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Gabriel

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It seems there's a lot of licensed (or at least RPGs based on media properties) RPGs lately/the past several years. Are we in a new age of RPG licensing?

Stargate SG-1
Power Rangers
GI Joe
My Little Pony
Transformers (upcoming)
Marvel Multiverse
Alien
Blade Runner (upcoming)
Conan
The One Ring
Judge Dredd and the Worlds of 2000 AD (which seems to be forming a family of games: Rogue Trooper and Strontium Dog)
Specialized D&D starters with TV tie-in theming (Rick & Morty, Stranger Things)

As well as seemingly healthy and long running iterations of the Star Trek and Doctor Who licenses. Plus, yet another new Star Wars game allegedly coming sometime in the next few years. Oh and Robotech is still around, presumably supported by two entirely separate game companies engines (!) if Battlefield Press goes ahead with the books they've announced.

Are we in a boom age of licensing other properties for games? Or am I just casting too wide a net? To my perception, all the games I listed above are active things in the RPG sphere. All have had active releases in the past year or are known to be coming up in the next year. I don't recall any time before when RPGs were host to so many properties like this.

About the only RPG staple missing from the current environment (since the FFG version of Star Wars while basically dead is still floating through the retail chain) is a current game based on DC comics.
 

David Johansen

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To mind we've arrived at the heat death of human creativity but yeah, there's a lot of cross marketing these days in every field. Cheetos instant macaroni and cheese and Reese breakfast cereal. The market has spoken and the market wants rewarmed pablum.
 

sharps54

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I don’t know, I collect licensed games and I have some great properties from the 80’s & 90’s like Dallas, Ghostbusters, Star Wars, Men in Black, Hercules & Xena, Indiana Jones (multiple), Tales from the Crypt, Species, Necroscope, Tank Girl, Ghost Dog, Aliens, The Lawnmower Man, DC & Marvel (multiple), Conan, Judge Dredd, Slaine, probably others not to mention modules based on The Keep and 2001 & 2010 A Space Odyssey.

Edit to add Brom Stoker’s Dracula as well as miniature board games for Aliens, Dracula and Army of Darkness.
 

lategamer

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I don’t know, I collect licensed games and I have some great properties from the 80’s & 90’s like Dallas, Ghostbusters, Star Wars, Men in Black, Hercules & Xena, Indiana Jones (multiple), Tales from the Crypt, Species, Necroscope, Tank Girl, Ghost Dog, Aliens, The Lawnmower Man, DC & Marvel (multiple), Conan, Judge Dredd, Slaine, probably others not to mention modules based on The Keep and 2001 & 2010 A Space Odyssey.

Edit to add Brom Stoker’s Dracula as well as miniature board games for Aliens, Dracula and Army of Darkness.
Yeah, when you consider the number of games back then...(I mean, FASA had Trek and Dr Who licenses too) and do we count Stormbringer and Call of Cthulhu as licenses?
 

PolarBlues

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Sure seems like a lot of licenced based games out there right now. I don't how it compares with the past. I can certainly remember when WEG seemed to grab any and every IP out there. Likewise Margaret Weis Productions.

What seems to happen is the certain publisher tend specilise in licenced properties and keep churning more licenced games often using the same house system. I guess once you build within your team the legal expertise and the experince adapting the source material, putting out new games becomes almost assembly line type process.
 

Simon Hogwood

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Are we in a boom age of licensing other properties for games? Or am I just casting too wide a net? To my perception, all the games I listed above are active things in the RPG sphere. All have had active releases in the past year or are known to be coming up in the next year. I don't recall any time before when RPGs were host to so many properties like this.
You're probably not wrong about the number of licensed games going up, but I suspect it's mostly a side effect of RPGs in general being more widespread/popular these days.
I don’t know, I collect licensed games and I have some great properties from the 80’s & 90’s like Dallas, Ghostbusters, Star Wars, Men in Black, Hercules & Xena, Indiana Jones (multiple), Tales from the Crypt, Species, Necroscope, Tank Girl, Ghost Dog, Aliens, The Lawnmower Man, DC & Marvel (multiple), Conan, Judge Dredd, Slaine, probably others not to mention modules based on The Keep and 2001 & 2010 A Space Odyssey.

Edit to add Brom Stoker’s Dracula as well as miniature board games for Aliens, Dracula and Army of Darkness.
It would probably be revealing to put the release dates of prior licensed games up against the waxing and waning of the hobby in general, particularly the initial '80s D&D boom and the 3.5 era.

