Game: B+
From 498 reviews

Kids on Bikes

First Edition

A Game Focused on Telling "Small Town Visited by a Powered Being" Stories
Contents

Publisher Description

Kids on Bikes is a Collaborative Storytelling RPG set in small towns with big adventure! 



In Kids on Bikes, you take on the roles of everyday people grappling with strange, terrifying, and very, very powerful forces that they cannot defeat, control, or even fully understand. Kids on Bikes even allows you to create a communally controlled Powered Character to add another dimension of gameplay to your games!

 

A Game For "Magic Character Visits Small Town" Stories [ edit ]

Kids on Bikes is not explicitly a school RPG, but it is a game where you can create children or teen (in addition to adult) characters, and as such is perfect for many school-based campaigns.  However, Kids on Bikes isn't a game designed for either big cities or sparsely populated rural areas: it's specifically set in a "small town", and the group even helps to determine details of that town as part of the character(/town) creation process.

Why the focus on small towns?  Well, as its name suggests, Kids on Bikes strives to be the perfect RPG for telling stories that involve a mysterious (alien? robot? psychic?) visitor to a small town: think E.T., Batteries Not Included, or Stranger Things.  To that end it offers relatively simple, story-focused rules: if the phrase "the GM can decide" irks you, stick to a system like GURPS instead.

But if the idea of a lighter rules system dedicated to telling such "small town visitor" stories appeals to you, Kids on Bikes will give you everything you need to tell such stories.  This includes for handling the "powered visitor": instead of letting only one player get the "cool character", in Kids on Bikes the entire party shares control of the E.T. like character (if there is one).

Kids on Bikes, First Edition - Rules SummaryCollapse

Character Creation [ edit ]

Character creation in Kids With Bikes is relatively simple.  First, you pick an age group, either child, teen, or adult, which doesn't have a huge in-game effect, but does provide certain bonuses depending on your choice.  Next you pick two positive traits a negative quirk, and finally you pick your stats.

Stats

There are six stats in Kids on Bikes: Grit, Charm, Fight, Flight, Brains, and Brawn.  Each character assigns a single "D&D Die" (either a d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, or d20) to each during creation.  Obviously this means that characters in Kids on Bikes aren't very well-rounded, but instead have very pronounced strengths and weaknesses.

Town Creation

Once character creation is finished, typically as a group, the next step is to create the town that the game is set in.  This is done collaboratively as the GM goes around the table asking players questions about the town.  This process will result in a more fleshed-out initial setting, complete with a number of rumors (the GM can decide which are true and which aren't).

If a player doesn't want to create a character there are also templates (eg. "Bully") to speed things up, as well as example characters.  Also, many games will also feature a "powered character" of some sort (think ET, or Seven from Stranger Things).

Powered Characters

Such characters are created by the GM however, and played collectively by the part: each player is given an aspect of the powered character's personality, and when that aspect becomes the character's focus the corresponding player takes control of them.

Core Mechanics [ edit ]

As an stat-based system, players roll their appropriate stat die, based on the action they wish to take.  Dice can "explode": if you roll the maximum number on a die you get to re-roll it and add the result.

Success

To determine what number you need to roll to succeed, the game contains a chart, which provides numbers to use based on the action's difficulty.  However, simply rolling above or below the number isn't all that matters: there's also another chart which determines how the action badly/well the action fails/succeeds, based on the difference between the roll and the target number.

Failure

If a character fails at a roll, they gain an Adversity Token as a consolation prize.  These tokens can be spent individually or together, with each one adding +1 to a future roll.  Adversity Tokens can even be used to help another players' roll.

Powered Characters

Powered characters also use a set of tokens, known as PE (Powered Energy) Tokens.  To successfully use a power the player controlling the character rolls 2d4, and spends a number PE tokens (each of which add +1).  Again, the resulting number determines not only whether the power works, but also how much it works.

Combat [ edit ]

As a narrative-focused RPG, Kids on Bikes does not have a separate combat system, nor does it have any kind of injury or "hit point" system.  If a character is injured they simply suffer the effects of the injury as decided by the GM.  For instance, if you fail a Fight roll you might just get some bruises and a black eye ... unless you fail badly, in which case the GM may decide you break a leg (in which case the character actually breaks their leg and must recover just as an ordinary person would).

However, that's not to say fights don't happen in the game (after all, Fight is one of the core six statistics) ... it's just that fights are meant to generally resolved quickly as the result of an attribute check, and their outcome is expressed in real-world injuries rather than in a system of hit points.

Who is this RPG Most Suited For? [ edit ]

Kids on Bikes is definitely not a game for everyone.  If you want more detailed rules (especially when it comes to combat) ... or you hate having the book avoid detailing rules by just telling the GM to figure it out ... or if you hate having to constantly consult tables, it may not be the best game for you.  Also, while Kids on Bikes can support both one-shot adventures and shorter campaigns, it doesn't really have any rules for character advancement, and so isn't ideal for very long campaigns.

But if you're looking for a game with lighter rules (and still a role-playing game, not just a storytelling one), involving any kind of story of a small town visited by an "alien" (in the broadest sense of the word), Kids on Bikes is a truly great choice.

The game took home Ennie Gold in 2019 for the Best Family Game/Product, and also won Meeple Mountain's Best RPG of 2018.  On RPG Geek, with 23 ratings, it has a score of 7.57/10, ranking it #220 out of all RPGs.  That might seem low, but keep in mind that it's competing with multiple versions of far more popular games like Dungeons and Dragons and Call of Cthulhu; as a new-ish Indie RPG that 220 is actually very high.

On DriveThruRPG the game is even better received: with 85 ratings it still has a 4.5/5 star average!  So if you have an idea for your own variant of Stranger Things, E.T., or any similar small town story, you really need to take a look at Kids on Bikes.