Bulletproof Blues 4e EN:Introduction

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What Is This?

Bulletproof Blues is a 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.

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. 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 the second edition of Bulletproof Blues 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 (see Gifts).

Another major change regards power levels. In the 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

Be Cooperative

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 character, or to win every fight. The goal of a role-playing game is to create interesting stories and to entertain everyone at the table.

Making the game fun is everyone's responsibility.

We hope that you are the kind of player that creates interesting characters and enjoys creating stories with your friends. With that in mind, here are some suggestions.

  • Encourage each other: If someone does something cool, or has a great idea, let them know. It will make them feel good, and it will let people know what kind of game you find fun.
  • Embrace setbacks: Don't get frustrated if things are going badly. Recovering from a setback makes the eventual victory all the sweeter.
  • Be considerate: Don't hog the spotlight. Take turns being the center of attention.
  • Don't play a jerk: Playing a flawed character can be fun, but don't go so far with it that you make the other players miserable. Being "true to your character" is not an excuse for ruining the game.
  • Respect everyone's boundaries: Superhero games can be silly and light, dark and gritty, or anywhere in between. If a topic or a certain plot element makes any of the players uncomfortable, respect that and avoid it. Consider using John Stavropoulos' X-Card, particularly if the players are new to each other.

Use 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


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, hand-to-hand fighting ability, and general hardiness
  • Endurance: ability to physically exert oneself and withstand injury
  • 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
  • Willpower: ability to mentally exert oneself and withstand trauma
  • Power Level: supernatural might, magical potency, psychic potential

See the Attributes chapter for more information.

Rolling Dice

All 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 two six-sided dice, counts the dots, and adds the result to the character's relevant attribute. They then add the rating of their relevant equipment, if any. This roll is compared to the difficulty value (DV) assigned by the GM. If the player's total equals or exceeds the difficulty, the character's attempt succeeds. There is no need to roll for routine tasks: characters automatically succeed at routine tasks.

All rolls are skill rolls.

2d6 + Skill (Attribute) vs
Table: Unopposed rolls Table: Opposed rolls
Difficulty Value (DV) Difficulty Value (DV)
12 Moderately difficult 8 + Skill (Attribute)
15 Remarkably difficult Examples:
Hand-to-hand Combat (Brawn)
Ranged Combat (Agility)
Mental Combat (Presence)
18 Extremely difficult
21 Inconceivable!

See the Actions chapter for more information.


When a number is divided, round in the player's favour, even if the fraction is less than or more than one-half. If both sides of a conflict are players, round in favour of the character who initiated the conflict.


coordination, ranged combat fighting ability, and general flexibility
all-out move
base move x 6; requires a move action
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; typically requires a standard action
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; requires a move action
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
physical might, hand-to-hand 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"); typically requires a standard action
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; requires a move action
ability to shrug off physical and mental abuse
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
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
move action
move the distance permitted by Agility, Brawn, or a movement power; may be a base move, double move, or all-out move
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
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
an ability beyond what is possible for ordinary mortals
Power Level
technological might, alien potency, psychic potential, and so on
determination, mental combat fighting ability, and understanding of the motivations of others
ability to analyze data, draw conclusions from the facts at hand, and solve problems
base move x 2 (another name for "double move"); requires a move action
allows a character to apply their attributes to solve a specific problem or accomplish a specific task
skill roll
dice + attribute; the total is compared to a target number to determine success; typically requires a standard action
base move x 6 (another name for "all-out move"); requires a move action
a roll that equals or exceeds the target number
target number
the number the player must match or exceed on a roll
normal ground movement based on Agility (another name for "base move"); requires a move action