I started to feel that I didn’t know roleplaying games well enough so I came up with the plan to read a roleplaying game corebook for every year they have been published. Selection criteria is whatever I find interesting.
Emulating genres and formats from other media is common in the world of roleplaying game design. Sometimes this is limited to genre conventions: How can we make a superhero roleplaying game feel like the superheroics in comics and movies?
Other times the desire to emulate goes deeper. The Jeepform game Freeform Soap Opera is an example of this impulse. It seeks to replicate the experience of soap opera in the form of improvised roleplaying.
Some of the design seeks to guide the players into the right creative space. The game says that in a soap opera, it’s all about “dialogue and no action”. The focus is on talking, not doing. This guides the players in how they should approach play.
Otherwise the design draws on flowcharts describing the process of play. The goal is to mimic the format of a tv episode closely, including in terms of running time. The game experience is short and to the point, almost like a drama exercise where the goal is to improvise soap opera dynamics.
The game runs on a cycle of planning and play. In the planning stages, the participants decide on style, the title of the soap opera, setting and characters. There’s only a limited amount of time for planning because the game runs on a clock. As a fun detail, if time runs out, you have to play anyway, using what you have. As the game reminds us, soap opera often has an ad hoc quality to it and doesn’t always make sense.