Confessions of an RPG Nerd

Christine Martin-Resotko, Mason Branch, Capital Area District Libraries

Genres, Genres, Genres

When most people hear that I play tabletop RPG games, they immediately say “Oh, that Dungeons and Dragons thing I’ve seen on Big Bang Theory, right?”  They are sort of right, but RPGs have come a long way since D&D hit the shelves in 1974.  There are so many genres represented, I could go on for days.  Today, I’m going to give you the genre groupings that help me pick the best game for my group.

The first genre is a self-invented one, which will require the most explanation.  It is the Media Related Genre, meaning that the system in question is inspired by the movie, TV show, or book series that it is named after.  Some great examples are Star Wars, The Dresden Files, and Leverage.  These systems were written to allow play to be as close to what you have seen or read in the source material.  For example, “Star Trek Adventures” by Modiphius has a mechanic to allow multiple players to assist with tasks (like when Dr. McCoy and Spock did “surgery” on a torpedo in Star Trek VI), while Jane Austen inspired game “Good Society” by Storybrewers has an “Epistolary” phase to allow the players to fill in time between big scenes by writing letters. The biggest asset to this genre is that everyone who has seen or read the source material knows what to expect once the game gets going.  We play “Doctor Who” in my teen group once every 3 months.  The teens are always excited to see which Doctor they will encounter, which enemy they will find, and what weird things they will find in the TARDIS.  They loved the time that they discovered someone trying to create Weeping Angels in 1970s L.A.

Standard genres are self-explanatory.  Everyone understands Fantasy, Sci-Fi, and Modern, along with their sub-genres like Space Opera, Dystopia, and Comedic Fantasy.  For example, the “Titansgrave” setting for Fantasy AGE by Green Ronin is a dystopic fantasy setting where swords and plasma rifles are used next to each other by dwarves and lizard people traveling in animal drawn wagons or hover vehicles.  Most of these systems come with pre-existing worlds, but you can just make up your own.  I currently run a Steampunk Pirate world for my teen D&D group that I am making up for them as we explore.

Mash-up genres are the most intriguing.  Ever thought that horror and the American Revolution would be a great mash-up?  Grab a copy of “Colonial Gothic” by Rogue Games.  How about a combination of Steampunk, alternate Victorian England, magic, and travel between worlds via wormhole?  Then you want “1879” by FASA Games.  One of my favorites is technically a mash-up:  “Shadowrun” by Catalyst Labs is cyberpunk with magic tied to the cycle of the Mayan calendar.

If you only want to learn one system, then pick a genre-less system.  GURPS (Generic Universal Role Playing System) by Steve Jackson Games is one of the best out there.  It allows for any genre you want and has lots of supplemental books to help you fill out the setting.  I’ve played several genres using this system, including fantasy, Victorian horror, and superhero.

With this new diversity in RPGs, anyone can find a genre that will make them happy and creative.  Have fun and go look for free samples of any of the games that interest you.  I promise, you will find more than you could have imagined.

What RPG genres interest you the most?

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