G.I.JOE vs COBRA: The Marvel Comics Roleplaying Game

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Endless Flight

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This game pulls things from various RPGs such as Mutants & Masterminds, DC Heroes, Mythras, Star Wars (FFG), Top Secret (various editions) and previous home brew games I’ve worked on over the years.

Because the Marvel Comics series was basically a military soap opera, there are rules for confidants, rivals, and enemies to really juice the game up.

System Basics:

For most standard actions such as skill use:

A) The GM picks a difficulty of anywhere from one (easy) to eight (impossible).
B) The player rolls two dice corresponding to the two attributes the skill is connected to (anywhere from D4 to D12).
C) If the player rolls a four on one die, that is considered one success. If they roll a four or above on both, it’s two successes.
D) The player adds his skill ranks (which are basically auto successes) to these dice successes and compares to the difficulty number (successes needed). Anything equal to or above is a successful action.
E) If a player rolls double ones (snake-eyes hehe), there is a complication, the severity depends on whether the action was successful or not.
F) If the player rolls double 7s or above on both dice, something good happens even if the character fails in his action. This can trigger things like special effects (similar to Mythras). It’s all dependent on what the action is. This is probably going to have alternate rules (such as doubles count as a penalty or bonus success) for those that don’t like narrative rules. This is a way to get players to attempt even impossible actions.
G) Because the average attribute die is a D6, the chance for a 7 is impossible. A player may spend one “Mettle” point to raise his die one grade. This follows a D4>D6>D8>D10>D12 progression. Mettle points can be spent for both dice.

Here is a sneak-peak at my first draft for COBRA Commander’s entry:

242F8AAF-F410-40B3-8C42-41ED00F10DCE.jpeg
 
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Dammit Viktor

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You're always rolling two dice, right? Would it break anything to allow the Mettle point to bump both, to reduce the chance it's wasted by the dice?
 

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You're always rolling two dice, right? Would it break anything to allow the Mettle point to bump both, to reduce the chance it's wasted by the dice?

Always roll two. You can use a Mettle point to raise both dice if necessary. Mettle points are sort of like Action points in games like d20 Modern. They refresh over time. An average person will have a D6 in all attributes but most PCs will have a few high attributes right at character creation, based on their specialties.
 

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G.I.Joe vs. COBRA factoid: Using pieces of information from the Marvel Comics series, COBRA was formed in 1976 by a former used car salesman and the G.I.Joe team was reinstated by Generals Austin and Flagg in 1978. The first G.I.Joe team was created by President Kennedy in 1963 and existed until 1969. The team was named after Lt. Joseph Colton, who was the first member.
 

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Character creation is a life-path system:

1. Characters start out with a D6 in each of their five attributes. They may step up two attributes to a D8.
2. Characters decide two attributes which are favored and these grant a +1 to that attribute’s defense rank.
3. Characters choose their branch of service (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard) and this grants them seven skill ranks in various skills.
4. Characters then select a primary military specialty. This grants them five ranks in several specific skills. Examples of choices are Infantry, Ground Vehicle Driver, Dog Handler, and even Cook!
5. Characters select a secondary military specialty and this grants them three ranks of specific skills.
6. Characters then have ten picks. These can be spent on any skill. This allows a total of 20 skill ranks at creation. Alternatively, they may use five picks to step up one attribute another step (maximum D10).
7. All characters have the Connection: G.I.JOE (high) and Rank (G.I.JOE) 1 advantages upon creation.
 

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The one thing I have to point out is that there are no experience points in this RPG and no spending is done on anything besides Mettle. Skill ranks are not purchased. They are earned through a number of “issues” and character growth. Advantages and Disadvantages are earned through play with GM cooperation and cannot be bought or bought-off without good reason (a la the story).
 

Malleustein

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I've just started reading the American G.I. Joe comics on kindle (lovely scans, really clean). As a Brit, we instead had Action Force and the Transformers (US reprints, but far more UK stories) twinned by Marvel.

So all this is very interesting indeed.
 

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I’m only using the first fifty issues as a guide right now, so if you have read the whole series you might be wondering why certain characters don’t have certain things in their writeups. That’s the reason.
 

Malleustein

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Kindle collects the G.I. Joe Classic in ten issue sets. So I've got a looong way to go. Transformers I've got everything of, there was a partworks collection of everything from the classic Marvel up until the end of IDW's storyline that wrapped up a couple of years ago. But for G.I. Joe I'm right at the beginning, only two issues in so far!
 

Malleustein

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I'm looking forward to getting there. But that's collection 3-5.

Is the belated continuation that makes up collection 16-20 any good?

