Chris Rutkowsky – Basic Action Games
BASH! is the Basic Action Superhero Role-Playing System. Bash! 1st Edition was an old school game for players who don’t want a bunch of clunky rules or setting information. If you hate games that introduces a concept with fiction, this is the game for you. If you dislike games that require you to buy addition supplements to have an ultimate list of abilities, this is your comic book hero game. If you couldn’t care less about buying sourcebooks to read through thinly-veiled counterparts to characters from DC Comics and Marvel Comics and you think you can rip off comic book classics as well as the next guy, then this is the RPG for you. The original BASH! came as a 32-page rulebook that had complete rules information, a few pictures to add splash, and absolutely no flavor text. The rules were streamlined, flexible, and easy to learn. The game still works for what it does, though the author stated in black-and-white it didn’t work well for street-level heroes and cosmic level campaigns.
BASH! Ultimate Edition
BASH! Ultimate Edition is a little more ambitious. The corebook has 132 pages. The basic game mechanics remain similar, though efforts are made to scale the system for a wider range of game play. In a 32-page game, you’re going to have a lot of gray areas for rules lawyers to exploit, so the second edition treads that fine line between moving away from the advantages of rules lite system and getting into the crunchy rulebooks. BASH! 2nd Edition is largely successful in walking that line. The Ultimate Edition of Bash, written by Chris Rutkowsky with art by Danilo Moretti and Thom Chiaramonte, was a 2010 Ennie Award Nominee.
The artwork was good in the original BASH! book, but the new art for from the Italian artists in the Ultimate Edition of Bash is top flight. Some of the characters in the second edition book were first published for the Mirror Universe character writeups released for pdf by Italian game company, Inspired Device, and these were good enough I bought them without knowing what the content inside was. Inspired Device also produced Action! (the Italian version of Bash!) and Legione Nera (perhaps a sourcebook for Action!). Now that I’ve lauded the production quality on Bash! Ultimate Edition, let’s discuss the resolution system.
BASH! – Differences in 1st and 2nd Editions
The changes in the Ultimate Edition of Bash do away with the need for energy expenditure for powers, unless you choose that as a defect. I applaud this decision, since I’ve complained about power costs since the first time I played Champions and Superworld. I know role-playing needs to account for the out-of-control wizard or sorcerer who can do everything with the right spell, but this isn’t D&D. Anyone can be powerful in a superhero game and having to keep track of energy is a needless waste of time, against the conventions of comics, and is simply annoying.
The second major change is that weapons don’t add to damage anymore. While that rule makes sense in comics (think Thor or Wolverine), in an RPG, what it does in play is encourage munchkins to abuse the system. (“I’m playing a Superman analogue…with adamantium claws”) It’s a shame players can’t play within the spirit of the game, but this rule change saves BASH! GMs plenty of trouble. The third major change is an alteration in range, distance, and area configurations.
Dice Mechanics and Action Resolution
BASH! has three stats: Brawn, Agility, and Mind. This is like the Tri-Stat system, but BASH! has two physical stats and one mental stat, where Tri-Stat has only one physical stat, one mental stat, and a “soul” stat (essentially another mental attribute). The three stats range between 1 and 5. 1 is mundane, but slightly impaired, while 5 is world class. To increase stats costs 2 points per level.
Bash has four basic campaign power levels: Mystery Man, Street Level, World Class, and Cosmic. What this determines is how many points characters have to build a character. Mystery Men have 20, while Street Level characters have 25. World Class have 40 points for stats, skills, and powers, while Cosmic Level characters stand on the 60+ level.
If you decide you need more points, players have the option of selecting one of three types of weaknesses: negating, damaging, and devastating. A negating weakness would be like the old yellow limitation for Green Lantern’s ring, or the wood limitation for Alan Scott’s ring. A damaging weakness would be something like Mon-El’s weakness to lead. A devastating weakness is a combination of the other two, such as Superman’s kryptonite weakness, which (in most iterations) tends to both weaken his powers and kill him.
The new Bash! has 7 lists of powers in various categories, including Combat, Mastery, Bio-Manipulation, Mental, Perception, Movement, and Intense Training. You might get Combat and Intense Training confused at first, but Combat tends to be powers like Armor, Damage Aura, Force Field, and Nullify, while Intense Training includes things like Martial Arts Mastery, Paired Weapons, and Attack Weak Points. A quick count of the powers list suggests there’s about 65-70 powers in all.
BASH! combat tends to be quick and easy. You’ll make a contested roll against the defenders defense stats. If you hit, damage is determined by the differences in rolls times the level of your power. If you roll doubles, you get to keep rolling until you don’t roll that same number again. Most characters start with 100 hits, so combat can end really quickly if you get the right set of multipliers–unless you use your hero dice.
Hero dice act a lot like hero points in other games, meant to simulate the heroic quality of your character and your ability to fight through it all to achieve victory. Hero dice help you recover from being stunned or knocked unconscious. Hero dice let you add a die to a roll, or use a power you have in an innovative way. A hero die also lets you determine if another character shows up at a particularly useful moment. At the end of game, a hero die also provides you 5 hero points (if saved). That’s the basics of the BASH! system. Don’t worry if you don’t like a lot of math, because the core book has an easy to read chart on the back that does all the math for you. Some can do it in their head with no trouble.
BAM! – Basic Action Magazine – More Bash Products
BAM! is the Basic Action Magazine, of which I’ve found 5 issues. You can buy these expansions in PDF form only at RPG-Now and Drive-Thru-RPG. Other products for BASH! include adventures like Vengeance is Nigh, Five Minutes to Midnight, and Ho Ho Ho, Heroes!. You can also buy the Megapolis: A City of Supers campaign setting for the 1st edition or download for free the Immortal Peril, and the Comic Character Cavalcade #1 (a newer release). You can also buy BASH! Fantasy and BASH! Sci Fi, along with selected adventures.