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by Mike on 9 September 2013
Often over at the Sly Flourish Patreon I get asked where ideas for our games come from. I always enjoyed Neil Gaiman's response: "from a little ideas shop in Bognor Regis". In On Writing, Stephen King says its the most common question he gets and he has a one-word answer: "everywhere".
Offering something a little more concrete, I offer that good ideas come from great fiction. Chapter 25 of Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master offers a list of great fiction I've found fueled my own GM's brain attic. It's been a few years so I've updated the list to the one below.
Keep in mind, these are just the ones that spoke to me. They may not speak to you and you may have others you adore from your own list.
The amount of material published for fantasy RPGs is tremendous and it's all useful to fire up ideas. Stealing ideas from published RPG material is a time-honored tradition. Wolfgang Baur, lead kobold at Kobold Press, said that people stealing ideas from [Midgard] and bringing it into their own world was his greatest hope for the setting.
For some excellent 5e-based products to fire off your imagination, check out Notable 5e Products and Ten Notable 5e Products for 2022.
Another great tool to shake up your brain and generate some great ideas is with random tools. Whether it's a random monument, NPC generator, magic item, or something bigger like a whole world; random tables get your mind out of a groove and pushes it in a new direction.
I built the Lazy DM's Companion with this in mind. It offers a lot of story-based adventure ideas, each piled up with lists of twenty options for a bunch of variables to give you all new ideas. It's Jaws but with a chaotic chimera awoken from a long slumber that sprays acid living in a volcanic cave protected by hags and hunted by greedy bandits. That sounds fun!
Raging Swan has some awesome random tables if you're looking for more beyond the Companion.
Generating good ideas comes from all of the sources you let into your brain and the practice of turning them into new ideas. Our favorite RPGs let us do this every week if we exercise it. Watch some great shows, play with some random tables, and draw out your own list of awesome ideas for your game.
Have a question or want to contact me? Check out Sly Flourish's Frequently Asked Questions.
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