After a while, most gaming plots tend to be quite cliche and tired. You know the ones, "rescue the princess (whoever) who has been kidnapped (charmed/ trapped/ enslaved) by the evil (fill in blank), something has been killing people- can you stop it?, or… well you all know what I am talkinga bout. These are stock gamer cliche plots that we have all experienced.
After a while, you start looking for something new or fresh. A new source of inspiration, or at least stuff to "borrow".
In fact there are thousands of great, fresh adventure ideas at your very finger tips. Where? Your local bookstore, or better yet, library! Okay, so avoid the library, if you hare having such emotional issues. The books I am suggesting are not the standard plot cliche books for fantasy fans (LotR or Brook’s Shannara come right to mind). The books I am suggesting are in the literature section of the library or even science fiction section if you have a good bookstore that realizes that Vernes, Borroughs, and such are really sci-fi authors.
Check these out…
An ancient parchment is found, supposedly written by a well-known and long-dead scholar. It contains a simple map and a single cryptic note: "Descend into the crater and you will reach the center of the earth. I have done this." (Jules Verne, "Journey to the Centre of the Earth")
The rightful heir to the throne is locked in prison
his identity unknown even to himself, while his twin brother rules with an iron fist. (Alexandre Dumas - "The Man in the Iron Mask")
The party accepts a challenge to deliver an important message to a very distant location and to do it in less than 80 days. (Jules Verne’ "Around the World in 80 Days").
The players are hired to help an obsessed warrior slay a terrible beast (ship optional) (Herman Melville’s "Moby Dick")
Characters are stranded on a deserted isle and must learn to survive, as well as try to find a way home. (Daniel Defoe’s "Robinson Crusoe")
The characters find a map that shows the location of buried treasure on an island. They set off to find their fortune, hiring a ship and crew, not suspecting that the ship’s crew are the very pirates that buried the treasure. (Robert Lewis Stevenson - "Treasure Island")
A murderer is plaguing a small, remote town. Only through detective work do the characters begin to uncover the murders are linked to the lunar cycle. (Stephen King’s - "Cycle of the Werewolf" also known as Silver Bullet)
A plot from any action/ adventure, mystery, and even horror novel, should be adaptable to most campaigns. It will take some work to make it a challange for your players and adapt it to your world. The key is to use the basic plot and idea to form the basis of an original and unusual adventure; your goal is not to simply turn the novel into an adventure.
So check out some great classics (or at least their cliff notes). They were the genesis of fiction as we know and like it. Take great books from other authors that you normally would not think of (King, Lackey, Dunn). From these seeds will mighty plots grow.
What is that? Some of you sniffing and saying, "I never borrow plots". Well face it, you have. You have just dressed it up in a different setting or characters. It is okay to borrow plots, characters, and even world background material, from stories/ shows/ movies. Take them and make them your own.
Remember: the story of Romeo and Juliet was not new and original when Shakespeare wrote his version. It had been done a dozens of times before, just not as well.
Now it go do it.