What themes and subjects do you look for in a game?



  • What themes and subject matter do you look for in a game?

    This can be anything -- adventure, angst, romance, sci-fi, fantasy, historical, politics, intrigue, mystery, heroism/villainy, impossible challenges, etc. What permutations of these subjects do you enjoy most?

    Do you look for one thing specifically, and don't care about the rest?

    Do you need or want a balance of different elements?

    What themes and subjects do you specifically avoid?

    Do you feel the themes and subjects you're interested in need top-down support from staff on the game, or can they be exclusively player-led efforts?

    I'll answer this one myself in the morning, but I'm curious to know what people are actually looking for. Not what systems folks are interested in, or if support code for those systems exists/doesn't exist unless for some reason those systems need to be there for you to get any enjoyment out of that theme or subject. (For example, if someone likes chasing down wandering monsters, a game would need to actually have wandering monsters on it.)


  • Admin

    @surreality I think for me it's more about what I'm not looking for, it's more of a blacklist than anything. For example anything with furries in it, or just robots/androids/transformers, if it has the word 'pony' in its description, anything like that I wouldn't go near. Nothing against people who do, they're just not my thing.

    The other thing is... I'm skeptical about 'school' games - probably including Potterverse but I'm not sure - but that's because I know TS happens and would much rather I wasn't around when it does involving underage characters. So a game must have mature ratings in that way - and not just a warning in some text file as those just get ignored.

    So favorite themes... I prefer cynical, political settings that focus on interactions between characters. GMs/Storytellers are usually a luxury so the more I know I can rely on simply getting to the grid and getting roleplaying done will sate my hunger for roleplaying the better it is. In that way I prefer faction versus faction games instead of every-man-for-himself ones; group affiliations are more promising than individualism in the way that they generate scenes.

    Conversely I don't like heavily edited home grown themes. My idea of fun does not entail reading through the amateur rumblings of someone who took their plan for a novella/D&D campaign/fanfic spread out over ten pages on a wiki just to set the basics of their metaplot. A cohesive take based on real-world mythologies, a book actually written by an author people pay money to read, recognisable supernatural tropes... those are quite fine. Keep it simple, don't rumble and we'll get along juuust fine, Mr. Game-Runner.

    Romance is great! But it needs to not be the point of the whole thing because then RP only lasts until I find a partner. Sure, the story's evolution can be fun and go through twists and changes but it's not enough meat to keep things going on its own - in my experience it serves better against a backdrop of a wider tale than its meat and bones.

    Mmm, that's about it for now. Not sure if that's what you were looking for. :)


  • Politics

    @Arkandel said in What themes and subjects do you look for in a game?:

    Conversely I don't like heavily edited home grown themes. My idea of fun does not entail reading through the amateur rumblings of someone who took their plan for a novella/D&D campaign/fanfic spread out over ten pages on a wiki just to set the basics of their metaplot.

    I concur with this, for other reasons.

    If I have to read a whole bunch of stuff that isn't published or available elsewhere, the barrier of entry is higher for me because I am less inclined or able to concoct backstories or motivations for my PCs. It's all well-and-good to have a noble PC that is ambitious, but why is what I get stuck on.


  • Admin

    @Ganymede Oh, and while we're at it and this probably isn't limited to the game's theme per se either, but here's the thing; it takes a very long time to evaluate a MU* yet historically only a relatively small number of them are going to stick around for any duration of time (I'm talking 'weeks' instead of months/years here) before they turn into deserted wastelands.

    That means I'm careful about my upfront investment since I don't even know if I'll stick around, or hell, that the MUSH might not have anyone on next month other than staff alts, so wading through pages of home-grown systems, mechanics and rules just to be able to roll a character isn't going to happen. Perhaps others' priorities will be different than my own - @Misadventure's particular brand of insanity might well mean reading through those will be half the fun for example - but I have a finite amount of shits to give early on.

    I'll sink the time, I'll sink a hell of a lot of time into your game if you hook me in, but I do need to be hooked in first. So take it easy with the walls of text.


