Licensed RPGs

Johndesmarais

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1970's - 1980's

Flash Gordon & The Warriors of Mongo (1977) is the earliest licensed RPG I know of
And a very strange publication it was. I have it, and got a fair bit of use out of it as source material years ago - but there’s not quite a game there. I was never really sure who the intended audience was.
 

Bunch

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She felt rpgs were about archetype and stories were about character. There's some truth to that sometimes I suppose.
There was a big discussion about it on TBP. I remember some quote that someone else said captured her feelings on the topic. I interpreted it as crapping on folks who like to play in others ip as lesser writers or hacks. I think working within the constraints of someone else's rules can take more work. It's part of the reason despite really liking Marvel and DC I don't really want to play in their worlds. I don't want to comply with all the lore.
 

Dyrnwyn

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So there were quite a few.

Those made sense to me since those were mostly big properties at the time.

Some of the more recent ones, though, make me say "They're making an RPG for *that*?".
 

LikelyArrow

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There was a big discussion about it on TBP. I remember some quote that someone else said captured her feelings on the topic. I interpreted it as crapping on folks who like to play in others ip as lesser writers or hacks. I think working within the constraints of someone else's rules can take more work. It's part of the reason despite really liking Marvel and DC I don't really want to play in their worlds. I don't want to comply with all the lore.
I actually wouldn't have that problem with comic books. Both Marvel and DC have canon alternative timelines and they retcon stuff all the time anyway, so you can actually do almost anything you want.

Now, Forgotten Realms on the other hand... if I ever run a full campaign set there, I'm going to go back to the 1e box set and pretend nothing else ever got published.
 

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I actually wouldn't have that problem with comic books. Both Marvel and DC have canon alternative timelines and they retcon stuff all the time anyway, so you can actually do almost anything you want.

Now, Forgotten Realms on the other hand... if I ever run a full campaign set there, I'm going to go back to the 1e box set and pretend nothing else ever got published.
So the problem I had was others knowing various lore and trying to play into that in various ways. It didn't have to have attitude on annoyance either. Like someone makes a comment about X from the characters past that I just don't get because I just like the character. I don't love it and read everything about it. Not related necessarily to the GM either. It's just dealing with folks who love comics showing there love but it can be a bit much for those of us just kinda into them.
 

VisionStorm

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There was a big discussion about it on TBP. I remember some quote that someone else said captured her feelings on the topic. I interpreted it as crapping on folks who like to play in others ip as lesser writers or hacks. I think working within the constraints of someone else's rules can take more work. It's part of the reason despite really liking Marvel and DC I don't really want to play in their worlds. I don't want to comply with all the lore.

These writers seem to have a fundamental misunderstanding of RPGs, insisting on seeing them as a writing or storytelling exercise. When they're primarily about the gameplay experience, with the story just being incidental. People who want to play games based on their IPs just want to immerse themselves into their worlds—get a taste of "living" within them—not write amateur fan fiction.

I actually wouldn't have that problem with comic books. Both Marvel and DC have canon alternative timelines and they retcon stuff all the time anyway, so you can actually do almost anything you want.

Now, Forgotten Realms on the other hand... if I ever run a full campaign set there, I'm going to go back to the 1e box set and pretend nothing else ever got published.

I wasn't I huge fan of FR, but this is basically what I did when I played Dark Sun. The metaplot and all the edition revamps tend to ruin these settings.
 

Spartan

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We're in a golden age of gaming, period.

I don't go in for a lot of licensed games, but those that I do go for, I absolutely adore: MERP, TOR, WHFRP 3e are among my all-time favourites. :smile:
 

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These writers seem to have a fundamental misunderstanding of RPGs, insisting on seeing them as a writing or storytelling exercise. When they're primarily about the gameplay experience, with the story just being incidental. People who want to play games based on their IPs just want to immerse themselves into their worlds—get a taste of "living" within them—not write amateur fan fiction.

.
Well to be fair I don't know if that quote was directed specifically at RPGs or at writing in other IP in general. Even that I felt was pretty insulting to a lot of authors. Michael Stackpole is an author who has written in several different IPs. I don't think that makes those works lesser works just because he accepted some limitations. And if that isn't what she meant then what was the point of the comment? As usual over at TBP it rapidly devolved from a question of why can't we get an Earthsea RPG to anyone questioning the author is wrong.
 

