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Kids On Bikes

An 80’s inspired role playing game with a touch of Stranger Things…but only if you want it to.



By Jonathan Gilmour & Doug Levandowski
Published by Renegade Game Studios
Players: 2-6

Who doesn’t love the 80’s?  Kids on Bikes allows you to play out the adventures most only know through movies like The Goonies.  Kids on Bikes is an interesting RPG system where different-sided dice are assigned to character attributes.  But more than that, the setup for the game is collaborative.  Players will talk with the DM about what they wish to happen in the adventure.  It’s a system dedicated heavily to characterization and can be quite the wild ride.

Character Creation…Bike Is Optional

To start, character creation is quite interesting.  First, each character needs to select a trope.  This is a game about kids in the 80s, so players choose between the bully, the funny sidekick, the brilliant mathlete, a lone weirdo, the popular kid, and a scout.  Unfortunately, there isn’t a nerd option but I’m sure that can be worked out with the game master.  Because everyone wants to be the 80s computer nerd hacking away with their Apple II and their trapper keeper full of 5” floppy disks.  

Each trope will give a character different strengths.  The lone weirdo will be cool and unassuming and the bully will be protective and tough.  The strengths that come with each trope have different effects listed in the rulebook.  Most of the effects involve the adversity tokens a player will gain during the adventure.  Players will start with three and they gain more if they fail a check or lose a fight.

The next part of character creation is to assign the dice to attributes.  Character attributes are brains, brawn, fight, flight, charm, and grit.  Each one has a specific function: brawn is for strength checks, charm for any kind of social situation, etc.  Whichever stat the player wants to be the best, they will assign a d20 to that stat.  The one they want to be their weakest, assign a d4 to that stat.  Each player will need a d20, d10, d8, d6, and d4. 

Just because a character is weakest at a particular stat doesn’t mean they can never do that action.  The wimpy kid with a d4 for strength could get into a fight with a bully and potentially win.  The reason is that critical successes explode.  So, if a character had to win a fistfight and they had a d4 for brawn, and the game master says they had to beat a check of 15 in order to win the fight, if the player can roll 4 four times on that d4, they could win that brawl.  All of a sudden, we have a George McFly knocking out Biff Tannen situation. 

This game is heavily narrative-focused so should the wimpy kid somehow be able to take down the baddest bully on the playground, make sure to make the moment epic with a creative narrative monologue!

The final part of character creation is perhaps the most involved.  The last part is character motivations.  It’s their wants, fears, and relationships with the other players.  There are also trope specific questions in the gamebook.  This game really wants to flesh out a character’s personality.  It’s important to note that there aren’t any hit points or any other type of “health” mechanics.  Not to say characters can’t die in this game, but the focus isn’t necessarily on combat and more a character study and diving deeply into motivations and how a player thinks.

Running The Game

To run the game, it starts with simply asking the players what they want to do in the story.  Not to say get beat for beat instructions from your players, but there are four categories of content: things players really want to see, what they are ok with, things to gloss over, and things to avoid.  So for example, let’s say the adventure is going to be like The Goonies.  A rough and tumble adventure of buried treasure, pirates, and organized crime with the kids trying to save their home from foreclosure. 

Ask what the players want to see?  They’ll say they want some kind of swashbuckling adventure with deadly traps.  Maybe they’d be ok with things being a little grimy like snakes in One-Eyed Willy’s skill or Sloth being a little more grotesque looking than in the movie.  Some things to mention but gloss over would be the relationship of the gangsters and the children’s mother.  And maybe something to avoid altogether would be the deaths of the gangsters that follow them to One-Eyed Willy’s ship and just leave it implied.  They are pre-teens after all.  

Final Thoughts

Kids on Bikes is a great narrative-style game with tons of customizability.  There are also other books in this series like Kids on Brooms if players are more interested in a Harry Potter-type story with magic, intrigue, and school politics.  There are also Teens in Space for Sci-Fi lovers and Strange Adventures for a taste of the macabre and spooky.  

Kids on Bikes is an intriguing system and certainly one worth giving a shot.  It allows players to dig deep into the psyche of their characters and allows enough flexibility of play to incorporate everything from swashbuckling high adventure to the mundane tasks of completing that book report for English class.  Player setup and mechanics are simple enough for beginner players to jump right in and it can fit just about any style of play.  

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