Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Relive your mis-spent childhood with G.I. Joe by Jay Libby

The GI Joe RPG is a free roleplaying game setting based on the American GI Joe ethos. It is a pulp-military game where you get to play with gadgets so cool you could extinguish the sun with them. Based on the free Fuzion system, GI Joe will take you back to when you crawled around the on the floor playing out the greatest adventures your imagination will allow.

Who is GI Joe?

For those, like me, who have only heard of G.I. Joe through endless reruns of American situation comedies allow me to explain. G.I. Joe is an action figure /comic hero (TV series too?) who belongs to an American special forces unit to 'defend freedom against Cobra, a ruthless, terrorist organisation that is trying to take over the world'. GI Joe is actually an organisation in itself, operating from 'The Pit'- an underground lair where they keep all their stuff (and a reasonable name for my bedroom when I was a young lad). Cobra is lead by the aptly named Cobra Commander, a villain of limitless budget and fairly barking mad technology. Being a filthy Limey, I can't comment on whether GI Joe the RPG breaks canon or ruins your childhood, so please do let me know in the comments. If you find yourself weeping for the horrendous and bloody butchery of once treasured memories then I can only offer my apologies.

Character Creation

You'll be thrilled to read that character creation puffs along familiar tracks. Jay suggests that it takes 15 Greenwich minutes but I would take that with a healthy dollop of salt - as there is so much to choose from and volumes to write down. You start with your type, which determines how good the character is going to be. This will depend on the kind of game you're going to run. It allows you to start with initiates or more hardcore heroes. You then add experience - this further piles on more points to spend. You then choose a career (class), which provides skills and so on. The more experience your character has, the more skills and so on they get. These careers make up the majority of the book. I did chuckle at the Air Force career having 'parachuting' as a skill. From my limited experience of military flying: if you have to jump out of the aircraft, you're probably doing it wrong!

Focus comes next, which can be either physical or mental. These affect your statistics in a predictable sort of way. You pick a profession and a persona - all which affect your stats. Then you get talents, which are natural abilities that cannot be taken away, such as night vision. Perks are things that you can call upon, such as allies and wealth. Armour, weapons and vehicles are all bought too. The list of stuff to buy is superb, as you would hope. Bug trackers, dagger shoes, Pen Grenades and so on. Phew! Quite a lot.


G.I. Joe is based on R. Talisorian's free Fuzion ruleset. Which is good because the rule description for the player and GM is minimal at best. I'd recommend having a look at Fuzion separately (yes, I will too). There are some good player help boxes that illustrate how good the skills are. Fuzion is a medium-crunch system that is very much planted in a traditional form of roleplaying.


I've really only brushed over the main rulebook so far. Jay has split the game into a series of books, with NPCs, vehicles and so on. The game does not have its own web page but that doesn't really matter as it is hosted on The Yo Joe forums, which looks like a good place to ask questions on GI Joe in general. Jay seems to be active over there, so if you have a question, I imagine he will respond!

Time for a moan

GI Joe is mostly bereft of pictures and that is a shame because I think that if anything is going to bubble memories up from their depths it'll be the pictures. Jay says it's to keep file size down but I'd rather have them and suffer the large download. Much more of a problem is that there are coloured backgrounds across the page that will use a lot of printer ink. I'd like to see a more narrow border and black on white for the body. This is especially bad as some of the pages aren't filled entirely - leaving large areas of colour that will print as black. It does look cool on screen but the print is not ideal. I would also like to see some up-front descriptions of what the characters will be doing and this leads me on to my biggest gripe. You really need to know a lot about GI Joe to run it. For those of us that don't know the canon too well, there isn't a lot to help you run it.


GI Joe successfully represents the pulp-military feel of the kind of universe I imagine GI Joe exists in. Although there is not a lot of canon in the game, try putting GI Joe into Google and you will find all you need. The villains are villainous, the heroes are heroic. There is a plethora of military gizmos, guns, tanks, munitions and armour. If you are familiar with the ethos of GI Joe (which most of my readership will be) and you're keen for some pulp (and slightly camp) heroic-ness then the GI Joe RPG is for you. Many thanks to Jay for his eye for detail and effort into producing a super game for free!

In other news

Some willing victims budding designers have signed up for the 24 Hour RPG Contest. They have chosen their topics and have until the end of June to get their entries in. Some brave souls (BortJr, talysman, Peril Planet I am looking at you) have already finished and congratulations to them! The bar is very high indeed. Fancy giving it a go? Free to enter and you might win 30 pounds worth of Amazon vouchers!

A big, hearty, thigh-slapping thank you to Chgowiz for advertising the competition and also for writing up a rather smashing Examiner article on freeness. If you don't follow his blog, may I recommend you do, it's a great read. I secretly puffed up and proud that I've been featured thus. Alright, not so secret anymore. A long time supporter of the blog, so special thanks indeed!


Matt Celis said...

Where can I find this game? Did I miss a link? Have you not seen the cartoon(s) of G.I. Joe?

Rob Lang said...

Hi Matt,
Thanks for the comment. I have linked up the GI Joe cover image. The PDF game can be found in the G.I. Joe forums.

I am aware of the G.I. Joe cartoon but did not see it as a kid. Being in the UK, we got some US cartoon but G.I. Joe was probably a little too US-centric to be aired in Europe.

Thanks for the feedback!