Posted in: Anime, Reviews, Role Playing Games, Science Fiction

A look at the Cowboy Bebop Roleplaying Game

So on day 27 of the 2024 Character Creation Challenge I attempted to generate a character for the Cowboy Bebop Roleplaying Game. I had just received the hardback book from a Kickstarter campaign. I had backed it because I loved the anime and the live-action TV series and I always thought that it would be a great universe to run an RPG campaign.

The hardbound book is 270 pages long and is in full color. The ISBN is 979-12-80109-58-3 and was published by Don’t Panic Games. I love how the game company probably got this name from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but I had never heard of anything that they had released previously. The game director (writer?) is Michele Paroli. The bulk of the images are pulled directly from the anime.

There is an introduction, six chapters and a glossary. The chapters are 1-Rules (how to play the game), 2- Session (three of them make an episode or single sit-down to play), 3- Characters (how to make one), 4-Hunters in the Solar System (all about the Cowboy Bebop universe), 5- On Stage (kind of a GM section that describes the bounties your players may go after, factions encountered, etc.), 6- Playing the Bebop (the characters seen in the show and episodes put into RPG form).

Here are some photos I took when I first opened up my Kickstarter package. There is a lot of good graphics in this book.

The RPG rules is pretty straight forward for a narrative game (more on that below), even if the description of the rules are not. These pages attempted to tell me the rules of the game. And I did not get them at all. I remember getting major headaches trying to put this together in my head. There is no simple “This is the basics” of the game. I’m of the opinion that I need to understand the basic concept quickly so I can try to talk my friends into playing a game. If I can’t understand the game, I can’t recruit players. I mentioned this in my “Biggest turn-off when checking out a new RPG” blog post. If the RPG is not based off of a common system (D20, GURPS, 2D6, etc.) then give me a simple explanation of the game mechanics. In Cowboy Bebop, your character has traits (a description of a character look or item) and you can try to use them in a session (named after a music style) and you get a d6 dice pool and you have to get a roll higher than 5, 10 or 15 (depending if it’s the 1st, 2nd or 3rd session in the game) and… I tossed the book aside in disgust. I even asked on the RPG.net forums if anyone else had looked in on this game, and only got one response two months later. I didn’t think this was a good sign for the game when thousands of posts are made in a day on this forum.

When I attempted to make a Cowboy Bebop RPG character in January, my goal was to do this Kickstarter review in February. After getting both frustrated and angry (I thought I had wasted my money on the book) I put the book in the “To do” pile and left it there for months. I would see the book and it would remind me that I needed to write my review, but I was still sore about how betrayed the book made me feel. A blog post that says, “Pretty graphics, lots of in-universe details, system sucks to high heaven” is a very boring review. I finally grabbed myself by the collar and said “finish this review because it’s blocking other blog posts that you want to publish”. So I sat down and gathered my photos and looked again at the book. Still feeling frustrated after another attempt to understand the system, I started searching online and came across this video review from The Final Frontiersmen. While he compared some of the game to Star Trek Adventures, he did say one thing that made a light bulb go off in my head. “The key points about this roleplaying game is it’s extremely narrative.” Too much narrative is not my cup of tea. I now understood that I had received my delivered pizza and when I opened up the box, instead of seeing piping hot cheese covering sausage and pepperoni on a layer of marinara sauce, I saw anchovies, artichoke hearts and feta cheese. If you like that type of pizza, or games that is 95%-99% narrative (practically done all by the players) then you may enjoy this game very much. I know there are players who do like these types of games. In the 90’s some of my friends were just digging the Amber diceless RPG that had come out at the time. But when I watched them play, it just seemed like group storytelling where they decided the outcome. Something that was popular in online sim groups, but had zero randomness (and in my mind, zero RPG soul). With how the Cowboy Bebop RPG was stuffed into this box, it was just barely a step above a sim.

For me, I’d prefer an RPG that has a simple system that is easy to pick up that gives the randomness of the dice. A good GM and good players can easily balance the dice of roll playing with the narrative of role playing. Star Trek Adventures and the latest Star Wars system that I experienced at the last SaltCON gave that good balance that encouraged player interaction that included a narrative with the luck of the dice. I remember my favorite Dungeons and Dragons DM describing how a dragon was defeated using combined results from the rolls we made. Other GMs have given the option of having the player describe the way the bad guy was defeated when they made the killing blow.

So now I can put this good looking book in my RPG shelf. And when I want to roleplay in the Cowboy Bebop universe, I’ll use this book for background information, but use a system like Frontier Space or Stars Without Number or a host of other science fiction based RPGs as the system.

