Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Dice and Paper RPG Licenses – Still Useful?

Posted by Rampant Coyote on November 2, 2010

Once upon a time, back when dice & paper RPGs were (relatively) “big,” there were tons of them actively being marketed. Everybody wanted to be Dungeons & Dragons. Nowadays, that’s died down a bit, though there are arguably more of them available now than ever before. Including some funky little indie RPGs (which, like indie computer games, are pushing the genre).

When computer RPGs were first released, they sought to replicate the feeling and gameplay of those early RPGs. Of course, D&D was the top of the list, but there were other systems that inspired some games. Licenses still weren’t too common, though we did have a few, like Traveller, Twilight: 2000, Mechwarrior (the RPG built around BattleTech), Shadowrun, The Dark Eye, and others saw their way into becoming console or computer games (besides, of course, Dungeons & Dragons).  More recently, Vampire the Masquerade continues to see computer-game life with two single-player titles and an upcoming MMO. And Champions, after failed efforts in the past, finally saw its way into a (highly modified) MMO.

So it seems like dice-and-paper RPGs still enjoy some transition. But are they a big enough market that (outside of D&D and Vampire / World of Darkness) that they really bring players? I mean, that’s 90% of the reason to have a license (the other 10% is to take advantage of someone else’s creativity with a highly realized world). I really don’t know. Though there may be enough to justify it for an indie… if the license was inexpensive enough.

Many years ago I heard about an indie working on a computer RPG for Macho Women with Guns. Cool idea. I never heard anything more of it, so I assume that project was stillborn.

So what dice & paper RPGs would YOU like to see transition to the computer game world? Why? Would there be any mechanics that would be particularly challenging to transition between the human-moderated game and a computer-moderated one?

Filed Under: Dice & Paper - Comments: 22 Comments to Read

  • Andy_Panthro said,

    I must admit I’ve never played PnP or similar games… Nearest I came was the Fighting Fantasy books.

    My experience of D&D was and is entirely through computer games, from Eye of the Beholder to Neverwinter Nights.

    That said, the D&D games seemed to translate very well to the cRPG environment, so I would imagine other PnP games would too.

    Thinking about it, aren’t the MegaTraveller cRPGs based on the Traveller PnP? I’d pay good money to get updated versions of those (the interface is rather poor by modern standards).

  • Adamantyr said,

    Paranoia. 🙂

    Not a great deal of challenge making this one into an MMO. You’re computer-moderated in both!

  • Groboclown said,

    You know, even though Rifts gets a bad rap, some of those Palladium games would make for a good cRPG.

    Hm. A quick search pulled up “Rifts: Promise of Power”, for the N-Gage.

  • Bill said,

    It has to be Paranoia.

  • Wizard said,

    None. Computer gaming erodes the whole point of dice & paper RPGs.

  • Stu said,

    I’m implementing Fuzion / Interlock (Cyberpunk 2020) hybrid in my CRPG.

    Dont forget we had Tunnels and Trolls, Wasteland (based on Mercenaries, Spies and Private Eyes + TnT), Autoduel (GURPS CarWars)… I’m sure there are others..

    I’d like to see them convert say D6 or something like Fudge / Fate…

  • Scott R. Krol said,

    I’m with Wizard. PnP is a whole different ball game than CR(ap)PGs and the two should remain in their respective corners.

    That said, I will admit that if a licensed CRPG would turn on more people to a PnP game, that may be okay. So personally I’d like to see something like Cold City, Hot War, Behind Enemy Lines, Aces & Eight, or Weird Wars (which actually was in development at one time). We’ve had enough fantasy and sci-fi CRPGs, time for some other genres!

  • Scott R. Krol said,

    Oh, by the way though I do voice some disdain towards CRPGs that doesn’t mean I’m not looking forward to Frayed Knights! 🙂

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    LOL – Yeah, I still play both. CRPGs aren’t a good substitute for playing with real, live people in person. They may have started out as an attempt to emulate that experience when you couldn’t get together with your friends for a D&D session, but they became something else plenty cool.

  • sascha/hdrs said,

    Difficult question! I don’t know too many except for the systems you’ve already mentioned. Maybe D20 Modern, Spycraft or that old James Bond P&P RPG. Theme-wise I’d certainly welcome these! 🙂

  • Calibrator said,

    I’m no p&p-player but “Macho Women with Guns” definitely sounds cool. At least for women playing it…

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    My wife owned it when we got married. I think we still have it around here somewhere. We had one of the expansions – Batwinged Bimbos from Hell I think, not the other expansion, Renegade Nuns on Wheels.

