An Adventure Per Year: Growing Up (2010)

In my A Game Per Year project, my goal has been to read one roleplaying game corebook for every year they’ve been published. However, I soon started to feel that it was hard to decipher how the games were really meant to be played. For this reason, I decided to start a parallel project, An Adventure Per Year, to read one roleplaying adventure for each year they’ve been published.

The cover of Growing Up

Anna Westerling’s Growing Up is another scenario from Jeepen.org but this time the themes and subject matter are radically different from before. The scenario is a faithful adaptation of the Jane Austen novel Sense and Sensibility.

It left me wondering what’s the difference between an adaptation and a licensed work. This scenario is an adaptation while the Dune, Dishonored and Fallout roleplaying games are licensed products.

I guess it comes down to the power dynamics between the designer and the IP holder. If the IP holder can police the work and demand changes so it fits within the larger vision for the property, it’s a licensed work. If the designer is free to work as they see fit, it’s an adaptation.

This means that it’s possible to make an adaptation of something that’s still within copyright. It just requires one of two things:

  • A rights holder who gives the designer carte blanche. My impression is that this is what happened when Ville Vuorela made the excellent Stalker roleplaying game, adapted from the Strugatski brothers novel Roadside Picnic.
  • You have enough leverage and power that you can effectively override whatever wishes the rights holder might have. This is probably more common in Hollywood than in roleplaying game design.

In the case of Growing Up, since Sense and Sensibility is long out of copyright, Anna Westerling is free to implement her own artistic vision as the designer. And she does, with excellent results.

The novel has been broken down into a series of scenes that are meant to be played fairly quickly as is typical in this style of design. They each distill some key aspect of the original novel from the perspective of the central characters. The core themes of love and money are examined through the characters of Elinor and Marianne as they seek to figure out their futures. Can you marry for love when the question of a fortune you can subsist on is so central?

Here the design serves the desired experience. With a few of the Jeepform scenarios you get the impression they were made to prove a point but this is clearly meant to be played.

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