Hello and welcome to the first instalment of Lie, Cheat & Steal: You’re the GM!
This feature will be an ongoing conversation on how to gather ideas for running your role-playing games. Running a game can be rough, especially since you have expectations to meet, players to deal with, and story-telling that must make sense and be interactive. One of the easiest and most helpful tips I have learned is to take ideas from someone else who has had success with it. After all, if it worked for them, it will work for you.
Most Dungeons and Dragons players that grew up in the late 70’s and early 80’s probably can tell you about their first Halfling thief named Bilbo Baggins and his magic ring. Or how about some Star Wars RPGers’ with their mercenary pilot with a blaster, a wink, and a Wookie sidekick?
Using iconic figures as inspiration can be corny, but stealing an over-arching plot from movies, books, video games and the like can really help a GM flesh out a campaign. In this opening article, I want to take a look at stealing from movies. Movies grab our attention very easily and have to do a good job at explaining characters and plot in a short amount of time so the audience can identify with them.
Stealing from most movies can be good for quick inspiration, since you’ll only get one storyline, but where the story ends is often where you can pick up a new plot hook for adventure or continue the ongoing story. You can take very small things from movies, like the way Legolas stands on the snow in The Lord of the Rings or very big things like putting your adventurers through the entire plot of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Either way you go, its important to be specific. To start, take a movie genre and one movie from it that you love. Then take the main character and break that person up into your players at the table. I am a sucker for any mob related movie, so we’ll say the Godfather since it has several strong and iconic characters and plot lines to follow. For the sake of argument, I’m making the role of Michael in the Godfather the main character and any scene he is in will now be played by a party of adventurers.
Now, take the most memorable scenes of the movie and turn them into your encounters, actions and events. In this example, the party’s major benefactor has just been attacked by a rival and they must get revenge, but for the sake of their organization’s reputation and also due to his large number of bodyguards, they may not appear to openly attack the rival. Through strategic planning, I’d have them meet the rival in a public setting to discuss things very diplomatically, but also arrange for an ally to hide their weapons at the locale beforehand. Then, after some quick negotiations and a trip to the bathroom to grab their weapons, they enact their revenge!! And then, they must hurry back to their benefactor’s sickbed before the rival’s assassins get there to kill him. Once that’s done, they have to go into hiding to evade law enforcement officials which leads to another chain of events and so on. This can be done ad-nauseum.
Steal from Star Wars, Braveheart or Gladiator and have your players fight for independence, freedom and justice. Steal from Quinton Tarantino and Guy Ritchie movies for wacky criminals and crimes that end in a majorly chaotic confrontations. Hell, steal from Finding Nemo and have a long, far-reaching quest to find a lost son, all the while meeting strange and hilarious characters and having such challenges as crossing a deadly chasm filled with poisonous creatures, escaping from sharks(real or loan), and then getting swallowed by a creature several times the heroes’ size.
To close each article, I’ll be supplying a campaign or mini-campaign idea I’d like to run: “Within Eberron’s city of Sharn, House Cannith magically created a new race of beings called replicants that are stronger than the robotic warforged and made to look just like normal humans(getting the reference yet?).
Replicants burn through their lives like a candle with a very limited lifespan and upon discovering this, a small group of them turned on their masters.
Calling upon a company of inquisitives, former Last War veterans from a company calling themselves the Blade Runners(there it is!), House Cannith hopes they’ll find the replicants hiding within the city.
The Blade Runners find a few clues that indicate the replicants will attempt to bring down the House that created them. In the process of the investigation, they meet a few of these replicants one at a time and in the case of any violent confrontations, it takes every member of the Blade Runners to take down one replicant.
A few days after the Blade Runners feel their task is finished, one member of the group receives a missive from a friend in another city stating that a small rebellion has occurred by very powerful humans that seem otherworldly strong and quick, pointing towards a larger conspiracy…”
Look for future Lie, Cheat and Steal articles in this space!!
Andrew B @ DMB