One of the hardest parts if any campaign is finding a starting point. Sure, you can use the tried and true method of “you get a bounty and kill a thing” without any real thought put into the world around the players, but that can get boring pretty quickly in a long campaign unless other elements are added. Maybe the bounty giver is a shady individual, making the party question whether or not this is a job worth taking? Or maybe they’re in for a lot more than they bargained for? Plenty if plot devices can be used to spice up basic ideas, and on the flip side of that coin, plot devices can be made more effective by following paths laid out in classic literature.
Allow me to explain briefly what I mean by that. There is an idea in the world of art (including painting, drawing, theatre, etc.) which states that there are no new ideas. Pretty much everything is a rehash of something that someone else has already done. This doesn’t mean, though, that these rehashed ideas are boring or weak. By following the map laid out for us in the past, certain plot devices can be given new life and a fresh take on the world.
For instance, Dante’s Inferno has inspired many different works including the 2014 film As Above, So Below. It’s a piece of art that has been retold many times before, but still is held as a work worthy of retelling again. Shakespeare’s Hamlet was a direct inspiration for The Lion King, but that film is still regarded as one of Disney’s best (at least in my opinion).
Suffice it to say, classic literature is still a very viable foundation on which to build your campaign. Personally my favorite place to draw inspiration from is the works of Robert Jordan. In the series The Wheel of Time (and I’ve written an article on this in the past so I won’t go into too much detail) there are no “minor characters” in the traditional sense. Every single person in that series has a real impact on the world around them, even if it takes three or four books for them to show that impact. So go out and find a classic work. It doesn’t have to be books, things like film or painting carry just as much potential! Never be afraid to retell an age old tale, because you have every chance of making it something totally fresh and unique.
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