The Challenge: An important challenge in creating a role playing game–and one prone to be overlooked–is the challenge of game variety. Many role playing games are genre-specific, their rules geared to only a certain game style. Indeed, some RPGs specify more than just genre. The game world, story line, even play style are all used as factors in game design.
Not all RPGs worry excessively about this. Many use a specific game world or story line setting to benefit from brand loyalty and recognizable realms and characters. However, the more variety the game makes available, the greater the game’s potential to draw in players.
In any case, particularly specific role playing games fit their niches well enough. The designers who truly have to worry about the fourth challenge are those who intend to create a reasonably broad RPG. The fact is that role players demand variety. Browse the web sites (or even the banner ads!) of a few on-line role playing games, and you will quickly find that one of the most common selling points is the number (and, sometimes, unpredictability) of the character types they offer. Role players enjoy having a lot of character types to choose from. A fantasy game that only has fighters, wizards, clerics, and rogues won’t cut it, as won’t a sci-fi game where the only choices are astronaut, robot, and alien.
Crossovers are also becoming popular in some groups. There are plenty of players out there who would much prefer a game where robots and aliens can fight alongside fighters and wizards. And if there is a superhero or two in the group, so much the better!
But for a game to provide such options, it must be versatile. The RPG has to be able to support not only the vast (infinite?) number of character types that imaginative players might think of within a single genre, but if you want to cater to crossover players, also to the possible character types from other genres. And you have to do so while maintaining the first three challenges, and the six that will be provided afterwards.
The Risk: So now you know why it is good to make for a game with variety. So let’s say you intend to do so, going all-out with any genre possible. Good!