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Old 07-06-2008, 02:18 AM   #161
David L Pulver
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Default Re: Does GURPS need original-setting world books?

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Originally Posted by Agemegos
Unless, of course, your innovation grabs people's imaginations and you get a runaway success. Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Neuromancer, Snowcrash &c. departed from expections. So did Georgette Heyer's first Regency romance. So did the first "hard-boiled" detective. So did Vampire, the Masquerade. So did Warhammer.

Originality produces small audiences, except when it produces really big ones. Imitativeness reliably produces mediocrity.
True, but it's a matter of degree. I'm not arguing for a cookie-cutter setting. If your audience liked Neuromancer, they should like Snow Crash... it's not a great leap to go from one to the other, and that's certainly not what I'm talking about. Likewise, by all means create a new genre if you're JRR Tolkien.

But if you are a game company with an established range of source books (Space, Ultra-Tech, Magic, whatever) that support particular genres, it kind of makes sense to release some settings that are in the mainstream of these genres rather than odd riffs on them.

A stylish spin and update ala Snow Crash is certain welcome, and that's what I'd try to do. However, departing from the expectations for no reason except "we want to be different" is what tends to alienate the audience a little bit.

Like: If I'm aiming for a book that will appeal to horror gamers who enjoy the supernatural, explaining that the Big Twist is that horror is really the result of aliens with ultra-technology might be more original... but you will notice than when White Wolf did Vampire the Masquerade, they rather sensibly stuck with the idea of vampires who were supernatural creatures. They innovated... but their key innovation was the idea of vampires as *highly* social and hierarchical entities with an intricate clan system, thus facilitating group play. And even there, they built on their own prior work experience with Ars Magica; the setting itself, with the world of darkness and romantic vampires, was not something that would have seemed alien to any fan of horror fiction at the time, especially readers of Ann Rice or Nancy Collins.

So, sure you need some innovation - if not, why should anyone buy the book? And if you do it well (as in Vampire) and catch an audience that exists, you will do very well! But at the same time, your innovation should be something that actually serves a good purpose. In the case of Vampire, it opened up the social game elements of roleplaying and helped recruit an entire new generation of gamers On the other hand, WoD fiction, while decent, has not exactly taken the horror world by storm... because the innovation was one that was designed around making the setting appealing as an RPG, not fiction.

In any event, as hinted above, my goal would be to create a setting that actively supports Ultra-Tech, Space, Bio-Tech, and Spaceships and its sequels. Which means a wide-open inclusive space opera, but one that is firmly in the new Space Opera tradition of the 1990s-2008 rather than the 1950s-1960s version (for which plenty of RPGs already exist). SO it goes.





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Old 07-06-2008, 06:01 AM   #162
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Default Re: Does GURPS need original-setting world books?

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Originally Posted by David L Pulver
Resources: this is always an issue, but given some of the stuff that pops into e23 these days, not as much of one. With e23 a setting can "Test the Waters" with a 32-page book, and if popular can be expanded indefinitely.
I agree with this and think e23 is one of the best ideas SJ games came up with and implemented properly. Sure others have done things similar but they are either giving you older than the freaking hills stuff or their purchase system looks like it was designed by a drunk or insane Rube Goldberg.

e23 is the best way to do 'hey let's run this up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes' ideas.
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Old 07-06-2008, 06:19 AM   #163
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Default Re: Does GURPS need original-setting world books?

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Originally Posted by David L Pulver
But if you are a game company with an established range of source books (Space, Ultra-Tech, Magic, whatever) that support particular genres, it kind of makes sense to release some settings that are in the mainstream of these genres rather than odd riffs on them.
It does indeed. It also makes sense to allow or even encourage third parties to publish settings that reference them: that way you avoid the downside risk but get a slice of the upside. If SJG allowed an open licence or a licence on easy terms for setting material, it would avoid the capital costs of editing, art, and layout that even PDFs require, but would still make ground on increased sales of its core, genre, and equipment books. Third-party publishers would save themselves the development and production costs for rules and equipment books. Existing GURPS players would get more and a wider choice of settings than SJG can or will provide. Players attracted to the settings would get richer/cheaper fluff, a more robust game engine, and more crunchy equipment books than otherwise.
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Old 07-06-2008, 10:31 AM   #164
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Default Re: Does GURPS need original-setting world books?

