Dilemma with GI Joe RPG

(*Editor’s note: I’m talking about a ROLE PLAYING GAME! Not real life! If I get hauled off in the middle of the night, you know what happened.)

This is probably going to be a Session Zero discussion.

I’m going to have a couple of conversations with my players before a GI Joe campaign some day if it ever happens. I’ve been wanting to run this game since the mid 1980’s. It’s going to happen eventually.

First, we have to establish the setting of the campaign. It’s probably going to be, as you may have guessed if you follow my Power Rangers design plans, an alternate Earth from the animated and other series. The main question is whether we will be playing in an anime-esque Sigma 6 game, a GI Joe Renegades game, or one that closely mirrors the original. There’s another possibility of a strong Transformers tie-in because I’ve always wanted to see that made into a movie.

Setting is not the real Session Zero dilemma, though. The problem I’m contemplating currently is realism, once again. Not just the violence aspect, although that will come up. No, I’m concerned over the fact that Cobra is a terrorist organization. I’m probably going to make friends at Homeland Security in the real world just for discussing this.
(*Editor’s note: I’m talking about a ROLE PLAYING GAME! Not real life! If I get hauled off in the middle of the night, you know what happened.)

GI Joe, the Roleplaying Game.

Here’s where the proverbial rubber meets the road with GI Joe RPG.

Photo by Element5 Digital on Pexels.com
Keep America beautiful.

Let’s talk about the real world implications of running a game where good guys, the Joes, chase down bad guys- Cobra. It’s black and white on paper, I guess. But again, Cobra is supposed to be a terrorist organization. After 9/11, that’s a pretty grim title for any organization to latch onto.

Let’s face it, we could be talking some real horrific stuff if we wanted to turn the realism up to 10. (It does NOT go to 11.) Think about how much damage one nutjob terrorist can cause. (*Editor’s note: I’m not giving out any potential plot lines for this game yet.) Major Bludd could go on a Leatherface style killing spree or Dr Mindbender could slip some stuff into the municipal water supply to start off the zombie apocalypse, but it wouldn’t be very cartoon-y even for a violent American cartoon.

It’s kind of like watching the bad guy in a comic book tie up the heroes, execute them and set off the nuke. (*No joke, there’s a comic where the villain did just that.) But this kind of thing translates to zero fun in an RPG. There has to be a legit chance for the heroes to stop the bad guys in time. No one wants to play in a game where Cobra touches off the apocalypse behind the scenes and now it’s basically too late.

It’s not the same without incompetent lackeys and Cobra Commander having a tantrum when he gets beaten.

The enigmatic Cobra Commander.

I’m still living for the day when I get to see Cobra Commander and Starscream having a conversation and then the plan goes to pieces. (*Same voice actor in both cartoons.) It’ll be a hoot in the RPG, too. I live for moments like this in any game, even if it’s behind the scenes. NPCs make the world go around.

My goal with any RPG, especially this one, is to have as much fun as possible. Mass casualties are not fun. Some of us have experienced the trauma of terrorism in the real world and I won’t take it lightly. It’s truly a sensitive topic and should be approached as such.

Much like the widespread use of stun lasers and mercy bullets, we’re going to run GI Joe in nerfed mode. Cobra is going to be dealing in the creation of weather dominators and melting the polar icecaps with a heat ray. They’ll be rounding up a new batch of scientists every week to create giant plants and mutant scorpions.

…and knowing is half the battle.

My goal with all of the Essence20 games is going to be to keep it PG as much as possible. That goes for Transformers and Power Rangers, too. I want my players to experience the excitement and mild drama of the battle against Cobra. I want to mess around with the RPG versions of all the cool weapons and vehicles we had as toys from the cartoons.

I promise to keep my game free of guts and gore. There will be minimal swearing. Death is not going to be commonplace unlike the real world. Injuries will heal fairly rapidly. The parachutes will always deploy and all of the airbags work in every vehicle. Gonna keep it fairly kid friendly. The kind of RPG you can play with a 10 year old on up.

I’m also pretty stoked to do some of the voices from the cartoon and go watch old reruns in the name of “research.” The game is going to be fun, not a bloodbath. If the players do stop Cobra, who’s to say another dastardly organization won’t take their place? (*But that’s another article.)

Yo Joe!

Thanks for being here. I appreciate you. Have a fun and safe weekend.

A Little Surprise in the Mail Today.

So far I have very, very good things to say about this game. Renegade has outdone themselves on this in terms of RPG playability and nostalgia/fan content.

