Free RPG Day Reviews – Cosmic Patrol and Valiant Universe
On our fabulous free rpg day, I managed to pick up a few free things I had had my eye on. Namely, Cosmic Patrol and Valiant Universe quick start rules from Catalyst Game Labs. Cosmic Patrol looked very similar to last year’s offering, but in fact has a different adventure in the back, and Catalyst was kind enough to provide a free PDF of last year’s Cosmic Patrol. You can also find the offering from 2012 and blank character sheets on their downloads page.
It was not until I started reading the Valiant quick start that I realized how similar these books are. Even copying text almost word for word in places, as both books essentially use the same system. Characters have dice assigned to their various attributes, the higher the die, the better your character is in that stat. This is very similar to the cortex plus system used in Leverage and Marvel Heroic Roleplaying by Margaret Weis Productions. The main difference is for non-combat checks you roll a d12 + the appropriate stat die for the test vs. 1d20. Combat checks are always opposed rolls between the two combatants without any d20s or d12s. I could see this making combat very fast, and cinematic, but the skill checks seem a bit more arbitrary. For instance, if a Patrolman were to pick a lock (as is the example in the book, actually) he rolls 1d12 + brains (1d8) vs. 1d20. If his 1d12+1d8 beats whatever comes up on the 1d20, he succeeds. If a 19 comes up, that lock is suddenly the most advanced lock possible, if a 2 comes up it basically has a piece of twine holding the door closed. It seems to me like objects in the adventure should have set difficulties, otherwise there is no way to measure how difficult something should be.
Something very intriguing about the system is that it encourages rotating the GM-like position (called Lead Narrator) between scenes. This allows the narrator to play as well as run, something that can be challenging in other systems. Both books do specify you can have a designated LN, but are encouraged to pass the book around the table. I’m not sure how this would work out during play, but seems like an interesting concept. Recently, at the end of running the very entertaining Age of Rebellion beginner box, the group started to talk about what we wanted to play next. The usual suspects came up, Pathfinder, Edge of the Empire, DCC, and when I mentioned the stack of unrun DCC modules I own, Mike mentioned, “Don’t you ever want to play DCC?” Which is a fair point. It would be interesting to be able to both run, and play in a meaningful way. Most often GM-run characters can’t participate fully because of GM knowledge about the adventure. I wonder how that plays out in this system.
Overall they are both really interesting adventure starters with a pretty easy system to pick up quickly and run with. Catalyst is also supporting both of these releases with a raft of other free PDF downloads for both Valiant and Cosmic Patrol. I don’t know that I’ll be able to play either for awhile as the current gaming docket is full with Jewel of Yavin for one Star Wars group, and Operation: Shadowpoint for the other. Also I’d like to try Dungeon World at some point. Oh, and some little company called Wizards of the Coast is releasing the basic rules for the latest version of D&D on July 3rd. It’s going to be a great summer for gaming!