The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=25950.
Cosmic Patrol is a storytelling game set in a pulp sci-fi setting. You may say that “aren’t all role-playing games ultimately storytelling games?” While this is pretty much true, Cosmic Patrol is solely focused on the characters and the story they create. How is this done? By removing the Game Master and giving everyone the chance to tell the story according to the plot hooks that are laid out for that adventure. This is a big thing as Cosmic Patrol is meant to be more of an improvisational game whereas all you know is a description of the adventure’s framework, but everything inside is determined by whomever turn it is to be the Lead Narrator (the one taking the head spot for that particular narration). The key here is that the Lead Narrator is also a player and also telling their own story in regards to the adventure’s framework. The end result is an experience in collective narration creating a game that is not only fun, but extremely flexible in terms of how you want the setting to look and feel.
The basics of Cosmic Patrol are to use building blocks and plot points to create the story, continue moving it forward, and give players and the Lead Narrator the chance to do something spectacular. These elements are done on a narrative basis using things like cues to describe your character instead of just abilities and skills. But when the dice need to roll, there are basic abilities to aid resolution (for things like firing a weapon). When the dice are called upon, it is a simple base die (d12 or your Combat Stat Die) plus the applicable stat die and modifiers. Using a progressive die system, characters’ stats are defined by the die type, increasing as they “improve.” This, however, is only when the dice need to be rolled for particular resolutions, otherwise everything is done in narrative. It’s a simple system and quite visual (you’ll have to read about the armor and health system as they really can’t be summarized).
Cosmic Patrol is a great blend of storytelling and dice rolling that focuses very heavily on the characters and the adventure they have. The removal of a Game Master and taking turns as the Lead Narrator mean that everyone involved in the game is fully involved and able to drive the story in new and interesting ways. The pulp sci-fi setting means that the sky’s the limit and you can really go any direction desired with a large amount of flexibility.
Publication Quality: 9 out of 10
Cosmic Patrol is designed as a simple but pleasing book. The layout and formatting are very simple and there is little to no “flash” throughout. The art within only covers the different character types (PC and NPC), but provide a nice collection of flavor that really represents the genre. The book is extremely easy to read and the content flows quite nicely from beginning to end. I would have liked to see some pulp sci-fi art covering spaceships (because that can be a big part of the genre too), but what was included look excellent.
Mechanics: 8 out of 10
Cosmic Patrol is a role-playing game and heavily leans toward storytelling elements. It does not focus on dice rolling outside of very specific situations and requires the players to be as involved with the game as the Lead Narrator. The removal of the Game Master means that the storyline could follow the adventure’s direction properly or end up somewhere in outer-space (figuratively and literally). The use of cues, objectives, and tags for this type of game-play is excellent for storytelling games, but what if you end up with a player that tries to take everything way off the farm? Sometimes giving everyone an equal amount of power can backfire, but with the right gaming group, Cosmic Patrol can produce hours of wonderful role-playing experiences and lots of great stories to be told.
Desire to Play: 10 out of 10
For those looking for a story-heavy role-playing game, Cosmic Patrol is an excellent blend of simplicity, flexibility, and narration. I feel that a story-telling game such as this works extremely well in the pulp sci-fi realm (given its inherent fantastical appearance and virtually impossible scientific feats), blending the game’s mechanics perfectly with the setting. Take this game into another genre, and it may not be as exciting, but pulp sci-fi really allows the mind to be as creative as possible. If you’re going to tell a story, this is a great place to do it without forcing the players to roll the dice or make mechanical decisions.
Overall: 9 out of 10
Cosmic Patrol truly fits in with the storytelling crowd. It will be interesting to see what directions the game takes in future supplements, but for now there is a solid base to start from and an excellent amount of material to get your games running. I can see these types of games being extremely popular at conventions and random gamer gatherings with its ease of understanding and the ability to provide flexibility to the players and the Lead Narrator without being bogged down in rules.
[5 of 5 Stars!]