From The Screen To The Table
July 27, 2013

From The Screen To The Table

Just as many games have made the transition from tabletop to PC and console, there have been many cases of the reverse. Often well-known/loved shows and videogames are made into tabletop games. How successful they are can vary, though devoted fans of both the original concept and tabletop games are usually quick to pick up the books. Often, these products are made using existing game systems, often the d20 system, but occasionally they develop their own unique mechanics to better fit their cannon.

Just to list a few, there are role-playing games based on the television shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Supernatural, Smallville (which feels a bit redundant to me, considering there is already a DC Universe Role-playing Game), Firefly, and others. Unfortunately, I have not had the opportunity to play any of these games, though I have seen them sitting on the shelves at the Gopher from time to time. There are also tabletop versions of Warhammer 40,000, World of Warcraft, Everquest, and more. I have had the opportunity to play the Warhammer tabletop game, and I am sad to say that it was not really to my liking.

Just as with turning a tabletop game into a videogame, when videogames, television, and other media are converted into a table-top game, it is often done purely with the intention of capitalizing on an already existing fan-base. Where this can work to a limited degree, it is important to note the importance of having a good system to back up the cannon. Crunch needs to support the fluff, after all, just as the fluff should enhance the crunch. As important as this is to any tabletop game, it is even more important here. For example, lets’ take the Star Wars tabletop games, of which there have been many. Originally, the first tabletop game set in a galaxy far, far away was done by West End Games, giving the game a completely original system that was designed to work with the cannon of Star Wars. It was simplistic, but it worked well and was a great deal of fun. When Wizards of the Coast took over and converted Star Wars to their d20 system, a great deal of the fun was lost in the translation. Because they were working within a system that worked well for the fantasy game it was designed for, they were somewhat restrained with what they were able to do. When they created Saga Edition, they allowed themselves to make a lot of changes to the d20, which helped to give Star Wars the elbowroom it needed to feel likes its own game once again.

Among my favorite games that come from another form of media are The Dresden Files RPG, originally a book series and then a short lived television series, and The Dragon Age RPG, which was originally a video-game. The Dresden Files RPG uses a modified version of the FATE role-playing system while Dragon Age uses a custom system called AGE. Both of them manage to capture the feel of the original quite well, which is why I enjoy them, but they also have a very solid set of mechanics (or lack-there-of in the case of Dresden) that make them great games in their own right, which is just as important.

Image Credit: AntonioGravante  / Shutterstock

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