"Adapting" (stealing) Plots for campaigns


Advice


In the past I have "adapted" plots from movies and minor novels occasionally a classic novel.
Because I have done this and my players were none the wiser (stronger education in literature or wider reading habits, who knows) I have been heralded as one of the "greatest GMs" ever. (well locally any way). This is a technique I teach to many budding GMs; especially those suffering from the dreaded Campaign Creators Block. That is how I first stumbled on it actually...
It was the day of the new game. The week before we had just finished a killer epic in D&D. It was a classic, Multi-level dungeon, traps, puzzles, monsters, and of course a dragon. (all in all a pretty typical campaign). Well the group wanted a break from the fantasy setting for a time, so it was decided we would play Space Opera (very old game how grognard of me eh?). I had never ran a Sci-fi game before so I was worried (the group refused to let me quit GMing). For an entire week I stewed and fretted and by game day I had... Nothing, zip, ziltch, nada.
What Am I a responsible GM to do?
Well with only 30 minutes til game I did what any GM in my shoes would... I "faked" it... I grabbed the first thing that came to my mind as a name for the Capt. of the spaceship the PCs would be crewing Bligh. Yup, Dad happened to be watching the Brando version of film on the tube when I walked by... so that was his name. Capt B. L. Igh. The plot was a forgone conclusion from there....
My players were enraptured by how much they came to despise that man...
And how he kept pushing them until they snapped and mutinied. (Yup, I ran Mutiny on the Bounty in a space setting). The Players declared me a genius. I felt cheap and dirty until I realized they actually had more fun and got more into character during that campaign than they ever did during our old "weekly crawls".

Recently I stumbled upon the movie Age of Dragons A retelling of Herman Melville's classic Moby Dick but with dragons instead of whales.
This was not a plot I had ever considered "adapting" for use with RPGs before (though now that I have seen the trailer for the movie I can see it).
But this movie has set my mind whirling...
What other "grand" tales could be retold/adapted for RPG campaigns?
I have done Bridge over the River Quai, Guns of Navarone, etc...
Anyone else have some "classics" they have "adapted"?

Liberty's Edge

I don't remember specific examples of movie and book adaptation, but reading this has inspired my to change one of my upcoming plots to be based on Fistful of Dollars. Instead of employer as greater evil and initial opponent as lesser evil, instead both are warring evils, and the best case scenario is for neither side to have the mcguffin. Now I just have to figure out how to hide the employers two bound succubi from 10th level players.


Star Wars 4-6 are good for 2-3 plots a piece; as long as you stay away from anything Iconic, no one will tell.

Magnificent 7/7samurai is one of my favorite fall backs

Ninja Turtles "avenge your master" never gets old

Ive done David Eddings Belgarion, Malorean, and both Sparhawk series.

Erol Flynn Robin Hood

Tarzan (Both The Weismuller version and the Disney)

The Mummy (Old B&W version and Brandon Fraisure)

Kingdom of Heaven I ran just after we watched it, and no one realized they were playing the movie. They thought it was history based :D

Most of Shakespeare's works

Several Star Trek episodes (gygax forgive me)

Then theres all the rewrites of actual modules and adventures Ive done

Grand Lodge

The last Shadowrun campaign I ran was a direct rip off of "The Rock".

I changed Alcatraz to an island in the bay outside Seattle and the rest was just movie scripted with them non the wiser until the finale when I threw in a Scottish accent. (ie-HORRIBLE Connery impression)

I have also always wanted to do a "Red Sonja" or something along the lines of the kids movie "Hunchback of Notre Dam"


In the first place, as most writer's workshops will tell you, there are actually only seven plots. Everything is a variation of one of them.

That said, I have not only written, but have had published adventures based on Big Jake and Hang'em High (as a two parter). As the editor told me, you can get away with almost anything, if it can be called satire.

The Xanth books offered much amusement and adventure (take magic and bump it up ten fold, in ways they don't expect). When they throw a fireball, suddenly it has a 60' radius, and does double the damage. A stoneskin turns them to solid stone. Dispel Magic = death spell, because everything in Xanth is magic.

Dumas' Three Musketeers is a font of adventures for swashbucklers, I got five RPGA tournament rounds out of it without seriously scratching the surface. I never did it, but Count of Monte Christo would also work very well.

Jumanji would make a fun one night adventure where anything goes (all the better because, theoretically, you could put everything back after the adventure, leaving them with nothing but XP for their trouble).


I've gotten lots of adventures from this method, stealing from all sorts of books and movies. Current favorites were the Lord of the Isle series (David Drake) and Sword of Truth series (Terry Goodkind), NOT the TV show. Also borrowed plots from Anne McCaffery, and even characters from J.K. Rowling.

