There are TTRPGs out there for just about any sort of setting you can imagine, including mock-ups of game worlds that are derived from popular fandoms. Creative gamers have long adapted their favorite fandoms into D&D settings, or GURPS, or Pathfinder/Starfinder, but this list will deal with properties I think should be made into full-fledged, licensed TTRPGs with lots of cool artwork and extras and why I think they'd make for good games overall besides the nostalgia and existing fanbase. Let's jump in.
*Obviously this list is my opinion, and largely made up of properties and fandoms I personally enjoy, but at its core is a list of properties I genuinely believe could be made into solid TTRPGs. There are many more fandoms I'd love to see be made into TTRPGs as well, but these are sort of the first ten that came to mind that weren't already full-fledged TTRPGs.
10. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
Now, this is a no-brainer, especially since Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 3 is out in theaters this month. I know that Marvel is already coming out with their own TTRPG called the Multiverse Role-Playing Game, and I can't wait to play the full rules (I purchased the Beta rules a while back). I even enjoyed older iterations from years ago of various Marvel Superhero TTRPGs, but the tricky part with those games and even with the upcoming Multiverse game is that Marvel characters are overall located on Earth, dealing with Earth problems. Sure, you can run a campaign set in space for the upcoming game and play as the Guardians, but it's going to feel like a different experience than, say, having your character fight crime in Hell's Kitchen with Daredevil, or fighting Magneto alongside the X-Men, or setting up a superhero team in Salt Lake City with you and your friends' characters as a basis for a superteam. Cosmic adventures in the Marvel Universe already feel much different, so there may as well be a different TTRPG system for it.
What Is It?: The Guardians of the Galaxy is a superhero team from Marvel Comics that first appeared in 1969. The team was originally created by Arnold Drake and Gene Colan, and consisted of a group of aliens from different species who banded together to defend the galaxy from various threats.
The Guardians of the Galaxy are known for their humorous banter, their willingness to break the rules, and their eclectic mix of personalities and abilities. They often find themselves in over their heads as they confront threats that are too big for any one hero to handle alone.
The Guardians have also been adapted into other media, including the Marvel Cinematic Universe, where they have starred in their own films and appeared in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. In addition, the team has been featured in animated series, video games, and other merchandise.
How It Could Work: The Guardians are not the only ship full of individuals traveling around and going on adventures in the Marvel Universe. A Guardians-centric game world could actually be very complex. Something like the FATE System (modified, or a new system that's similar) might work nicely, as FATE emphasizes character creation and unique storytelling which is basically what the Guardians are built on.
In terms of races, players could choose from a variety of alien species and human characters, including those featured in the Guardians of the Galaxy comics and movies, as well as new creations. Some possible options are:
Nova Corps officers
Players could also create their very own alien species using the system's character creation rules, which sounds super fun and could grant a nice level of customization for players unfamiliar with the MCU and who just want to be creative.
Gameplay would likely involve a combination of action-packed combat and exploration, with plenty of opportunities for character interaction and development. The game could include elements of space travel, with the characters piloting their own ship and exploring new planets and star systems, which could add a nice layer of complexity and a unique gameplay experience not found in most other TTRPGs.
Ship creation could be an important aspect of a Guardians of the Galaxy TTRPG. The players' ship would serve as their home and primary mode of transportation throughout the galaxy, so it would need to be customized to suit their needs and preferences and the players could have a ton of fun coming up with various ship customization options.
The ship creation process might involve coming up with interior maps, exterior ship design, and the following details:
Ship Type: Players could choose from a variety of ships, such as a fast and nimble fighter craft or a larger, more heavily armed battleship.
Weapons: Players could outfit their ship with a variety of armaments, such as laser cannons, missile launchers, or even energy-based weapons.
Shields: Ships could have different types of protection, such as energy shields or physical armor, to protect against enemy fire.
Engines: Players could choose from different types of engines to customize their ship's speed and maneuverability.
Crew Quarters: The players' ship would also need living quarters and amenities for the crew, such as sleeping quarters, a galley, and recreation areas, and these could all affect morale or just create atmosphere for the players similar to keeps in D&D.
Upgrades: As the players progress through the game, they could earn or purchase upgrades for their ship, such as more powerful weapons or better engines.
The ship could also serve as a plot device, with events and encounters happening both on and off the ship. For example, the players might need to defend their ship from an attack by space pirates, or they might have to make a daring escape from a hostile planet.
As for character creation, players would have a great deal of freedom to create their own unique characters with a variety of skills and abilities. Some potential classes or archetypes could include:
Spacefaring outlaws (think Han Solo or the Ravagers)
Elite pilots and gunners
Alien warriors or assassins
Tech-savvy engineers or hackers
Psychic or mystic characters with special abilities
Characters could also have unique quirks or traits that make them stand out, such as a love of retro Earth music (like Star-Lord) or a tendency to break out into dance at inappropriate times (like...er, Star-Lord).
