Ring Side Report- RPG Review of Cosmic Patrol

Product– Cosmic Patrol

System– Cosmic Patrol

Producer– Catalyst Game Labs

Price– $ 25 for the physical book, or FIVE BUCKS(!) for the PDF here http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/94125/Cosmic-Patrol-Core-Rulebook

TL; DR– Fun and light, but needs a bit more explanation. 87%

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Basics-Time to rocket off to space with the Cosmic Patrol!  In Cosmic Patrol, players (and even the GM!) take the rolls of different patrol agents as the fight for truth, justice, and Space America!  This is a story telling RPG that takes place in the universe of 1950’s Sci-Fi.

Mechanics or Crunch– Let’s break this down.  There isn’t much, but it is slick!

Non-Combat-For any action that the players want to do where dice are needed like decrypting an ancient alien script, piloting the ship, or seducing the green women and men beyond the stars, players roll a d12 (a twelve sided die) and either their brawn, brains, or charisma die and add those two together.  Brains, brawn, or charisma dice range between d4 to d12.  The Lead Narrator (LN), this systems version of a DM/GM, rolls a d20.  If the player meets or exceeds the LN dice roll, then they succeed.  Players also have a luck value.  If any of their dice roll that value, they succeed.  That’s it.  This game is built for flat out speed and storytelling.

Combat-Want to shoot somebody with you atamo-blaster?  You roll your combat die, and they roll their combat die.  You beat them?  You shoot them.  Done.  Weapons do have ranges like close (fist fight), near (across a room), and far (sniper duel), and those will indicate if you can use the weapon across the space or if you take a penalty to the die result.  If you do hit, you deal damage indicated by the weapon.  Done.  Like non-combat, die rolls are kept quick.

Damage-Weapon do damage equal to their damage value.  Every character has armor with a number of damage circles.  When those fill up, characters start to take health damage.  As the health damage track fills up, you begin to take penalties to your brawn roll, then brawn and combat dice rolls, and finally you pass out.  While quick, it also has the hint of realism that I love in combat.

Turn order- Outside of combat, players act pretty much any order they choose.  In combat, turns are quick starting to the left of the Lead Narrator and going around the table.  Players get basically a move and an action to borrow terms from other RPGs, but this is pretty much just left up to the LN to adjudicate (Remember this is a super-light weight game!  No need for battle mats here.).  After all the players take their turns, then the Lead Narrator has all the enemies take their turns.  It’s quick and easy to keep running.

Plot Point-I love cheating points from other RPGs, and I love them here too.  Plot points give you narrative control over what happens.  You can increase or decrease a die roll, have the enemy’s rocket’s thrusters cut out, rip the man out of the evil kill bot suit, or any other action that will enhance the story.  But, every plot point a character spends is given to the Lead Narrator!  The Lead Narrator can spend those to add enemies to a fight, create plot twists, or anything else that might provide some narrative fun, but they can’t use it to directly hinder a player’s roll or action.  Players get more plot points by acting using their characters cues/characteristics or simply starting their turn with no plot points.  The fact that these points are currency for both sides of the game makes them fun, and the nature of how quickly you get them back really makes the plot full of cheesy 1960’s sci-fi events.

Summary- Cosmic Patrol is in a sweet spot for me.  You get the danger of DnD 5e, but you also get the off the wall narratives of Fiasco as everyone really gets to tell the story.  It’s a granola and yogurt parfait; it has just enough mechanics to keep it crunchy, but enough fluff-based fun to keep it smooth.  Also, whenever I spend a plot point as the Lead Narrator, I can’t help but make the organ du, Du, DUN noise from any soap opera at my players.  It’s just that much fun. 4.5/5

Theme or Fluff-   There is a ton in this little red book.  The book starts with world building instead of numbers, and paints a world where 1950’s Buck Rogers would happily live.  It full of all the tropes you love and room to add some more.  Yes, everything you do in this game will somehow be a cliché, BUT that’s why you play this game.  It’s full of a tons of crazy alien threats to mankind, and all the classic rocket shaped antics you can find. 5/5

 

Execution– I’ve had nothing bad to say about the previous two topics, but here things will change.  This game expects a lot from its LN, especially from its first game.  Sure I love the small, red book, I like the art, and I like the quick character generation rules and examples.  But, what I hate is the fact almost NO game mastering advice is given aside from some of the standard that should be there.  As a first-time game master for this system, I didn’t know how many bad guys to throw at my players.  And to answer the obvious question-yes this is a story system, but it does have crunch.  So, it does need some balance to keep it fun.  Throwing a full ship at everyone might be story wise ok, but crunch wise out of the realm of logic.  Adding just a few more pages describing how encounters should go would really help.  Also, the game provides some example missions, but again, those missions are extremely barebones about their presentation.  You get a few bullet points describing things like 1) Find ship 2) Deal with inhabitance 3) Neutralize death bomb! And as a GM from other systems, that just isn’t enough to keep my creative juices going.  Sure, I can make a game happen, but honestly that’s a tough pill to swallow.  I just need a bit more to really make this a fully out of the box playable experience.  3.5/5

Summary– If you want a game you can just pick up and play with your group on an off night, Cosmic Patrol is your game.  You get the rules in less than five minutes, and that is amazing.  The theme is something we’ve all seen and, for the most part, love.  As I was running this game once, my ring tone for my parents started, and as it’s the Flash Gordon Theme Song, it was most appropriate.  What isn’t as good as you might expect is the execution, and even that is really only not on point when it comes to the game mastering side of things.  As a book with art, monsters, and world building, it amazing.  I just needed a bit more to help me start running.  If you want a Space Opera game with a bit more meat on its bones than Lasers and Feelings, but you don’t want Traveler, then this is the sweet spot for you. 87%

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