A beloved anime is coming to tabletop gaming! Easily one of the top ten anime series, Cowboy Bebop is dear to the hearts of many fans. The short nature of the series leaves fans craving more, and after the disaster that was the Netflix series, a role-playing game set in the same universe feels appealing. Fans have the opportunity to create the stories they wanted to see. Players will find themselves in a space age western noir as a group of perpetually broke, space traveling bounty hunters.
Cowboy Bebop Roleplaying Game is Don’t Panic Games’ current project. Don’t Panic Games, a self described young game publishing company from France, known for Naruto Ninja Arena and Cowboy Bebop: Space Serenade, has partnered with Mana Project Studio, known for games like Journey To Ragnarok, and Historia. The project is a collaboration with authors Fumble GDR and Davide Milano. While this is one of Don’t Panic Games’ first forays into role-playing games, it will be their second Cowboy Bebop product. Mana Project Studio’s experience in the genre and the expert writing of Fumble GDR and Davide Milano are sure to keep the upcoming game on a stellar path.
Cowboy Bebop Roleplaying Game isn’t a reskinned version of Dungeons and Dragons or a flavor for GURPS. The game features a unique rule system. Currently, the ruleset is in playtesting with a Kickstarter to come later this year. This means changes to the ruleset are to be expected. Instead of the Dungeon Master, Cowboy Bebop Roleplaying Game features the Big Shot, a delightful nod to the Big Shot television show featured in the Cowboy Bebop anime that served as a source of information on available bounties. This subtle nod is just one of the ways Don’t Panic Games and their team have kept with the theme of the anime without it feeling forced or out of place. The playtest prototype PDF is filled with art based on the anime, with a familiar text font, showcasing the team’s attention to detail.
The team of creators are working hard to recreate the action packed and complex narratives found in the Cowboy Bebop anime. With that comes a heavy focus on roleplay and moving the action along. You won’t find an alignment category on your bounty hunter’s character sheet. Instead, you’re encouraged to show your character’s morality through actions and roleplay. The game doesn’t require much to play, a handful of six sided dice in two colors, and a way to take notes. Important events and actions still require rolls when appropriate to build tension. In that aspect, the game feels reminiscent of White Wolf’s Chronicles of Darkness.
Aside from bounties, Bounty Hunters are driven by memories – a thoughtful mechanic to keep in line with the best theme of the anime. The crew of the Bebop never outran their pasts. In the end, the only way forward was to confront their pasts and come to terms with it. Through the memories mechanic, player characters are able to grow along a similar path. Memories represent an unsolved story from a character’s past that eventually knocks on the door, forcing the character to confront it. Or run from it, however, that often comes with grave consequences. Unlike many other tabletop roleplaying games, accidental character death is an event that should be avoided. This keeps death a somber event that brings tone, value, and meaning to the story. Normally, a character exists the story through definitively coming to terms with their past.
The game features another mechanic known as Lines and Veils. A convenient and essential feature roleplaying games, particularly games featuring mature themes, like Cowboy Bebop Roleplaying Game. Lines and Veils provide a seamless way for groups to address players’ comfort levels and boundaries. Lines represent hard boundaries and topics that are not allowed in the game. Veils represent topics and themes that can exist within the game, but happen “off-screen” with minimal details. Making players boundaries and comfort levels a high priority is a welcome addition to gaming.
See you space cowboy.