I'll be the first to admit that pure originally is hard to achieve. Humans have been at this story thing for so long that almost anything and everything has been done before. The only chance we have at pulling off something refreshing is to rearrange the older bits into a new pattern.
The same goes for building worlds and writing campaigns. I know Arabian themed settings are nothing new, and perhaps I'm jumping the gun a little by not waiting for Dark Sun to come out August 15th. The colonialism aspect is not quite tired, but neither is it unfamiliar.
I'll be frank: this campaign takes its story seed from the city of Iskandria in Jacqueline Carey's novel, Kushiel's Avatar, which I just finished up a few weeks ago. One the one hand you have the native mock-Egyptian population, and on the other the ruling Hellene class who hail presumably from a parallel Alexander the Great himself. For those of you who are following along as I write my campaign, the native verus colonist tension of an arc in Carey's work may seem familiar.
And yet, I am taking her seed, transplanting it, and cultivating it all my own. The Marrakeshi are more of a fusion of my favorite elements of Middle Eastern cultures, namely the Arabic language, the Egyptian gods, the Morrocan cityscape, with a few Persian tributes thrown in for good measure. The Narbonne are a bit different from the Hellenes in her book (being French and not Greek, for one), and markedly more sinister, taking their cue from the D'Angelines, but also from the French as portrayed in one of my favorite animes, Le Chevalier D'Eon. Of course, having done some research into French Algeria as it concerns the predicament of Muslims in France today gives the campaign what I'd like to hope is a culturally sensitive side that simultaenously casts a shadow of grim reality over the entire plot. Especially if some of the PCs decide to be either traitors or agents of the colonial country and then have to deal with the moral rammifications.
In this way I am working with all the things I love, the pieces generating passion and fruitful yields almost on their own. But what I'm left with is something noticably different--and I haven't even thrown my players' interpretation into the mix yet, for the world is theirs as well!
Right now I have what I like to think of as a "stick figure" representation of my plot. I have the four main antagonists sketched out in my mind, namely Admiral Rainier Desmarins, Queen Shar'azi al-Maghreb, High Priest Arak'aten, and the Merchant Prince Qasheem al-Jawar. At least three of these characters have their roots in songs that I listen to, and the other fits in with my general penchant for mildly evil males (Admiral Desmarins, of course). The philosopher and the queen both come from the Nightwish song "Sahara" while Qasheem is a slightly recycled character concept of mine who has yet to make a corporeal appearance, whose theme song is indisputably "Bewitched" by Raquy and the Cavemen. As for the Admiral, I'm sure I'll come up with a suitable soundtrack soon enough, having my entire metal playlist to pull from. With this combination of gothic/symphonic metal and "progressive epic middle-eastern music," I've set a definitive tone for the rest of my piece, and nurtured some story seeds as well, based on either scant lyrics of the feeling of a piece.
So here's my admission--I'm not very creative, but I do know how to mix and match. Where and from what do you pull when trying to decide on a premise for a campaign?
Originally posted at Jumping the Rails: Transcending the One-way Plot