Need A Stranger Things Fix? Try The Kids on Bikes Role Playing Game.
The hit Netflix series Stranger Things is gearing up for its third season to launch on July 4th. As audiences wait with baited breath, your gaming group could be playing out your own version of the show. Kids on Bikes by Doug Levandowski and Jonathan Gilmour offers role playing gamers a chance to design their own adventure with the same flavor and flair as Stranger Things.
Prior to playing, gaming groups should decide if they want to play as kids, teenagers, or adults. The age group chosen will help decide the flavor. Kid adventures can be Stranger Things or E.T. in nature. A teenager adventure might be more like a slasher flick. Adult adventures could be like It with the adults coming back to finish a job that started when they were kids. A mixed age adventure could also happen, but players will need to figure out their character’s relationships and why the whole group is traveling together. The rule book puts a lot of emphasis on developing the setting for the game. Knowing what kind of a supernatural, spooky adventure your group wants to have is imperative for playing Kids on Bikes. The core rule book recommends picking a small town where it is realistic for kids to bike across in about an hour, but still have some amenities such as a hardware store. It helps if the city is surrounded by some kind of wilderness and if the town has a history of something dark, creepy, or mysterious. These elements will help set up the theme and feel of the game.
Kids on Bikes is very light on rules and focuses players on the role playing aspect versus worrying about leveling their characters. The character creation system for the game is very simple. Players assign dice to the different skills. If a player assigns their D20 to a certain skill they have a much better chance of rolling successes on that skill, therefore making them proficient on that particular ability. Characters don’t have classes like in D&D 5th Edition or Pathfinder, instead you develop your character as a stereotype. The indices of the rule book offers common stereotypes for all ages of characters and makes suggestions for how to assign your dice to play the characters optimally. After players pick out traits and a background, they are ready to begin.
For those who are major Stranger Things fans you are probably asking, “but who gets to play as Eleven/Jane?” Kids on Bikes prevents this argument at the table by having the powered character be either controlled by all the players or by the DM. If the powered character is controlled by everyone each player gets two traits that they control for that character. The powered character should also have a pool of tokens that represent their abilities. Each time an ability is used a token is removed from the pool. The structure of the powered character is a crucial part in making this role playing game a group storytelling adventure. Everyone’s input helps shape the character and the game.
Since Kids on Bikes is a role play heavy storytelling experience this is an easy game for DM to prep for. It is encouraged to reach out to the players during the game and ask them to help come up with parts of the adventure. For example, if the players are exploring an abandoned house, when they open a new door, ask the players, “what do you see when you open the door and why are you pleasantly surprised.” The DM basically prepares the main story line and has some surprises ready along the way. How the players move through the setting and plot is a group effort.
The core rule book is very short, maybe 60 some pages and a large portion of it is index information for character creation and suggested stats for bad guys. One of the weirder concepts of this game is that all fights have the possibility to be fatal. Which means these adventures have the possibility of becoming very dark when you think about how a player character could accidentally kill a non-player character bully or even another player’s character in a scuffle. Then the team has to figure out how they are going to deal with that, and the DM has to decide whether or not the police will be involved and what kind of long lasting consequences this creates. I like this element as it encourages players to really think about how they are going to handle situations. This hopefully prevents the group devolving into a band of adventuring murder hobos. Although that could easily be an adventure in itself, a group of 8 year olds could easily become serial killers with the help of an easily misguided power character. This is a really great game, easy to pick up and get started with, and can be played as a long ongoing campaign or a short one shot. The mechanics are easy to understand and easy to adjust in order to keep the game fun for everyone at the table.
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The door to the old house creaks open, the rust on the hinges groaning as you see the dust floating like spores in the air inside. Still, you must go in. The only question is who will go first?