    It was great fun. It had skills like, “Hit Things” and “Hit Things With Other Things.”

  • GhanBuriGhan said,

    Well, given that the Vampire license turned out some neat games, and that I always loved playing a Werewolf in Daggerfall even more than playing a Vampire, I think I would like to see someone try their hand at a Werewolf: The Forsaken CRPG. Also have some fond memories on P&P sessions with that setting – although I stopped playing P&P many years ago.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    A long time ago, someone was working on a game based on Werewolf: The Apocalypse (back when Vampire the Masquerade: Redemption was in development). It seemed like it was more of an action game with some RPG trappings when I read the previews, using the Unreal (1) engine or something like that. But obviously, it never made it to market.

    I also read a brief blurb around the same time frame of someone acquiring the Mage: The Ascension license (which would be MY favorite pick, though the Magick mechanics would be really hard to do without falling back on plane ol’ rotes). Again, I don’t know how far that project ever got, but I never heard about it again after that.

  • Tolmar said,

    I would like to see it done with Spirit of the Century. How’s that for setting the bar at impossible?

  • MadTinkerer said,

    There have been a few unofficial Paranoia games already, mostly text adventures, but I digress.

    I would like to see one of the Savage Worlds settings made into a game. Any of them will do, and Deadlands would be the most likely, but my personal first pick would be 50 Fathoms. Or if we’re counting PEG licensee settings, Ravaged Earth.

    The particular challege mechanically would not be any of the dice-related mechanics, as they’re relatively standard. The wonderful structure of Plot Point campaigns is something I would LOVE to see in computer form (that might be a challenge).

    Plot Point campaigns work thusly: You start off with an introductory adventure that throws the adventuring party together (sometimes literally in the same boat), if the players haven’t already agreed on a shared back-story they effectively have one by the end of the intro. From there the GM has a choice of various adventures that can be played in any order, but there’s also a series of Plot Point adventures to run. The Plot Points usually have to be played in a certain order, and they always lead to a Big Finale adventure, but between each plot point any number of optional adventures can be run. It’s the perfect compromise between sandbox and pre-scripted.

    Few non-SW RPGs have even tried to imitate this structure, and there’s nothing quite like it in video game form (though the Ultima series and Saints Row 2 come fairly close).

  • skavenhorde said,

    CRPGs are all I really ever had in the RPG world. I had a few P&P sessions, but none of my friends really cared that much about it. Still that didn’t mean I wouldn’t buy every D&D manual I could get my grubby paws on and make some adventures, even if I was the only one playing it 😀

    My favorite that I actually did get to play more than a few times has to be Darksun. I loved the P&P game and the CRPG equally.

  • sascha/hdrs said,

    @skavenhorde Where somewhat in the same boat there! I collect several P&P RPG books but I actually have no one around me who would play them with me. Sad state of affairs, isn’t it?!
    Either way I still enjoy collecting them for my own satisfaction and of course to find ideas and mechanics to use for CRPG development.
    I mostly own D6 and D20 Star Wars RPG and a couple of GURPS books now but Twilight 2000 looks very tempting to me as well.

  • McTeddy said,

    Personally, I’d like to see a current gen Shadowrun RPG.

    By releasing that completely unrelated deathmatch shooter, they’ve ruined everything that was great about the Shadowrun universe. Shadowrun was never about randomly shooting people… it is about the setting. Living a tough life, doing people’s dirty work to get paid, all trying not to piss off any megacorps or the Lone Star. Yet… people who played the last game don’t even know who the Lone Star and Megacorps are…

    It’s a well created universe that has plenty of potential for depth. Both the Sega Genesis and SNES game’s proved that fact. This world works very well for story based RPGs, and fit’s well enough into popular game’s of today.

    If someone did this right, we’d have a great new rival for Fallout and Mass Effect.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    Talk about timing – this announcement just came out today…

    Online Game Based on the Deadlands RPG Announced

  • Xenovore said,


    This system has so much cool detail but tends to be rather unwieldy as a pen-and-paper system. Taking it into a CRPG would totally make sense — let the computer deal with all the nitty-gritty details…

  • Whiner said,

    I always wanted to be able to work on / play a Torment style PC RPG of GURPS Transhuman Space, but that’s about the setting, not the gameplay 🙂 Mostly just because I think transhumanism is cool and a lot of people don’t “get” it, and Torment was good at helping (some) people to “get” the complex Planescape setting…