Gamers can find inspiration for adventure or campaign ideas nearly anywhere. But unless you’re careful it can be tough to hide the fact that you just stole the plot of The Wizard of Oz from your players. The main problem with taking inspiration from movies, TV shows, or books is that your players tend to have similar tastes as you do in these areas. Not only that, but there are only a limited number of movies and TV shows released in a year, so the odds of at least one of your players having seen or heard about the movie or show you’re basing your plot on is high. It’s a little easier with books due to the sheer number of books out there, however the “your players tend to have similar tastes” problem is a particularly large one here. It’s compounded because, while there are a lot of books to take inspiration from, not all of them are very good, and when you do find a good book it’s hard not to share it with your friends. But there’s one medium that not only gets overlooked as a source of inspiration, but is also one where tastes very wildly from one person to the next; music.
Within a single group of gamers the range of musical preference can be staggering. Taking our group for example, we’ve got members that listen to everything from Anime Theme Songs to Viking Metal to Indy Rock to Gangster Rap to American Pop. Not only that, but the sheer amount of music that’s released in a year is so staggering that even two different fans of one genre of music may not listen to the same bands. Plus, interpretation of music tends to vary somewhat from person to person, so if you decide to take inspiration from a song it’s likely that your players may not realize it even if it’s one they love.
So what kinds of things can music inspire? Well, to be blunt, anything you want. It can be as grandiose as an entire campaign, as specific as an adventure, or as intimate as a PC or NPC. The idea is to take anything that makes you say, “Oh, that’s interesting” and turning it into something that you can use as a GM or a player. The idea of this feature is for one of us here at the Labyrinth to give you a song you may have never heard and then give you some ideas of how to use that to better your game. So, without further ado, please allow me to present to you the first Song to Inspire Your Game: Skeleton’s on Parade by Ludo.
Okay, this one is kind of a gimmie as this song doesn’t so much inspire a game as it does lay out an entire adventure for you, up to and including giving you a solution to the town’s problems. But it's not a song that your players are likely to have heard before, so I think it works well. It’s easy to see the PCs coming across this cursed town, who’s residents are so busy praying and cleaning the local graveyard they pay little to no attention to the PCs. When night starts to fall, all of the residents of the town scurry inside and board up their doors and windows, leaving the bewildered PCs out on the streets if they haven’t found shelter before the sun goes down. No one will answer their door, and before long a horde of skeletons descends on the town, attacking any living person they see and doing as much property damage as possible. The PCs fight them, but find that even when one is struck down, within moments it’s back up and at full strength. The PCs manage to survive the night, only to faintly hear an old woman singing in the direction of the graveyard. “Goodnight all my children now, you must lay down your heads. You wouldn’t want the sun to catch you risen from your beds…” If the PCs are smart they’ll realize that the only way to stop the menace is to somehow keep the skeletons from getting back to their graves before the sun comes up the next morning.
With a little alteration, this adventure can be made to fit almost any Fantasy game. Want to run it as a low-level adventure? Make it so the skeletons only attack town members, and completely ignore the PCs unless they attack first. It’s the townspeople who are cursed after all, not the PCs. Are your PCs too high level for skeletons to pose a challenge? Change them to something stronger like a Ghoul or a Ghast. Or make sure the skeletons break into a few houses, and have protecting the townspeople be the actual challenge, instead of just killing skeletons. There are a ton of ways you can go with this one, but no matter what you do, make sure you comment and let us know how it goes. We always love to hear your stories.