…or perhaps it should be more like “tools to get ideas for stories”. I’ve written 51 adventures for my 20.000 characters project so far.
It follows that running out of ideas isn’t that strange, right? One of the things I love with being creative with more than just pen and paper however, is the fact that the more stuff one does, the more ideas one gets. I’ve actually noted a decline in my idea generation speed due to the fact that I’m no longer actively photographing or drawing, or for that matter making jewelry.
This means that occasionally I need to jump start my brain with items that may seem unconventional – or perhaps that’s just me thinking I’m an out of the box thinker. I might very well be inside the box. Or on the lid.
Rory’s Story Cubes and Rory’s Action Cubes
Rory’s Story Cubes – in any version – is a set of nine six-sided dice where the numbers have been replaced by images. The “game” is simple. Roll the dice and connect the images to tell a story. With a bit of practice this works for adventures too. The main difference is to think synopsis instead of fully fledged story, and to angle the story, or basis for a story, towards the adventure/ role-playing game you want to write for. Unfortunately the story cubes are a bit limited – especially the story cubes with actions, so they’re not in any way the perfect way to write a story. Besides, they don’t give that much in the way of support but I have used them once to spark an adventure.
I love me some tarot cards! I have two goof sets and one game set of tarot cards that I use for inspiration. Zombie Tarot is fun and inspiring for horror games. The housewives’ Tarot is awesome in its bitchiness and the Mage tarot is created based on the White Wolf game Mage the Ascension.
The last deck also detail ways to use the tarot deck as a storytelling tool. For character creation a linear spread of three cards is recommended. Each card represents a possible aspect of the character depending on the cards contents. The same method can be used for any tarot card set or role-playing game. The meaning of the cards can be very inspiring. I’ve used this both to make NPC’s and characters and it does open up the mind.
A spread of cards can also be used to create a synopsis or the start of an adventure. As with the linear spread for character creation, a celtic cross or circular spread can be used as basis for the adventure.
Query or the queried card is the starting point of any spread. In this version it can represent the protagonist or antagonist of the adventure. The following cards – in whichever spread you decide to use, can help you decide the contents of your adventure. Just as with Rory’s Story Cubes its a bit touch and go, but the tarot cards are a bit more detailed than the story cubes and they do spark a few more ideas.
Recently Paizo have also published a Harrow deck that can be used in the Pathfinder game. I find it inspiring just to look at, and it can also be used to set up adventures. The Harrow deck has it’s own rules of divination, but I use the same spread as tarots because that’s what I’m used to reading.
I’m not kidding . Surrealists were on to something. They thought so far out of the box, I’m not even sure there was a box to begin with. Automatic writing, stream of consciousness, exquisite corpse etc.
These games really scramble your brain and can be surprisingly revealing. Stream of consciousness works best for me. Pen and paper and writing down everything – and I mean everything that comes to mind. This does however require a bit of filtering afterwards.
In general, surrealist games are good when you need to make unexpected connections. Respect the whimsy. It can be the one thing standing between you and your best adventure ever.
Plot Twist Cards
Also a Paizo deck, but these are intended for play. I use them to make my adventures more interesting by adding – ta dad! – twists.
Sometimes the role-playing games also have adventure generators that you can use to create adventures, or at least ways that the game master can use to construct adventures. Solomon Kane and Mouse Guard are just two RPGs that are very clear in their instructions as to how and adventure can or should be constructed. For Mouse Guard, using the rules of construction, the adventures practically write themselves. Luke Crane is a brilliant designer from that perspective.
Documentaries and fact books
This is pretty obvious isn’t it? Reading fact books and watching documentaries actually works pretty well for getting ideas about both real world politics, religion and other areas.
Conspiracy theorists write very interesting from the perspective that they are often very out there. I recommend books from Disinformation since they are well researched, well written and coherent, which is not always the case with conspiracies.
Creating an adventure generator using Tarot cards (or Harrow cards):
1. Card 1 is the villain or the villain’s motivation. This card answers who the villain is.
2. Card 2 is the goal of the villain. What is the villain hoping to accomplish?
3. The hook. What brings the heros into the adventure?
4. Where is the adventure located? Card 4 will give you a hint.
5. Who are the henchmen? You can draw more than one card to represent them. Perhaps the first card is the right hand person of the villain, and the second the henchmen?
6. Twist! What happens to the adventure if “what if?” is introduced. This card represents an unexpected turn of events.
Lay the cards out on the table and interpret them. The meaning of the cards will most likely give you some basic idea of the adventure that you can use to write your scenario.