Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Switching Genres

Sorry for the delayed post - I was out of town. Better yet, I’ll be gone again this weekend, so I’ll post both now. It was a two-parter anyway, so it sees to fit.
We fill a lot of space in some of our books (most notably Forge of Imagination and Character Foundry) talking about switching genres. So what works? I think that flat out, the best genres to borrow ideas from are the Westerns. They work perfectly for fantasy games. Now, I’m talking about John Wayne style Westerns here, not those Clint Eastwood ones. Unless your gaming group likes to spend hours staring intimidatingly at one another, forget most of the Clint Eastwood stuff.
So why do they work? Well, first off, there is typically a “party” or at least a pair of guys or the hero gathers together a posse. You know, a party, like a standard fantasy game. Then there is the pacing of the action. Westerns have some of the best pacing. Small events turn into bigger events, which get confused with other things, until the big climax. Plus the villain usually has a small army of guys. Let’s go to an example:
Imagine a typical Western - Two buddies stop by a small town and have a drink in a bar. There they see four guys jump one guy in a bar fight. They help him out, and get embroiled in his problems. The victim tells the heroes who the good guys are and who the bad guys are. Beautiful adventure development without the unrealistic, you walk into a bar and a guy hires you to go...
At this point, the villain might appear and try to turn the good guys to his side, but since he hasn’t done anything really villainous yet, they can’t just go kill him. Likely there is some side mission that needs to be done - the good guy’s boss needs medicine that he is carrying, the victim guy was in town to meet a string of ponies, etc. This provides another action packed encounter when the players are fighting the villain’s minions. Eventually, the good guys (your players we’re assuming) need to fight their way through all of the villain’s minions until they get to him and kill him. Sound familiar?
What else? Well, how many times have the good guys escaped from some bad guy trap. Just as they look over their shoulder and say, “I think we lost them” the entire Sioux Nation comes riding over the ridge. The Indians don’t have anything to do with the good guys or bad guys, but they still serve as enemies. The same thing can be said for the desperate struggles against the environment. Whether its trying to cross a raging river or survive travel across a desert, these man vs. nature encounters are great as well. Hey, throw in a burning barn if nature isn’t going to fit the bill.
I guess this all makes better sense if you’ve read Forge of Imagination, but I think you’ll still get the drift! (RPG Now Links)

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