Gabriel

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Teenagers from Outer Space 3rd ed (1997, licensed the anime Lum for this edition)

I don't think that's correct. It's certainly not in the legal information block in the book.

The 3rd edition in particular is a homage to Urusei Yatsura, but the Lum-like characters are definitely inspired-by and not licensed versions.
 

lategamer

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Well to be fair I don't know if that quote was directed specifically at RPGs or at writing in other IP in general. Even that I felt was pretty insulting to a lot of authors. Michael Stackpole is an author who has written in several different IPs. I don't think that makes those works lesser works just because he accepted some limitations. And if that isn't what she meant then what was the point of the comment? As usual over at TBP it rapidly devolved from a question of why can't we get an Earthsea RPG to anyone questioning the author is wrong.
Rowlings objection was definitely about the creation of IP outside of her control -whether that's fanfic or whatever. She just wants control so no licensed game. Ironically of course you end up with a million knockoffs. And it's not like anyone who read The Books of Magic would think that Harry Potter was so fricken original.

With Le Guin, I suppose it is a little more noble - I read the interview where she essentially said "why wallow in my IP, go make some new IP". Which only means she doesn't understand games. I think she thought it was about playing Ged, rather than exploring islands and cultures she barely gave any attention to.

But what is surprising is that I've not seen an Earthsea knockoff. I've seen some games which mention that their system could be used to play in Earthsea and then when you buy the rules it's just another fantasy heartbreaker with no more flavour for Earthsea than D&D. Heck, one of them even uses the D&D rules system.

I have a feeling, also, that an Earthsea game would just be added to the ranks of "Games I'd love to play but can't find the right group or GM"
 

TristramEvans

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I don't think that's correct. It's certainly not in the legal information block in the book.

The 3rd edition in particular is a homage to Urusei Yatsura, but the Lum-like characters are definitely inspired-by and not licensed versions.

I may be mis-remembering (it's been almost 30 years), but I coulda swore one of the editions, I thought it was the third, had actual Urusei illustrations/content (I know it wasn't 2nd edition, which was the only edition that leaned heavier on Western influences, eg Galaxy High), but I could be completely wrong about that. I don't own the game to check.
 

zanshin

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I believe there were roleplaying games for Dallas and Neighbours in the 80's. I even have a fanzine which had created a scenario for Neighbours which was a bit of a Dusk til Dawn type twist - you start playing it straight then there is an attack by ravening weresheep - the ewepocalypse.
 

TristramEvans

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I believe there were roleplaying games for Dallas and Neighbours in the 80's. I even have a fanzine which had created a scenario for Neighbours which was a bit of a Dusk til Dawn type twist - you start playing it straight then there is an attack by ravening weresheep - the ewepocalypse.

Dallas is already on the list, I cannot find any reference to a Neighbours RPG online - was it perhaps a supplement for another gameline?
 

Endless Flight

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1990's

Aliens (1990)
Buck Rogers: XXVc (1990)
Cadillacs & Dinosaurs (1990)
Adventures of Luther Arkwright (1991)
Amber Diceless Role-Playing (1991)
Timelord (1991)
Superbabes (1992)
Wizards (1992)
Albedo (1993)
Bram Stoker's Dracula (1993)
Elric! (1993)
Prime Directive (1993)
World Wrestling Federation RPG (1993)
Pirates of Dark Water (1994)
Street Fighter: The Storytelling Game (1994)
World of Indiana Jones (1994)
Project A-Ko (1995)
Species (1995)
Tank Girl (1995)
World of Aden (1995)
World of Necroscope (1995)
Tales from the Crypt (1996)
Bubblegum Crisis (1997)
The Lost World: Jurassic Park RPG (1997)
Men in Black (1997)
Teenagers from Outer Space 3rd ed (1997, licensed the anime Lum for this edition)
Usagi Yojimbo (1997)
Armored Troopers VOTOMS (1998)
Dragonball Z (1998)
Hercules & Xena (1998)
Marvel Superheroes Adventure Game ("SAGA", 1998)
Sailor Moon RPG (1998)
Star Trek: The Next Generation RPG (1998)
DC Universe RPG (1999)
Demon City Shinjuku (1999)
Dominion Tank Police (1999)
Jack Vance's Lyonesse RPG (1999)
Ranma 1/2 (1999)
Star Trek (1999)


Ones I haven't found dates for: I know there was a Willow RPG boxed set, I'm guessing early 90's, also this list is only published core gamelines, not licensed supplements, I know there were Conan, Red Sonja, and Lankhmar modules published by TSR, and numerous licensed GURPs supplements, and probably other more obscure ones, like the Elvira supplement for Chill
The Willow game was released in April, 1988. Did some image searching on eBay. Written by Greg Costikyan, so it might be interesting.
 

