So how many people here have been associated with a game set in a borrowed universe? By that I mean any game where the contents of a story book (not a gaming book), a movie, or a television show were considered to be cannon and necessary knowledge to get by in the game? How dreadful was that? In my experience, pretty dreadful.We all love Doctor Who. However, who wants to be the local yokels staring on in wonder while the Doctor solves all the problems? I’ll tell you who: no one. We want to be the Doctor or at least one of the Doctor’s companions. However, as a GM you can’t really allow a player to be the Doctor. Too powerful, too long a history all of which happened off camera, and he’s the linchpin of his universe. The character is so central the universe (Hello? It’s named after him?) that even his secondary cast is off limits just from being so near him. Story universes like this are a bad idea because of what I like to call The Dune Effect. I’ve played a Dune RPG. It was awful. Then again, I’m not sure what I expected. If you’ve read the books you know that it is set in the future where there are three very powerful factions who control the universe. These factions have an iron grip on all that happens and no one is ever allowed to accomplish anything without their superior immediately taking the spoils of that success for their own which their superior takes from them and so on. The reason the books are neat is because they are the story of the Messiah coming to deliver humanity out of this centuries old, bureaucratic system of slavery. Without the Messiah, the universe is horrible and unpleasant unless you’re at the top. So do you edit out the Messiah and play in a universe where no advancement is possible? Do you let one of your PCs be the Messiah and edit out that central character from the story line? If so,which Player gets that PC? What about the others? Or you could try the alternative of letting the PCs be peons observing the universe changing from afar while the Messiah works his mojo. They can’t really be central to the story or the story changes because those are as set in stone as things can be (read the books and you’ll understand), but they can spend one night a week listening to you talk through the events in a book series they do have the option of simply reading on their own. Do you see where this bus is going? Same place the Doctor Who bus was heading: Lamesville. I fundamentally disagree with any game that is not drawn from a book so much as it is a carbon copy of that book. Any game of urban fantasy where you could go and meet Harry Dresden is a bad idea. Any game of high fantasy where you could find Gandelf or Frodo is a bad idea. Any science fiction game where you could go and clash with Luke or Vader is a bad idea. Period. I know we love these stories, but come on people! Do we not have better imaginations than this? Now I’m not saying that all reuse of things we’ve read is a bad thing. On the contrary, if you chose to run your game in a world that was similar to one you read about, but in which your group of PCs is the universe’s linchpin instead of the characters that were in the book, I say go for it. You just have to be careful not to reuse any important characters or plot from the book world you’re thinking of. Use the setting only. How do you tell which characters were important, you ask? Easy. Did they have any lines or walk on stage at any time? Them’s the ones. They shouldn’t even be mentioned as living in another town or something. They should be gone from the universe. Not dead, never existed. The distinction is important. What if one of the characters in the book/movie/show/whatever is a required figure for the universe to have any appeal (see Doctor Who)? Then you’re picking the wrong universe. Sorry to be so blunt, but these are the facts, people. Time to grow up a bit, flex those big imagination muscles most gamers possess in at least some amount, and think of something on your own. Oh and all of this is doubly true for D&D novels. Screw Drizzt. I mean it. Screw him till he dies from it. I hate that guy. I have never even read a book with him in it. Yet I have heard enough about him from losers mooning over evil (but not really) elves with scimitars that I can recognize Drizzt art at any con I go to for what it is. Jeez.