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Davey Beauchamp’s Amazing Pulp Adventures /Bare Bones Beyond

Davey Beauchamp’s Amazing Pulp Adventures RPG/Bare Bones Beyond System
From: Scaldcrow Games
Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Davey Beauchamp’s Amazing Pulp Adventures RPG/Bare Bones Beyond System is a new Role Playing Game Core Book from Scaldcrow Games.

T. Glenn Bane and Davey Beauchamp are two dynamic and energetic individuals I have had the pleasure to get to know in my years of running cons. It was at one of these cons that they gave away an opportunity to have a character named after you at one of our charity auctions. As it turns out, my name was one of those names placed in the book – as the alter ego of a young sidekick hero named Aegis Lad!  So when it went up on Kickstarter, I had to support it.

T.Glenn Bane has been running various versions of his Bare Bones system at my conventions over the past several years. I had not had the pleasure of playing in one, and this book is my first real exposure to it. Every year, he seems to have a full table for all seven slots he runs, so people obviously enjoy it.  Finally, I get to dive into it myself and get a feel for what these folks seem to enjoy so much.

From the back cover:
“GENUINE ROLE PLAYING GAME EXPERIENCE”

System

The Bare Bones Beyond or Bare Bones Multiverse system was born from Mr. Bane’s passion for gaming and lack of satisfaction from other systems he had played.  Growing up playing the usual games we all play, he designed this system to be different from all those.  He wanted to focus on the character’s story, and allow the players to develop their character they way they see fit, not based on cookie-cutter rules. He wanted to maximize fun while taking the focus off maximization of the character’s stats.  So many games have tried this.   I can understand the desire to do so, but the systems that I have seen attempt it fell short in so many ways.

The system seems simple on its face, but it actually has some very interesting nuances.  The mechanic is fairly unique although it can put some people off because there is a little more math involved than your standard RPG mechanic.  It simply starts with two six-sided dice.  The standard rule is rolling doubles explode (explained below) unless they are snake eyes.  Character’s abilities are measured in Ranks.  Subtract the rank from 12 to get a target number.  Roll the dice to get a total (rerolling doubles).  Divide the total by the target number, dropping remainders, to get the number of successes.

I think key to that is the re-rolling doubles and that makes it a much more excitng mechanic.  It takes some getting used to but with a little practice, I would imagine it would become second nature.  Another interesting aspect of the system is Stacking.  If the character making the check has related skills or abilities, they can be rolled separately to stack the successes. This kind of flexibility creates a very dynamic and flexible playing environment for the game.

Character generation is based on points and archetype templates.  The archetypes are designed specifically for the genre and even though there are a lot of them, players have the option to customize their own.  There are two main aspects of a character – Conditions and Abilities. You have a set of each in the archetype and a set of points to spend on each for customization.  It is very flexible and customizable – no cookie cutter classes and no restrictions on abilities.  The most important aspect of this kind of character generation is the character concept and staying true to that.  Otherwise, all characters end up looking the same after a long period of gaming.

One of the differentiators in this character generation system is Abilities.  You can have any ability you want, just make it up.  It is assumed that any sentient being has an ability score of rank 4 in everything, so you can do just about anything in the game. It encourages you to make up your abilities, although it does have a list of suggested ones.

The entire game is centered around that core system.  There are some other side mechanics added for flavor or fun, but the basics are what I covered above. The combat system seems a bit deadly, which seems to be true because they had to create a special rule for the Amazing Pulp Adventure setting to encourage pulp-style stunts and risk taking within a player party.

I found the game system innovative and flexible but challenging to get used to.  It adds a little more math than your average RPG game, breaking that cardinal rule of no division in your core mechanic. Once you get passed that, the system flows pretty nicely as evidenced by the numbers of people that have enjoyed it at the cons I have seen it being played.  It is a little “hippy” or “indie” with its ability flexibility, and it takes a special kind of gamer to really enjoy that kind of system without exploiting it.

