Bulletproof Blues 2e EN:Introduction

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Welcome to Bulletproof Blues: a "rules light" superhero roleplaying game set in the universe of Kalos Comics. If you've seen any of the Avengers, Batman, or Watchmen movies, you know what a superhero is: an individual with great determination who chooses to use their abilities to make the world a better place. And, of course, everyone is familiar with Kalos Comics.

The Kalos Universe

Bulletproof Blues takes place in the world-famous universe of Kalos Comics, creators of Paragon (who first appeared in Amazing Adventure Magazine in 1938), Rook (who first appeared in Tales Of Mystery in 1939), Antiope, Doctor Arcane, and the rest of the Justifiers, as well as sinister organizations like Aegis and GORGON, and mysterious entities like The Bride. From the ancient ruins of Lemuria to the far reaches of the Hausdorff Dimension, the Kalos Universe is now yours to explore. If you are unfamiliar with the Kalos Universe, you will find more information in the GM Resources chapter.

On the surface, the Kalos Universe closely resembles our own. The place names and television shows are the same, and the victories and defeats of ordinary people are just like the ones you experience. Much as in our own world, extremes of good and evil exist, but the gulf between them is a murky area where those of good will can and do disagree.

However, the Kalos Universe can be a strange place. There are ancient civilizations deep below the surface of the earth and extraterrestrials in the sky above it. Strange forces are at work, and hidden powers manipulate world events and the news reports of those events. Still, few people encounter this strangeness in their day-to-day lives or recognize it when they do. For the vast majority of humanity, the world of the Kalos Universe is virtually the same as the world you live in.

While many events are intentionally hidden from the public, the sanitized actions of select posthumans are crafted into pre-packaged "human interest" stories. Entire cable networks are dedicated to the exploits and personal lives of posthumans. In addition, in a relatively recent two week span, Paragon killed millions of people in Atlanta and Southeast Asia, and held the world hostage -- a rampage that will drive government policy, mass media, and public opinion worldwide for decades.

The Fall Of Paragon

Bulletproof Blues is set shortly after the "Fall Of Paragon" crossover event, during which the Justifiers were killed by their former teammate, Paragon. The city of Atlanta, Georgia is in ruins, Mount Rushmore has been smashed, the island of Timor rests beneath the sea, and both the Keystone Pipeline System and the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System have been destroyed. It is a difficult time for posthumans. Posthumans have never been completely trusted by humanity, and Paragon confirmed everyone's worst fears. Although Paragon was ultimately defeated and killed by a small team of posthumans at the Justifiers' headquarters in Antarctica, his actions have changed forever the relationship between humanity and posthumans.

In the Kalos Universe, much like in our own world, sometimes things don't work out the way we'd like them to. Life is neither fair nor unfair, and the universe is indifferent to human suffering.

The struggle, then, is to make the best possible world with the tools at our command. Your character has great power. How will they use it?

SIDEBAR: Buying The Comics

If you would like to find and read some of the comics we refer to in Bulletproof Blues, we have some bad news for you: the comics this book refers to do not actually exist. It's a framing device. It's supposed to have the feel of a fully developed comicbook universe with a history, but without the baggage and overhead of an established comicbook setting, so that you can feel free to tell your own stories without fear of contradicting some obscure bit of in-universe history and without running afoul of the "big name" characters that overshadow a game set in an established comicbook setting. In a Bulletproof Blues game, your PCs are the "big name" characters.

What Is A Roleplaying Game?

Every roleplaying game has a section at the beginning that attempts to explain what a roleplaying game is, and Bulletproof Blues is no exception. So let's get started! As trivial as it sounds, two distinct elements set "roleplaying games" apart from other things which are not roleplaying games: roleplaying and game play.

