Creating Nightmares: Theft as Inspiration

Cartoon of a thief caught in a spot lightWhen I used to decorate in Star Wars Galaxies (it was a fun game, I swear!), people would always ask me where I got such amazing designs for my house, and I would say I stole them. The greatest authors steal ideas. Now, this doesn’t mean stealing something and not making it your own. Nothing is lamer than having a fun time RPing only to find yourself facing off with Michael Meyers from Halloween. It’s like a bad fanfic! However, judiciously stealing elements from various sources and altering them to your liking is absolutely a good idea.

In this case, look at the game Time After Time. Honestly, this is one of the few episodes that I wished I delved deeper into what the monster was just because the players never really got a sense of why it was important to the villagers and why it needed them. The Plant Monster was merely me stealing the Thorian from Mass Effect. Of course I decided to dump the thing in water, have people get connected to it via a root, and then added a holodeck into the mix. By the time I was done with creating the monster, it was my own. People might be able to say “Hey, did you get motivation for this or this?” but no one could say the idea wasn’t mine.

During college, a professor of mine told me that every story had been told and everything that follows is just a reboot. And while at the time I thought he was full of it, the more I’ve grown the more I’ve understood what he meant. In truth, the story has been told be it Man vs Machine, Man vs Nature, Man vs Man, and ect. That is why it is so important that we add our own, individual touches of creativity in order for people to truly appreciate it as original content.

Straight up theft is a poor idea for anything. When it comes to creativity, however, borrowing a basic idea and reforming it into something of your own is never a bad thing. Hell, it’s damn well encouraged!

So now that you’ve just accepted your thieving ways, where can you look? Well, don’t keep your ideas only to other roleplaying games and sessions. Movies and games are a huge thing for me — Honestly, one of my favorite thing to do is watch the not popular horror movies of the 90s. While most of them aren’t terrible, they’re not memorable due to the story and characters. However, they sometimes have ideas for monsters that are a ‘good start’. But don’t even look to other things for ideas on monsters! Do it for your story as well.

Time After Time was merely me wanting to have a reason to do a Groundhog’s Day show. Sure I added the horrible death and the 80s music but dammit, I wanted a day that wouldn’t stop repeating! Congealed Happiness came around just because I got done watching Super 8. And while the movie wasn’t awesome as I had hoped, it still reminded me of the ET spirit. Thus, I made our protagonists children. Shady Hills and Buried Memories? Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes! Just keep your eyes peeled while out and about! You’ll never know when you’ll find motivation; seeing Picard and his crew not sleeping inspired me to make a horror game about sleep deprivation!

So, go my monkey fliers! Fly and steal!

The children of Founder’s Falls faced off against the Ink Monster. The students of His Holy Light University found themselves face-to-face with the Glass and thus themselves. A douchebag and his two friends found terror in the Plant of Honey Branch. We witnessed the horrors of the Meat Doctor as he tortured our poor inmates at a mental asylum, and we got to meet up with a group of despicable ghosts stuck in a cycle of revenge. Creating Nightmares is a series of articles sharing some of my tips and tricks for crafting the psychological horror New World of Darkness games featured on the Fandible podcast.


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About the Author
Billy started out his roots like many roleplayers - D&D. Playing it and then Vampire all through highschool and college, Billy picked it all up again when he made the move from Michigan to New York. Now working in publishing, Billy does what he can to view roleplaying games through a narrative's lens. Does that sound classy as balls? It should.

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