I even had a blast one day running a chapter from one of the above books, didn't even change character names, and no one knew. Even our heavy book reader who I knew had read the booked missed it, and everyone had fun. I got the "I can believe I missed that" comment after the game, but it was all smiles.

I personally have no qualms stealing storylines from anywhere for my personally game sessions, and it used to be suggested actions on many game books of many different publishers.


Another good source is video games.


Major__Tom wrote:
In the first place, as most writer's workshops will tell you, there are actually only seven plots. Everything is a variation of one of them.

^This. Every writer steals from other writers to one degree or another. It can't be avoided, even if you think your idea is "original."

Feel free (as we've already seen here,) to steal liberally from any story line that grabs you. You may not even have to change the names, if your players aren't big readers.

What would D&D and Pathfinder be if Gygax hadn't taken LOTR, Vancian magic, et. al., and squished it all together into a game that would grow to become wildly popular?

I can't think of a single trope that can't be adapted for and played in PF.


Uchawi wrote:
Another good source is video games.

Which came first, D&D or WoW? LOL!


In October we have halloween games that are generally based on movies. Extra points if you guess the movie. If memory serves last year's was based off of goonies. Only the skeletons moved.


Major__Tom wrote:
Dumas' Three Musketeers is a font of adventures for swashbucklers, I got five RPGA tournament rounds out of it without seriously scratching the surface. I never did it, but Count of Monte Christo would also work very well.

Dumas FTW!

Porthos: "Why are we doing this?"
Aramis: "When the King sends us on a mission, do we question why? No. So let us go and be killed where we are told. Is life worth so many questions?"

Cinema and literature are not the only place to find inspiration.
Children's programming
News stories


I once ran a scenario based on the Pied Piper- it took a turn towrads frankenstien though...don't ask.

I'm thinking of running a Flash Gordan inspired campaign. Actually it's better as fantasy rather than sci-fi.


I don't tend to adapt entire plots. I tend to adapt elements.

For example I adapted Silent Hills otherworld into an Exalted game but not the psychological elements.

One time I ripped off the layout of resident one's mansion stuck with resident evil: code veronica's plot.

You have to be careful about genre savvy players or they'll call you out so don't rip things off directly. Instead just grab elements you like and adapt them to your use. Like how that castle looks? Snatch it. Love the villain? *yoink* Enjoy that twist ending? *rolls sleight of hand*

When you combine separate elements and smooth it out into a cohesive whole what you end up with is something wholly original or at least easily mistaken as such.


TarkXT wrote:

I don't tend to adapt entire plots. I tend to adapt elements.

For example I adapted Silent Hills otherworld into an Exalted game but not the psychological elements.

One time I ripped off the layout of resident one's mansion stuck with resident evil: code veronica's plot.

You have to be careful about genre savvy players or they'll call you out so don't rip things off directly. Instead just grab elements you like and adapt them to your use. Like how that castle looks? Snatch it. Love the villain? *yoink* Enjoy that twist ending? *rolls sleight of hand*

When you combine separate elements and smooth it out into a cohesive whole what you end up with is something wholly original or at least easily mistaken as such.

I dunno even the "genre savvy" will fall in line if they like the direction of the tale.

I ran a Magnificent Seven campaign that the "hired killer" player spotted about ten minutes into the game. He Played his part to the hilt. (he even insisted I had to kill his character near the end.) He said it was the most fun he ever had up to that point in a RPG group/campaign.

Dark Archive

I'm gonna run Second Variety (Screamers) for 2 beginning players.


Benicio Del Espada wrote:
Uchawi wrote:
Another good source is video games.
Which came first, D&D or WoW? LOL!

Understood, but the context of this message is current times. I tend to use games like WOW, EQ, etc. as broad references to understand how to build a world and how characters may percieve it. I use more specific adventure based games for plot ideas, like anything released by Bioware, or similar companies that pay as much attention to story as the game play.


Damian Magecraft wrote:
TarkXT wrote:

I don't tend to adapt entire plots. I tend to adapt elements.

For example I adapted Silent Hills otherworld into an Exalted game but not the psychological elements.

One time I ripped off the layout of resident one's mansion stuck with resident evil: code veronica's plot.

You have to be careful about genre savvy players or they'll call you out so don't rip things off directly. Instead just grab elements you like and adapt them to your use. Like how that castle looks? Snatch it. Love the villain? *yoink* Enjoy that twist ending? *rolls sleight of hand*

When you combine separate elements and smooth it out into a cohesive whole what you end up with is something wholly original or at least easily mistaken as such.

