There’s a book I’ve been working on that I keep tucked into the backpack that I carry with me where ever I go. It’s not something I’m writing myself – I’m more of the editor/compiler of it.

It’s one of those paper folders with bendy metal tabs in the spine to hold three-hole punched pages into place, and it’s full of various things that I have printed out or photocopied that I find helpful in brainstorming RPG ideas. Whenever I have a bit of free time (and don’t have a anything else to read at the moment), I pull it out and read something at random out of it.

Here is a list of what I keep in that book:

  • The Big List of RPG Plots by S. John Ross – A list of 30+ basic plots that you can use as springboards for an adventure. Includes tips on how to use them creatively – combine two, reverse the roles, etc.  This is great for those times when you have to come up with something fast, but it’s also good for laying down the basic foundation of your plot.
  • Yes, But… Part One and Yes, But… The Scenario (from “See Page XX”) by Robin Laws -Two great columns on how to answer player requests with “Yes, but…” instead of “No.”  In the second column, Laws suggests running a full-freeform game in which the PCs ask you questions that are all answered with “Yes, but…” (To get these two, you’ll have to purchase a PDF of the first 24 installments of this column, but there is a lot more good advice to be found among them, and the price is right.)
  • How to Play Role-Playing Games and How to Run Role-Playing Games by Greg Stolze – Two free PDF pamphlets by one of my favorite RPG designers. Both of these cover the basics of the hobby, but I always find myself reading them to remind myself what those basics are. “How to Play…” is also handy for giving to anyone who would like to understand the hobby (when you’re too pressed for time to explain it yourself).
  • Robin’s Laws of Good Game Mastering by Robin Laws – Tons of incredible GM advice packed into 33 pages – focus, mood, story structure, improvisation, and a lot more. It’s hard to crack this open to a random page and not get something from it that you’ll want to try in your next session. (Thankfully, Steve Jackson Games made this one available as a PDF – the original print run sold out quickly, and dead tree versions are going for ludicrous prices on eBay!)
  • The Seven Sentence NPC (from the August 1992 Dragon Magazine) by C.M. Cline – This one will be a little tougher to get than the others, unless you have access to back issues of Dragon or the CD-ROM archive of the first 250 issues that came out a while ago.  The basic idea is simple, however: when creating NPCs for your campaign, describe them in seven sentences, based on seven character qualities. The article gives specific qualities, but you could certainly come up with seven of your own, that would custom suit your campaign.
  • The Adventure Funnel by Dr Rotwang! – This was one of his posts from his blog I Waste the Buddha With My Crossbow on how to brainstorm the basic elements of a story on the fly. I liked it so much that I use it almost every time I’m coming up with a plot – but I usually need to remind myself how to do it.
  • A Quick Primer to Old School Gaming by Matthew J. Finch – A brief manifesto on the old school style of roleplaying. Debates on old- versus new-school roleplaying have been running rather hot lately, and I’m not interested in getting into any of them.  I can appreciate and enjoy both forms. What this doc does is to examine the freeform style of old-school play, and shows how creative and intuitive it can be.

And that’s my RPG inspiration book… for now, anyway. There is still room for more pages, and I’m always open to suggestions.  Have any? Leave them in comments!

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