Welcome back, dice fondlers! Last time, we introduced the kids, the bicycles they ride, and ostensibly, the grownups that help them solve mysteries in their strange little town. We talked about creating characters but stopped short of discussing how conflict resolution works in Kids on Bikes. This time, let’s go over that, along with some GM advice. It’s time to start pedaling down this long and lonesome road.
Character Traits Determine the Dice
As you may have noticed last time, our characters’ traits have differently sized dice associated with them. This is because when a conflict arises, the player and the GM determine which trait is appropriate, then the player rolls that die. For example, the book cites that if you’re using a load of technical jargon to mislead and trick someone, you might just be using Brains, instead of Charm. This is entirely acceptable and players should feel comfortable making suggestions as to the appropriate trait that applies. Instead of simply seeking larger die, players should try to provide justification for which trait in each situation.
Planned Actions and Snap Decisions
Once the trait is determined, there are two types of tests: Planned Actions and Snap Decisions. Planned Actions are exactly that— planned. The character has enough time to debate a course of action. This lends them a few benefits, most importantly, the ability to take half their die’s value as a default without risking a roll. Furthermore, other players can assist in the effort by paying Adversity Tokens (a type of point players accrue when tests fail) to give the roll +1 per Token.
Snap Decisions, however, don’t allow the character the luxury of overthinking. They have to act immediately! With this in mind, Snap Decisions don’t allow the player to take half the die value for free, nor can other players chip in Adversity Tokens to help them out. All is not lost, however. Both types of testing allow the player rolling to spend their own Adversity Tokens to give themselves a boost after rolling. Both tests also allow players dice to “explode”— that is, if a player rolls the maximum value on their die, they get to roll it again and add the new value.
GM Advice on Narrating Conflicts
Helpfully, Kids on Bikes provides a
set of charts to narrate how narrow a defeat or grand a victory was based on
die rolls. The higher the amount the test was beaten by, the more resounding
the success of the character. Similarly, the lower the roll under the test
value, the greater the consequences that will appear in the story.
This holds true even for combat, which is handled, essentially, as a set of Snap Decisions. However, because you may have also noticed that this game has no “hit points” or “health levels,” combat in Kids on Bikes is entirely about narrative control. The greater the roll’s success when, say, brawling with a forest gnome, the more likely you are to successfully attack them with the leaf blower. Extreme failure could leave you seriously injured and trapped beneath an overturned golf cart as the gnomes taunt you. All players participating in combat, including the GM, should agree on stakes beforehand, or else take the story in a different direction.
Kids on Bikes also has mechanics for introducing Powered Characters. The primary example of this kind of character is Eleven from Stranger Things. However, no single player controls these characters. Instead, the GM gives each player cards with a couple of Aspects that they know about that character and a number of Powered Tokens put in a pool in the center of the table. The book recommends 7 Tokens to start. This character will also have the full range of d4 through d20 traits, but GMs are suggested to only define the d4 and d20 and let players fill in the rest. This gives all the players some additional stake in the powered character and their interactions with them.
That really is it for the mechanics in Kids on Bikes and the GM suggestions for using them. It’s a fast, easy system built for picking up a moment’s notice. I hope you get some mileage on it pedaling around the block near your home. As for me, I need to start walking before the sun finishes going down. Don’t worry, I’ll be back. But until then, remember to…