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?