Where have your favorite campaign ideas come from?

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
I'll be honest - I am not enamored of my campaign ideas. They are serviceable, but nobody would look at them and go, "OMG! That's the coolest thing ever!" To be honest, I don't really *want* to create such a beast, because a super-duper-cool campaign idea is... like an NPC that is higher level than the PCs. It outshines the PCs. It structures the game, and confines the PCs to deal with the super-duper-cool campaign idea. My campaign hooks are good for giving the players something to hook onto, but they aren't all that special in and of themselves.

My strength is to put out a shell, see what resonates with players as they consider characters, and then expand upon the items that they seem interested in. I add other elements as play progresses, and anything they latch on to becomes a more notable element. So, my best arrangements come from them.

Plenty of love for following the direction the players put out. With the "super NPC" analogy, there's a writing big about "Kill your darlings" - in other words anything that you've fallen so in love with that it will warp the rest of your story needs to go.

That doesn't mean you can't have cool campaign ideas (or cool NPCs), it means that you can't let them take the spotlight or the choices away from the players. And if they do, get drastic with them.
 

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Scotley

Hero
Some of my best ideas come from dreams I guess. At least that's where I assume those crazy ideas I tend to have in the shower are coming from. I find myself with the spark of an idea and as I start to consider the ramifications it just grows.

Sometimes those ideas come from media. Sometimes that is books, sometimes movies, shows, games or even documentary and fiction. There are some crazy places, cultures and animals in the world that can be turned into fantasy settings with only a little adjustment. Other times I watch or read something and thing about how I would have done it differently and an idea springs from there.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
My players.

I'll be honest - I am not enamored of my campaign ideas. They are serviceable, but nobody would look at them and go, "OMG! That's the coolest thing ever!" To be honest, I don't really *want* to create such a beast, because a super-duper-cool campaign idea is... like an NPC that is higher level than the PCs. It outshines the PCs. It structures the game, and confines the PCs to deal with the super-duper-cool campaign idea. My campaign hooks are good for giving the players something to hook onto, but they aren't all that special in and of themselves.

My strength is to put out a shell, see what resonates with players as they consider characters, and then expand upon the items that they seem interested in. I add other elements as play progresses, and anything they latch on to becomes a more notable element. So, my best arrangements come from them.

OTOH, sometimes an idea is soooooo cool, it strikes a chord in the players, and everyone brings their “A-game”, everyone buys in fully. Those are the best times you can have in the hobby.

Since 1977, I’ve had that happen to me twice as a gamemaster. And when I tried to re-use those ideas with different groups, they fizzled...for a variety of reasons.

The first time I did it was in a special game I ran as an “intro” to D&D for some new players, with some experienced gamers in the mix to help things run more smoothly. The overall plot resonated with the players very well, and some of the veterans told me it was the best adventure they’d played in.

The second was a game I’ve mentioned on ENWorld more than once- a supers campaign set in the Space: 1889 game world, with liberal (additional) doses of HG Wells, Jules Verne, and all kinds of fiction set in that era...including anime, westerns, comics, tv shows and even some reskinned William Gibson, Michael Moorcock, and James Bond plotlines. The enthusiasm at the table was palpable. I have NEVER done as good a job as a GM as I did in that game.*

(Unfortunately for me, that was in the mid-1990s.)



* and in the spirit of full disclosure, with that said, I still managed to tick off a new player to the group so badly he never returned. And no, it wasn’t all on him- I absolutely did make mistakes regarding his character.
 

Shiroiken

Legend
What has been the source of your favorite campaign ideas?
Do you get ideas from other media? Do you trawl the internet? Do you use/make tables?
Are you a storytelling wizard who's actually lived through it all. Who makes unsuspecting mortal players act out your sordid past?
Do you mean the setting, or the story of the campaign?

I'm a world-builder at heart, even though I seldom actually use any of my worlds (I stick to Greyhawk).

For campaign stories, it's hard to define. When I start up a campaign, I have a concept for it, but that concept may not have a story attacked. My current campaign, for example, is a Grey Marches style game, which has no overarching story attached, but may develop one based on the actions of the characters. My last campaign was an Adventure Path style game based on a set of classic 1E Greyhawk adventure (Elemental Evil, Tharizdun/Tsojanth, Queen of Spiders). My most memorable campaign stories have been those that are player driven, but those were a different RPG, because I often struggle to use D&D to tell those kinds of stories.
 

