My latest thing, as anyone who follows this blog will know, is Borderlands. It’s not the first and it won’t be the last bright, shiny object. The world is so full of inspiration – especially in the entertainment media – I can’t help but constantly consider adapting an idea or property to RPGs.
For me, it all started with the Lord of the Rings (the novels). I was into LotR before I even started RPGs, so when I played D&D, setting a campaign in Middle Earth seemed a no-brainer. Star Wars, also, served as the setting for untold SF games in university, using a homebrew SF system.
Other than those two that probably everyone used, my top three sources of inspiration have been:
The Long Ships: While the 13th Warrior strongly inspired Kiss My Axe: Thirteen Warriors and an Angel of Death, the Viking campaign which birthed it started as a True20 game and that was based on a section of Frans G. Bengtsson’s the Long Ships. I’ve read this novel four or five times, and each time I’ve come away with something different. It’s packed with ideas for adventuring and dark ages brutality, but the search for the Bulgar Gold led to a campaign in which the PCs search for exactly that.
Planetary: It should come as no surprise that Warren Ellis has provided inspiration for my gaming. While I would love to take a crack at a NextWAVE: Agents of HATE game, I honestly don’t think I could pull that off. For Planetary, though, I had a whole plan to use popular media as the basis for a secret history. Originally, we used True20 – a system with which I was familiar and comfortable. However, the campaign became much more about explosive fight scenes, like the Authority, than Planetary‘s secret history, and so we decided to try the Esoterrorists.
Although it is not as focused on the ass-kicking as the Authority, Planetary has plenty of action and fight scenes. The Esoterrorists version of Gumshoe wasn’t so strong on face-punching, so the crew returned to Sword Noir the next session. I was going use my ideas in a series of products, and tested the waters with Operation Nearscape: an Osiris File, but the response to that was lukewarm at best.
Black Hawk Down: The origins of Sword’s Edge Publishing came with Black Hawk Down. It was the movie that got me into the book and the book that got me interested in running modern military games. I had known about the SAS for some time, having both read Andy McNab’s Bravo Two Zero and watching the Final Option, a not so great 1980s SAS movie. Black Hawk Down, though, introduced me to Delta Force, and the research for a spec ops campaign led me down a lot of winding trails. It led both to the Albenistan series of adventures, and the entire Spec Ops line of SEP product. This was all using d20 Modern.
Wikipedia’s got you covered for more information on the Long Ships, the 13th Warrior, Planetary, NextWAVE: Agents of HATE, the Authority, Black Hawk Down movie and book, Bravo Two Zero, and the Final Option.
You can hear some of the Viking campaign at Adventures of the Ottawa Warband.
When I had a stab at re-starting an spec ops campaign with my Ottawa group, I published some of my work here under the tag Direct Action.