword next time I get to the city!". But I figure I'll help someone in need.

Well, first, let me state where I get all my resources. I am a poor man, and in no way can afford much in the way of sourcebooks, so I have found a way around. Dude, go download limewire, type in dnd, d&d, and dungeons and dragons (if that's what you're looking for - if not, type in some other game type, such as wod or World of Darkness, etc.) in individual prompts and just download whatever looks interesting. I guarantee, particularly with D&D, you'll get some good stuff, though it might take some time.

Otherwise, I'm looking at a number of sourcebooks for inspiration right now. I've been perusing the Dungeon Master's Guide 2, which has some cool stuff for interesting encounters, and, if it's your thing, Heroes of Horror is actually really cool, too. By the way, if you play my games, I forbid you to look at that book (evil smile). For non-D&D ideas, there's nothing better when it comes to World of Darkness then just watching horror movie after horror movie, especially the ones listed in the books as inspiration. Of course, some suck, like Dog Soldiers, but others I've really loved, like the TV show Carnivale. I would just look through all kinds of movies that are seen as "different", like not your typical fantasy or sci-fi, great stuff being things like Carnivale, anything by Neil Gaiman, most of Orson Scott Cards stuff (check out his Alvin Maker series), or some of the popular Robert Jordan books.

Another great resource are those books made to help writers. I've got an interesting one that I've been reading about writing accurately about crime scenes, and I'm all geared up to run a campaign that focuses on things like that. Also, pay attention to the news. Unfortunately in some ways, it'll give you all kinds of ideas for interesting conflicts to use in a game.

Well, I'm pretty much tapped as far as that goes. Most of my books I use to make characters, not campaigns. I prefer to actually start with a pre-made adventure on campaigns and then really expand it and make it much cooler (cause most of them are lame).

I figure I'll give you one of my ideas that I know I'm never gonna run because I just don't have enough time with all the others in my head, and you can do whatever you want with it. This would use any modern type system, in particular World of Darkness, with it's focus on roleplaying and simplified, quick combat, would be great, though I'd warn your players it's a political campaign, so don't waste points in occult. It revolves around the death of Alexander Litvinenko, the Russian man who was killed using radiation, was an ex-KGB agent, and an enemy of Putin, the current President of Russia, who is almost a dictator. You could use the controversy and mystery surrounding his death and his life to go in all sorts of directions. I would love to play in it, so I figure it would be a pretty good campaign. Use this to get started, though I warn you, it'll take a lot of research: . Good luck with your future campaigns!

argh! sorry, the link didn't go through. Just look up Alexander Litvinenko on wikipedia or google it and you'll get your information.

I highly doubt that your players would do anything like that. What makes a game function properly is a mutual respect between the GM and the players.

Anyway, I agree with Tzuriel, everything can be inspiration from what you read to what you see and so on.

What I've done so far, granted I am very inexperienced as compared to all of the other members of this website, is take something simple and run with it. For example Risus is totally amazing, you are able to write your own adventures and do whatever you like. You can make them long or short, serious or entertaining. I haven't had much luck with pre-made adventures to date, so I find that the best games are the ones that are written for your group specifically, it gives you room to breath and move, and it is not so hollow when you travel off course.

Another thing that has helped me in my non-Risus campaignes are old sourcebooks or failed settings, its easy to find them anywhere on the net. For example I found an old Star Wars RP source book, it was eay to see why it failed (besides the obvious) but once the error is realised, some basic mathematics gets the campaigne on the right course. As a result my friend and I are working on converting it into an awesome sci-fi setting for a game. It lost its identity as Star Wars, but it was a great spring board for thought and point distribution.

Yeah, thats pretty much it for me. Not particularly exciting, but I'm new and I'm sure that some of that other stuff comes with time.

I'll take a shot.

As weird as this sounds, a lot of times rules mechanics themselves inspire me. I'll be perusing some random sourcebook and I'll hit upon a feat/skill/prestige class/whatever that doesn't really seem to get much use, and I think about it for a bit. How can I make this rules item effective in an interesting and cool way? I have an entire character based around my musings on a single feat, and it's one that that character actually doesn't have, or even plan to obtain.

There are a lot of other pretty typical things that inspire me: movies, books, TV shows, the like. However, I have recently found a new form of inspiriation that's a bit off the beaten path.

