Creative Writing is Hard.

In my first post, “Dawn of a New Age” I spoke a little bit about the inspiration for Anthems of War. I wanted to dive a little deeper into this subject with the blog post this week. This is a really difficult topic to describe because how one person gets ideas is completely different from how another does. Bear with me and I will try to describe how I work my way through my own inspiration. As the title says, creative writing is hard. I am hoping to give you a quick glimpse into how I work through the process of writing stories for the game and even how some of the game mechanics come about.

I get inspiration from a lot of places, but music and books are both huge sources for me. Even if it is a book I have read before, or an album I have listened to a thousand times, sometimes the right mood combined with the right mindset, right day, and right surroundings can trigger my brain to work in ways I don’t even understand. Here is a great example: One time in my days as a Dungeon Master I misheard the name of a character of an audio book I was listening to. For whatever odd reason that misheard name sounded like a city to me. A day later I had a map, rough history, and a short adventure laid out that my players could play though. It was a great adventure that would not have existed if I was not slightly tired while listening to another completely unrelated story.

My inspiration isn’t always so off the wall though. Those ‘misheard names turning into full adventures’ moments are rare and when they do happen I usually have to expand on them RIGHT AWAY or I lose that train of thought. Most of my inspiration comes from the stories I consume. I am a HUGE metal head and metal artists, especially progressive metal artists, love putting out concept albums that follow a story. These stories are an absolute delight to listen to (if you like the style of music) and often take your mind to a new place. Bits and pieces of these stories slowly work their way together into their own unique stories in my mind. I can listen to an album 5 times and come away with 4 and a half different gameplay scenarios. I could listen to that same album another 5 times on a different day and come up with nothing. There are times where I hear something cool in an audio book or history podcast and re-listen to that section a few times to get all the details. From there I take what I’ve heard, shape it into something of my own and give it a try!

Not all of my inspiration is around the story of Anthems of War. Many of the mechanics in the game have their roots in the video games I’ve played in the past. I mentioned Dark Sun: Shattered Lands in my inaugural blog post. That game has a ton of influence over how I think about turn based games of all sorts. Other games, like Final Fantasy Tactics, Tactics Ogre, Banner Saga, Battletech, and XCOM (both the 1994 original and the remake) have also lent me ideas on how movement, character facing, and equipment interact together and given me ways forward on dozens of different mechanics I wanted to implement. Stories I’ve read influence how the magic system works, how melee combat works and even how mounted combat works in the game. Strategy video games are basically the electronic version of our tabletop wargames and RPGs after all.

Wargames and tabletop RPGS are also a source of inspiration as well, but I try not to take mechanics from those games as frequently. I may playtest new features inspired by mechanics I have seen in other games but they quickly diverge from that point into something different. Sometimes I will try out a mechanic, it won’t feel ‘right’ in my game so I will go out of my way to try a few variations. Melee, ranged, and magical combat are great examples of this. I originally had all three systems working the exact same, but as I playtested I realized that magic would be WAY too difficult and it put high point cost characters like mages at a severe disadvantage. I came up with a slightly different system and now I feel like it all works well and the new magic system is not so far off from melee and ranged combat to be jarring to a player. Some of my inspiration doesn’t even come from playing the games themselves. I was once watching a Lets Play video, I think it was the Middle Earth Strategy Battle Game, and during that game one of the players accidentally knocked the shield off one of his models. They made a little quip about it, but I saw it as something different. I turned that into an optional skill you can apply to a character (more about skills in a future blog post) where you could sacrifice your character’s shield and the overall protection it grants to completely avoid taking damage.

Lastly there is concept art. I’m a huge fan of Artstation AND Pintrest. I follow a bunch of artists that have styles I love. These are not only people I plan to contact in the future for artwork (that is what happened with both the cover art and the majority of my book internal artwork) but they are also just images I find appealing that somewhat match my idea of what the world of Anthems of War looks like. I can spend hours browsing peoples art and I have literally hundreds of pictures saved in my Pintrest under a hidden ‘fantasy inspiration’ board and probably even more in a ‘Scifi’ board that I’ll use much much later.

And that is all! 3-4 years of listening to albums on repeat, reading, listening to podcasts and audiobooks, browsing my game library and just experiencing areas of our shared hobby and I’ve got what I think is a pretty great game. I have much more coming. I have full story campaign books planned out and a full expansion already in the works!

Tune in next week when I talk about playtesting! As always, socials, including the Anthems of War discord are in the footer of this page.

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