I've had a particular thought brewing in my brain the last week or so, just thought I'd share.
I don't think every cool piece of IP needs to be licensed as an RPG. Hell, I don't even think some should be.
Case in point: Battlestar Galactica.
My wife and I have been watching BSG the last couple weeks and thoroughly enjoying it. The show is compelling drama (even if it didn't compel us to give up our Friday nights when it originally aired). But just because it's a sci-fi story, a war story, a story that involves shooting, starships, and alien/robot antagonists does NOT mean it would make a decent RPG. Heck, it has heroic characters and it STILL wouldn't make for your average "adventure game." At least not in the traditional, non-indie RPG sense of the idea.
Yes, I'm aware that there is already a Battlestar Galactica RPG. I can only imagine that it has write-ups of all the star characters complete with lists of "skills" like "shoot gun" and "pilot viper;" as if that's what the television show is all about. I suppose one could consider the characters of the TV drama to be "on an adventure" but what is interesting about it, what makes it worth watching is NOT whether or not Chief Tyrol makes his "repair fighter" roll or whether or how many "hit points" (or the equivalent) Baltar loses when getting knocked around. Jumping Jesus on a pogo stick!
Now compare that with Star Wars which, despite an over-arching plot, is still just an episodic adventure series. There's no real "depth of character" to Chewbacca or Han Solo (one of the reasons cited by Harrison Ford for never wanting to reprise the role), or any of the characters, and the"development" that occurs is as superficial as any traditional RPG. What is Anakin Skywalker but a cardboard cut-out perhaps with an "anger meter" or a "selfish +2" stat? Not much more, really. The characters are present so that the "fun adventure story" can be told.
In Battlestar Galactica, the war story is present so the characters' stories can be told.
How they develop, how they evolve (or devolve) under pressure, how they love and hate, their relationships with each other, with duty, with the mission. How they mature. How they deal with the (mental) curve balls and challenges thrown at them.
That's not the foundation for an "adventure" RPG. Maybe the basis for a psyche-exploring, Story Now-type indie-game, but I doubt that's what you get in the glossy hardcover I see on the shelf of the game shop.
Now, of course, it is possible to "drift" any RPG into character exploration and personality development...certainly I've seen it happen with long-term Dungeons & Dragons play, despite a rule system aimed at facilitating treasure seeking. But what D&D (at least Old School editions) had over the current commercial RPGs was a simplicity of game rules/design that made system so quick and easy that drifting was a fine little side jaunt. Who wants to spend hours constructing a feat/talent/skill/class/spell-studded stat monster just to have none of those stats and abilities matter? No one, that's who. If I have cleave and great cleave, written on my sheet, you better bet I want a chance to use 'em. Don't tell me the game is about facing my personal demons or dealing with political fall-out.
As I work on my B/X space opera, I find myself wondering how much "story" I should add to the game. The truly innovative part of OD&D (and by extension, B/X) was it's openness to most any type of "pseudo-fantasy-medieval" game you wanted to run. It could be adapted to a Greyhawk or a Forgotten Realms or a Dragon Lance with no sweat (even though they were all, in a way, "licensing" certain game conventions -- for example, the way the Vancian spell magic worked in the "game universe"). I find myself wanting to actually include antagonistic agencies (the equivalent of "The Sith" or the "Evil Empire")...but would such organized opposition hamstring the game? Do I want to be creating my own Intellectual Property at all? Even to such a small degree as "this is how people use "The Force?"
I don't know, I'm just wondering. I haven't checked out X-Plorers, which for all I know may be a truly generic B/X space game. My original idea was NOT generic, but rather "B/X Star Wars." But if I don't own the licensing rights I have to do away with the IP. And if I don't have Lucas's IP do I really want to bother writing this game?
Ugh. Well, time to get back to work.