I am a relative newcomer to tabletop role-playing games. Like many others, my first real experience with the genre was Dungeons and Dragons. For a long time I thought my options were D&D or Pathfinder. And then I read about something called Kids on Bikes on Twitter.
Since launching on Kickstarter in 2018, Kids on Bikes and its publisher, Renegade Games Studios, have garnered a sort of cult following in the TTRPG community. The 2020 Kids on Bikes spinoff, Kids on Brooms, shifted the setting from 1980s suburban America to a Harry Potter-esque magical world. Utilizing the same core mechanics as Kids on Bikes, Kids on Brooms added additional layers of complexity with brooms, wands and magic dice.
Now it looks like Kids on Bikes may be getting the same treatment. Freshly up on Kickstarter and running until November 10, Kids on Bikes 2nd Edition is on the horizon! According to the Kickstarter campaign page, KoB 2nd Edition will be fully compatible with all previous KoB products. It brings updated rules for powered characters, on-theme tools and items, and guidelines for higher stakes combat.
Why so hyped, Silver?
As someone who is currently running a Kids on Bikes campaign and was desperate for additional customization options, I am hyped for the second edition. I played Kids on Brooms first, and when I started prepping for my Bikes campaign, I was disappointed to discover it didn’t have any sort of items or gear for giving more flavor to player characters. Wands in Kids on Brooms, for instance, give characters bonuses to particular stats – something that’s not easy to come by otherwise in this ruleset. Along with brooms, wands give characters access to a wide variety of specialization options and create great storytelling opportunities. So, I did what any self-respecting magpie would do. I copied some pages from the Kids on Brooms playbook, crossed out “brooms” and handed them out to my players. Once I get my nerdy little hands on Kids on Bikes second edition though, I will have even MORE options to offer my players.
That’s the express lane to a DM’s heart, right there.
How does it work?
The Kids on Bikes system takes a lot of the grindy bits out of TTRPGs and leans more heavily into collaborative storytelling. Character creation starts either with selecting a Trope (a pre-built stat spread with recommended strengths and flaws) or by assigning dice of different sizes to your stats. There are six stats, each largely self-explanatory: Fight, Brains, Charm, Flight, Brawn and Grit. Each stat gets assigned a die size, from D20 for your strongest quality to D4 for your weakest. Bonuses can get added on top of those depending upon what version of the game you’re playing, certain background characteristics, and whatever chicanery your DM is homebrewing to spice things up.
Skill checks themselves are simple. The DM assigns a difficulty rating based on how hard the task would be for an average person. If your die is bigger than twice the difficulty, you can choose to automatically succeed by “taking half.” So if for instance you are playing a really strong character with a D20 for Brawn, and the DC to kick down a door is 10, you can take half and automatically succeed. No more being a Ranger who specializes in tracking beasts, rolling a nat 1, and being unable to see the bear literally in front of your face. Combat is similarly straightforward: the DM rolls fight for the NPC, the player rolls fight for their character, and the highest roll wins.
How is it unique?
Where in other games a character can go above and beyond with a crit, in KoB your dice “explode.” If you roll max value on a die, you roll it again and add the amount to the initial roll. And you keep doing it as long as you roll max value. I had a player explode three times on a D4 and end up with a 15, which blew the DC8 check (twice their base die value) out of the water.
The most unique part of the Kids on Bikes ruleset is the adversity token. Every time you fail a roll, no matter how badly, you get a point of adversity. You can then add any amount of adversity points to most* rolls, potentially turning a failure into a success when it really matters. With the DM’s permission, you can sometimes even help your allies by giving them adversity tokens towards a check.
Kids on Bikes is great for any table!
This is a gross oversimplification, obviously, but I’ve found that the Kids on Bikes system is pretty intuitive and very easy to teach. Some of the folks at my table are very new to TTRPGs. Playing Kids on Bikes and Kids on Brooms has genuinely made them better at more complex games like D&D and Call of Cthulhu. It’s great for tables that dig more into storytelling and roleplay than minmaxing and the minutiae of the rules. If you’re looking for a change of pace from D&D and love the vintage 1980s aesthetic, give Kids on Bikes a try. The 2nd Edition Kickstarter is live through November 10th and has some sweet backer perks and stretch goals.
Already played Kids on Bikes or Kids on Brooms? Share your tips and stories in the comments below!