After writing the last column and stating that I would love to continue with this line of thinking (basically converting IPs I love or a no longer “a thing” into solo RPG settings), I started making a list of what else I wanted to cover…
That list is very long.
Not only do I have a few more to add to the mix, but I came up with some other examples of ones I wish I would have included in the previous column. There are enough of these that I might have a part three, too, and if I keep coming up with them, a part four!
First, the “space series” that I mentioned in the previous column (the one more Firefly than Trek or Wars), another great property that is long since dead but much beloved by me is Earth Star Voyager… this one is about a ship heading to a new planet for colonization, but it was designed as a series pilot that was never picked up. There are so many questions left unanswered: why is there an OTZ? What reason do the ships have for weaponry being installed on them? What exactly was the reasoning behind the Triton Corsair’s master plan?
There’s also a similarity with Interstellar, which could fit into the puzzle nicely, too.
On to the rest of this column!
Continuing on with my look at properties that can be used for settings, I came up with Final Fantasy… a perfect video game franchise that, while not dead, presents itself as a “world that is unveiled through play” that would be well suited for my solo RPG purposes.
In some installments, the characters kind of know what is going on with the world and basically have their “railroad” to follow to the end of the line. There are examples of the “I don’t know what is going on” scenario (in two of my favorite installments of VIII and X), with a world of fantastic possibilities to delve into (summon creatures, Chocobos, etc).
This is a setting I can use to flesh everything out with minimal preparation (world background, historical information, power limits, extras, etc). I can literally start rolling die with the Mythic Game Master Emulator and get to moving in the right direction… of playing an actual game.
The Final Fantasy franchise is large and would allow for a lot of expansion as far as a solo RPG goes, but that can also tie into another franchise that runs with a large “amnesia” angle through many of the installments… that being Legend of Zelda.
Digging back into the “I was going to write prose” options, Heroes is a great place to point at for ideas.
The direction I’d go in, rather than having the “secret society after secret society” layered on without much of a plan, I was thinking more along the lines of the 4400, where the super powers come out and people are challenged in moral and ethical ways on how to use that power. You’re going to have a nut job who wants to rule the world and you’ll have other strange things going on around you that are tangentially related to the goal of stopping the “big bad,” but will ultimately reveal what the hell is going on.
What I was essentially going to prose write was something happened, globally, that gifted a lot of people super powers… while there were a few characters who really wanted to use their abilities for good, there were a large set of groups that wanted to fight to control vast stretches of population across the globe. There were strange things going on around the world, too, like a half sphere-sized hole in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, a suddenly tropical location in Antarctica that is impenetrable by modern scanning devices, strange creatures running around altering DNA, and more. Hell, the very reason people got the power was geared towards a specific end goal (something like an alien invasion).
In this setting, the world is already technically fleshed out (because it is our world) and the powers would be discovered along the way. The Walking Dead uses a definitive formula that would fall right in line with how my Heroes-esque version would be: survive, discover civilized folk, discover those folk aren’t so civilized, destroy, move along… that is the Walking Dead model. How many times can that be done before people stop being interested?
What about the lovely Black Sails?
Living on the high seas, as a pirate (not terribly unlike Pirates of the Caribbean), experiencing the pirate life and fighting for survival. Black Sails is specifically a “prequel to Treasure Island,” which mixed real and fictional pirates together… I liked that version better than Disney’s because it is more grounded in realism.
Unless I could really come up with a few “grand scale” ideas about a long arc, the story would be mainly about plundering the odd ship’s stores, sinking the enemies of piracy, and just living through life that way… interesting, yes, but is it solo RPG worthy? Sure is!
Continuing with a “treasure hunting” theme, I present Indiana Jones!
I love me some treasure hunting movies. I love the National Treasure series, the Robert Langdon series, Goonies, and basically I’m saying if there is a treasure to be sought out through figuring out of clues, I’m probably going to like the property.
As a character, obviously I’d come across some long lost thing that leaves me a clue to go somewhere, which leads me to more clues, which lead me to more places, and I eventually come to the end of the line where I find the treasure (or whatever that treasure ends up being) at the end. With Last Crusade being my favorite installment of the Jones series, I think that finding a “Grail Diary” type prop would be a great way to start out that type of adventure.
Moving right along, I will dive back into the “I had a series idea” pool… with Knight Rider.
This idea was fleshed out in the late 90s and early 2000s… where a team of scientific types designed some artificial intelligences to helm vehicles to aid with crime fighting. We’ve advanced well past the point (technologically speaking) where my original premise for the story would work (plausibly), and that leads me to look for a means of making it work in today’s world a little better. So I decided that maybe taking the Airwolf model would benefit the story.
If you are unfamiliar, a top secret helicopter was stolen and two operatives were tasked with retrieving the chopper. Once they get it back, they decide that the technology shouldn’t be in the hands of reckless government types and they opt to use the helicopter FOR that government if they deem the situation bears the necessity of using Airwolf.