My life schedule right now consists of going to college, working part-time, and roleplaying on the weekends. My work is pretty monotonous (I'm essentially a one-man assembly line), and so in order to intellectually stimulate myself at work I began taking my iPod along. In order to avoid spending my entire paycheck on buying new music to keep me entertained, I went in search of a new form of audio entertainment, and found it in podcasts. I started with the Dungeons and Dragons podcast hosted by Wizards of the Coast ( in iTunes, or on the web), but have since been experimenting with other, less corporate podcasts. My current favorite is The Game Master Show ( on the web, there's a link of the website for the podcast feed). The Game Master Show is, quite simply, a group of 5 or so GMs and one player that run this show to improve gamemastering everywhere. My favorite part about this podcast is that they record their actual play sessions, which, despite how boring it may sound, are actually pretty fun to listen to, and give a review on both the game system and the GM. Other features, in their more mainstream episodes, include a tip of the day, a plot hook, and a focus on specific problems and how to fix them. The recording quality on the game sessions is understandably fuzzy, but they're still a great resource for ideas to rip off and add to your own games.

Wow...those were some fast responses! Kudos!

I'm going to check out those podcasts...particularily the one with the recorded sessions.

Myself, I have scads of pdfs on my PC at home. Literally hundreds of them. Many of them are legitamately obtained too (LOL@Tzuriel...I'm a broke GM too).

Currently I did what I normally do and tried to run a short campaign of non-fantasy in between fantasy campaigns. Those typically end in anticlimax as interest wanes on both sides of the screen. It's nice to do the ol' "hard reset" as it were...but before long everyone wants to get back to my world. We all know more about it than the real world, and we can only game in any other setting or genre exactly long enough to say "hey man...what's the deal on the next fantasy campaign?" LOL.

Currently, my influences are; western movies like Once Upon A Time In The West and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, non-fiction like Extraordinary Popular Delusions & The Madness Of Crowds (I've mentioned that on here before...but it's that good and it's going to remain that good), travel books about foreign cities, and dark gritty grap[hic novels like Watchmen.

I try my hardest to not use actual RPG material as inspiration.

Interestingly enough...the biggest influence lately (upon description of environs anyways) has been Planet Earth on DVD. Any GM that doesn't buy that thing needs to give his head a shake. So why are you still reading this? Go out and buy it!!

Oh, and I can't forget to put Ptolus on the list. I inserted it into my setting to run The Banewarrens looong before the book for the city itself came out, and when that book came out I bought it instantly. It's freakin amazing. Even if someone only wanted to take bits and pieces and spread them over a whole setting instead of in one city I highly recommend it to GMs of ANY system.

Another great resource is How To Wrote Science Fiction & Fantasy by Orson Scott Card. Personally, I like his books (especially Pastwatch and the Homecoming series) but I recognize that some can't get over his Mormon sentiments for some reason. Still, it's a great book for GMs to read through at least once.

I'm not really stumped right now...but I know that someday I will be. This is going to be a handy thread to refer back to. (and Lorthyne...I get inspired by mechanics's not that weird...LOL)

Haha, Scott, I'll have you know that I actually went out and bought Extraordinary Popular Delusions & The Madness Of Crowds on your recommendation, although I haven't actually gotten around to reading it yet :P

I can't seriously tell you how many really wicked cahracter concepts and random ideas I've gotten here. The What-if-inator is awesome (What if Joseph Stalin discovered codl fusion?) for generating themes on alternate realities.

Also, my major resource for character design is my original fantasy world, comic books. I also recommend random programs on the sci-fi channel, and the history channel.

I also like looking at various homebrew sites, seeing what ideas can really work, and as weeird as it sounds, flipping through the mosnter manuals can give you some ideas on how to forge a society/army of things of interest. That's how I got Slaam the blood-letter, king of the hobgoblins.

Anyhow, despite never actually having run a campaign, this is where I get most of my ideas from on making stuff and other stuff.

Inspiringly yours,

My fav resources include Wikipedia, Altavista Babelfish (translater site), Behind the Name - Entymology and history of first names, and the Crime Library

Wiki is great for pure research.

Babelfish can translate to and from English to 12 other languages, or you can skip the English and translate Spanish to Dutch of you like.

Behind the name categorizes first names by gender, country, meaning, description, popularity, country, and more. I always go here to name my characters and my three kids in real life. I pick names based on what language is similar to the region, and then look for cool meanings. For example, Drake or Draco derives from Old English and means Dragon. In Middle English it means male duck, but we'll ignore that for now.

