If you’ve been gaming for long enough, you’ve seen plenty of campaign elements more than once: giant rats and skeletons in low-level D&D games, sinister corporate goons in cyberpunk scenarios and the like.

When you first started playing, those things might have been pretty amazing. I know they were for me — when everything’s new, “old standbys” aren’t old to you. But what do you do when they become standbys?

How do you breathe fresh life into game elements you’ve probably used several times as a GM, and that your players may have encountered dozens of times before?

In a book, the author can just write “Seeing the advancing skeletons, Pippin was frozen in place. How could the dead be walking? And how could he possibly hope to stave them off?” In an RPG, Pippin would just hit them with his sword (or even better, his club).

Is there a way to avoid that? And is avoiding it desirable, or is it just me?