There are a myriad of different tabletop roleplaying games to choose from on the market, of all genres you could possibly imagine. Many are based upon established intellectual properties, such as “Call of Cthulhu” or “The Dresden Files”, many many, many more use their own, unique settings and lore. But which is better?
As for myself, I could go either way on this debate, really. I started out with roleplaying games that used their own settings and built their own lore (“Dungeons & Dragons”, “Chill”, “Star Frontiers”, etc), but have also played many that are based upon established properties (“The Dresden Files” being the most recent example I can think of off-hand). Both types of games have their positive points, as well as negatives, but in the end live or die more on the systems they are built upon, than on their settings.
For example, I once tried “Middle-Earth Roleplaying” the RPG based upon JRR Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” by Iron Crown Enterprises. While it had some good points, mostly the lore, the game itself was far too convoluted to enjoy long-term, and so we set it aside in short order. But the same can be said for “Talislanta”, a very unique roleplaying game based upon its own lore, that was also far too convoluted for my group to embrace. In both of these cases, it was the settings that made the games, and it was their systems that ruined them. The same can be said for the old “Star Trek” game from FASA, “James Bond 007: Roleplaying in Her Majesty’s Secret Service”, and so on.
In the end, system always trumps setting. Period.
You can have a great game like “Dungeons & Dragons”, which is built upon generic settings, but has always featured excellent rulesets, and see it thrive for decades. Or you can see the “A Song of Ice and Fire” RPG struggle, despite being based upon the books which gave us the popular “Game of Thrones” series on HBO, because of its weak system. I can only think of a few games I would play solely for their settings, and even then, if they didn’t have systems that were at least tolerable, they would be set aside eventually for a better game.
But this is just my opinion. Do you have anything to say on the subject? Feel free to sound off in the Comments, below.