I quite enjoyed Re-Generation One for Transformers, where Furman picked up where the classic Marvel comics finished decades before. Obviously, it isn't the story he would have told then, but still makes for a decent end-cap to that run. Does 'Joe benefit or suffer from this treatment?
 
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Malleustein

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Actual rules-related questions comes to me.

A) The GM picks a difficulty of anywhere from one (easy) to eight (impossible).

Is 5 the highest possible grade for a skill? If so, is a difficulty 8 truly impossible? Or are their extras you haven't mentioned yet that would allow someone to get that one extra success needed to achieve the impossible?

B) The player rolls two dice corresponding to the two attributes the skill is connected to (anywhere from D4 to D12).

Does each skill have a default pairing of attributes? Like, say, Coordination/Awareness for Firearms. Or can one/both be chosen freely?

Also, should your Destro be Presence D10/6? Wouldn't it be D10/5 or D12/6?
 

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I'm looking forward to getting there. But that's collection 3-5.

Is the belated continuation that makes up collection 16-20 any good?

I quite enjoyed Re-Generation One for Transformers, where Furman picked up where the classic Marvel comics finished decades before. Obviously, it isn't the story he would have told then, but still makes for a decent end-cap to that run. Does 'Joe benefit or suffer from this treatment?
My personal opinion is that #155 is a good place for the G.I.Joe story to end. It’s partially for story reasons and partially because I think the characters are all getting up there in age. Since the comic took place in real-time, 12 years had passed. Some of the characters are in their mid 40s and in the military you are usually not doing what the Joes are doing at that age.
 

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Actual rules-related questions comes to me.

A) The GM picks a difficulty of anywhere from one (easy) to eight (impossible).


Is 5 the highest possible grade for a skill? If so, is a difficulty 8 truly impossible? Or are their extras you haven't mentioned yet that would allow someone to get that one extra success needed to achieve the impossible?
Five is the highest grade. If you get successes on both dice, that would be seven. If you somehow manage to roll 7+ on both dice you can add a success, so that’s eight.

There may be another way to get successes besides skills and dice but I am not there yet.
B) The player rolls two dice corresponding to the two attributes the skill is connected to (anywhere from D4 to D12).

Does each skill have a default pairing of attributes? Like, say, Coordination/Awareness for Firearms. Or can one/both be chosen freely?

Also, should your Destro be Presence D10/6? Wouldn't it be D10/5 or D12/6?
Each skill has two attributes attached. I will talk about skill use in my next update.

The attributes have resistance values next to them. Some are raised because those are favored attributes. That’s still a work in progress.
 

Malleustein

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My personal opinion is that #155 is a good place for the G.I.Joe story to end. It’s partially for story reasons and partially because I think the characters are all getting up there in age. Since the comic took place in real-time, 12 years had passed. Some of the characters are in their mid 40s and in the military you are usually not doing what the Joes are doing at that age.
I didn't realize it was in real time, that's cool! No idea what impact that would have on the years-later continuation.

Obviously, for Transformers it wasn't an issue, though a more or less real world amount of time had passed between runs there. Enough time for Humans on Earth to be almost wiped out!
 

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I didn't realize it was in real time, that's cool! No idea what impact that would have on the years-later continuation.

Obviously, for Transformers it wasn't an issue, though a more or less real world amount of time had passed between runs there. Enough time for Humans on Earth to be almost wiped out!

The years later continuation never used real-time and it’s actually kind of confusing anyway. Devil’s Due Publishing got the rights for G.I.Joe comics in 2001 and continued the story. Then IDW got the rights years ago and Larry Hama continued the story again. I think the Devil’s Due material was non-canonized.
 

TristramEvans

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I think the Snake Eyes trilogy was the last really good storyline in the original run. After that things jumped the shark pretty fast, and the art took a steep nosedive.

haven't read any of the new stuff except for the alternate history WW2 GIJoe/Transformers
 

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I think the Snake Eyes trilogy was the last really good storyline in the original run. After that things jumped the shark pretty fast, and the art took a steep nosedive.

haven't read any of the new stuff except for the alternate history WW2 GIJoe/Transformers
That was done by MD Bright who was my first or second favorite artist on the book.
 

Malleustein

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I think the Devil’s Due material was non-canonized.
I'm shocked to my core. Both shocked and surprised.
My personal opinion is that #155 is a good place for the G.I.Joe story to end. It’s partially for story reasons and partially because I think the characters are all getting up there in age. Since the comic took place in real-time, 12 years had passed. Some of the characters are in their mid 40s and in the military you are usually not doing what the Joes are doing at that age.
Given that's 16 books into the Kindle set, that still seems like a nice long run to me. Honestly, Marvel were crazy determined about supporting these licenses. Transformers, G.I. Joe and Rom all went on far longer than anyone would expect. Especially Rom. It was one iffy toy, that vanished quickly, but the comic is huge and pretty epic.
haven't read any of the new stuff except for the alternate history WW2 GIJoe/Transformers
I found that book so hard to make anything out. The inking and colouring is so very murky. It's one book in the TF partworks I mentioned.
 

