-== What is it? ==-
Bulletproof Blues is a rules light superhero RPG from Kalos Comics. It was penned primarily by Brandon Blackmoor. Doug Sims, Greg Stolze, and Sean Weir are given contributor status on the product. It appears that the product was initially released in 2010 but then updated again in a second edition dated April 2013.
I am reading the second edition version of Bulletproof Blues in PDF format. The PDF has a color cover and a colored interior. Even though the interior is colored there is not a lot of artwork and essentially no layout. The layout is black text on white pages. The book is 7” x 10” and is 253 pages in length. I believe this is a standard comic book size. I have not played the game I have only read the book from cover-to-cover. I was given a complimentary copy of Bulletproof Blues for this review.
-== What I Like ==-
After briefly describing the setting Bulletproof Blues starts in on the mechanics. One of the early topics is a Plot Point mechanic that is similar to that found in other games. It reminded me a lot of Bennies in Savage Worlds. I like these type of RPG currencies in game settings.
One interesting aspect of the game is that the power levels do not scale evenly. There is a table that shows how scaling is done at various power levels, or Ranks, as the game calls them. The table runs from Rank 1 to Rank 14. For example, at Rank 4 I lift 900 pounds, at Rank 5 I lift 2 tons, at Rank 6 I lift 7 tons, etc. It feels like it would work well during a session.
Greg Stolze penned a section called Basics. This section runs for 11 pages and discusses newbie RPG topics like “What’s Gaming?” and “The Logic Of The Setting”. The tone of this material is very light and conversational. It is a nice set of material but it does feel a big long to me.
The Creation section is next. The section starts with some fluff but it quickly puts a focus on issues that drive the PC instead of the stats. The writing in this section is well done. I like the way the Origin section covers some of the world background in the text. The Archetypes, Motivations, and Complications sections are full of super-y goodness. I like the way Complications are used to get the player more Plot Points during a session. In some ways this reminds me of Truth & Justice.
PC in Bulletproof Blues are constructed using a point buy system. There are some recommended power levels given to help in this area. The sample characters are great examples when trying to determine how the various power levels would be combined to create the character.
Skills are presented in a straightforward and clean fashion. An individual Skill is defined as a “group”, or broad topic, where the player can define an Expertise. The Expertise concept is elegant. It really impacts the way skills work in the superhero genre. I like it. Advantages are covered next. These are akin to Hero System Talents. Small little add on elements that are not really covered by Skills or Powers.
As might be expected one of the meatier sections in Bulletproof Blues is on Powers. Like the Hero System they utilize the concept of a Special Effect. You buy Blast then decide on whether it is a fire blast, lightning bolt, or laser gun. Powers have Activations, an associated Task roll, a Target, a Range, and a Cost. After the Power is purchased Enhancements can be added. These work like Hero System Adders. After the great list of Powers there is a discussion on Power Enhancements and Power Defects. Power Enhancements raise the cost of a power for some gain in effect. Power Defects reduce the effectiveness of Powers at a reduction in cost. These are akin to Hero System Advantages and Limitations except they are simple point additions or subtractions. This is followed by a discussion on how New Powers could be created. I wanted to see more examples in this section.
The next section in Bulletproof Blues is called Actions. This section encompasses all of the combat and environmental rules. Combat is divided into simple 6 second Combat Rounds. In each Combat Round a character may perform a Move Action, a Task Action (e.g. attack), and a Roleplay Action (e.g. soliloquy). A section on Rolling Dice comes next. If a task is unopposed then there is a target number. If the task is opposed it is 8 plus the defenders stat plus a circumstances modifier. Pretty standard stuff but it works. Bulletproof Blues also includes a system for avoiding rolls if the character has time and/or the result of a failure is not bad. In either one is true then the character can Take 7, or take a 7 on the die roll. If BOTH are true then the user can take a 12 on their roll. If the character has Expertise and gets 3 or higher then get an Extreme Success. This has varied beneficial effects depending on the skill. A subsection called Combat is next. Bulletproof Blues uses a standard initiative system. Characters act in order of the highest Perception, then Agility, then Willpower. Environmental effect always go last. Simple and it seems like it would work. I like it. There are various combat moves and details on coordinating attacks, distractions, etc. Some of these are a bit complicated but most are simple and easily to enact. The Plot Point section is next. These are the fate mechanic/currency. Players get 1 at the start of a session and get them when complications come into play. 2 to 3 would be used in a single 4 hours session. These can be spent in a variety of ways. These include autosuccesses, inspiration, power boosts, etc. The last section covers Environmental Effects. I felt this section covered each entry in a bit too much details. There was also a section on pathogens and poisons that seemed like it could be entirely removed.
The World section comes next. As you might imagine it covers various aspect of the setting including aliens, corporations, government agencies, magic, laws, etc.
Bulletproof Blues continues with a section called GM Advice. This section was again done by Greg Stolze. It covers plot, hooks, rising action, climax, rules resolution, etc. Everything you would expect in this type of section. I liked the GM’s Advanced Duties section the best. It seemed out of place to me (see below for details) and bit too long.
The last section in called Characters. There are a set of sample PC and villains. The example characters cover the various types found in superhero comics (i.e. brick, armor guy, etc). I liked this section as examples are a great way to clarify the intended power levels and point totals.
-== What I Don’t Like ==-
My biggest gripe with Bulletproof Blues is what I am going to chalk up as severe editing issues. Between sections written by various authors there is a distinct change in tone and feel. For example, after talking about the Core Mechanics there is a large section on gaming Basics that is written by Greg Stolze. Even though this material is light and fun to read it uses a light tone that is not found in other sections of the product. The order of the sections also seems like it could be adjusted. There is a section on Core Mechanics, then a Glossary, then a section on Basics in gaming, then a section on Character Creation, then later on the World, followed by GM Advice, then sample Characters from the world. Huh? Why not put stuff together when it makes sense.
There are some tables that are shown in a landscape fashion. For example, early on in the Skills section there is a chart showing chances of completing various tasks based on their difficulty. The tables go up the side of a portrait page in a landscape fashion. It makes the content in this area difficult to read and throws several PDF readers that I like to use. I would have preferred a separate page for these tables in portrait format.
The World section really felt neglected to me. The reason is the artwork. The company putting this out is called Kalos Comics. I felt that a comic company should have access to awesome artwork and this would be the section where I would expect it.
-== Summary ==-
Even though this is the second edition of Bulletproof Blues I came away thinking that they really need a third edition. Getting a professional editor and layout person involved could really make this product shine. If you are looking for a cheap rules light RPG designed in a very standard non-story game fashion Bulletproof Blues is one that should get your attention and dollars.
I give it 7 out of 10 paws.
You can get Bulletproof Blues for $4.95 at DriveThruRPG at this URL. You can get a print-on-demand version AND PDF at the same URL for $14.96. A BARGAIN!