Tying that in with the Knight Rider idea, there would be a special operations group that runs missions with the aid of artificial intelligences that can transfer between all kinds of vehicles (choppers, cars, etc). This ties in with the military unit style game that would interest me and it could always branch out as the “the government shouldn’t have this, we’ll go on the run” type storyline.
Speaking about “going on the run,” how about Doctor Who?
I have, many times and in many ways, created alternate versions of the Doctor (and Doctor Who universe) to tell stories in. First I named the main protagonist the Stranger, then Inspector, then Agent, back to Inspector, then to something else and so on… always existing in the same general backdrop with the stories being “rejiggered” to work with the new mythology that was modified.
Always those ideas ended up failing… but there were points that I continued to use and have developed into something that I’d dip my toes into here with you.
One concept was the possibility of regeneration into either sex (something Doctor Who finally did with the Time Lords). Other ideas related to more “investigating mysteries” without so much of the science, leaning me always towards the “Inspector” role… which was ruing in parody for me with Inspector Spacetime on Community.
My most recent iteration, though, ties all of the ideas I’ve ever had into one… continuing through my “adventuring time traveler.” I won’t name that traveler, as there is a distinct possibility that will come up in play during one of my solo RPG games, which I would love because then I’ve tied another thing into that item… which would then allow me to flesh out that character in detail through the same means of discovery!
I wasn’t sure how to broach this particular subject, but the idea of not being an amnesiac and discovering the setting through play relates to two properties I love: Terra Nova and Lost.
The premise I’m looking at exploring is the “I end up someplace I don’t understand, which looks familiar, but isn’t what I think it is” type game. No amnesia. Lost uses the plane crash as a means of getting people corralled on an island, where weird crap is going on and no one really understands what is happening… then they go exploring and they discover the secrets of this magically impossible island.
As far as Terra Nova goes, fleeing the future (which is in a state of disrepair and destined to cease existing), people travel back 65 million years to set up a new civilization and save the human race… except, there are weird things going on here, too, with random factions, rogue future elements that are altering the course of things, discovering they aren’t the first civilization to end up in the past like this (due to a boat being found), and finally learning that the past they are in isn’t the same past they thought they were in…
Fun times! Sadly, Terra Nova will never be explored out and I’ll never learn where the weird boat came from, but that doesn’t stop me from using the same basic premise as a game setting to play in.
Next I’ll draw way back from science fiction and get into police drama, like the Chicago Code.
I’ve long liked good police dramas. One series of books I was fond of (until the author changed) was the Badge of Honor series by W.E.B. Griffin. The focus is crime fighting with a good helping of understanding about the cops involved doing the job. While you could also include Hawaii Five-O in this listing (I haven’t watched the original), my hope would be to be as exciting as the Shield without the untoward shenanigans going on in the background.
Police drama these days, though, concentrates a little heavily on murder… which is all well and good, but there is so much else out there to explore. What about what Miami Vice did without needing to rely heavily on homicide? How about Nasty Boys? Hell, even CHiPs managed to have several great seasons of entertainment without needing to have a dead body every week. I love the NYPD Blue aspect but I think having a far more well rounded “not just homicide” department would work better for my gaming needs.
Finishing up with one more property, I’d like to explore the ideas in Smokey and the Bandit.
Generally speaking, Bandit (who is a trucker) is approached by two rich guys who make a bet whether or not it’s possible to bootleg beer from Texas to Georgia in a specific (technically short) amount of time without getting caught. Bandit gets his friend, Snowman, to run the rig while he drives the iconic 1977 Pontiac Trans Am as a “blocker” to attract all the cops his direction. While there were two sequels and a TV series that loosely followed the same logic, I’m going to concentrate on the original film. (Note, in finding the link for the movie I learned that Edgar Wright is doing a reboot in 2019 of this movie, so with any luck, it’ll stay basically the same premise rather than it being some modern version of the same story, ruining the entire thing.)
Having someone who is running illegal things from point A to point B is a great idea for a game. The concept allows for an episodic feel, or can expand out to the “big screen” feel of the movie. The setting will be key, whether it’s in the 1970s bootlegging or running moonshine like the Dukes of Hazzard was originally supposed to be about… the setting will inform the types of things being done.
This would definitely be a different type of game and would allow for more action than dialog, keeping the pace of the chase up throughout. I don’t think I’d want to have this as some sort of government operative escaping with things from other countries, I would really want to have the looming threat of being imprisoned for doing things I shouldn’t be doing at speeds which attract a lot of attention… in the end, the idea is heavily under consideration.
Again, I’m over 2,000 words already and I still have more properties I’d like to cover. Sure, some of what you read has devolved into less about what the original column was and more speculation, but I can get back on track with the next edition.
If you’re curious, the list I made is currently sitting at 17, with me remembering other properties I’d like to include on that list. These are all settings for RPGs, basically, with my own spin on making them as great as they can be…
Hopefully you’re enjoying the ride.