A Guardians of the Galaxy TTRPG would offer players the chance to explore the vast and wacky universe of the Marvel comics and movies, while creating their own unique characters and stories within that world. The cosmos in the Marvel Universe is ripe for adventure and the checks will write themselves.
09. GEN 13
This one may be a bit of a reach on my part, since I'm an old man and many of you reading might not even know who Gen 13 is, but I've long held the opinion that Gen 13 would make for an amazing movie, show, video game, or TTRPG. Of course, being a teen in the 1990's, I really identified with and crushed on the characters of Fairchild, Grunge, Burnout, Freefall, and Rainmaker. The comic book series went through a bunch of iterations and creators, but my overall favorite has always been the original run by J. Scott Campbell and Jim Lee, and although the universe Gen 13 belongs in nowadays is DC, back then it was Wildstorm which was once an imprint of Image Comics, and is now DC. DC, of course, has their own TTRPG called DC Adventures: Superhero Handbook by Green Ronin Publishing, but Gen 13 doesn't feel at home in the DC Universe, at least for me, and is not even a current title - so I feel like a separate game system set in the 1990's might work especially since there is a ton of 1990's nostalgia hitting America today. Sure, there are a lot of other superhero based TTRPGs out there such as Mutants and Masterminds, but I really feel like Gen 13 could revitalize the genre as a stand-alone novelty concept.
What Is It?: Gen 13 is a comic book series originally published by Wildstorm Comics in 1994. The series was created by writer Jim Lee and artist J. Scott Campbell and follows the adventures of a group of teenage superheroes who gain their powers as a result of a genetic experiment. The team is made up of five members: Fairchild, Grunge, Freefall, Rainmaker, and Burnout.
The series was known for its blend of action, humor, and youthful energy, as well as its forward thinking with Bipoc and LGBTQ characters and it became popular with readers in the 1990s. The characters of Gen 13 were also featured in an animated film, a number of spin-offs, and crossovers with other comic book characters, and has been rebooted several times over the years.
How It Could Work: A Gen 13 TTRPG set during the 1990s and separate from the DC Universe would focus on the themes of teenage rebellion, superpowers, and adventure. Here are some thoughts for possible game mechanics details:
Power Selection: Players would be able to choose from a variety of powers, such as super strength, speed, flight, energy projection, psychic abilities, and more. These powers would be balanced with each other to ensure that no one character is too overpowered. One of the cooler aspects of Gen 13 was that their powers were given to them by a government experiment, so character creation could work that way as well, with randomly assigned powers.
Character Creation: Players could create their own characters with unique backgrounds, personalities, and motivations. They could be teenagers who have just discovered their powers or have been using them for some time. It would be fun to envision 1990's based characters who would dress the part and also have things like Walkmans and Discmans.
Gameplay: The gameplay could involve a mix of combat, exploration, and above all else, social interaction. The players could go on missions to stop villains or explore mysterious locations. The game master could also create scenarios that challenge the players' powers and problem-solving skills. It would be very easy to accommodate a scenario in which the Gen 13 crew were not the only survivors of the government experiment that led to their powers, and the group of players and their characters become just as hunted as Gen 13. They may even be forced to come to blows with Gen 13 themselves or fight alongside them.
Archetypes: Possible archetypes for characters could include the classic superhero, the outsider who struggles to fit in, the rebel who doesn't follow the rules, and the nerd who uses their intelligence to outwit their enemies. Players could also create their own archetypes based on their characters' backgrounds and personalities. This could be modeled after other superhero TTRPGs.
Setting: The game could be set in a fictional town or city that is similar to real-world locations during the 1990s, such as Seattle or San Francisco, or even in real world locations. This would allow the players to interact with a variety of NPCs and experience the cultural trends and issues of the time and allow the players to live out their 1990's fantasies. (Nothing can be "too 1990's" for Gen 13 as they once went up against a villain who looked like Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails)
A Gen 13 TTRPG could be a fun and exciting way to explore the themes and characters of the original comic book series while allowing players to create their own unique stories and characters. Players wouldn't even necessarily have to have read any of the comics as long as the marketing was sound and the game production and development was thorough.
Mutants and Masterminds might actually make a good game system to base the game around for a Gen 13 TTRPG, but designing a new one that focuses on cinematic gameplay might be ideal, because everything in J. Scott Campbell's/Jim Lee's run back in the 1990's was over the top and extremely fast paced. There's a certain whimsy in both Gen 13 and the 1990's that I think people would really latch onto.
08. REIGN OF FIRE
Reign of Fire was a film released in 2002 that has been enjoying some renewed popularity as of late, with articles calling for it to be made into a TV series, or even for reboots. For its time, the visuals really weren't bad at all and the idea of a post-apocalyptic scenario in which dragons brought about the end times was a refreshing take. There was also a lot of lore only hinted at in the movie which could be exploited for TTRPG mechanics and background. Back when I originally saw this film, I thought it would make for a great game. There was a video game released for Playstation 2, original X-Box, and the Nintendo Gamecube that was fairly well received, so we know it's possible at least for compelling gameplay.
