Inspiration comes in many forms. Sometimes, a moment changes your life, and the only way to process it is to share it in the form of a powerful story. Other times, a quiet walk gives you a sort of peace. You finally have a chance to hear yourself, and you hurry home to write from your very soul.
Or maybe you’re in a bar, Journey comes on, and your next game is about a small town girl, living in a lonely world.
Lyrics are powerful tools that I think are overlooked by many DMs. I mean, a good song can be the soundtrack for your best memories, taking you back to the most important times of your life.
So! In order to put my money where my mouth is, I’m going to look through my playlists while I write this blog. Then, using lyrics, I’ll write a few D&D campaign ideas based on them.
"Your Wildest Dreams" - The Moody Blues
I’m saying The Moody Blues, but honestly I listened to Ninja Sex Party’s cover for this one. First, let’s look at the lyrics I’ll be using:
I remember skies
Reflected in your eyes
I wonder where you are
I wonder if you think about me
Once upon a time
In your wildest dreams
This one came together pretty fast for me, honestly. Here’s the pitch: a group of adventurers find themselves in a world that’s completely foreign to them. The only thing they remember is their sky, which was wondrous and beautiful. This is a campaign where the players want to find their homes.
Before your first game session, have each player tell you a moment or two their character would remember from their previous lives. Afterwards, take each character’s pasts and weave them together to form their world.
As you play, allow them to remember parts of their pasts. Whether it’s deja vu or while they sleep, describe a new moment. Then, ask the table which character remembers it. You can then ask them leading questions to help them build these memories, giving them a backstory as they play.
And honestly? You can pull more story from the rest of the song. For instance, it references that the world was “ours”. So were these players rulers? Gods? Consider throwing this in!
With just a few lines from an old 80’s song you have a story that can be anything from lost commoners to forgotten gods experiencing a rebirth on a world that doesn’t know them...
"Come Together" - The Beatles
Sometimes the best way to write your campaign is to know who your villain is. The right villain can almost write the rest of your story for you.
“Come Together” is basically a blueprint for an amazing antagonist. Here are a few lines from various parts of the song:
He got ju-ju eyeball
He one holy roller
One thing I can tell you is
You got to be free
You can feel his disease
Sorcerous eyes and a divine background? A message for the masses? And you can feel his disease? You can take that in so many places. But here’s my take.
This D&D campaign’s about a preacher, killed by his followers years ago. However, they didn’t know his death was the final component of a ritual. Now, he walks eternal, converting all those who encounter them. Whether they join him as the living or the dead is up to them.
He seeks to build his church, and only the players in this campaign can stop him.
"Breaking" - Anberlin
Sometimes you're going to hear a lyric that probably goes one way, but you get something completely different from it. That’s what happened to me with this one. First, the lyrics:
Do you memorize theatrical lines
That seem to lead them in?
Play the role with a good girl heart
Hide the tangled webs within
There’s a lot to work with here, but for some reason this just painted an immediate picture for me.
The players are a traveling theater troupe, putting on shows filled with hilarious hijinks. However, their true mission isn’t spreading mirth. They travel the lands in search of the mysterious organization that’s responsible for the deaths of their loved ones.
In this campaign, the players are responsible for building their theater troupe, focusing on performances and plays, and networking with towns, patrons and kingdoms. All the while, they use their influence to learn about the ones responsible for their loss.
This campaign can be episodic or be told in chapters. Players can get as involved as they want with the silliness and shenanigans of their theater troupe. And you as the GM can make this as casual or intricate as you’d like.
I Rest My Case
There you go! Three separate campaigns based on a few lyrics I got by hitting random on my music playlists. This is something you can do too! Grab a playlist, look for your favorite songs, and let one of them inspire you! Or, just use one of these. After all, that’s why I wrote them.
If at any point you find yourself stuck on any part of your campaign, or you want to flesh it out any more, you should consider using The Story Engine Deck! Whether you need your next game session, further developing your campaign, or any other part of the writing process, The Story Engine Deck will break past your writer’s block like a rampant Kool-Aid Man full of rage and a fierce need to aggressively inspire your next campaign.
(Why the Kool-Aid Man would be so invested in your success, I don’t know. I’ve never understood him.)
You can sign up for a free print-at-home demo of The Story Engine Deck here.
This was our first-ever guest blog, written by Pedro Galicia!
Pedro Galicia is a GM with over 20+ years of experience building worlds and running games. He is the creator and GM of the World Walkers D&D podcast. He is also an Emmy Award winning father and husband, which can be confirmed by referencing his bio.