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TV series & films that would make great PBEM games

There are many PBEM games around, many set in their own fantasy worlds where the GM has done their own worldbuilding to create a world for their game, but there are many films and TV series which have already done the worldbuilding for you and provide a great setting for your PBEM game.

Star Wars

Star WarsGeorge Lucas has created a diverse fantasy world with spaceships and limitless types of aliens. It is popularly extended through many films, books and games. Creating a new scenario within this world would be easy, and because if it’s popularity you will have a large audience who are already familiar with the world.

Settings for this game could be a planet, a spaceship, or a group of people travelling the galaxy. There are also multiple time frames you can choose from when creating your game.

Star Trek

Starship EnterpriseThis is a rich science fiction universe described in all of the Star Trek series’. Each spinoff series has focussed on exploration so there are many locations already described, and it is not too hard to invent many more for new adventures.

The classic way to create a Star Trek PBEM is to think up a name for your ship, set up a goal (usually exploration of new alien worlds) and populate your ship with members as your crew. Because of Star Trek’s popularity, you will have a large audience already familiar with the world and technology within.

The TV series’ episodic format can be easily converted into a PBEM format – discover a planet, perform a mission, then leave to planet and go onto the next adventure. It can be tough for a GM to keep coming up with new worldbuilding ideas for new planets however.

Stargate

StargateA rich universe explained in Stargate SG-1 and spinoffs. Stargate is set in our timeline which can make all characters easy to relate to. There are many locations you could set your PBEM in, but the classic format is a team going on missions through the Stargate.

The TV series’ episodic format can be easily converted into a PBEM format. Go through the Stargate, perform a mission, and make it back through the Stargate. The diversity of the universe would allow for much more creative ideas however.

Firefly

Firefly SerenityThis science fiction world is lo-tech and quite homely. The solar system where Firefly is set has many moons which aren’t named in the series or film, it would be easy to invent your own. Common themes are Western Cowboys and Chinese traditional, blend these in as flavours for a realistic Firefly experience.

The classic way to create a Firefly PBEM is to think up a name for your ship, find members to take the place of your crew, and invent missions where you visit one of the many planets and complete a “job” to get money. This could involve simple trading, or smuggling.

Lord of the Rings

Lord of the RingsA fantasy setting already popular with fans. The world has been described in great detail, no no new worldbuilding is necessary. The problem with this however is that it makes it hard to extend. Another problem is that in the books, the world goes through a constant change, so it has to be agreed by the GM which time period your PBEM game will be set.

Ghostbusters

Ghostbusters logoNot an obvious choice for a PBEM game. The world is the same as ours, but with ghosts as a serious pest problem. A typical PBEM would be set about a ghost busting team in any city of the world, and missions would be to find and catch a ghost which is causing a disturbance. A simple concept which could be used for some good character building.

X-Files

X-FilesThis series was about two members of the FBI who investigated paranormal activity, if you ignore the complicated government conspiracy storyline in later series, there were many great stand-alone episodes.

A typical PBEM set in the X-Files universe would involve a branch of investigators (not necessarily FBI) based in any city of the world, who investigate paranormal activity. A typical mission would be to solve a mystery and close the case.

This PBEM would be best with few members rather than many.

ER

The cast of ERThis hospital drama could be easily converted into a PBEM game using different characters. Set your PBEM in any hospital in the world and invite members to be doctors and nurses, who have to go through the dramas of bringing in patients, healing them, or going through the anguish of loosing them.

A Town called Eureka

A town called EurekaThis series has great potential for a PBEM game. The town of Eureka has many scientists who like to invent crazy technology which often threatens the lives of everyone else in the town. A typical Eureka PBEM would recreate the town of Eureka and allow the members to control characters who are either scientists working in Global Dynamics (the largest employer in the town), or scientists working at home on their own projects, or a deputy in the police force to keep everyone from destroying the world every adventure.

A typical mission would be that a piece of technology has malfunctioned and everyone is affected and needs to help fix it.

Jurassic Park

Jurassic Park logoThe Jurassic Park world is very much like ours but where dinosaurs have come back from extinction. In the films and books, the dinosaurs are restricted to a few islands in the Pacific ocean, but in your PBEM you could explain that they have escaped into other countries and have a team of characters who have to catch the dangerous dinosaurs.

Or maybe your group of characters have been sent to the islands to study and catalogue the different species of dinosaur, a typical mission would be to track a specific type of dinosaur and capture it with or without trouble happening.

  • I would like to see a game based on NCIS (or NCIS Los Angeles, even though I prefer the original). The TV show mixes action with character development in a way that makes me think it would be great as a PBEM game.

    Its cousin, CSI, may also work but if you want to be true to the show the possibility for action may be slightly smaller. NCIS can, as we have seen on TV, travel wherever the navy goes.

    I really like how these shows takes place in our time and our world, it is a nice break from the popular more popular worlds such as Star Trek/Star Wars and the like.

    A third option, to add extra spice, would be to combine NCIS/CSI with those mentioned in the article. Could be fun, could be disaster.

  • Hi Janus, I haven’t seen the show but have heard about it. I’ve done some digging to what the show’s about and it seems that it’s about a team of people investigating a crime after it’s happened. This would be very challenging to convert to a PBEM game because the team would always have to investigate a crime that the GM has explained. The GM would have to do a lot of groundwork before the plot is started, and plan out the crime and how it was committed so that the members of your PBEM can investigate and discover more as it goes along.

    All plots would have to be strictly controlled, and posts would probably have to be monitored closely by the GM because a member might post that they’ve made a breakthrough in the investigation which differs from the GM’s original idea.

    I’m not saying it’s not possible but this would be a very challenging PBEM to run. Obviously this can also mean it can be very rewarding.

    Thanks for commenting!

    • I don’t think it would be that much more difficult, it all depends on how the game is run. I’ve seen games ranging from the most strict types where the player asks the GM for results in the post – to the opposite free-for-all games where there really isn’t a GM at all, more of a general understanding of who should introduce major things into the plot. (That sounds like something I can write an article about! wohoo)

      In a game where the GM takes on the more traditional role from regular role playing games, it wouldn’t be that hard. The GM can give the players a list of evidence they recover from the crime scene, they can post about it and draw conclusions from that. Sure, it doesn’t work with just any group of players, but for a mature group with good communication skills I think it would be cool!

      I suppose I would take the opposite route though, throw in a crime into the story and see what happens! As long as we are all having fun… right?!

  • You’re absolutely right it’s all about having fun! I haven’t had that much experience with the tightly run games where the GM is drip-feeding the content, but I definitely respect a GM who can keep that much control over their group! I’ve run games with a tight storyline successfully, but sometimes I admit they have resulted in chaos! Which is why I know how much hard work is involved, and how disappointing it can be if suddenly a member throws a spanner in your works!

    It would be great to see some more articles from you Janus (also I hope to see you start up a NCIS PBEM game on OngoingWorlds when it goes live!)

  • What about Hitch-hikers guide? I think that whole universe of anything and everything would be great fun to write about! Of course it would take some careful decisions on whether or not to use existing characters, or go for a story based in the universe, but in a different time or place.

    • That’s a very good point and one which I should have either added to this list or the list of British TV series that would make great play-by-post games.
      What’s great about the Hitchhikers universe is that it’s absolute lunacy! You could write anything and get away with it. Also it is very flexible, the characters could be based on a spaceship, or just just an actual group of hitchiking bums.
      There is a problem though, if you read the last book/listen to the last radio play, then the universe changes completely, doesn’t what we know of the universe also turn out to be inside the mind of Zaphod Beeblebrox?

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