G.I. JOE the RPG Review.

In honor of our hard workin, hard fightin real life American heroes, I thought I’d do my long overdue review of GI JOE the RPG from Renegade Studios. I have literally waited 40 years for this game to be made officially.

HAPPY FOURTH of JULY!

In honor of our hard workin, hard fightin real life American heroes, I thought I’d do my long overdue review of GI JOE the RPG from Renegade Studios. I have literally waited 40 years for this game to be made officially. It’s at the top of my list next to Power Rangers and Transformers. I was so stoked when I saw these three games on Kickstarter a couple of years ago.

The dream has been realized minus Transformers. I see it’s been moved to Q04 of 2022. (What the heck, guys?) I mean, how many of us want to someday realize the GI JOE/Transformers crossover we’ve been dreaming about for decades? I know I’m not alone.

I think nostalgia is the primary appeal of GI Joe. All of us who ever ran games from other systems who always wanted an official Joe RPG for the last 40 years or so finally got our wish. I was pleasantly surprised to see a lot of my old favorite characters, vehicles, and weapons from the action figures and the cartoon in print.

This has been four decades in the making. YAY!!!

Essence20 keeps getting better.

Renegade is becoming a very solid company when it comes to game design. I still think Power Rangers RPG is a little shaky under the same system, but the writers have gotten better with GI Joe. Everything flows together with the system so far and I’ve had no hiccups creating characters thusfar.

Renegade also provides downloadable character sheets and prefilled sheets for some noteworthy characters such as Duke and Scarlet. My hat’s off to the writers for being more ready up front with this game. It’s very well put together.

Combat can be as cartoony or as meaty as you’d like.

I was glad to see the discussion of weapon damage being a group consensus. The group can decide to treat it like the 1980’s cartoon with the pew-pew lasers set on stun and parachutes that always deployed. Or they can make it gritty and realistic like a more modern military style game where getting shot is serious business and vehicles can explode with all occupants aboard.

Combat is a key element in this game and I’m glad to see a fairly thorough treatment throughout the book. Weapons are customizable. The vehicles are as cool as any toy playset ever made. Personally, I’m excited to see characters in jet packs and Trouble Bubbles.

The diversity of character options is stunning.

If you ever saw a character in the cartoon that you wanted to emulate or have a particular fan fiction character you want to play, this system has it covered. The same goes for Cobra, though. Anything the GM ever wanted to see Cobra get correct, they can do now. No more incompetent Cobra Commander or bumbling minions unless that’s how you want to play it.

The other neat thing is the sheer amount of character volume included in the core rules. You get to fight alongside Joe luminaries such as Duke, Snake Eyes, Sgt Slaughter, Jinx, Quick Kick and so many, many more. They even went so far as to give a full page treatment to the ones they didn’t have room for in the Core Book.

Oh no! They missed my favorite character! No worries.

One really nice touch they did throughout the game was the “Knowing is Half the Battle” segments that further define a rule or clarify a lot of potential questions. Another great moment came when I found the Perk: Kung Fu Grip. They even mention the historic origins of the name and Yo Joe! is a legitimate battle cry with in game effects. (Kind of like saying It’s Morphin Time or Autobots, Transform and Roll Out.)

I know I've mentioned before that art sells RPG books. The GI JOE RPG has some of the most gorgeous artwork of any RPG ever produced. Admittedly, they might have had a slightly easier time given the volume of art for the animated series and comics that accumulated over the years, but still. This game looks great! Good job team! 

If I was ever waffling on whether or not to by this book, the layout and presentation along with the gorgeous artwork sells it. 

The only thing I hope and pray for Renegade to do-

Renegade folx, if you see this, please hear my pathetic begging. There needs to be a sourcebook with more of the original Joes statted up. Of course there needs to be an extensive book of all the Joe vehicles. Please, please, please give us a solid Cobra sourcebook complete with characters, vehicles, weapons and cool science projects. If you really wanted to make this fanboy happy, please make a Sigma 6 sourcebook.

I give it 5 stars. Keep up the awesome work! Can’t wait to see Transformers.

Thank you all for stopping by. I appreciate it. Have a happy and safe holiday!

Essence20. Who Knew?

I really like Essence20 as an RPG system so far. It’s a lot easier to work with and more flexible than a lot of games out there right now.

