Thursday, April 3, 2014

Creative License

I have wallowed in self-pity long enough. I want out of this lethargy. I want to go back to RPGs!

I've spent the last week trying to figure out what game I want to play. As I said in my last blog entry, I want to play something on the "story gaming" side of the fence, light but not too light, and something exciting and new. As it just so happens, Margaret Weis Productions just released their much-anticipated Firefly role-playing game a few days ago. It's new. It's exciting. And it uses Cortex Plus, a rules-light system I've been dying to try. So it appears the RPG Gods have spoken. Firefly is the perfect game to return to (although, sadly, it lacks zombies).

There's only one small problem: I've never seen a single episode of Firefly. 

Now, the question is, should I watch it? This topic actually comes up a lot...creative properties/franchises go with RPGs very naturally. Both Star Wars and Star Trek have had tabletop RPGs almost as long as they've existed. Lord of the Rings is on its third RPG. Both Marvel and DC comicbooks have had several RPG incarnations. Though Harry Potter may never get an official RPG because licensing on it is much tighter than many other franchises, simply Google "Harry Potter RPG" and you'll find a Harry Potter hack for damn-near every RPG out right now. And, unlike videogame adaptations, RPG adaptations tend to be quite good. Several of those licensed RPGs have been nominated for...or won...esteemed awards within the tabletop industry (including the Marvel Superheroic RPG, which uses the same system and is published by the same people who did Firefly). So even if you're not a Star Wars fan, sometimes it's an appealing option to pick up a Star Wars RPG just because of how easy it can be to get it to the table. 

The other side of the coin, though, is that many GMs like myself don't like the baggage that comes with licensed property. For example, I don't like the idea of players playing second fiddle to the "stars" of the series. This has been my biggest issue with comic book RPGs; the Marvel Superheroic RPG, by default, just assumes players are going to play as Marvel superheroes! Rules to make your own heroes from scratch was an addendum to the real game (there is a long story regarding this, about how Marvel basically forced the makers of the game to only allow Marvel superheroes as playable characters for the game. I totally understand that, but it sucks, anyway)! Outside of character creation, world creation/knowledge becomes a much more slippery slope in licensed games. When I play a Star Wars game, I usually have to make it crystal clear before the game what movies, books, comics, and videogames are going to be considered canon for my adventure. I inevitably get a player or three who want to use this idea or that idea from "the extended universe." That's not necessarily a bad thing, of course, but one thing inevitably leads to another. 

So because of this baggage, an option for many GMs is to actively avoid exposure to the franchise, and to instead play the world of that franchise as interpreted by the GM and players through the rulebook, as opposed to through the fiction. Because of my controlling tendencies, I'm not typically a big fan of this idea. I don't like the notion that my players all know more about the world than I do. So my typical response to licensed RPGs is to simply avoid them.

Some franchises are too big to avoid, however. Star Wars is most certainly one of them. Firefly, at least within the sci-fi/geek community, is another. I have neither the time nor inclination to both prep for the game AND watch all 14 episodes of the show. And so, with nothing but the first 15 minutes of the pilot episode under my belt, I will wander into a new world. Here's to hoping my vision of the Firefly universe is more like J.J. Abram's Star Trek and less like Joel Schumacher's Batman!

EDIT: 4/7/14

This weekend, I watched the pilot episode of Firefly. I intend to watch one or two (or three or four) episodes this week, before the game. So I'm not going in completely blind anymore!

4 comments:

  1. This is precisely why I've never run a game of Doctor Who...too much canon,one main character,and far too much potential for pain in the arse fan arguments.

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  2. The whole Firefly Verse is big enough (and the heroes so small, in the grand scheme of things) that 1. you should watch it, just to get the flavour of the Verse, and 2. you should watch it because its gorram amazing, dong ma?

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  3. There are a ton of newer more "storytelling" type games out there other than Firefly. I know that licensed games can be hard to deal with, especially if your players have had some exposure to the genre. And sadly for you Firefly has all those rabid "Browncoats" that want to play in that setting. And really not watching at least one episode of the series to me doesn't make to much sense. Just like it would not if you were running Star Trek, Star Wars, LOTR and many others without reading or watching anything. IMHO your just setting yourself up for a world of hurt. Unless the people your running for have not seen anything Firefly. But from what I have read the rules refer to the show constantly for examples and even go episode by episode showing you how to run elements of the episode. I think if you really want to play Cortex Plus system get the setting agnostic "Hackers Guide to Cortex Plus" and inject your own setting. And really it was a FREAKING great show so I don't see why you wouldn't want to watch the show.

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  4. You should watch it beause it is good. I'd say start with the Train Job, as it gives a much better starting point than the pilot.

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