Tuesday, January 3, 2012

IP Daily

Among the gaming circles in which I travel (and have travelled for some time), I am known as the 'Go-To Gamemaster' for RPG adventures and campaigns set in the universes of various licensed properties.

Here on my blog you've gotten to see me address Star Trek, Star Wars, DC Comics, The Muppets, Galaxy Quest, The Smurfs and Ghostbusters, just to name a handful.

Adam runs a good, or at the very least decent, Traveller game but he runs a kickin' Star Trek. My Superhero games are usually pretty fun, sometimes great, sometimes a little weaker than they could be. I've never run a bad game in the DC universe.

Why? What is it about various IPs that make them so appealing to me?

A good question and one that doesn't necessarily have a straight forward answer. It's not like I haven't run a variety of successful games in original settings of my own design. Likewise, I can't imagine running certain IPs because I either don't really care for them or I don't feel there is enough room to move around in that milieu. In this latter case what I really mean is, is there enough of an opportunity to create my own material and add it in without messing out the canon of the setting or taking away from it's well known central characters and/or story?

Generally speaking, when I get an IP, when the concept and theme of it just click for me, it's usually because I see the room to stretch. I know I can pitch the concept to a table of my peers and see a good deal of head nodding and an 'Oh yeah, I know that movie' or 'Yes! Cool show'. Once I have their interest, getting through character creation is easy because the majority of the group with recognize the various elements of their characters and the setting without my needing to go into deep exposition. In New York City in 2012, even if they claim to have never seen the movie, most people have heard of the Force, Jedi and Lightsabers from Star Wars.

This instant familiarity and the pre-constructed nature of most of the things the PCs will initially percieve and interact with, gives me ample opportunity to focus on creating new material. Given the limited amount of time most of us adult gamers have, letting a setting and the players' knowledge of said setting take care of themselves is very liberating. It allows me to dedicate my time and resources to all the things the players don't know about. In other words, the original stuff I am generating and throwing in.

I intend to discuss this subject more as I don't feel we see a lot of dedicated, internet love on the gaming blogs for the licensed RPGs. Sure, old schoolers will mention or even review them and they fit in that nostalgic place in our hearts and minds but are they taken as seriously as Dungeons & Dragons, Traveller or Top Secret? I don't know. I don't feel they are and it's a shame. Besides, James Bond kicks Top Secret's butt.

Oh, be prepared, for this post is also a lead in to my next IP-That-Should-Be-A-Game project...coming soon...

Barking Alien

On D&D and IPs...

One final note. As I've mentioned in the past, another reason I have never been a big fan of D&D style Medieval Fantasy was a lack of TV Shows, Movies and the like when compared to Sci-Fi and Supers. Indeed, other than the 800 pound gorilla wearing a pointed hat, grey robe and bearing The One Ring, I really can't think of a major Fantasy-IP-Game. OK, not true. Game of Thrones.

Now, certainly there has been Elric, Lanhkmar and other licensed Fantasy games but we've been denied an Elric or Fafhrd and Gray Mouser film or TV series.

Interestingly, a least to me, I find the biggest of the IPs settings, Middle Earth, the least likely to be the one I want to run a game in. It lacks that sense of room to stretch I was mentioning. It seems to tight knit, too closed and specific. Whatever else might be going on in the world at the time of the War of the Ring is almost rendered unimportant because of the War of the Ring.

May need to address this further as well.


  1. I debated between running Traveller or Firefly. (Either way I was using GURPS.)
    I ended up going with Firefly.
    I was the only one in our group that had played Traveler. The thought of GMing a Traveler game from the ground up was daunting. I would have to explain everything about the setting from the ground up. And I don't think the group had the investment in Traveler to sustain us.

    But Firefly? Everyone knew and loved The Firefly setting.
    My needs were met too. I wanted to run a Sci-Fi tramp freighter game. It really didn't matter what gaming 'Verse it was in. It was the best decision. Everyone loved it.
    As an unseen result it has peaked interest in a future Traveler game.

  2. There have been Conan movies and TV shows... not that you'd necessarily want to run games set in them instead of the stories, but still...

  3. Now, certainly their have been Elric, Lanhkmar and other licensed Fantasy games but we've been denied an Elric or Fafhrd and Gray Mouser film or TV series.

