Freelance Advice: How to Find Inspiration and Make it Work

Designing new gaming material is not easy. As new products  come out, you need to have to be increasingly creative to avoid repetition. Throw in other factors like writer’s block and tight deadlines; it’s sometimes a wonder that designers create any material at all!

By Mark Huffman


Some designers are lucky in that great ideas seem to constantly spring forth from their minds fully formed but if you’re like me, your muse often comes and goes at its whim and at the worse possible minute. Luckily, when the creative well runs dry, I have discovered a few sources of inspiration to get me going again:

  • Anime. Sci-fi/fantasy genre anime has given me so many great ideas to riff off of over the years. Over the top fight scenes lend themselves well to new feats, skills, abilities and spells. Think to yourself: how would that move translate as a feat or how would that ability work as a spell?
  • Books. Try reading a book close to the subject you’re writing. What’s your favorite part and why? If you could rewrite the story, how would you? Work with the parts of the story that excite you and how you would describe it in game terms.
  • Movies. Generally less over the top than anime, movies provide you with everything from story, to characters, to feats, skills and abilities. In particular, when writing fantasy material, historical fiction movies have inspired so many of my feats and story ideas. Watch how the characters fight; is there a particular move that you want to emulate in game terms? What are the themes and characters in the movie you respond to? Describe certain characters in the game system you’re writing for.
  • Other Games. Whether it’s other RPGs, board games, or video games, what rule elements and systems work well and how would that translate into the game you are designing for? Think of how those rules are used to tell a story and create a particular play experience.

Besides what I pointed out, keep these simple steps in mind. They will help you make sense of the information you are receiving and form it into creative ideas.

  • What do you find cool and exciting? Those elements will get your brain thinking again.
  • Riff on what’s inspiring you. Often, a piece that inspires me jogs some additional new ideas or connects with other preexisting ideas I have, turning them into something new and different.
  • Spin and stamp. Once you’ve riffed and got that idea, spin it so it aligns with a project you are working on and stamp it: giving it your own perspective. You aren’t an empty, soulless shell, so make the idea your own.

One important thing is that when you are engaged in these activities looking for inspiration, make sure to have a notebook or recording device handy. Inspiration strikes hard and fast so you want a way to capture those ideas as they come to you.

Help Fellow Freelancers!

Where do you find inspiration? Let us know in the comments below and help other designers find inspiration today!

Published by

John Bennett

John Bennett is a freelance designer specializing in the Pathfinder RPG. In addition to his numerous work with Raging Swan Press, John currently serves as the line developer for Shadows over Vathak, a horror themed campaign setting for the Pathfinder RPG published by Fat Goblin Games. In his free time, he enjoys cigar, beer, and anime in that order. His online home is

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