Before taking a break, a lot of what I was seeing was like eating cardboard and water. Characters and plot were becoming “blah”. My imagination was gone and nothing really that I seen impressed or intrigued me.
I’ve been thinking about it all and during the past week, I’ve been thinking of what made the early games so special to me. A part of it was my imagination. I was reading a large amount of graphic novels, regular comics, and paperback books with intriguing characters: the Dark Knight, Daredevil (Born Again), Iron Man (Armor Wars), Wolverine, the amazing and cynical Green Arrow, X-Men, Avengers, Thor, Transformers, Conan, Mack Bolan (The Executioner), etc.
All those characters and stories inspired me to make my own (and sometimes similar) characters or to tell a similar story or give a foundation of “something like this would be great in my game or to happen to my or someone else’s character”. Sometimes, it was modified. At times, it was a more direct carryover such as my ranger who was hunted and also hunting “the Hand” from Wolverine.
Additionally, my friends and I all understood, “the Hand” was evil and bad news. All that it took was a throwing star to be tossed across the room and lodged into the timber next to your character that was roughing up some guy. It was at that moment, unconditionally, we started grabbing the dice as we would have a knockdown dirty fight ahead of us.
It wasn’t just the characters and the plots. It was what they did. Reading the fight scenes in the comics, or their actions in the in the books, triggered us to have an imagination of about the same.
All of this built great things. I had a cleric of Thor who had the personality of Captain America, a returning hammer like Thor that would knock opponents down or shoot a lightning bolt, who always was in turmoil over being a combatant or a healer in battle. Often it was asked “What would Cap do?” and my friends at the time, they were doing something the same (some characters based off the character Hawk or Tiger Man from Buck Rogers) so we all knew what to expect from each other as well.
It was also about setting. I remember certain fall nights where there is a silence and crispness to the air – a magical feeling absorbing everything as if it was a long time ago. There were certain parts of books which capture my imagination. Part of Daredevil: Born Again has Cap in front of a fire “This one’s been shot. Medic! Over here, man! Put out those fires out. We don’t want a gas main going up” [A soldier with a voice that could command a GOD --] flash to a silhouette of a top of building with Thor with his hammer raised, only showing a little gold on the boot and the red cloak [ - - and DOES. Suddenly it’s RAINING so hard it HURTS. Everybody who can falls SILENT.]
Another part was, we didn't just do damage. We had things happen because there was something more. This is best shown in the Rise of the Runelords. I think this is all summed up with allowing the players add to their own characters descriptions. John had stated "Maug is going to grab a chicken leg of the table hit the kobold with it over the head and then stab him in the throat with it." It was simple, easy, imaginative, and interesting.
So what to do? I have to get my imagination and some inspiration back. To do that:
- I’ve started reading more. I have just received “Percy Jackson and the Olympians”.
- I’m picking up some old Conan paperbacks
- I’m looking to put up some new “old” posters here in the Dungeon. Surround myself with the things that may rekindle old memories while DMing.
- I will start working on a list of “things to remember when I play and DM” regarding characters, actions, and settings - to be more creative with what is happening and intriguing.
- Add back in the actions of the Kobolds in Rise of the Runelords.
What are some of the things that spark your imagination that I could read or that maybe you yourself should start looking at? Any works that I should look at?