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Licensed RPGs with the Serial Numbers Filed Off

February 5th, 2014 | Posted by DMSamuel in Podcast Episode

Sorry for the delay in getting this episode to you – we have switched to a new recording program and it opened up new editing issues that took more time than expected. I apologize for the delay – we will be back on our 2 week release schedule from now on.

Welcome to the 24th episode of the Play On Target podcast (PLOT for short). This episode features a discussion about games that are intended to evoke the feel of a specific licensed setting/world/ruleset but is produced by a company that does not have the rights to use the terms and names associated with that setting/world/ruleset. We discuss why game companies would do such a thing – that is… we talk about the pros and cons of releasing a product that is obviously a licensed property with the numbers files off. We also mention several systems and discuss which ones accomplish their goals and which ones fail miserably. We hope you enjoy listening to the discussion. Did we get anything wrong? Let us know in the comments or start a discussion on RPG Geek.

As a bonus, here are the rules to the Official PLOT Drinking Game:

Drink any time one of the following 4 events happen:
1) Lowell mentions a supers game
2) Brain mentions either Amber Diceless or Lords of Gossamer & Shadow
3) Andrew mentions Star Wars
4) Sam mentions D&D

Links to things mentioned in this episode:
You can contact us at Hosts@PlayOnTarget.com or you can send us a private geekmail on the RPGGeek website; our usernames are lorddillon (Sam), Vaklam (Brian), edige23 (Lowell), and MasterGeek (Andrew). You can also follow us on Twitter @PlayOnTarget

The music played at the beginning and end of the podcast is Dance of Fire – Bolero in A minor by Sinfonia Electronique. You can find more great music on the podsafe music network at music.mevio.com. The d20 logo is by the awesome Joe Kundlak, a.k.a. joeyeti on RPG Geek.

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17 Responses

  • Thanks for the shout out, and thanks for stating that we went beyond filing the serial numbers off.

    • Above and beyond! The setting is familiar to those of us who are familiar with Amber while being different enough to open up a whole new set of story ideas. Leaving the reasons that different people can access Doors a mystery makes for a completely different feel.

      Also, I like that the travel power is separate from the big World Changing Powers.

  • Ahhh, now having listened to this episode, it is not exactly about what I thought it would be about.

    I anticipated this episode covering unofficial licensed games. That is to say, homebrewed games that cover known IPs. Since there is no Harry Potter RPG, someone made a Harry Potter RPG or something of that nature.

    With rare exception, I don’t usually care for games of this nature. I love InSpectres for example, but what I use it for is Ghostbusters. I ran a Ghostbusters RPG by mixing InSpectres and the old GB game. I heavily dislike Prime Directive. I am a Star Trek fan and cheap copy Star Trek is not that interesting to me.

    In my mind, I guess it comes down to, “Why would I run something just like Star Trek with the numbers filed off when I could leave the numbers alone and play Star Trek?”

  • Sound quality was odd on this episode. Anyone else experience that?

    • DMSamuel says:

      Yes – I noted in the show notes that we switched to a different recording system and it caused some problems. There was a weird lag toward the end and a choppy bit in the beginning. The new audio issues were also the reason for the delay in release for this episode.

      Hopefully we won’t have much in the way of audio issues going forward.

  • The author of Mobile Suit Gundam was heavily inspired by the Starship Troopers novel.

  • Tom says:

    Delta Green predated The X-Files by a matter of months, in an interesting case of parallel development. I guess it was the zeitgeist of the times.

    • DMSamuel says:

      Oh – interesting! I did not know that – thanks for the info!

      • I didn’t know that either. That’s really cool.

        On a related note, Charles Stross who wrote the Laundry Files series had never heard of Delta Green until after he published the first book or two. This despite the fact that Stross is an old-school gamer (he created the Githyanki) and that the Laundry series is quite similar to Delta Green.

        • Emery Calame says:

          Stross borrowed the name Githyanki from a George RR Martin novel “Dying of the Light”. The Mind Flayer Githyanki war has been linked by some people (unconvincingly I’d say) to Larry Niven’s idea of Thrintun Slavers using their telepathic domination abilities to oppress their far more intelligent but viciously predatory slaves the Tnuctipun to the point of a rebellion that cost both their civilization. Stross agreed with the observation though,

          Delta Green always reminded me a lot of Brian Lumley’s Necroscope stuff from the mid 80’s which was sort of about a more obscure branch of MI5 “E Branch” recruiting various psychics to counter the soviets doing the same, and then discovering the existence of Vampires and other horrors along with learning to talk to ghosts.This followed Lumley writing an almost “Dr. Who” like take on the Cthulhu mythos with an oddball pulpy professor (Titus Crow) who liked to travel the cosmos punching the great old ones in the face with their own knuckles. He borrowed a bit from the tradition of August Derleth’s Laban Shrewsbury character who rode around on Bhyakee and asked Hastur for help in screwing with the Cthulhu cult. But Crow was more affable and fallible.

          The difference is that Derleth had a learned professor of the occult and his young assistant companion, Lumley did that in his own way, and later turned it into more of a spy story, which turned into a horror adventure series about a parallel world linked to ours where the vampires came from.

          I think Delta Green took the E Branch idea, and worked it back over to Cthulhu again, only they decided to throw a bit of Tom Clancy (Seal Team 6.66 if you will) and perhaps the X-Com video game into the mix.

    • edige23 says:

      Good point- I’d say tnat’s technically correct if we date Delta Green to the original proto-concept presented in The Unspeakable Oath. DG first appears IIRC in TUO Volume 2, Number 3, Fall 1992- as a flesh out for the Convergence scenario. I remember running that several times with the downloaded sound files. On the other hand, we could also date DG as a fully-fleshed concept and supplement to 1996 when the actual sourcebook came out. I think there’s an argument to be made that the X-Files atmosphere had some impact on that final version and on players’ hunger for it. But yes, the core idea comes out in parallel at the start.

  • Jeremy says:

    Given that they both came out in 1990, I honestly cannot tell if Torg ripped off Rifts or Rifts ripped off Torg. But I refuse to believe that two different apocalypse/multiverse games with hot mess rules, 50 worldbooks, and fanTASTIC cover art (http://bit.ly/1j86oyc, http://bit.ly/1dHAMOR/) both just happened to come out at the same time.

    Oh and while I cannot remember any specific names, there were a *ton* of dimensional/possibility traveler games around about the time “Sliders” was popular.



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