It might also be interesting to compare licences that get picked up over and over - Conan, LotR, Star Wars and Trek, Marvel & DC, etc. - VS the ones that get just one implementation. One example of the former that hasn't been mentioned yet is Lankhmar, which got some AD&D modules back in the day and is currently, if I'm not mistaken, the subject of two completely gamelines, for Savage Worlds and DCC.

And speaking of Savage Worlds, that reminds me that we're now seeing different RPG companies licensing each other, which is a great example of David Johansen David Johansen's point.
 

sharps54

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Yeah, when you consider the number of games back then...(I mean, FASA had Trek and Dr Who licenses too) and do we count Stormbringer and Call of Cthulhu as licenses?
I would count them. I forgot about those but I have all the Chaosium Stormbringer stuff too. We also need it consider Thieves World and a variety of others. Licensed products have been around for a long time from The Prisoner to Dream Park to Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards.
 

zanshin

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Yeah, when you consider the number of games back then...(I mean, FASA had Trek and Dr Who licenses too) and do we count Stormbringer and Call of Cthulhu as licenses?
Good point - and whether there is a licence or not, if you are using material that was created for another medium it's the same concept.

You could even argue Runequest is an RPG treatment from White Bear & Red Moon/Staffords Glorantha; Tekumel is a licenced version of D&D (1e) and D&D is a conversion from Chainmail, leaving Tunnels and Trolls standing as the only truly original RPG. A sentiment that few will disagree with I am sure ;)
 

Kobayashi

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Are we in a boom age of licensing other properties for games?

I think you're right, there was a time when IP owners didn't gave a shit about RPGs (hence the often abysmal quality of said RPGs) or thought that licensing your IP to an RPG was lowering its value (the creator of the Alien Legion comic book said so in an interview IIRC). Now having an rpg in your lineup looks like any other marketing tool.

In the 80s/90s many license were'nt that hot, Nobody gave a fuck about Necroscope, the Lawnmower Man, Species or Tank Girl, Doctor Who was mostly unknown outside the UK... There were exceptions of course (Star Wars, Indiana Jones... but Lucas Arts were doing video games as well, the first RPG scene I saw in a movie was in E.T so Lucas, Spielberg and all were probably more open on that subject).

I'd just say IP owners seem to be more hands-on when it comes to the licensing now.

EDIT: another point to consider is that many of the new licensed RPGs come from "old" IPs that mostly appeal to boomers like me.
 

Gabriel

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VS the ones that get just one implementation.

Oh, that's an interesting list to me.

Macross II
Project A-Ko (which I've read was such a pain in the ass to Dream Pod 9 that they swore off ever doing a licensed game again)
Sailor Moon
Dominion Tank Police (really any of the GoO Resource books would qualify)
Raph Bakshi's Wizards
Dream Park by R Tal
GURPS The Prisoner
GURPS Horseclans (probably quite a few other GURPS books in this category)
Bubblegum Crisis
Armored Trooper VOTOMS
Dragonball Z (or was there a second one? I think there was talk of a new one. Not sure if anything ever came of that)
Superbabes: The Femforce RPG
Pirates of Dark Water (not sure if this one was actually authorized?)
Valiant Universe RPG

Those are all I can think of right now.
 

JAMUMU

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Me and my guys have always been more "...but with the serial numbers filed off" afficionados, but I don't see how having more licensed RPGs is a problem. Even if I don't want to use the "named" setting or the attached system, they can still be good source material for remixes.

I mean, apart from the fact that the 2d20 guys seem to have a monopoly on the good IPs. That's obviously a sign of the apocalypse.
 

David Johansen

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C'mon who didn't squee when they saw Star Trek The Roleplaying Game on the shelves of the hobby store? I sure did. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing really wrong with licensed games if you don't mind a change of rules every five or six years as the license is dropped and picked up over and over again. Sure, people want to run Star Wars and Lord of the Rings and want a prepackaged system that gives them all the details and data at their fingertips.

It just feels like we've reached some kind of peak integrated marketing moment. Really, if you've read Watchmen right through and read the Veidt corporate memos about the action figure line and the cartoon and the rpg then you know Alan Moore was talking about this back in the early eighties. It's always been there.

I know I know, something, something, something, money, greed, corporations, blah, blah, blah.
 

Bunch

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I don’t know, I collect licensed games and I have some great properties from the 80’s & 90’s like Dallas, Ghostbusters, Star Wars, Men in Black, Hercules & Xena, Indiana Jones (multiple), Tales from the Crypt, Species, Necroscope, Tank Girl, Ghost Dog, Aliens, The Lawnmower Man, DC & Marvel (multiple), Conan, Judge Dredd, Slaine, probably others not to mention modules based on The Keep and 2001 & 2010 A Space Odyssey.