I dunno even the "genre savvy" will fall in line if they like the direction of the tale.

I ran a Magnificent Seven campaign that the "hired killer" player spotted about ten minutes into the game. He Played his part to the hilt. (he even insisted I had to kill his character near the end.) He said it was the most fun he ever had up to that point in a RPG group/campaign.

The Seven Samurai (or the Magnificent Seven) is one of the best plots to use for an adventure, period. it has everything an adventure needs- a colorful cast of heroes, group of menacing villains, cowardly townsfolk, and you can add/subtract any number of subplots you want. The best thing is that, depending on what is being used to depict the "bandits" and level of play can handle the plot. You can have orcs attacking a village, drow attacking a city or even an army of demons attacking the capitol. It's great.


I like to merge plots/story elements -- generally one fantasy/horror/scifi and one or more detective/crime/suspense. Two of my all time favorite homebrew adventures were, in essence:

  • John D. MacDonald's Darker Than Amber + Manly Wade Wellman's The Old Gods Waken; and
  • Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon + Trevanian's The Loo Sanction + Jack Vance's The Star King.


  • When I was a player, I always casually enjoyed trying to stat characters in movies as PCs and use bits of this for inspiration for my own PCs. As a DM I casually enjoy trying to storyboard the movies I see and books I read and use bits of this for the campaigns I run.

    Inspiration comes randomly.

    For example:

    I saw Queens of the Stone Age in concert and my friend caught the guitar pick. My girlfriend told me that she'd love that thing..to hold something someone famous held.. but she'd probably lose it. I agreed with her but also added that not only would she lose the pick, but she would be so heartbroken she'd write a song about it and become famous and she too will throw a pick into the audience and perpetuate the cycle.

    I smiled and realized my joke is funny inspiration for a cursed magic item the bard in my campaign will find. (A V-neck guitar that you become obsessed with and after you become fully attached to it, it ceases giving you any of its magical benefits and attempts to find new a new musician, leaving it previous owner heartbroken.)


    the David wrote:
    I'm gonna run Second Variety (Screamers) for 2 beginning players.

    That sounds cool.


    I recently got around to seeing two fairly awesome movies- from the standpoint of inspiration at least.

    The first is Dragonslayer- a movie that came out in 1981 and possibly has the best movie dragon. Period. It's pretty great.

    The second is a very odd movie that came out in 2008 called Outlander. It's vaguely based on Beowulf, but the vikings are helping a Space Marine kill an alien monster. It sounds ridiculous, but it's actually really well done. Ron Pearlman as a viking berserker dual-wielding warhammers doesn't hurt. Neither doe john Hurt playing Hrothgar.


    Silent hill + Rose Red mansion = Awesome Call of Chtulhu Campaing


    Back in the mid 80's, we had a GM who ran a Call of Cthulhu/ Stalking the Night Fantastic campaign where all of the adventures were based on Weekly World News headlines....


    gigglestick wrote:
    Back in the mid 80's, we had a GM who ran a Call of Cthulhu/ Stalking the Night Fantastic campaign where all of the adventures were based on Weekly World News headlines....

    That's awesome! Quest for batboy, anyone?


    unopened wrote:
    Silent hill + Rose Red mansion = Awesome Call of Chtulhu Campaing

    I hate Rose Red... I hate Rose Red... I hate Rose Red. Of all movies that one gives me the creeps.

    I demand you never tell this to my friend that runs our Call of Chtulhu games. :p


    gigglestick wrote:
    Back in the mid 80's, we had a GM who ran a Call of Cthulhu/ Stalking the Night Fantastic campaign where all of the adventures were based on Weekly World News headlines....

    Have played in such a game, including a Kolchak style reporter who could not possibly be right about all those weird critters.

    Dark Archive

    I'll be running an Eberron game based on Jackie Chan Adventures.
    ==
    AKA 8one6


    Apologies in advance if this ends up ruining your life...

    Many good ideas for Artifact Hunts or Redemption or Wigging Out or Evil Overlords or many many many many many many many many other things


    Pretty much EVERY Fafhrd and Gray Mouser story by Fritz Leiber.

    Dark Archive

    Mark Sweetman wrote:

    Apologies in advance if this ends up ruining your life...

    Many good ideas for Artifact Hunts or Redemption or Wigging Out or Evil Overlords or many many many many many many many many other things

    Standard TVtropes disclaimer: At some point in your life you will spend two entire weeks reading TVtropes. Following this link may start that time right now.

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