What makes Buffy Buffy?

         A basic question that faces anyone that starts their own RPG series is how to settle on a cast and setting which is different than the series, and yet still retains the qualities that one likes and desires from the original. Of course, everyone will probably have their own opinions about this. This is just my personal thoughts on the dilemma.

         The following is my personal list of what makes Buffy Buffy, in order of importance:

  1. Juxtaposing supernatural threats and normal life
    A constant theme in Buffy is having a supernatural horror reflect some aspect of teen life, such as the mother-daughter conflict in "The Witch" reflected in the supernatural possession and curses. A campaign where the PC's are commandoes, professional agents, or seasoned Watchers will lack this.
  2. Empowering what is normally the female victim
    The core concept of Buffy is taking the girl who is the typical victim in vampire horror films, and making her a tough superhero. I think the femaleness of the hero is pretty important, and I was disappointed that 3 out of 4 of the Hero archetypes in the core rulebook are male.
  3. Teenage problems
    While Buffy eventually grew out of teen-hood, I think that school and other issues of teens is central to the series. Teen issues like career day, steroid use, mother-daughter relations, dating, prom, and so forth are frequent themes. With the latest season, this has become even more explicit as Buffy returns to high school as a counselor.
  4. A new twist on old monsters
    The show takes a lot of old monster movie premises and puts a new twist on them. Besides vampires, there have been werewolves, killer androids, snake-demons, mind-controlling parasites, and more. Many if not most of these reference classic horror movies (like the man-fish which resemble the "Creature from the Black Lagoon).
  5. Circles around a central character
    Some series have a stable of characters who are switched between. BtVS is instead organized with a single character. This doesn't mean that all the stories are about Buffy. Rather, the stories revolve around Buffy as the center. If anything, other characters are more developed than Buffy is (i.e. perhaps more of a donut than a cookie :-). But Buffy is the center which organizes their stories.

         Obviously the order of importance is an issue of personal taste, and also the list itself to some degree.

Alternate Series Concepts

         The Buffy RPG Core Rulebook lists several series cast options, which vary in their Buffyness to a fair degree. Note that there is nothing wrong with an RPG series being less Buffy-like. A series needs individuality, and there is nothing which demands that it needs to exactly imitate the original series. However, it is worth looking at how these concepts affect the Buffyness of the series.


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John H. Kim <jhkim-at-darkshire-dot-net>
Last modified: Sat Oct 25 00:18:48 2003