[generic] RPG a day lockdown - what makes [insert other genre here] special?

#1
70. What makes this also-ran genre special to you and makes it the best genre for gaming ever?
Pick a genre not covered in earlier questions and say why it floats your boat. Those earlier ones were: spy, fantasy, horror, space opera, superhero, post-apocalypse, and cyberpunk.

EDIT: I guess if you have multiple other genres you love, then you make multiple answers???
 
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#2
Time travel and/or dimension hopping is special to me and the best genre for gaming ever, because it allows the same character to play in any of the other genres. We ran a short but intense game based on Time Tunnel once, inspired by the re-runs on that new Sky Channel thingy at the time ('84 or '85, I guess?). Intense because we played hours and hours every week in those days, so we covered quite a lot of eras. I particularly remember having fun in late '60s Vietnam and Hong Kong, and Domitian Rome, though our visit to 1940 Britain was a bit grim.
 
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#4
Steampunk - it's pretty much (pretty much) Session Zero in a word. Yes there's an essential silliness about (metaphorically) putting on your top hat and goggles but you know straight away know what you're in for. And Steampunks are lovely people. I've had some of my best experiences running games at Steampunk Conventions.

It's more than just Airships and retro tech. Brass and Tweed. I suppose it's more of a veneer than a genre. You can do just about anything in it. The fact that Steampunks refuse to allow an absolute definition and there has not been a definitive Steampunk film or book - just ones with elements of Steampunk - is both an opportunity and an irritant. But that just means you can run all sorts of games in a Steampunk setting and they'll work. Next time you're developing a scenario and can't quite make the pieces fit, try making it Steampunk. It's like oil to the imagination.

One word - 9 letters - you know what you're in for.
 
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#5
I like westerns. I like the aesthetics of it. The small scale of the western town makes things very personal and the whole mythology around fast drawing gunfighters suits the heroic "one person can make a difference" model well, as in High Noon or Rio Bravo (okay, that one has group of people).

I like interplay between the frontier and the industrial East which in turn allows big disurpters like gold rushes, the railway or even education and Statehood (as in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance) that can alter the status quo and drive events. Like most, if not all, historical genres it has pitfalls with regards to attitudes and practices that make modern audiences rightly uncomfortable. It requires careful consideration to navigate these.

I've only run a proper Western fairly recently. Previously I'd done mostly did post-apocalyptic western mashups. I also ran a spell of fantasy Western using Owl Hoot Trail (strongly recommend it, great game book that comes with excellent adventure). Eventually I wrote my own Western Fudge hack and that real joy to run, once I retrained my brain not to look for big supernatural or superscience MacGuffins.
 
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Ezio

Administrator
Staff member
#6
+1 for Historical, or pseudo-historical games. I run a lot of Victorian and 1920s pulp adventure in the style of Sherlock Holmes, Bulldog Drummond - and quite often Bleak Expectations. Although I've never run a western RPG, I'm a big fan of westerns as a cinema genre and would like to do one. High Noon & Rio Bravo are indeed classics of the genre, albeit that the second was created as a right-wing riposte to the first. The great thing about westerns is that the genre spans so much, so you can go from the ultra-heroic bordering on fantasy of the spaghetti westerns with their impossibly skilled protagonisti, through to the grime and grit of The Culpepper Cattle Company and The Searchers, the film for which Wayne should have won his Oscar. You can have exploration adventures, big business oppressing people, revenge stories, murder mysteries, political shenanigans, the Old West covers it all.

The thing that always annoys me is that so many games seem to feel that history alone isn't enough, and insist on adulterating it with the supernatural. I would love to find a good Western RPG that was done straight and not contaminated with zombies. Honourable mention should go to the Design Mechanism for Mythic Rome and their other historical supplements which stand almost alone in being just well-researched pure history. For me one of the big attractions of historical style games is that they get away from tedious monsters and allow you to focus on story and characterisation.

No mention of historical games would be complete, of course, without reminding people of the incomparable Flashing Blades, which remains a timeless classic.
 
