Bulletproof Blues 3e EN:Introduction

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What Is This?

Bulletproof Blues is a "rules light" superhero roleplaying game set in the universe of Kalos Comics. If you've seen any of the Avengers, Incredibles, or Justice League 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.

Play is very loose, and players are encouraged to take initiative rather than simply hanging around and waiting for someone to kick in the door. Players are also encouraged to flesh out the setting and be creative, rather than passively accepting what has already been described.

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 an ogre 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 A Third Edition?

A great deal of effort went into making Bulletproof Blues Second Edition a fun game that we wanted to play, and we succeeded. So why is there a third edition?

A fundamental tenet of game design is that rules that don't make the game better should be discarded. As people played Bulletproof Blues, we found several parts of the game that simply weren't needed. For example, making ranged targeting (Accuracy) separate from a character's flexibility and coordination (Agility) seemed like a great idea. However, when we examined the characters that people actually played, we found that there was a very strong correlation between characters' Agility and Accuracy: in nearly all cases, the attributes differed only by one, at most. We found a similar correlation between hand-to-hand combat (Prowess) and either physical strength (Brawn) or coordination (Agility). So we've eliminated Prowess and Accuracy, and we've made it simple for characters to base their combat abilities on either Agility or Brawn.

Another major change regards power levels. In second edition, a Bulletproof Blues character's powers must all have their power levels set individually. However, when we examined the characters people created, we found that each character's powers were usually all within one or two ranks of each other. So why make players buy them all separately? We could drastically reduce the complexity of the game by giving each character a single power level, and have all of their powers follow suit. So we did.

Finally, we have simplified task resolution (including combat), making rolling dice and applying bonuses and penalties much faster and easier.

Other than these changes, the revisions between the second edition and this one are mostly minor: changes in phrasing, clarification of existing rules, and so on. We hope that all of these changes make this version of Bulletproof Blues even more fun than the second edition.

As with the second edition, this edition of 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, 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.

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

Attributes

Each character has six attributes which describe their basic physical and mental abilities.

  • Agility: coordination, ranged combat fighting ability, and general flexibility
  • Brawn: physical might, close combat fighting ability, and general hardiness
  • Endurance: ability to shrug off physical and mental abuse
  • Presence: determination, mental combat fighting ability, and understanding of the motivations of others
  • Reason: ability to analyze data, draw conclusions from the facts at hand, and solve problems
  • Power Level: technological might, alien potency, psychic potential, and so on

See the Attributes chapter for more information.

Rolling Dice

All dice rolls are skill rolls. When a character attempts a task, and the outcome is either contested or there is some random element involved, the player must roll dice to see if the character succeeds. The player rolls their dice, counts the dots, and adds the result to the character's relevant attribute. This roll is compared to their opponent's roll plus their relevant attribute. If the player's total equals or exceeds the target number, the character's attempt succeeds. There is no need to roll for routine tasks: characters automatically succeed at routine tasks.

All dice rolls are skill rolls.


Table: Opposed rolls
Action Total
(Attacker)
Target Number
(Defender)
Dice
1d6 Unskilled
2d6 Has Skill
2d6 Has Expertise
(Re-roll 1s and 2s)
plus
Skill (Attribute)
Close Combat (Brawn)
Ranged Combat (Agility)
Mental Combat (Presence)
etc.
vs
Dice
1d6 Unskilled
2d6 Has Skill
2d6 Has Expertise
(Re-roll 1s and 2s)
plus
Skill (Attribute)
Close Combat (Brawn)
Ranged Combat (Agility)
Mental Combat (Presence)
etc.


Table: Unopposed rolls
Action Total Target Number
Dice
1d6 Unskilled
2d6 Has Skill
2d6 Has Expertise
(Re-roll 1s and 2s)
plus
Skill (Attribute)
Culture (Reason)
Finesse (Agility)
Performance (Presence)
etc.
vs
Dice
2d6
plus
Difficulty Value (DV)
3 Moderately difficult
6 Remarkably difficult
9 Extremely difficult
12 Inconceivable!


See the Actions chapter 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 bonus die, or gain an advantage in combat. See the Actions chapter for more information.

Glossary

Agility
coordination, ranged combat fighting ability, and general flexibility
all-out move
base move x 6
attack bonus
roll an additional die when attempting an attack (another name for "bonus die")
attack penalty
roll one less die when attempting an attack (another name for "penalty die")
attack roll
dice + attribute; the total is compared to a target number to determine success
attribute
the six basic character traits: Agility, Brawn, Endurance, Presence, Reason, and Power Level
base move
normal ground movement based on the character's attributes or powers
base value
the numerical value of an attribute when the character is fully healed and not impaired in any way
bonus die
roll an additional die when attempting a task or in combat
Brawn
physical might, close combat fighting ability, and general hardiness
character point
spent to buy attributes, skills, and special abilities for a character
combat roll
dice + attribute; the total is compared to a target number to determine success (another name for "attack roll")
defense bonus
roll an additional die when attacked (another name for "bonus die")
defense penalty
roll one less die when attacked (another name for "penalty die")
difficulty value (DV)
moderate 3, remarkable 6, extreme 9, inconceivable 12; dice + difficulty value = target number
double move
base move x 2
Endurance
ability to shrug off physical and mental abuse
expertise
extraordinary competence with a skill, allowing the player to re-roll any dice that roll less than 3
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
gift
an exceptional ability that a normal human can have, but that most humans do not have
margin of success
the amount by which a roll exceeds the target number
non-player character (NPC)
a fictional character belonging to and controlled by the game moderator
penalty die
roll one less die when attempting a task or in combat
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 bonus die, or gain an advantage in combat
Power Level
technological might, alien potency, psychic potential, and so on
Presence
determination, mental combat fighting ability, and understanding of the motivations of others
Reason
ability to analyze data, draw conclusions from the facts at hand, and solve problems
run
base move x 2 (another name for "double move")
skill roll
dice + attribute; the total is compared to a target number to determine success
sprint
base move x 6 (another name for "all-out move")
success
a roll that equals or exceeds the target number
target number
the number the player must match or exceed on a roll
walk
normal ground movement based on Agility (another name for "base move")