This is probably going to be a Session Zero discussion.
I’m going to have a couple of conversations with my players before a GI Joe campaign some day if it ever happens. I’ve been wanting to run this game since the mid 1980’s. It’s going to happen eventually.
First, we have to establish the setting of the campaign. It’s probably going to be, as you may have guessed if you follow my Power Rangers design plans, an alternate Earth from the animated and other series. The main question is whether we will be playing in an anime-esque Sigma 6 game, a GI Joe Renegades game, or one that closely mirrors the original. There’s another possibility of a strong Transformers tie-in because I’ve always wanted to see that made into a movie.
Setting is not the real Session Zero dilemma, though. The problem I’m contemplating currently is realism, once again. Not just the violence aspect, although that will come up. No, I’m concerned over the fact that Cobra is a terrorist organization. I’m probably going to make friends at Homeland Security in the real world just for discussing this.
(*Editor’s note: I’m talking about a ROLE PLAYING GAME! Not real life! If I get hauled off in the middle of the night, you know what happened.)
Here’s where the proverbial rubber meets the road with GI Joe RPG.
Let’s talk about the real world implications of running a game where good guys, the Joes, chase down bad guys- Cobra. It’s black and white on paper, I guess. But again, Cobra is supposed to be a terrorist organization. After 9/11, that’s a pretty grim title for any organization to latch onto.
Let’s face it, we could be talking some real horrific stuff if we wanted to turn the realism up to 10. (It does NOT go to 11.) Think about how much damage one nutjob terrorist can cause. (*Editor’s note: I’m not giving out any potential plot lines for this game yet.) Major Bludd could go on a Leatherface style killing spree or Dr Mindbender could slip some stuff into the municipal water supply to start off the zombie apocalypse, but it wouldn’t be very cartoon-y even for a violent American cartoon.
It’s kind of like watching the bad guy in a comic book tie up the heroes, execute them and set off the nuke. (*No joke, there’s a comic where the villain did just that.) But this kind of thing translates to zero fun in an RPG. There has to be a legit chance for the heroes to stop the bad guys in time. No one wants to play in a game where Cobra touches off the apocalypse behind the scenes and now it’s basically too late.
It’s not the same without incompetent lackeys and Cobra Commander having a tantrum when he gets beaten.
I’m still living for the day when I get to see Cobra Commander and Starscream having a conversation and then the plan goes to pieces. (*Same voice actor in both cartoons.) It’ll be a hoot in the RPG, too. I live for moments like this in any game, even if it’s behind the scenes. NPCs make the world go around.
My goal with any RPG, especially this one, is to have as much fun as possible. Mass casualties are not fun. Some of us have experienced the trauma of terrorism in the real world and I won’t take it lightly. It’s truly a sensitive topic and should be approached as such.
Much like the widespread use of stun lasers and mercy bullets, we’re going to run GI Joe in nerfed mode. Cobra is going to be dealing in the creation of weather dominators and melting the polar icecaps with a heat ray. They’ll be rounding up a new batch of scientists every week to create giant plants and mutant scorpions.
…and knowing is half the battle.
My goal with all of the Essence20 games is going to be to keep it PG as much as possible. That goes for Transformers and Power Rangers, too. I want my players to experience the excitement and mild drama of the battle against Cobra. I want to mess around with the RPG versions of all the cool weapons and vehicles we had as toys from the cartoons.
I promise to keep my game free of guts and gore. There will be minimal swearing. Death is not going to be commonplace unlike the real world. Injuries will heal fairly rapidly. The parachutes will always deploy and all of the airbags work in every vehicle. Gonna keep it fairly kid friendly. The kind of RPG you can play with a 10 year old on up.
I’m also pretty stoked to do some of the voices from the cartoon and go watch old reruns in the name of “research.” The game is going to be fun, not a bloodbath. If the players do stop Cobra, who’s to say another dastardly organization won’t take their place? (*But that’s another article.)
Thanks for being here. I appreciate you. Have a fun and safe weekend.