The Importance of Genre [Trinity Continuum]

Trinity Continuum

The Trinity Continuum is designed to handle a lot in the action-adventure/sci-fi umbrella, and we want to provide you the tools you need to run the kind of game you and your friends enjoy best. Here’s a section on genre from Chapter Five: The Storyguide in the Trinity Continuum Core Rulebook.

While the Trinity Continuum universe encompasses a wide variety of stories, that doesn’t mean every group finds every type of story equally appealing, or that all those styles naturally mesh well together. That’s where genre understanding becomes important, because while the umbrella of science fiction covers the Trinity Continuum, there are a lot of possible subgenres that suit different playstyles and present the world in a different light.

Before the group sits down to play, it’s a good idea to talk about exactly what style of story the players want. This doesn’t mean giving away specific plot twists, of course, but rather having a discussion of what the group is expecting. Think of it like a pitch discussion for a series pilot, where the creators identify important concepts and themes before settling down to the nitty gritty of characters and plot. Doing so not only helps the Storyguide craft a fun and engaging tale for everyone, but also ensures that the players are on the same page regarding what the game is going to be like in the broad strokes.

After all, if half of the group is expecting a realistic, hard sci-fi game full of cutting-edge, but believable technology and the other half of the group wants technobabble and outlandish gadgets that do the impossible in the guise of “science,” there’s going to be frustration down the line as their expectations collide. If the group is far apart, then it’s time to talk compromise and see what everyone is willing to accept to tell fun, engaging stories together. It’s not usually difficult to reach these sorts of accommodations, but first the group must be aware that they’re necessary, and that’s a lot easier to discuss up front rather than in the middle of a future session.

In the previous example, for instance, the group might decide that soft science fiction is a good middle ground. The group’s hard science-fiction fans accept that not everything will be nuts-and-bolts realistic, while the weird-science fans agree to tone down the more fantastic end of their desired technology level. Whatever works for the group is fine, so long as everyone is willing to work it out and get on board.

With that in mind, what follows are discussions of the three major genres found in the Trinity Continuum — high tech, science fiction, and weird science — as well as shorter discussions of other genres and subgenres that are not necessarily covered by default but could be adapted to work in this setting. Each discussion provides some insight into what makes that genre work, as well as advice for evoking it in play; with an eye toward designing games that showcase its best features, while avoiding some of its difficult aspects.

High Tech

As what might be considered the default setting for the Trinity Continuum, it’s important to understand that high tech stories, while sharing some elements of science fiction, are still distinct in what they focus on. Not surprisingly, high tech stories use the gear and gadgets to enable characters to perform amazing feats — they are important to the story, but are still fundamentally tools to help the characters achieve their goals. This contrasts with science fiction, where the science serves as the focus of the story and the actions of the characters. At its heart, high tech is the action-adventure genre with a special focus on a lot of cool toys, as compared to the more philosophical bent of science fiction, and so it shines when it features a lot of great stunts, interesting locations, and intricate action set pieces.

Examples: Leverage, James Bond stories, Person of Interest, Ghost Recon series by Tom Clancy.

Science Fiction

Although high tech and its action-adventure feel may be the default setting of Trinity Continuum, the setting also naturally lends itself to different kinds of science fiction. At first glance the two genres may seem difficult to tell apart, but when you take away the toys and trappings, what separates them is that high tech is about personal skill and achievement, while science fiction uses science to raise questions about humanity and its relationship with the universe. This is not to say that science fiction can’t also include action sequences, intrigue, romance, or any number of other plot elements, of course — simply that it places one or more scientific theories and their implications at the heart of a story, so that removing them is impossible without fundamentally rewriting the story. That deep connection to science and the questions it raises is what defines this genre.

Examples: Star Trek, Black Mirror, Battlestar Galactica, Westworld, Arrival, and Infinite Vacation.

Weird Science

While nominally based on science rather than supernatural forces to explain its fantastic theories and devices, weird science might as well dress an elven wizard in a lab coat and safety goggles, for all the attention it pays to how science actually works. Which is not to say it can’t be fun, or the basis for an excellent game, but it does require acknowledging some very fundamental differences from the high-tech and science-fiction genres. This is science as a hot rod with chrome fins, neon stripes, some cool tunes blaring on the radio, and an improbable number of jet engines strapped to the back. In many ways, it is science presented in the way that many people, and even some scientists, wish it worked, rather than how it actually works.

Examples: Fringe, The X-Files, Stargate, Limitless, Eureka

The Trinity Continuum Core Rulebook and Trinity Continuum: Æon are currently available for preorder via BackerKit.

  1 comment for “The Importance of Genre [Trinity Continuum]

  1. Gyor
    July 17, 2018 at 7:35 pm

    Star Trek and Stargate honestly fits all three of these genres.

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