Top franchises that should be made into an RPG

Posted by on May 7, 2011 in RPG | 0 comments

So, I was thinking about the good work that @atminn and @glimmthegnome were doing to create an X-Com role-playing game – a noble endeavor indeed that I anxiously away –   and it made me wonder what other properties are out there which should be made into a role-playing game. I should also point out that while I’ve played other old-school RPGs in the past (1ED Boot Hill, 1ED Gamma World, 1ED Traveller, 1ED Champions), I have not had the chance to play many of the newer RPGs out on the market, so it wouldn’t surprise me if some of these games already exist.  I’m also excluding the really easy candidates (Star Wars, Star Trek, Conan, Hercules, Stargate, Indiana Jones, Avatar, etc.). When noodling my list, I came up with a few criteria which I thought would help me narrow the field:

  • Rich Environment or Location – did the movie/game/novel take place in a world that had fantastic environments, or even if a modern environment (like Top Secret is), filled with characters that most folks would find exciting to play or encounter.
  • Exotic Character Classes – Does the franchise support multiple types of players that the PC could play.
  • Ripe for Adventures – this is the critical one: while there are many great games/myths/novels out there in the world, but sometimes you have to ask yourself, what sort of modules would you write for a game like that? Monopoly is one of the greatest games of all time, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it would make for a great serial adventure.
  • Rich Combat or Encounters – like any great drama, when it comes down to brass tacks, the PCs need to come up against some foe to vanquish, and while the encounters need not necessarily involve fisticuffs, its certainly doesn’t hurt 😉  Not having enough potential foes is why my idea for the Ebola Virus Outbreak RPG may not ever see the light of day.

Without further ado, the list…

The Matrix

This one just seems like a no-brainer. Two fantastic world settings (post-Apocalypse real world, and psuedo-1990s filled with morphing characters); different types of foes (agents, programs, etc.). The PCs could play a variety of different class types (soldiers, programs, drivers, etc.) and would effectively have 2 classes for real world and matrix. One would need not even need to play the “Neo” type character, in fact, he would work better at some sort of game deity for this to be an interesting game.

Planet of the Apes

The fact that this movie series is still going 30 years later is testament to the strength of its story. Far from being a one-hit wonder, this would put the characters into an extremely exotic location filled with a variety of potential colorful foes. I think what would make this game interesting is you’d be able to play from 2 perspectives (play as ape, play as human) and given that it too has some post apocalypse elements, you can change the human characters to have different traits when dealing with the apes. I would also add additional variety to the types of ape villains.

Escape From New York

As you can now see, I’m a post-apocalypse junkie. What I like about this environment is I think you can take the best elements of both Top Secret and Gamma World and mix into a new game all its own. The actual “escape from new york” movie could be the backdrop for a single adventure, with other campaigns becoming “War in Leningrad” and “The Denver Bank Heist”. I think what would make this one interesting is if this became a 2-player game (1 PC playing Snake, and 1 GM). I would also add in new diseases, weapons, and mutants to spice up the encounters.

Stephen King’s The Stand or Stephen King’s Dark Tower

With either property you’d have a winner. With the Stand you’ve got great religious good vs. evil elements which I think would translate very well into encounters and parties. With Dark Tower, similar to Escape from New York, you can effectively create a never ending series of quest scenarios while having both new and familiar foes.

Walking Dead/Night of the Living Dead/World War Z

Last year at Comic Con San Diego, the top 2 types of critters you saw everywhere were Vampires (thanks to success of Twilight, True Blood and others) and Zombies. I love zombies. I love zombies so much I’m almost a bit tired of how popular they’ve become. Zombies are my fast-food of sci fi. Still, I think what you’d need to do here to make this work is create different varieties of zombies, and other mutants. The variety in campaigns would come in terms of how the population of zombies is being dealt with – I would have to imagine that how less-populated and isolated areas like Tahiti deals with zombies is very different from how China would deal with their population’s zombie problem. And by the way, World War Z was just a fantastic book.

Legacy Of Heorot

The dark horse of the bunch that I suspect fewer will be familiar with. Legacy fo Heorot was a novel by sci-fi masters Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle and Steven Barnes. What I think would be cool about gaming in this world, is essentially you’d have a sci-fi environment of colonizing a planet but combined with elements of hostile world filled with baddies. This novel is similar to the  movie Aliens in that its centered around humans vs. environment & aliens and is ripe for expansion and new monster types.

Ideas that  narrowly did not make the list:

  • Joust – I loved that game and would love to see more happen with the concepts of men who mount flying ostriches taking on wicked buzzards, but I’m not sure how I would write a series of adventures for it. Still, I heard they were going to make a movie out of it a few years ago, and was cautiously-anxious waiting for such dialog as, “To your long-necked flying steeds, my friends, the eggs are hatching!”
  • Jamestown – I’m a big history fan, and i’ve done lots of reading on Jamestown and early colonization of America by Europeans in general. I started writing an interactive fiction game on this premise a couple years ago (and got about half way through the first few encounters!) but I think this premise would make a better one-shot adventure in IF form. The problem with this one, I think, is similar to why I didn’t enjoy Boot Hill as much back in the day which is I don’t think there would be enough module-style adventures in me to write.
  • The Templars – Similar to Jamestown, while I think the templars are a fascinating piece of history, other than historical battles, I’m not sure how one would write modules for this. I think The Templars would be a better board game similar in style to Risk.

Love to hear others thoughts on what they think would be a good RPG franchise.