Edit to add Brom Stoker’s Dracula as well as miniature board games for Aliens, Dracula and Army of Darkness.
Xena, Hercules, Farscape , Stargate?, Rocky & Bullwinkle,Rune, Thieves World x2, Dying Earth
Oh, that's an interesting list to me.

Macross II
Project A-Ko (which I've read was such a pain in the ass to Dream Pod 9 that they swore off ever doing a licensed game again)
Sailor Moon
Dominion Tank Police (really any of the GoO Resource books would qualify)
Raph Bakshi's Wizards
Dream Park by R Tal
GURPS The Prisoner
GURPS Horseclans (probably quite a few other GURPS books in this category)
Bubblegum Crisis
Armored Trooper VOTOMS
Dragonball Z (or was there a second one? I think there was talk of a new one. Not sure if anything ever came of that)
Superbabes: The Femforce RPG
Pirates of Dark Water (not sure if this one was actually authorized?)
Valiant Universe RPG
Pretty sure Pirates was. I have it somewhere. It was oddly produced.
 

lategamer

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The weird omissions are ... Hogwarts, Earthsea. and the Culture
 

JAMUMU

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The weird omissions are ... Hogwarts, Earthsea. and the Culture
I know that JK Rowling is not a fan of RPGs and blocked any official adaptation. She felt it was amateurs messing around with her world, or something. Not sure on the other two, though I imagine a) Iain Banks might have felt similarly inclined and/or b) how can mere humans really do justice to the Culture novels with a mere human elfgame?
 

Simlasa

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I know that JK Rowling is not a fan of RPGs and blocked any official adaptation. She felt it was amateurs messing around with her world, or something.
She's an idiot... as if that's going to stop anyone who wants to play in Hogwarts, through homebrew or some 'not-Potter' but close enough product. It's just an arrogant finger to her fans that like RPGs.

In general, I'm not the audience for licensed games... unless maybe if they're for a system I already like and I'd like something along the lines of the IP... like, I don't want to run/play anything attempting 'canon' Star Trek... but an optimistic high-tech scifi setting with lots of exploration... and then a 'not-Trek' sourcebook for M-Space comes along? Yeah, I'll buy that.
But I'm not going to go buy into some new mechanics because it's got the official stamp of approval on it, with photos of the actual show/film/cartoon.
 

Moonglum

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My beef with licensed rpgs is that they almost always involve a 'new' game system that makes you re-learn all sorts of technical nonsense that does not benefit from fiddly innovation (every useful version of the attack roll mechanic was fully worked out 40 years ago - no one needs a new one you just made up). And many licensed games are poorly play tested - all the work went into the fluff text and the artwork, because that's the hook that gets people to pull books off shelves. But when you sit down at the gaming table none of that stuff is worth squat, and you are confronted with the meat of the game. Poorly play tested games are easy to spot and pointless to play.
 

Agemegos

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Speaking of new game mechanics forty years ago, James Bond 007 from Victory Games was one of the best RPGs ever published, very innovative, and a clear counter-example to any suggestion that licensed RPGs are all samish clones of some cruddy house system.
 

Gabriel

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Speaking of new game mechanics forty years ago, James Bond 007 from Victory Games was one of the best RPGs ever published, very innovative, and a clear counter-example to any suggestion that licensed RPGs are all samish clones of some cruddy house system.

It's a bit bewildering that James Bond is in that only one RPG adaptation club. It seems like it would be fairly fertile ground for another shot at it.
 

Agemegos

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It's a bit bewildering that James Bond is in that only one RPG adaptation club. It seems like it would be fairly fertile ground for another shot at it.
I hear that Eon Productions has a rather large idea of the value of their IP. JB007 was a considerable success by RPG standards, but Eon wouldn’t renew its licence: RPG bank seemed like chump change to those movie people.
 

Black Leaf

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One issue with licensed properties is that you can never be sure if the license is going to be revoked, leading to a sudden end in support for the RPG. The WOIN version of 2000 AD is a really good example of that. Certainly I get the impression EN Publishing hadn't expected to lose the license so quickly. (Pure speculation, but I suspect that Rebellion may be planning to move all their game design in house in the long term).
 