First, a roleplaying game involves roleplaying. Generally speaking, roleplaying involves taking on a persona or character and making decisions based on what that character would do in a given situation. Does having a character in a game, by itself, make that a roleplaying game? No. The little dog token in a Monopoly game and a Blood Elf in World Of Warcraft are both characters, but Monopoly and World Of Warcraft are not roleplaying games. Can you roleplay as a dog while playing Monopoly? Yes, and you can roleplay as an elf while playing World Of Warcraft. What keeps these from being roleplaying games is that the roleplaying is not part of the game -- you can't get your Monopoly dog out of jail through unscripted conversation with the jailer, nor can you use roleplaying to convince a cultist in World Of Warcraft to let you pass by without a fight. If the rules of the game do not allow for the possibility that a conflict could be resolved through unscripted conversation (however unlikely that might be), then it isn't a roleplaying game.

Second, a roleplaying game is a game. Roleplaying games are sometimes compared to improvisational theatre, and there are similarities, but improv theatre isn't a game. How can you tell if something is a game? Games have rules that govern things like conflicts between players and whether something a player attempts is successful. Improv theatre is fun, but there aren't any rules like this. As Drew Carey described "Whose Line Is It Anyway?", it's "the show where everything's made up and the points don't matter." It's fun, but it's not a game, and therefore it's not a roleplaying game.

Bulletproof Blues has more rules than some games, but less than others, and an essential part of conflict resolution involves making decisions that your character would make under the circumstances. Maybe those decisions aren't the most tactically advantageous, but if they are true to what your character would do, and if you are having fun playing, then you are playing correctly, because that's what Bulletproof Blues is all about.

If you would like to read more about who plays roleplaying games, and why and where they play them, check out The Escapist -- The Five Ws of RPGs.

The Players

In a roleplaying game, each player adopts a persona called a player character, or "PC". The player characters are imaginary people who inhabit the fictional world of Bulletproof Blues.

In many ways, the player is like an actor who chooses their own part and writes their own lines as the play progresses. The game moderator sets the stage and introduces the characters to their world, but the story is driven by the player characters.

The Game Moderator

The game moderator, or "GM", creates the story and portrays everyone that the player characters encounter during their adventures. These are called non-player characters, or "NPCs". The players help create the adventure by responding to the challenges the GM presents and by pursuing the PCs' own goals. This dynamic creative process creates a story which neither the game moderator nor the players could have created alone.

Why Bulletproof Blues?

Why does Bulletproof Blues exist? That is an excellent question. The simple answer is that we wanted to write the superhero game we wanted to play.

There are dozens of superhero roleplaying games, and at least a dozen more generic games that you can use to run a superhero game. Several of these -- Mutants And Masterminds and Wild Talents, for example -- are outstanding games. So why write yet another?

We wanted a superhero game that was quick to learn, quick to play, and yet reasonably complete. We also wanted a game that lent itself to more serious superhero fiction, like Planetary and the first two years of The Authority. In addition to Mutants And Masterminds and Wild Talents, we tried BASH, Capes, Cowls, And Villains Foul, and Icons. These are all fine games, but not quite what we wanted. We found some games too light, some games too heavy, and some games, well, just weren't what we were looking for. So what's a gamer to do?

If you can't find the game you want to play, as the saying goes, you have to write it yourself. We are pretty happy with the result. It's not perfect, of course. If you have suggestions for improvements, we are happy to listen to them. But we hope you have fun playing, despite any flaws you may find.

Bulletproof Blues is not a carefully balanced simulation of a reality where people can fly, dress up like bats, and shoot energy beams from their jewelry. The rules are here to help you play a fun game and keep things fair, but there's really nothing special about the rules. They are there to serve you, not the other way around. Your first thought when someone tries something new in a Bulletproof Blues game should not be, "Do the rules allow it?", but "Would that be fun?". Of course, what's "fun" varies from group to group. If a tightly plotted political thriller is your bag, that's great. If you prefer nonstop action with giant robots and exploding ninjas, that's great, too. You could use Bulletproof Blues to run either type of game, or anywhere in between. However you want to play, though -- whatever you consider "cool" -- takes precedence over the written rules. If the rules don't make sense in a given context, or if they seem to be getting in the way of the kind of game you want to play, then either change the rules or ignore them.

