Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Look at BASH - Ultimate Edition

I first ran across BASH about 2011 though it's been out in one form or another since 2004. It's a relatively rules-light supers game with a unified mechanic. The system has been adapted for other genres - there is a BASH fantasy book and a BASH sci-fi book - but it started with superheroes and that seems to be its most popular use.  The publisher's website is here. I'm looking at the Ultimate Edition which was published in 2009. The print version is a full-color 140 page softback and it's also available in PDF.

Character Creation
Characters are defined by the following

  • 3 basic attributes: Brawn, Agility, and Mind. Each is rated on a 1-5 scale where 1 is typical human, 2 is really good human, and 3-4-5 are increasing levels of superhuman. There is a 0 level that represents an impaired or very limited capability in that area. 
  • Powers: There is a list of powers that covers the major areas one might expect and powers are rated the same way as attributes. Categories are Movement, Combat, Bio-Manipulation, Intense Training, Mastery, Mental, and Perception. Some are generic, some are more specific.
  • Skills: Each character has physical skill slots = to their Agility rating and mental skill slots = to Mind. There is a short list of fairly broad skills for each type. Spending a slot on a skill gives it a rating equal to the relevant attribute. Spending an extra slot raises that by 1, spending another slot would raise it by another 1, etc. 
  • Advantages/Disadvantages - these cover everything from a frightful presence to police powers to having a super vehicle on the upside, and everything from being destitute, having a public ID, to having uncontrollable powers on the downside. 
  • Finally there are Hero Points and Setbacks, which allow the user to perform various effects similar to other games from re-rolls to altering a scene in some way. They are presented as a way to balance out characters built on different amounts of points but could really be included in all kinds of ways beyond that.
Characters are built with points which are spent on attributes and powers. Skills are based off of the attributes directly and advantages and disadvantages offset each other directly with no points involved. Point level examples are given for Mystery Men, Street, World-Class, and Cosmic. Just as an example, the World Class level gives enough points to take a 3 in each attribute, or two 4's and a 1, or a 5 and two 2's. 

This whole section covers the first 14 pages of the book. Now the individual power descriptions come later and take up about 20 pages but I was impressed that the basic rundown of building a character is covered that quickly and concisely. 


 The mechanics are pretty simple: 2d6 multiplied by the rating of the attribute/skill/power. Doubles on this roll means roll another d6 and add. If it matches the original dice, then roll again and keep adding until it does not match. 

That allows a pretty good range of results - doubles will come up 1/6th of the time so it's quite a bit more often than a "nat 20" in a d20 game, enough to keep it interesting I suspect. 

The back cover includes a handy dandy reference chart for those who don't want to multiply in their head. 
Attacks are attack roll (Agilty for melee and thrown, Mind for ranged and mental) vs. a defense roll (Agility for most, Mind for mental). If the defense roll is higher, there is no effect. If the attack roll is higher then the attacker rolls for damage (example, Brawn for punching), the defender rolls for Soak (this is almost always Brawn) and then takes the difference between the rolls as damage or suffers whatever condition the attack inflicts. Even if the soak roll is higher, there is chance for knockback but the attack itself does nothing.

Heroes have a set "100 hits" as a damage capability. Tough in this game is reflected in a better multiplier, not more hit points. 

That's basically how the whole game works. There are lots of special rules for things like called shots, slams, grabs, taunts and lots of other comic book staples but that;s the core. There are things that can modify the 2d6 roll. There are rules for extended tests for more complex situations. There are rules for vehicles, chase, and bases. 

The powers section is solid. I'm sure there are concepts that would be tricky to make but it covers the majority of superhero types. Besides the actual powers there are enhancements and limitations that can be applied to each one and that opens up the options considerably. 

The gamemaster's section is solid as well - all the basics of running a supers campaign are here: running villains, the different types of campaigns from golden age to teen heroes to cosmic, running mysteries, including subplots - it's short but it touches all the bases. On the practical side it has stats for a lot of stock character types, from dinosaurs to tanks to dragons to "crowd of bystanders" and giant hunter robots. There's a random events table as well for livening up a session. There is also a good-sized section of archetypal heroes and villains - power armor, sorcerer, master crime fighter etc. 

The cosmic section here runs about 10 pages and is a small expansion of the game in effect to account for this higher power level. It's more than I have typically seen in a superhero RPG core book and is certainly enough to get a cosmic campaign rolling with just the main rule book. 

The book wraps up with a small section on alternate rules mechanics and a 1-page introductory adventure.

So ... what do I think? I like it. I'm going to give it a try with the Apprentices as soon as I can find space for a one-shot introductory run. It's one of the most complete one-book superhero games out there, yet it's mechanically simple and clean enough to be very playable.  

My standard for lighter supers games is ICONS. Comparing the two ICONS has more detail in some ways having more base attributes (6+ vs. 3) and having a more finely grained range of power levels (10 vs. 5) but I'm willing to give BASH a try and see how much that really matters.

I love the art style in this book and I think it communicates the intent of the game well. For a lighter, Justice League animated style short campaign or one-off run, I think it's a strong candidate. For a years-long serious campaign I'm not sure this one has the detail and grittiness that a lot of people want. I started with Champions and still love it but I can see the strengths here of a different approach. If you're looking for that level of detail though, this isn't it. With the multiplication I don't think it's great for younger kids, but for 4th-5th-6th graders I think it could work very well. 

The PDF is $10 from DTRPG here. That's a pretty good deal for this amount of material and a book this good. There is quite a bit of supporting material also, from power expansions to settings to adventures so it has had good support the last few years from both the publisher and some third party companies. I'd say if you're looking for a light supers game it's worth a look.

It looks pretty good - now I want to see how it fares in actual play. I like it enough that I'm going to try running it and I will post a follow up to describe how that went. 


Matt Celis said...

The art is actually a big turn-off for me. I find that distorted anatomy very off-putting.

mrm1138 said...

Did you ever get a chance to run this? I'm looking for a rules-light supers RPG to run as a one-shot pick-up game, and I keep going back and forth between this and Icons. I like the dice resolution mechanic and character levels (Mystery Men through Cosmic) of BASH! a little more, but I think the character creation and the emphasis on "theater of the mind"-style combat in Icons is more to my liking. (I know BASH! has alternate rules for playing without miniatures, but the fact that it's considered alternate rather than default is a bit of a turn-off.) At the same time, BASH! seems to be relatively heavier on the rules allowing for more customization and specificity without becoming too complicated to pick up quickly.

If I had all the time in the world, I'd try running the same scenario in both systems and seeing which one I liked better.

Darcy Dettmann Junior said...

Well, you want a more granular progression for Stats? Here you have THREE: http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/84157/BAM-Basic-Action-Magazine-5?manufacturers_id=68

My favorite one is "The Whole Half Stat", who basically make the system go to 0-5 scale to 0-10 scale.