Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Nuts & Bolts #26 - Media That Need an RPG


I've discussed my favorite settings, and my favorite systems previously.  So the next logical step for a "list issue" was the top things I want to see. I'm not forcing myself to hit five this time, nor holding myself back from going past five. These are media (TV shows, video game franchises, movies, books, etc.) that don't exist in RPG form, or at least not officially.

Firstly, some notes:
  • I'm not going to cover media like Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Wheel of Time, etc. that have had RPGs in the past but are no longer in print. Those materials are still out there via second hand sellers, ebay, etc. as well as bootleg PDF files.
    • I don't condone bootlegging RPG PDFs that are new and in print, but once those licenses are ended and those products cease to be salable by the developer bootlegging isn't taking revenue out of anybody's mouth.  West End Games isn't going to lose money if you find and download the old D6 Star Wars books today. 
  • I'm likewise avoiding those old franchises because I don't want to deal with properties that have seen multiple iterations (e.g. Star Wars D6, d20, and Fantasy Flight's current system)
  • There's a ton of fan-made hacks out there for any number of popular properties, good and bad, but what I am discussing here is an officially licensed product, not a hack.
  • ...
  • I guess that's all ...
OK with that out of the way let's get started ...

The Fallout Series

Who doesn't love a good post-apocalyptic setting? When it comes down to it the Fallout series is probably the best realized setting of its type out there.  Sure, the Mad Max setting is likely better known, but its not very heavily realized at all. Fallout has a half dozen games under its belt (if you include the spin off games), and a great deal of mythology and geography has been explored.  Rumor has it that Bethesda is working on Fallout 4 as well, which will probably take us to yet another part of post-war America. What better time for a table top RPG to come out? Players could play Brotherhood of Steel warriors, radiation tainted ghouls, naive vault dwellers, maybe even super mutants. Throw in the warring factions, numerous gangs and tribes, as well as malfunctioning robots and the occasional madman, and this setting is just ripe for an RPG.

The Elder Scrolls Series

This is another no-brainer. Tamriel is a huge world, and with five games in the main cycle and a bunch of spin offs there's a vast swath of geography and time that has been explored. Hundreds of in game books already exist to pull setting information out of in an "in context" way as well. With nearly a dozen races to play, and well developed systems for alchemy and magic, as well as more traditional skills and a slew of potential player special powers there's no shortage of material. Add in the fact that the games often take place hundreds of years apart and the game could potentially offer multiple setting supplements (or even adventure paths) detailing the major events of the series.

The Mass Effect Series

I personally haven't played this series. I tried the first game, and just couldn't get into it. That said people love it, and the setting was interesting. It seems odd that this one doesn't have an RPG already, it's basically a license to print money for the company who publishes it, and for BioWare purely on the residuals/license fees. Strangely enough though from what I have heard from Green Ronin (who publishes and RPG based on BioWare's Dragon Age) BioWare is not interested in licensing Mass Effect. It's not a matter of them asking too much for an RPG publisher to afford, it seems that they don't want to have an official game enter the RPG market at all.

Myths, Fables, Fairy Tales and Urban Legends, oh my!
  • Once Upon a Time, Grimm, Fables, Warehouse 13, The Librarians, Percy Jackson, etc.
These are not all the same, but they aren't that different either; they all deal with taking our myths, legends, and stories and making them real in the modern times. The ideas are similar enough that I figured I'd lump them together. Fairy tales and mythology have a special place in our culture. These stories have history and power due to their age and their archetypal natures. Whether looking at these stories as though they were truth (Grimm, Warehouse 13, The Librarians, Percy Jackson) or by thrusting their "fictional" characters into the real world (and watching how they deal with it, a la Fables and Once Upon a Time) these properties allow us to view familiar tales with fresh eyes; a familiar mythology, spun on its head and made new.

They also allow us to look at our modern culture through a traditional lens; imagine how the Once Upon a Time characters would have dealt with getting their memories back and still being stuck in our world if they hadn't also had their "cursed" memories.

Mortal Engines series (books by Philip Reeve)

This series was suggested to me by +Tim Knight in response to an open call for suggestions. I'm not familiar with the series but I'll quote his elevator pitch from the original discussion thread:
Distant future, post-post Apocalypse, communities exist on mobile cities that 'eat' smaller cities (and mine them for their scarce components). Through the books a war brews between the mobile (traction) cities and the static communities. There are also airships. And killer robots with human brains. It's kinda steampunky without being steampunk.
I must say that this does sound rather fun. Steampunk is huge right now and IMO post-apocalypse style takes never go out of style. The world certain sounds well developed with plenty of options for exploration, combat, and intrigue.

Harry Potter

I'm not sure if this one is past the sweet spot but if there had been an RPG set in in this universe about 3/4 of the way through the books and/or after the first couple of movies it could have been the ultimate gateway drug. Certainly the juxtaposition of mundane and magic is itself an interesting aspect of the world that was only touched upon minimally (at least in the films), and the magical world is clearly well developed and rich with possibility.

Others?

This is far from an exhaustive list, and I'm sure cases could be made for a great many more.  Please feel free to suggest more in the comments and maybe I'll write a follow up sometime down the road.