What makes a role-playing game Bad Ass? The Most Bad Ass RPG?

What makes a role-playing game Bad Ass?

We need a way of measuring the bad-assness of a role-playing game.  It just so happens I’ve got one.  To my mind, a role-playing game is truly Bad Ass when a knife fight is a scary, bloody thing.

There was a while in American history when dueling with a knife in either hand while wearing only a cotton shirt was in vogue but it passed out of fashion quickly, as in many cases, both participants eventually died of their wounds.

I can think of few things more harrowing than facing off against an opponent with a sharp bit of metal, trying to end them as they try to end you.  Burning Wheel has given us some really rocking knife fights, no doubt about it but the knife fight champ is The Riddle of Steel.

I’m not even sure if this sucker is in print anymore but its dice mechanics and damage tables made a piece of sharp metal a frightening prospect.  I’ve seen PC’s charge into battle, ready to die and come out the other end unscathed.  I’ve seen what we thought was going to be a routine guard at the gate turn lethal.

How did I make it more Bad Ass, you ask?

I hacked together a setting hack called The Riddle of Blood, making it a game about heavy metal vampires.  Here’s the ole pdf (well, that didn’t work; if you are interested in the pdf, drop me a comment and I’ll e-mail it to you).

Excerpt from Vampire Duels:

Any limbs the victor cleaves from his opponent before he gives up or passes into a coma are the victor’s to keep. Duels with heavy swords and axes are extremely popular in hopes that the victor will gain a limb to aid in the control of their antagonist through Blood Sorcery.

We besieged holy cities and killed angels.  Good times.

How about you?  When do you classify a role-playing game as Bad Ass?

12 thoughts on “What makes a role-playing game Bad Ass? The Most Bad Ass RPG?

  1. Hey Judd! Yeah, I remember The Riddle of Blood! Super Metal Vampire Blood Opera! I’m not sure if I have my old copy, so I’d love another if you can!

  2. I don’t have an over-all definition of badass. Different games are badass in different ways. For grittiness, I definitely like games that have nasty knife fights, that don’t dismiss the quarterstaff and it’s ability to break bones, and similar.

    More cinematically, I love a game that is risky but sometimes, someone just does something completely over the top and the table is left jaws open, “Wait, you just cut down 10 people and the room is silent, WTF MAN? What kind of baker ARE you?!?”

  3. Stormbringer 1ed. THAT was badass. First there was badass chargen where one player rolled a demon-wielding Melnibonean sorceror, while other players were relegated to assorted barbarian hunters and a swordmaster who cowered behind him. Then said cheapo Melnibonean decided to have his minions knock off the local fat burgher apothecarist and his two Weeping Waste guards. Fair enough, save that in the melee guards were dispatched, but the swordmaster broke his greatsword then lost his hand and continued to jab opponents with his bloddy stump, while the hunter brained foes with his bow. The tide turned against the PCs when the burgher whipped out his knife and proceeded to cut a TPK swath with his dagger. The game ended with the sorceror running in fear from the bloodied, dagger-wielding merhcant. I believe we switched to GURPs after that due to player goading.

    Ah, good times.

  4. Maybe little too late I landed here after googling the web for both TRoS/BW playable gritty settings.

    May I ask you if you could kindly drop me the PDF for your Riddle of Blood setting?

  5. Hello, sorry for this little necroposting, but i try to find some conversion for Riddle of Steel and found your site.

    Can I ask you to send the “Riddle of Blood” PDF to me?

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