From page 77:
“The world you are about to enter was inspired by the 1939 New York Wold’s Fair, forever immortalized by the symbol of the Trylon and the Perisphere.”

Setting

If there is one thing you can say about Davey Beauchamp, it’s that he is passionate about his writing.  One particular setting he is passionate about is his Mister Adventure and Amazing Pulp Adventures setting.  He and T. Glenn Bane got together to create the RPG, but the setting itself was much more before the RPG.  It was a podcast radio show first, with a considerable cast of who’s-who in podcasting, including the great Rich Sigfrit.  My wife was even on a couple of them.  They can still be found on ITunes.

The setting is one part super heroes, one part World War II intrigue, and it brings to life the classic 1940s super heroes worlds like that of the Phantom, the Shadow, or the Rocketeer.  The RPG setting world centers around the fictional city of Sapphire City, stemming from ideals born in the New York World’s Fair.  Under this ideal technological utopia sprouted the weeds and parasites of crime and depravity.  However, in the larger-than-life style of the city itself, crime as well as its counterpart, justice, was not just satisfied with the simple representations.  Costumed criminals and avengers spouted fairly quickly.  The most well-known of the heroes is Mister Adventure.  The first of many costumed criminals are known as the Gentlemen Thieves.  There are many others as well, illustrated and stat’ed out in the book.

The book provides a brief overview of the various historical events that might influence the setting, but in general the book is not intended to be a history lesson.  If you want to find out what went on during the 1930s, 1940s, or the 1950s, there is plenty of material out there that covers that.  In fact, it is encouraged that one delve into historical inspiration because that is a great start for adventure in this setting.

The City itself is briefly covered, noting various points of interest in the city.  Locations like the Museum of the Unknown, and the Headquarters of the League of Adventurous Heroes are described briefly – just enough to give you ideas but not painstaking detail that leaves you no room for your imagination.

The bulk of this section is what is at the heart of the City – its people and especially the heroes and villains within.  Heroes like Mister Adventure, Mighty Mace and Aegis Lad are described and fully fleshed out.  What is attractive about this game is the simplicity in which NPCs are displayed and stat’ed out.  A GM can come up with a challenging bad guy on the fly without a second’s thought.  Not that he would need to because there is more than enough listed in this book to play with.

The book ends with a short and entertaining adventure that captures the feel of the setting and the RPG overall.  What sets this setting apart is the feel of the classic super hero serial movies.  It is the core inspiration and I think the setting itself captures that.  The vision behind the setting is inspiring.

In conclusion, while I love the RPG setting, the system concerns me a little.  This being a reading review and not a true play test, I would have to say that I think this is one of those systems I would have to see in practice to get a feel for, because on paper it seems a little clunky.  By my judgment based on what I have seen at the cons, the game runs smoother than it seems on paper.  I have found that there are quite a few passionate fans of this game system.  It is very flexible and pretty wide open, useable in any setting.  One just has to get past the slight wonkiness of the core system and I think it can be enjoyable.

For more details on Scaldcrow Games and their new Role Playing Game Core BookDavey Beauchamp’s Amazing Pulp Adventures RPG/Bare Bones Beyond System” check them out at their website http://www.scaldcrow.com/, and at all of your local game stores.

Codex Rating: 14

Product Summary

Davey Beauchamp’s Amazing Pulp Adventures RPG/Bare Bones Beyond System
From: Scaldcrow Games
Type of Game: Role Playing Game Core Book
Written by: Davey Beauchamp, T. Glenn Bane, Theresa Bane
Game Design by: T. Glenn Bane
Cover Art by: T. Glenn Bane
Additional Art by: T. Glenn Bane
Number of Pages: 268
Game Components Included: One single core rulebook
Game Components Not Included: 2 six sided dice, pencils, paper
Retail Price: $11.99 (US) for PDF
Website: http://www.scaldcrow.com/

Reviewed by: Ron McClung

 

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