Fight Daleks! Ride Sandworms! Battle with Lightsabers! (Or fight daleks with lightsabers from the back of a sandworm?)
Licensed games. I have a long love/hate relationship with them. From my first licensed game (James Bond) to my long-term active dislike of the original Star Wars RPG, and many others in between. Unfortunately the majority of licensed games try to prybar the licensed setting into a game system that it wasn’t meant for – like the Serenity / Firefly RPG that has everything you need for a generic sci-fi game, but really fails to capture the feel of the series or the movie, except in the source material. Actually playing the game doesn’t end up feeling like the show, it feels like playing a game in the setting of the show.
That said, here are five licensed games I wish we had on the market…
Thundarr The Barbarian
I love Thundarr. What an awesome Saturday morning cartoon. This is a game that screams to be emulated with Gamma World, most likely. However, it would really benefit from a loose rules set that promotes wahoo action with rules for easily slain robotic mooks, and probably a reward system that penalizes you for killing everyone you meet (as Thundarr would only go on a killing spree when the enemies were robots). That said, even a variant of the d20 system could work and I would buy it, even if just for the sourcebook material.
Yeah, I’ve got the Last Unicorn Games version. But with the expansion of the Dune Universe through the more recent sets of books, this is a game that needs to be revisited and promoted. Like the Star Wars RPG, it needs to be able to support games in any of the major time-frames of the game – from the wars against the Titans to the time after Paul has rebuilt the universe. This is a huge extended universe that revolves around political power, social one-upsmanship and spice. If only the Herbert estate would stop asking for so much money…
Dragonriders of Pern
A softspot of mine from the very first fantasy novels I ever read. I don’t even know what the game would focus on – just the setting. This is one that needs the touch of a master game designer so he or she can draw out one of the themes of the various books. I could definitely see something like the old Dragonriders computer game, where politics between the holds, weyrs and crafts would be core to the game mechanics. I also have a love affair with fantasy games where just about all the heroes and villains are humans – so you immediately lose the “black and white” approach of humans vs orcs and so on.
With the slow grinding death of the Matrix Online, this is a world setting that screams for a roleplaying game. I love how the various Matrix media have interwoven as the canon setting, with the online game being an “official” expansion of the Matrix universe. This would produce a product line that would continue to expand much like the old World of Darkness lines – new books being released as the setting progresses. While I’m not a fan of a concrete metaplot like that, I could definitely see the benefit to the publisher involved who would be able to look forward to a new release every 6 months or so just to advance the timeline. It would also be cool to collect the post-movie universe into a sourcebook so other fans of the Matrix could read it, for the RPG or not.
There have been some pretty good fan-made attempts at this game. Essential to playing a true Blade Runner game is a mechanic by which your memories might be implants, that you might actually be a replicant, not a human, but even the player doesn’t know this until it triggers. But while the core of the game would be playing Blade Runners & Replicants, the extended information in the book would be for everyone else in the world, low-lives and reprobates, the genetically and financially inferior who cannot afford or cannot be allowed into the off-world colonies. And again, some of them might be replicants, not even knowing themselves that they are not what they think they are.