What Is It?: The story follows a group of post-apocalyptic survivors led by Quinn Abercromby (played by Christian Bale) who are living in a castle in England, trying to eke out a living while avoiding the dragons that now rule the skies. When a group of American dragon-slayers led by Denton Van Zan (played by Matthew McConaughey) arrives, they convince Quinn to help them track down and kill the dragon queen, which they believe will stop the dragons from reproducing and ultimately lead to their extinction.
Reign of Fire received mixed reviews upon its release but has gained a cult following over the years. It is known for its impressive dragon special effects and intense action sequences, as well as its unique premise of a world ruled by dragons.
How It Could Work: Creating a Reign of Fire TTRPG where players can generate their own characters would involve designing a game system that allows for some degree of customization while staying true to the world and lore of the film. Here are some ideas for factions, gameplay, characters, and classes that could be included:
Survivors: The most common faction in the game, these are people who have managed to survive the dragon apocalypse. They may be hiding out in castles, living in small communities, or traveling from place to place and could be the basic character template.
Dragon Slayers: Similar to the characters in the film, these are people who have made it their mission to hunt and kill dragons. They may be part of a larger organization or acting independently.
Dragon Worshipers: Some people in the game might worship dragons, seeing them as powerful and divine beings. These characters may have powers related to dragons or be able to communicate with them in some way.
Raiders: These are groups of people who roam the wasteland looking for resources and causing trouble for other survivors. While players might not actively depict raiders in gameplay, it's possible to base a character concept around being a former raider or ex-raider.
Gameplay: The gameplay would likely involve exploration of the post-apocalyptic world, combat against dragons and other factions, and resource management. The game could also involve decision-making and diplomacy, as players must navigate the various factions and their goals. I think the main goal in a game like this would be to somehow avoid getting roasted by dragons, with an emphasis on resource-gathering. The most interesting path for a group of adventurers might be to go on missions to destroy dragon hives or to rid the area of a particular dragon. Because we don't know a ton about what sorts of dragons are out there, it leaves game developers open to creating any number of creatures and dragons that aren't in the movie. Also, bands of raiders or pirates or even cannibals could be encounters in the player's travels.
Characters: Players could make a variety of characters, including:
Survivors who are skilled at scavenging, building, or other useful skills.
Dragon slayers who are skilled in combat and have specialized in dragon hunting.
Dragon worshipers who have powers related to dragons or can communicate with them in some way or at least understand and study them.
Raiders who are skilled in combat and have specialized in raiding and resource gathering.
Soldiers who are skilled at fortifications and combat
Classes: Classes in the game could include:
Hunter: A combat-focused class that is good at dealing damage and taking hits.
Raider: A stealth-focused class that is good at sneaking and stealing.
Engineer: A class focused on building and repairing things, such as weapons or fortifications.
Overall, a Reign of Fire TTRPG could offer a unique and exciting gameplay experience for players who are fans of the film and is set apart from other TTRPGs by its focus on the post-apocalypse brought on by dragons. By allowing players to generate their own characters and explore the world of the film in more detail through the eyes of the game's narrator, this TTRPG could offer a new way to experience this post-apocalyptic setting and breathe new interest into the franchise.
07. THE 13TH WARRIOR
Originally based on a novel called Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton, who is responsible for other cool movie franchises such as Jurassic Park that were also based on his books, The 13th Warrior is a vastly underrated film and I feel would make an amazing world to explore as a TTRPG setting. When I first saw this movie in theaters back in 1999, I was in high school and was playing lots of TTRPGs and this movie reminded me a ton of a D&D adventure. In fact, I wrote about it in one of our blog posts titled "Top Ten Movies to Inspire Your Fantasy Gaming". Really, though, I just wanted to know more about the world in which these characters lived. The culture of the eaters of the dead seemed very rich and I wanted to know more not only about the Viking society of that world but also the Arabic traditions of Ahmad ibn Fadlan (who was loosely based on a real historical figure). Expanding to a TTRPG would give the game developers the chance to fully flesh all of that out.
What Is It?: The 13th Warrior is a 1999 historical fiction action film directed by John McTiernan and based on the novel Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton. The film follows the story of an Arab ambassador, Ahmad ibn Fadlan, who is exiled to the land of the Northmen (Vikings) and joins a group of warriors on a quest to defeat an ancient and supernatural evil that threatens their village. Antonio Banderas plays the role of Ahmad ibn Fadlan, while the Viking warriors are portrayed by actors such as Vladimir Kulich and Dennis Storhøi. The film was not a commercial success but has gained a cult following over the years.
