Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Why Mix RPG Genres?

This month’s theme for the RPG Blogger Carnival is Mixing Genres. This month’s carnival is being hosted by… oh wait… I’m hosting the Carnival this month… damn. I really should have gotten these posts done earlier. This month has been a bit rough for me, but I’m going to plug ahead and try to get at least a few of my thoughts on this subject out there.

One of the first things that I ask myself when I think about mixing genres for a game is: why? Why are you doing this? You’re just going to make things harder on yourself. You have enough to do as it is. Do you really think you can pull it off?? Ok. That’s not exactly what I think about, but the “why?” question is a good one. To be a bit more precise, what you should be asking yourself is: “What effect are you trying to accomplish by mixing two or more genres together?” Basically, I think the reasons for genre mixing are as follows:

Just for Kicks
I really like mixing genres simply for the sake of doing it and having fun. Sometimes mixing two totally different, and wildly opposing genres together can be a total blast and really make for some fun gaming. It might not last very long as a campaign, and the effect of the game might wear off more quickly, but sometimes combining something like the Wild Wild West with Survival Horror can be quite enjoyable and really make for an entertaining game night for the whole group. These quirky, fun games, when pulled off right, can excite your players and generate a barrel of laughs for everyone.

The Unique Factor
Sometimes mixing genres can be something of a quest to find that unique niche to fill for your game. Actually, there are a lot of games that fall into this category that have made it big and are now fairly well known as household names in the RPG world. For example, “Shadowrun”, would fall into this category. “Shadowrun” combines the Cyberpunk world that you get in movies like “Bladerunner” with the Fantasy World of traditional D&D. One runner might be hacking a computer, while another runner might be going feral and hacking robots to bits with an axe. You get the picture. “Shadowrun” found that unique niche and was able to make something awesome out of it.

Combating Boredom with the Gentle Transition
Though this motivation is very similar to the one explained above, the reason the GM, or game creator decides to play this kind of game is very different. Sometimes game groups can get very, very stale. I’ve been playing RPG’s for almost 10 years now and I have seen a lot of groups fall apart because a campaign gets stale and nobody takes the time and effort to fix the problem. When the group gets tired of playing vanilla fantasy, maybe things need to get shaken up a bit. By mixing the fantasy genre, that you’ve been playing in for a long time, with something a bit different, things can change just enough that a game group gets saved without sacrificing the current campaign. Let’s say for example, that group X has been playing D&D 4e for almost 2 years and is getting pretty burned out. Well, looking at some of the game books out there which are compatible with D&D 4e, you find that Amethyst gives you enough rules to work with that you can transition your current campaign from being strict fantasy into something a bit different. With a little deft handling by a skilled GM, the characters can stay the same, but the world, and the plot of the campaign, shifts towards something totally different.

That is my brief take on the reasons to mix RPG Genres. If you have any other reasons of your own, feel free to leave some ideas in the comments. Thanks for sticking around this month!  Also, just a note.  Though I'm keeping the Carnival open for about one more week, just to catch any stragglers (such as myself) the new Carnival will be starting up soonish.  Make sure to give it plenty of attention!!


  1. Mixing genres follows the same rules as mixing peanut butter and chocolate: Two great tastes that taste great together.

  2. I suppose it's like working in a chop shop - you get several of your all time greats, but each has several features you don't quite like, but by taking out all the crappy parts and combining all your favourite parts you've now got something that really does light your fire ... so to speak.

    But I'd say it's point 1 & 2 combined - and I suppose that's how Warhammer 40K came into being: man, elves, goblins, orks, chaos and the empire set in space. I mean, shit, just look at Harrison Ford's new movie coming out soon: cowboys vs aliens!?!

  3. ... and btw, Shinobicow, thanks for the comment on my blog, mucho appreciato :o)

  4. I think that historically mixing genres has broadened the boundaries of genres and may well do so again. Howard mixed weird stories with historical adventure fiction and got sword and sorcery--which gave fantasy new territory. Victoriana plus science fiction begat steampunk.