The Publisher: Basic Action Games
Degree of Familiarity: None.
Books Required: Just the Core
BASH is an attempt to be a halfway point between rules-heavy supers games (such as Mutants and Masterminds or Champions) and rules-light supers games (such as Truth & Justice). The former, according to the text, are bogged down in details, while the latter are far too simplistic, and BASH is the middle-ground. In this first paragraph, this game's pissed me off. Two reasons: One, it's plain the author hasn't actually read a rules-light supers game that was based off anything other than GM fiat. Two, the niche BASH is aiming for is already filled by the second Marvel Super-Heroes game (Marvel SAGA), yet the text has no acknowledgement of that game's existence. Now, my two favourite supers games are Marvel SAGA and Truth & Justice, so I may be a little biased, but yeah.
Full disclosure time: I collect supers systems; only quirks of the second-hand market stop me from getting the third Marvel game, and I have to marshal all of my will to stop buying even systems that I know are utter crap.
The system's basic enough. Roll 2d6, doubles add a die (and if that's a match, keep adding dice). Multiply the result by the stat or power, pay the energy cost for any powers, and you're good. Annoyingly, the game insists on renaming basic gaming terms, including "round", "action", "initiative", "story", and the like. Fortunately, it's a short book.
For a game that purports to be a "happy medium" between light and heavy games, the mechanics don't do much to help. Everything reads as though it's rushed and important information is in unintuitive locations. The most glaring example: Every range is measured in "squares" and all speeds are expressed as "your normal amount of squares". Except... what the holy fuck is a square? Read the book and you're left unenlightened and generally pissed off by this insistence on inventing some bullshit measurement.
Read into the throwing sections and you'll see that 5 squares equals 25 feet, so a square is five feet. Why not just multiply every number by five and use feet? Better, why not use a sensible fucking measurement as used in the rest of the world, such as the metre? Or just put a simple definition in the section where you're already redefining basic cunting terms to say that "Oh, by the way, one square equals five feet." Worse, the "normal amount of squares" that everyone can move is only defined in the Running power. Good luck having the faintest fucking idea what speed is normal without reading every single power in explicit detail.
And yes, you need to know how far you can move. Because each action (sorry, Panel) you can move then attack, move twice, or attack then move. What the hell is this pointless D&Dism doing in a supers game? The whole reliance on "squares" and movement and distance being calculated in said gives me the impression (possibly wrongly, who can tell) that BASH is meant to use a battemat and minis. Unfortunately, the rules don't include anywhere near enough detail that using minis is of any advantage over the standard style of just describing shit, perhaps with a sketch on the back of a fag-packet for emphasis. I've not touched HERO since Champions 4th, and though that advocated the use of a hex-map it was also a game of the 80s. Marvel FASERIP
The concrete mechanics break down into three sets: non-combat challenges (roll vs. a GM-designated target number. No, that's all the advice you're getting), combat, and chases. The latter gets the most detail: a page of mechanics, and a table of vehicles on a second page. Combat gets a page. "Hazards other than fighting" only lists new ways to take damage, no mental domination, and not a single sodding word on genre conventions. Truth & Justice: The whole first fucking chapter is on genre conventions and how different styles of superhero story can be expressed in play. Marvel FASERIP: The genre conventions of the Silver Age are so important that they're part of the core mechanic.
Important information for running fights and chases is hidden in the power listings. Hell, the power listings show plenty of holes in the writer's understanding of superheroes. By ensuring that every character has set numbers of stats and powers with limited interplay, some concepts go right out of the water. The Badass Normal concept has to have either explicitly superhuman stats, or an arseload of powers. A whole range of characters simply cannot exist, because their powers didn't come to mind.
I have a simple metric for analysing a supers system. Can it represent the Legion of Super-Heroes (post-threeboot)? Can Supergirl, Brainiac-5, Element Lad, Light Lass, and Triplicate Girl0 all exist and have some meaningful impact? A lot of systems that claim to be supers games fall on this point, mostly because they rely on lists of powers that don't have any flexibility (we'll see how another lists-of-powers game gets around that when I come to Aberrant). Necessary Evil fails. Marvel SAGA would fail, save for two things: the list of powers is fucking *huge*, and pretty much one in five heroes has a unique power anyway, so you have plenty of guidance. Mutants and Masterminds, HERO, and Wild Talents each let you build pretty much any power imaginable. Truth & Justice lets you define powers to about the same level used by comics writers anyway, by the simple virtue of describing the power.
BASH, unsurprisingly, fails. Supergirl's too powerful, Brainiac-5 is just about possible, Element Lad's power doesn't exist, Light Lass' power doesn't exist, and Trip isn't powerful enough. Here, of course, we get into arguments about taking a range of powers and reskinning them. In an effects-based system like Champions, where a power defines solely an effect, that's entirely possible. BASH gives no advice on the matter at all. No notes as to how one power can be kitbashed into something else entirely (Aberrant's saving grace), or how to meaningfully limit the presented powers. Maybe that's supposed to come through play. Who knows?
So I can't in all conscience endorse BASH as a game. If you want a game for playing superheroes, get Truth & Justice. If you want a game for mechanically modelling superheroes, get Wild Talents or maybe Mutants & Masterminds. If you want a middle-ground superhero game, try to pick up Marvel SAGA.
