Anyone who’s a Dungeon Master, and even a Player as well, knows how much work it takes to come up with a “good” idea. I might be at an unfair advantage, with living most of my time on a college campus learning my Writing Arts major. I doubt that has a huge influence on what is always pounding away at my brain, though.
So, for anyone looking at this post: how do you get your idea? Where does your Muse live and how do you manage to get into contact with it?
For me, it comes a lot of times from fairy tales and classical mythology. It’s one of my passions in life: something that I adore and am always happy to learn more about and read extensively. It comes from a love of the magical and mystic arts, the arcane and unknown, as well as the sometimes other-worldly. Preferences of inspiration descend largely from the tales from Celtic peoples: the stories of the Tuatha de Danaan, of Cu Chulainn and deities taking their anger out on mere, puny mortals. Sometimes it changes to Japanese and Egyptian, depending on the setting of the epic being told through player characters.
Surprisingly, I find that I like building worlds better after the people in my sessions have already developed their protagonists. Not only is it easier because the players have already made a back story, in a way they have created the world. With this method, you can make sure that these citizens of your fantasy/sci-fi land feel right at home and are natives to the realm (with the exception of if a character is not from that plane of existence but they are the odd one out).
Here is an example. The basis of the characters created the culture. Some are better then others for this, while some characters do not have a detailed enough background to assist in this or made after the world was established.
- Pew Pew- Kitsune Bard. A raider hailing from southern Igniis/Agmald. Very much with a ‘Mad Max’ aspect to him, which lends this region to be more like the plains.
- Tea- Avariel Sorcerer. Hails from the Elemental Plane of Chaos but summoned into the city of Highbirch, the capitol of Igniis. This dictates a rich artisan culture filled with mages and scholars.
- Boron- Dwarf Fighter. Raised by full-fledged Orcs in Netrus. With this, Netrus is a land devoid of much civilization and is full of monsters and warring tribes.
- Jiyujin- Kitsune Ranger. A natural-born hunter from Agmald, he is heavily in tuned with nature and the natural world. His back story gives the notion that this country is heavily forested, and possibly like medieval Europe.
- Kiltric- Human Fighter. Disgraced from his family for abandoning his post in war time, he wishes to never return to Ochines. From the description of his past, it leads to imagery of a Spanish-based court life (at least in my head it does).
Some of my ideas are chocked up to literature as well. With Niden, even though magic has a strong presence in the world, much of it is based off of Westeros in George R.R Martin’s ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ series: while there are fantastical elements, often times it is in small ways such as a mage super-heating sand to form glass or a druid Wild Shaping in a bull-fighting arena. Other times, it’s not in merely the world construction but the kinds of non-playable characters they find. Everything from Sugar Plum Faeries from ‘The Nutcracker’ to tricksters a la ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. The clues to their inspiration are subtle.
In the back of my mind also, I am always (and I mean always) thinking about music that I can utilize. If you look at my iTunes Library, I have a playlist for both campaigns I run. Filled with video game soundtracks, scores for battles and ambient background sounds, sounds can set the tone better then may of the most well-crafted words. But I try to use them sparingly: if a situation calls for music, there shall be music. I am not going to have a ballad playing in a graveyard: I will have wind whipping and ghostly moaning from beyond the grave.
Now that I’ve talked about where I find my own Muse, I want to know: where do you guys find yours? Post them down below, let’s get a conversation going and share stories of inspiration and fancy. Until next time, may you always roll 20’s!