If it turns out that Bulletproof Blues is not suited to the kind of game you want to play, you might try one of the many other fine superhero games out there, starting with the ones we've mentioned above. Or, as a final resort, you can do what we did, and write your own game.

Ground Rules

A roleplaying game is fundamentally a cooperative activity. The players (one of whom is the Game Moderator) are not in competition. The goal is not to be the most powerful hero, or to win every fight. The goal of a role-playing game is to create interesting stories and to entertain everyone at the table. We hope that you are the kind of player that creates interesting characters and enjoys creating stories with your friends.

Use Common Sense

The single most important piece of advice we can give you is that you should use your common sense. If something in the rules violates the way you think your game should work, then override it. If the rules permit something ridiculous, or would prevent something completely ordinary, then override them. Do not be one of those players who adheres to the letter of the rules in defiance of common sense.

Don't use the rules unless you need to.

In fact, if you can make a character work without resorting to the rules, you should. Saying "it works like this" is often a better solution than trying to find rules to force it to work that way.

Avoid Rule Arguments

It is in the nature of any human activity that differences of opinion will arise. We've tried to make the rules for Bulletproof Blues as simple and clear as possible, but there's only so much we can do. Sooner or later, there will be a difference of opinion among the players regarding what a rule means, or how a rule should be implemented. There is nothing wrong with this: discussion and consensus are healthy. However, the time for rule discussions is between games, not during games. If a rule discussion takes longer than 60 seconds, the game moderator should make an executive decision and table additional discussion for later. If players balk, the GM should be civil but firm, and move on.

Respect Genre Conventions

Bulletproof Blues is a superhero game, and being a superhero game, it has certain genre conventions. Robert McKee defines genre conventions as the "specific settings, roles, events, and values that define individual genres and their subgenres." Superhero games, relying as they do on a relatively commonplace modern-day setting, but one which incorporates extremely non-commonplace characters, have even more genre conventions than most other games.

For example, there are no rules for running out of bullets, or for recharging the cosmic widget from the cosmic widget recharging device. It's not that guns do not run out of bullets, or that cosmic widgets never need recharging. Of course they do, and if a character intentionally empties their gun, then the gun runs out of bullets just as you'd expect. It's just assumed that they don't normally run out of bullets unless there is a dramatic reason for it. The rest of the time, the character is reloading the gun or recharging the widget when it's convenient to do so.

Another genre convention of Bulletproof Blues is that the extraordinary technological advances made possible by the superhuman intelligence of super-scientists (not to mention alien technology) rarely make it into the marketplace. Some technology eventually does -- cell phones and 3D televisions, for example -- but these advances are delayed until they can be successfully commercialized. Any advanced technology with potential military applications remains out of the reach of ordinary people, or even of ordinary soldiers. Shadowy government agencies, amoral corporations, and subversive organizations bent on world domination all conspire to keep these advances to themselves, or at least to as small a group as possible.

Core Mechanics

Rolling Dice

When a character attempts a task, and the outcome is either contested or there is some random element involved, the player rolls 2d6, counts the dots, and adds the result to their relevant attribute. This roll is compared to a difficulty number the GM assigns (typically "challenging", or 12). The attempt succeeds if the player's roll equals or exceeds the assigned difficulty.

The following table shows the chances of success for various task difficulties and attribute values. You don't need to refer to this during play -- it's just to show you what kind of results you should expect.


Table: Task resolution probability
Task Difficulty Character Attribute (added to 2d6 roll)
Impaired Human Average Human Excellent Human Peak Human Average Superhuman Excellent Superhuman World-class Superhuman Galaxy-class Superhuman Godlike Superhuman
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14
9 Routine 42% 58% 72% 83% 92% 97% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%
12 Challenging 8% 17% 28% 42% 58% 72% 83% 92% 97% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%
15 Demanding 0% 0% 3% 8% 17% 28% 42% 58% 72% 83% 92% 97% 100% 100%
18 Frustrating 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 3% 8% 17% 28% 42% 58% 72% 83% 92%
21 Nigh-impossible 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 3% 8% 17% 28% 42% 58%


When the character is under no pressure, they may be able to "take the average" or "take the max", depending on the circumstances. See Actions for more information.

