This has been cross posted to 1km1kt and the Forge.
I'm really tempted to do something along the lines of Dark Sun, but a lot of people have already suggested this as a possible inspiration.
Mechanically, since hacks are allowed, I think I'll try a twist on my own recent game FUBAR. Instead of a revenge tale, I'm going to twist the rules to reflect a post-apocalyptic road trip, or perhaps a chase across a shattered desert landscape.
That's the intention for the surface layer of the game, but I like things to have a bit of depth to them.
With that in mind, I'm thinking of the alchemical journey of the soul...a progression from initiate to adept to master...and beyond
A single session will be about a physical journey between places or the pursuit of a quarry. The campaign play will be about the enlightenment achieved by engaging in the metaphorical journey multiple times.
These are my initial thoughts prompted by the ingredients.
But like normal, I'm starting to deviate from the actual words and delving into abstracts. So I'll try to pull things back to the actual terms of the contest.
City - An urban location...the voyage beyond the accepted culture is a path taken by outsiders, it is in this path that enlightenment is achieved, but without the buffers of the community it is easier to fall into insanity or simply lose one's way.
Desert - As a noun or adjective this could refer to a wasteland basically devoid of plant and animal life ("this place is a desert")...as a verb it can mean to flee an area with no intent to return ("she doesn't like it here and is going to desert the place")....then it also has the meaning of a reward or punishment ("he got his just deserts")...so much potential in this term.
Edge - Another ambiguous term that could be used many ways...as a noun it could represent the border between two things, the sharp side of a knife, or the advantage someone has in a situation (I already use it in this way in FUBAR)...as a verb it can mean moving cautiously toward something ("he edged his way toward the fence"), or sharpening something. Hmmm.
Skin - This has a variety of meanings that typically apply to the outer surface of something, examples include the outermost flesh of a creature and the visible interface of a computer program (which can be "re-skinned")...but colloquially it could refer to a drum, a condom or a dollar note. As a verb, "to skin something" typically means peeling away the outer layers.
Straight up, two of the terms have a juxtaposition...Desert/City. One is devoid of life while the other is a place of community.
Two of the terms have a commonality...Edge/Skin...both refer to an interface between two objects.
It's a push to link "edge" and "desert" as movement terms. As movement, edge tends to imply moving slowly toward something, while deserting implies moving away with reckless abandon.
Again....just more thoughts.
I keep pulling back to the idea of enlightened tattooed nomads, living between the worlds of city and desert. A journeying people who take sacred journeys between the civilised realms and into the wastelands of the physical and the metaphysical spirit deserts. They make these journeys to reclaim the lost, or discovers insights about the future...with these journeys achieved, they return to their home cultures to reveal the truth. If they travel too far (physically or mentally), they may get lost. Becoming physically lost means being unable to return to their home, while becoming lost in a mental/spiritual sense means that the character has lost their ability to commune meaningfully with their people, perhaps they have gone insane, or maybe they have transcended the mental state of their people to such a degree that people simple can't understand them.
With this last idea in mind, there could be other wanderers in the desert/wilderness...dangerous lunatics who have devolved and gone insane...and strange enlightened mystics who have lost contact with their people but who might still have useful advice for those who are still capable of returning from their sacred journeys.
Maybe doing something about the Australian aboriginal community and the Dreamtime. They didn't have tattooing as a common practice, but traditional scarification processes fulfil the same basic function...and if I make the setting a post-apocalyptic wasteland, then tattooing might become a viable option again.
With these ideas bubbling away in my head, it's time to head off and think about some other stuff. The ideas can ferment for a while, who knows where they might lead.