Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Steal Shamelessly - From Everywhere - But Tweak It

When talking about RPGs a lot of people - including myself - boast about how it is a unique story telling medium because the audience and creators are the same thing. This is true. However, there is one other thing RPGs have that other creative fields can't get away with as well. When running an RPG not only can you, but you should, be stealing content ideas from everywhere at all times. It's one of the best ways to run a good game. Today I want to talk about how, and why.

Steal From Other GMs
Did a GM run a campaign or story that you particularly loved? Perhaps an NPC you adored? A plotline or world element that amazed you? Steal it. I mean, if the GM is in your game - or friends with your players and liable to talk about the game with them - ask for permission first. Even if not that, you should ask permission first, but steal it. Take it, put it in your game, play with it, and figure out how it works.

You can do this for stuff you see on streamed RPGs as well. Did you love Critical Role's Chroma Conclave Arc? Did you love the "Into the Abyss" that a group ran on twitch? Are you in love with how John Harper's Blades in the Dark test turned out?

Steal them. Take them. Use them. Understand that people may get where you're taking things from if you're blatant about it, but just by being in your game and not the game you saw it things are going to play out differently.

Steal From Other Books, Comics, Movies, and TV Shows
The same holds true for more traditional story telling mediums. Take plot lines from books you love. Take encounters from movies and TV shows you adore. Did a comic do something really cool? Just take it.

Be Shameless
I say be shameless about it, but ultimately what I mean is there is no shame in taking plots/characters/whatever from other sources. It's all just content, and even the people who made the content your stealing have taken things - possibly even things you love - from their own experiences and stories they've seen. And like I said about, the nature of your game - the change in players, the change in GM, the fact it's a game with dice and not a scripted story - are all going to change things from where they were taken.

Tweak To Make It Yours
Nothing is stopping you from running your group through the adventures of Vox Machina. Hell, they released a Tal'Dorei campaign guide, so you could easily use the book, use the world, have your players each choose a member, and just go for it. Odds are dice rolls will play out differently. Odds are ideas will come in to change things. That's fine.

However, you may want to tweak things to put your own spin on them first. You have your own ideas, and why not twist things from the srouce? This does two things: 1) it helps you hide that you stole the content which while unneeded can leave people in awe of your creativity which is always fun. 2) if anyone does notice you took something and where it is from, by changing things you can surprise them with what is going on as well and that is always desired.

It's Harmless
Ultimately, there's no shame in stealing for your home game because no one is going to be harmed by it. Your audience is you and your players. If you are streaming on twitch and selling merch and what not you might have more concerns, but for a home game you're fine. Take content. Twist it into your own, and have fun with it.


  1. When people look at existing stories and other sources, they tend to look at the main characters and most recognizable places, plots etc. One thing I enjoy doing is take a secondary (tertiary?) character/location/anything from an existing sources, and place it in the limelight, bringing it to its logical conclusion. It's fascinating how much an existing thing can change, especially by placing it in your 'own' environment and letting the players interact with it.

    1. Taking the hidden stories inside bigger stories can have amazing results. Just look at the mileage Star Wars has gotten out of "who got the plans to Leia?" they've told that story like 12 different ways over the years.