One last thought before I close up this review. I’ve taken this as a “Lessons learned” moment when dealing with Kickstarters. The description for this game was a “d6 based system” and I assumed it was more like the Star Wars D6 game I had enjoyed in the past. I will not be making such an assumption again and I blame myself for not digging deeper. After January when I would read a gaming Kickstarter, if the system was not quickly explained to me in a sentence or two, I’ve asked the organizer for more information on the game. The last thing I want to do is open up the pizza box and see a pizza I have no desire to eat.

Have you had a chance to try the Cowboy Beebop RPG? What Kickstarter campaigns are you backing now? This article is open for discussion on the TardisCaptain dot Com Discord server. You can also email me at Carl (at) TardisCaptain.com or click on my social media links with any comments.

Posted in: MST3K

Kickstarter rewards from the MST3K Gizmoplex

The Mystery Science Theater 3000 loot

I love it when something unexpected happens and it inspires me to make a blog post. Delivered today was some of the Kickstarter rewards for Let’s Make More MST3K & Build The Gizmoplex! that I had backed in 2021.

When the box arrived, there was nothing on the outside that indicated what it was. I was pleasantly surprised when the Gizmoplex popcorn bucket was the first thing I saw. My wife, also a MST3K fan, reminded me that Kickstarter rewards are gift that past you sends to current you. Both the popcorn bucket and the drink holder will get used for future viewing.

The red t-shirt is in 3D (you can’t really see it in the photo) and I can’t wait for a proper event to wear it at. As for the stickers. Well the bumper sticker will have to wait until I get a better car. But the other Gizmoplex Founding Member sticker is now sitting on the back of my laptop.

My first laptop sticker

I hope that we will get an announcement about another season of MST3K soon. I really enjoyed season 13. I think my favorite episodes are H.G. Wells’ The Shape of Things to Come and Doctor Mordrid. I also enjoyed watching the specials and behind the scenes videos that were available for backers.

Posted in: Dungeons and Dragons, Role Playing Games

I backed an RPG creativity kickstarter

So I’ve posted about some of the Kickstarter rewards that I’ve received in the past. These have included the 2nd Edition X-Treme Dungeon Mastery and the BX Advanced Bestiary Vol. 1. I’ve also got several rewards coming to me later this year that I’m looking forward to seeing. However another Kickstarter campaign just came across my desk that really caught my attention.

For those of you scratching your heads, let me explain. David Flor wrote this adventure back in 1983 when he was twelve years old. He had it printed out and then lost it as he moved through life. Well, as he explains on his Kickstarter Page, it was recently found and reunited with him. David had returned to gaming life a few years ago and even had some adventures published. So when this example of 1980’s creativity was returned to him, he knew that he had to share it with others. Thus a Kickstarter was launched to scan the original (which is part of the rewards), update it with new artwork (also part of the rewards) and (if certain goals are met) update the adventure for such systems as Dungeons and Dragons 5E and Dungeon Crawl Classics.

So why did this catch my attention? This is the stuff that I would do back in the 80’s and 90s. I was lucky enough to find my homebrewed starships for the FASA Star Trek RPG and my Book of RPG character sheets. I’ve been sharing them here as a way to give my creativity to others. This type of creativity is what inspires me to post on my blog. So I wanted to share it with others. If you can back the Kickstarter, please do so. I’d love to see what is generated from this with all of the stretch goals accomplished.

And yes, I will make a blog post with my first look when the rewards have been released.

What roleplaying game KickStarters have you backed? Tell me about them or ask any questions about this book on the TardisCaptain dot Com Discord page.

Posted in: Collecting, Dungeons and Dragons, Reviews, Role Playing Games

BX Advanced Bestiary Vol. 1 a KickStarter reward

Cover to the BX Advanced Bestiary Vol 1

So another item that came up in January, but the review had to be pushed back to this month because of the Character Creation Challenge, was the arrival of a KickStarter reward. I’ve backed KickStarters before for RPG material (and I have a few that are scheduled to be delivered in 2023). In 2022 I backed an independent publisher who wanted to put out a series of bestiaries for OSR games. Specifically in the B/X flavor (which is a given since it’s in the title of the book). This was The BX Advanced Bestiary Vol. 1 by Third Kingdom Games.

From my KickStarter submission I received the hardbound book which is 133 pages long. The ISBN number is 2370011833927. The cover states that the contents are designed for use with the Old-School Essentials RPG but could be used with any OSR style system. The cover art and interior art are all black and white. The author, Todd Leback, was able to obtain artwork from eight different artists for all of the entries. There are also several house-rules that are made available for GMs to consider and an appendix with several items, optional player races (which are classes in this OSR).