How It Could Work: A TTRPG based on The 13th Warrior could be constructed in a variety of ways, depending on the desired style of play and the preferences of the game designer. It could very easily trend toward survival horror, or just as easily a sort of D&D or Pathfinder style of play with a band of vikings traversing the landscape. Of course, there are other games featuring Vikings out there such as Fate of the Norns: Ragnarok, but this wouldn't be focused on any sort of mythological accuracy, but moreso the world of the film which seems open to magic and sorcery in small amounts but nothing over the top. Here are some possible ideas for constructing the game:
Factions: One approach could be to include several factions that players can join or interact with, including Viking clans, Arab tribes, and other groups that inhabit the game world. Each faction could have its own agenda, beliefs, and practices that impact how players interact with them and what quests or missions they undertake. Of course, the game need not be centered around the Vikings but perhaps they should be at the center of the game world in which the characters inhabit, allowing them to interact with characters that are similar to their movie counterparts.
Gameplay: The gameplay could involve a mix of combat, exploration, and diplomacy, with an emphasis on survival in a harsh and unforgiving environment. Players could be tasked with defending their village or camp from raiders or supernatural threats, negotiating with rival factions, and venturing into dangerous territory to gather resources or uncover secrets. There should be mechanics in place to simulate survival conditions and small scale military combat with the option for larger scale wars.
Characters: Players could create a wide range of characters, including warriors, mystics, scouts, healers, and more. The characters could come from different factions or backgrounds, each with their own unique skills, abilities, and equipment. The game could also include rules for creating hybrid characters that combine different classes or specialties.
Classes: Possible classes could include warriors, archers, mystics, scouts, healers, and more. Each class could have its own unique abilities and equipment, as well as a range of specializations that players could choose from as they level up. The game could also feature a skill-based system that allows players to customize their characters' abilities and proficiencies, similar to other games like D&D.
What sets it apart from D&D: The 13th Warrior TTRPG could differentiate itself from D&D by emphasizing the survival aspects of the game, as well as the cultural and historical context of the setting. The game could also feature a more streamlined combat system that focuses on tactical decisions and resource management, rather than the complex rules of D&D's combat system. Additionally, the game could incorporate elements of folklore and mythology from both Viking and Arab cultures, adding a unique flavor to the setting and characters - something that Fate of the Norns: Ragnarok does very well already but that a The 13th Warrior TTRPG could try to emulate.
06. BREAKING BAD
Everyone loves Breaking Bad, right? What about El Camino? Better Call Saul? There's just so much lore for people to dig into when it comes to this show that making a TTRPG revolving around the criminal empire of Walter White is a no brainer. Or rather it should be - especially since Better Call Saul's final season just ended the saga of Walter White and friends so now prospective game designers and ambitious DMs out there can try to fabricate adventures set in New Mexico or elsewhere in the same style of Breaking Bad and continue the legacy of crime in their own way. I'm not a huge player of TTRPGs that don't involve swords and sorcery, but the criminal underworld of Breaking Bad I've always felt could make for a compelling TTRPG. With a built in fanbase and lots of Breaking Bad merchandise already out in the world, a TTRPG would be a natural evolution.
What Is It?: Breaking Bad is an American television series that aired from 2008 to 2013. It was created by Vince Gilligan and stars Bryan Cranston as Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher who turns to making and selling methamphetamine after being diagnosed with lung cancer. The series explores the consequences of White's decision to enter the drug trade and the impact it has on his relationships with his family and associates. The show was critically acclaimed and has since become a cultural phenomenon, known for its intense drama, dark humor, and complex characters.
How It Could Work: A Breaking Bad TTRPG would be an exciting concept if players were able to generate characters who were not the main characters of the show but who still contained the spirit of the show's characters. It would be hard to fully re-create the dynamic drama of the show for a TTRPG, but not impossible so here are a few areas the game could focus on for success:
Factions: The game could include various factions from the Breaking Bad universe, such as the DEA, the Mexican Cartel, various street gangs, and other criminal organizations. Players could either invent their own gangs or criminal groups or use some templates established by the game creators.
Gameplay: The game could take place in the same setting as the show, with players trying to establish their own criminal enterprises while dealing with the other factions. The gameplay could involve resource management, strategy, and role-playing elements. Resource management would be key, but also there would be a big focus on eluding law enforcement.
Characters: Players could create a wide range of characters, such as drug dealers, enforcers, money launderers, or even undercover law enforcement agents. They could also develop their own unique backgrounds and motivations, which would affect how they interact with the other factions as well as starting money and equipment. For example, the party could begin as a small-time group crafting meth in their basement, or as bodyguards for a local drug lord.
Archetypes: The game could have various archetypes available for players to choose from, such as the mastermind, the muscle, the hacker, or the charismatic leader. These archetypes could have their own unique abilities and skills and depending on the skillset each group of players possesses, the actions of one or more of the group may give buffs or debuffs to actions.
Game mechanics: The game mechanics could involve building a criminal empire, which would involve acquiring resources such as drugs, weapons, and money, recruiting new members, establishing safe houses and fronts, and dealing with the other factions. The players could also engage in negotiations, alliances, or even betrayals, depending on their goals and motivations. This would likely involve heavy roleplaying and resource management.
