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Bullwinkle and Rocky Role-Playing Party Game (1988)

This is the Bullwinkle and Rocky Role-Playing Party Game (1988). Yes, this is a real RPG that exists. The cheerful orange box is packed with doo-dads — spinners for resolution, big fold-up character cards, novelty diplomas as rewards for winning (from Wossamotta U for heroes and the Ukranian Safe-Cracking Academy of Pottsylvania for villains) and plastic hand puppets for no reason at all.

Bullwinkle and Rocky has very little in common with other games produced by TSR. Or any other RPGs that were available at the time from any publisher, with one exception: the similarly themed Toon. Like that game, B&R is a light weight game about cartoon comedy (surprise: Warren Spector worked on both). The rules in the box are centered around getting laughs and little else. There are so few rules, in fact, that Lawrence Schick, in Heroic Worlds, wonders if it is even technically an RPG at all.

There are three variants of play in the box. The first is a storytelling game that uses keywords on cards played in turn to weave a narrative (beating Once Upon a Time to the punch by about five years). The second variant puts players in control of specific  characters from the cartoons with their own goals and special abilities — things are rigged for the villains, so the game really turns on the idea that failure is a good thing, a thoroughly 21st century design concept. This one also features a rotating GM role and, if you squint, feels a lot like the basic framework of games like Fiasco. The third variant plays like the second, but with custom characters, made using keywords, anticipating games like Over the Edge.  

Who’d a thunk — Bullwinkle and Rocky, decades ahead of its time. And with hand puppets! Easily one of the oddest things in my collection.

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