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Burst of Insight—Double Feature: Writer’s Block Confessional and more Weird for Your Campaign

Writer’s Block Confessional

This week when I sat down to write my blog my brain quit. I had too many ideas and no ideas. My ideas were like trying to catch the tide in your hands. Ideas would crash in, then withdraw before I had a chance to really develop them. To anyone who works creatively, this is likely not a new sensation. It certainly isn’t new to me.

Fortunately, tonight I had a slight breakthrough…I decided to cheat and talk about writer’s block instead of looking too closely at any of those ideas teasing me from the sandy shores of my imagination.

I find that while the following technique doesn’t always work it does work often enough that it might be worth sharing and it comes down to this. Stop trying to write the thing that the block is obstructing. Take a moment to acknowledge (possibly out loud) the problem and begin writing something else. Anything else.

Dare to be Ordinary

I used to think of this more as “dare to be awful” but recently I’ve been listening to an audiobook about improv for actors. One of the guidelines the author talks about is, “daring to be ordinary,” which I like better than dare to be awful. I find that when mental blocks stimy my writing it easiest to stop trying to be creative and just type the first things that come to mind.

When you begin writing, don’t worry about whether your writing on a useful topic or if your grammar is even coherent. The objective is to simply put words to paper (or screen). If you decide to use what you’ve written for any purpose you can revise it later.  Which is essentially what I’ve been doing for the last several minutes here. Tonight’s blog began life as an angry stream of consciousness rant and has since evolved into an attempt to help other creatives add a tool to their writer’s toolbox.

And now that I have…


More Weird for Your Campaign

Now that I have written down my thoughts I figured we’d continue committing words to screen and I’d jot down a few weird prompt ideas. I’m still not looking too closely at the blog Idea I had before and I’m willing for these prompts (in the initial draft at least) to be a little ordinary and obvious.

Chimera Campaign: Like the mythical monster that mixes aspects of a lion, a goat,  and a dragon you can pull two (or more) random campaign settings from your shelves and come up with ways to draw elements from each together into something new and weird. Example: At random you select the original Planescape Campaign Setting and the 3era setting X-Crawl. You decide to ramp up the campy professional sport-dungeoneer aspect of X-Crawl and then focus on the otherworldly nature of Planescape and the Blood War. In place of the settings actual struggle, the PCs are swept up into the conflict and forced to compete in a series of deadly Pro-League Dungeons. These events are broadcast by crystal ball all over Sigil.

Alternately, you might cross the World of Darkness and Starfinder. The PCs are a werewolf pack traversing the stars together.  Players each portray a werewolf likely with a different tribe and auspice and the looming apocalypse threatens all of the Pact Worlds.

Distress Beacon: This is a trope that has been used to great effect in other media whether it was the Nostromo investigating LV-426 or the crew of the Canterbury boarding the Scopuli the early distress call set the direction for the rest of each of these franchises. If you are playing Starfinder a distress beacon can be a great way to kick off a campaign. Begin in media res with the decision to investigate already established. What do the PCs discover, a heretofore unknown and famished alien lifeform bent on eating and spreading to all of the Pact Words or maybe all they find is …betrayal and the start of an interstellar war.

Everyone World Builds: FATE has some great rules for the entire group to contribute to creating the campaign setting. These rules work as great advice when playing other games such as Pathfinder or Starfinder. For our Marlowe House, Friday live-stream games on Twitch Monica and I have taken inspiration from these guidelines and we’ve built a couple of different campaign settings. For our games, everyone contributes a few rough concepts and we pool our creativity and build our settings together. If your curious how we do this you can watch here:

Burst of Insight

Andrew Marlowe

placed in the Top 16 of RPG Superstar in 2012 and 2014, one of the few contestants to get that far in the competition twice. Since then, he has contributed to many Paizo and third party Pathfinder products, including one of the network’s favourite releases in the Pathfinder Player Companion line, the Dirty Tactics Toolbox. Every other Tuesday, he will be sharing his Burst of Insight, with design tips for would-be game designers from a decorated freelancer.