Game Focus: Walter White is a massive presence in Breaking Bad, and so are the Salamancas, so though the players would forge their own path - Walter's fame and reputation should be a constant factor in the lore of the game. Or, if the designers want they can include an alternate gameplay path in which Walter White never gets cancer and the players encounter the Salamancas in their own game.
A Breaking Bad TTRPG could be an engaging and challenging game that would allow players to explore the dark and dangerous world of the show while creating their own unique stories and characters. Can you imagine how fun it would be for your players to have to try to allocate resources to hire a lawyer? What about having a meeting with the head of a cartel? How about trying to make an example of an underling who has been undermining you? There's so much potential! I can see it now, a group of undercover DEA agents masquerading as a gang meeting at Los Pollos Hermanos in Albuquerque when in walks one of the Salamancas or even Gus Fring.
05. SWEET TOOTH
There are a few post-apocalyptic settings on this list, and this is one of them. Post-Apocalypse tales are always full of drama and severe danger, without the usual creature comforts of phones or reliable sources of food from our own world. This show and comic were out before The Last of Us, but the vibes are very much the same although Sweet Tooth has less clickers and more anthropomorphic animals and people-animal hybrids. I really enjoy the lore that Jeff Lamire has created through the comics, and that which came through in the show (Jeff Lamire is a nice guy, I got to meet him once) and I think the blend of whimsy and gritty exploration could really work for a TTRPG version of the world.
What Is It?: Sweet Tooth is a post-apocalyptic television series on Netflix that is based on the comic book series of the same name by Jeff Lemire. The show takes place in a world where a deadly virus has wiped out most of humanity, and the survivors are left to cope with a new reality where hybrid animal-human children are being born. The main character is a young boy named Gus, who is part deer and part human and embarks on a journey to find his mother with a gruff loner named Jepperd. Along the way, they encounter various factions and creatures as they navigate the dangers of the new world. The show explores themes of survival, family, and humanity in a unique and compelling way.
How It Could Work: A Sweet Tooth TTRPG could be very complex and deep world for players to explore. It's got great potential for exploration, combat, roleplaying, and high drama. Here's an example of a few different gameplay mechanics that could potentially be included in a TTRPG version of the world:
The factions from the show could form the basis of the game world and inform the players about their character creation choices. These could include but are not limited to:
The hybrids: Characters who are part animal and part human, like Gus from the show. Players could create their own hybrid characters, choosing which animal features they have and what their unique abilities are using random tables or coming up with it themselves.
The Last Men: A militant group that sees the hybrids as a threat to humanity and wants to eradicate them. Players could create characters who are members of this group, perhaps even playing as a scientist or leader who is trying to understand the hybrids and doesn't fully identify with the beliefs of the main group.
The Preserve: A sanctuary for hybrids that is hidden away from the rest of the world. Players could create characters who are part of this group, working to protect and care for the hybrids and learn more about them.
The Family: A group of survivors who have created a makeshift community in the aftermath of the virus outbreak. Players could create characters who are part of this group, perhaps playing as a scavenger or a trader who travels between settlements.
The gameplay could involve a mix of exploration, combat, and social interaction like any other TTRPG, but could focus a lot more on scavenging, hunting, trading, and other ways to find supplies as is typical with most other post-apocalyptic TTRPGs. Players could explore the world and encounter various factions and creatures along the way. They could engage in combat with Last Men soldiers, hunt for food, or even try to avoid dangerous predators we've not yet encountered in the show or comics. Social interaction could involve negotiating with other factions, convincing them to ally with you, or gathering information about the world. The added addition of man-animal hybrids would make combat interesting as the players might encounter combat situations not typical of other post-apocalyptic settings.
Players could create a variety of different characters, including:
Hybrids: Characters who are part animal and part human. They could choose which animal features they have and what their unique abilities are or use random tables.
Last Men: Characters who are part of the militant group that wants to eradicate the hybrids. They could be soldiers, scientists, or even leaders who are trying to understand the hybrids. Most players choosing this option could be "former" Last Men soldiers who have since turned their backs on their compatriots and might have access to powerful firearms and gadgets.
Preserve Members: Characters who are part of the sanctuary for hybrids. They could be caretakers, scientists, or even hybrids themselves and could be good at healing or buffing allies.
Survivors: Characters who are part of The Family or other survivor communities. They could be scavengers, traders, or even leaders who are trying to build a new world. These characters are scrappy and resourceful.
The archetypes available to players could include:
Warrior: Characters who are skilled in combat and excel at taking down enemies.
Healer: Characters who are skilled in medicine and can heal injuries and illnesses.
Diplomat: Characters who are skilled in negotiation and can convince other factions to ally with them.
Scout: Characters who are skilled in exploration and can navigate the world and find resources.
