Posted on March 8, 2007 by Flames
Author: Jonathan Ridd
Publisher: Cold Blooded Games, 2006
Bust is a role-playing system available for free from Cold Blooded Games (www.coldbloodedgames.com), which is a small company probably best known for its in-your-face Dog Town series of games. In just 35 pages of graphics-light pdf text, Bust lays out the basics of its system and some examples of how it could be used. In essence, the system relies upon the use of a regular deck of cards that are dealt to a player and GM and played to resolve whether or not an action is successful. The gist of it is not to exceed the magic number, just like the game pontoon (21). The number of cards necessary to play and remain under the number depends on how difficult the task is adjudged to be – something easy like driving a car requires only a couple of cards while seducing a movie star requires five cards (pretty good odds) or physically defeating Godzilla requires 13 cards. Players go about their business in the GM-mediated universe and, when they want to do something unusual or else are confronted by some situation which requires them to respond, then it is out with the cards and devil take the highest.
Some additional twists to the basic system include the use of bonus cards for the use of particular tools, weapons and other resources and the possibility of canceling some cards or multiplying the effects of others in a form of ‘critical hit’ type of rule. This is more or less the body of the book and the remainder provides some suggestions for how to use the system in different genres. It is clear that the author is mostly interested in pulp-style modern games and the majority of examples are related to bashing people over the head with chairs or threatening them with physical violence as an opening negotiation tactic. This is all very well and many very enjoyable games can be had this way. However, there is the danger that consideration of a very narrow genre and style of play has limited the applicability of the system to other styles; wider game-testing might have made Bust more useful for role-playing games based on social interaction, for example (perhaps a game based on Monks aiming to be the first to be proclaimed a saint or on intelligent rabbits seeking a new home).
There does seem to be a terrific appetite for new systems for governing role-playing games, despite there being more already in existence than it would be possible to play even in a very extended lifetime. If anyone really needs a new mechanism for a generic setting with a GM willing more or less to improvise action, this would be a good candidate and, being a few download, the price must be right. I would hope that the author will feel encouraged enough to put some thought into how the basic system could be used in a more fleshed out background world.
John Walsh, Shinawatra University, March 2007