A while back I did a post about Inspiring the game, wherein I talked about various sources of inspiring moments that could be ported over to RPGs and some problems that might be encountered when doing that. This is a follow-up post to that one. I’m hoping to lay out a few sources of my own inspiration and chart the paths they took into games that I ran. More than that though, I want you guys to lay out your own sources of inspiration and how you got them into games. What worked and what didn’t?
So here we go:
Source: Final Fantasy X – The Entrance into Zanarkand
Inspiring Moment: The epic feel of the group walking up the cliff and seeing this dead city of the ancients.
How it Worked:
For my Silvervine campaign ending game I had the party walking up a long snowy cliff. They came to a cave opening which was iced over so heavily that they couldn’t pass before getting around the ice. After epic attempts and struggles they managed to get through the ice. After moving through the cave (complete with mystic and creepy sounding background music) they got into the sunlight on the other side and found a desolated and ruined shell of the gate of a city and the cliff edge where the rest of the city should have been. A large shadow passed over them and they realized the city didn’t fall into the gorge, but was raised into the sky. Finding a teleporter and decoding the runes, they were able to get into the deserted city.
Drawing out the tension
Effective and low key background music
Vivid but quick descriptions of unique elements (columns, cloud passing overhead)
Puzzle elements that were explicitly known by the players as puzzle elements.
Source: The Dirty Dozen
Inspiring Moment: The excellent moment when the group of prisoners is planning out the attack on the German base.
How it Worked:
I had wanted to have a big bank heist planning session in the Eberron game I was running. Let them plan out the heist beforehand and then give them bonuses when going into the actual heist. My players pre-empted me though. By realizing that all of the Kundarak banks were connected by teleporters (Eberron setting canon) and realizing that they had already found work-arounds to being in the mournlands (a large “dead” area of the world where healing doesn’t occur and magic gets a little screwy, also Eberron setting canon) they decided to just raid one of the abandoned banks that had to be in the area. Not at all what I had planned, but I figured I would go with it. Instead of a long planning session they just travelled to the nearest city which would have a bank and took their time overpowering the defenses. Ostensibly this was going to be their test run, but instead they just got into the teleporter of the abandoned bank and went from there.
What could have worked:
I was fully intending to have the group do some planning and then give them tokens which they could trade in for a +5 circumstance modifier. I intended to do the planning as sandboxy as I could, and then let them apply the bonuses during the actual break in. I ended up using this in another Shadowrun game when the group didn’t want to role-play the planning sessions. It was a great time saver.
Source: Train battles from any number of sources.
Inspiring Moment: A kickass fantasy battle on top of a train.
How it Worked:
My group encountered train tracks in the wilderness (in an anime-fantasy setting, so it wasn’t out of sorts), whereupon they decided to follow them until the train came by and then attempted to get passage on the train. Once the train arrived they opted for cow class (i.e. in with the cows in the livestock cart) tickets and got into combat. With the cows. Why. I don’t know. I was fully intending to have them fight some horse-riding bandits off, but instead they decided to attack the cows, and then eventually the train and its staff. The bandits never even got to them. They wrecked the train by stampeding the cows and overweighting the livestock car on one side.
Why it happened:
I think the group was in a let’s just cause chaos mode that night. They were into the story but between big plot pieces and were just looking for some fun. I decided to improv, as no plan ever really survives engagement, and took all my cues from the players. It ended up being an incredibly fun night that has spawned many “remember when . . . ” stories.
So there are some of the moments I’ve taken from other sources and how I’ve tried to get at the inspiring moments in games I’ve ran. The biggest thing I realized is that improv is your friend. Even though in only one of my examples did I get close to the intended result the group had fun in each scenario. So what about you? Tell me where you got an inspiring moment from and what that inspiring moment was. Did you ever run a game that got close to that? What worked or would work to get the same level of awesome out in an RPG setting?