Drawing A Blank


You have a game coming up at the end of the week and your mind keeps wandering in circles, drifting off to other things and not doing what you want it to. Give you ideas for the game you need to run! Think, think and think and it just is not cooperating. You have hit that wall, the wall that good ideas do not seem to want to cross.

Maybe you have read my previous post on images as inspiration. And now you have spent an hour trolling the Internet looking at various images from many sites across the Internet. Still nothing. Not even images are providing that spark for your upcoming game and time is running out.

Let’s take a look at some other source of inspiration that can sometimes be used to spark either a small idea for an upcoming gaming session or even kick off a whole campaign.


When looking for ideas there is always television. Choose your genre, watch a few shows and then adapt something from there to your game. The fun part of this is that you can choose to watch something that might be science fiction based and then adapt a core concept from that show to a fantasy genre. Or you can go the other way as well. Watch a fantasy based movie and take a concept from that and redress it as something for your futuristic science fiction game.

I have even had good luck with kid’s cartoons to come up with ideas on the fly. I actually really enjoy watching a Scooby Doo episode and taking a couple of ideas from it to adapt for a gaming session. I still have a village that was uncovered when the water from a lake disappeared that is screaming to be included in one of my games.

I think one of the keys to using television as a source of inspiration is to peel back the window trappings and look at the base conflict happening. Once you can look past the era  of the show you can expose the base conflict that is driving the plot. Extract this from the show, apply your own window dressing for the genre of RPG you are running and you have next week’s game session ready to go.


Books are the obvious answer for many. Books let you delve into any number of worlds and often help paint detailed pictures of characters and environments that can jumpstart your thinking for adventure ideas. As with television you can read cross-genre and work on evaluating the core conflict and then apply your own window dressing to adapt to your campaign.

While there are many categories of books and many will have their favorite, I frequently like historical fiction for stealing ideas from. I find them especially easy to plunder for ideas and the fiction aspect gives it a little more personal depth in many cases. Even well written history books can provide the spark for inspiration you might need.

The largest downside to using books for inspiration when you are crunched for time is that there is more time investment in reading them. If you read a book you might not find an idea or by the time you do find the idea you may not have adequate time to prepare for a quickly approaching game session.

For this reason I think simply making reading a regular habit is a good solution. As you read, take notes on story ideas you get and record them. Then the next time you find yourself stuck you can easily refer back to your notes from various books you have read and have jumpstart to getting a session prepped in short order.


Music is a sometimes overlooked category for inspiration and plot hooks. With a wealth of music out there in the world from a variety of genres you can frequently find plot ideas from the lyrics in songs themselves.

If the lyrics of a song aren’t working for you, sometimes just the more subjective feel of a song can at least influence the course of your gaming session. Sounds of Native American flute music might conjure one image for you, while the heavy riffs of an American heavy metal band might give you an entirely different feel.


Even the news can provide great fodder for story ideas. Cross-platform you can read your news, listen to your news on the radio or watch on television. Find a story that seems a little more interesting than the others and you have your core conflict to use for your next session.

Even simple stories can provide a great start to get your mind turning. A local businessman accused of embezzling funds? Who could that be in your local fantasy town? What repercussions does that have? Has he been found out yet?

Or maybe a local river has been found contaminated with industrial waste. This might get my mind thinking about just what is the local alchemist’s guild doing for waste disposal? Just dumping it in the sewers or perhaps having it carted outside the city? What implications might this have?

Sources, sources, sources

Most likely of the suggestions made above you will have found yourself using them already. For others maybe they are a source you have not used to inspire your game or help plan your next session. Hopefully one of these will be one that helps you pull through that next time your mind is drawing a blank as you try to prepare for that game session at the end of the week!

2 thoughts on “Drawing A Blank

Add yours

  1. My DMing style very much tries to emphasize the “badass” factor of players because that’s the sort of game I usually enjoy playing. I often think back to the coolest moments in action movies and try to recapture the absolute coolness of, say, a car chase with a gunfight by running a racing-wagon swordfight. Existing media can definitely lend a hand towards creativty reignition.


  2. Action movies can be great! They always seem to have some interesting terrain feature or twist that one could bring into their RPG of choice.


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