Cowboy Bebop: Space Bounty Blues

With Netflix’s live action cover of Cowboy Bebop coming out just around the corner (FRIDAY!), I’ve been doing so much to get into the mood.

Because Bebop is 100% style.

I’ve been watching the anime, listening to the music (while I write this), and reading this delicious RPG recently shown to me:

Space Bounty Blues

This is a review. Kinda. I’m just gonna ramble.

The good bits

This game has a playlist. Already starting on a great note.

Look at this map!

What a beauty.

Your bounty hunter has the same first name as your favorite writer and the same last name as your favorite artist. Amazing. Today, mine would be: Søren Collins. Nice.

This game is Powered by the Apocalypse and can be played GM-less. It has the structure to do so, building the tension of play and then bringing it all to a head (heh, jazz and bounty hunting).

THIS BOUNTY GENERATOR. Getting names and actions and all that can be so daunting, especially when GM-less. This makes it so much easier.

Perfection

The group accumulates HOLD towards capturing the bounty. In the final scene with the bounty, HOLD is then rapidly lost as it looks like the bounty may be getting the upper hand. And then, make a final roll. What happens? Funny enough, I was just talking ScoobyDoo last time. Maybe this is how to do it.

Same injury system and Adventure Hour!: Take one injury “for free.” The next one takes you out.

I love the suggestions for helping with GM-less play. Much appreciated to have a list of prompts.

The tinkered bits

I made a play guide, so the game could be played online. It’s a Google slides that has the style and structure of the game built it. It leverages that fantastic art from the game. I also made a few changes.

To be clear: there are ZERO things wrong with the game. I just like tinkering and switching things up.

Stats. I removed all stats. When all the modifiers add up to +0, you really don’t need them. 2d6 by itself is fine. You do however, still get +1 if your Edge (talent) applies or if your description was especially Stylish.The character sheet is even simpler. Fewer things to write and remember.

Character generation. This is basically everything. I made Feature a little more tool-oriented. And you start with a Flashpoint.

Ah, Flashpoints. In the RAW (rules as written), you can do a flashback whenever you want or intentionally botch a roll to receive a flashpoint, which can be spent to give a bonus. I’m not a big fan of perverse incentives or changing the stance of a player too much. You still want to win as a bounty hunter. So, here are my version of Flashpoints:

After a roll, a player may spend a Flashpoint to initiate a flashback. Tell the group of how your experience relates to what is happening on-screen. Then take +2 to your roll. You cannot use a Flashpoint on a Moment of Truth roll.

It’s the vision of your training that helps you in a time of need. It’s the flash of a doubting parental figure that pushes you to do better. It’s the memory of a loved one that gives you special insight into what’s happening right now. Now the mechanics and drama are flowing in the same direction.

Also, affecting the outcome of the session (Moment of Truth) with a “benny” seems wrong, so it’s not allowed.

Now that I think of it, that’s kind of a guiding principle of design for me: if it feels icky, if it feels like cheating, don’t allow it. Players just respect that more. But when does it feel like cheating? I go with my gut.

I’m still thinking through if getting a “Style bonus” for a good description feels icky. Suggestions on ways to make that better?

One last thing. PbtA games have a theme at points: when something terrible happens you get a reward. When you roll 6- in Dungeon World, you get an XP. It softens the blow and sets up future action in your favor. Maybe you know where I’m going with this.

During the Solo section, a player builds the tension before releasing with a die roll to see how it went. Succeed and you build HOLD. Fail… you don’t? Eh. Let’s change it (change is BOLDED).

RELEASE (the breaking point). Roll 2d6. Add Edge and Style bonuses.

  • 12+, critical success! +1 HOLD and +1 FLASHPOINT.
  • 10-11, success! +1 HOLD.
  • 7-9, succeed with cost. +1 HOLD.
  • 6-, things go terribly. +1 FLASHPOINT.

It’s a small change, but now failing in the early stages can be leveraged later, especially when you’re chasing the bounty in The Head Out (revenge time!).

You’re Han Solo: bad luck now, but you’ll win in the end.

Closer

Just get into that Bebop-goodness.

And, uh,

7 thoughts on “Cowboy Bebop: Space Bounty Blues

  1. For solo play:

    When you have success with a cost, roll 1d6 on the list below. When things go terribly, roll 2d6 on the list below, rerolling duplicates.

    1. An injury
    2. A resource is used
    3. It takes time
    4. It’s not very effective
    5. More trouble
    6. End in a bad position

    It helps negotiate the consequences on bad rolls a little easier.

    Also, have a list of spicy locations handy.

    1. First one is correct. 🙂

      “Collins” is Phil Collins. Mother is a big 80s music fan. Liking his stuff quite a bit at the moment. 😛

  2. “If your description was especially Stylish.” This is icky to me, too. It depends on whether you want this to happen frequently.

    When I play a game that has this, I use the rule: “You get a bonus if you say ANYTHING SPECIFIC that describes the action in the world to help everyone imagine it… with a limitation that it cannot feel repetitive.”

    It’s still subjective and wishy-washy, but the group tends to get a feeling for when things are getting repetitive, and I find that the whole point of these things is to get creative and evocative when improvising.

    1. Right, that’s the key, isn’t it? Make the world creative and interesting through your words. Should the GM do that? Should players be allowed? Is there a limit? Is there some way to make the reward more special? There’s a lot to think about with this.

      1. Definitely a lot to think about, but I find it works in practice. Lots of catch phrases get bellowed, but only once or twice each in a session. All sorts of trademark moves get built, and then later subverted for new moves. The game Wushu is a touchstone for this to me.

      2. AH! I got it. No “Style” bonuses.

        I like “Callbacks” better. When you reincorporate an established detail (about the bounty, the case, the setting), take +1.

        It seems more elegant and measurable. Needs effort to be abused.

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