Friday, August 9, 2019

Crimefighters, a tiny RPG from the mists of time

I first ran across Crimefighters earlier this year (although I technically have owned it for a couple decades through Dragon Archives) And as someone who is fascinated by quirky little RPGs and odd bits of RPG history, I have no idea how I never heard of Crimefighters before.

Crimefighters was published in 1981 in Dragon Magazine issue 47. The whole thing, including an adventure and a one page history of pulp heroes, is 22 pages long. And, to the best of my very limited knowledge, that’s all that was ever published for it.

I didn’t know that complete RPGs were printed in Dragon Magazine back in the early 80s. I don’t know if there any others. I know that Dungeon Magazine had some, like Hijynx and Thunderball Rally, but that was 20 years later. Crimefighters might be unique for all I know.

The game itself revolves around pulp heroes like Doc Savage or the Shadow. And I have to say that looking over the rules, it definitely takes me back to an earlier time. It’s a fairly simple, percentile-based system. It honestly strikes me as a system you’d master after one session.

There are two bits that struck me: classes and super powers.

The game doesn’t actually have classes or alignments. Instead, you can choose to be a defender or an avenger or pragmatic. Other than role playing direction, they only affect how you get experience points. 

And you have a whopping five perfect chance of getting a super power in character creation, although you can spend experience points to try and get another roll. And they are powers like hypnosis or luck or having a commanding presence, very low key. Daredevil would be the equivalent of Superman in the universe of Crimefighters.

I have to admit, for me, Crimefighters is more of a historical oddity. The fact that it exists at all is fascinating to me. However, I don’t have any interest in actually playing it. I have quite the stack of unplayed RPGs that I’m never going to get though and Crimefighters is pretty low in that stack.

However, if someone wanted to try a game that wasn’t just old school but honest to goodness old, that’s when I’d think Crimefighters would come in handy. It’d be easy to pick up and play. Crimefighters could be a very low investment time capsule.

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