Week in and week out the DMs of the nation are writing phenomenal adventures for the players who gather around the gaming table. The work is endless and occasionally we DMs run out of time and energy. Game day is approaching and we haven’t even started writing out the adventure. We have what is more commonly referred to as writer’s block. We just don’t know what to do with the game this week and a blank page is staring back at us.
Normally, when this happens I put away my D&D supplies and I switch on the television. It doesn’t matter what I watch, I just need to let me mind wander allowing ideas to come to me freely. It’s at the end of several hours of mindless television watching that it hits me, the adventure I’ve been looking for has been literally staring me in the face for the past several hours.
Television and the endless and often mindless content that it produces is the DMs best friend.
The Script Is Written
Its sounds redundant to say it, but your story is written for you when you borrow from television for your story. The great part about television episodes is they are often self contained, yet there is always a longer story playing out in the background. Perfect for your weekly D&D session. You only need to take those elements, place the appropriate D&D spin on things and you are off.
One of the great things about using television is the various genres that exist. Dungeons & Dragons is fantasy, but that doesn’t mean a good murder mystery couldn’t be converted to a D&D game. The best part, you don’t have to write the mystery. Again the hard work of developing a tricky story has been taken care of for you. Almost any genre can be given a D&D treatment allowing you to pull from an unlimited amount of sources.
D&D even has all of the necessary elements in place to assist with the story. Skill challenges are great at handling the investigative or social elements of the show. Simply break down the major plot points or pieces of information that were gathered and tag an appropriate skill to it. Voila, a skill challenge has been designed.
The Action Scene Is Set
Most television shows, aside from dramas, have an action element in them at some point. In other words, your combat encounter has already been worked into the story. Now, you have a bigger budget than most television shows so use it appropriately and design a combat encounter that will suitably challenge your players.
In fact you may want to find a few minor plot points that don’t have action in them on the show and expand the encounter. This can easily provide you with more than enough combat in any given playing session.
Certain shows are going to be easier than others to convert scenes into combat encounters. Don’t sweat it too much, most players are prone to wanting to roll dice and combat is a sure fire way for that to happen. It shouldn’t take too much to lead them down the path.
Rewrite Your Villains
If you stick with one television show week after week you are going to need to do some work on your villains. Most television episodes have one-off villains. They make the show interesting for an hour and then they are gone, usually forever. You need a villain with lasting power. Someone who can antagonize the players over the course of several seasons. Red John from the Mentalist would be an example of a villain who straddles seasons. You may want your villain to be a little more visible in the world, so take the appropriate steps.
Change Up Your Shows
If you adopt a strategy of using television shows to tell your primary story week after week you will want to change your shows up. Once your players realize that they just ran through last week’s episode of Smallville they will wise up and be ready for you. Suddenly they’ll decide to kill “Baron VonLuther” because they know he’s the bad guy.
The decision to use what you see on television for you adventures can pay off in several ways. It will reduce the time you spend developing ideas for your game and provide you with a rough template for your adventures. You will never have a shortage of ideas to throw at your players.
Just be careful not to get carried away. Your players probably watch most of the shows you do and they may eventually wise up to things. You run the risk of having them feel cheated, not because you didn’t put the work in as DM, but because they already know what is going to happen. Part of the fun of D&D is exploring a shared world and experience together, if things become too predictable you can expect you players to get bored fast.