Rob Necronomicon

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I tend to really like stuff that has had the 'serial numbers filed' off. But is essentially a homage/recreation of that licensed product. ;)

Mainly because they tend to lack the 'big brother' effect by looking over the dev's shoulders and telling you what they want. Without the official IP the creators can do what they want, and they are never going to lose the license per se. Or have a system that can't divorce itself from the IP and effectively become a one-trick pony, where you have to play a very specific type of game (like the Green Knight).

I really like Hostile (basically Aliens) as one example. :smile:
 

VisionStorm

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I mean, apart from the fact that the 2d20 guys seem to have a monopoly on the good IPs. That's obviously a sign of the apocalypse.

It's like they're lying in waiting, ready to grab every decent IP that pops up and smear it with their system, before anyone else can have a decent crack at it.

I know that JK Rowling is not a fan of RPGs and blocked any official adaptation. She felt it was amateurs messing around with her world, or something.
She's an idiot... as if that's going to stop anyone who wants to play in Hogwarts, through homebrew or some 'not-Potter' but close enough product. It's just an arrogant finger to her fans that like RPGs.

Such a missed opportunity, cuz unlike many IPs, Potter Universe actually lends itself to making your own characters and playing in that world. The existence of Hogwarts itself already implies there's a wizarding factory popping out wizards every year, other than just the main characters. So there's an inbuilt reason to make new ones.

IDK WTF I would do in a Dune RPG if I don't get to play Paul "Muad'Dib" Atreides.




On topic: I wonder if there were many Licensed RPGs in between the 80s/90s era stuff and now. Cuz anecdotally it seems like there have been more coming out in recent years than at any point other than the 80s and 90s.
 

RangerRupert

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Licensed games have a way of getting my interest, despite the fact that I'm so often disappointed with them. Still, you get a decent system out of them once in a while (e.g., Smallville and Leverage).

At the moment, I'm enjoying reading through some Free League YZE games (Alien, Tales from the Loop, Vaseen), and I hope to get a chance to play and/or run them sometime to see how the YZE holds up.
 

Gabriel

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On topic: I wonder if there were many Licensed RPGs in between the 80s/90s era stuff and now. Cuz anecdotally it seems like there have been more coming out in recent years than at any point other than the 80s and 90s.

Well... Mongoose did a Starship Troopers RPG in the 00s. The early 00s were when Guardians of Order did a lot of those anime "Resource Books."

Star Wars and Star Trek both got licensed installments in the 00s. The current version of the Doctor Who RPG started in the late 00s.

Metabarons, Everquest, Mongoose's Babylon 5, Mongoose's Conan, Serenity. Battlestar Galactica, Lord of the Rings.

Oh, and Buffy and Angel.

So there were quite a few.
 

Rob Necronomicon

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She's an idiot... as if that's going to stop anyone who wants to play in Hogwarts, through homebrew or some 'not-Potter' but close enough product. It's just an arrogant finger to her fans that like RPGs.

In general, I'm not the audience for licensed games... unless maybe if they're for a system I already like and I'd like something along the lines of the IP... like, I don't want to run/play anything attempting 'canon' Star Trek... but an optimistic high-tech scifi setting with lots of exploration... and then a 'not-Trek' sourcebook for M-Space comes along? Yeah, I'll buy that.
But I'm not going to go buy into some new mechanics because it's got the official stamp of approval on it, with photos of the actual show/film/cartoon.
She's a bit of a cabbage alright. And definitely a wasted opportunity by her (not that she needs the cash) but it would be a great IP for an RPG and give something cool to the fans.

I know there are a few knock-offs like Kids on Broomsticks, etc. But I've no idea if it's any good.
 

VisionStorm

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Well... Mongoose did a Starship Troopers RPG in the 00s. The early 00s were when Guardians of Order did a lot of those anime "Resource Books."

Star Wars and Star Trek both got licensed installments in the 00s. The current version of the Doctor Who RPG started in the late 00s.

Metabarons, Everquest, Mongoose's Babylon 5, Mongoose's Conan, Serenity. Battlestar Galactica, Lord of the Rings.

Oh, and Buffy and Angel.

So there were quite a few.

I forgot about a couple of those. Though, there's been a bunch of Star Wars, Star Trek and Conan games over the years. So I kinda take them for granted now.
 

Chaotic Wooster

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The end of the 90s/00s had some great stuff for a while.

Buffy & Angel were great uses of the license, but crushed undo the weight of 20th Century Fox's demands for oversight (and lack of motivation to sign off on books) as well as Eden's slow rate of publication. Still, what we got was great, and managed to throw out plenty of campaign concepts different to the TV shows.