  • Pitcrew

    Mostly, I look for something interesting that has potential for a self-sustaining environment, and that inspires me in some way. I know that's vague, but I get inspired by a lot! The biggest thing is that I want it to be clear that the game runner has a vision about what makes this game different, has clearly articulated that vision, and has chosen mechanics that are entertaining and that support that vision. So, if you say "this is a political game", then that needs to be backed up in both the kinds of characters which are allowed AND the mechanics chosen. I'm going to need to know that the staff understands what "political" means, beyond shiny hats. Likewise, if you say something is a "dark fantasy game about power and sacrifice" then don't give me bog-standard WoD, but give me something fun where every move towards power is going to cost me something, and where the powerful NPCs are coherently reflective of that theme, and where the PCs approved are ambitious, striving towards various kinds of power, but also with a lot to lose so that the sacrifices are meaningful choices.

    Just don't give me "This is a <system> game set in <setting>." That ain't a theme, even if your setting information is pages upon pages of text. I'm also fine with homebrews, heavily house-ruled systems, and settings where I need to read Walls Of Text, so long as it's clear that staff knows the kind of game they're creating, and all the text helps me explain how to best create a character that fits within it. That said: I do love fantasy and SF, and will be far more inclined to enjoy a game if it has some significant SFF elements, than a game without. I only really like PvP when the game's been carefully designed to encourage long-running conflicts over nuclear strikes, and when the conflicts are both meaningful, and designed to make it as fun to lose as to win. I'm not particularly interested in playing animals or roboty-robots. I'm also not inclined to play any "feature characters" or on games that have feature characters. I also don't want a freeform or minimalist system that gives me few choices to make during character creation and afterwards. I like a moderate amount of crunch, and to know the mechanism by which my character will progress. XP ceilings are fine, though.


  • Pitcrew

    The tone I would really like to see is more action-adventure type, kinda pulpy.
    I know you are not wanting systems so instead I will state that has and uses a system is a definite plus for me. I enjoy comic games and can have action-y stuff happen on them but the last of randomized resolution tends to leave me missing something. It does not have to be a complex system just some sort of randomizer, so that an action scene doesn't feel like hey lets goof around with these villains then when it stops being interesting finish them off. In my action scenes I want uncertainty as to result. I am fine with pre-set limits like no hospitalization nor death if it fits with the mood of the story, but don't want a this is how it will end going into it.



  • Despite the fact that I play rather cheerful characters most of the time, I like games with a hint of noir to them - even if we're not criminals or it isn't crime-dominated, the touch of cynicism and moral ambiguity is something I prefer to "We're Good Guys! They're Bad Guys!" Regardless of genre. That said, constant gloom and doom makes me pull my hair out. There has to be a happy balance between them: happiness and joy and fun can happen, but the idea of not being able to escape the world you're in has to be there.

    I hesitate to use the word "political" because it always brings to mind these huge factions, but I like games where tension between character groups can play out, more than I like games that pit players against outside monsters and threats - though throwing those into the pot every once in a while is fun. Just not when it's ALL the time. Throw in a little mystery and we're on our way to a fun game. I also prefer when things are more...local than global. Like, defending your neighborhood vs THE WORLD IN DANGER. It's the immediacy and personal nature of the threat when it's local that I like, I guess. So yes, I prefer player-led efforts with staff around to monitor and throw in the occasional surprise wrench.

    For genres/settings I like historical-based though not 100% accurate. I also like space operas, because of the operatic, adventure-swashbuckling, dramatic nature of everything. I like westerns because of the kick-ass pragmatism that is such a large part of it. Like Arkandel I'm not much for robots and transformers. Anthropomorphic animal characters can't be the main attraction or I'm out. School games I don't mind as long as no one creeps on the underage characters because ewww squick.

    I despair of anything that has me have to learn an entirely new vocabulary, political systems, history, and nation-names just so my character doesn't sound like a backwoods idiot. I don't like The Bedroom Shuffle Game though I do like tea parties and pretty dresses and fantasy-of-manners.


  • Pitcrew

    It's easier for me to define what I absolutely am not looking for in my rp environments:

    1. Children. I don't want to rp with them, I don't want to rp about them, I don't want to rp with child characters, and I DEFINITELY don't want to rp with a super sexy coed that has the mind of a 7 year old teehee, or a super sexy vampire coed that is really 5 billion but looks 14. Teehee, m'lord. I am a vampire. HALF.

    2. Sexual slavery (or slavery in general, since sex slaves are the only sort I've ever seen roleplayed. I mean, I guess no one wants that fraught master/random person who mops floors in the facility dynamic). Nope. No. No thanks you.

    3. The requirement of multiple references to CG a character.

    4. Anything too Fandom-y. The most insane group of biggity bitches I ever tried to roleplay with were the nerds playing LOTRO.


