Hey everyone and welcome back to the written edition of the Rocks Fall Podcast! Your home for the best game reviews, creator interviews, and actual play in the podcasting (and written) world! I’m your host, Devon, and this week we’re talking about Cosmic Patrol!
Cosmic Patrol by Matt Heerdt and Catalyst Game Labs
- System Name: Cosmic Patrol
- System Creator(s): Matt Heerdt and Catalyst Game Labs
Flow of Gameplay:
The basic flow of gameplay for a zero session, and every other session thereafter (minus the character creation), is this:
- Create a patrolman or, character
- Select a mission brief. These are basically intro plot hooks to get the patrolmen invested in the campaign or the one-shot. Several are included in this book but players are encouraged to bring their own to the table for the crew to pick from.
- Choose a lead narrator. Yep, this game does not require a GM. The party can flip a coin or roll a die to see who gets to GM, or narrate, first. This can then switch off at the end of every turn, or round, or gameplay, as the lead narrator role passes to the left.
- Blast off to the stars and try not to get killed by any Venusian robots.
- AND THAT’S IT! The book goes more in-depth about the flow of play but this is literally all you need to do to start a game.
This game uses the standard d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, d20 array of dice. Stats are connected to dice that are used in the game. The stats are basic and familiar to anyone who has played a tabletop RPG before. They are:
- Brawn (or strength/endurance)
- Brains (smarts/science, etc.)
- Charisma (easy enough)
- Combat (fighting skills)
- Special (specialization in a chosen field)
- And, Luck (a static number akin to critical hits in other systems. If the patrolman rolls a number equal to their luck in any other roll it is counted as an automatic success).
- To start the process, the player must pick a
- Character theme
- Assign stat dice to certain stats
- Pick your armor, weapons, and starting equipment
- Create your player cues (used to move the narration along)
- And then put it all together on a character sheet. It is a fairly simple twist on standard character creation.
It is simplistic and pulpy with enough detail to wow without the need for full color mural art taking up space in the book. Basically, it gets the point across without having to invest as much as, say, Wizards of the Coast or Paizo does in its artwork. This also lowers the cost of the book considerably so the buy-in is relatively low compared to other games. The first half of the book is thin on art but the last half is full of fun black and white sketches to look at.
This game is so smooth, almost no rules exist! This ruleset allows players to pretty much do anything and go anywhere in a collaborative fashion unlike any other system I’ve read. The next closest is probably FATE but this is even lighter on rules.
Overall the setting is vague but the concept laid out in the book is enough to get the mind going to build your own setting. For me, that freedom is part of the charm this game has. There is a nice timeline of the setting’s history on pages 25-29 that sets up the player character’s starting point nicely. There is a lot of information in the book about the area players start in and almost none about areas outside the known galaxy, which gives players the freedom to do whatever they want, wherever they want.
From what I could find, this game has three supplements: The Moon Must be Ours, Beyond the Gravastar, and Into the Cosmos. There are several Free RPG Day modules that can be found on DriveThruRPG (linked in the description). I’ll update this if I get around to looking at them. Near as I can tell the publisher does not have any plans for a forthcoming release.
While the book is small, this game is essentially a huge sandbox that players can dig in as deep as they want to go. Seriously, this game’s scope of play can be almost limitless due to the vagueness of the direction given by the authors. Think “No Man’s Sky” but with a party of adventurers and more action. Limitless. The collaborative storytelling with this system is interesting as it does not have a constant GM. This can help with GM burnout and add an interesting layer to any session. The art is beautiful, if minimalistic, and the game has a pretty interesting character, or patrolmen, generator.
This system is not for everyone. It’s vague and it leaves a lot up to interpretation. At one point in the book it actually says that fun needs to come before rules so feel free to break them. As much as I agree with this, that mindset isn’t really for everyone. The lack of a GM may lead to confusion at first or possibly a less cohesive story. If you cannot play without a GM or if you want to just be a GM then this system, in its original and unaltered form, isn’t for you.
The thought of switching to a new GM every turn sounds a bit too chaotic for me but the party can decide how best to go about this in a way that makes everyone comfortable because the rules also allow for a constant narrator, much like most other RPGs. The art is minimal as well which can be a bummer for some folks who appreciate that in a core rulebook.
I wish I could have found it when it released back in 2011. With only 135 pages, this game has opened up a sandbox as limitless as the actual universe and I’m ready to play. Overall, I loved this system. Give it a shot!
Where to Find It:
Free quick start rules and blank forms are available on the publisher’s website (linked in the show description with links to where you can find us on social media). The game can be purchased as a PDF through DriveThruRPG and physical copies can be found online in many places as well!
Thank you all so much for reading!
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Rocks Fall, C/O Devon Trube
P.O. Box 61162
Reno, NV 89506
Happy gaming everyone!