Book Review: BADASS by Jay Steven Anyong and Stargazer Games

Have you ever wanted to be a badass? And do badass things? We’re not talking about tiptoeing around and saying please and thank you all the time… We’re talking about walking up to someone who annoys the heck out of you and letting them have it with an impressive feat of badassery! (By the way, if you’re offended by the term “badass” you should probably stop reading now. I’ve already used it five times between the title and the first paragraph and it’s only going to get worse!)

BADASS is a new rules-light roleplaying game written by Jay Steven Anyong (aka “pointyman2000”) that takes its inspiration from many of those movies we keep as guilty pleasures even though we know we shouldn’t… Films like American Ninja, Bloodsport, Naked Weapon, and many many more. As Jay says in the introduction – “BADASS is not a game that you can attempt to work your way around with logic. In fact, BADASS kicks that logic in the face, twists its arm behind its back, and makes it cry for its momma.” All the way through this book, I was chuckling to myself about the Awesomeness Jay wrote right into the text. It’s dripping with serious badassitude!

Let’s start by stating this up front… BADASS is not a game for anybody who wants realism. This is a game for gamers who want to slice and dice realism with ginsu knives purchased on late night television. This is a game for gamers who think a huge guy with a katana should be able to slash his way through an armored tank, marauding monster, or evil dude’s arm equally and see the arterial spray and explosions for good measure (who cares if tanks don’t have arteries!). This is a game who thinks Uma Thurman‘s “Bride” in Pulp Fiction when facing off against the Crazy 88 had just the right level of badassery or might have even taken it up a notch and turned it up to 11 instead of just 10.

Rules-wise, it’s simple. Pick what type of Badass you want to play, give it some Flava, grab some gear, give the character a name, and start earning Badass Points and Awesomeness. Easy enough, right? Oh, and you have to figure out the defining moment for the character. Bruce Wayne’s defining moment would be when he watched his parents gunned down in a dark Gotham City alley. Maybe somebody stole your favorite pair of shoes or your wallet that has “Badass Dude” written across it in permanent marker. Perhaps it’s as simple as after all these years, your character wants revenge on that mean kid in the 7th grade who incessantly tortured him. But the moment has to have some gravity – enough to change your character’s life forever.

Cover of

Cover of American Ninja

What type do you want to play? A Kickass? A Smartass? Or a Wiseass? Depends on whether they want to be more Physical, Mental, or Social in how they manifest their badassery.

Then there’s the Flavas. What’s a Flava? It could be any factor that differentiates your character from “Average Joe” (no offense to Joe). You only pick two of these initially, but as you gain Awesomeness, you can use it to add more later. Think of these sort of like advantages/disadvantages in other games, but without the wimp factor. You want your Badass to be a robot? Cool. Or how about a Martial Artist and a Chef, like Steven Seagal in Under Siege? Or maybe they have the ability to shrug off a hit. The Flavas are broken into a few categories – Racial, Profession, Style and Gear, and Metagame. I love “Oh Yeah? Let’s Arm Wrestle For It,” which allows the player and GM or other player to resolve a task via an Arm Wrestling match. Pure awesomeness there.

We mentioned Badass Points (or BPs) earlier. You gain these when you do something worthy of a Badass… The bigger the risk, the more the character is working on pure adrenaline and instinct, the better it is. And you can use them to power up your Flavas or add some additional punch to one of your rolls. You can also gain BPs during downtime actions, such as describing a training montage, a flashback, or my favorite – “Moment of Personal Affirmation” – which makes me think of every Van Damme movie I’ve ever seen!

There are other ways to gain BPs, but I won’t spoil them… except for the “Epic Soundtrack Bonus.” Personally, my brain never stops spewing music into
my thoughts at appropriate and (all too often) inappropriate times. But who doesn’t know the Rocky theme song and thinks of Rocky Balboa running up the steps in the movie, or thinks of “Danger Zone” from the Top Gun soundtrack now and then? BADASS works that quality right into the fabric of the game. At an appropriate time, the player can drop the name of a song or play it on their MP3 player or laptop… If it’s appropriately Badass, they may gain 1 or 2 BP depending on how the song is received. But don’t overuse it or it may backfire!

Mechanics-wise, it doesn’t get much simpler than using two six-sided dice. If you roll Snake Eyes, you really screwed the pooch. And if you roll box cars (two 6’s), you gain a free BP and may gain additional damage if it’s an attack roll. The GM sets a target value and if you equal it or beat it with your roll, you succeed. If not, you fail. Easy peasy. If things get too easy, the player can set aside some “Setback” BPs… these are complications that make things harder for the character. And when the player thinks it’s time for the comeback, they can use those BPs to add a Boxcar to any roll… Setbacks can be anything from losing your car keys to somehow being affected by sand in the eyes by the villain or the poison edge of a blade.

Also mentioned was the Awesomeness of a character. You get Awesomeness by spending BPs for bonuses, flavas, initiative, and so on. Then, for every 30 points of Awesomeness, the character can choose a new Flava during downtime or between sessions.

Steven Seagal in Hard to Kill.

Image via Wikipedia

The book goes on to describe how to create villains (evil Badasses) and mooks (henchmen) and even offers a bit of a setting that sounds like something out of Black Dynamite or even the early days of Batman in Gotham City.

As I was laughing my butt off while reading through BADASS I kept thinking about the Penguins of Madagascar cartoon series. Yes, I’m a parent. But if you haven’t seen it, it is hilarious (much better in my opinion than the actual Madagascar movies). What if you could adopt BADASS to work for a campaign involving a specially trained group of penguins in a zoo? Though the name BADASS wouldn’t be all that appropriate for children, I think the system is easy enough it would be a blast to play…

Anyway… I want to hear your thoughts regarding BADASS. And since I’m not telepathic, you’ll need to [gasp] type those thoughts into the comments box available on this article! What cool things can YOU think of to do with this system? And if you’ve played the game, how’d it go? Curious minds REALLY want to know!

Jay Steven Anyong did an amazing job with BADASS and is already hard at work on a supplement to add zombies into the mix. I for one am a HUGE zombie fan, so eagerly await reading it! Oh, and did I forget to mention that it’s FREE! That’s right, it’s been released for free and licensed with Creative Commons, so you can get this huge chunk of win to play today! Check it out at RPGNow or at Stargazer Games’ site!

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5 comments to Book Review: BADASS by Jay Steven Anyong and Stargazer Games

  • I run a 4e campaign with a couple of smartasses presently, and this seems like the perfect thing to throw at them this weekend as a change of pace. Nice review!

    • Fitz

      @Jeff – Thanks! And yeah – this seems like a great game to throw in every now and then if you have a quick, fun scenario to run with a group. You’ll have to let me know how it goes!

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