Part of the RPG Bloggers Carnival.  For more information on this month’s carnival, check out Campaign Mastery.

Johnn Four asked the following question:

What non-game media have most inspired your games and how?

It’s an interesting one, to be sure.  Inspiration comes from all directions, so it’s interesting (and useful) to reflect on where our own inspiration comes from.  For me, I can point to two big sources of inspiration (that aren’t rulebooks or campaign settings: movie trailers and soundtracks.

Movie trailers are fun, short, and full of action and emotion.  I try to model my games off of them in terms of pacing: slow build up, then sudden bursts of action.  What’s more, a movie trailer is designed to draw you in, and I find that there are many that succeed admirably at this goal.  Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Inception: This trailer has a great song and an incredibly powerful tone.  I am simultaneously creeped out and overcome with a desire to learn more.  Plenty of action and the characters are interesting even when we get only a snapshot.
  • The Return of the King: For a long time this has been my holy grail of trailers.  Just past the halfway mark the music begins to build and the pacing speeds up with the music as your heart races and you just can’t look away.  Classic and gripping.
  • Assassin’s Creed 2: This is not technically a movie trailer, but I find that some video game trailers can do just as much.  This one is a work of art, and I’m not just talking animation.  The animosity Ezio exudes is incredible, and we get quite a lot of detail about the world and the actors and their motivations from just a few lines.

As for soundtracks, I can hardly say enough about them.  A really good soundtrack can make you see whole sequences flash past your eyes.  Not only are they great to listen to while creating but they’re also good for in-game music.  My top choices are:

  • Halo 3: ODST: This one is simply phenomenal.  The blend of jazz, electro, and traditional soundtrack elements are part of a tone that is uniquely Halo, but the ODST soundtrack goes above and beyond.  Each song evokes a neo-noir setting full of tension and brooding beauty.
  • Star Wars: My first soundtrack love.  My comments here apply to almost any John Williams score.  The leitmotifs and full use of orchestration are classic, and set the standard for most of the soundtracks produced in the last thirty-odd years.  Who doesn’t get shivers when the Imperial March plays, or almost break down for Padme’s theme?
  • Firefly: The Firefly soundtrack is a fascinating combination of traditional western music (think of Ennio Morricone) with plenty of guitar and fiddle and of traditional orchestration.  The overall effect is one of nontraditional awesome.  Serenity‘s soundtrack wasn’t as good as the TV series’, but that’s pretty much par for the course.
  • Avatar: James Horner outdid himself.  For me, the soundtrack really made Pandora come alive just as much as the CGI and (very impressive) animation/live action work.

These are just a few of my favorite sources of inspiration.  The great part about music and trailers is that the industry constantly pumps out new stuff, and indie game developers are a great source of new, innovative trailers and music.  Try Braid, for example.  So, that’s how my games are inspired.  How about yours?  Have any favorite trailers or soundtracks?