Ten tips for bringing your Adventures into your RPGs

We thought we would share our top ten tips for incorporating your real life adventures into your RPGs to help you get the ball rolling.

1) Go on adventures – this one is obvious, but if you don’t go on any adventures, then you won’t be able to turn them into games. So what is an adventure? Well for our purposes it’s pretty much anything; going camping, exploring ruins, taking part in a battle re-enactment, any of the stuff you read about here on Ding-IRL. Learning new skills, visiting new places, trying new things and broadening your horizons! And the question that should always be at the front of your mind is “how can I get this into my game?”.

2) Use your experiences – include the places that you went to, the sights you saw, the people you met and all the local culture you absorbed. It is always easier to describe places you have been in really life and if you are playing with people who shared the adventure, they will be instantly familiar with the places you are talking about. Try and work in conversations and in-jokes, have NPCs take on the personality of the people you met, this will get everyone who was there engaged in the game.

3) Don’t be too obvious – don’t use too much from you real adventure or the people who went with you will know what’s coming. If you all joked at the time about how your tour guide was really a vampire and he uses his position to lure victims into the dark caves alone, then don’t have that be the story to your game. Use the players’ knowledge against them; throw a twist in there somewhere. Introduce the tour guide and have all the players think he is a vampire, but just as they go to stake him you reveal that he was only a ghoul and it was the nice women in the gift shop you all got on with that is the real vampire!

4) Use tourist information – collect all the leaflets, guidebooks, maps etc. you can of the area you visited, a lot of hotels and hostels have racks of these so look out for them when you’re coming down for breakfast in the morning. These can be used as in-game props, provide maps or just give inspiration and background flavour to your game. Visit the gift shop, even if it is not to buy anything, any free leaflets and guides to the area can usually be found here. And if you do fancy buying something, there will be a wealth of resources for your game, from books on local history to matching commemorative pencils to give the players to get them in the mood! And if you do meet a tour guide (hopefully they are not a vampire!), ask them questions and get as much information as you can, they will probably appreciate an enthusiastic audience and, as long as you are polite and respectful, they will be happy to indulge your interest.

5) Google Earth – no-one’s memory is perfect, and no-one visits every possible nock and cranny of an area and meets all its residents. Google Earth, and the internet in general, are a great way to fill in the blanks and jog both your memory and the players.

6) Local legends – most places have some local legends, many of which could be used as the basis of your game. These don’t have to be fictitious, actual historic events in the places past can be just as compelling as folklore and vice versa. So when you visit a castle, find out about a battle it was involved in and as above, collect guides, plunder the gift shop and quiz the staff to get all the details you will need to run a game. Look for guide books that have floor plans, maps, insignia of the various factions, names of the key people involved in the conflict etc. All things you can use in your game to make it feel more unique and tied to your adventure.

7) Pick a setting that fits – just because your adventure took place in the real world, doesn’t mean your games has to, why not fit it into the world in your favourite RPG? Make it a town the group visit outside the main city in a fantasy game, or a new planet in a space opera game, most settings have some flexibility allowing for new locations to be created by the GM. You can even catch your players off guard by not letting them know what you’re doing and seeing how long it takes them to realise, but remember #3 don’t be too obvious! Of course you can always set it in the real world, this works particularly well for horror games and means the leaflets, information and the good old internet become a lot more useful as you can use real-world examples of everything in your game.

8) A beginning, middle and an end – your adventure didn’t last forever and your knowledge and resources will dwindle with time, making more difficult for you to keep up the emersion for the players. Even if you plan to have it as part of a long running campaign, have the bit based on your adventure have a distinct beginning, middle and an end. Re-living your adventure with your friends is fun, turning it into Groundhog day is not. But remember, as with all the tips, that this is just that, a tip, not a hard and fast rule, if you and your group are having fun gaming in the town in Wales you spent an afternoon then ignore this rule and carry on!

9) Pick the right characters – this mainly applies to games created specifically around adventures, but can also help you decide if an idea is right for an established campaign. Make sure that either you or the players create characters that would get involved in the story or setting you had planned, don’t just assume that because the players recognise the adventure they went on that their characters will do the same as they did. A dark elf thief and Half-orc Barbarian will probably do things a bit differently to you and your friends, one would hope!

10) Play it on the adventure – this is for those who truly embrace the Ding-IRL spirit, run the game whilst you are there! How scary would it be to have the characters camped in the same place as the players when the werewolf from the local urban legend attacks? You can look out at your campsite and judge whose tent it would go for first! Or why not play a game about a castle under siege in the grounds of the castle ruins? Have the players point to where there archers go or where they would position the catapults! This is how to truly Ding-IRL and level up in real life, send us your photos, stories, games and other tales of high adventure and have them shown on Ding-IRL so that all can bask in your glory! You can get more of our advice on how to do this with our “Ten tips bringing your RPGs along on your Adventures”.