WW: Using the COVID-19 Pandemic for Inspiration

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The COVID-19 pandemic is nothing to joke about. It’s claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and will likely continue to do so for some time yet. While the Coronavirus may be one of the worst diseases in recent history, it isn’t the first. The Black Plague, anyone? If you’re short on inspiration, then you’re sitting in one of the most intense times in history. Here’s how you can use certain elements of the COVID-19 pandemic to influence your world-building.

1. Economic Turmoil

One fact that cannot be denied about the Coronavirus is that it has impacted the economy severely. Whether it be due to people being unable to work because of lockdowns or because they, themselves, are sick, few people are working. That creates a compounded problem.

These issues can be raised for your players to solve. Let’s say they walk into a town that suffers from some form of plague. How do your players work to resolve the economic problems within the confines of the town’s economy, itself?

For example, if the town is primarily known for selling wheat and grain, what happens when the farmers are too ill to tend to their crops? Do the players take it upon themselves to harvest their fields? Do they work with neighboring towns? New and fresh problems besides ye olde bandit attack or monster spawn can keep your players interested in the game and the world.

2. The Disease Itself

There’s also the issue of the disease itself. NPR recently made a post about some researchers wondering if COVID-19 is some form of blood vessel disease. Imagine that kind of disease running through the metro areas of your campaign. Perhaps it turns people into zombie-like maniacs. Maybe it strips them of their magic. Whenever blood is involved, it unlocks a myriad of different story-telling elements that you can use.

Your players will not only have to figure out a way to stop the disease, but they also need to make sure they can’t catch it. Considering that most campaigns take place in a medieval setting, certain health measures and treatments may not be available. Sure, the Plague Mask is a thing, but hand sanitizer isn’t. How will your players try to cure the disease without catching it themselves? Or will they choose to avoid the location and leave the poor citizens to their fate?

Another scenario is if some members fall ill to the disease while others don’t. What kind of roleplay situations can your players be put into when they’re forced to split up or become isolated? Break out the sanity die!

3. Loss

With so many deaths attributed to the Coronavirus, practically everyone knows someone or of someone who has had it. It’s touched the homeless and celebrities alike. It even made its way into the White House. When used as an example for world building, you can have your disease take away characters or NPCS that are important to the players. If you really want to drive home how important and deadly your disease is, then it needs to strike at home.

Besides personal losses, your players may also be met with important, political, deaths. What happens when the King perishes from the disease and doesn’t have an apparent heir? Your players may be sucked into a civil war whilst trying to avoid the disease.

Certain losses can create high-stakes for your players.

Write Tragedies Not Sins

The COVID-19 pandemic shouldn’t be taken lightly. Everyone should do their part to stop its spread. As a world builder or dungeon master, you can use the history you’re witnessing to create fantastic stories where your players can become the heroes. In a time where many are at home feeling like that they can’t do anything, you can give them the opportunity to feel like a hero. Even if only for a session.

Let us know if your campaign has dealt with a plague before and how it all turned out!

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