RPG Design: Art and Inspiration

Designing a setting properly takes a good deal of time, at least for those of use not blessed with mad genius and a paying job in the RPG industry. (Real RPG’s, vidya fans. Like with dice and tables and stuff.) It takes a lot of imagination, and a bizarre love of hunting down all the details and making sure they fit together right. It also takes inspiration.

When making my own settings (plural, plural, very much plural, to my never-ending sorrow), I’ve been leaning on novels, TV, and movies, research into the genre, and my own imagination. Truth told, that’s not a bad basis to work from. Then, just yesterday, I discovered something else: art.

She’s getting into the mech. And not for the first time. Or the forty-first time, for that matter.

I was looking for posting material on a site I’d just run across, when I realized a lot of the pictures I was flipping through would be perfect as mood pieces for one of my settings. More than one, actually. So I started downloading.

“Single shot only, pick your targets carefully, and watch your ammo. Oh yeah: DON’T MISS.”

Here’s the interesting thing: sometimes I’d come to a picture that was cool, but didn’t quite fit. Then I’d have to decide: “Keep or ditch?” Being forced to pick over and over (I accumulated dozens of pics apiece for several settings) forced me to clarify in my own mind what each setting was really about.

“Nothing personal, boys. You were just in the way.”

It’s not just that I got pictures I could show players and say “Some details are different, but it’s pretty much like this.” It’s ALSO that I know each of the settings better, I understand them better, I know what they’re supposed to be. And knowing what they’re supposed to be makes it easier to write about them.

In just two days, I accumulated details it would have taken me months or years to come up with on my own. Not from copying the art, but from using the art to drive my own ideas and creativity.

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