Sunday, June 18, 2023

Building Better Worlds

Wayland Yutani logo - building better worlds

I should really plan my blog posts better, but sometimes you watch or read something and just feel like putting words on paper, so-to-speak. Please forgive me if this gets a bit ramble-y and off topic.

Many years ago I fell out of love with The Walking Dead. I loved the series, and loved the comics before it, avidly watching the TV series, and reading the comics every month as they came out - then buying those cool collector's hardcovers just so I had them safe and accessible without having to drag out the comic boxes and open each issue's bag one by one. It got to the arrival of Negan, and there was a scene that absolutely shocked me and turned my stomach. I kept reading the comics, but the memory of a certain character's demise (and one of my favourite characters in the Walking Dead universe) kept creeping in. 

About ten or fifteen issues later, I remember reading it and thinking "why am I reading this? This just feels like prolonged trauma." Rather than put myself through the misery of watching these people suffer any further, I bit the bullet and cancelled my order for it at the comic shop, turning to other comics that didn't feel miserable... 

And then, that happened in The Walking Dead TV series. (Season 7, episode 1). You know the bit. And it all came flooding back. My wife stopped watching, and I gave up there and then. 

Many years have passed, and then along came Free League's announcement of The Walking Dead Universe RPG, and I thought to myself... "should I go back to the TV series?" And I did... I started from the episode after the trauma inducing incident where I stopped watching, and I'm getting back into it... Sure, I hate Negan with a passion, but you're supposed to. Jeffrey Dean Morgan is absolutely brilliant in the part, but why do people love him so? How does he get to be in a spin off? I'm still in Season 7, so don't tell me, but honestly, I think there should have been a #JusticeForGlenn hashtag going around. 

I backed the Kickstarter for the RPG, of course, because I love Free League's games, but the thing that really stood out for me was their announcement the team behind the TV series were involved with the 'game universe' to ensure that the events that play out in the game, and their streamed game fits in with the series. I think the plan is that the events of the streamed game is 'canon' to the Walking Dead setting. 

It's a brilliant marriage of game and license. And it could work both ways. Just look at the history of licensed games. Back in the dim and distant past, when there were only three Star Wars movies, and my favourite game company in the 80s (West End Games) produced the first (and amazing) Star Wars Roleplaying Game, WEG created new worlds, new characters, locations, droids... 

And some of those locations and characters have made it into Star Wars canon, mostly thanks to the Heir to the Empire trilogy if Wikipedia is to be believed. More recently, license-holders have seen the value of tabletop RPGs as a way to spread the word of their media, with the Carnival Row RPG (a free downloadable PDF through Nerdist and Monte Cook Games) that was created to promote the Amazon TV series, and The Green Knight RPG that A24 created as a full 'starter set' format game to promote their movie of the same name.

Heck, when I was working with Eden Studios on the Buffy RPG, we were putting the Slayer's Handbook together and remember us saying "Maybe we could ask Fox what Faith and Kendra's last names are?" Eden asked, months passed, but we got a reply - they didn't have last names, but Joss Whedon decided what they would be (Lehane and Young) - and those names became part of canon for the Buffyverse ever since.

Tabletop RPGs can fill in those blanks in a chronology, or missing information. And I guess that's why I called this post "Building Better Worlds" like the Weyland Yutani Corp. Just think of your favourite TV series or movie, and think of how small the actual place or time is involved. TTRPGs can expand and develop areas you've never imagined. Just like the Shackleton Expanse in the Star Trek Adventures RPG by Modiphius - a region of space unused by the series or novels, but on the map of the Star Trek galaxy. 

Here are some examples - 

The Magicians - one of my favourite book series and a fantastic TV series. But what about other students at Brakebills? Other years? What else could be going on in Fillory?

Twin Peaks - one of my favourite TV series. There were 20+ years where we didn't see what happened in that strange little town. And what's happened since Cooper changed the course of history? 

Battlestar Galactica - another ship in the fleet, or another Battlestar that was lost?

James Bond - he's 007, what about the other Double-O's? 

Stranger Things - What happened in the 70's? The 90's? What about the rest of the lab's experiments? Other 'gates' to the Upside-down? 

The X-Files - What happens after Season 11? What about between Season 9 and 10, when the X-Files were 'shut down'? New agents, continuing the investigations even if it's in an 'off the books' capacity. 

Sapphire and Steel - we only really saw Sapphire, Steel, Lead, and Silver in action, what about all those other medium-atomic weights investigating temporal disturbances?

Buffy the Vampire Slayer - after Season 7, there are many Slayers out there in the world, all needing training, guidance, and with their own Scooby-gang to help face the demons and vampires.

I guess, the familiar universe and setting, but the potential to do your own thing within those worlds, is why I love licensed RPGs. And while the publishers are fleshing out the world(s), the IP-holders can take this as inspiration for their universes and build bigger worlds. 

1 comment:

Ryan Blake @wwdwrpg said...

How is there no Xfiles game? Is it a licensing issue? The comics do an amazing job of continuing the plot.

Technically the James Bond rpg continues under a different name...