  • Pitcrew

    Like other players have said, I don't look at subjects so much as I look at other areas of the game. Specifically, I look for a game where I think it will be easy for me to find spur-of-the-moment RP while I'm ramping my character up and I look for signs that this will lead to character building RP in the future.

    I know this is oversimplified, but for the sake of argument, lets divide Plot into ST driven plot and environment driven plot, where ST driven plot encompasses things like +events and investigation jobs and such, and environment driven plots are situations and conflicts that arise naturally from the game setting and mechanics. While I really enjoy being involved in ST driven plots, in my experience it's the environment driven plots that keep people occupied on a day-to-day and week-to-week basis, which is what keeps them logging in and active.

    To sum all of this up: I look for a game where there is something to do even when there may be a lull in the plot or admins may be busy.

    As to what I avoid? Generally, I avoid superhero and scifi places, just because their themes don't really call to me.



  • My answers on this one.

    Just about any subjects will do, save for those I specifically avoid, but there must be more than one. Variety is necessary. It doesn't matter if it's my favorite thing ever, if it's all that all the time, I am going to get bored. I am going to get bored much faster if it's a perpetual downer, if not put off entirely.

    Further, some semblance of balance amongst those elements is necessary. (A token political intrigue plot once a year on a game that's otherwise all war all the time isn't what I consider balanced.) If a game has a lot of bleakness, it also needs a dash of wonderment. If a game is high conflict, it needs moments of peace and celebration. If a game is mostly fluff, it needs moments of gravity and danger.

    A semblance of balance of good and bad is needed. This doesn't need to be equal at all. Even 25% good and 75% bad is, in my perspective, viable.

    Specifically avoided:

    • One no-win scenario after another. I think these are good to include, but they need to be included sparingly.

    • Something that cannot be resolved, explored further, learned from, or is otherwise nothing but a dead end, and is ultimately suffering for suffering's sake or Monty Haul gifty-wanking bullshit.

    • Any time people think they're pushing the edgy envelope for its own sake, or shock value. Every time I've seen this done, it completely lacks any and all depth or actual gravity. (This can happen in any genre or on any subject, really.) If you're going to go over the top, have a firm reason for doing so, and be sure to convey that reason clearly in the course of play.

    • Lack of time to ICly process events in personal RP or lack of necessary staff-supported followup on the consequences of plots or other major game action. I'm not looking for a roller coaster; if there are breath-taking highs and stomach-dropping lows, I want the characters to have time to fully experience them, think about them, and figure out how these events actually are somehow relevant (or not) to them in their lives -- not immediately skip ahead to the next high or low as though these things have zero impact whatsoever. If they have no impact, what's the damn point, anyway?

    Staff support: some things, it helps. Others, I don't want them involved at all. I don't want staff butting their nose in to track TS/rolling to see if my char is suddenly pregnant/deciding who my character is involved with/etc., for instance, but I do want them there to answer questions or handle rolls if my character is doing followup on a staff-led plot.

    The biggest thing for me is that staff not 'wrongfun' things that are explicitly permitted on the game. If you don't want people doing it, don't allow it in the first place. Don't make the players feel like shit for pursuing allowed fun, or that the only reason that fun is allowed is so that staff can use it as an excuse to hammer anyone who enjoys it. Similarly, don't publicly revel so much in one kind of fun that it makes it seem like it's really the only thing that is really acceptable, and everything else is barely tolerated while you pinch your nose and disdainfully glance away.


  • Coder

    I don't want to play any game where sex or politics is the primary goal of the game or sphere.



  • I am pretty whatever about games. I am superficial and pick places based on the name first, then how I feel about the staff/players, then, finally, theme. So, in essence, if I like the former 2 theme isn't important to me. Though, sometimes no matter how much I like the staff/players or the name the theme just doesn't draw me in.


  • Pitcrew

    @surreality said in What themes and subjects do you look for in a game?:

    • Lack of time to ICly process events in personal RP or lack of necessary staff-supported followup on the consequences of plots or other major game action. I'm not looking for a roller coaster; if there are breath-taking highs and stomach-dropping lows, I want the characters to have time to fully experience them, think about them, and figure out how these events actually are somehow relevant (or not) to them in their lives -- not immediately skip ahead to the next high or low as though these things have zero impact whatsoever. If they have no impact, what's the damn point, anyway?

