Tag Archives: law enforcement

Underserved Gaming Genres 1: Cop Fiction

In my Underserved Gaming Genres post, I said I would start going through some of the popular genres that seem perfect for RPGs but, strangely, are massively ignored by them for some reason.  The first of these, and the most underserved in my opinion – cop fiction!

Cop shows are part of our DNA.  From T.J. Hooker and Hill Street Blues to X-Files and Ghost In The Shell to The Shield and CSI, law enforcement fiction has often been at the forefront of popular entertainment.  You get to be a good guy.  You get to shoot people.  Hell, most of the goofy “what is roleplaying” intros that RPGs use cite the childhood play of “cops and robbers” (Has anyone really done that since the 1950s?).  But as RPG content, not so much.

There are some games where law enforcement is portrayed as one campaign option.  My first RPG, Star Frontiers, had a lot of people play Star Law officers, but this had very little explicit support in the game.  Then there are many games where your character might be affiliated with some law enforcement organization, but this is largely just character background and perhaps some color of authority, with the players “really” serving some other organization (Delta Green, Conspiracy X, Alternity Dark*Matter).  And of course in many RPGs you can play a character who happens to be a cop or FBI agent, but not really, like choosing some law enforcement character type in Call of Cthulhu – it’s just an archetype, no real law enforcement need apply – somehow your adventuring is always “off duty”.  But as for real cop RPGs, pickings are slim!

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Underserved Gaming Genres

Role-playing games are a diverse medium.  Sure, mostly they are trapped in the genre ghetto of standard fantasy/horror/SF plots, but really you can play anything from a kid in the Polish resistance during the failed uprising of 1944 (Grey Ranks), a space-babe trying to win the love of a humanoid rat (Space Rat: The Jack Cosmos Adventure Game),  a slave in pre-Civil War America (Steal Away Jordan), and more.  But I can’t help but notice that three of the absolute most prominent fiction genres are severely underrepresented in RPGs.  These are:

  • Cop Fiction
  • Crime Fiction
  • Military Fiction

This seems odd, as players love to kill things and flaunt convention, and these genres are definitely the ones you tune in to on TV if you want to see someone get their ticket punched or act out.

In my next posts, I’ll investigate these genres, canvas what RPGs do exist in those areas, and examine common “problems” with those kinds of games and what, perhaps, we can do about them.