Plot Points

Each player begins each game session with one plot point. A player gains a plot point when they do something particularly entertaining or interesting, when one of their character's complications causes a serious problem for them during the game, or when the GM overrides a roll of the dice to make things more difficult for the characters. Plot points are spent to alter the game world, gain a skill bonus, or gain an advantage in combat. See Actions for more information.

Benchmarks

We assign numbers to characters' abilities so that we can tell what they can do. No one wants to guess what their characters can pick up or how fast they can fly. You will notice that the relationship between one rank and the next is not constant. At low ranks, each rank is roughly double the value of the previous rank, while at the highest ranks, the increase is approximately eightfold. In between, each rank is roughly quadruple the previous value. This variation is intentional, to offer greater variety to characters of "human" power level, while permitting truly extraordinary power levels at the highest ranks. All of the numbers in this table are approximate: don't be too concerned about it if something is on the edge between one value and the next. When in doubt, err on the side of the players.

The movement distances in this table are for powers, such as Flight, Super-running, and Teleport. If the character has only their natural movement (running, swimming, and jumping), then their movement distance is based on their Agility and Brawn. See Movement for more information.


Table: Benchmarks
Rank Breaks Lifts Throws
(50 lbs)
Affects
(radius or range)
Base Move Double Move All-out Move
Per Round Per Round Per Round MPH
1 Cardboard 100 pounds 6 feet 50 feet 50 feet 100 feet 300 feet 30 mph
2 Plastic 225 pounds 12 feet 100 feet 100 feet 200 feet 600 feet 70 mph
3 Wood 450 pounds 25 feet 400 feet 400 feet 800 feet 2,400 feet 300 mph
4 Bone 900 pounds 50 feet 1,600 feet 1,600 feet 3,200 feet 2 miles 1,000 mph
5 Brick 2 tons 200 feet 1 mile 1 mile 2 miles 6 miles 4,000 mph
6 Concrete 7 tons 800 feet 5 miles 5 miles 10 miles 30 miles 20,000 mph
7 Stone 30 tons 4,000 feet 20 miles 20 miles 40 miles 120 miles 70,000 mph
8 Ceramic 100 tons 3 miles 80 miles 80 miles 160 miles 480 miles 300,000 mph
9 Steel 400 tons 10 miles 300 miles 300 miles 600 miles 1,800 miles 1,000,000 mph
10 Diamond 2,000 tons 40 miles 1,200 miles 1,200 miles 2,400 miles 7,200 miles 5,000,000 mph
11 Nanodiamond 10,000 tons 300 miles 10,000 miles 10,000 miles 20,000 miles 60,000 miles 30,000,000 mph
12 Stanlium 100,000 tons 3,000 miles 80,000 miles 80,000 miles 160,000 miles 480,000 miles 300,000,000 mph
13 Siegelite 1,000,000 tons 20,000 miles 600,000 miles 600,000 miles 1,200,000 miles 3,600,000 miles 0.9 c
14 Kirbium 10,000,000 tons 160,000 miles 5,000,000 miles 5,000,000 miles 10,000,000 miles 30,000,000 miles 0.99 c
  1. Breaks indicates the strongest substance that the character would be able to break under normal circumstances. The thickness of the material and other factors make this a rough estimate, at best.
  2. Lifts indicates the greatest weight that the character can "clean and jerk" (pick up and lift overhead). A character carrying or supporting such a weight can take at most one or two steps per round. A character can move normally while carrying a weight corresponding to one rank less than their Brawn. For example, a character with rank 8 Brawn could carry up to 30 tons and suffer no penalties to their movement while doing so.
  3. Throws (50 lbs) indicates the farthest distance that a character could throw a compact object weighing 50 lbs. To see how far a character can throw heavier objects, subtract the Brawn rank required to lift the object from the character's total Brawn rank. Look up the difference in the "Rank" column: this indicates how far the character can throw the object. For example, a character with rank 4 Brawn (the peak of human potential) could throw an object weighing 100 lbs (such as a cooperative slender human) up to 25 feet.
  4. Affects (radius or range) indicates the radius around the character that they can affect with their powers if their powers affect a radius, or the maximum range of the power if it affects a single target. For example, [Element] Mastery can move or manipulate the chosen element within this area and can use the element to inflict direct damage to a target up to this distance away. The "radius" value is not used for powers that inflict damage directly unless they have been purchased with the Explosive Damage power enhancement.

