Full disclaimer: I have not read Bulldogs! in it’s entirety. The book, however, renders gloriously on my Android tablet. Update: My pre-gameplay review.
Yesterday saw the arrival of the Bulldogs! RPG 📖 (in pre-release PDF 📖 form), a Kickstarter Project, by Brennan Taylor of Galileo Games. Bulldogs! was originally published as a d20 system game, but has been refreshed and re-imagined as a Fate game.
Take a look at Brennan Taylor’s blog post concerning developing Bulldogs! for Fate. Creating balanced characters in the d20 system can be a tremendous choir, whereas Fate opens you up to defining your alien races via aspects and possibly a handful of stunts. Certainly there are balance concerns with the stunts, but it just isn’t as regimented.
But What of Diaspora?
Don’t worry, I’m not dissatisfied with Diaspora, another Fate-based sci-fi RPG. Quite the contrary, I love it, and eagerly look forward to our next session.
Where Diaspora is billed as hard science fiction, Bulldogs! is…
…sci-fi that kicks ass! Bulldogs! is a high action space adventure. Bulldogs! is about freebooting ruffians flying from planet to planet causing trouble. Bulldogs! is about far future technology—sci-fi movie technology that probably wouldn’t work given what we know about the universe today, but who cares? Bulldogs! is about blasters and faster-than-light travel. Bulldogs! is about hopping from planet to planet and running into a vast variety of weird aliens. Bulldogs! is about being shot at and pissing off powerful locals and fleeing just in time. Bulldogs! is about starship dogfights and ambushes by space pirates in rarely traveled star lanes.
Diaspora is a setting-agnostic toolkit RPG; Whereas Bulldogs! loudly and proudly lays out the setting and tone. The various organizations, races, etc are defined both with a bit of narrative fiction and with Fate Aspects. The Aspects also include suggestions on how to Invoke or Compel them. Unlike Diaspora, Bulldogs! rules closely adheres to Spirit of the Century and The Dresden Files RPG.
Diaspora models varying technology levels. Bulldogs! has an assumed technology level that is available to the player characters. Powerful things are modeled by wealth cost. Personally I like the Diaspora model of civilian weapons vs. military equipment and the required stunt to use military equipment.
But What of Bulldogs?
Bulldogs! setting is also chock-full of aliens, each with a full color illustration. The book includes 10 alien species and strongly encourages making others. Thankfully, Fate makes this tremendously easy. After all who doesn’t want to make a Vrusk?
The artwork is full-color and fantastic, invoking memories of my Star Frontiers: Alpha Dawn days. The world at large may be civilized, but your role as a space explorer/delivery boy is anything but civilized.
One element of Bulldogs! that I like is the better defined aspects for the spaceships. Whereas Diaspora’s ships have 5 general aspects, Bulldogs! has you define 3 aspects: it’s high concept, it’s trouble, and it’s strength. These constraints provide focus for the ship, and I believe provide greater clarity.
And lest I not forget, the stunts of Bulldogs! are exceptional. Diaspora keeps the stunts very limited in scope, but in some ways it feels like a bit too much is left for the reader’s imagination. Bulldogs! provides a healthy dose of example stunts, and they continue to build on the game’s setting.
In the days to come, I will most certainly be mining Bulldogs! for ideas and inspiration, and right now I’m waxing nostalgic. Kudos to Brennan Taylor and crew. I love your work, and am proud to be a supporter of such a finely crafted creation.