TristramEvans

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The Willow game was released in April, 1988. Did some image searching on eBay. Written by Greg Costikyan, so it might be interesting.

cool, I'll add it to the 80's list. Funny, I didnt think the film was that old
 

Jenx

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The main thing I take from licensed RPGs is that they are doomed. Maybe not in the first or second year, but they'll struggle to keep paying those royalty cheques to the rights holder in year 3, 4 and 5 when the game is no longer the new hotness. Sure, they'll go 'ooooh! This RPG thing is much more profitable than we thought! It's nearly up there with branded socks and underpants!' (in the case of Marvel it will *never* sell as well as branded sock. I have some Avengers socks myself and they last quite well. Thanks for the birthday present kids) when a kickstarter or product launch blasts through a million bucks and they start talking about things like 'market share' and eyeing up D&D, CoC and others.

Some last a long while, others canned after a year (most recent Marvel games and the upcoming one I'm guessing). I'll still buy those that appeal to me but no longer expect any kind of MERP or Marvel TSR style product ranges. I think FFG did a reasonable job of keeping Star Wars going for a while with lots to spend your money on but whoever takes that on in the future will have to deal with the doldrums Star Wars is in. Films a fading memory (and not a good one in some cases), TV Shows ok but to base a game in those settings means having to go into making it up as you go territory. You're looking at a reboot and treading over old ground so basically a different way to roll dice to play the same game that Star Wars D6 managed so well (up until you got to canon character level then it falls a bit flat, we found).

I tried playing and GMing Star trek (albeit Starships and Spacemen). The players went off piste so fast with their 'shoot to kill fook the prime directive exploration is boring' antics I gotta admit it was more fun that way for the short time we tried it rather than playing it straight and following orders to collect spore samples on planet blah blah natives under threat from Zangids etc.

The other thing I take from licensed games is that the lore/backstory/characters/main pull for the game get in the way a lot of the time. I tried (very hard) to avoid any canon characters in our Star Wars campaign back in the day and mostly succeeded but sometimes it just felt like space terrorists sticking it to the man rather than as part of some great galaxy spanning conflict and tying up with Han Solo at Stars End or whatever. Teaming up with those characters seemed pointless as they are so competent at everything the PCs could just stand around and chat in combat whilst Solo mowed down swathes of Stormtroopers, doin' it Solo style.

han-solo-shoot.gif


"take that Stormtrooper 14"

MERP was amazing for the sheer volume and depth of material plus Angus McBride (RIP) art. Can't ever say I enjoyed much playing the Middle Earth gameworld and the NPCs were eye popping with their abilities and magic gear and overshadowed the PCs in every way pretty much. had the most fun ditching the ME part of MERP and dungeon delving with the rules.

What have been the best licensed RPGs - not just in rules or presentation, but support and sheer enjoyment that they give for playing in that particular universe?

And the worst? Where could they have gone right, changed things, done more/less/different and they generally wasted the IP?


I thought I was looking forward to Blade Runner and I may still back it but on the surface they don't have much to go on. Future imperfect, rogue androids need hunting down. Repeat. it rains a lot, hard, and there's lots of distorted neon. I hope I'm wrong as I love the first film and sort of liked the second. Ish. Somany IPs are like this and there really isn't much to go on with an RPG that other games don't do better.

On the flip side RPGs into films doesn't go so well. Not looking forward to another mess of a D&D film. Maybe if they mess it up they could really harm the D&D brand.
 

Ladybird

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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.
In this specific instance, it's a good demonstration that big games like Pathfinder, Shadowrun, Rifts, WFRP, SLA Industries et al are actually two completely separate properties - the mechanics and the setting. Roleplayers have been hacking licensed settings into other game systems since time immemorial - imagine the amount of Star Wars hacks out there! - and this is basically just the same thing gone corporate; Paizo realising that there's an audience out there for their settings even if they're not interested in the rules.