Still. There's an ultimate edition out now which supposedly fixes most of the problems: character creation works off one pool of points, the size of that pool's set by the GM, most of the annoying new names gone, and the powers system has had a pretty major overhaul to make it actually usable to model most superheroic characters. I only know this from reading forum threads; the version of BASH that I have is not enough to convince me to shell out for an upgrade when I already have plenty of supers games that worked right enough in the first edition that I got.
Step 1: Stats
We've three stats here, Brawn, Agility, and Mind. These are rated 1-5, with 1 being normal human, 2 being near-peak-human, and 3-5 being grades of superhuman. A starting character gets 7 points. That can drop to 6 to give +2 Power points. Extra points come from Weaknesses or spending 2 power points.
Naturally, I should probably come up with a concept. As it's a short book, absolutely nothing's spent on the whole "concept" angle. It's mechanics and fuck-all else.
Right. Hrm. This is the problem. I have a hard time coming up with vanilla superheroes. I want to make someone like T.O.Morrow, who steals technology from the future to claim as his own, or Resurrection Man, who comes back to life with a new superpower every time he's killed. My instinct to press against restraints, I guess.
Nicolas Delacriox, 14 year old dreamer. A straight-C student, Nico's teachers see a well of untapped potential that he just doesn't bother unleashing. He spends most of his time in a fantasy world, only emerging when he has to. His teachers are right: Nico's able to tap into a pocket dimension based on his fantasies. When he's there, he's the hero (in a somewhat simplistic take on the word): the strong, brave knight who saves the world. Six months ago, he discovered a gem in his dreamworld that brought him out of his shell: all of a sudden, he's everything he dreamed of but in the real world. Which comes in handy when the Sundown Squad are holding the town to ransom. Nico saved the day; fearing what his parents would say were he to use his real name, he took the codename Chevalier. The gem gives him one hour of every day in which the armoured knight in Nico's soul can walk the world, righting wrongs. The rest of the time, he's just a kid.
I've seven points to spend on Chevalier's stats. I drop three each into Brawn and Agility, and one into Mind.
Step 2: Powers
9 points of powers. Let's go for Keen Senses (1pt), Danger Sense (2pt). Or not, as Danger Sense is wank for characters who aren't supersmart. Obviously, Wolverine's a fucking Ph.D. Gah. Right. Scrap the Keen Senses, instead take two points of Armor, and a Sword of Light multipower. If I'm reading that right, I can put two powers into one by adding one to the cost of the higher. So let's make it an Attack Roll +1, Damage x4 (5pt) energy sword, and add four points of Deflect as the alternate power. Make it a gadget that anyone can use if they take it off him and the whole thing costs 5 points. The final two points go towards purchasing the fourth dot of Brawn.
Step 3: Skills
I get physical skills equal to Agility and mental skills equal to Mind. Brawn does nothing, for some reason.
For physical skills, I pick from a list of five, and get a speciality for each. Athletics (Riding), Stealth (Hiding) and Escapology (Ropes).
Mental Skills are easier: Deception (Lying).
Step 4: Advantages
I get one Advantage for every Disadvantage. I want Instant Change: one second, Nico's stood there, the next *poof* it's Chevalier! Unfortunately, there's no real Disadvantage to go along with that sort of change: Nico's a powerless kid for twenty-three out of every twenty-four hours. I suppose Normal might cover it. Age would cover his general inexperience as well, and allows me to purchase his mount as a super-vehicle! The Chevalier tamed the mythical Nightmare, the steed of darkness, and rides it as a symbol that the Light will always overcome the Darkness. Super-vehicles have stats and powers just like a character. The Nightmare is B3, A3, M1, and has five points of Running, two points of Flight (on wings of fire), and a Flaming Aura (DM x4 radius 1).
I think that's how it works, anyhow.
Step 5: Mental Malfunction
This step is odd for a game that purports to be a generic supers game, because it tells us that every hero is in some way damaged, and it's that damage that drives them to be heroic. That in turn must inform the world of BASH, unless one takes it to mean "Motivation", which, on further reading, the game seems to. Bugger. So much for a nice idea.
Chevalier's Mental Malfunction is Duty. He saves people and fights the forces of evil because he was created to be Nico's perfect ideal of a hero and that's what heroes do, damnit. Naturally, that makes him pretty useless when there's any sort of shades-of-grey action going on. Such is life.
I note down Energy and Hits, and I'm done.
B4 A3 M1
Energy 10 Hits 100
Sword of Light 5pts (Multipower Gadget) [Energy Sword +1 skill(4) x8DM; Energy Shield Deflect x7]
Physical Skills: Athletics (Riding), Escapology (Ropes), Stealth (Hiding)
Mental Skills: Deception (Lying
Disadvantages: Age, Normal (23 hours out of 24, Chevalier is a B1 A1 M1 teenager with no powers or skills)
Advantages: Instant Change, Super-vehicle (Nightmare: B3 A3 M1 Running 8/panel, Flight 6/panel, Flaming Aura DMx4 radius 1)
Mental Malfunction: Duty. He saves people and fights the forces of evil because he was created to be Nico's perfect ideal of a hero and that's what heroes do, damnit.
0: For the non-comics fans: Supergirl has all the powers of Superman. Brainiac-5 is hyperintelligent, sometimes uses a force field, and has a handful of other gadgets. Element Lad can transmute any one element into another with a touch. Light Lass negates gravity. Triplicate Girl is a normal girl who can split into three.
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