I was at GenCon this year with my nine year old grandson. It was his first convention and we both were drawn in to Kids on Bikes, but Renegade Games. He liked their display at the convention – I liked the very basic premise. This is a RPG about kids exploring mysteries and strange happenings. I thought this might be a good RPG to get my grandson going.
I wasn’t disappointed.
Right off the bat, this has the look, feel, and vibe of Stranger Things from Netflix. There are a lot of other potential sources of material though. Any episode of Scooby-Doo could be the basis for an adventure. “I would have gotten away from it if it wasn’t for those meddling kids!” You can also tap films like ET, Goonies, Lost Boys, Stand By Me, Small Soldiers, Adventures in Babysitting, Home Alone, Gremlins, Silver Bullet, and others for some ideas. This is about kids snooping around and getting into trouble – BIG trouble. It is a brilliant niche in role playing games. I recommend you play this in the 1970’s or 80’s. Picture an era before cell phones, before the internet – and you have a basis for gaming Kids on Bikes.
This is not a hack-and-slash RPG. This is about role playing, pure and simple. If you are looking for how many hit points a chainsaw does, this is not the RPG for you. Character stats are RPG die, 1D4 to 1D20. There are two incredibly simple concepts to master – Stat Checks and Conflict. Stat checks are simple. Conflicts are a little different, where the narrative of how the conflict is resolved flips between players based on the results. It is simple and oddly enough, eloquent.
A big piece of this game system is character building. I am not talking number-crunching skills, but who your character is and how they relate or interact with the other players. You start with a troupe – like “Laid back slacker,” or “Reclusive eccentric.” Yes, you can even be “The brutish jock.” The folks at Renegade Games have done a LOT to make this work. They even have guidelines for characters with handicaps. You can have powered characters too.
Honestly, you can learn this game system in a matter of minutes. There are only 80 pages (5×7) in the rules book. While the $25 price might make some people flinch, I have to say I felt like I got my money’s worth with this game. The artwork captures the vibe of the era and the general kinds of situations you might find the game.
The folks are Renegade Games make some additional stuff for the game and were kind enough to send me some. First up, the dice. The dice set is not needed for the game. I like them though. They are weirdly sized and have a skull for the high number. These almost seem to harken back to the horrible dice we had to use back in the 1970’s.
They have produced a character folder. Wow did this bring back some memories. The printing on this took me back to 1976. It is not of a lot of use (there are two tables in it) but I have to admit, if you want to get into character – this helps. If you weren’t alive in the 1980’s, it might be lost on you. Trust me, Renegade nailed it.
The most important thing you need is the Powered Character Deck. Pick this up. It has one deck that is about fleshing out your character’s traits. Examples include things like “Lacks an internal monologue;” “Thinks they are pursued by a cult;” “Frequently bursts into song;” and “Loves animals.” Yes, this could have been a table – but the cards really can put some net spins on your character. The powers deck are for powered characters – with things such as telekinesis, Palpalgia (the ability to harm others by touch), invisibility, shapeshifting, etc. I think the trait card decks could and should be used in other RPG’s. For $15 – it is worth adding to your game shelf.
The rules come in two formats. One is the $35 big hardcover book that comes with a campaign setting. Or you can get the $25 paperback that has the basic rules, sans the campaign.
I have set up a campaign setting for the game I am looking to run…and I’m going to share it with you in a separate blog post. In other words, I am going to encourage you to go out and get this game and play it.
Will I play it with my grandson? Probably. This is about kids, and who better to relate to that than another kid? I will simply not make it too gory or scary for him.
Kids on Bikes was one of my best purchases at Gen Con this last year. Yes, it is pricy to get started – but worth it.