The Crime Library is a rapidly growing collection of more than over 600 nonfiction feature stories on major crimes, criminals, trials, forensics and criminal profiling by prominent writers. The stories focus mostly on recent crimes, but an expanding collection also delves into historically notorious characters, dating back to the 1400s and spanning the globe.

This is where I find interesting bad guys. I got tired of massive armies fighting and destroying the world. So I started adding serial killers and con artists. The characters don't have to be cops to get involved either. In one campaign, the killer was obsessed with a female character. He sent her letters boasting of his crimes and hinting at more. The group banded together to hunt him down before he killed her. They had to work outside the law (they weren't cops) and track him down in a major port city. The poems and letters that he sent were based off of the Zodiac Killer.

For inspiration... I read a ton of books and watch a ton of movies. Then I think about random things until an idea sparks. One easy way to get ideas is to try new systems. That will always force you to think in new ways.

Gotta go.

Oh, one more thing I just thought of. I've found these four books, though I've only been able to buy two so far, that are great resources for a plethora of info. They're basically writing books, but the stuff in them works for roleplaying, too. They're old, though (early 90s) so I don't know if they're still published, and some of them might be a little out of date, but they're still a great foundation to build upon if you wanna learn more. They are:

Scene of the Crime: A Writer's Guide to Crime-Scene Investigations by Anne Wingate, ISBN 0-89879-518-4

Armed and Dangerous: A Writer's Guide to Weapons by Michael Newton, ISBN 0-89879-370-X (note-this is primarily about firearms; for stuff about medieval weapons, check out the various weapons guides that are sold, especially the historical ones)

Deadly Doses: A Writer's Guide to Poisons by Serita Deborah Stevens and Anne Klarner, ISBN 0-89879-371-8

Cause of Death: A Writer's Guide to Death, Murder, and Forensic Medicine by Keith D. Wilson, ISBN 0-89879-524-9

Well, that's the set, which by the way, is called "The Howdunit Series." Lame, I know, but it's actually pretty good stuff, if you ever want to run a campaign with realistic plot points and intelligent players who'll catch you when you screw up. If your running medieval fantasy, though, only the poison one and maybe parts of the death one will be able to help you. These books I would use for WoD, or other modern settings, though if their modern fantasy, you'll have to rethink a lot of the stuff in there. Could be a really interesting mind game.

Well, I thought I'd put those out for anyone who's interested. They're pretty cool books, written by people with experience in the various fields. Good luck with your future campaigns!

  • Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe
  • "River of Night's Dreaming," Karl Edward Wagner
  • The King in Yellow, Robert W. Chambers
  • A Voyage to Arcturus, David Lindsay
  • The Thing, John Carpenter
  • A Princess of Mars et seq., Edgar Rice Burroughs
  • Star Trek
  • The Diamond Age, Neal Stephenson
  • A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L'Engle
  • Star Control (VG)
  • Baldur's Gate 2 (VG)
  • Knights of the Old Republic (VG)
  • Tarnsman of Gor et seq., John Norman (this is really painful for me to admit)
  • The Riddlemaster of Hed et seq., Patricia McKillip
  • Out of the Silent Planet et seq., The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe et seq., C.S. Lewis
  • Eaters of the Dead, Michael Crichton
  • Beowulf

Believe it or not, all of this stuff is pertinent to what I'm working on at the moment, though it obviously influences multiple projects.

Wikipedia is like Finger Eleven to me, "Good Times" and all. I don't know what I'd do without it; like the Internet itself, I can't remember what life was like before it came along.

I forgot my other major influence, which is for structures and maps.

Real-life ancient history, mainly atlases and maps. My personal favorite is "Biblical" archaeology, which is mot of themiddle east, and soem of southern europe. The designe behidn thigns liek the catacombs and ancient tombs. A godo ap of petra is great for understandign how a real underground city works. Although the Anasazi cliff-dweeleers are also pretty good. consider those for looks when you're doing dwarven kingdoms.

Topographically yours,

This reminds me.... I still have Extraordinary Popular Delusions & The Madness Of Crowds on my "to read" list. I have the online copy, but haven't gotten to it yet.

Regarding gaming podcasts, my favorite is Fear the Boot (at, which is a high quality show about various angles regarding tabletop RPGs.
Highly recommended.