OngoingWorlds blog

News & articles about play-by-post games, for roleplayers & writers


Roleplaying Focus – What’s Your Genre?

Leon Archer

Leon Archer, GM of Spellbound

Hello, and welcome to another Roleplaying Focus.

Today, I’d like to talk about various genres people play in their games, and why they play that particular genre. For this I’m going to need a some of the OngoingWorlds players to join in!

Leon Archer, GM of Spellbound
Spellbound is a high fantasy game involving students at the mage academy of Aetherion.

I’ll shamelessly start with my own game in OngoingWorlds, Spellbound. It’s a game with magic, mages, ethereal creatures. castles, and dragons. I like to split fantasy into two sub-genres into itself, just because fantasy involves such a wide variety of themes. For me, there’s high and low fantasy. High fantasy, such as Spellbound is all about being as far away from the norm as you can. It’s allows players to be completely creative at time, which is why I love it so personally. The tricky part is generally to avoid clichés or becoming so powerful and nothing is ever going to threaten that character. Although, through experience I have certainly have developed ways of doing so, heh heh. For me, I’ve found that because of sheer scope of a high fantasy game, it allows players a much easier time in accessing a roleplay without having to worry so much about the constraints of the world their character is in, or fitting his character perfectly with the lore. It’s a much more flexible genre.

Andy Jones, GM of HMS Sovereign
HMS Sovereign is sci-fi in a bespoke realistic-ish universe

SMAndySciFi is a genre that has been around for as long as I can remember in any format.  Imagination is what powers this.  People used to think we’d have a moon colony by now, as with Space 1999. There’s nothing tying you down apart from your imagination.  As with my game, I designed my own Faster Than Light (FTL) travel system based on actual theoretical physics, and experiments from 50 odd years ago.  You can run it this way, or completely make it up, like the Warp Core in Star Trek, or Hyperdrives in Star Wars.

Don’t over-describe things.  If you put too much detail into your science or fantasy, it puts people off.  No one will want to step on your toes about that high-tech artefact that you discovered 3 weeks ago in case they mess up your plans.  Plan flexible.  Someone will write something you didn’t expect, don’t try and railroad people back to where you want it to be – run with what’s given to you, and you’re soon to find a way you can slot your generic idea back into the game.  So they go the wrong way… Stick a planet in the way that has a special teleport system that takes them to the planet you originally wanted to go to, if it has to be in a specific place… It’s all good.

Charles Star, a player from Independence fleet
A Star Trek themed group.

Charles StarMost of the internet role playing I’ve done over the years has been within the Star Trek universe.  And that’s for two simple reasons: Firstly, It’s where I was originally invited, and two, it’s what I know and enjoy the best.  So while Trek is the best fit for me, it might not be the best for others.  You really have to try different games and figure what you like the most. I think SciFi, and specifically Star Trek, really lends itself well to online role playing and that’s why I’m still doing it over 12 years later.  The blend of the fixed through established cannon and the unfixed through the natural episodic nature of Trek (different planet, alien, or ship each week) make it an easy genre to really get into.  Essentially, you have a specific medium, with a broad fan base, that’s easy to understand while at the same time leaving it open for endless possibilities in the story.

I would say don’t focus too much on canon.  In my experience, forcing the story in too canonical a direction can limit creativity, but I’ve rarely seen a sim get so far away from cannon that it got out of control.  SciFi is all about pushing boundaries so we can better understand ourselves.

Tell us about the genres of your game in the comments below!