Who plays Licensed RPGs?

I rarely consider RPGs based on novels, movies and TV shows at all. I mean, I was a big Star Wars fan and Lord of the Rings fan when I started out in roleplaying (well over 15 years now I’d say) but I wouldn’t touch any RPG based on those settings at the time. Inspired by, certainly. I remember people going on about Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG and telling me it’s fun to be running around with Buffy and other characters from the show – but it failed to get me interested. I didn’t even bother to flick through it.

I guess it might hark back to my computer gamer nerd days when, as a general rule, computer games based on movies sucked. They were created quickly and cheaply to try to profit from the hype of said movie’s release. I believe the traditional mostly continues these days too (with a few exceptions). (I don’t believe this is actually true for RPGs based on movies and novels, but it’s part of my consumer reflexes – “beware the hype”).

Another part of it is that I’d rather a “blank canvas” type of setting, one where the characters are first (or rather foremost) on the scene. There isn’t already an established story-line with well known characters there already (anywhere in the setting). The setting is free to be re-interrupted by the GM and players. Established movie/novel settings provide too much canon that can’t be changed. Players are free to avoid the character/stereotypes of the novel or TV show. Another thing about TV show and novel based RPG settings is that they are “snapshots” of the story-line. A static picture of the setting set aside to turn into an RPG. If the series is popular enough, the setting will change later in the story-line and the RPG, technically, becomes out of date (unless of course you’re using a series that has finished). And a last issue that would worry me is that players may expect very similar story-lines and atmosphere as the original novels or TV shows, but that’s generally that’s not necessarily under the control of the GM or system (it can be a combination of everything). I think the thing is, I get more excited about original or innovative settings for RPGs than already established settings getting ported to RPG land.

There was one TV show I thought about adapting myself, for the fun of it: Relic Hunter. I liked the simple premise of each episode, entertaining archetypes, the completely human characters, and that there was this second layer to the world that got exposed occasionally (the relic hunter community). I thought it might make a fun RPG. But I never pursued it.

(Call of Cthulhu though, that’s sorta an exception. It’s based on a mythos, a setting, rather than an existing story-line like Lord of the Rings.)

Of course, if I don’t know much about the original material, I’d be more open to treating the RPG as a pure blank-canvas type of game and then of course if a game has something that intrigues me I’d probably ignore the original material concessions.

Out of curiosity, does anyone else think the same or am I the only freaky one?

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