One thing I struggle with in my creative life is wondering if I just ripped off something and how badly I did it. There are a number of things I’ve put into my campaign that I’ve later looked at and thought: “Oh hell, this is just like X from Y. Dammit it all.”

Part of that is going to happen no matter what. Whenever you create something, you’ll draw inspiration from things you like, and sometimes that means lifting ideas without really thinking about it.

There are a few ways to deal with this eventuality. One way is to ditch the idea entirely and start over again and hope that the next idea isn’t similar to something else. Another way is to twist and distort the idea until the very core of the idea is there, then apply it to something else.

Both of the above are ways I’ve dealt with this problem. There’s also one other way I’ve dealt with this, that sounds sort of crazy at first, and that is to not care too much about it.

I’m under the impression that while I’d love to have only original ideas only, that’s not always going to happen. Instead, I’ll move a few things around with the idea at the most then drop it into the setting where appropriate. This sounds bad at first, but just follow me for a second.

One of the things I’ve got in my game are these archways that are about a 100 feet tall, and they’re found all over the continent. There are legends that these archways were once powerful gates that the Hul-kor (giants) used to quickly move from place to place. Now they sit, unused and with little else known about them.

Sound alright? I realized not too long ago that these are basically the Cypher gates from Paizo’s Pathfinder setting Golarian. I didn’t mean to use the same idea or anything, I just thought the idea of giant arches in random locations was cool. It wasn’t until I read the first part of Second Darkness that I realized that they’re pretty similar (unknown arches in various locations in the world, with an unknown purpose). Those giants mentioned earlier? After coming up with them, polishing them, and making the rest of my world’s mythology based on them, I figured out that they were pretty similar to the Titans from the Warcraft universe but less cosmic and missing the whole Burning Legion aspect of them.

I could have simply ripped all my roots out of the ground and started fresh, but I decided to accept the similarities and move on. I figured that in the long run, figuring out a new backstory would hurt the game more than a few similarities to popular franchises.

Don’t stress too much about making sure your story/setting/characters are wholelly unique and you’ll save yourself some headach. As long as you’re not outright copying something on purpose, you should be good. You’re passion for something will make up for any concieved lack of originalty you feel.

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