Thursday, 21 August 2014

RPG A Day 21: Favourite Licensed RPG


Day 21 Question - Favourite Licensed RPG

Guess what my favourite licensed RPG is.

Go on, guess.

Okay, I’ll explain why Buffy The Vampire Slayer gets the nod.

As James Wallis said in a panel on licensed games at Dragonmeet 2002 or thereabouts, “a Buffy game makes sense because it’s ours.”

Modern monster-hunting plain-clothes superheroes who make jokes about popular culture as they fight the forces of darkness and rely on book-learning to save the world. Being a bit of a geek is a weapon against evil.

It’s also about as game-friendly a premise for a series as you can get.

(I’d put Stargate alongside it - a team of four or so leave the modern world through a sci-fi door to another planet with the stuff they can carry, have an adventure and come home. And obviously I think Doctor Who is a good choice as well. Star Wars rarely replicates the movies, often feeling more like a spinoff TV series due to ongoing games. Star Trek has the issue of the PCs often being in charge of a big ship and needing someone to be Captain. The superhero RPGs can be overloaded with clashing genre expectations. And someone had to remind me that Call Of Cthulhu technically qualifies.)

As previously noted, it lets you bring table talk in-character. Anybody who’s ever had a game of Pendragon buckle under the weight of Python quotes can imagine how useful that could be.

The core power fantasy of the Vampire Slayer is a feminist one. That’s just so cool.

And it’s a kitchen-sink setting with a very high Weird Level while still being relatable. Buffy had a silent movie and a musical caused by demonic powers. Angel spent most of an episode as a bloody puppet. Just about anything can fit in there with “a wizard did it” as a perfectly viable explanation. This helped make it the longest I’ve ever run a game - almost twice as long as GMing WFRP in high school for a captive audience of fellow pupils as the books came out. And on the flip side, an episode about dealing with a totally normal life event (with a special guest vampire to slay) fits just as well.

And on top of all that, as a licensed product the game has a nice straightforward system that fits into a thinnish hardback, good production values and a friendly readable tone. I’d maybe ditch the super-granular Life Points and the multiplication to calculate damage, but you can’t have everything. Drama Points are great, each use of them tracking to the series and to the genre all round.

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