This is a guest post by fellow blogger Goluptious Geek. You can find him on twitter here, and on his own blog right here. Today he decided to discuss adapating your favorite fiction worlds to your tabletop games!
One of the many frequent pains I experience as a role-player, is the all too common desire that I get to adapt every fictional universe that my group and I fall in love with, that’s even remotely interesting. I would imagine I’m not the only GM that deals with this compulsion on an almost daily basis. While yes it’s true that many popular fictional settings have their own roleplaying games associated with them, many do not. Many of these settings are new, or just haven’t achieved the same mainstream popularity as other properties, but would still make very appealing games. And if we’re being completely honest with ourselves, some of these roleplaying games that are made for specific settings…well, they just suck. So what do you do if you want to play a game in a setting that either doesn’t have its own published roleplaying game rules, or the only one you can find just turned out to be a horrendous pile of garbage? There’s a couple of options for GMs who want to run these types of games.
Universal Game Systems
Universal game systems provide a one size fits all gaming experience for just about anything your heart can dream up. This includes systems like GURPS, whose primary goal is not bring a specific setting or world to tabletop, but rather to give you a set of tools that allow you to create your own worlds, or in the case of this post’s example, adapt one from your favorite storytelling source material.
My group and I have recently taken up the task of adapting the universe presented in the John Wick movies. No, I’m not talking about the John Wick that writes roleplaying games, I’m talking about the movies starring Keanu Reeves. Those who are familiar with these movies, can rightfully criticize that it isn’t exactly the hardest setting to adapt to a roleplaying game. That being said, it was harder than I had originally anticipated. After looking at several options, we decided that GURPS was the best system to emulate the worlds realistic, yet somehow also over the top action sequences with excessive amounts of gun-fu and hyper violence. I know what you’re thinking, “that’s every roleplaying game”. And yes, many groups tend to let this type of mindless action dictate the entirety of their roleplaying games, which there is nothing wrong with. That being said, my group typically doesn’t play this style of game, so it was a bit difficult to find a system that fit exactly how we saw the universe. I’m not saying that universal systems are perfect for every system, only that it’s a wonderful option to consider, if you r goal is to adapt a setting that doesn’t already have its own system. There are other universal systems other than GURPS of course. Among them are games like Savage Worlds, Hero System, and Amber Diceless Roleplaying Game. (Note by TN: I had no idea this existed. Which is funny given I have read the entire Chronicles of Amber series and reviewed it!)
Tweaking Game Systems for Different Settings
Another option, is taking your favorite roleplaying game, scrubbing all of the lore, and stuffing it full of your own setting, or the setting you want to adapt to the game. This is easier with some settings than it is with others whose systems and rules are directly a product of their world and setting. This doesn’t mean it’s impossible, but it can sometimes require a bit more effort. For example, a friend of mine is currently in the middle of adapting the system for 4th edition Legend of the Five Rings to an old republic Star Wars game. For those familiar with the L5R roll/keep system, this might seem like a great idea, and I’m almost certain it will be when it’s completed. However, the system for L5R is very much specific to its setting, and the way it was intended to be played. This of course is part of what drew him to it in the first place.
What’s important about this, is that just about any game system can be converted to another setting. In this case, the setting that you feel is lacking a system that is right for your group, or is lacking its own system entirely. Focus one only the equipment and classes that fit your new setting, rename a few races, completely swap out the lore, and suddenly the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying Game can become the world from Game of Thrones. Or Call of Cthulhu can become the world of The Walking Dead.
Basically, if you want to run game in a setting that doesn’t have a dedicated game system, or the only one you can find is trash, there’s a way to do it. Universal game systems can allow you to take a vague tool kit, and fine tune it into whatever setting you might like it to be. If that doesn’t fit your style, you can just strip down your favorite game or system, and make it into the universe you wish to portray at the gaming table. Personally, I would almost always prefer to use a universal system, rather than trying to shoehorn my own twisted demands into a game system that was not designed to provide the type of world that I’m asking for, but I have done it before with rather decent success. Do you have a fictional setting you’d like to adapt to a roleplaying game, or one that you have already? Some of the worlds and source materials I’s still like to see great RPG adaptions for are Harry Potter, Full Metal Alchemist, and Star Trek (the published ones suck guys, they’re just awful). Tell me some of yours on Twitter! Tweet the settings you would like to play at the table @Goluptiousgeek.