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Finding Your DMing Muse

Written by Krystal - Published on April 2, 2010

Often times we wish to create our own story line, our own plot, villains, etc..but honestly, who has time for all that thinking? And even if you do, it sometimes can be such a bother! Well, be at rest my friends! For I have a few ways to speed up the process for those of us constantly suffering from writers block! (And not writing enough articles for Dming.com…bad Krystal! )

Yes! I never can find inspiration, help meeeee!

Never fear, Advice-For-You-On-This-Subject woman is here! One of the things I do is surf fantasy pictures, you can do this on many places such as deviantart.com, flickr, google, and other search engines. These can give you beautiful visuals that you can turn into places or things in your story. I once found a beautiful picture on deviant art of a building setting atop a small piece of land at the edge of a giant waterfall, little trees placed in the front and back, and a bridge on the top that connected them. I took the bridge out, and made this cathedral more of a castle — yet still with that church-like feeling and created a puzzle.

Each tree had a different fruit, and there was a vine of grapes. On the door I had placed a young maiden with her mouth open, and depending on the fruit she was fed depended on if she attacked the group or not. Some fruits drove her crazy, and others made her gentle, and inside I created my whole imagining of what it would look like. Finding several more pictures such as a jack o lantern with a body who was carving human heads, I found that picture perfect and placed him in one of my rooms. This helped spur my creativity right away with so many ideas, another room with “Maestro”, who attacks you if you disturb his music, a ball room that had a secret door where “Fire dancers” came out and also attacked the party. This was trap heaven. Lights could go off and on, there was a “prophet” who ended up dieing since his form of “vision” was holding strings in his mouth, and conducting it through a series of water bowls, and electrifying them. I found a picture of a prophet who looked mother eaten doing something similar without the lighting, and got the inspiration from there. So you see, pictures can be a great source of ideas to help you create your own master piece.

Also, you can read other stories or take ideas from that. Just don’t be too obvious about it, or people might be able to foil you since they read the same book. Reading other modules to get a feel for the set up and the way some people run adventures can also help you along the way as well, or even just sitting down and writing on scenario that you really enjoy and creating a story around that. Perhaps you have a favorite character, make him/her the villain and make the story line based around a series of plots that the villain tries to lure the adventurers in. There are so many options here if you take one character or object, and create an entire world around that. So enjoy and good luck!

Uhh, I don’t fit into this category. I just can’t figure out how to put my story into a sequential make-sense order. Help?

Timelines! They are your best friends.

…I have nothing more to say here.

Haha, kidding. Anyways, time lines are one good way of doing this or do it based on the parties direction. Perhaps they go left, and you have something to the left! Then do it in that way, let the party decide the order. I’m sure there are more ways to handle this, but I’m not too good at it either. Perhaps some of our commenters will have some extra advice to add in? Anyways, good luck on your order structure!

I have a perfectly good story, all my own and original, but I get stuck when the players get there and/or choke up and it always seems not-as-cool-as-I-wanted.

I have this problem too. One way I used to resolve it was simply by writing down/ typing up my ideas, so I can implement them into the game easier, or as I said before you can find these pictures on the net, print them, and show them as reference guides, point out the things that are different, and it helps everyone get the same visual (that’s originally was grid-mats were intended for as well.) Once you take some of these steps, and some of your own you should have a fairly original, creative and unique game. Make sure to have several elements in your game though, such as traps, monsters, friendly npcs, non friendly npcs, illusions, places, puzzles, mazes, eye candy, items, plot, story, combat. Adding a few of these items to a game (or all?) can help create a better environment for your players.

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Written by Krystal

At a young age, my mother opened up her own gaming store. We had two game rooms, an office, and the front area which had a ton of miniatures and books. I helped manage that store for several years, my mother teaching me the ropes and treating me like an adult so I could learn. Even beyond that she played games at stores like Haster Hobbies and several other places. In fact, my parents met gaming! DnD kind of runs in my blood, as well as any other gaming you can think of. I’m simply a gamer at heart, an artist, and a jack of all trades. I love to write and that’s why I’m here at Dungeon Mastering! I’m going to be going to school for Video Game Design, and my bf is going to school so he can publish Core Rule Sets. In the short few years I’ve been with him I’ve learned all about how to create my own rule system and create a game from the ground up! But my expertise is not limited to DnD alone. I’ve ventured far into Call of Cthullu, and beyond to games like Shadowrun and some White Wolf games..though I’m not a big fan of dice pools. :)

Anyways! Gaming is my passion and my life. I game constantly, go to conventions, and so much more! Maybe I’ll see you there! Happy Gaming!

