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What could modern-era role-playing games be about, and would you play them?

ExileInParadise

RPG Therapist
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Looking at my bookshelf, I realized that most of my games are sci-fi, then fantasy games ... and that I had to look VERY hard to see anything I'd call a "modern era" RPG ... and I wondered why.

What would modern era RPGs be about?

When I thought about it - all that came to mind was D20 Modern (urban paranormal), Spycraft (and all spy games), and Mutants and Masterminds (and all superhero games which always seemed more like sci-fi to me).

Surely there's more, right?

I went digging on IMDB for a list of modern era TV series which could be used for inspiration of many "episodes" worth of actions, encounters, adventures, or campaigns in a modern era RPG setting and story.

Here's what I found ... and I wonder ... would you play any of these as an RPG? If so... which?

The four "meta-categories" seemed to be centered on Family, Professions, Criminals, or the Paranormal (the normal world meets something weird)

Family: Dallas, Bob Newhart, Mary Tyler Moore, All In The Family, Seinfeld, Friends, etc etc - the biggest category

Specific Jobs: Bartending (Cheers), Teaching (Community), Coaching (The Coach), Firefighters (Rescue Me), Undertakers (Six Feet Under), Taxi Drivers (Taxi)

Politicians: Veep, Parks & Recreation, West Wing, Spin City

Private Detectives: Veronica Mars, Rockford Files, Magnum P.I., Murder She Wrote, Moonlighting, Monk, Bones

Media: 30 Rock, Larry Sanders, Murphy Brown, Madmen

Medical: Greys Anatomy, Nurse Jackie, MASH, ER, St. Elsewhere, Chicago Hope, House, Northern Exposure, China Beach, Scrubs

Office/Corporate: Silicon Valley, The Office, Mr. Robot

Legal: How to Get Away with Murder, The Practice, LA Law, The Good Wife, Ally McBeal, Damages

Law Enforcement: Homeland, 24, Law & Order, Hill St. Blues, Miami Vice, NYPD Blue, Barney Miller, Cagney & Lacey, Homicied, Kojak, The Closer, Picket Fences, NCIS, CSI: Whatever

Criminals: The Sopranos, The Wire, Breaking Bad, Dexter, Boardwalk Empire, The Shield, Weeds

Spies: The Americans, Alias

Paranormal: The X-Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Lost, 3rd Rock from the Sun
 
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JochenL

CL Byte Sprite
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Speaking films/serials, I would play: Supernatural, Stargate, Indiana Jones, James Bond, Lucy, Army of Darkness, Nephelim?, Etc.

So this is in effect Modern + Fantasy or Modern + Sci-fi or Spies/Action.
 

Stephan Hornick

Community Goblin & Master of the Archive
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Interesting question. I would probably be resistant to play anything too mundane. For me, one part of the fun is to escape the everday life.

YES
Private Detectives | Seems interesting as I am an (Bartle Test) Explorer foremost and like investigation & roleplaying.
Criminals & Law Enforcement | Likewise, I would probably play this. It sounds like investigation, roleplaying and action.
Supernatural | Anything combined with fantasy is ok for me. Although I don't like a world of supernaturals (as it can become just too much for me), I like a mundane world with some supernatural elements or even a world of supernaturals where everybody is limited to one specific power. In addition, vampires, werewolves, fey, mages, etc. etc. in the modern world are also nice for me.
Paranormal | Again, as it probably includes fantasy and investigation, puzzles that is, I would play paranormal roleplaying games.

NO
Family | I would not play anything in the "Family" category for above reason. There is no thrill at all for me. And I really don't like 99% of the slapstick or comedy series.
Legal, Media, Medical, Corporate | Although I am interested in law etc. in general, anything too specialist and I feel that it is rather learning the trade than do interesting fun stuff. If you instead combine it with fantasy or investigation (murder etc.), I am up for it.
Spies | This is too political for me, too slow in action.
Political | Again, too political.
 

Gedece

Active member
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Gold WoA
Wizard of Story
You have variations on a theme, also. For example, Monster of the week is great, as it can be played Buffy or Grimm style if anybody picks The Chosen playbook, but if nobody picks it up, you can have a roaming band of monster hunters that feels quite different.

Also in the paranormal genre you have Monsterhearts, when you are a high schooler member of a paranormal clan, but the center isn't on hunting, it's on pretending and DRAMA, lots and lots of Interpersonal drama, cliques, love triangles.

You could go another route and play World Wide Wrestling, which is about wrestling, finisher moves and keeping the ratings of the show up.

You could also try Cartel, where you are all members of a drug dealing cartel full of treacherous persons. If you ever played Fiasco, it doesn't feel the same, but stories usually end as badly.

There is also the mexican game Nahual, about playing spirit oriented witches or half breeds with the power of shifting into animal like combat forms.

There's Masks, where you play superhero teenagers, where being teenager is just as problematic as being a hero as everybody seems to know what's best for you.
 

knoppi

Well-known member
Gold WoA
Wizard of Story
Borderland Explorer
From your list, I would surely play the Criminals section. I like the spies section but don't see a tabletop rpg there or maybe something sneaky?

Paranormal depends. We're playing a lot of Cthulhu in our current era, so this is definitely a yes, but I dislike vampires.

I'm missing the very specific criminals' category of heists. Technically something like A-Team could also fit in there. This is something I really enjoy to play or rather to dm. Typically, I find it not well-suited for campaigns. You have to improvise a lot. Rules with flashbacks help a lot.

We sometimes play a storytelling game (no RPG in the strict sense) called "Dialect". It has some nice scenarios for modern rea playing.
 

ExileInParadise

RPG Therapist
Staff member
Platinum WoA
Gold WoA
Wizard of Story
My list was modern era TV series that IMDB had in some ranked list.

Spies or Criminals would definitely include things like Airwolf, A-Team, or Burn Notice, for example.

For Spies tabletop games, I would reach for Top Secret/Top Secret S.I. or D20 Spycraft.

I just got a new one called No Day To Die which is all about James Bond-style spies vs. supervillains.

Many of the super-heroes tabletop games would work too, if you cut back on the "superpowers"

And on a final note - yeah, I am not a huge vampires fan after how weirdly they've been "romanticized" the past couple of decades.

I do have the old Leading Edge Games "Dracula" RPG which all about vampire hunter investigations to stake as many vampires as you can ...
 
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