I wrote a very successful set of Adventure Seeds books, which can provide endless inspiration when you need to come up with a scenario fast.
I’m famous in my more regular RPG circles for coming up with plots and ideas within about 30 seconds to 5 minutes, which is great if you’re an improvisational GM, but can be tricky if you’re not.
Here’s my top 5 ways to get some quick and dirty inspiration for a scenario…
Steal ideas. It’s a game, not a magnum opus. Nobody is going to come after you for using a plot from a film, book, comic or TV series. The players might recognise it, so you’ll have to change things up a little, but even so they might enjoy playing through something familiar and applying their own solutions. Extra tip, bad films and trash novels make some of the best inspirations. Less people have seen them, and you can do a better job than ‘Sharnado’.
Grab an album, if you still buy your music impressed onto plastic, or go look at a track list for an album you like on Spotify or something. The track names and themes, the lyrics, can quickly inspire a scenario or series of linked adventures.
Let’s take the album ‘Powertrip’ by Monster Magnet for example, and see what we can make from it, assuming we’re playing a more lighthearted SF game.
Track 1: Crop Circle: The inciting incident is finding strange patterns and power signatures on a planet. Something powerful was here and may have mutated the wildlife.
Track 2: Powertrip: After their conflict with mutants or whatever, they discover some of the residual energy themselves and find it can induce mutations or psychic manifestations.
Track 3: Space Lord: We meet our villain, the Space Lord is threatening a nearby world with the same reality-warping powers they saw a hint of earlier.
Track 4: Temple of Your Dreams: Investigating, not powerful enough to take the Space Lord on directly, they find a ravaged trail of reality-warped planets. Only one area on one planet seems unaffected, because the monks on that world know the secret of the Space Lord’s power. A psychic-active drug that can turn anyone into a powerful supermind.
Track 5: Bummer: Engaging in pursuit of the Space Lord again, they follow a wake of destruction. Noting seems able to stand in his way.
Track 6: Baby Götterdämerung: The Space Lord has left ‘children’ in his wake, powerful mutated creatures with a fraction of his own power. They must be taken out to continue pursuit.
Track 7: 19 Witches: More aid arrives in the form of a sisterhood of sexy, orgone-powered psychics who offer to accompany the group and help shield them from the Space Lord’s power.
Track 8: 3rd Eye Landslide: They must make their way through an insane, reality-warped psychoscape to reach the real, physical Space Lord.
Track 10: See You in Hell: The final, physical confrontation with the Space Lord.
We don’t even need the last few tracks.
Take two sources of inspiration and ram them together. This works in Hollywood all the time. ‘Alien Versus Predator’, ‘A romantic drama where the man is a bee’, ‘He-Man, but shit’. This might well be plagiarism again, but combining two stolen ideas often (but not always) can result in a mysterious alchemy where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
4: THE NEWS
What is in the news today? Constantly changing events and a 24 hour news cycle can throw up inspiration all the time. Twist it around a bit to fit the game setting and Robert’s your mother’s brother. EG:
“Turkey: Foreign tourists evacuated as wildfires threaten resorts”
An ancient Djinn has been released from its clay pot and has laid waste to the land around it. The players are firefighters, toiling to put the fires out, when they encounter this supernatural threat and struggle to survive.
5: MAKING IT UP AS YOU GO ALONG
Just start with something, anything. It doesn’t have to be original or clever. Then just roll with what the players say and do. Something as simple as a goblin attack on a farm. If they look for something on the dead goblins, let them find a note, maybe suggesting that the goblins have been ordered or paid to make the attack. Who hired them? Let the players speculate and apply the best idea they come up with, and just keep doing that until it’s over.