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4 Responses to “Finding Your DMing Muse”
  1. Elderon Analas says:

    Dont be sad. Your doin’f fine with the articles, the last few have been like your best yet. And, if your sad I’m gonna be sad, and when I’m sad. I burn things. That always makes me feel a bit better. Here’s an idea, set your neighbors house on fire. Or if you want something a little bit safer. (Why?) Then fill a trash can with crumpled up newspaper. Add 1 cup petrol then, add one lit match. Ta-Da. Instant happyness in a can. Annyway, got myself of topic. But Krystal if your sad then I’m sad and I don’t like being sad, no one likes to fight a mopey dragon. (Except mabey the ones with no honor.)

    Oh and Advice-For-You-On-This-Subject Woman is like a really long name. By the time you get done saying your intro, the villan will be gone. [snickers to self] Ok sorry I laughed but, it is funny.

    As to the topic on timelines and event order. I can’t really help much there. But, what I do is i right down all my events and cool ideas of stuff that might happen or I want to happen. Then I set them into the current events. Here’s an example. Lets say there is a fork in the road, ok, one does left the other right. I set up to events for each path. So, if they want to go left in the fork in the road, then I let them go left and then that lets me just use the event that would happen if they went right for another time later on. (no idea if the last half of that sentence made any sense) Hope this helps anyone who was confuesd, or at least gives you another option. I think I’m just about tapped out my my ol’ fire brain o’ mine.

    Your Friendly Brass Dragon,
    Elderon Analas

    PS. “May the dragon gods bless you as you walk the path of life.”

    DT. “Nomag wer darastrix ithquenti tiichi wux lae wux zhin wer donoap di waph.”

  2. GuiguiBob says:

    When I started planning the campaign, I imagined where they would be at the end then separated roughly how they’d get there.

    for example : chapter 1 they meet the BBEG
    chapter 2 they train to get more powerful
    chapter 4 they take him down

    those are the long terms goals, those you need to reach to complete the campaign. Then you take chapter 1 and throw ideas of what will fit with your characters. Then write letters A, B and C on you 3 favorites, those are your current plots. A should get most of your time and be the focus of your players in the next session B is getting ready to step and be next and C is getting a bit of foreshadowing. Then when A is over you pick B or C to become the next A(depending on player interest mostly) and add a new one to take its place. Once you’ve accomplished the section objective you start planning what comes with the next objective with what happened in the previous one modifying your plans

    This is how I do campaign timeline, so far it keeps thing flexible enough so I can improvise. It doesn’t fill all the blanks so I don’t need to railroad them into next week’s plot. And it allow me to insert ideas I get along the way.

    My main inspiration for what happens next is my players. If they check each and every chest for traps, i’ll set them up with traps along the way. If they say that it would be cool if something happened. It might happen in the future, tainted with my ideas so they might not get exactly what they tought.

  3. Most of the stuff I ran on my own were ripped from something else. The players never knew the difference.


  4. LordVreeg says:

    I have some advice on this.

    The first piece of advice I have is to write something everyday, or add something everyday. My campaign wiki grows a little bit at a time but it is amazing the things that come from having a bunch written.
    Also,the way a wiki works, you always end up creating more pages from one entry, by creating the linking pages.

    Secondly, I write timelines at three levels of depth; I run a 26 year old campaign, so I have had to get good at keeping multiple plots running at once. Large overarching, mid level, and short term. And I recommend flowcharting everything…That way the GM keeps it consistent.
    As an example, an overarching plot may involve a Pirate Lord who is trying to establish an actual political state and writing a 2 year timeline around that process. Depending on which side the PCs end up on, Mid-level plots may involve the Pirate Lord’s minions (which may be the PCs) building relationships and doing dirty work for minor nobles, making allies with a Thieve’s Guild in a coastal town over months of hidden work, Finding information about an ancient Pirate Lich’s Chaos Quadreme…
    and the short term plots would be within the mid-term timeline, meeting with the Pirate Lord’s captains, stealing a warship, chasing some ships manifests, etc.

    And to make awesome happen for your players, I recomend leaving as little to chace as possible. You said similar things, the more that is totally prepared and created, the more you can give to the pcs directly, the better off you are.
    A nice twist is to use the big moments to tie stuff together. Seeing the NPC they spoke to in the bar that tried to warn them off a case at the end of an adventure is a nice tie in; finding a book that was missing from a library when they did research in an enemy lair brings it home, etc.

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