To be blunt, with very few exceptions (Malazan, The Expanse), every RPG campaign/setting I've created, played in, purchased, read, or heard about has been pure hackery when judged on even the most forgiving literary standards. And that's fine. The only bit of it with any real merit, and the thing that sets RPGs apart, is what the players do, the stories their characters create in play.
 

DeanP

Explorer
For me, it's literally anything, but especially so for short scenarios. For example, a friend of mine (and one of my players) had a terrible tear duct infection, his eye was all messed up. So, two nights later for our scheduled session, while the characters were traveling to another locale, I had a meteor crash into a nearby mine. Naturally, the characters went to investigate and the characters had to deal with denizens of the far realm who emerged from the meteor, and ultimately face a Beholder who emerged from the meteor.
 

Draegn

Explorer
This last campaign I gave my players a choice. Get a job or have fun at the fair. They split the party and threw sand at each other in the sandbox. Yet in the end they figured out to varying degrees of correctness what was going on and acted accordingly.
 


BLC1975

First Post
I look for something that is particularly different and compelling, and then hang from there. I like coming up with what's unique about the setting and crafting a story around that, which couldn't happen in a "standard" faux-european-medeival-wtih-magic world.

Let me give an example of a D&D campaign I've got "on-deck" to show what I mean that the setting leads the story and the story the setting.

Refuges to Nowhere
You have grown up in the Tower. The tower is vast and long, and the angles are all wrong. Square rooms with perfect corners have five sides, and those who travel too far up or down sometimes come back not right in the head. Windows open in the tower occasionally, looking out on what you are told are other planes. Some planes open on a regular cycle, and planting has been done to harvest when it comes back around. Others are less predicable.

None are good places to stay.

You've been told that your world was ending. Maybe it was overrun by undead. Or the sun was going out. An age of ice. Turned into a battleground of demons and angels. Every culture in the melting pot has a different story. That you came to the tower as a last refuge. That so has everyone else, generations and generations.

But, you've passed your initiation. To be allowed to scavenge out the windows for the good of those who live inside. Be quick, sometimes a window closes in days, rarely more than a few weeks at lost. There are stories of people being lost and staying there until a window opened to the same place again. But you don't actually know anyone living that survived Outside that long.
a
This starts are an urban faction political crossed with a "dungeon of the week" style mega-dungeon. Which isn't actually a dungeon, but rather a window with a limited time for exploration. Depending on player interest, windows can reopen to "delve" deeper into each themed world.

Back in the Tower, there's all of the various factions living there, with allegiance to one or many, open or secret, getting gifted items, running missions, etc.

But the "Act II" of the campaign will be when the characters start noticing themes and such int he worlds - and thinking maybe the Tower has something to do with all of them being overrun. Then we'll have explorations "up" and "down" the Tower, as well as waiting for specific Windows to open to get information from specific worlds. They will find out more about the Tower (including mroe about controlling it and the Windows) and the nature of the apocolypsi that have overrun all the worlds that Windows open to.

This campaign may or may not be done with a stable of 3 characters per player. It will make copious use of downtime (partially enforced by the schedule of Windows, plus "no poaching" rules when other groups get access to Windows), this will be even more used if there's a stable of characters.

---

So as you can see, I picked a story that couldn't be told in a normal place, and a place that lends itself to unique play. Often these come up bit-by-bit. Here's oen where each sentence was a revelation that build off the last. For example, I wanted a world where the constellations changed depending on what was happening. So they weren't stars, they were spirits. So there's a literal dome between the living and the dead. Okay, the sun is inside the dome, so make it like Greek myths and an actual object a god drives around. And steal fromt here that it goes underground at night and travels back in tunnels. So what's underground? It's not the land of the dead, that's on the otherside of the dome. Hey, maybe the dome is fuzzy - not solid, just a zone. So you get close (on the ground) and it's sorta in the land of the dead and foggy, with the rules changing from land-of-the-living to land-of-the-dead the deeper you go. And you can go, like Greek heroes would go to the land of the dead and bring back souls.

I don't have a story that can only be told there, yet, but I'd got a plenty of unique to shape it.

So you've re-hashed The Magic faraway Tree? That's cool...
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
So you've re-hashed The Magic faraway Tree? That's cool...

No idea what "The Magic faraway Tree" is. If it's a M:tG reference I haven't played that for a pair of decades. Hmm, research, research, research. Ah, it's a set of kids books where there's a tree that the top goes to another land, but the land changes and they can't stay too long. Yes, that it close to part of what I had. Missed the whole refugees, the ruined worlds, the big secrets about why everything was post-apocalyptic and all that, but hey, it's closer than "Stargate" so that's something.
 

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