(Idle Thoughts are going to be shorter posts written off the cuff about stray gaming-related thoughts I have. They’ll be quick, and maybe not fully developed, just things that occurred to me and I felt like sharing.)
So it occurred to me, as I’m working up the rough history of the world I’m creating for my upcoming D&D campaign, how important reading can be if you want to be a creative and successful GM. I don’t mean just reading game books, though those are definitely on the list of recommended reading material. And I don’t just mean fantasy and science fiction, though again, if you want to top off your brain with campaign ideas, you can’t go wrong reading as many genre stories as you can lay your hands on.
I’m talking about just reading books, fiction and non-, on topics and in other genres which interest you. I’m lucky, I guess, in that a wide variety of topics have peaked my interest over the years, enough so that I’ll take the time to read at least one book on a subject. Saddler making? There’s a book for that. Medieval diplomacy? There’s a book for that. The language of flowers (not what flowers say to each other, but what a bouquet of flowers means)? Yep, you guessed it, there’s a book.
Now I don’t claim to be any kind of expert on any of these subjects just because I read a book. But it’s usually given me enough of the basics that I can season my campaign creation with bits and pieces. For instance, I did have a moment in a campaign where the party were attending on the Queen when a diplomat came to present her with flowers. Innocent enough. But then I asked one of the players with a nobly born character to give me a perception check. He succeeded, and I pointed out that, while the diplomat appeared friendly, the symbolic meaning of the flowers in the bouquet were a grievous insult, possibly even a threat, directed at Her Majesty. It turned what could have been a throw-away moment into something a bit more interesting. It also raised the tension level for the characters at court considerably; if flowers could be a threat, where might other threats come from?
So if you don’t already, I highly recommend expanding your reading list. As a distant second to reading actual books, hit up Wikipedia and just start reading entries which interest you. Not as detailed as a book might be, but more easily digestible and you can reference it on the fly as needed.