I did this mess once. It was in an Exalted game, so I had a convenient excuse baked right into the system. The party was adventuring in the Wyld, which meant that nonsense, chaos, and pop-culture references were par for the course. The plot hook of the day involved repairing a broken artifact, so the party needed to find something called a “hellforge” to make the fix. And if you know Terraria, you already know where this story is going.

The group heard rumors of lava caves in a Wyld zone, so they took picks and shovels out into the weird wilderness to find their forge. They were expecting crazed fair folk and mutant monsters with every step, but it was actually a pretty uneventful trek. Or at least it was until they started digging. Needless to say, my players were pretty surprised when the ground started coming up in perfectly cubed chunks. I was grinning ear-to-ear when I flipped the play mat to reveal a 2-D grid. It was completely covered over with sticky notes, and as my players dug I had them pull up the sticky notes one by one to reveal the network of chambers and hazards underneath. The various caverns, mushroom forests, and underground jungles from the game were all represented, and the party burrowed straight down through all of them. (If you’ve never played, here’s a handy map for reference). My players alternately laughed and rolled their eyes as they encountered the familiar monsters and locations of Terraria. And when at last they got to 2-D Hell, half of them had to fight off a bone serpent while the other half hastily reforged their maguffin. It was a good time, and a pretty successful session.

My point in recounting this tale is that a veritable ocean of inspiration is swirling around out there. We may be tabletop gamers, but we play board games and video games too. We watch movies and read novels. We get inspiration from all over the place, and a surprising amount of it can be adapted to TRPG campaigns. If you use something obvious like Terraria or Pac-Man, you’ve got a lighthearted session with a healthy dose of 4th wall breaking on your hands. But you can also try for a more earnest version of copy-catting. I’ve seen that turn out some pretty cool ideas too.

Question of the day then: Have you ever lifted ideas from another medium (video games, movies, etc.) and turned it into content for your tabletop game? How did it work out?