Inspiration At The Falls

My real world has changed, and with it my time for gaming, and even how much time I devote to gaming. I’ve gone from a guy who spent his afternoons on gaming, to a guy who spends many afternoons strolling along a tropical beach or going fishing. Moving from a city to a small town on the Great Barrier Reef coast has caused some lifestyle changes.

But even here I get gaming ideas! I can resolve worlds as I walk along the beach and see the way the retreating water is carving canyons in the sand like some network of great rivers carving canyons in mountains. I can look across the ocean to the tropical islands and imagine pirates and other things that have never existed here, or I can look inland and see the cloud shrouded extinct volcano and imagine what it would mean to a world of magic if that cloud was instead snow such as had never been seen in this part of the world!

My most recent ideas came from visiting the falls pictured above with my family. It’s a lovely setting, even with the amount of human presence in the area fresh water yabbies are still found here, fish swim in the streams and pond, there is an abundance of bird life and so on. In short this little set of falls is a wonderful place for stealing for a DnD campaign!

Questions like how close is the nearest settlement? What protects the pond? Why is the water a milky green in the pond but clear in the streams? All leap to mind for answering for a fantasy world and there are many possible answers, but these are not the questions that make such a site interesting for a DM to include in a campaign.

Unlike visiting the place in person, or even visting an equivalent in a cRPG, sitting around a table and having it described (even with a pretty picture) just isn’t going to immerse the players in the location. Something has to happen, something has to go on there that makes it important to the players and thus their characters.

Being a naturally beautiful spot of there are a great number of threats that can be imposed on it to make it important to the characters, but the key is getting them to return to the place multiple times, each time with some relevant new threat.

There are many ways the PCs could find such a place, but the easiest is through local villagers who send them there to investigate and resolve some problem (like Orcs fouling the stream closer to the source). While there perhaps the PCs notice the fey air of the place, and realise its value as a potential fey crossing. Then later on if the PCs need to cross to the feywild they know a place nearby and can return, then they might meet the fey guardian(s) of the place who may help or hinder them depending on the party’s actions.

Each time the players visit the place you can add little extra pieces of information to bring it ever more to life and make it ever more part of your campaign world.

The  lesson is about looking around at the real world with an open eye. There are all sorts of campaign ideas out there waiting for you to pluck them up, and your mobile phone might just be the way to do it in this day and age. Take a picture of that lovely water fall, or that oddly snow capped mountain, and show it to the players. It doesn’t matter that at first they will recognise it and go “oh I know that place” as you add detail to it in your campaign it will stop being that familiar thing and start being the place in the campaign world. Yet that initial familiar feeling will help the place be real to them as well, and with luck when they next see that place they might think of the game and the time they stopped the orcs or the dragon’s plans and your game will be that bit more alive to them.

Remember movies use real locations all the time, nothing wrong with doing that in your game as well!

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