This tome covers monsters from A-D (Ape, White to Dryad). The interesting thing is that each entry also contains variants of the different monsters. So the GM can keep the players on their toes. “What do you mean this boar has an iron hide?” The entry for the dragon is 18 pages long which covers information on ages, lairs, allies and types of attacks.

A sample of one of the dragon pages in the book

There are about 100 monsters contained within the pages of the BX Advanced Bestiary Vol. 1. I’ve been in contact with the author and he responded very quickly to any issues (one of the images was accidentally submitted as blurry due to low resolution, which he offered a replacement book with the imaged replaced). I am impressed with both the organization and the book itself. I’ve been told that there will be KickStarters for future volumes. I plan to back them as they are released since the support levels were very reasonable. This is the type of effort we should be supporting. Fans of the game producing materials for other fans to use.

What roleplaying game KickStarters have you backed? Tell me about them or ask any questions about this book on the TardisCaptain dot Com Discord page.

Posted in: Collecting, Dungeons and Dragons, Reviews, Role Playing Games

X-Treme Dungeon Mastery 2nd Edition first look

XDM book covers
X-Treem Dungeon Mastery 1st edition (left) and 2nd edition (right).

Over the weekend one of my physical Kickstarter rewards came in the mail. I contributed to the 2nd edition of X-treme Dungeon Mastery book by Tracy & Curtis Hickman when the campaign was running in 2021. This book is illustrated by Howard Tayler (who did a portrait of me at a convention in 2007).

The first X-treme Dungeon Mastery book was published in 2009 and became an instant hit. Not only did it give advice about running games and handling the various types of players, but it also talked about the Killer Breakfast. This last item is something you should really look up if it happens at a convention near you. If you look on Amazon the physical copy of the first edition book runs between $150-200. I was lucky to find a copy at a Westercon in 2019.

The Unboxing:

Showing the box without showing any addresses (you stalkers).

The shipping box was very well secured. The book was in a padded section with paper taking up any excess space to keep things from moving around. I knew instantly what it was when I picked it up off my porch.

What I found first.

Under the paper I discovered the signed bookplate that was included with my level of contribution. While I had Howard’s autograph on several art books, this was the first time I was able to get an autograph from Tracy and Curtis Hickman. Oh, if those names don’t sound familiar, turn in your geek card. Tracy Hickman is one of the co-authors of the Dragonlance books and games, the Ravenloft game books and a ton of various fantasy novels. Curtis Hickman is the son of Tracy and is also a magician an co-founder of The Void, a virtual reality experience.

Hey, that’s the book. Don’t make any cracks about the book.
The text from the back of the XDM 2nd edition book.

The Book:

Tracy & Curtis Hickman’s X-treme Dungeon Mastery 2nd edition. Illustrated by Howard Tayler, edited by Sandra Tayler with an introduction by Jim Zub. ISBN 978-1-945120-11-4. Like the first edition, this version is hardbound. There are 190 pages (compared to 158 in the first edition) with illustrations on almost every page (check out the lower right corner on each page).

After I had opened up the box and took the photos I did a quick glance at the contents of the book. While I did have access to a PDF version of the book for several weeks (another benefit from participating in the Kickstarter) I wanted to wait until I had the dead tree version in my hands. I enjoy reading a new book this way with the electronic copy being used for quick reference searches. I noticed that there were some items that had been carried over from the first edition, but there was also a lot that was added to the second edition. A lot more. I’m planning to do a deep dive later, but I wanted to drop a blog post since I was excited to get the book in my hands. There were several chapters where I had to stop and read immediately. And there are some other chapters that I’m going to have to go over later. I can see where some of the value for Dungeon Masters can be found in this tome.

I’m also interested in taking a deeper dive in the second edition of the XD20 roleplaying system. Don’t be surprised if I use this as one of my entries for the 2023 Character Creation Challenge. I also have another set of blog posts that is currently boiling in a pot that I can use this system for as well. More on that later.

I did notice that the method of printing on the cover held my fingerprint smudges more than the first edition book. However this doesn’t bother me that much since I purchased this book to use, not to keep as a collector’s item.

Other Kickstarter bonuses that I received included two adventure modules (PDF) and several color illustrations in JPG format. One of these illustrations was also sent to me in a postcard.

Overall I am very pleased with the material I received for my Kickstarter backing. This book will look very nice next to my first edition copy in my gaming library. I can’t wait to delve into the wit and wisdom of the book’s contents. If you didn’t get a chance to participate in the Kickstarter, you can still pick up the book in various formats from Howard Tayler’s online store. I would recommend picking up this guide to being an X-treme Dungeon Master.

(Damn I need to hear some dice rolling soon)

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