Blazing New Trails
When I began development work on my second MUSH, Star Wars: Reach of the Empire, I knew one thing: I wanted to set it in the time period I knew and loved best, about the era of the original trilogy from the 1970s and '80s.
But I didn't want just another Star Wars game. So, I decided to draw on a strength and make something as original as possible within an established theme. I needed to find a way to play within that timeframe while making it feel fresh, new and unpredictable - elements that brought success to my first game, OtherSpace.
So, I pondered, and on our first official roleplaying outing, I killed off Luke Skywalker - the pivotal character of the original trilogy - in an airspeeder crash, thus making impossible the chain of events of those first movies.
What happens from here on out is *our* story, inspired by the worlds of George Lucas. As a storyteller, I find it far more enjoyable to play with "what-ifs" in established-theme universes. One could easily take a similar approach with other established themes.
Want to start an X-Files MUSH? Do something in the beginning to make it original. Maybe Fox Mulder got hauled off by aliens as a little boy, while his sister, Samantha, grows up to be a cynical, scientifically minded FBI agent who gets stuck with Dana "Spooky" Scully, a weirdo conspiracy theorist.
Thinking of a Babylon 5 game? What if John Sheridan wasn't such an independent thinker who was willing to buck the system if the system's wrong? Maybe he lends his charismatic allure to draw support for EarthGov and uses the station as a locus for the Nightwatch.
Perhaps you want to create a game in the world of David Edding's Belgariad. Well, what if Garion died on the farm before Polgara and Belgarath could save him? What if Torak remained in power?
In the Wizard of Oz, you could have Dorothy Gale's Kansas cabin come crashing down on Glenda the Good Witch and put Dorothy in league with the Wicked Witch of the West. Dorothy could hate little dogs, too!
You get the point. There are myriad ways to take an existing theme and make it original. It requires creativity, imagination, and both the willingness and the desire to see players - rather than established characters from those themes - be the people who shape events and make history in your realm of choice.
Wes Platt is the creator of OtherSpace and developer of Star Wars: Reach of the Empire and Star Trek: The Lost Missions (www.jointhesaga.com). He's the editor of Online Escapes (www.onlineescapes.net).