OngoingWorlds blog

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

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Knowing Which Genre To Pick

Different genres, star trek, star wars, harry potter etc

Experience has proven that there is no cut and dry formula for success. There is no genre that one can pick to have instant, guaranteed success, as there are no guarantees at all in roleplaying games. But we do know that certain genres do and don’t lend themselves well to roleplay, and that others may never be as popular.

But in all cases, the definition of “success” has to be tempered with the correct kind of expectations. Big games make it look easy, and perhaps we begin to expect having nine-hundred players on our opening day. This is not realistic. The lower expectations you have for your game, the more pleasantly surprised and appreciative you’ll be when new players join in. And having three players can be a great success instead of a pitiful failure in the shadow of nine-hundred.

Fad Genres

Doing a fad genre – that is, something that’s new, upcoming and popular – has its advantages, like the same kind of popularity. Sometimes, perhaps even instant success. However, like all fads, it’s unlikely your crowd will stick around. Once the next thing comes around, they’ll all flock to it, leaving you in the dust. They might not even last that long, and take flight once the novelty wears off. It takes a lot of know-how and experience to survive as a fad genre.

Overpopulated Genres

Because of supply and demand, it can be extremely hard to do well in a genre that’s overpopulated. For example, if there are twenty Harry Potter roleplays going right now, chances are that you opening one more means quite the struggle. The roleplaying realm only has so many players, and they can only be stretched thinly so far. It’s a bit of a gamble to open a roleplay in a time of over-population. There’s the small chance that you’ve done things differently and rightly enough that you gain momentum. And there’s the much larger chance that you didn’t, and/or players are too happy where they’re at now.

Overpopulated genres have an interesting effect- the genre itself can become everlasting. Instead of it disappearing when the last one dies, players go on to create another for themselves. It’s a sort of feedback loop that makes the genre an immortal one on the roleplaying platform.

Overly Vast Genres

There are certain genres that seem to require many players in order for the game to be played “correctly”. But any game that requires so many players before it can be played is doomed to inevitable failure. Instead, find a better way.

Certain genres are set in their original cannon books and lore as vast, vast worlds. Full of starships and commanding officers and all their many kingdoms. This is often a pitfall for roleplayers trying to emulate the style, as there are only so many players, and the bigger the world, the more scattered apart those players are, and the harder it is to tie in others. Instead, consider confining your size down to a city. A town. Something small enough that encounters with another player don’t have to be painfully elaborate coincidences.

Lore-Heavy Genres

Genres that have much lore in them are usually ones that don’t do well in roleplays because a player who hasn’t seen the show or books or material can’t exactly jump right in. Many sites claim that players can, but in the majority of cases, the many, many tiny nuances that aren’t in the overly-extensive documentation are too frustrating to constantly be corrected by. So lore-heavy sites are usually confined to players who have read/seen the original source material. If the genre itself is obscure, then, well….

Obscure Genres

Obscure genres have a hard time because so few players have read them. If the genre can be summed up as something more popular, then it might be better to play that up and play down the cannon source material. Otherwise, there isn’t much one can do except lower their expectations.

Original Genres

Original genres are perhaps the most populated genre on Ongoing Worlds. However, because they often require a bit of reading, they often are slow and sparsely populated. New players want to be able to get started quickly, and it can be frustrating with poorly made joining information or documentation that only exists inside the admin’s head that players are expected to conform to. Success as an original genre relies on careful, streamlined, and very concise joining information.

This article was written by Xexes from RPG-D, who was a judge for last year’s Flashback week competition. 

  • Tiberius Creations

    I love this post. Thank you Xexes. I love going over the major genres and trends of OW. I’ve been noticing patterns and trends that I hopefully might turn into a blog post soon.

  • Very helpful. As it so happens, I was thinking about starting another game…

    • Oooh, what genre?

      • A kinda strange thing, a big fat fanfic crossover. Something like an explosion of paths leading to different worlds, i.e. a path to Hogwarts, another to Panem, another to the JMC headquarters (naturally ;)) et cetera.

        • That does sound very fun! Although it probably only has limited appeal. All players would have to be familiar with all those games, which isn’t many people!
          How about you create a game with a different genre which is easy for people to pick up?

          • Because that would be too simple! 😉 But no, I just can’t seem to find a very enjoyable game to join just now. Everything seems to die when I join (with the exception of BD, but you know…)

          • Well what’s your favourite genre? Maybe pick one that’s not too obscure or lore-hevy (as Xexes explains above!) & start a new one perhaps?
            Or get stuck into one of the games already running.

          • Mm. Just don’t know what kind of thing I’d find fun.

          • Guest

            Understandable but your heart isn’t in it your just setting your self up.

          • Jaxx

            Understandable but if your heart isn’t in it your odds of success are low. It helps if you can visualize your RPG world in your mind and see how others can be a part of it. In a sense its similar to World of War Craft since people can just jump in at different times. Whether you make an original RPG or a spin off just make sure you have something different in the storyline to offer the members. A unique story line can allow Ongoing Worlds to have 12 different Star Trek RPGs running at the same time with little conflict.

          • If you’re heart’s not in it, of course it’ll fail. Xexes covered this in this article: http://www.ongoingworlds.com/blog/2014/04/roleplay-games-that-cant-ever-succeed/
            Variety is good. If the world/universe is large enough, there’ll be room for loads of different stories to be told

  • Andy Locke

    there seems to be a level of dissonance here between genres (sci-fi, horror, romance, etc.) and fictional universes (star trek, harry potter, marvel comics, cthulhu, etc.)

    as Xexes notes, there are lots of games with original settings here on Ongoing Worlds but I don’t believe that their success should be measured by their head count – all you need are two or three good writers who enjoy and are committed to the story and you can reasonably call any game a success

    • Amy

      Exactly my thoughts. BD has dipped and swelled in numbers over the years sometimes with only 4-5 active people, we keep going! 🙂

  • Daenelia

    Surely people start roleplay settings that they want to write in, rather than follow a ‘trend’ they have no feeling for? Arent you supposed to start something you want to write about?

    • Andy Locke

      completely agree

      furthermore even if you do choose to base a game on a popular fictional setting, your game will inevitably deviate from canon as you and your players explore new ideas and situations; so while Blue Dwarf, for example, is nominally set in the Red Dwarf universe, after all these years the game bears little resemblance to the TV series

      • But what’s also great about that is that basing it on a TV series (and an excellent one at that) is that it will attract the coolest of people 🙂

        • Andy Locke

          oh stop – you’ll make me blush ;-P