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.
JKR doesn't want other people playing with her toys; she's incredibly hands-on even down to micromanaging the content of the rides at the theme parks.

That said, I'm not sure this would be as much of a moneyspinner nowadays as people think - even back then, the fan community was happily doing their thing mostly without support or mechanics, and if they did want them, they were happy enough to hack up their own. There's unlikely to be a significant "nostalgia bounce" due to {redacted] and the way she's very central to the franchise / it's so tightly connected with her, unlike Lucas and Star Wars who was content to let others play too. There's still money in merch and experiences - you could probably run a well-received LARP - but for our sorts of game the time (And the audience) have passed.

That said, if there had been an official HP RPG back in the early 00's? That thing would have FLEW off the shelves. Expeliarmus capitalismus or something, I don't know.
 
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PolarBlues

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On the flip side RPGs into films doesn't go so well. Not looking forward to another mess of a D&D film. Maybe if they mess it up they could really harm the D&D brand.

I quite like the Mutant Chronicles movie. But I accept I am in a minority here. I remember going to see it at the cinema with a mixed group of gamer and non-gamer friends to see it. I came out of the movie theatre with a excited "Wasn't that the best ever?" sort of statement and they all looked at me with a "Did we just watch the same movie?" expression.

I bought the DVD anyway when it came out.
 

lategamer

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That said, I'm not sure this would be as much of a moneyspinner nowadays as people think -

Even now, with 10 movies in the franchise across multiple time periods, it would be only ideology to suggest that an official Harry Potter RPG wouldn't be the best selling game of the year, briefly eclipsing D&D. It's so much more fan service to imagine being a wizard rather than a superhero. (As an aside; I think the X men resonated with teenagers so much was that they were alienated and felt like puberty could be their X gene manifesting).
 

lategamer

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MERP was amazing for the sheer volume and depth of material plus Angus McBride (RIP) art. Can't ever say I enjoyed much playing the Middle Earth gameworld and the NPCs were eye popping with their abilities and magic gear and overshadowed the PCs in every way pretty much. had the most fun ditching the ME part of MERP and dungeon delving with the rules.

I've never really had the overshadow problem. Maybe because I involve them in other plots (My TOR game was them chasing a rumoured Dwarven Ring which hadn't been gobbled by a dragon as thought...) or maybe because I think PCs have every right to be as powerful as they want. I think Game Balance is a silly idea.

(Supported by the fiction where a few hobbits head out with Aragorn, the biggest Mary Sue of them all, and the rest....)
 

Black Leaf

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What have been the best licensed RPGs - not just in rules or presentation, but support and sheer enjoyment that they give for playing in that particular universe?

To look at the various Dredd games:

The Games Workshop version was excellent. Combat rules with just the right amount of crunch to allow enough tactical approaches, the right amount of background information. They get the tone right as well; they play it completely straight faced and let the ridiculousness of the setting speak for itself. In terms of canon, I'd say they're respectful but not in awe. (The big events in the universe like Judge Cal and the Robot Wars have happened, but it's set after them). Also lots of support material in White Dwarf (to the point people complained about it taking up too much space at the time). I really like that most of the adventures for it are aimed at the "a day in the life of a Judge" rather than big epic events. The biggest issue is the same you'd get in any game with that narrow a niche. I know some people find all playing Judges too limiting in terms of distinguishing their characters. It doesn't have support for any other kind of campaign, apart from a 2 page WD article on playing perps.

The WOIN version was a worthy successor. Much better at getting the judges to feel like distinct individuals and it had full support for playing perps, mutants or even civilians. Mid crunch and WOIN worked for me; as a system it feels like it would handle the universe well. My main criticism is that the supplements pandered to the fans too much. A lot of "play through the events of the comic strip as your PCs" which I think is a missed opportunity. The big storylines are fun, but they aren't what draws me to playing in Mega-City One in the first place. Or to put it another way I find Otto Sump more entertaining than the Judge Child.

No real experience of the Mongoose version. (It's d20 which I don't do). Lots of supplements though. Lots and lots of supplements. That may be a good thing (lots of support for the game) or it may be a bad thing (the supplement treadmill).
 

