Behind the Screen: Staying fresh…

2007 September 26
by Dante

This week my mind has been set on putting together materials for the second act of our campaign. This has presented me and my illustrious co-DM, Kanati, with the usual fun of dreaming up new things to torment our players with but the second time around things are proving slightly more difficult.

You Can Never Go Home

Epic storylines are fantastic because the events are so large and powerful that it should fundamentally change the people involved. In the end, it should feel a bit like Lord of the Rings: the characters are so different by the time they finally are able to arrive home that their lives are driven to a different purpose.

My players are embracing opportunities to re-invent themselves as this campaign gets underway… some have found purpose with academic or altruistic pursuits, others are completing some more personal stories in their down time. They are taking the opportunity to emerge from the first act of the campaign changed in some way, in the process rejuvenating their characters for a return to action.

Meanwhile, us DMs have been hard at work creating a new storyline. It has been more difficult creating content that hasn’t been “done before” in this space. Earlier this week, I did a piece on the reinvention of characters and little did I know that a few days later I would be struggling to reinvent myself as a DM.

Throw that crutch out the window, Tiny Tim!

It is hard work to come up with content that is not hackneyed and derivative. I’ve found some fertile ground in some surprising places this week: indie rock, both re-runs and the premiere of NBC’s Heroes, even my crazy coworkers. As this campaign goes on, I plan to share some of this new episodic content here in hopes that someone else might benefit from my glimpses of madness.

One thing that I’m doing to ensure freshness (aside from deoderant) is building plot points around new interesting NPCs. New non-player characters with a personality and a fleshed out motive just breeds perspective and allows the players to attach to the campaign in a different way. The resulting roleplay will likely open up new avenues for your players to walk down. Essentially, your players will make the scenarios fresh for you and that is a powerful thing.

I’m going to turn this one around on you, gentle reader: how do you keep your campaigns fresh? Where do you draw your inspiration from?

2 Responses leave one →
  1. Will permalink
    September 27, 2007

    I actually draw a lot of my adventure / campaign ideas from the news. A lot of the news, I think, can easily fall in to a D&D campaign by adding a fantasy twist.

    Recent big headline examples, from British news, I would think might be:

    – The Madaline McCann saga
    – Massive flooding across Africa
    – Burmese soldiers shooting protesting monks.

    Add a fantasy twist, a sprig of imagination and a handful of brave adventurers, blend and allow to settle in the fridge overnight and you have yourself a campaign.

    I also find that I tend to start writing in the middle, and ask myself how things got to where I’m taking them and whether things might have worked out differently, which leads me from a short adventure to a short series.

  2. ChattyDM permalink
    September 27, 2007

    I usually start a new campaign’s baseline plot with one short idea that morph’s into the campaign’s elevator pitch.

    It’s when the players hand in their character sheets that I start making links and get inspirations as to where things should go.

    The players will make my quest Epic. I’m content providing the building blocks…

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