Pablo Picasso has been credited with uttering the phrase, “good artists copy, great artists steal.” This is an interesting thing for someone who was such a unique artist and individual to say. It is also great advice for a game master who is looking for inspiration for their next game. I am constantly inspired by the movies I watch, books that I read and art that I view, and when it comes to designing an adventure I am not afraid to steal a good idea when I see one. Having said that, I always try to put my own spin on things, and somehow make it my own.
For those who don't know, “The Mist” is a novella written by Stephen King, and the screen adaptation was recently released. It has been years since I read the story, so I am a bit fuzzy on some of the details, but I was very pleased with the way the movie turned out. I think the director did a fine job creating the proper tension, and over all creepy atmosphere the story needed. I have seen it multiple times now, and I think it is a great flick.
This brings me back to my original point, that “The Mist” is an excellent example of a story that would translate seamlessly into a sword & sanity adventure, and with little effort the plot can be pilfered outright and adapted for your next game. Being that this is one of Stephen King’s most Lovecraftian stories makes your work easy as a game master. Peel away the modern facade, replace it with the appropriate backdrop and you are golden. The grocery store can easily be exchanged for an inn where your weary adventurers have stopped in for rest. All that really needs to be done from there is adding in all the necessary non-player character (NPC) types this story calls for and let the mist begin creeping in.
Remember, the key character that helps build the needed tension is the religious fanatic who feverishly spouts off about doomsday and the end of the world. This individual relentlessly reminds the adventuring party that the end is near, and the situation is hopeless. This could be a regular person who happens to be working or staying at the inn, or it could be a local priest or nun who came looking for refuge from the mist.
When adding in NPCs make sure the player characters are the only real competent people in the story. If it is a small party then lightly pepper in a town guard or two. The whole point of this story is to drive the characters into a desperate situation that might not have a happy ending. Make sure to add several children and old folks into the mix. This will draw out the need for the adventurers to protect these people who are perfect strangers to them. Also remember at some point there needs to be certain individuals who insist on venturing into the mist, and no matter what the party does they will not change their mind. Think of ways to build tension and atmosphere by driving the party out of the safety of the inn.
As for the creatures coming from the mist and how they translate into the game, this really depends on the game you are running. The beauty of "The Mist" from a game masters stand point is that anything is possible. Don't be afraid to get a little crazy with the creature design. The players will realize they do not recognize their opponents, and this will help build the anxiety at the game table, because they will be unsure how tough the creatures are or how to handle them.The trick is knowing when to introduce creatures, and gauging their power level accordingly.
In future posts I will share other examples of inspiration (granted some may not be as obvious as "The Mist") that can be used in a sword & sanity game.