The game mechanics would need to be designed to reflect the unique setting and gameplay of the Sweet Tooth world. Combat could involve a mix of ranged and melee attacks, with players using their unique animal abilities to gain an advantage, similar to most other TTTRPGs out there but with that whimsical anthropomorphic twist. Social interaction could involve a skill check system, with players rolling to determine their success in convincing other factions to ally with them. Exploration could involve a random encounter system, with players rolling to determine what they find in the world and possibly could involve exploration on a hex-tiles map (and have we got the perfect thing for that, amirite?!). Unlike the idea for Reign of Fire, there is no central goal in this universe other than survival so that leaves game developers open to any sort of plot or angle they want to use.
A TTRPG system that could work well for a Sweet Tooth game is the Powered by the Apocalypse system, which emphasizes player narrative control and uses a 2d6 roll system for mechanics. The Apocalypse World game is the most popular of these games and could be easily adapted for a Sweet Tooth TTRPG. Alternatively, a system like Savage Worlds or Fate could also work well, as they are both flexible and allow for a range of character creation and gameplay options. However, ideally it would use its own system, possibly a derivative of several components of each of these systems to create one perfect blend that would lend itself well to the game.
04. THE LAST OF US
Similar to my vision for Sweet Tooth, a The Last of Us TTRPG would be a great setting to place players interested in the post-apocalypse but with the added novelty of zombies, or as The Last of Us calls their version of zombies - "infected". The Last of Us began as a videogame but has now become a show on HBO and even a board game, so why not a TTRPG? We are huge fans of zombies ourselves here at Headless Hydra Press, and we've got a game in development called Alive Inside so even if a The Last of Us TTRPG never hits the shelves, rest assured we're going to be marketing our own game with a similar spirit! The Last of Us is one of my all-time favorite games and I enjoyed the show, so I feel a bit biased but think a TTRPG would be a home run.
What Is It?: The Last of Us is a post-apocalyptic video game developed by Naughty Dog and published by Sony Computer Entertainment. It was initially released for PlayStation 3 in 2013 and was later remastered for PlayStation 4 in 2014. The game is set in a world ravaged by a fungal infection that has turned most of humanity into zombie-like creatures called "infected."
The player assumes the role of Joel, a smuggler who is tasked with escorting a young girl named Ellie across the United States in the hope of finding a cure for the infection. The game's story is known for its emotional depth, complex characters, and mature themes, and it has been praised for its innovative gameplay mechanics, including stealth, crafting, and a focus on survival.
The Last of Us has received numerous awards and critical acclaim, with many calling it one of the best video games of all time. The success of the game has also led to a sequel, The Last of Us Part II, which was released in 2020, and a television show produced by HBO.
How It Could Work: A tabletop role-playing game (TTRPG) based on The Last of Us could be constructed very easily using existing infrastructure from the existing video games, show, and even board game. It need only be adapted to a TTRPG format.
In such a game, players could generate characters who are not the main characters of the video game or show, but rather individuals living in the world of The Last of Us. These characters could be from any faction or group within the game's universe, including the Fireflies, the military, hunters, or survivors and could be dealing with the same sorts of problems that Ellie and Joel encounter in their day-to-day existence like finding food, maintaining their weapons, and running missions for various people in various factions. And, of course, avoiding the infected.
The faction leaders or members that players encounter in the game could also be included in the TTRPG as fully fleshed out NPCs, creating a dynamic and immersive game world. The gameplay could revolve around exploration, survival, combat, and decision-making, as players navigate the dangerous world of The Last of Us.
Players could create a wide variety of characters, including scavengers, smugglers, doctors, soldiers, and survivors. Classes could be based on skills and abilities that are relevant to the game's universe, such as stealth, marksmanship, survival, and crafting.
Crafting would naturally be a very big part of the game, so whichever game sytem this proposed TTRPG was based on would have to build a complex crafting system wherein characters could customize melee weapons, guns, and use various crafting materials together with supplies to create rare and useful items.
The game's setting would also lend itself well to a narrative driven game style, where the players' decisions and actions have real consequences in the world. The game could include branching storylines and multiple endings to various quest lines, depending on the choices made by the players. The Infected would add a unique layer to the players traversing the game world, and the existence of spores would be a huge factor in deciding where to go as a player and what to risk doing.
Overall, a The Last of Us TTRPG would offer a unique and immersive experience for players, allowing them to explore the game's world in a new and exciting way. Similar to the video games, which provide a rich framework for TTRPG gameplay, but different enough to stand on its own and apart from other post-apocalyptic settings. This would no doubt be a huge hit as a TTRPG! (Especially if whoever made this got the rights to use Pedro Pascal's likeness.)
03. MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE
Pretty much the earliest fandom I can ever really remember being into was He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Essentially, cartoons of the 1980's were aimed at children and were effectively animated half-hour-long toy commercials - but we still loved them, and He-Man was my first introduction to loving a fandom. The Masters of the Universe would make such a great TTRPG that actually one was recently in development but is on hiatus indefinitely. Unfortunate for us, and even though there are other TTRPGs out there like the super-fun Cartoon Action Hour, which definitely emulates He-Man and other cartoons like it, it would still be great to get an officially licensed Masters of the Universe TTRPG with original artwork and nice glossy pages full of Masters of the Universe lore.
