You can Play Any Time, Anywhere

Hello to you all! Last time I talked about settings we looked at defining the group’s approach to gaming, whether it’s a GM’d approach or a collaborative approach. We followed this up by looking at the three primary approaches to setting: adventure, investigation, and exploration. Today, we will cover many of the basic genres of gaming. Looking at the different genres, you should be aware how they interact with the previously-defined aspects of settings.
Adventure: These are action-based settings:

  • Contemporary: Best suited for military games.
  • Fantasy: This is your dungeon crawls and quest games with an end-game in mind.
  • Historical: An in-depth immersion into another time and cultural period, usually placing the PCs as soldiers in someone’s power play.
  • Horror: Can you say zombie apocalypse and Evil Dead 2? Enjoy the blood splattering and brain eating.
  • Humor: When you’re talking about humorous adventure, the word “pulp” will often jump out, but a better word might be “gonzo”. Here, anything goes. Tarzan vs. cyberpunk Nazis is just the tip of iceberg.
  • Science Fiction: Space pirates or runes of an ancient civilization, this setting is all about victory.
  • Super Hero: Something I know little about but I would say of Avengers or X-Men: saving the world while bashing heads.

Investigation: Do you like mysteries and deep secrets? Is solving the crime more fun than shooting the bad guy? These are the campaigns for you:

  • Contemporary: Private Eye or Spy games, criminal procedural games
  • Fantasy: While mysteries abound in fantasy worlds there are also secrets… imagine a campaign focused on the secrets of the Tomb of Horrors before you go into that death trap. Solving a mystery might not just punish the guilty, but can save your life.
  • Historical: Where in the historical adventure you might be a soldier in a power play, in the investigation you’re out to discover just who is running the plot, and putting an end to it. Instead of marching off to war you may be spies, taking advantage of covert opportunities and getting involved in political intrigue.
  • Horror: This could represent the fight against the mythos or the intrigues of the vampire court.
  • Humor: The first thing that comes to mind is the “Mystery Van” gang. These are your campy mysteries where laughter is just as important as a clue.
  • Science Fiction: While space operas dominate the adventures of SF, there are still many possible mysteries involving politics, crime, aliens, science and technology.
  • Super Hero: While the Avengers may ravage an adventure, it’s Bat Man and Dare Devil who solve the crimes in the dark shadows.

Exploration: Discovery and exploration of the unknown:

  • Contemporary: Depending on your definition of contemporary, it can be difficult to do a true exploration game because of the sheer size of the Earth and the amount of research involved. But you can focus on smaller areas one at a time, like Indiana Jones in the Temple of Doom. In order to sustain a campaign, these stories will probably take place in a variety of smaller settings of mixed type.
  • Fantasy: While DnD brought us the dungeon crawl its sister-game Pathfinder is the master setting of fantasy exploration. But remember it’s not just new land one can discover.
  • Historical: Ever wonder what it would have been to travel in time, exploring cultures and landscapes from the future and past?
  • Horror: The deepest horror is the unknown and the fears found our hearts.
  • Humor: Road trip anyone? Exploring the world with friends can be great fun.
  • Science Fiction: From cyberspace to the edge of the universe and beyond, the world of science fiction is made for the exploration campaign.
  • Super Hero: For Super Heroes, exploring the unknown is simply not something they spend a lot of time doing. But it’s still possible to imagine a limited campaign of super-powered exploration being fun: perhaps an evil super-villain has trapped the heroes on his island of doom, or exiled them to a pocket dimension from which they must find their way back to Earth.

You aren’t limited to just one genre, either: you can mix them up to make a campaign that works for everyone at the table. For instance, I want to run a time travel game based on historical politics and spying. Mixed adventures may be a little harder to pull off than straight genre campaigns, as you’ll need time to move from one genre to the next, or figure out how to fuse them together. But whatever it is, when preparing to enter a new campaign you should talk with the GM and let them know what sort of game you want to play. If it’s a one shot or convention game, ask what you can expect in terms of genre and playstyle. There’s nothing wrong with being clear. After all, if the game doesn’t make you happy, you won’t bring your best skills to the table!

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