This past week I spent my days in the verdant mountains of Pennsylvania near a small town called Bedford. It was a farm that went by Fort Royal where a music festival, Weekend at Wolfie’s, was making its debut. Me and one of my fellow Dungeon Masters had the pleasure of working as security in exchange for tickets, food, and all access. I met hundreds of people, talked to almost half of them, and hung out with some amazing people. From all of this I have gained a fresh perspective on writing for adventures.
Let me see if I can explain.
The first night that we camped at Fort Royal was the only night we could really let our hair down before the oncoming storm that was the festival. Sitting around a bonfire and ‘investigating’ the contents of various bottles we’d brought with us, the topic of Dungeons and Dragons came up. I didn’t know the people very well, but I soon discovered they were the headlining band, Bumpin’ Uglies, who had arrived early to help setup.
Now properly nervous, as I am used to as a Dungeon Master, I began a short one-shot that didn’t quite use the entire D&D rules system, but instead a more simplified approach. Too many bottles had been emptied to do otherwise. The results were fantastic, and a bit unexpected. Instead of coming up with a plot of my own, I had the players create their own. Thus the Forest of Ill-Repute, a place where many bandits, thugs, and crazies called home, where a cult called the Dharma Initiative had set up camp. Led by the evil Zach Bellis, they were causing mayhem and destruction for nearby towns.
Our party decided to do something about that. It consisted of Justin (The Band’s Merch Wizard), his twin Carl (Production Wizard), Brendan (Lead singer of the Band), Chad (Band’s Keyboardist), Christian (One of the locals), and my own friend of many years. The twins had played before and knew what they were doing, so of course they were spell-casters. Brendan became a Barbarian, Chad a Druid, Christian a Paladin, and of course the ever-present Halfling Joe.
We were missing a band member. Wolfie, the Bassist, wasn’t sure if he wanted to play, but he watched, and I watched him, and I set a plan in motion. After splitting the party (Yes, yes, I know. It’s okay, I know what I’m doing.) they began to hear the howling of wolves, quite big ones, and began forming defensive strategies. Brendan, embracing the role of Barbarian quite quickly, decided that he wanted to fight them one on one in the pit that our Halfling ‘found’ — by falling into it of course — and he began to entice the wolves into attacking him.
This is when I turned to Wolfie and asked him what his werewolves were doing.
You see, it turns out that Zach Bellis had hired these werewolf mercenaries for the sole purpose of taking out this party, and they were led by none other than Wolfie. The night quickly delved into bloody combat as the party tried to deal with these regenerating monsters. It didn’t go well for them. Both Brendan and Justin were bitten and would soon be turned, while the others were heavily damaged.
And that’s where it stopped. We worked hard after that night all week, and we wondered when we would play again. Some day soon, I hope.
What the hell does any of that have to do with inspiration, right?
Seeing how my players interacted, people who I had never met before, and running a game for them was very interesting. They knew each others personalities and quirks and I did not, so I allowed them to create the stage, so to speak. I gained a lot of insight into how to run for strangers, how to simplify a rule system, and how to encourage roleplay. I’ve also come away from this week with a bunch of new stories, encounters, and NPCs that will make their way into my home games.
Getting out into the world and just observing people and places is so important to writing. I guess that was the point of this little rant. I plan on doing it a lot more.