Thursday, May 13, 2010

Twilight RPG? Sure, why not.

I was talking with some friends online and couple of topics came up that were not-quite but sorta-related.  The first was the rash of vampire fiction and the "changes" happening to it.  Namely that vampires are no longer terrible monsters but super powerful, but dangerous, boyfriends.  They do things now like fall in love with women several decades their younger or move about in sunlight.

To this I simply say.

When was this new?  Cause I seem to recall reading similar things in "Interview with a Vampire" and "Dracula".

We are in the midst of another "Vampire Craze" that seems to pop up every so often.  The last one was of course Anne Rice, Lost Boys and Vampire the Masquerade.  Now it is Twilight, The Vampire Diaries and even True Blood.   I am going to focus on Twilight a bit since it is the most contentious of the lot.
Honestly, I have no big issue with Twilight's vampires (except they are not really vampires are they) or even the fact that a 100+ year old is in love with a High School Girl.  I tend to believe that if a person becomes a vampire that regardless of the chronological age their body is stuck at a certain physical age and mental age.  They might learn more, but in a sense their mentality is stuck, frozen in time.  My biggest issue with the books is the vapid empty dialog,  Mary-Sue characters, and thinly veiled personal sermons.  But I will grant this.  The success of those books has lead to an entire publishing craze of "Modern Supernatural Romance" or "Chick Lit" that has been a huge success in their own right.
Laurel K. Hamilton may have been one of the first, but it took Stephenie Meyer and her "Sparkly Vampires" to make it cross-over.

Which leads me to my next thought.
Should there be a Twilight RPG?

There are a lot of compelling reasons to do so.
Let's start with the obvious, Twilight sold nearly 30 million books in 2008 and 27M in 2009.  There have been two movies of her books, which have made close to $1.2 Billion (that's a "B").   That's a lot of money.  A licensed RPG would be make money if only for the Twilight fans wanting more of this world.

Other obvious reasons.
There is the werwolf/vampire back-story that, and lets be honest here, seems totally cribbed from White Wolf, but it is more of a turf war ala "West Side Story" than the bloody wars of "Underworld".  Though now the mental image of vampires and werewolves singing while fighting is certain to haunt me for days.  But it does make for a good game.

Lets talk marketing.  Who loves "Twilight" besides Kelly Clarkson and President Obama? Pre-teen and teenage girls.
What market have RPGs not done particularly well in?  Yeah.
"Twilight the RPG" could be the gateway drug to RPGs for this market.  Look, this is 2010, we have dropped the stereotypes.  We know girls like and play RPGs. Maybe we have White Wolf to thank for that as well. But we also know that it is still a very territory for marketing.  AND I should point out it is not just young girls and women.  It is "older" women (and by that I mean older than the protagonist Bella, so 20+) that buy and enjoy these books.  What do we know about women in the marketplace?  Well how about this (from Neilsen Media) Women make the buying choices in the family, women have more money now than they ever did, and while men are being laid off at double-digit rates, women are keeping their jobs.

And the game companies know all of this.

We have products out now that are specifically try to appeal to young girls.  Games like Bella Sara are a perfect example of this.

A Twilight game would need to focus on the things that made the books so popular.  Interpersonal relationships, destiny, fated-loves and so on.  As a game it would need to have mechanics that were simple so they do what they need to do and then get out of the way (for the newbie gamers) and powerful enough to keep the narrative flowing (for the more experienced ones).  Blue Rose I think tried to do this to some degree, and I think design-wise they mostly got it right.  It does all the things I mentioned above, but I think ultimately Blue Rose was hampered more by what people thought it was rather than what it really was.
By putting the Twilight label on the game you eliminate that and everyone knows what you are getting up front.  Plus we all know I am convinced that Blue Rose would be fantastic as a horror game.
Combat would be minimal, but it would still occur.  Afterall these vampires and werewolves have to attack something sometime.

Of course I could see this using White Wolf's World of Darkness games too or even Cinematic Unisystem.  Though in both cases somethings might need to be tweaked or redesigned.

The downsides though are numerous as well.  Gamers, it seems to person, hate Twilight.  Or at least I never met one that likes it.  I don't even like it.  The vampires of Twilight are mocked and rightfully so. Gamers would not buy a Twilight RPG unless it had something so mind wracking cool about it that getting it was more of a lure than anything else.
So lets pretend for a second there is a Twilight game out there and people pick it up for whatever their personal reasons are.  Who is going to play this game? and how?

The trouble with the RPG biz is there is shit all nothing in terms of market research.
Companies rarely know what people wan't and they rarely can provide it when they do know.  There are exceptions of course. Paizo and Green Ronin take a lot of customer feedback for example.  But I bet you that if there was a demand out there for a particular game, no company would know about it in any systematic way.  We rely a lot on word of mouth.  Maybe this is fine, but it is very reaction-based and sometimes companies move too slow to do anything about it.

Twilight the Role-Playing Game is not coming to a FLGS near you anytime soon.  But part of me still wonders that maybe it should.


Tim Knight said...

As always you are ahead of me - my blog tomorrow is actually about Twilight (in a way).

I have to agree with you on your central point - (I've only seen the first film, and not read the book yet, so that's where my opinions are coming from)if the vampires in Twilight were called anything else, it would probably be a half-decent (if mawkish) YA series... but they are simply NOT vampires by any stretch of the imagination.

They may share some traits with the classic definition of vampires, but I expect other supernatural creatures do as well.

Right, I'm going back to watching old Buffy reruns before I plunge into my audiobook of Twilight to see what all the fuss is about!

Anonymous said...