What Is It?: Masters of the Universe is a multimedia franchise that originated as a line of action figures produced by Mattel in the early 1980s. The franchise later expanded into other media, including an animated television series, comic books, video games, and a live-action film.
The franchise is set in a high fantasy and science fiction universe, where the heroic He-Man and his allies, including the Sorceress and Man-At-Arms, defend the realm of Eternia from the evil forces of Skeletor and his minions.
The franchise is known for its colorful characters, imaginative settings, and iconic designs, and has remained popular with fans for decades, with new adaptations and merchandise continuing to be produced to this day.
How It Could Work: A Masters of the Universe TTRPG could be constructed using a variety of existing RPG systems, such as Dungeons & Dragons, Savage Worlds, or Fate, and adapting them to the setting and themes of Masters of the Universe. However, as with all the game ideas on this list, ultimately it would be best to create a game system from scratch that would enhance the gameplay in the favor of showcasing the property's strengths.
For character creation, players could create original characters and place them in the world of the Masters of the Universe franchise. The available races could include humans, Eternians, and other humanoid creatures from the various planets featured in the franchise, such as the reptilian Snake Men, the insectoid Bee People, or the robot-like Androbots. There are so many cool options to choose from, and newcomers not knowing much about the franchise could still be enthused.
Gameplay could be focused on exploring the vast and dangerous universe of Masters of the Universe, battling against villains such as Skeletor and his minions, and uncovering the secrets of the ancient and powerful artifacts that litter the cosmos. The game could feature a mix of combat, exploration, and puzzle-solving, with players using their characters' unique abilities and skills to overcome challenges. Adventures could focus on team-ups with characters from the He-Man show, or original characters created by the GM. Players might see their characters being targeted by Skeletor, asked to help by the Sorceress, or uncovering some powerful artifact never seen in the shows or comics.
Players could create a wide variety of characters, including warriors, wizards, thieves, and other archetypes typically found in fantasy RPGs. In addition, given the sci-fi nature of the setting, characters with technological skills or cybernetic enhancements could also be viable options. Classes could include options such as:
Warrior: Skilled in combat and weapons, these characters are the frontline fighters of the group.
Sorcerer: Masters of magic, these characters can wield powerful spells and incantations to aid the group.
Thief: Stealthy and skilled in thievery, these characters excel at sneaking around and gathering information.
Technician: Expert in technology and engineering, these characters can hack into computer systems and repair damaged machinery.
Mystic: Connected to the mystical energies of the universe, these characters can sense hidden dangers and access the knowledge of ancient beings.
Overall, a Masters of the Universe TTRPG could offer players the chance to explore a rich and fantastical universe filled with adventure and danger, while also allowing them to create their own unique characters and explore the possibilities of this beloved franchise.
What Sets It Apart From D&D?: The main thing that sets this world apart from D&D is that each character feels dynamic. It will be easy to accomplish this with players and their characters by granting them one or two main and powerful abilities via a randomized table, the ability leveling up with them. For example, Clamp Champ has a mechanized grip as his primary weapon, and Buzz-Off is a human bee with bee-like abilities.
I may have begun with He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, but the pinnacle for me of my Saturday morning cartoon enjoyment was always Thundercats. What's not to love? Anthropomorphic cat warriors battling an evil mummy using very cool vehicles, weapons, and magic along with equally fantastical allies. There is, of course, already unofficial Thundercats TTRPGs out there already - but I believe that the root of a good Thundercats officially licensed TTRPG would not be limiting gameplay to playing as Thunderians alone, but rather as any of the myriad races found within the show or extended lore. There's plenty of room for adventure, heroics, and roleplaying in the world of the Thundercats and I truly believe that it could make an amazing TTRPG.
What Is It?: Thundercats is a media franchise that originated as an animated television series in the 1980s. It features a team of humanoid cat-like creatures called the Thundercats who are stranded on a planet called Third Earth after their home planet is destroyed. The Thundercats are led by their leader, Lion-O, and they battle against the evil Mumm-Ra and his minions, the Mutants, to protect Third Earth and its inhabitants.
The franchise has expanded to include comic books, video games, and other merchandise. A reboot of the animated series premiered in 2011, and a new CGI-animated movie is currently in development. Thundercats has become a cultural icon, inspiring a generation of fans who continue to celebrate its enduring legacy.
How It Could Work: A Thundercats TTRPG could be constructed using a variety of systems, such as Savage Worlds, or a custom system designed specifically for the game which would honestly be the best choice. The important thing is to ensure that the rules and mechanics of the game capture the feel and themes of the Thundercats universe, including all the unique character types, weapons, vehicles, and monsters.
Regarding player character races, the Thundercats universe features a variety of humanoid and animal-like creatures that could be included. Some potential options might include Thunderians (the species of the Thundercats themselves), Mutants (the main villains of the series), and other creatures like Snarfs, Berbils, and more. In this way, the world of the Thundercats is very much like Masters of the Universe.