We’re now a couple of games into this system, and I like it.

This is the GI Joe character sheet. So far very similar to Power Rangers RPG.

I like Essence20 from Renegade Studios so far. The player and core mechanics are where this company really tends to shine. I’ll talk a little more about combat crunch in another article. I wanted to really highlight some of the character features of both Power Rangers and GI Joe RPGs so far.

They’ve kinda cornered the market on borrowing from other systems.

One of the things that impresses me most about Essence20 as a system is that it borrows from several RPGs that have been around for a long time and makes it fresh. Obviously there’s the D&D d20 aesthetic for most skill rolls and damage, etc. It runs off character classes and the Influences are sort of what I expect D&D races are going to start to resemble. Origins are also kind of in that category along with a mashup of backgrounds.

The pips under the Essence categories resemble another classic- namely White Wolf’s World of Darkness. The broader skill categories and specializations sort of remind me of that WoD character sheet as well. I like the way each Essence score has a separate defense tied into it, the way I remember opposed skill checks work in WoD just simplified.

The other mechanic that smacks of both Cortex and Savage Worlds/Deadlands is the way skills work. Each skill has 6 pips and each pip is associated with a die type from d2 (coin) all the way to d12. Skill rolls are accomplished by rolling a d20 + the skill die OR the dice all the way up to the highest skill die and picking the best if specialized.

For example, if I want to make an Infiltration check and I have three pips (d6) I would roll a d20 + 1d6 and try to beat the target number. If I’m specialized in Stealth, I would roll a d20 (always base) +1d2, 1d4, AND 1d6 choosing the highest of the three to add to the d20 and then compare to the target number.

They break it down into fewer scores and skills to remember.

When you look at a D&D or SWADE character sheet, there are a lot of moving parts to consider and character creation is slightly more involved than Essence20. 4 Essence Scores- Strength, Speed, Smarts, and Social. That’s it. There are only five or six skills under each Score, and only a few specializations for each skill. It’s like a streamlined version of Shadowrun or D6 Star Wars. I hope and pray they keep it that way going forward. We like simple here. Really.

I think Essence20 was really developed with fans of specific franchises in mind like GI Joe and Power Rangers. It’s fast to learn and build characters and emulates whichever series in question quite well. They’re almost as good at genre emulation as Spectrum Games. You can already recreate just about any character from either GI Joe or Power Rangers series pretty rapidly just by knowing the character and looking at Essence20.

Let’s look at one of my favorites from GI Joe lore. He was a Martial Artist (Influence.) Former Hollywood stunt man so Civilian (Origin) and trained pretty extensively under good old Snake Eyes- Commando (Role.) Give him a sword and some shuriken. Fill in the rest of the bells and whistles accordingly prioritizing Speed and Strength for the most part. That’s Quick Kick. It’s easy.

That day of GI Joe vs Transformers is right over the horizon. It’s gonna be beautiful. I hope my voice holds together through my Starscream and Cobra Commander dialogue.

I would love to see Essence20 as a “generic” game system.

Maybe there’s a larger plan at work here?

I could easily see Essence20 Core selling as a book on its own. The only thing the GM would have to figure out would be Roles for whatever specific genre or franchise they wish to emulate. Influences and Origins have been pretty consistent so far as have the general skills. There might be some genre or series specific tweaks, but really it’s pretty easy to master as a framework.

You’ve literally got the start of a generic universal RPG franchise here with a little work. There is so much potential for this system to expand into specific setting and genre books just like d20 Modern, SWADE, GURPS, and FATE did before it. On the other hand, it could also get bonkers out of control like some of those games did. Could this even be the future of D&D? Time will tell.

Star Wars, WWE, Street Fighter, Marvel Superheroes, Indiana Jones, James Bond, and so many other franchises could all field Essence20 games and they would run quite smoothly. I’m not sure about horror yet, but I suspect it could work. The time consuming part is going to be figuring out the Origins, Roles, specializations, equipment/vehicles and threats for each genre/franchise. The character framework could readily be hashed out by a designer or two in a couple of days. It’s really not that daunting compared to using D&D 5E for everything.

Thanks for stopping by. More on Essence20 to come in future articles as I am enamored with this system so far. Please stay hydrated. Think positive. See ya soon.

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.

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