    Robin of Sherwood was a good prominent fantasy (ish) IP, but I don't know if you guys ever got it over there.

  4. Maybe you could help a brother out.

    I'm looking at running a "Monster Cops" (I guess MIB-ish in tone) kind of game, but I'm at a loss for system. I want ease of use with minimal crunch, but something both pros and newbs can enjoy.

    In all of your assorted IP-adventures, do you have a go-to game system? QAGS seems to be the closest to what I need, but I'm wide open for ideas.

  5. @Justin - I am very much a 'the right system for the right setting' type of person. I feel the best system evoke a certain style, sense of atmosphere or vibe if you will.

    As a result, I'm not one of those people who uses a one-size-fits-all system. Nothing against your personal preference Lassiter but I am not a fan of GURPS. Love the supplements but the system itself has always felt dry and a tad to much work for what you get back. A friend one described it best with the following statement...

    "The name evokes a breakfast cereal. A healthy one made to look tasty and fun for kids with pale fruit colors and interesting shapes. In the end however, it tastes a lot like bran flakes. Crunchy for sure but soggy and a little bland as you get to the bottom of it."

    Now for an MIB-esque game I would recommend one of the following...

    InSpectres by Memento Mori. Really designed for a Ghostbusters/comical BPRD game, what else is MIB really than Ghostbusters with Aliens instead of the supernatural?

    Modified Mini-Six. West End Games did an offical MIB game and it was quite good. It was slightly different from the base system with modified mechanic for improving chase and down-to-the-wire type actions. Simplify it a bit with Mini-Six and you may have a winner.

    Risus. If I was forced to choose an IP got-to system for the majority of my projects it would be Risus. Infinitely and easily modifiable, it forms the base of my Muppets RPG and Smurfs RPG systems (though both move away from it in the fine details).

    @Kelvin Green - Great show but I am not sure how wide spread it's popularity was stateside. Also, that's relatively recent. Not that time is a factor so much but in many cases, IP games that are popular seem to cover subjects from a ways back or that maintained over many years. When was Robin of Sherwood again?

    @Lassiter - Why didn't you just use Traveller to play Firefly? I mean, Firefly is Traveller. Especially original Traveller. Projectile based weaponry, no aliens, Reavers (as in the 'Reavers Deep' sector of the Imperium in Traveller canon), etc. I mean, doesn't the pilot guy even say something like, "Hold on travelers!", in the first episode.

    I could be wrong as I am not a fan of the show but that setting and that game seem to already be one in my mind.

  6. No offense taken on the GURPS point of view. We all have our own take on various systems. (-:

    I have A couple scared bunny players so I have to tread softly with new things. But with the success of GURPS Firefly, I've got them to agree with enthusiasm to play Traveler.

    As for using the Traveler system, I've only played using the LBB a few times. I would probably use GURPS. I am still tossing around the idea of using original Traveler.
    But that will have to wait. I'm prepping a DC Heroes game using MEGS. It is set on my own alternate Earth-66.
    BTW, you and I have the same feeling about comic books and Superhero RPG.
    Love your Supers stuff. (-:

  7. Thanks Lassiter,

    On a second read through I found my comments regarding what you said a bit crumby and I'm glad you took them the way you did.

    I am fascinated by any approach that tries to do something a bit different and I am curious to hear how your projects go.

    I played many a game of MEGS in years past and, although I'd probably go M&M 3E/DC Adventures these days, I think it can be a real blast.

  8. I totally forgot about InSpectres, and I'm checking into Risus.

    Thank you!

  9. There is:
    * The world in each player's mind,
    * The world in the GM's mind, &
    * The world at play.

    Only the world at play need be shared, but it must be shared.

    The easiest way to make sure that the world at play is shared is for the world in each player's mind to be the same... and an IP makes this much, much easier.

    As does playing D&D.

    I think that the GM's first job is to make sure that the world at play is shared... so what's not to ♥ about any IP? Yes, you want it to inspire your play, but no matter what it is it will fulfil the third requirement & facilitate play (even if it is, say, Cleopatra: 2525).

  10. Very well put rainswept (and neat blog by the way - don't see a way to follow so I'm linking it to my blogroll).

    While I may disagree (slightly and from experience) as to the validity of D&D as perfect for the shared play experience, I do think that this is the key element of IP gaming hands down. You simply stated it prettier than I. ;)