My wife is a neat freak. Spring cleaning never truly ends for her, but when the seasons change suddenly the house is redecorated right under my nose. Winter themed knick-knacks are replaced with spring themed knick-knacks. Artwork changes, colors change, and everything seems to change ever so slightly.
My utilitarian mind cannot comprehend why she does this. Do we really need a little banner in the garden that changes with each month? It is not like the rest of the neighborhood is dependent upon us to tell them what part of the year it is. And where the hell does she keep all of this stuff? It just appears and disappears based upon her whims. Yet I do not get in my wife’s way for two reasons:
- I must admit that her efforts do revive our home. It is a better place to live in, because she has made it a little bit more dynamic.
- We are deeply in love with each other, she is absolutely gorgeous, and for some reason she wants to be with me. No way am I screwing this deal up!
Enough about my marriage, the point is that even though I am still living in the same home my wife’s spring cleaning and decoration changes make it feel like a new place to me. And you can do the same thing with your favorite game system by changing the genre.
You do not need to buy a new game system. You do not need to redesign the game. You can use the exact same rules. All you have to do is change the names and the descriptions. Your D&D 4e game can become a thrilling weird Western tale, and your Corporation game can become a battle for the magical lands following the fall of Camelot.
But why should you change the genre when you could just play another game? For one, you will have eliminated the learning curve that comes with the adoption of a new game system. Your players and you already know the rules. Another benefit is that you might recapture the excitement of when your players were first introduced to the game system, because even though they know how everything works under the hood they don’t recognize the bodywork and interior.
If your players start making statements like “Hey! These ‘Dr. Morrison’s Elixir & Tonic’ are the same thing as healing potions! We should stock up on them before we go after those mechanized train robbers!” you will know that your re-skinning of the game system has been effective.
Plus you do not have to take a permanent vacation from your current campaign. You can always run a one-shot game using the same system but under a different genre as a way to spice things up without a great deal of effort. This is a great way for your players to try out new builds and experiment with the game system. This gives them a chance to find out what works and what does not before making changes to their characters that are a part of your regular campaign.
One final benefit from changing the genre of your game system is that it gets you thinking about how the mechanics work. Do the crossbow rules work better for a revolver or a shotgun? Cowboys don’t use swords, so do these melee rules now become hand-to-hand combat? What about knives, tomahawks, and cavalry sabers? You will start to evaluate the materials in your current game system based upon the underlying traits (dice, bonuses, etc.) instead of the obvious descriptions. This can make you a stronger GM.
So take a moment to dust off your current game system, polish up the techniques that you use to run it, and maybe spruce it up a bit with a new genre. You may be pleasantly surprised with the results, and you can always return to the original materials later while still using the same rules.
Have you applied a different genre to your favorite game system? If so, how did it go? Share your experience with the rest of us by leaving a comment below.