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Originally Posted by David L Pulver
But if you are a game company with an established range of source books (Space, Ultra-Tech, Magic, whatever) that support particular genres, it kind of makes sense to release some settings that are in the mainstream of these genres rather than odd riffs on them.

In any event, as hinted above, my goal would be to create a setting that actively supports Ultra-Tech, Space, Bio-Tech, and Spaceships and its sequels. Which means a wide-open inclusive space opera, but one that is firmly in the new Space Opera tradition of the 1990s-2008 rather than the 1950s-1960s version (for which plenty of RPGs already exist). SO it goes.
This is definately true. A setting book should be designed so that most of the cool things in other books can be added. This is why Dungeons and Dragons was successful, it had monsters and character types from all different time periods and mythologies so that there was an almost endless supply of monsters and ideas that could be added. A space opera setting should be no different, it should let players use biotech, nanotech, spaceships and ultratech.
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Old 07-06-2008, 11:04 AM   #165
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Default Re: Does GURPS need original-setting world books?

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Originally Posted by Agemegos
Unless, of course, your innovation grabs people's imaginations and you get a runaway success. Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Neuromancer, Snowcrash &c. departed from expectations. So did Georgette Heyer's first Regency romance. So did the first "hard-boiled" detective. So did Vampire, the Masquerade. So did Warhammer.

Originality produces small audiences, except when it produces really big ones. Imitativeness reliably produces mediocrity.
Vampire the Masquerade wasn't all that original. It simply did a better job of capturing Lestat's wangstiness than Nightlife did.
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Old 07-06-2008, 11:55 AM   #166
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Default Re: Does GURPS need original-setting world books?

I've already said what I think SJG should be doing with "Powered By Gurps" as part of their marketing plan - stop being such rules geeks and use it far more widely (and loosely) to license new settings to entice gamers to the core rules.

As to SJG products themselves - Ive a few thoughts from 20 years in gaming and the same time in new business development and marketing:

1) As many have noted, SJG has tons of setting already. But several are not yet upgraded to 4e. Only a few want to be troubled with the conversions themselves - get on with it already.

2) Adventure modules for the various SJG settings, with an option for ready-to-go characters. Lots of them, from both in-house and "Powered By GURPS" sources. This kind of support for the rulebooks already extant should be SJG's priority from a marketing standpoint. Only a few GMs want to trouble themselves with writing their own from scratch and many of us already play GURPS. The rest are running some other game where they can plug-and-play modules written by pros. (It's also easier, as one poster noted, to 'file' the setting-specific identifiers off a good module and convert it for your own homebrew setting than to write your own.)

3) The in-house magazine, Pyramid, should be a vehicle for small adventure scenarios, plot-hooks etc based on the existing settings, not yet another repository of rules variants and expansions many will read but few will use.

4) Someone at SJG should be following up these new modules with outreach to indie game stores and conventions, offering them freebie copies and MIBs to run demo games. Take a few tips from GW's early days on how to conduct marketing.

Conclusion: Damn few will bother to remember that new rule expansion book or Pyramid article over and above the masses already available in the main books when they're writing their own stuff. Either deliver new rules options along with adventure modules using them or don't bother, because right now SJG is creating a self-limiting market. There are only so many rules-purist, smart, imaginative gamers with time on their hands to create their own adventures and campaigns out there, and the rest (the vast majority) aren't playing GURPS. Yet.

Regards, C
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Old 07-06-2008, 12:59 PM   #167
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Default Re: Does GURPS need original-setting world books?

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Originally Posted by David L Pulver
That's one of the basic problems. The more "original" one goes, the smaller the audience because it departs from expectations. Dark Sun is not as popular as Forgotten Realms, because the Realms matches expectations as to what a classic Tolkien/D&D heroic fantasy setting is supposed to be.

