So this week on social media, we at Elf Lair have been doing a series of "But How Do I...?" posts regarding some popular settings, things to which we don't have a license and cannot provide official rules, but for which most of what you need is already there.
The question, then, remains, "how do I take those encyclopedias of text and flavor, and use them with the O.G.R.E.S. rules?"
It's deceptively simple, and it all starts with the basics. Let's break down how you can turn the flavor text and setting material in your favorite video game, novel, television series, or movie into a swords and sorcery, high fantasy, urban fantasy, or gritty horror game using the Night Shift: Veterans of the Supernatural Wars or Wasted Lands: The Dreaming Age Rules.
Start with the BasicsStarting with the basics means looking at what you've got in front of you. For the most part, you'll need very little new to use your favorite settings. A warrior character, for example, converts pretty straightforwardly to a warrior in Wasted Lands or a Veteran in Night Shift: VSW. You should find that most of the character types you need are covered between the two core games and the Night Companion. For now, science fiction settings may prove a bit of a challenge, but stay tuned because Thirteen Parsecs is coming next year!
Don't Re-Invent the Wheel
I've said this before, and it always holds true: don't re-invent the wheel when you don't have to. People tend to think that to convert or adapt systems and settings you absolutely have to tinker and create subsystems upon subsystems. Not only is this rarely necessary, often it interferes with the playability of the overall game, just to cover some detail that should probably have remained flavor-based to begin with.
Look at the Inventor rules in Night Shift: VSW, for example. I used spells to represent the effects of gadgets. Why? Because spells already cover just about every effect I can think of around which to create a gadget. Need a scanner? Use the "Detect" spells. Need a ray gun? There are countless spells that do that. Need a grenade? Fireball! There was literally no need to build an effects-based system to create gadgets or powers. It's already there, and best of all...it works as it sits. Always keep it simple, and never re-invent the wheel if it's not necessary.
You can add flavor-based elements to it for fun if you like. Take the series of novels about the boy with the lightning-bolt scar who lived in a closet. The unofficial spell reference for that game gives the wand motions and incantations for every spell. You could require your players to actually say the incantations and make the wand motions to cast spells, again, just for fun. But in the end, magic in that setting is a skill and more powerful spellcasters are those who have more knowledge and training. The O.G.R.E.S. magic system works perfectly.
Alternately, you could encounter a system where magic is exhausting. In such settings, you can replace the skill with a spell point system. This does require a bit of tweaking, but again, everything you need is there. Spellcasters in O.G.R.E.S. can prepare only a certain number of spells per day. Convert this number of spells into points - level one spells cost one point to cast, level two spells two points, etc. Casters have enough points to cast each prepared spell once, but they can mix and match as they like. Straightforward, simple, and doesn't re-invent the wheel.
The OGL (which thankfully still exists) and the SRDs for past versions of the World's Most Famous RPG give us "fire and forget" systems - the 3.x SRD found at d20srd.org can be dropped into O.G.R.E.S. if you need that sort of system. It's a resource for home games that should not be overlooked.
Challenging the Party
This similar rule should stand for almost any game. A single creature whose level or challenge is equal to that of the average level of the party should probably require them to use about 20 to 30% of their resources in a single encounter, and just scale it up or down from there. Most attempts to precisely mathematically model challenge fail because each monster is unique and each party is unique. As the Game Master, you should have an idea of the strengths and weaknesses of your players, and can structure encounters accordingly. If you don't, you will learn as you go.
Right about now a lot of readers are grumbling about or questioning the idea of "genre emulation," and that is, in fairness, what people look for in a licensed tabletop role playing game (TTRPG). The good news is, most genre emulation (aside from flavor, which is on you as the GM to provide) comes down to how the rules treat certain gritty or cinematic situations in play. O.G.R.E.S. gives you everything you need to emulate almost any genre already. The rules provide for a wealth of Gritty, Realistic (Normal), and Cinematic options you can adopt to tailor your game specifically to the style of play you want. Fate Points in particular can be used to varying degrees to add some player agency and mimic a lot of different genre tropes like shrugging off hits and even coming back from the dead!
If you're looking for a game that really can do it all in a way that you tailor specifically for your table, O.G.R.E.S. can do it. We even offer guidelines for chaning the core mechanic to everything from d20 roll-over to percentile roll-under to dice pools to point-buy character creation and advancement, and beyond.
In the end, the vast majority of campaign settings are flavor-based, history-based, and story-based. The rules mechanics? Those are things you can handle with just about any system you like, making little tweaks here and there and building the game as you go. Never think that because there's not an official RPG for your favorite property you can't run a game in it. Licensed games are tons of fun and represent another way to support your favorite publishers and properties, but you don't need one to play in your favorite world.
What's your favorite property without a licensed game? Have you tried to run in the world? Let's hear your stories below! And don't forget to check out Elf Lair Games to get started with your games that are Powered by O.G.R.E.S.!