10) Alternate History
I find this genre great fun, particularly when it’s done subtly. Pick a point in time and change a single, small detail, and watch history forge a new path. “Ahh, Mrs Hitler, it’s a girl!” Of course, it’s not easily done, and sometimes it goes horribly wrong, but fair play to those who make it work. And they’re not likely to run out of material. Victoriana is one example, obviously set in the Victorian age, with added steampunk and demonic elements, what more could you want?
You might argue this isn’t a genre, as it can include other genres within it. Ok, we’ll call it a sub-genre and move swiftly on. This obviously covers those RPGs where your character is a soldier of some kind, and spends almost every second doing soldiery stuff and living the whole military lifestyle. I’m a big fan of the whole genre, games and films as well as books. There’s always plenty of action, and the plots don’t need to be contrived to get the heroes into the thick of it. I’d say Warhammer 40K is the big fish is this pond.
Espionage RPGs are a great antidote to the other smash-it’s-face genres where your character variously chops, shoots and punches everything that moves. This genre involves more sneaking about, gathering evidence, following the trail to its source, and taking out the target with a single shot from a mile away. Spycraft is the one most people will be able to name, but there are many others.
Who wouldn’t want to strap on some tights, throw a pair of pants over the top and go and fight crime? As most of us don’t get the opportunity, superhero RPGs are the next best thing. This genre has become massively popular of late, as though it’s now more respectable. This has also given players a wide choice of characters to play, good, bad and not sure. DC Comics are one of the big players.
6) Cross Genre
This only makes number six because often it just doesn’t work. I’m not going to name and shame and point fingers, but much cross genre stuff is just people choosing two genres out of a hat and trying to make them mesh. When it does work, Firefly for example, it works very well indeed.
It would have been great if history had actually given us a steampunk era. Right after steam engines and before the electronic age, with all the steam-powered and clockwork gadgets that go with it. Alas it wasn’t to be, but we can dream, and play, the genre, and wistfully imagine what we missed. Many of these games include airships for some reason, including Skybourne.
I must confess, I don’t like horror in other media. I never watch horror films or read horror books. But when it comes to gaming I embrace it like a tentacle around the book of the dead. In my case, this is mostly thanks, of course, to CoC, and laterly Delta Green. There are many others around, including the excellent and wonderfully named Achtung Cthulhu!
3) Dark Fantasy
This is quite a wide definition, one person’s dark fantasy is another person’s horror. Personally, I prefer more fantasy and less horror. The dark in dark fantasy can also refer to a more sombre, more adult theme, not all shiny swords and glowing elves with happy endings. When it comes to table-top gaming, I have embraced the whole dark fantasy theme.
2) Science Fiction
Of all the genres, this one is my personal favourite, and has been since before I even knew what it was. Whether it’s films, books, video games, RPGs or bath products, Sci Fi is my number one of all time. Luckily for me, there’s plenty of it about to keep me occupied while technology advances enough so I can actually go into space. This category covers a wide spectrum, including the ever popular post-apocalyptic settings like Gamma World. This sub-genre is also very popular with film directors and video game makers. If I had to choose just one TRPG product, it would be Mindjammer, for its vast scope and flexibility.
1) High Fantasy
Arguably the daddy of them all, High Fantasy isn’t to everyone’s taste, but I love all the elves and talking dragons stuff, particularly if I can have so many magic items I need a magic bag to hold them all. There’s a huge choice of material around these days, partially inspired by the marvellous Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings films. And let’s not forget the one that started it all, Dungeons and Dragons, is in this very category.