Hellboy: The Roleplaying Game
From the makers of Hellboy: The Board Game and inspired by the visionary tales by Mike Mignola and Dark Horse Comics... Hellboy: The Roleplaying Game gives you the opportunity to experience the rich and fascinating Hellboy lore like never before! Powered by the world's most popular RPG ruleset, Fifth Edition, you can create your own B.P.R.D. agent with amazing skills and talents.
I still haven't gotten around to reading the Hellboy comics, but I was a huge fan of the Guillermo Del Toro movies. The new 2019 Hellboy movie was… you know… okay. It was fun, but it wasn't particularly memorable. All that being said, Hellboy is right up my alley. Monsters, prophecies, witches, and a bunch of folks just trying to save a few people without messing things up too bad. A lot like an RPG group.
The Kickstarter for this game was pretty exciting. Lots of cool stretch goals and some fun exclusives. I got the deluxe cover for the hard copy, but I didn't spring for the messenger bag. Which I regret. That would've been super cool.
But what about the game? I was skeptical when they said they were going to go with a 5th edition base. Why not go with something a little less rigid? Something like Fate or Cortex? The counterargument, I think, is that Hellboy plays a lot like a street-level superhero game, and fifth edition—beneath its fantasy veneer—is really a game about super heroes beating up the bad guys in ever larger numbers and in increasing difficulty until they showdown with the big bad behind the scenes. So… in a roundabout way, maybe 5th edition was a great choice for this. You get the accessibility of a well-known system and you get to roll all your shiny click clacks that you already have.
But what about the implementation? It's a ground up rewrite. There are no fighters and bards here, we have all new classes and subclasses (which are called roles and specializations). We also don't have elves and dwarves (I mean, I guess there are elves and dwarves), we have Origins. You could be anything from a Remarkable Human to a Psychic, a Fae, a Ghost, or a Cursed.
For roles we have
Field Agents (Combat)
BPRD Consultants (Books)
Field Analysts (Researchers)
Experimental Engineers (Inventors)
Operational Security (Tactical Support)
Personnel Development (The Talky Folk)
There's a ton of feats, there's a moderate amount of equipment (they should definitely put out a gear book), and there are custom mechanics for spellcasting, backup agents, requisitioning equipment, and more.
One of the core mechanics in the Hellboy RPG is the interaction of Ingenuity and Doom. It's a completely unique player and GM resource system based on the roll of a d10. Every time you roll the d20, you also roll a single d10. If the result is a 1, you generate a Doom. If it's a 10, you generate an Ingenuity. Doom can be used by the GM to introduce complications, and Ingenuity can be used to introduce a benefit for the player. You can spend it to maintain concentration, reduce incoming damage, make your critical damage rolls explode, add 1d6 to a skill check, attack roll, or saving throw, or a bunch of other things.
Plus, each case file includes an Investigation Sheet and Grand Conspiracy sheet. A few case-specific spends for Ingenuity and Doom that flavour the mechanics for your particular table.
There are a lot of other slightly modified rules, but under the hood it's d20 fifth edition. Roll 1d20, add modifiers, compare it to a difficulty, succeed or fail.
My criticism? The book itself is a mixed bag of production. I found the headings hard to parse—they went down to third or fourth levels of headings pretty often without distinguishing 2, 3, and 4 very clearly. The text is dense and sections like the Roles pages in particular are hard to figure out. There are typos and areas with vague or contradictory text, and some terms that were clearly from an earlier iteration of the rules that didn't get changed over. The whole book could've taken a little more time, a little more editing, and—in my opinion—a different layout template. From our experience with the spellcasting system, that also might've needed a bit more tinkering.
But none of that makes this a bad or unplayable game. We had a heck of a time, and I will definitely recommend this game to you and to anyone who wants to try urban fantasy. This was clearly a lot of work from a talented group of people who had a really great vision of how to bring Hellboy to the table. I think they succeed at it—it's just not spotless in the first print run’s end product.