The hunt for the unique idea

28 09 2009

IdeasI had a two day gap in posting.  Over the week-end, I had something of a crisis in confidence.

I was doing some gardening on Saturday morning – and listening to some podcasts at the same time.  In the space of an hour and a half, three items were discussed that I had only recent blogged about.

This caused two reactions:

  1. Perhaps others will think I simply copied their ideas and
  2. Regardless of what people might think, am I devoid of original subject matter?

It took me over a day to rationalise all of this and the source of my solution came from my other interest – writing.  I often see similarities between the two subjects – and this time was no exception.

One thing that I always live by in writing is that there is no such thing as a unique idea.  So why should a blog about role-playing be any different?  And furthermore, why should writing adventures buck the trend either.

So if you’re a GM that’s stuck for an idea for a campaign, I’ll share some writing wisdom over the next few days to ease the burden. 

Many writers GMs have an idea but dismiss it as being too similar to this book adventure, or too close to that story campaign.

To illustrate the potential dilemma that many writers go through in converting an idea into a story, I offer the following…

I have a real story in mind. It’s about a young man who is blessed with magical powers – only he doesn’t know about them at the beginning of the story. He’s an orphan and one day he meets a mentor and his magical abilities are revealed. It’s also foretold that only he can defeat the ultimate evil – despite his youth and inexperience.

Hands up if you know the story.

OK, hands down if you thought it was Star Wars.  And hands down if you thought it was Harry Potter.

I was thinking of Anthony Horowitz’s Power of Five series. How many hands remaining? To be fair, I bet there are a fair few of you with your hands still up, telling me of a book I’ve missed.

The point is that, on the face of it, the story of an orphaned boy with magical powers he didn’t know about is in no way unique. I would add that it doesn’t stop Star Wars or Harry Potter from being original.

Similarly, the classic retelling of an old tale is fair game. The Forbidden Planet is a Sci-Fi take on Shakespeare’s The Tempest after all.

Never confuse original with unique. If you review the current best-seller list for campaigns and adventures, I am confident you will find similar plots in other role-playing products, films and novels.

That does not make them rip-offs and it certainly hasn’t hurt their sales.  Your adventure should be original.  Simply changing the setting does that. Never strive for unique – you’ll die before you finish your campaign.

If I could have an unofficial sponsor for this blog it would be Musing of the Chatty DM.  He wrote a few articles on blogging in which he said that you need to have a focus.  Don’t be all things to all gamers, but don’t be too narrow either.  It’s taken me almost thirty blogs to get there, but I now know what my personal input to the world of gaming should be.  Thanks Chatty!  You don’t know me, but I’ve heard you on many podcasts – and I salute you (now I sound like a stalker — so I’ll stop now).

Tomorrow I’ll talk about how to come up with original ideas.

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One response

30 09 2009
Hammer

Just wait until the next big WOTC book release – you’ll see dozens of near identical posts on RPGBN.

Does it detract from any of the blogs? Hell no.

Do your thing, and enjoy it.

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