So, why doesn't GURPS have more original fantasy or science fiction settings that are original enough to be interesting, but not so original as to be alienating? Well, GURPS is somewhat freelancer driven, but freelancers have to sell their work to management. And it's a hard sell to say "I will do a VERY GOOD classic fantasy (or science fiction) setting."
Also SJGames does not want to make the same mistake with GURPS that TSR did with D&D back in 1986 and make too many freaking small buckets.

I don't really know if settings bring people to RPGs anymore and there are a lot of things that exist now that didn't exist when TSR created its 'big three' (Greyhawk, Dragonlance, and Forgotten Realm) settings.

On Dark Sun not being as popular as Forgotten Realms you have to realize that Forgotten Realms came out near the end of the "golden age" of AD&D in 1985 while Dark Sun came out in 1994 only two years before TSR effectively went bust. Furthermore there is Mystara which was about as classic Tolkien/D&D heroic fantasy setting as you could get and went back to 1981 but yet it never hit the cord Forgotten Realms did and so joined Spelljammer, Dark Sun, and Planescape in the 'here fans you write stuff for this--the profit margins are such we won't even bother' area of WotC.

By contrast WotC licensed Ravenloft (1983/1990) to Arthaus' Games who had it published by White Wolf but in the end Arthaus' Games found there just was not enough support and let the license return to WotC. The first thing WotC did upon getting Ravenloft back was revamp the old 1983 module that started the setting in such a way that it was totally divorced from the setting it had inspired and was now plugable into any D&D world.
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Old 07-06-2008, 05:37 PM   #168
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Default Re: Does GURPS need original-setting world books?

You will never have trouble selling small buckets of awesome. The trick, of course, is figuring out a method of reliably producing them.
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Old 07-06-2008, 06:12 PM   #169
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Default Re: Does GURPS need original-setting world books?

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Originally Posted by maximara
Also SJGames does not want to make the same mistake with GURPS that TSR did with D&D back in 1986 and make too many freaking small buckets.

I don't really know if settings bring people to RPGs anymore and there are a lot of things that exist now that didn't exist when TSR created its 'big three' (Greyhawk, Dragonlance, and Forgotten Realm) settings.
If settings do make rain, SJG would do really well by getting third parties to make the small buckets, and make its revenues out of the "gaming OS". No applications vendor made as much money out of PCs as Micro$oft made selling DOS and Windows.
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Old 07-06-2008, 09:28 PM   #170
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Default Re: Does GURPS need original-setting world books?

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Originally Posted by David L Pulver
That's one of the basic problems. The more "original" one goes, the smaller the audience because it departs from expectations. Dark Sun is not as popular as Forgotten Realms, because the Realms matches expectations as to what
a classic Tolkien/D&D heroic fantasy setting is supposed to be.

So, why doesn't GURPS have more original fantasy or science fiction settings that are original enough to be interesting, but not so original as to be alienating? Well, GURPS is somewhat freelancer driven, but freelancers have to sell their work to management. And it's a hard sell to say "I will do a VERY GOOD classic fantasy (or science fiction) setting."

I know: I've tried to interest SJ Games (since c. 1990) in space opera settings. However, generally the feeling has been "setting doesn't sell, and we have Traveller (or Terradyne, or THS, or whatever). The thing is, I'm not sure if GURPS has ever made an attempt at a more 'mainstream' fantasy or SF setting. (No, Yrth is not "mainstream" - with its alternate Earth setting, lack of fantasy gods, etc., nor is the Rome setting in GURPS Fantasy.)

For my own selfish reasons, I've wanted to have a space setting that would use Ultra-Tech and Spaceships and Bio-Tech "out of the box" [i.e., without special expections and conversion rules for the setting]. And yeah, that means galactic empires and struggling Earth federation and nanotechnology and AIs and fleets of starships and dozens of alien races and blasters and force screens and the whole shebang. The goal isn't to copy someone else's genre (though we'd be in the mainstream of the New Space Opera): the goal is to take what GURPS does well - and that's lots of cool stuff - and build a setting that showcases that GURPS goodness, and is also a more playable and somewhat open sandbox to adventure in then either THS or, to some extent Traveller.
I would buy that, if released in dead tree format!

Loved THS, but I need my dose of space opera and didn't like Traveller.
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