Category Archives: RPG

The Crux With Established Settings From Movies, Games And Novels

Who doesn’t know this? You’ve just played through a video game, watched a movie or read a novel thinking this might make great source material for a roleplaying game. In fact some of the most beloved tabletop roleplaying games are based on established franchises like Star Trek, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, just to name a few. But they are definitely some issues when trying to bring these settings to the game table.

I recently played the critically-acclaimed Horizon: Zero Dawn. Aside from the exciting story, the gorgeous graphics and the impressive soundtrack, I fell in love with the world building. I immediately thought this might make a great setting for a tabletop game. There’s actually enough depth to make this work, BUT there’s one elephant in the room that needs to be addressed.

In the game you play as Aloy who is eventually on a mission to save the world. As with many of these stories, Aloy is basically “the Chosen One” and only she can unearth what happened in the past and prevent that history repeats itself. If you try to come up with cool adventures for a party of adventurers in a tabletop RPG version of the setting, you immediately have to struggle with the fact, that you’ll probably never match the experience of the video game.

There have been several cool Lord of the Rings roleplaying games, but whatever you can come up with, your party of characters will never rival the deeds performed by the Fellowship of the Ring. Sure, you can run successful games in the Middle Earth setting, but you have to be content with either ignoring canon or running adventures which don’t interfere with the established history.

I fully understand that a GM can truly make a world their own. You can ignore canon, let a party of characters take Aloy’s place, have someone else carry the One Ring to Mt. Doom, and who says it was Luke Skywalker who destroyed the first Death Star? But that’s not what many people want or even enjoy. Personally I always have to struggle with myself when I plan to ignore canon in a roleplaying game.

Star Wars and Star Trek actually fare a little bit better than many other settings because even though the protagonists in the movies and TV series have quite some impact on the setting at large, there are eras and many places who have never been explored in detail. But even then there are many people who don’t want to play second fiddle to Han Solo or Jean-Luc Picard.

In my opinion good roleplaying game settings don’t have larger-than-life heroes aside from the player characters themselves. They should be the ones whose deeds change the world for better or for worse. They should be the focus of their own stories, not some NPC in control of the GM. That’s actually one of the reasons why I am not too fond of the Forgotten Realms. It’s one example of a roleplaying game setting with far too many extremely powerful NPCs running around and taking the limelight away from the player characters.

Will all this make me stop thinking about converting established settings? Probably not. Even though I know it usually doesn’t work that well, it’s just too tempting. Especially since there’s always hope that someone who likes the source material might get interested in the roleplaying games hobby. But in the future I’ll probably think twice before putting too much work into such an endeavor.

What is your stance on the subject? Do you think I am totally in the wrong here, or do my arguments have some merit? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

Bundle Of Holding: Fudge

I have had a soft spot for the Fudge roleplaying game system for quite some time now. Unfortunately several classic Fudge games including the 10th anniversary edition have never been released in digital form. Until now!

Grey Ghost Press has teamed up with the Bundle of Holding team to bring us an awesome bundle containing the best Fudge has to offer. The starter collection ($12.95) includes the following:

  • Fudge 10th Anniversary Edition
  • Psi-punk
  • Hack-n-Slash
  • The Orb
  • Survival of the Able

If you pay more than the threshold price of $25.47 you get all of the above plus the following:

  • The Deryni Adventure Game
  • Terra Incognita
  • Now Playing
  • The Unexplained

If you are a fan of Fudge or just curious what this system has to offer, I highly recommend checking out this Bundle of Holding. And if you are still on the fence, why don’t you check out our posts about Fudge here on the blog?

The Misogyny At The Core Of Our Hobby

I consider myself a tabletop roleplaying games fan. I have enjoyed playing RPGs for most of my life, I’ve run games myself for over 25 years and I have introduced quite a few people to the hobby. But unfortunately the roleplaying game hobby has its issues and we all need to acknowledge that there has been a huge problem with misogyny and racism especially in its early days but still to this day.

A recent Twitter post dragged the topic back into the public’s eye. It featured screenshots of two posts, one written by Gary Gygax and the other by Jonathan Tweet. As we all well know Gary Gygax is considered as one of the fathers of our hobby, while Jonathan Tweet is well known for his work on D&D 3rd Edition, 13th Age, and Over The Edge. Especially 3rd Edition and OTE had definitely quite an impact on the hobby today.

Let’s unpack Mr. Gygax’ post first. He gave his thoughts on why tabletop roleplaying games were male-dominated in the early days and his conclusion was that “most females do not play RPGs because of a difference in brain functions”. Oh boy! He also mused that it was a waste of time and effort to attempt to write games which included women as a target audience. Discussing the neuroscience behind Gygax’ claims would be well beyond the scope of this post. Let’s just say that roleplaying games are nowadays enjoyed by people of all genders. Sure, there are probably still more male RPG fans but that’s probably because people like Gygax never even bothered to see women as a target audience.

In a way it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you believe women just don’t enjoy a certain kind of games and then tailor your game towards a young male audience, it’s unsurprising if female gamers are not particularly interested in your product. But the best proof that Gygax’ assumption was wrong is that despite all the issues D&D had, it was still enjoyed by many female gamers. So he was obviously wrong and misogynist. Heck, the more I read about Mr. Gygax the more I get the impression he was not a very nice person. So why should we care?

For one I think uncritical praise of people like Gary Gygax is wrong. You can appreciate what he has done for the hobby even while acknowledging what he did wrong. The other thing is that a lot of his weird ideas on women (and race for that matter) made it into the game. In the process of modernizing D&D Wizards of the Coast would be well-advised to put particular care into making sure that these elements are removed.

Unfortunately some of the people who later worked on D&D shared some of Gygax ideas. Jonathan Tweet is such an example. Over the last few years he has made several racist and misogynist remarks which caused quite a turmoil especially among fans of 13th Age, a game which he designed together with Rob Heinsoo. A quote by Mr. Tweet is included in the screenshot below.

He posted these lines on his blog on Gleemax (WotC’s now defunct social site for gamers) back in 2008. I find it particularly interesting that both Gygax and Tweet mention LARP in a derogatory manner. I also find the “quality of gamer men” remark ridiculous and offensive, especially since he makes the allegation that female gamers are actually more interested in “good-looking guys” than the games themselves, which is pretty close to this whole “fake gamer girl” bullshit.

Over the last few years I have realized that looking up to “industry luminaries” is often a terrible idea. More often than not our “heroes” turn out to be terrible people. Even worse their often harmful ideologies make it into the games they created which make it hard to separate the art from the artist.

One last thing: I’ve disabled the comment feature under this post. If you want to discuss it, feel free to get in touch with me via social media.