A friend of mine asked me to go into more detail about genres, and how Cosmothea fits into the sometimes confusing categories. So, I thought I’d take another dip into the topic as it relates to the outside world, then internalize it and see where Cosmothea fits in, and why.
You may have noticed over the years that some books are categorized differently depending on which bookstore you are in. It’s gotten better over the years, but without genres, it would be even harder. Even so, genres have fuzzy edges, and both booksellers and authors often have different ideas on what genre would best classify a book (even an author’s own book), especially if more than one genre is involved. Some feel that if a product is predominantly encompassing a single genre, even if it touches on other genres, the classification should be clear – apply the predominant genre. Subgenres were also created to further refine the definition of each genre.
One bookstore in New England got around the genre issue by categorizing all of their books according to publisher. A few years ago, someone bought that huge store and it took them forever to reorganize by genre as no one could find the books they wanted without a task force. That’s all a genre is – a category – usually fairly broad. Genres are not meant to be a straight jacket anymore than alignments were meant to be in games like D&D, though like the alignment system, genres were actually meant to classify what something is, not make something fit a particular mold and some people don’t get it. Even so, genres are an imperfect system, yet some have obsessed over genres, when the concept was never meant to be more than what they are, but the concept has been misused.
While Anne McCaffrey was considered a science fiction novelist, well known for her Dragonriders of Pern series, sometimes her books are found in the science fiction section, and at other times in the fantasy section of bookstores. And because so many people struggle with classifying multi-genre and blended-genre novels, some bookstores just have a big section called Science Fiction and Fantasy. Since blended-genres are immensely popular, that problem isn’t going away, but thanks to computers, it’s easier to find what you want in a database.
While Dean Koontz doesn’t consider himself predominantly a horror writer, his books are usually found in the horror section. Star Wars has a distinctly blended-genre approach, and since bookstores sadly don’t usually have any sort of blended-genre section or category, other methods have to be used to describe them and find them. Databases are still subject to proper categorizing, but part of the problem is also that people tend to compartmentalize their own thoughts and desires such that they aren’t willing to or are sometimes hesitant to try new things. Even so, movie and book sales have shown that the blended-genre is immensely popular.
Some would say that both Star Trek and Star Wars are fantasy, because they often stray far from hard science, while others would argue that they belong solidly in the science fiction genre. Unlike either Star Trek or Star Wars, Cosmothea was designed to be used as a single genre. Cosmothea was also designed to be used as a blend-to taste, or blended-genre game by those who, like me, love blowing the doors off of what’s possible and embracing the blend. Cosmothea wouldn’t fit neatly into a bookstore by genre. I went to a gaming website the other day to post a new Cosmothea PlaybyPost game and saw that they had set up their site according to genre, and had no blended-genre section, which I think is sad. Even a Science Fantasy section would have been a little helpful.
Looking back to 1950, the term, Science Fantasy, was attributed to Conan the Conqueror and to some other books inappropriately. While Cosmothea could be considered Science Fantasy, it is also a great many other things, and I prefer the term blended-genre. I dodge any preconceived notions about which genre it fits into, since none wholly apply all of the time, and embrace the blend!
To dig a little deeper regarding what I said earlier about how Cosmothea is both a multi-genre and blended-genre game, a gamer could buy Cosmothea and run it purely as a fantasy campaign, keeping to one of the fantasy-only genre worlds provided, or create a fantasy homebrew, ignoring the other genres and story elements tying everything together. Another gamer might want to run a science fiction genre campaign without a hint of magic or supernatural one week, then run a superhero genre game the next, but avoid fantasy altogether. Still another might want to run a modern horror genre campaign all using a single set of rules; therefore I also like to include the term, multi-genre and also blended-genre for clarification.
Most of the worlds in the Cosmothea universe are a blend, from genres merely coexisting in separate areas of the same world, to living in the same neighborhood and interacting regularly, to magic powered appliances and superheroes claiming a hamlet as their home base and protecting it from local thugs and creatures of the night. It isn’t a generic game. The universe and storyline were just built to handle it. Cosmothea offers a wide array of genre and blended-genre options. And of course the game has plenty of art (and I’ll be aiming at commissioning a lot more in the days ahead), which will help further illuminate the myriad of options and opportunities within the Cosmothea Campaign Setting.
So, how do I run my own games? I like to blow the doors off of what’s possible and usually strive for a thick blend. Blended-genre roleplaying, IMO, is the ideal roleplaying option, but as you can see, it covers just about anything you could want to do in the hobby, and all under one roof. One system and one huge setting: Near infinite options. Now, if you only like your games uber crunchy, you’ll probably want to play GURPS or HERO and if you want them uber lite, you might want to try out Savage Worlds, but I think many will be pleased with what Cosmothea has to offer.
In the days ahead, I’ll be looking to reveal more and more about the setting and mechanics on this blog (but I won’t blog like crazy, as it will slow down development on the game). But I hope that you’ll subscribe and follow along as we edge toward publication.
Next up, a shorter post!