Off The Scale

Obviously, there are values which are far below or far above what appears in this table. The Moon, with mass of roughly 8.1 × 1019 tons, is far more than even a character with rank 14 Brawn could move, while a baby or a housecat has a Brawn less than 1. Don't worry about it. At such extremes, the GM should just use their best judgement, and the rest of the players should roll with it.

Glossary

Accuracy (ACC)
ability to aim when making ranged attacks
advantage
an exceptional ability that a normal human can have, but that most humans do not have
Agility (AGL)
agility, flexibility, and coordination
all-out move
base move x 6; incurs penalties on attacks and task rolls
attack bonus
a number added to a combat task roll (another name for "task roll bonus")
attribute
the eight basic character traits: Brawn, Agility, Reason, Perception, Willpower, Prowess, Accuracy, and Endurance
base move
normal ground movement based on attribute or power rank
base rank
the rank of an attribute or power when the character is fully healed and not impaired in any way
Brawn (BRN)
physical might and general hardiness
character point
spent to buy attributes, skills, advantages, and powers for a character
damage
the amount of damage which exceeds the target's protection value
damage rating (DR)
the potential amount of damage inflicted by a power or weapon
defense bonus
a number added to a combat task difficulty (another name for "difficulty modifier")
difficulty modifier
a number added to a task difficulty to make it more difficult
double move
base move x 2; incurs penalties on attacks and task rolls
Endurance (END)
the amount of abuse a character can withstand before they are unable to participate in a conflict
expertise
a character's field of extraordinary competence
extreme success
rolling three or more over the task difficulty set by the GM
game moderator (GM)
the player who sets the story in motion, plays everyone and everything in the game other than the PCs, and arbitrates any disputes
non-player character (NPC)
a fictional character belonging to and controlled by the game moderator
Perception (PER)
awareness of one's surroundings, intuition, and understanding of the motivations of others
player
a living, breathing person playing the game
player character (PC)
a fictional character belonging to and controlled by a player
plot point
spent to alter the game world, gain a skill bonus, or gain an advantage in combat
power defect
a drawback to the power that makes it less useful than it normally is
power enhancement
an extra capability that makes a power more useful than it normally is
protection value (PV)
the amount subtracted from an attack's damage by a power or protective equipment
Prowess (PRW)
hand-to-hand fighting ability
rank
a number from 1 to 14 describing each of a character's attributes and powers
Reason (REA)
ability to analyze data, draw conclusions from the facts at hand, and solve problems
run
base move x 2 (another name for "double move"); incurs penalties on attacks and task rolls
sprint
base move x 6 (another name for "all-out move"); incurs penalties on attacks and task rolls
success
a task roll that equals or exceeds the task difficulty
take the average
assume that the player rolls 7
take the max
assume that the player rolls 12
task difficulty
the number the player must match or exceed on a task roll
task difficulty, opposed
8 + the defender’s relevant attribute
task difficulty, unopposed
routine 9; challenging 12; demanding 15; frustrating 18; nigh-impossible 21
task roll
2d6 + the rank of the character's relevant attribute + any bonuses
task roll bonus
a number added to the character's attribute when making a task roll
walk
normal ground movement based on attribute or power rank (another name for "base move")
Willpower (WIL)
determination, focus, and strength of personality