For those of you who may have missed it originally, Brennan Taylor of Galileo Games pushed out Bulldogs! earlier this year through Kickstarter. Bulldogs! (yes, the exclamation point is part of the name) is self-described as “Sci-Fi that Kicks Ass,” and I’m happy to report that boy howdy does it pay off.
The book is a gorgeous hardcover that clocks in at about 120 pages that are crammed full of great information and beautiful illustrations by Jaime Posadas and Kurt Komoda, and I want to give a big hand to the editing crew Amanda Valentine and Ryan Macklin who very much succeeded at making sure that every piece of text contributes to the “Sci-Fi that Kicks Ass” tagline.
Let me start the review of the actual content with an anecdote. I used to run Star Wars, as it was one of the few RPGs I could get my wife to play (sucker!), and after experiencing how troublesome Jedi are to run in the context of a full party, I opted to run mine as an all-scoundrels game (Scoundrels being the DnD Rogue-like character class). Sure, some folks still had some Force-powers in play, but having a crew that was largely free from the otherwise overriding Jedi vs. Sith / Rebellion vs. Empire constraints was very freeing and we were able to rock some awesome stories of my players being largely on the run, cashing in when they could, and in all ways running a story of “Sci-Fi that Kicks Ass.” In terms of the game mechanics though, it took a metric ton of extra Star Wars sourcebooks and system hacking to push the d20 revised rules set to customize relatively basic things like races, equipment, ships, et al.
I wish to hell that I’d had Bulldogs! for that game. This one single book contains information on how to work the Fate-based system to create entirely customized races / equipment / ships / skills / stunts without any overhead. It seriously blows my mind at how sleek this writing is, compared to how many books I used to have to look through to puzzle out how to morph one of the NPC races into a PC race or how to cost a +1 damage upgrade to someone’s blaster pistol.
The only tricky thing I ran into during my read-through of the book is that Bulldogs! uses a single stress track, which I hadn’t expected; but then I also have relatively limited experience running Fate system games - and looking into it, all of the individual games seem to have evolved their own specifically tailored versions of how Stress is applied.
I’ve grown to really appreciate the way the Fate system helps drive games in terms of the play style, and how much depth it adds to the game for the relatively small amount of actual work you have to put into it. And I think that this is part of what makes Bulldogs! great. Fate’s Aspects versus d20’s neutrality-of-character are something that I find inspiring.
I’m going to be running Bulldogs! for a home campaign in the near future (when I can get people over here), and I’m really looking forward to it. Thanks a ton to Brendan, Brian, and everyone else involved in putting this great game out!
[5 of 5 Stars!]