Adaptation Versus Adoption Across TTRPG Genres

I had the idea for a superhero themed D&D game. The idea originated in an idea on how I could adapt the Monk class and the various subclasses, but many of the various other classes and abilities could be represented as super powers if you give them the right flavor. I’ve been stewing over it in my mind for a while, mostly just as a fun thing to think about when I’m not doing anything else, but I haven’t done any concrete work to develop the idea beyond the conceptual stage. See, as someone who is tangential to many circles on Twitter, I usually get a pretty good grasp of the drama that has taken center-stage at any given moment without getting embroiled in it myself. One of the big, long-running pieces of drama is that games other than D&D exist but the popularity of D&D tends to eclipse them in such a way that, when people want to play non-fantasy games, they tend to work on adapting D&D rather than finding a game that was explicitly made for the type of genre they want to play.

As someone who generally enjoys D&D but also desperately wants to try other game systems but can’t because getting a group together for a tabletop game of any kind is practically impossible, I don’t really have a horse in the race. I am generally of the opinion that people should be introduced to new things if they have a limited view, but there’s nothing wrong with sticking to the thing you enjoy and already know. People should be able to just have fun doing whatever they like so long as it isn’t harming anyone. I, personally, think there’s a lot to be gained as a storyteller from trying different games and learning about how storytelling can differ between games and rule systems, but most people don’t play tabletop games because they want to explore storytelling as an artistic expression. Mostly, people want to enjoy themselves.

When it comes to ideas like my superhero game, I tend to think of it in terms of Dungeons and Dragons by default because that is where the main body of my experience is. I know game systems exist that are explicitly geared toward telling superhero stories and supporting superhero tropes, but I’m not very familiar with them. It’s a lot easier to think in broad terms about telling the stories I am imagining and how to get the rules to support that type of story when I set it all in the context of something I already understand super well. Plus, when I imagine who might play it with me, it’s difficult to imagine the other players and storytellers I already game with playing other systems since most of them barely have the time to learn dungeons and dragons. I can bring up new games all I want, but the chances of the game happening are better if it’s something they’re already familiar with. Which isn’t a dig at any of my friends and collaboraters, just an acknowledgement that people have different prioritys than I do when it comes to how they spend their time.

I think it’s okay to want to stick to the game you know well. After all, if you’ve got a shared ruleset and lexicon people are already familiar with, it is easier for them to come up with new things to try on their own. They won’t need access to new resources or to spend time familiarizing themselves with the nuances of a different set of rules. I also think it’s okay to want to stick to the genres a game is more explicitly made for. Trying new games systems is great and there’s a lot of cool stuff out there that isn’t d&d, a lot of which is actually easier to play and understand if you’ve already got a decent grasp on the creativity and narrative building aspect of a roleplaying game. I just don’t think people should be restricted from doing what they want or demonized for sticking to what they enjoy. If I want to create some weird sci-fantasy amalgamation of tropes and themes for my D&D game, I should be allowed to do that without needing to make excuses or explain why I chose to use D&D instead of picking up a different rule system.

There isn’t, to my knowledge, any industry drama around this particular idea right now. It comes up pretty regularly, though, so I want to get ahead of it before I start writing posts about my ideas for adapting the fantasy trappings of modern Dungeons and Dragons for science fiction and superhero settings. Not that I expect to be unfairly called out since my reach is pretty small, but I’ve been online too long not to anticipate and prepare for it.

If you have the time, resources, and general interest, you absolutely should try games other than Dungeons and Dragons. Support indie creators, try new things, broaden your horizons, and help game creators make a living at their chosen profession/art form. Your experience as a player of games is only ever going to be improved by diversity in the people you play with, the games you try, and the styles of play you experience, so take this time to try something new if you can! I may not be able to play all of the games I like, but I buy and read all the rulebooks for the games that interest me and my life as a storyteller and game player is richer for it.

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