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Even now, with 10 movies in the franchise across multiple time periods, it would be only ideology to suggest that an official Harry Potter RPG wouldn't be the best selling game of the year, briefly eclipsing D&D.
Oh yes - I think it would have a very good quarter or two, but would then rapidly sink. It wouldn't be perpetually hanging around the tops of the sales charts like the Star Wars or even Alien games, whereas a lot of people think it would become a fixture up there.
 

Black Leaf

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The big test of whether a Harry Potter RPG would sell or not is likely to be Hogwarts Legacy I think.
 

TristramEvans

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What have been the best licensed RPGs - not just in rules or presentation, but support and sheer enjoyment that they give for playing in that particular universe?

Marvel Superheroes, DC Heroes, and Star Wars (WEG)


And the worst?

Hellboy 5th edition, Masters of the Universe, and Wraeththu


Where could they have gone right, changed things, done more/less/different and they generally wasted the IP?

Hellboy deserves a proprietary system designed by a competent game designer

Master of the Universe was rushed into publication without being complete (or even playable/comprehensible) - who knows how it might have turned out if the planned full game was ever made

Wraeththu was just a bad idea. Very bad. Bad.
 
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lategamer

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The big test of whether a Harry Potter RPG would sell or not is likely to be Hogwarts Legacy I think.
The legacy of Star Wars is three awful prequels and still the fandom are in step.

(Though I worry how much the protagonisation of Darth Vader has helped with populist notions)
 

Black Leaf

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The legacy of Star Wars is three awful prequels and still the fandom are in step.

(Though I worry how much the protagonisation of Darth Vader has helped with populist notions)
Hogwarts Legacy is a specific upcoming computer game!
 

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Not to metion the Lego Harry Potter computer game

Never played it, no idea what it's like, I don't even like Harry Potter, but it is on sale if anyone does.
 

Black Leaf

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Not to metion the Lego Harry Potter computer game

Never played it, no idea what it's like, I don't even like Harry Potter, but it is on sale if anyone does.
It's decent but unexciting. (Which is pretty much how I'd describe all of the Lego games).
 

David Johansen

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When it comes to it GURPS has licensed Hellboy, Conan, the Myth computer games, David Brin's Uplift, Alan Dean Foster's Humanx Commonwealth, Terry Pratchett's Disc World, Mars Attacks, Planet Krishna. But SJG definitely leans into the literary side of licensing. I've run maybe four GURPS Hogwarts campaigns and GURPS Magic does a decent job of Harry Potter magic. You do need to add a few spells to represent a ranged stunner that massively hard to learn (curse missile / throw spell has a huge prerequisite list) and you need to restrict some spells. But the overall set up and the way you can learn spells well enough to cast them without gestures or incantations is very close to the Wizarding World.

One of my complaints about running licensed games is that too many players desperately want to meet, fight, or fuck the characters from the story. They don't want to veer off the contents of the setting too much. I was running a Star Wars game in BRP once and I had them find the Galactica and this one player revolted and got all mad so they just jumped out of system and ran away. Later I had Elric walk into the Jedi council chamber and they thought he was so cool and had no idea where I'd lifted him from :grin:

Which reminds me, I've run Star Wars, Star Trek, Alien, and Warhammer 40000 using BRP and winging the details over the years and it's always gone better than any of the official licensed systems I've tried.

Also, the Mutant Chronicles movie suffers from having very little resemblance to The Mutant Chronicles setting. It's not bad as a low budget sci-fi shoot 'em up. It could be wedged into the setting with the premise that it's about the corporate withdrawal from Earth and the iconic characters could be saved as clones that The Brotherhood rolls out whenever the menace of the Dark Legion Arises. I've never been quite sure if the stokers shoveling coal into the ship's engine was canonical at the time. Around second edition the creator got obsessed with steam punk and Cybertronic went from having computers to brains in jars. One other fun MC fact, originally John Carpenter was going to make Mutant Chronicles and made Ghosts of Mars instead.
 

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One other fun MC fact, originally John Carpenter was going to make Mutant Chronicles and made Ghosts of Mars instead.

Funny you should mention it, but Ghosts of Mars is the other movie none of my friends understands why I like it to the extent that mentioning Ghosts of Mars has become something of a recurrent joke.
 

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