I recently received a treat from Netflix: Disc 1 of Season 1 of Samurai Jack. I had watched it intermittently while it was on Cartoon Network and enjoyed it immensely. While I watched the original episodes, it occurred to me that the world of Samurai Jack would be a wonderful setting for a role-playing game.
It covers so many genres. To name but a few:
- Fantasy From the katana-wielding Jack to the demon Aku, as well as all the magic present throughout the series, this world is rich in the fantastic. Add to it the honor of Samurai Jack, to the obviously-evil minions of Aku, and there is a strong fantasy element here.
- Sci-Fi It is mentioned in the series that Aku has ruled Earth for “thousands of years.” If his reign started not too long after Samurai Jack’s battle in Episode 1, when samurai were prevalent, then he would have come to power anywhere from the 10th to the 19th century. That’s nearly a 1000 year span. Nevertheless, it is roughly the time of feudal Japan. So the show occurs in our alternate future, in at least the 30th century. This gives technology plenty of time to evolve beyond the present day. Indeed, the show features laser weapons, space travel, and even extraterrestrial species.
- Steampunk More than a few episodes have featured robotic cowboys, clockwork beings, and steam-infused automatons. There are also plenty of multi-level technologies present in the same place. All of these are hallmarks of steampunk in one form or the other.
- Post-Apocalyptic The evils of Aku have caused untold devastation to the world and its inhabitants. Add to that the other-worldly species that have become dominant, and you have a ruined, or at least an unrecognizable, Earth.
Given the multi-genre aspect of the setting, the system has to be capable of handling this. What would work for this? Again, to name but a few, from my admittedly-limited knowledge:
- GURPS The king of generic, genre-spanning RPGs, it can handle these sorts of settings with ease. The question is, then, can it capture the feel of the setting? It is a very mechanical, realistic system, which may be a point against it.
- FATE Spirit of the Century, built on FATE, is an awesome system for a pulp-style game. I love the over-the-top feeling it encourages, which definitely fits with Samurai Jack.
- FUDGE The foundation of FATE, FUDGE can work superbly here.
- 4E Amethyst Yes, it’s built on 4E Dungeons & Dragons, but it beautifully mixes the fantasy of D&D and the futuristic technology of a sci-fi setting.
- 4E Gamma World This works very well for the post-apocalyptic/sci-fi feel of Samurai Jack
I know I’m missing a heck of a lot of possible systems in this list. Do you have any suggestions for a Samurai Jack RPG?