I asked our very first Patreon supporter what kind of blog posts would they like to see. Their response was a series about the writing process. I think that that is a great idea. So in the Writing Process series of blog posts, I am going to take you through the various stages of writing some new game mechanic for what will ultimately be in a published product. Today’s will answer that all important question: where do you get your ideas from? We are going to look at these using the example of a warlock patron. So here are several steps that I do in no particular order.
1) Look at Official Sources
While there is no particular order to these steps, this one is either first or very early on. It is that fundamental. Before you even start thinking about what you should add to all the creative endeavors that world possesses, you need a solid understanding of what is already out there. Patrons from Wizards are so few, there is no excuse not to be aware of them all so you don’t duplicate your work or come up with something even vaguely similar. This is also true with their Unearth Arcana ones since you do not want someone saying, “I’ll just stick with the one from an official source.” If your idea is too similar to said official source, customers will not choose yours more often than not.
When it comes to the DM’s Guild and compatible publishers, there will be overlap. Just accept that. You will never be able to know all the warlock patrons (or whatever) out there in the world. Should you ignore them, no. Be familiar and do some searching, but doing too much searching or you will never get anything written.
So yes, I said many things you should avoid. But what about inspiration? A list of official warlock patrons can be found on the 5e Wikidot. The first question to ask yourself is, “What’s missing.” The list has quite a few that are dark and evil. A good character trying to do the right thing may take one of these for all the wrong reasons. What is far less covered are the light and the cheery. There are some, but far less and even they can be capricious depending on their mood. So how about flipping the motivation: having the right reasons but end up doing the wrong thing. That is an area of design space that official source do not cover well.
Being familiar with official material will also help you keep yours in line, both in terms of theme and power level. The three in the PHB are the Archfey, the Fiend, and the Great Old One. None of these are deities in their own right. So you don’t want to name yours Thor, as an example. He’s too powerful. However, there is nothing wrong with making a Valkyrie patron, or perhaps an Einherjar patron.
2) Search Other Sources
This one is more than just “surf the internet.” It also includes reading books and watching relevant media. Let’s start with mythology. Greek and Norse deities walked the Earth and routinely interfered with mortals, even giving some power. Classically in D&D these individuals are paladins, clerics or other champions of deities. But that doesn’t have to be the case, especially if you’re demoting the deity to simply a “powerful entity.” Take Odin for example. He doesn’t exist as a deity in the Forgotten Realms or other official campaign settings. But there is nothing saying that the “One-Eyed Seer” can’t be a powerful entity. While this is an obvious allusion to the Norse deity, it is different enough that it can added into a campaign with little difficulty and be in line in terms of power and theme.
3) What Do You Want to Write?
Always ask yourself, “what do you want to write?” It doesn’t matter if you have an idea for a warlock patron (or whatever) that no one else has done before. If you are not interested in writing it, don’t do it. Life is too short to do such a thing. Even worse, you won’t give it your all. Everything you write, you should give it everything you have, and you just can’t do it if you are just not interested in writing it. So decide for yourself what you want to create.
Going through this process, what will I be working on? I have a few ideas. The one I will be sharing at some point (probably as I write the next in this series) is the Crusadess. Why this one? Well like I said above, “patrons with good intentions” are sorely lacking. But I liked the spin of still doing the wrong thing. One who is on a Crusade can be described in such terms. Other sources I searched include the 13th Age Core Rulebook. Their Icons could be interpreted as warlock patrons. And frankly, I want to write it.
So there you have it. Three steps to help you get ideas for what to write. Support our Patreon to help us create more blog posts like these and download our PDFs from DriveThruRPG and the Open Gaming Store, and if you play over Fantasy Grounds, we have downloadable modules at their store.