Friday, January 29, 2016

Review and Commentary On The Gang Buster's Rpg Weird Tales And Paranormal Investigations "The Blue Book Detective Agency" Beginning Rules By Mark Hunt

Mark Hunt is on a one man OSR crusade to get the Gang Buster's rpg off of the shelves of collectors and on to the table tops of dungeon masters as well as players everywhere. Each and every week it seems a new product or wrinkle has been added to the cult and pulpcastic rpg. Yesterday he contacted me via G+ and handed me a pdf copy of his soon to be released box set for a totally revamped Gangbusters rpg entitled  Gang Buster's Rpg Weird Tales And Paranormal Investigations "The Blue Book Detective Agency " Beginning Rules By Mark Hunt. This is going to be a part of a limited run box set with his own spin on the venerable game and its glorious. This is a complete reworking of the percentile and skill based system into a sleek and sleazy pulp ridden rpg that takes place in the hard boiled days of the Twenty & Thirties.
This is a game that takes on both the likes of Al Capone and Doc Savage style adventure with a pulp flare that is easy to pick up and run in about an hour of getting the rule book for a DM.

The lay out is slick as it gets and the fonts are easy to read, PC generation is straight from the annals of the original game but slimmed down and with a twist or two that runs with the original system. The author has kept the spirit and playability of the original while making the game hum like a fine Twenty roaster. Here's a sample directly from the pdf. Powers and paranormal abilities have been added to the game giving a fine pulp heroic and hard boiled edge to the Gangbuster's game. The adventures take place in a crime and supernatural world of pulpy action and adventure; one part Weird Tales and two parts pulp Noir detective novel all seething with the dark undercurrent of old school action as well as adventure.

But is it good? Yes in a word it works on a number of levels from the layout to the hard core edge of the game that keeps the classic Gangbuster's feel but adds dark and sinister twists to the system and it works very, very well I'm happy to report. "Gangbusters is a game about crime in the United States during the 1920s and 1930s. Players take the roles of criminals, law enforcement professionals, or other characters (such as newspaper reporters) who investigate or oppose criminals. An emphasis is placed on the violent growth of organized crime during Prohibition. Political corruption is also a recurring theme." all of this is still at the dark heart of Gangbusters but now the pulp elements of the game's pulpy material sources have been sewn into the background and heart of the system. And it works very well, the writing and the author's design is stone cold solid and begs to be played at your table. The layout is easy on the eyes and the mind. Items are clear and precisely laid out. Task resolution and percentage skill systems are clearly intact and easy to use as ever.

The game is supported with a solid backbone of a system and a nice rule book that clocks in at a slim one hundred pages of easy to digest material in the games original old school pulp style with Mark's author and designer finger prints in the mix. Wiki has a very good break down of the original system; "
Character generation in Gangbusters follows a pattern common in role-playing games of the early 1980s—a player randomly generates his character's abilities (such as Muscle and Luck) using dice, then chooses a career (character class) for the character. Careers for player characters are limited to Criminal, FBI Agent, Newspaper Reporter, Police Officer, Private Investigator, and Prohibition Agent. Each career includes a unique set of advantages and disadvantages to differentiate it from the others. Characters are further customized by adding non-career skills, such as Auto Theft or Photography.
Characters are improved by earning experience points. Experience points are awarded (by the gamemaster, called the Judge in Gangbusters) based on a character's success in his career. For example, criminals earn experience points based on how profitable their crimes are, while police officers earn experience points for capturing criminals. Earning experience points increases a character's level (which is an indicator of social status in the game setting), and allows the character's player to improve the character's abilities and purchase new skills.

Gangbusters uses a percentile-based mechanic for most task resolutions. The basic chances of a character succeeding at an action are equal to the character's score in a relevant ability or skill, subject to modifiers assigned by the Judge. The player of that character then rolls percentile dice to determine if the character succeeded. The results of actions (such as the damage caused by weapons or the amount of money produced by a criminal enterprise) may be determined by further dice rolls. All dice rolls in the game use ten-sided dice."  All of this still stands and works in this version of the Gangbuster's rpg but Mark has slimmed back and worked at editing the game down into a solid old school rpg engine that works like a dream. Mark has added in the pulp element of strange and mysterious powers; "These are optional rules
designed to add a little of the mysterious and the fantastic
to a Judge’s campaign. Be warned that they take The Blue Book Detective Agency Beginner Game away from the straight cops and robbers genre of Gangbusters and into the territory of The Shadow, Black Bat, G-8, The Spider, The Phantom Detective, and other Pulp heroes and
anti-heroes. This is likely to change the tone of the game, making it more like what a 21st century readership
would think of as the Pulp magazines of the 1920s and 1930s. If the Judge decides to take his campaign down this route, the traditional set-up in the Pulps would be for one character, the protagonist, to have the strange and mysterious power, as with The Shadow or Doc Savage. Unless the playing group is willing to
play in this format, it is not recommended as it does mean that the focus of  game shifts to the player character with the power. Instead, it is suggested that each character have his own secret power to aid him in fight against crime, or indeed, his stand against the Law."  So how does this work for the PC's in the center of the pulp action of the game; "Each character has a 25% chance of having a mysterious power at the start
of The Blue Book Detective Agency Beginner Game. Once a player has finished creating his character have him roll percentile dice. If the result is 25 or less, that character has a power. If the roll is failed and the character does not have a power, the roll can be made each time he gains a new Level.
Unlike the other skills, this power is randomly selected on a d10. The possession of the power has nothing to do with the Ability scores of the character, although the effectiveness of the power does." 
All of this works very well as optional rules and takes the game down the dark and twisting paths of the pulps. There have been hints over the last month or so of this sort a direction for Mark Hunt's version of Gangbusters and man I'm so glad he went this route. The rest of the game are taken up with sample powers and abilities, adventure construction and a plethora of fantastic details that dove tail into the crime ridden pulp cesspool that is the world of Gangbusters. This is a game world that your going to want to play in.  Mark Hunt has been pushing the envelop now for months with the hints, teases, and product releases for Gangbusters. Now I can see why. Do yourself a favor and pick this one up when it hits the gamer wild!

Gangbusters has a thriving G+ community and a ton of support that seems to appear within that community all in all this is a five out of five release and if you don't pick this one up then your going to be very sorry. If your interested in picking this box set up when it hits the shelves, contact Mark Hunt via the G+ community and he'll be more then happy to give you further details.

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