Rules modifications for a punk game

“We all enter this world in the same way: naked; screaming; soaked in blood. But if you live your life right, that kind of thing doesn’t have to stop there.”  —Dana Gould

Punk, as I have said, is about nihlism, desperation, and self-destruction. As evidence I invite you to see how many famous punks from the early days are alive today; Not many, even fewer then rock or metal from similar eras. Therefore the standard XP system most games use, or even the advance-with-use system of the Basic Roleplay System isn’t a good fit for a true punk game, as it has character getting stronger over time, rather then burning out in a drug induced blaze of glory. Therefore I’m going to roughly sketch a modification of a standard RPG system to make it more punk.

The main and most important point is that characters should live fast, die young, and leave an ugly, tattoo, shocking corpse. Therefore while you get XP as normal for your game system, you can only cash in on that when you die, with their new character starting at the higher level or getting the XP. So you build up character points, levels, etc, but you can’t actually use them until you die. There should also be a reward for having a particularly brutal, ugly or otherwise ‘punk’ death, to encourage interesting deaths, instead of characters quietly overdosing at home, which, while realistic wouldn’t be very interesting in a game.

I recommend coupling this with something like BRP or GURPs critical hit, major wound type tables, also the mental disorders you pick up over time in Call of Cthulhu or GURPS on a failed sanity/horror check. This way characters actually get worse over time, leading to a race to do things worthy of experience, before they are too damaged from their lifestyle of constant violence and drug use to continue being playable.

Well, there is my main idea: Give the players a motivation to have their characters live fast and die young. I know this goes against my traditional gaming advice and style, but hey, punk is a hard genre to emulate, as it is inherently self-defeating, which is something I think most people ignore.

Anyway, until next time, stay geeky.

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Published in: on July 15, 2013 at 8:54 am  Comments (5)  
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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Very clever.

    • Thank you very much.

  2. I like the idea of cashing in xp after death and I think I can make it work in some other formats that should be death heavy. My friends want me to run a zombie apocalypse game and I think the only way I can run it is with gruesome deaths as we saw in all the 80’s movies. So implementing a bonus exp for the most zombie flick/mad max death and cashing in that exp for the next soon to be corpse would fit perfectly.

    One thing I would add about the setting you are describing, more than most it lends to having a drink or 10 so the rules system should be drunk simple.

    • Well, as I envisioned it, I think it goes better with a dark, atmospheric game, then a beer and pretzels game, but hey, if you can make it work as a drunk game, have fun. I’d love to hear how it works in play.

      GURPS would not be a good fit for that, BRP/CoC I’ve run at a party with a fair amount of drinking, and the rules worked fine, though it got a lot more light hearted and silly as the alcohol flowed.

  3. […] while back I ranted about punk and how it should be darker and more nihilistic, but didn’t really give any modern examples of the genre. Well, here you go. Some nudity, […]


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