Hellboy: A Belated Game Review

I’d meant to originally write this up when it first came out, but life intervened. However, I’d still like to make a plug here for the Hellboy RPG and Sourcebook by Steve Jackson Games. While not strictly Mythos oriented, both the protagonists and the villains dance around the edges of Lovecraftian.

The RPG is based off of a comic book series of the same name, now mostly collected into trade paperbacks. (Not to mention the novels, video game, action figures, and upcoming movie). It details the adventures of a demon-ish thing that was dubbed early in his life “Hellboy”. While he doesn’t know exactly how he got to our world, he has a thriving career working for the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, or BPRD. It’s a growing organization, originally founded by post-WWII UK and USA. It’s job essentially is to run around and protect the world from supernatural threats.

While it may sound a bit like Delta Green, there’s a few key differences. First off, this is no secret society, nor are its members exactly low-profile. Hellboy and other pretty non-human members of the BPRD stroll down the street, hit the video store, help little old ladies across the street. They have very public confrontations with the occasional big nasty in places like, oh, Manhattan. In general the feel is more like a low-power superhero version of Delta Green, with occasional Godzilla elements. The first story arc from the comics involves the summoning of some ancient, mind-bending Great Old One style diety, which is so nasty that even neighboring dimensions don’t want to see him come back.

Toss in battles with Baba Yaga, Rasputin, fae, dragons, and the obligatory Japanese cannibal heads, and you’ve got some fine reading.

The game itself is one of the newer “Powered by GURPS” games that Steve Jackson Games has put out. Essentially, they create a simplified version of GURPS, and market it under a stand alone title, so you get all the fun of GURPS, without having to buy the 150 different GURPS world books that exist.

A lot of the actual rules is just a concise list of all the advantages, disadvantages and skills needed to play a supernatural fighter of supernatural threats, plus some new ones where needed. However, they also have streamlined the GURPS magic system to both be explained easier (and in less space) and also fit into the feel of the world.

There is also a lot of information about the setting packed into the book, particularly stuff you wouldn’t get from just reading the collected issues of Hellboy. A detailing of all the major characters from the series, plus some of the major organizations and critters, takes up a large chunk.

If there’s one thing that is sad is that the book is small. Since they were making a game based off of a comic book, they decided to make it comic book sized, as well. So while at 208 pages it is comparable in length to most RPG sourcebooks on the market, it’s not as tall or wide, which results in having less space. Which might be okay for a simple supplement, but a little difficult for something meant to be a stand alone RPG.

If you’re interested in picking up the game or the comics, click on the links below to order from Powell’s, and help support The Shoggoth Network. Note that some of these are out of print, so whether or not Powell’s has any in stock can vary. However, they do have both new and used, so they can turn up.

RPG

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