#7
Tedious, I know, but I'm going to throw my hat into the historical camp as well. Beyond my obvious love of the Napoleonic stuff for Duty & Honour and Beat to Quarters, that era also has an amazing game in the Good Society rpg, one of my favourite games is the best indie game in the world, Pendragon. There are loads of historical games out there that simply do the business, for whatever you want them to do. And why? Because a lot of the things that we have discussed over this subset of questions are solved with history. We have a solid frame of reference, easily accessible and without really any questions. We have a multitude of easily revised source material for people to get up to speed and none of the confusion. Sure, the subject has a reputation of attracting pedants and the 'Well, actually...' lore war crowd, but a good table can manage that.

I love me some history!
 
#10
I like military science fiction. (And also to a lesser extent, modern setting military games)
  • Again with most RPG genres I enjoy, its because I like reading and watching the genre. (Apart from the endless chapters about boot camp. Please, please military SF authors, stop wasting several chapters writing about bloody boot camp). Colonial Marines from Aliens, Space Above & Beyond, Hammer's Slammers,
  • You can do action movie/thriller heroics (assuming you're using a system that supports this), or a more grim, gritty and realistic game with politics at the root of what's going on.
  • It skips over the stage of naysaying and/or bickering about whether to do the scenario, which some groups I've played with get stuck in - General Hammond (NPC) just orders you to go thru the Stargate and do the bloody plot! :)
  • It skips the shopping stage of the game. Everyone's been issued with the kit they need, plus a bit of personalisation. Rich PCs don't have better kit than poor PCs.
  • It gets rid of the "and you take their stuff" part of "you kill people and take their stuff". In fact looting may be a crime. (Games like WH40K excepted). So you can be mercenaries without being, er, mercenary. Which means a plot like Kelly's Heroes or Three Kings or Triple Frontier become an interesting change and a big chance to RP clashing ethical outlooks, rather than big payoff of the week.
  • It introduces concepts like non-combatants, prisoners of war and the Geneva Convention, so the PCs are discouraged from murderising all to death everyone they lay eyes on. (Again mil science fantasy games like WH40K excepted).
  • And military characters don't exist in a social vacuum. They have partners and families back home, friends in their unit, obnoxious superior officers they don't like, and stuff like interservice rivalries or idiot politicians visiting their base. This is a chance for 'human interest' and character development plots. Your payer group will determine whether this plays out more like Carry On Sergeant, Gary Tank Commander & Bluestone 42 or like The Unit meets Our Girl.
 
#11
The thing that always annoys me is that so many games seem to feel that history alone isn't enough, and insist on adulterating it with the supernatural. I would love to find a good Western RPG that was done straight and not contaminated with zombies.
There are a whole bunch of non-weird Western rpgs of all different shapes and sized from the original Boot Hill through to Coyote Trail and the Swedish-made Western, not counting the supplements for Hero, Gurps and D20. I wrote Lawmen v Outlaws because I have a very specific tastes in gaming, though Wild West Cinema would have been a close match. The trouble is, none of these seem to sell particularly well.

That said while I agree gaming does not need a fantastical element to be enjoyable, I don't think that "history alone is enough". Telling me that a game is setting a game in Victorian England or Peter the Great's Moscow doesn't address the key question of what the characters do any more than saying that the same is set in modern day Cleveland.

I exaggerate a little I that I guess there are some implied assumptions and cliches about particular historical periods. But still spelling out that the characters do in that era can't hurt. History in itself is not a genre. Saying you are Ghostbusters in Tokugawa Japan isn't just about making the setting supernatural, it is also about giving it a focus.
 
#13
So... have you seen the 90s's movie version of Starship Trooper....
Yes, and the tedious high school stuff at the beginning was even worse than boot camp! :)

I find boot camp less irksome in movies because it doesn't tend to occupy too much time of a 2 hour movie. Captain America does boot camp but it is over in a few brief scenes. Too many modern mil SF novels are hoping to turn into a series, and thus spend half of book 1 in boot camp, which means a couple of hours of my life to slog through it. So they are all structured like Full Metal Jacket... and they are (largely) recycling the same tropes and same events of Full Metal Jacket.

I know that's because the real life US Army/Marines boot camp experience may indeed contain such experiences, but to the reader it is the equivalent of having 6 lengthy chapters at the start of every crime novel detailing how the detective studied for his A Levels and had a gruelling job interview before joining the police force.
 

