I think it’s a pretty well known GM secret to steal from other media for their games, from characters to plotlines, and the more obscure the piece, the more they can get away with before the players catch wise. Have any of you done this, and what was the best thing you stole?
Hi @Diannemariz18, and welcome to the forums.
I have definitely done this. I actually do it on a regular basis. I recently adopted part of a plot line from an obscure manga comic book series to a custom campaign that I ran in the Conan game system. This is a great way of helping to inspire us and to make our campaigns richer and more nuanced, For any GM who hasn’t done this when creating their own adventures, I highly recommend it.
Would you kindly edit your initial post and change the category to Community Content instead? It honestly does not belong in Tutorials, even though I love where this thread could take us.
The following is probably a case of a student lecturing dons, but, please, don’t take offence.
TL; D/W R (i.e. "BLUF): everyone “steals;” not everyone is good at it.
“Famous Guy” said, “Creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.”
I would add that hiding in plain sight is often the most effective obfuscation.
Most completed games are, understandably, tales^ more than stories.^^
As there are only so many forms of stories, those that game to make stories more than tales, formally speaking, inevitably “steal” in this manner, so it is better and far more useful to do so deliberately.
Why? In summary, if you’re falling, jump, but some specifics to clarify follow:
- To additionally take, i.e. “steal,” from one’s likely betters, who are probably “master thieves;” this is like “stealing” from one’s parents, doing what worked, what you saw them do, perhaps a bit better. In other words, find formally identical or similar stories, and take what you like from how they did it. They almost certainly did the same, so, model success.^^^
If you’re going to “steal,” then “steal.”
- To mitigate against actual theft, i.e., against things like plagiarism. Two simple ways to do this are…
2.1 Changing it enough, making it yours enough, so your material/content overshadows your source/s.
2.2 As tribute or homage: one may do these to great effect and on the full spectrum of impacts emotional, and rational.
In other words, make it blatantly obvious that you are “stealing” from and playing of off the sources from which you “steal,” possibly as a hat-tip, to honour them, in appreciation, or as further consideration/investigation. A great benefit of this is that your players are now willing accomplices or accessories, and you now are not only a “thief,” but the chief “thief” of your own guild.
The biggest “scam” and trick here is that you not only “steal” someone else’s property, but it now remains theirs, while also now being yours, fully, 100%, and the Litcops can take a hike. Heck, your “victim” may even applaud and appreciate your “theft,” or would if they knew. After all, that’s what your “theft” is regarding their work.
- To avoid replication, at least without mutation, of things your source/s did/do that you don’t like.
Yes, I will answer your question, hopefully now more effectively: when I was running games, I blatantly “stole” examples from Star Wars IV, to illustrate, elaborate, and educate my players about my particular approach and theory of story.
What’s even “worse,” I “stole” that “theft” from someone else. Why? Because that particular work is culturally ubiquitous and, therefore, immediately accessible to those of my culture, which is likely everyone I game with or write for. In crayon, “everyone” knows Star Wars, even if they don’t like it. Gamers often follow it in play, without realizing it. (s.a. "Archetypal stories.)
I also tended to work off of the form of Ep. IV, as it profoundly forms the expectations, gaming aims, and psyches of gamers, “everywhere;” again in crayon, Star Wars IV is McGaming/McStory. It’s the Big Mac of Gaming, with things like Weiss, Hickman, or Tolkein being Burger Kings. Okay, yeah, the analogy eventually fails and stales, but, then again, all do; regardless, hopefully, you take my point.
Additionally, I had an entire meta-setting called “Four-Colour Prophets,” where life imitating art, often with a twist, was part and parcel of the themes and mysteries of the entire game/story.
For example, one of the characters was a boy who could fly, from Littleton, Colorado; he was the “real world” equivalent of Superboy/man, and he was far from the sole example of such “theft.” The intent was to get the audience, players, and characters to wonder, and dig, because my (philosophically speaking) world was this one, plus “What if?”
This had the added bennie of, instead of lamenting that all the names and ideas are “used up,” giving a good, creative, reason and permission to not worry about it, if not “steal”/replicate effort on purpose, giving new life and purpose to old things.
In other words, yeah, it’s all been done, but not your way. The whole point of this setting was to “steal” with a purpose.
I hope that helps; at the very least, don’t assume that your players aren’t politely avoiding manifesting the fact that they already are “wise to your tricks.”
If you can’t hide, accentuate. They might have more fun “stealing” with you. We’re all “thieves;” all fictional writing is “thievery,” with the twist of one’s personal, “unique” content/material, so, be a master.
^i.e., Beginning, middle, end; all fictioneers “steal” this.
^^What some call Grand Argument Stories, to be exact.
^^^i.e., “Steal” materially from them, that is, their content within the form, their material, but in a manner that is ethical. (see “To mitigate” above) The form is like the wineglass, the matter, the vintage.