Monday, November 12, 2018

That's The Way, Uh-Huh Uh-Huh, I Like It

I like IP based games. 

It's true that this may not be universally the case as I won't play a game just because it's an IP. I have to like the IP to be certain. 

That said, I find that given the choice between DC Adventures or Mutants and Masterminds 3rd Edition - essentially the same game - I'd much rather run a DC Adventures campaign. I'd pick Star Trek or Star Wars over Traveller and I freakin' love Traveller. I miss running Ghostbusters and I've been getting ideas for a Men In Black game lately. 

I really enjoy running games based on entertainment franchises that I like. It might seem lazy to some or less creative than a game set solely in a setting of one's own design but I don't feel that way. Better yet I don't really care what those of that opinion think. 


Well for starters, I've had incredible success with IP based campaigns over the years. Some of the best games I've ever run have been set in someone else's universe. As I have noted in the past, I became sort of famous in my local gaming circles in High School and College as the 'King of Licensed RPGs'.

I always received interest if I said I was thinking of running Villains and Vigilantes, Mekton, or Ars Magica but I'd have scores of players chomping at the bit to be part of my Marvel, Mobile Suit Gundam, or Record of the Lodoss War games. 

I have discussed IP gaming numerous times in the past from both a general standpoint and in relation to specific licenses. What I want to add here is that I really like the freedom they give me. 

"Huh?", I hear you say. "Freedom? But doesn't running a game in a known IP setting tie your hands considerably? You can't go against canon without someone freaking out!"

That is certainly a distinct possibility but let's focus on the freedom part shall we?

When creating a setting from scratch there are several things to consider, among them being what particular elements do and don't exist in your universe, how the people in the universe interact with and feel about those elements, and what is the function of the Player Characters in said setting. 

In IP settings, if the players are at least generally familiar with the IP, those questions are already answered. I don't have to explain what a Droid is to a Star Wars player, nor do I have to get into all the different ways Droids are treated. 

Likewise, I don't have to tell a Star Trek player that there aren't any Droids on their Starfleet Vessel. Star Trek doesn't have Droids. We all know this. 

When the rules are known and generally agreed upon by all involved, I as the GM don't have to worry about them. I can direct my energies towards creating new material - new stories, characters, locations, and other such components. It's quite liberating actually. You don't need to reinvent the wheel if you and a good size group of friends have the same favorite wheel you can take out whenever you feel like it and go for a spin. 

I could go on and on but I have other subjects I want to get to. I am really interested in running either an old favorite IP game or an IP I haven't touched in a while. Perhaps one I like but haven't yet tackled at all? Time will tell. 

Barking Alien


  1. Agreed. Strangely, I feel I am more creative when pushing the limits of a known universe than when creating my own. As you say, I can use my energies to develop cool adventures and ideas, and fitting them in an established backdrop, rather than going over the details of a new game world.

  2. I've recently explored the possiblity of running a Star Wars D6 campaign for the first time and my main focus was on how to do it my way without being constrained by the movie canon. I managed to find a satisfactory conclusion after a deep dive into materials and lore.

  3. I do not particularly LIKE working in established IP because it's too easy to assume stuff that you cannot be certain about.

    But let me explain what that means:

    A lot of my roleplay online has been on comic book mushes -- text based RP where the game is essentially a context for free-form roleplay using characters which are generated to fit within the rules of the game for characters.

    MOST such games will take some feature of the canon universe, or universes, and establish the timelines and information that you need, and the feature characters -- the ones that are part of IP -- have to be applied for, their power descriptions clearly defined, etc. by a panel of judges who sometimes haven't even read the comics.

    So it may or may not be the same, and other people may win the right to play "as" an IP feature character and then proceed to make them utterly out of character and in great contradiction to their actual selves.

    Whereas, in an original world, you don't have to mess with that.
    I have almost exactly the opposite impression as you about the DC Adventures game vs. Mutants and Masterminds 3. As you know, I even have a spreadsheet which can be used to create characters with that system. And it TAKES a spreadsheet.

    As for me, I prefer the "Orville" approach -- make a similar thing and then go where you want to go to embody what you found to be the best spirit of what you were inspired by.

    That said, remember that a lot of these IPs (Traveler especially) had enormous amounts of input from fans that shaped their direction. We can even say that about DC Comics, when we realize that Jim Shooter was a fanboy of the Legion of Super-Heroes who got hired to write the stories at a ridiculously young age, and that the Bierbaums were members of a large fan community for that comic before they went bugnuts crazy making their fanfiction version of the Legion universe into canon (Bleah).

    And THAT trend hasn't stopped either. Not only in comics, but all sorts of media, the characters are strongly influenced by what the fans like, and the storylines can similarly go in unexpected directions for that reason.

    In fact, the only IP I can think of that was proof against that was Babylon 5, because J. Michael Straczynski was adamant about NOT letting fans suggest anything to him, nor letting his actors push things in directions he didn't want to go.

  4. I have similar feels, but am occasionally overwhelmed by angst that I'm going against canon.