Buck Rogers XXVc: A Few Thoughts

This week I will run the third session of our Buck Rogers XXVc campaign and I think it’s time to share a few thoughts. Overall things have been running smoothly with a few unpleasant exceptions.

To familiarize me and my players with the setting I decided to run the introductory adventure included in the box. It is a bit linear but aside from that I didn’t think it would be as bad as it turned out. We quickly realized that the adventure was either very badly balanced or it meant to be lethal. The first encounter was with three thugs equipped with a laser pistol, a heat gun and a microwave gun. Especially the heat gun was a big issue. 2d6 damage can easily kill almost any 1st level character. Ouch! I think I wasn’t really at the top of my game at the time, otherwise I would probably have given them different weapons.

The next encounter was another group of RAM thugs. After barely surviving the fight with three thugs the author of the adventure thought it was a great idea to let them fight against as many thugs as players in the group plus the NPC they had in tow. Guess what! Each enemy was armed with a heat gun! Yay! A few lucky rolls by the GM and the player characters are toast … literally.

Starting characters also have pretty weak skills which makes healing very unrealiable. If you play rules as written, Buck Rogers XXVc turns deadly pretty quickly. The technology book talks about the advances in medical technology in the Buck Rogers universe, but alas there’s nothing like a stimpack, health potion, etc. which I could give to the player characters to make things easier. Eventually I did just that and invented single-use “stimpacks” which they could use to heal quickly if necessary.

The skill system has a few issues as well. New characters basically suck at everything. Even if I let them make easy tests all the time, their chances to succeed are usually below 50%. Things will probably get better as the characters level up, but until then making skill checks is usually pretty frustrating. Aside from that I am actually glad we gave Buck Rogers XXVc a try. My players seem to enjoy playing their characters, they love the setting and overall we are having a lot of fun. I think I just need to get a better understanding of how the game is balanced.

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

3 thoughts on “Buck Rogers XXVc: A Few Thoughts”

  1. It does sound like the heat guns are a little inappropriate for the beginner adventure. If they had been changed out for something less lethal how would that have changed the challenge of the first session?

    1. Definitely. If I had been more awake while running the game (we play on Thursday nights), I would have easily changed the weapons to bolt pistols (1d4 damage, ROF 2) which are much less deadly and which are the weapons the player characters started with.

  2. I remember finding out the hard way that adventure was a player killer.

    The first separate adventure Buck Rogers in the 25th Century was a lot fairer to PCs if my memory isn’t failing me after 20+ years.

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