Gameplay could revolve around exploration, combat, and social encounters, much like other fantasy TTRPGs. However, the unique setting of Thundercats could also incorporate elements like magic and technology, with characters having access to advanced weapons and equipment as well as mystical abilities. This would be a way to make it unique and stand out from typical fantasy fare like Pathfinder or D&D.
Players could create a wide range of characters, from warriors and rogues to scholars and mystics. Some classes that might be available could include:
Warrior: A fighter skilled in combat and martial arts, using weapons like swords, axes, and bows.
Rogue: A sneaky and agile character adept at thievery and subterfuge, using skills like stealth, lockpicking, and pickpocketing.
Mystic: A character with access to magical powers and abilities, able to cast spells and manipulate mystical energies.
Engineer: A character skilled in the use and creation of advanced technology, able to repair and construct machines and devices.
The Thundercats is almost tailor made for a TTRPG - so lets hope some game developer realizes this and creates a Thundercats officially licensed TTRPG for us in the future. Can you imagine being able to pal around with Panthro on some quest to battle the Mutants? I'm drooling!
It's absolutely baffling to me that the Shannara series by Terry Brooks has not been shown more love. It's hands-down my favorite fantasy series to escape to, and while the original book "The Sword of Shannara" was very derivative of Lord of the Rings, Brooks has gone on to craft an unmistakably original world with a complex system of lore with 30+ books. The characters are rich, and Brooks has crafted a series in which the bloodlines of certain characters seem to provide them with a certain destiny reminiscent of the Jedi from Star Wars (it's no mistake that Brooks wrote the novelization of Star Wars Episode I). However, other characters still get a chance to shine and do their part in the universe and that's where the TTRPG comes in.
What Is It?: Shannara is a series of epic fantasy novels by author Terry Brooks. The series is set in a fictional world known as the Four Lands, which is inhabited by a variety of races, including humans, elves, dwarves, and trolls. The series follows the adventures of various characters as they struggle to save the Four Lands from various threats, including demons, warlocks, and other dark forces.
The Shannara series is known for its richly detailed world-building, complex characters, and sweeping storylines. The series has been praised for its ability to combine traditional fantasy tropes with modern themes and sensibilities, making it a popular choice for fans of the genre.
The Shannara series has been adapted for television, with a series called The Shannara Chronicles airing on MTV and later on Spike TV. The series was produced by Al Gough and Miles Millar, and starred Austin Butler, Poppy Drayton, and Ivana Baquero. While the series received mixed reviews, it introduced the world of Shannara to a new generation of fans.
How It Could Work: A Shannara TTRPG could be constructed using a variety of existing game systems, but the game would need to incorporate elements from the Shannara series, including its races, magic, technology, and lore so it would most likely be best to start from scratch if possible, with a new system that would be familiar to fans of D&D or Pathfinder. The thing that really sets Shannara apart from a game setting like D&D is its sometimes-advanced use of technology (airships, etc) and its legacy magic items and abilities such as the Elfstones.
Some of the races that could be included in a Shannara TTRPG are:
In addition, there are other races that are unique to the Shannara universe, such as the Wing Riders and the Chosen. Most of these will be familiar to gamers who have experienced D&D or readers who read fantasy, but Brooks has put his own spin on some of the races and most of them feel more human without much in the way of special abilities.
Gameplay would likely involve players creating their own characters, selecting a race and a class, and then embarking on a series of quests or missions. Players would need to navigate the political and social complexities of the Four Lands, as well as battle various monsters and other enemies. Characters could be legacy characters, related to those who have come before like the Elessedils or the Ohmsfords or newcomers, meant to help with a new threat to the Four Lands.
Players could create a wide variety of characters, including:
Each class would have its own unique abilities and skills, allowing players to tailor their characters to their individual play styles. For example, a warrior would be a strong melee fighter, while a sorcerer would be a powerful spellcaster, just as in any other TTRPG out there on the market already. But Shannara would place its own unique spin on various classes such as the Druid being more akin to a powerful wizard or sorcerer than it would be to the druids found in D&D or Pathfinder.
The gameplay could involve exploration, combat, and puzzle-solving. Players would need to work together to overcome obstacles and complete their quests. The game could also include elements of morality and decision-making, where players must choose between different paths and outcomes to various quests, especially when the Four Lands is inevitably in danger again thanks to daemons. As in the books, there would almost always be an overarching plot of world destruction or domination by the daemons or other entities, but there's also room for D&D level play and exploration as well.
Overall, a Shannara TTRPG would offer players the opportunity to immerse themselves in the rich and diverse world of the Four Lands, creating their own unique characters and experiencing the epic adventures that the series is known for. The world is already so rich and detailed that a game developer would have to merely piece all the lore together and create a TTRPG system for them to work in.
Anyway, these are my thoughts on properties that can be turned easily into successful TTRPGs. Did I miss any that you think might be good? Did I make a mistake thinking some of these weren't already out there? Let me know in the comments below! - Joe