WHAT IS THIS?
This is a plug-in for creating more genre in a game, built around a player resource. Almost every game setting has some kind of loose genre: Fantasy, Noir, Anime, whatever. However, unless the system is custom-built to reinforce that genre, it’s very possible for that genre to fade out during play. In addition, sometimes you want to alter the genre of a game a bit, to make it a bit more campy, a bit more noir, a bit more… Whatever. Digging into the rules and making big changes isn’t always the best route; sometimes just altering the “top stuff” is good enough.
GENRE BY TROPE
Genres, sub-genres, and the like, are messy things. In general, the easiest way to build such tones is to concentrate on the tropes - the smaller, individualized things that “happen all the time” in the genre; ‘Cops chase Robbers’ is a trope, and so is ‘The Hero gets the Girl’. By creating a list of tropes specific to the style of the game, you can build an individual style for that game.
STRUCTURING A PLAYER TROPE
In order to use this plug-in, you’ll need to make a list of tropes for your game. A good trope for use in a roleplaying game, under these rules, obeys two big rules. The first rule is that it must be something that you want players to do that creates the feeling of the genre. The second rule is that it should be something that, if done often, won’t drive the group to distraction. So, make up a list of everything you want players doing that’s “in-genre”, from ‘falling for the dangerous dames’ to ‘delivering pithy puns and comments before attacking’. Cut all the ones that would annoy if overdone, or make them specific enough to circumstances that they can’t be as severely overdone - “starting a fight with a pithy comment” can only be used once per fight, for example. Then, give each one a catchy title or phrase players can state when calling for it, as well as a quick explanation of what it is, and maybe a few examples from genre fiction.
THE NON-PLAYER TROPES
Not every good trope is meant for player action, or covered under these rules. If your game emulates video game RPGs, it’s a trope to include a Fire Dungeon and an Ice Dungeon, but those aren’t things players manage. Making a list of these to have on-hand is helpful; even if they aren’t part of these rules, they’re fun to have at hand.
HOW MANY TROPES?
A ‘healthy’ starting list of tropes is about ten. Leave extra room on the page where you note them; you’ll likely want to add more as you realize them in play. Once you get to about twenty, you’ll want to hold about there; retiring and replacing tropes is good, but going past twenty means that players won’t always recall them at will.
At the beginning of each session, each player gains five trope points, and a player can’t ever hold more than seven trope points. Trope points are gained and spent in the following ways. It is highly recommended to use tokens to represent these points, with a ‘common pool’ (a big pile or bowl) in the center of the table; the idea of the common pool is included in the ideas below.
MESSING ABOUT WITH TROPE POINTS
Trope points are very much a “meta-resource”; they are about players, rather than characters, and cover a specific range of options. Your group may want to make them less “meta”, or alter the options. Depending on the game, there may even be some existing resource you’ll want to fuse them with.