Monday, August 29, 2016

Getting Great Ideas because they’re wrong

OK, so you’re watching some non-existent movie about the crusades and they introduce the two main characters - a European knight and an Arabic soldier.  They have to team up to defeat the evil guy from one of their sides who thinks his side is losing and therefore plans to burn Jerusalem to the ground to prevent the other side from taking it.  You think - This is great.  They’re going to have a French knight (like Richard) teaming up with an assassin from the Middle East in a really cool period piece.  Only you watch the movie and learn that the knight is from England, with a Scottish accent and Irish ideals, and the “Arabic” guy is from Kenya and acts like he’s a samurai.

Guess what?  your ideas were better.  Know what?  Use your ideas in your game!

Why are they better?  Well, in general Hollywood kind of sucks when it comes to legitimately good ideas.  I am convinced that the writers in LA assume that all the people in the world are stupid, though in their defense, the movie going public does seem to prove them right more often than not.  But even more importantly - Your ideas are original!  No one going to see that movie and then playing in your game is going to say - Hey, you stole this idea from that Eddie Murphy Crusade movie.

This is the whole point behind our constant bombardment about GMs getting “sparks of ideas” and then making those ideas their own.  Just because you may have misunderstood something about the plot and you got it “wrong” doesn’t mean that you should scrap the idea.  The opposite is true - You should generate as many “wrong” ideas as you possibly can in order to build up the most innovative list possible.

Also - If you didn’t catch it here, I just came up with a legitimate reason for an assassin and a paladin to work together.  I know there’s a ton of BS out there about the Templars, but if you are really naive enough to believe that stuff, you’re really being ignorant.  Read up on the crusades from some of the fact based historians.  Don’t believe the propaganda on either side.  The crusaders just might be the closest historic event to high fantasy role-playing that ever occurred, and knowing more about them is going to fire up your imagination and generate those sparks!


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  2. I must say; Ivanhoe, along with being my favourite hunk of literature out there, also shaped many of my ideas of fantasy role playing settings and tone. Moreso than Tolkien or anyone else. Ivanhoe, Joseph Conrad, (Heart of Darkness, Lord Jim, Victory) and Conan Doyle's The White Company. Most of these were required junior high reading two score decades ago when they weren't triggering SJWs to run for 'safe haven't; they formed a foundation of what adventure in our culture means, much like Haggard for Mr. Josten, our esteemed author himself here. Like Fantasy, these literary legends offered up a world with tropes, labels, stereotypes; clear concepts of good, evil and 'foreign', which reminds me, Moby Dick and the noble savage cannibal / brilliant ascetic philosopher Queequeg. It's a shame these books are relegated to university courses about 'colonialism' and 'exploitation' now...
    But alas, such is the world now. However, your piece reminded me that movies, in their modern, oh-so-much worse and way more inaccurate stereotyping and exploitation, offer up a similar palette of inspiration in the way that you just described! I just started a Google notes list of exploitable inconsistencies and incongruities to use as inspiration!
    Thanks J.

  3. OK - You've pushed me to it. I was thinking of releasing a "reading list" of what I considered to be the best GM and world building books. Look for it soon!