Writer’s Block? Use Songs for Inspiration

I participated in a writing series for Boccob’s Blessed Blog, which is a site with useful resources for role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons. I wrote 20 Cleric Quest Ideas that can be used to spark the interest of players who are holier than thou. The individual behind Boccob’s Blessed Blog is Andy Hand, and he previously agreed to an interview with me in 2016 and joined me on a podcast last year after we collaborated on a book of monsters for 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons, which has raised a substantial amount of money for suicide prevention.

Cleric
“Maybe heaven’s got a back door too?”

I was happy to contribute to Andy’s article series, though I struggled to get started on the quest ideas – the kind of struggle when an open document is starring you in the face and the blinking cursor is simply taunting you with every repetitive blink. I considered using some of the random tables from the Dungeon Master’s Guide, which I’ve put to great use when designing a delve for my players. The “been there, done that” vibe got in the way, so the cursor continued to blink with nary a word written.

I was scrolling through earlier articles in Andy’s Quest Ideas series, and noted that the Ranger quests started with a brief title. I considered the option of using song titles as a starting place for each Cleric Quest Idea, and from that point – I was cooking with gas! I briefly considered Pearl Jam songs (as they remain my favorite band), though I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to reach new eyeballs to persuade readers to listen to a band they may not have heard of, Dead Sara.

I listed each Dead Sara song in my blank document and vanquished the blinking cursor! I deleted some songs to get down to 20 tracks, which now functioned as quest ideas for a Cleric. From there, it was a matter of writing a few sentences for each song title to create a quest that would relate to a Cleric in D&D. It was enjoyable to write once I unlocked a way to get the article started.

Check out the 20 Cleric Quest Ideas at Boccob’s Blessed Blog, and be sure to read through to the end of the article as I linked to a Spotify playlist of Dead Sara songs arranged in the same order as the quests; this wrinkle may delight only me, though I’m sharing that delight with everyone!

Also, experiment with this device when preparing sessions. Start with song titles – or even movies titles – and use those as a jumping-off point for ideas for characters and quests in the campaign. For example, what would the NPCs in the next important location be like if the starting point for each NPC’s backstory were a title from the last five films that won the Academy Award for Best Picture?

  • The Shape of Water
  • Moonlight
  • Spotlight
  • Birdman
  • 12 Years a Slave

Fun little puzzle to sort out, right?!

Quick note, I’ll be appearing on and episode of Dragon Talk next Friday, February 8th at 1PM PST. The show is hosted by staff with Wizards of the Coast, and you can watch live on Twitch or the show will appear as a podcast later in the month.

Finally, it has been quite some time since I openly plugged my Patreon site. If you enjoy the content including the articles and podcasts I’ve been posting and would like to support my creative efforts, then please visit my Patreon to consider getting involved for as little as $1/month. Every little bit helps with improving the articles and podcasts that I put out into the world for free, and there are some fun ways to get involved with the content.

Don’t Prepare on an Island: The Joys of Collaborative Worldbuilding

The three pillars of Dungeons & Dragons are Roleplay/Interaction, Combat, and Exploration. There are multiple tools available to support Dungeon Masters in creating these pillars at a gaming table. The most common tool is a book that gives you information about each pillar. The most recent example is the Tomb of Annihilation adventure, and the upcoming Waterdeep books. The books describe locations, characters, monsters, and quests that are to be consumed by the players around a table. It’s a successful formula, and it works really well for most groups. It also leaves gaps because no matter how many pages a book like Tomb of Annihilation contains, it cannot provide all of the information required for the three pillars of D&D. Players are bound to go in an unexpected direction, and the DM may want to feature an area of the world that isn’t mentioned or fleshed out in detail in the book. Thankfully, there are other tools available for DMs to build up the pillars.

One tool to assist with brainstorming and generating ideas for the three pillars is the Dungeon Master’s Guide; the DMG has pages and pages of random tables to help build up any of the three pillars for a gaming session. I have long argued that one of the most useful strategies to simplify game preparation and session management is to create some anchor NPCs for players to meet during a session/campaign. I originally referenced my enjoyment of games like Red Dead Redemption, which advances the story through a series of interactions with important NPCs; players are even directed to these NPCs by large indicators on a map! (With Red Dead Redemption 2 coming out later this year, the game is again on my mind.) As I was planning to start a new campaign based on the material in Tales From the Yawning Portal, I realized that I needed to create additional NPCs for the characters in interact with during the first session. I cracked open my trusty DMG and set out to create another group of adventurers that the party could engage with (and perhaps be rivals with later) during their time in the Yawning Portal. Continue reading “Don’t Prepare on an Island: The Joys of Collaborative Worldbuilding”

Ego Check: Tracy Barnett, Designer of Sand & Steam

Welcome to another installment in the Ego Check interview series. One of the interesting things about running this site is the opportunity to meet new people doing creative things in the roleplaying-game universe. Last month, I was contacted by Tracy Barnett, designer of a new campaign setting, Sand & Steam. Tracy was kind enough to discuss his design process, which includes the unique approach of building his campaign setting on the mechanics of three different gaming systems – Pathfinder, Savage Worlds and Fate.

Welcome, thank you for agreeing to talk with me. Can you introduce yourself to those that may not be familiar with your site, Sand & Steam?

Hello, all. My name is Tracy Barnett, and I am the creator of Sand & Steam, as well as a guy who just plain loves gaming. Especially gaming at conventions. Sand & Steam is a multi-system, steampunk/technomagical campaign setting with a twist: rather than writing the entire setting for the systems I intend to use (Pathfinder, Savage Worlds, and Fate), I am breaking the setting into chunks, and using different systems for different parts of the setting. I think that each system tells certain kinds of stories more effectively, and that there are parts of the setting that lend themselves to those stories.

Continue reading “Ego Check: Tracy Barnett, Designer of Sand & Steam”