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...
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.