RPG Inspiration: Animated Streaming

Need inspiration? Great ideas for your next adventure may be lurking in cartoons.

Need inspiration? Great ideas for your next adventure may be lurking in cartoons.


Picture courtesy of Pixabay.

Cartoons are unfettered from many of the constraints of live action series, which makes them an endless source of material for role-playing campaigns. Even better, designers now create cartoons meant to be enjoyed by the whole family, which means fully-conceived worlds that can easily spawn franchises of their own ... or act as inspiration for your games.

Kids Shows

There was a time when kids shows were little more than laugh tracks and toy commercials. No more. Nowadays cartoons are full-fledged worlds complete with spinoff media ... and toy commercials. There are so many great shows for kids that are chock full of ideas for campaigns: My Little Pony (Hulu), Trolls (Hulu), Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts (Netflix), Owl House (Disney), Star vs. the Forces of Evil (Disney), and Centaurworld (Netflix). Although many of these shows are supposed to be non-violent, just about all of them involve some form of combat, from ponies shooting at each other with their magical horns to trolls being eaten by the giant-like bergens.


There was a time when it was difficult to watch anime in mainstream media channels. You had to purchase anime from specialty stores or buy DVDs at conventions, and that was limited to the selection in-store. No longer. Thanks to Hulu, HBO Max, Amazon, and Netflix, there's more anime than any one person can consume.

Moreover, anime pushes the limits of western fantasy and introduces elements from other cultures. Much of the gamification of media that D&D inspired happened first in anime, with titles of Record of the Lodoss War.

Anime regularly blends, mixes, and otherwise draws on a diverse set of inspiration. There's an anime, often with rich world-building behind it, for just about every flavor of fantasy and sci-fi. And now thanks to streaming it's much more widely available.

Equally important, anime series can have many episodes and run for many seasons, far more than western animation is typically willing to invest. You can go deep in just about any anime-inspired universe and find multiple seasons, spin-offs, and reinterpretations of the source material.

One of my family's favorites is Fairy Tail (Hulu), which throws in every form of magic conceivable and tries to make it make sense. It also has a strong sense of guilds and competition that makes it great inspiration for any adventuring party looking for a home.

Adult Animation

Kids who grew up with anime became adults who take animation seriously as a medium, so it's no surprise that increasingly, streaming services are creating animated content that caters to an adult audience. These shows can deal with knotty topics that might not be appropriate for kids with a good dose of language, sex, and violence. Shows like Castlevania (Netflix), Rick and Morty (Hulu), and Arcane (Netflix) go deep on their respective topics. And of course, there's The Legend of Vox Machina (Amazon), itself derived from Critical Role's streaming campaign.

Your Turn: What cartoons did I miss?

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Michael Tresca

Michael Tresca


Sticking with anime, my favourite "D&D style" show is Konosuba!. Click the link if you want more info, but in a nutshell it's a comedy about a party composed of the traditional classes with terrible builds who somehow prevail against their enemies. It's even got its own TTRPG now.

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