RPG Licensing Fun: Lego

Category: Game Design
Last article published: 4 May 2020
This is the 25th post under this label
This series provides a look at how intellectual properties might be interpreted as role-playing games. How would any given franchise be handled?  System design, look, supplements, what characters could be played in the setting...

This time: Lego. Beyond the toy is a truck ton of video games and media that have been tied together through the Lego Movies and such products as Lego Dimensions. But how would it work as a table top RPG?

Ideas
First of all, there HAVE been attempts at combining Lego with role-playing games, but these have either been "RPGs" (which is to say, video games which are not, to my eyes, true, open-ended role-playing games), or a way to use Lego blocks and mini-figs as dungeon layouts and miniatures. That's fine, but it's not the same as building game mechanics that fit the humorous action worlds we've been exposed to in Lego's licensed media empire. With Dimensions, they've pushed the idea that you would buy mini-figs and kits as part of the game experience, and I think the table top RPG could totally do that as well with genre packs GM could buy to "build" their world. Players, whose investments are normally lower, could have access to a website where they can build and receive a custom mini-fig in the appropriate genre, with a choice of hair color, face, etc. Would cost more than a simple mini-fig, but would be a treasured icon. And of course, like all Lego, it's compatible with everything else, pushing the sales of other kits and figs that can be incorporated into a game.

Players could game in the "world" of their choice - fantasy, space opera, superheroes, pirates, etc. - or leave it open for multi-genre, in the style of the Lego Movie. Of course, that may cause conflicts with other license holders, so it's not clear that you could have Marvel heroes, Jedis or Middle Earth denizens. Generic versions of those worlds might take their place, and certainly, Lego has its own, like Ninjago, Unikitty and Emmett's Awesomeverse from the movie. The game would have simple mechanics, so it is kid-friendly, and while modular (let's introduce ninja tricks, space travel, etc.) all work with the same straightforward roll.

One stat that every character would have is Building (which would be high for Master Builders, and be traded in for initial powers, so a Superman would have lower Building than everyman Emmett), which would regulate not only what you can do and how fast, but also the number of blocks (player's choice in their collection of a common pool) they can start with. These blocks could be built into shapes right there at the table that your mini-figs can use - imagination is the limit as to what is represented. The characters could also spend blocks, or perhaps coin-like pieces, that act as story points. These could be "spent" in play to buy new/different blocks, to rejuvenate a character (imagine a damage system where you de-build your character during play, oops there goes your hair, there goes your hand, perhaps on a secondary avatar and not the fig you use as a miniature), or affect dice rolls.

Games would typically be short and fast, although it might depend on the players' interest in building things with their blocks. Obviously, you could also play the game in the abstract theater of the imagination, though Lego really wants you to spend money if you can. Most published adventures would spoof pop culture standards, putting a smile on various tropes the same way the video games have done.

System help
Want to simulate Lego yourself (since the above game doesn't actually exist)? Go for the simplest generic game possible Something life Fudge that isn't very hard to modify. A good dose of Toon (since they ARE modern cartoon adventures after all) might also work to get the right amount of random humor in there, and Toon Shticks could be adapted to suit the game's needs. In Toon too your Bugs Bunny analog might be in space one adventure, a superhero in the next, a race car driver in the third. In other words, it is pliable enough to fit the anything-goes nature of the Legoverse.

Get your Legos ready, we're building ourselves and RPG tonight!

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