Ezio

Administrator
Staff member
#14
There are a whole bunch of non-weird Western rpgs of all different shapes and sized from the original Boot Hill through to Coyote Trail and the Swedish-made Western, not counting the supplements for Hero, Gurps and D20. I wrote Lawmen v Outlaws because I have a very specific tastes in gaming, though Wild West Cinema would have been a close match.
Thanks for the recommendations. I acquired Aces and Eights a while back, but never really took to it. I have downloaded your own game, which appears on a brief skim to have a lot going for it. I do a lot of stuff with Fate, so this is very much my wheelhouse. I may also give Wild West Cinema a look, as a big spaghetti western fan.

That said while I agree gaming does not need a fantastical element to be enjoyable, I don't think that "history alone is enough". Telling me that a game is setting a game in Victorian England or Peter the Great's Moscow doesn't address the key question of what the characters do any more than saying that the same is set in modern day Cleveland.
When I say history alone is enough, I just meant it doesn't need fantastical elements to be fun. You're quite right that a historical game generally needs extra context for the players, if only in striking the right tone. Lots of people will have ideas and mental images of Victorian London, for example, but they still need to know whether they're deprived Dickensian urchins, or Holmesian detectives, or whatever trope it may be.
 

Ezio

Administrator
Staff member
#15
I like military science fiction. (And also to a lesser extent, modern setting military games)
I do as well, but I find that generally they seem to be a hard sell. I've offered a couple of games of this sort at cons and failed to get signups. The one time I did get to run one - a 2300AD game of British colonial troops investigating an out-of-communication settlement - it went very well and attracted a good group, but that was the exception. The same, to a lesser extent, is true of running modern military stuff with The Company. I put a lot of work a few years back into a Furnace game based on the marvellous French thriller Nid de Guepes, which got no signups at all.

There seems to be a widespread view that military games are basically just skirmish games run by closet wargamers, and you won't get to do any "proper" role-playing. Which coming from a bunch of amoral dungeon looters is a bit much frankly, but never mind :). I also don't think that it's true. There's plenty of scope for character and role-playing in these sorts of games, even if they can also be combat and chrome heavy.

Incidentally, since you mention Captain America, there was a War Studies student from London who wrote a terrific assessment of the battle in Infinity War describing how ridiculously badly it was fought. As SF battles go, it is truly silly, and this gentleman captures its flaws rather well

https://angrystaffofficer.com/2019/03/31/military-lessons-learned-from-the-battle-of-wakanda/
 
#17
As every right-thinking gamer knows, the best genre bar none is anything involving Anthropomorphic Animals. The diversity of abilities and approaches, the quick-and-easy roleplaying hooks without the cultural baggage evident in many fantasy races, the ability to see the world from an entirely different (yet familiar) perspective. They are the best.

I ran a lot of Mouse Guard at cons, and a few of its hacks, and it's much better when you're playing mice, with the odds stacked against you in a cruel world built for bigger animals. I'm currently 8 sessions in to a campaign of Genlab Alpha, where the party's attempt to escape their captivity has also led to them trying to unite the tribes (the bear painting a white stripe on his nose "we're all badgers now" etc.). Anthropomorphic Animals is such a strong genre that it can't be held back even by the Palladium system, with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Other Strangeness as their masterpiece.
 
#19
I do as well, but I find that generally they seem to be a hard sell. I've offered a couple of games of this sort at cons and failed to get signups.
Yes, that's my experience as well.
Apart from at Summer Stabcon, where there are several people who enjoy running and playing military RPGs, so we all end up in each other's games.

But if an all-military characters game is advertised on the sign up sheets at other cons as "You are all Star Wars stormtroopers" or "You are all Aliens colonial marines", it fills up in micro-seconds.
 
#20
Thanks for the recommendations. I acquired Aces and Eights a while back, but never really took to it. I have downloaded your own game, which appears on a brief skim to have a lot going for it. I do a lot of stuff with Fate, so this is very much my wheelhouse. I may also give Wild West Cinema a look, as a big spaghetti western fan.
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I go an Adventure for Aces and Eights just because it has a lovely set of A4 cards with a full locomotive and carriages that I could repurpose for Savage Worlds Deadlands and other games like Ubiquity Space 1889.
 
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