    I'm really glad that you brought this up, because I think it's something that's often overlooked. I think a lot of people think that more plot is better, but when I step back and think about it, I really only have time for one big plot and maybe a side plot or two. This is mainly because I want to RP about what's going on.

    For this reason, I'm really not a big fan of +events, because I feel as if people show up to do something in that moment, but the events are unconnected to anything that comes before and seldom come with any incentive to tie them into what your character is doing on a broader level. I'm not saying that they can't be, but that I seldom see them done in that way.


  • Pitcrew

    I always see +events as guest star spots.
    You are there in character but it is not really part of your story, like when Law and Order and Homicide would have characters appear across chows occasionally. It is fun it helps tie the world together but usually lacks any major impact.



  • Like about everyone else, I think more in terms of what doesn't interest me. I've looked at WoD enough to know that it and horror in general don't turn me on; of course, having been exposed here to the worst hijinks of WoD games and their players hasn't helped. I don't want to play a teenager, and I wouldn't like being around people playing teenagers. Furries/anthropomorphic animals... no. Angst and romance don't interest me as overall themes, although as parts of the whole of the game they're fine. Other than that, Tolkien (always first), science fiction and fantasy in general, historical, cyberpunk, and post-apocalyptic are all fine.

    I'm at the core a simulationist with some narrativist characteristics, and I am interested in games where the environment is a major protagonist or antagonist and where that environment is carefully crafted. However, I don't want characters to be forced to react in set ways to that environment, so MUD-like games with lots of coding and NPC don't appeal to me as role-playing games even though I think that well done ones are lots of fun.


  • Coder

    I probably wouldn't play on a historical game, not because I don't like history but because I respect people who know it too much and I don't know it, therefore I would ruin it. Also, I've seen other people play historical games with a laissez faire that I don't want to see.



  • @Ganymede said in What themes and subjects do you look for in a game?:

    @Arkandel said in What themes and subjects do you look for in a game?:

    Conversely I don't like heavily edited home grown themes. My idea of fun does not entail reading through the amateur rumblings of someone who took their plan for a novella/D&D campaign/fanfic spread out over ten pages on a wiki just to set the basics of their metaplot.

    I concur with this, for other reasons.

    If I have to read a whole bunch of stuff that isn't published or available elsewhere, the barrier of entry is higher for me because I am less inclined or able to concoct backstories or motivations for my PCs. It's all well-and-good to have a noble PC that is ambitious, but why is what I get stuck on.

    I wanted to weigh in on the other end of this spectrum. I prefer 10 pages of wiki for some home grown theme opposed to highly developed/published themes and genres. Simply because I don't want to have to be 3 core rulebooks and half a dozen spaltbooks to understand theme enough to be able to RP and enjoy the game. Or, have to have read the 12+ core cannon books based in some world, with 24+ spinoffs that may or may not be considered cannon by some readers. I've played years of TT V:tM back in 2e days, but was never comfortable on WoD games because someone always brings up weird rules (that and XP bloat) and everyone always knows more than me so it is never fun (because I like to run one-shots and personal plots; partially as a daytime player, staff are never around).

    I'm more drawn to original themes. Because it is something new. Its easier to buy into something original, as a lot of published material have timelines associated with their books, or the core supplements keep adding and changing the timeline to make room for the new material. I could never play on that Nymeria joint, not because of the owners so much (yes an issue), but because its in an established timeline that leads to where the books take place, no chance of deviation. Bleh, what's there for me to do there, L&L TS (I enjoy me some, but I need more)?

    What I do look for: social and adventure. I want adventure in increments, not adventure all the time, just doesn't make sense to have something happening all the time. I want social for the inbetween parts when there is no adventure. Give me a sense of having something to do and when not doing that something, I am plotting the next something to do or dealing with whatever is going on in the social world.


  • Politics

    One of the advantqages of CofD 2E is that you can say, "We only use the new edition's books" and have a clear, hard line where the split is.

    "But this one book in 1E says this Legacy can--"
    "Don't care."


  • Admin

    @Coin said in What themes and subjects do you look for in a game?:

    One of the advantqages of CofD 2E is that you can say, "We only use the new edition's books" and have a clear, hard line where the split is.

    "But this one book in 1E says this Legacy can--"
    "Don't care."

    Aren't there going to be more 2E supplementary books coming out though? I.e. isn't it just a matter of time before this one book in 2E says this Legacy can...?



  • Polite request that yet another thread does not become a yet another WoD/CoD/etc. sales pitch?


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