I’m pretty excited about this!

I’ve only been waiting something like, 35+ years for this one. Yo Joe!

An early birthday present from my wife. Dang.

Foreword by Luke Gygax. Unbelievable. I’ll have a full review up when I’ve had more time to drool over this book. My physical copy showed up and the pdf dropped. (Giddy noises.)

So far, it’s been flashbacks and good crunch.

While I’m still pretty much obsessed with Renegade’s other recent release, Power Rangers RPG, I will say GI Joe is very impressive so far. They seem to have gotten their acts together between books somehow. The system is the same Essence20 System used for Power Rangers. It’s a much better fit for this game.

I grew up playing with GI Joe toys among other things. I remember pretty much all of the characters listed in the book and wondered about several they haven’t mentioned. I think the sourcebooks for this game have the potential to be loaded with awesomeness.

The art in this book brings back so many fond memories of both the toys and their packaging. I’ve lost track of the “oh yeah” moments looking back after opening this book. There are characters, vehicles and stories in here that I haven’t thought about in years.

They realized they couldn’t fit 500 dossiers into the first book. Go figure.

I remember when I was first introduced to roleplaying games for the first time when I was nine and thinking, “Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a GI Joe game.”

Other than Spycraft and Cartoon Action Hour, I don’t remember anyone really doing much of a knockoff. It’s just way better with the actual GI Joe cartoon art and characters. Conveniently, Hasbro appears to be working closely with Renegade on GI Joe, Transformers, and even My Little Pony.

As another side note, I absolutely adore the book referring to “Knowing is half the battle,” throughout. I still think there should be extra XP given if characters want to do a public service announcement vignette between episodes.

I sincerely hope they put together sourcebooks with more Joes, Cobras, and lots of vehicles very soon. Renegade seems pretty determined all around on this one. I also should mention that another dream come true is on the horizon- Transformers RPG. Imagine the crossover between GI Joe and Transformers in an RPG. Almost as good as that movie we’ve always wanted.

Thank you for being here. Stay safe. Stay hydrated. More to come.

I Need to Make a Spreadsheet for This.

Putting together Monster of the Week stat tables for Power Rangers RPG. Please send help. Lol!

Dear Renegade Studios,

Thank you for finally giving Game Masters a “Fan Preview Guide to Power Rangers Role Playing Game Threats.” This sounds vastly better than just telling us to wing it. I appreciate your efforts. I was glad you mentioned this at Renegade Con.

Here’s what else is needed:

I’m still going to build my own spreadsheet to make things easier to break down as monsters go from normal/Large size to “Mega Mode”(as I call it,) or Gigantic in game terms. Things such as damage, Speed, area effect and Toughness should logically improve. The table on Page 168 of the Core Rulebook is a big help.

I’m still making a spreadsheet that breaks down the formula from the FAQ and the “Fan Preview.” Still not sure why they’re calling it that, but okay. I’ll publish it here and to some of the RPG social media when it’s done. I think Renegade has done an okay job explaining everything so far, but it’s nice to have a visual representation, too.

Oh, and on a side note, why does a 140′ tall chicken need Stealth? Couldn’t those points gone into something useful? I mean, really, guys?

I can crunch numbers all day.

Modern number crunching at its finest. Need Monster stats and an energy drink. 🤪

As I’m planning to. I’ve already got my spreadsheet in motion entering Size, Health, Toughness, Evasion, Willpower, Cleverness, attacks, etc trying to find some correlations amongst Threat Level and experience awards. I’m still trying to extrapolate some sort of experience system for taking down the weekly threats. I feel like there needs to be a bell curve here, but it may slope. Renegade has now given us some kind of indication of threat levels, but no XP awards yet. Much like D&D, it’s still got some growing to do in that regard.

Trying not to turn this article into math class. I’ve crunched and optimized stat blocks in other systems, many of which are miniatures wargames. I can make a peak performing battle mech from scratch or choose based on tonnages and types available. All I need is a calculator and a piece of notebook paper. These days we have spreadsheet programs to do it for us, thankfully.

I’ll post my findings in a somewhat generic fashion when I’m done, since the verdict is still out on any kind of Community Creator program or OGL. Hopefully, Renegade Con Virtual shed some light on the subject over the weekend. I wasn’t able to attend due to family obligations but I’m scrounging around to get filled in.

Until then, game on. Have a great week! Please stay safe, stay hydrated, and pass the slide rule. If anyone needs me, I’ll be swimming in the numbers. Thank you!

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