Cross-Genre Gaming

Back in June 2019, I released “The Game I Really Want To Run” and spoke openly about my frustration with the standard tropes of roleplaying games:

I find the conventions of genre too restrictive. I find the assumption that a fantasy world contains Men, Elves, Dwarves, Halflings, Half-Orcs, and Half-Elves – I am, of course, drawing from the list most familiar to players of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons and derivatives – I find that assumed world to be too much the same every time. The placement of medieval towns and the building of fortifications; the use of magic; the existence of Goblins and Orcs; the expectation of dragons; of dungeons even. All of this is, ultimately, for me too restrictive. But it is the standard expectation of fantasy. Science fiction is, oddly, both more vague and yet more restrictive.

Since that time, I have slowly arrived at playing with GURPS and discovered the tools I needed to mash together the kind of game that I really want to run:

Genre is too limiting for me. I want to travel to far off worlds in my starship and fight aliens, loot ancient tombs from long lost empires, and ride wolves. I want to fire guns, do karate kicks, and sweet-talk beautiful Princes. I want to wade in the mud and discover how it feels to live on a war-torn battlefront as much as I want to stride through chromium streets paved with the blood of corporate sponsorship. I don’t want to stay in genre. Magic and technology fascinate me. The alien and the familiar intrigue me. And I want to bring this creative freedom to the gaming table.

But I’ve still not played that game. I’ve not had the courage, nor have I found the players who might, with enthusiasm, follow me into such a genre-mashing and free-ranging game. One the one hand I am not sure that I am creative enough to pull it off, and on the other hand there’s a resistance from players I know to play using GURPS.

But perhaps these are excuses.

The truth is that all games begin somewhere small and grow organically, incrementally. Alongside that, the reality is that I am probably underestimating the willingness of my friends to try something new. Back in 2019, I was highly pessimistic and spoke openly of my perceptions of players as basically resistant to anything but the genre standards.

I don’t feel quite so pessimistic in 2022. I’ve found players who have been willing to try out gaming with significant changes to the regular kind of play. I’ve learned to break my ideas down and work in small pieces towards creating larger worlds. Session by session, whether starting solo or with players, the way to forge a new path is to begin the journey. Today, I am allowing myself the space to revisit that old dream and see where it takes me.

Yes, I find genre stifling and restrictive. Perhaps the mash-up of tropes and weird elements won’t appeal to many people. But in the end, it’s at least honest for me to make the effort and to present it to my friends with a smile: “Here, I made this for you.” From there, it’s really all up to them whether they want to give it a try.

Game on!


  1. I’d be interested to hear what ends up in your chosen mashup… or would it be a free for all of unlimited variety?

    I believe one of the reasons so many players/systems default to similar settings is that in an otherworld, players like to have a clear idea of what is possible / what things look like / what to expect.
    That’s not to say they should know everything, they need the ability to explore, learn and be surprised, yet some sense of bounds if often preferred…. certainly to my brain n many of my friends.


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