June 24, 2014

Licenses I Wish Were RPGs

I love a good rpg license. I love the fact Doctor Who, Star Trek, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Marvel, DC, Firefly, Farscape, Babylon 5, Stargate, A Game of Thrones, James Bond, Indiana Jones have all been turned into rpgs. However, there are a number of potential licenses that have not been made into any sort of official rpg. Some may be obscure subjects – not part of the current popular geek culture - but some boggle my mind as to why they have not been made into a game yet. Here are some licenses I wish were rpgs.

Blake’s 7
This was a British sci-fi TV series that ran for 4 seasons from 1978 to 1981. It featured a band of criminals fighting against an oppressive intergalactic regime. The characters included a maligned freedom fighter, petty thief, space pirate, computer hacker, mercenary and killer. Despite their predilections for breaking the law, their missions often found them working against the government for the sake of freedoms…or money. They are bad people fighting badder people. The series featured moral ambiguity and a grim world view.

The possibilities of an rpg within this setting are almost limitless. Players get to play characters with that hard edge. They get to make moral decisions with no clear right or wrong. They get to fight with the odds stacked against them. The series featured interesting NPCs and high-tech devices such as ship to planet teleporters, computers with incredible AI and capabilities, and other science fiction gear that can make for interesting rpg additions. It is a setting with great depth and possibilities.

Star Blazers
Star Blazers is an Americanized version of an animated TV series of a Japanese anime that ran for 3 seasons in 1974, 1978 and 1980. It is not to be confused with the Starblazer comic book series from the UK (though by coincidence that has already been made into an rpg by Cubicle 7). The story herein details the death throes of Earth after it is attacked and irradiated by alien conquerors. Humanity moves underground but will soon perish from the radiation. Another alien offers to provide technology that will cleanse the Earth, but it is light years away. Humanity builds a spaceship capable of moving great distances (with the help of alien technology) and an epic space travel begins. The ship, the Yamato/Argo, makes its way across the stars dealing with various dangers and interesting encounters all the while being hunted by the evil aliens who want to stop them.

There is a lot to with here for an rpg. At its base is the proto-typical trope of a long quest journey; there is a reason why the ship’s name is Argo (Jason and the Argonauts). The episodes featured the ship and crew dealing with various new races, space encounters and traps set by the aliens on their journey; this sort of episodic approach would work well with the rpg format of adventure/module design. The series also had a good mix of aliens and new technology for players to interact and discover. The best part is that the setting provides a singular goal (recover the cure for Earth) while allowing for divergent adventures along the way (everything the characters meet while journeying).

This is the first of the “why isn’t this an rpg already?” licenses. Narnia was one of the best known fantasy novels as the concept of fantasy novels began to take a hold on the public consciousness. It had a profound affect on me, perhaps even moreso than Lord of the Rings. Narnia has it all. Monsters based on the “typical” fantasy mythologies, including some that break that mold. Epic adventures and battles. Heroic characters. A detailed world. Magic, curses and magic items. And yet there is still no rpg for it and not one on the horizon either.

I’ve done some research to see what is out there (in case there was a homebrew) but there is nothing but a few comments bemoaning the fact there is no Narnia rpg. The biggest complaint, or rational, for there being no Narnia yet is that would-be designers are stymied by the world design. While geographically it is fairly well known, it is the feel of the world that loses designers. Faith, hope, truth, honesty are all key components of the world and these are hard to quantity with mechanics. Narnia is more than just battles and dungeon exploration. It operates at a level that designers seem stymied by. However, these days have seen a forward push in game design that often can include intangibles into a rule system.
However, now the problem may be that Narnia has lost its cultural impact and become eclipsed by Game of Thrones and Harry Potter. Maybe not enough people see a need for a Narnia rpg anymore.

The movie from 1986 is a cult favorite, especially among the crowd of people that are drawn to rpg games. The spin-off TV series from 1992-1998 was also very popular. It is a world wherein Immortals live through the ages and fight each other for the ultimate prize. The series featured weekly engagements with other Immortals or with an unsuspecting world. There is ready-made conflict of the most brutal kind. The world imagery captured the imagination of many people as they saw themselves as one of these Immortals.

History, sword battles, and the modern world, a wonderful fusion that most rpg gamers like. The tv series featured flashbacks that were relevant to the ongoing story/plot. This convention could easily work in an rpg allowing for history to meld with the modern day. There were even a few episodes that introduced some low level touches of the mystical. Highlander is rife for an rpg with its inherent conflicts between the various Immortals; adventure is baked into the setting.

Now to be fair there was one unlicensed rpg that while they never openly called themselves Highlander the RPG was as close as a game could get without getting a lawsuit. Legacy: War of Ages attempted to be the Highlander RPG. However, it never caught on. There is also a “hack” for running Highlander with the World of Darkness system. However, to date, there has never been a true Highlander RPG and as the years continue the likelihood diminishes.

Any license you wish would be made into an rpg?

1 comment:

Timothy Brannan said...

Jason Vey did a really good Highlander homebrew using Cinematic Unisystem a long time ago.

I have been fairly vocal about wanting to do a "Charmed" game for years.

But I totally agree with you about Blake's 7. It seems like a no brainer. Even Red Dwarf had it's own RPG.