Interesting idea. I think it would be difficult to pull off as Twilight seems to be (from a non-reader's perspective) very much built around a single character, Bella. Not everyone can be Bella . . .

Timothy S. Brannan said...

To bring these tow together, Buffy was very much a "one slayer" deal when we were working on the game and that didn't stop us.
Not everyone can be Buffy either or Angel.

I think the appeal of the game would have to be broad enough to allow a number of different stories and play styles.
But yes, it would be difficult.

Unknown said...

What to say...

As you said, there will not be Twilight RPG anytime soon. Roleplayers hate it (me neither know anyone who likes it) and majority who like Twilight are teenage girls. They might buy the RPG book of Twilight if they are real fans and sleep in Twilight sheets, but will they play it? Rules should be really, really lite for random teenager fangirls to really play.

But do fans need official rules? They draw fanfiction, write fanfiction and even play FARP (Forum Action Role Play) and they don't need expensive books or rules how to do it.

So, Twilight fans do rp (roleplay) in some way even writing their own fanfic or playing Twilight FARP but would they buy a game or actually play it?

I think not. My quess is, that Twilight rpg would drown like Titanic. But that's only my quess.

This was really enjoyable to read! Good post.

Trey said...

While its not a game I'm interested in, I think this is a good idea. The difficulty is much like that of bringing these sorts of fans into comics--how to get them to overcome their prejudices about the hobby not being "for them" in order to get them to pay attention to a Twilight game?

Gaming Ronin said...

Ok I am stealing ..err borrowing that pick to scare the crap out of some friends that play WOD. I got to let them know its fake just before they start burning their whole WOD collection. But it will be funny up to that point.

Corone said...

Absolutly, 100% agreed, especially about marketing a game specifically to women.

I think the rpg world needs a good romance game that isn't just a one evening deal (of which there are a few damn fine examples). We'll have to share notes, but I don't believe any current system can do what is required as the game itself would require a completly different style of role-playing.

Its unlikly any hard core male gamer would play it. However I think there are a lot of Twilight fans who game that would buy it even though they arn't asking for it. There is also the non-gamer market who will buy anything with Robert Pattinson on it. So it might easily become a best selling rpg even with no gamers buying it!

As far as I'm concerned, if it got even just a few more girls into the hobby it would be a job well done.

Timothy S. Brannan said...


Well said. I am not sure I 100% share your optimism that it would sell, but I can't fault your reasons for believing so.

And I am more convinced than ever it would be a crime if we don't get a chance to work on something together. ;)

Timothy S. Brannan said...

Trey: Agreed. If I liked the series at all, I'd gnawing at the bit to get it made. Especially right now when the books are still hot and the movies hotter.
But I am not sure I'd play it much.
I don't play Spy, Pirate or Old West games though either and I get why they are popular.

HANZO: Be my guest. Just a quick little 'shop I did for RPG.Net a while back.

Tim Knight said...

Would it not be a simple mash-up of Doctor Who: Adventures In Time & Space (for a system that emphasises 'non-violent conflict resolution') and Buffy The Vampire Slayer (for a very similar system that does 'vampires' well)?

Both are also reasonably 'entry level' systems as well.

Timothy S. Brannan said...

Tim: Yes. And there are a lot of compatibilities between the two games.

I would choose Who's character creation over Buffy's crunchier version. I would also look to games that make players think out who there characters are instead of buying a bunch of attributes right away. I have seen a lot of Fate-based games like this. Dresden, Now Showing, the Unexplained are all in this field but spend more time on character development than say Buffy and Ghosts.

Rhonin84 said...

In a word if the Twilight RPG hit the shelves today I would laugh with hysteria and try to figure out WHY Cubicle 7 put it out...

Tim Knight said...

Why? To make pot loads of cash, of course. It would be a license to print money in this current Twilight saturated market.

Tim - yes, I don't really know the FATE games, but as I understand their collaborative character creation process that might be the process for developing characters with 'built-in' relationships and connections.

Timothy S. Brannan said...

That's the balance. Make a game that appeals to the fans and to gamers alike. Not an easy task to be sure.

Tourq said...

If they put out a Twilight RPG, I'd look into it. I think (romance aside) there could be some good story opportunities there (then again, I'm a fan of modern horror).

On the side, I thought I was the only one who saw "West Side Story."

P.S. - Don't tell anyone that I've read all the Twilight books (even the non-printed 5th book), seen both movies, and am waiting with my wife to see the third.

God I hate me.


Ronnie_ASA said...

It does surprise me that there has yet to be a Twilight RPG given that almost every conceivable series has been given an RPG licence. The only two that I think have not, as yet, been given a licence are Harry Potter (and I dont see that happening at all) and True Blood (which I think must be inevitable).

You bring up a lot of good reasons WHY a twilight game has yet to make an appearance and yes I am amongst the myriad of gamers who finds the series reprehensibly bad. But then again, as much as I love Leverage I never thought they could make a game out of that and yet, its out there.

If marketed right, a Twilight RPG could get young girls, usually the last to consider buying an RPG, to purchase that one. It certainly has a world view and mythology, of sorts, that one could use to set games in. I think the only problem is if the game provokes the same rabid response from the fans that the books did, you'd have twilight gamers claiming that it was the best RPG ever and anyone who disagreed were committing heresy. I'm not sure such rabid excess is what our hobby needs right now.

I for one am looking forward to an official True Blood release, although using any number of generic games or any decent horror game like the World Of darkness or Kult, one could cobble together a system for playing in the True Blood world (I'm looking at doing this with Kult at the moment), but I think an official game is only a matter of time.

Twilight may happen, and probably in a true20 style format, but to be honest I'm not sure how it would work in practice.