Slaine d20 was actually awesome. A pity the sourcebooks for the Northmen and Drunes never came, but it's pretty complete as is if you can find it. Core book, Tir n'anog (setting), the four tribes, the 4 book mega campaign. Loved it.

Lord of the Rings was a plate of cold piss, but the feeling was clearly that it couldn't be left with i.C.E. any longer.
 

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Taking a wider view, I think we've moved from a phase of innovation to a phase of nostalgia. This isn't good or bad: creativity is mostly about exploring the space carved out by the implications of a certain set of aesthetic ideas and preferences, and eventually you start bumping up against the limits of that space. In time another coherent set of aesthetics will be found, but it may be a while.

The nostalgia phase is a turning back from the edge of the space to find the best of what's already been covered. If the innovation phase was about throwing stuff against the wall and seeing what stuck, the nostalgia phase is about going back to familiar territory and seeing what's genuinely worth keeping over the long haul, vs. what's nothing but nostalgia.

The OSR is one such process: let's go back to original D&D and AD&D we knew and loved and figure out what's best about it, what really makes it tick, and what else we can do with it. For one thing, a lot of us who used to mock race-as-class or XP-for-gold now really appreciate and even prefer them. Swords & Wizardry showed that you can get away with a single saving throw value instead of five. A lot of OSR games integrate newer mechanics on top of old-school D&D. Others adapt D&D mechanics to very different settings, like outer space, the Cthulhu Mythos, or WWII.

Given a few more decades, even this phase will eventually give way to another, more stable phase where we've more-or-less worked out what actually works and the focus is on doing those things, but better. Similar to how the poet's job in the Middle Ages was not to innovate, but to give the old tales the best telling of which they were capable.
 

David Johansen

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Le Guin had similar feelings as Rowling about RPGs. She wouldn't license it. I think her one experience licensing her products was the MTV Earthsea TV series and I heard it went bad.
She felt rpgs were about archetype and stories were about character. There's some truth to that sometimes I suppose.
 

LikelyArrow

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She felt rpgs were about archetype and stories were about character. There's some truth to that sometimes I suppose.
I'd say the difference is that stories are about concrete characters and events, RPGs are about the space of possible characters and events.

A lot stories don't translate well because the space of possibilities is limited the characters and events of the stories and not much else.
 

David Johansen

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I think an author has more time and opportunity to develop a character than you usually get in an rpg and some rpgs like D&D are very much about archetype but others like GURPS are very much about character (points).
 

LikelyArrow

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I think an author has more time and opportunity to develop a character than you usually get in an rpg and some rpgs like D&D are very much about archetype but others like GURPS are very much about character (points).
That's part of it. But some settings simply aren't developed beyond the bare minimum needed for the original works set in it. As an example, Stargate SG-1 is a viable campaign setting; but a game based off the original Stargate movie, where the gate went only between Earth and Abydos, wouldn't be.

Another big challenge, especially in heroic fantasy, is that the actions of the canonical protagonists are often just way, way, way more interesting than anything your group will ever get up to. So even if the world is viable in principle, it may just not work in practice. (I'd argue the old d20 Wheel of Time RPG suffered from this.)
 

3rik

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I own only a few, but the ones I like I'm mostly interested in using with the serial numbers filed off.

Army of Darkness, Angel, Savage World of Solomon Kane, Ghosts of Albion, The Laundry, Primeval, WEG Star Wars, LUG Star Trek TNG

Addendum: I forgot about Call of Cthulhu, own one book of Conan D20 and backed the Kickstarter for the latest Hellboy RPG.
 
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TristramEvans

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I think some authors, like Rowling, just saw RPGs as legitimizing Fanfic, which she's spoken out against. She can't stop the latter, but she can the former
 
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ffilz

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Yeah, when you consider the number of games back then...(I mean, FASA had Trek and Dr Who licenses too) and do we count Stormbringer and Call of Cthulhu as licenses?
I think Stormbringer and Call of Cthulhu were both licensed.

Ringworld was licensed until the license was revoked...

Did we get Elfquest listed?

Thieves World?

It would be interesting to build a master page of all the RPG licenses.

C.J. Cherryh's universe had a board game, but I don't think there's ever been an RPG.
 

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To be fair, I'm pretty sure Call of Cthulhu was only licensed (a) because the non-renewal of Lovecraft's copyrights hadn't been firmly established at that point (it's still technically contentious now, but given that several searches of the Library of Congress have failed to find the renewal, no one worries about that any more) and (b) to use August Derleth's additions.
 
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