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I found that book so hard to make anything out. The inking and colouring is so very murky. It's one book in the TF partworks I mentioned.

I've heard that criticism before. The version I have is in black & white. I think the colourist must have done a bad job.

FdBPMUGj_0402161141101.jpg

Jae lee has a very chiascuro art style utilizing a lot of shadows like Mike Mignola, so like Mignola's art I think you need a very simple, bold colour scheme to compliment it, or it makes everything look muddy.
 

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Yeah, Lee's art isn't a favourite of mine. I don't mind it, but he's not a favourite. Though his short Hellshock series always looked stellar. I do so wish the TF/GIJ/WWII book was black and white in the partworks. I've seem a fair few images without colour and it looks a lot better.

Jae Lee's come a long way though. The first work I saw (and possibly his first professional work?) was Wildcats: Trilogy. Compared to Jim Lee's super-slick style, it was very amateurish and not popular, though he stuck around Image/Wildstorm/Homage doing stuff and improved quickly.
 

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I liked Jae Lee's work on Immortals. I only happened upon his TF/GI Joe series in a digest-sized trade that was on sale for like ten bucks, which is the one in B&W, so I've only seen colour pages online, though as I said, you're certainly not the first to complain about how hard it was to read the series. Shame, I thought it was a pretty interesting self-contained story. It's funny, but GI Joe comics were never really in a "wartime" setting, except for flashbacks to Vietnam and a bit of cold war stuff, but it definitely suits them, for obvious reasons.
 

Malleustein

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I liked Jae Lee's work on Immortals. I only happened upon his TF/GI Joe series in a digest-sized trade that was on sale for like ten bucks, which is the one in B&W, so I've only seen colour pages online, though as I said, you're certainly not the first to complain about how hard it was to read the series. Shame, I thought it was a pretty interesting self-contained story. It's funny, but GI Joe comics were never really in a "wartime" setting, except for flashbacks to Vietnam and a bit of cold war stuff, but it definitely suits them, for obvious reasons.
The World War 2 setting fits for both franchises. But because I'm not all that familiar with the Joes yet, working out who they were was haaard... I've seen two variations of the colouration, neither really works. The individual issues looked different to collected book.

Did G.I. Joe ever crossover with the rest of the Marvel universe ? I remember Transformers, Rom, Godzilla, etc. did.
 

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Only officially in the British version, Team America, where Shang Chi appeared in a story, but there was a Spider-man issue during Secret Wars II where Duke appears leading a military unit, albiet unnamed.
 

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Goddamn yes! I am looking forward to reading issues with the Sarge in. Being a fan of him as a wrestler since I was a wee lad, this has always been something I meant to look into.

I approve of his mighty brawn of d12, though I'm certain he was never close to being as trim and toned as that awesome pic...

Was he never given his real name in the comics? Did they only use the Sgt. Slaughter gimmick identity? If he's billed as being from Carolina instead of Detroit, I'm guessing so.
 

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The Sgt. Slaughter in the comics was an alternate reality Slaughter. He was never a professional wrestler just like the real Slaughter never served in the military. He was very strong in the comics. I won’t give out any spoilers since you aren’t that far yet.
 

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So Sarge having the same birthplace as his wrestling alter-ego is just a fun nod to that persona?
 

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Skill List (Attributes Used):
Acrobatics (Coordination/Awareness)
Aircraft (Coordination/Awareness)
Animal Handling (Coordination/Presence)
Athletics (Coordination/Brawn)
Charm (Presence/Intellect)
Craft (Coordination/Intellect): Chemical/Culinary/Electrical/Mechanical/Pharmaceutical/Structural/Photography/Visual Art/Writing
Computers (Presence/Intellect)
Coercion (Presence/Intellect)
Deception (Presence/Intellect)
Endurance/Resilience (Brawn/Presence)
Firearms (Coordination/Awareness)
Grit (Awareness/Presence)
Ground Vehicles (Coordination/Awareness)
Gunnery (Coordination/Intellect)
Heavy Weapons (Brawn/Awareness)
Knowledge (Awareness/Intellect): Art/Bureaucracy/Business/Cultures/Life Sciences/Philosophy/Physical Sciences/Pop Culture/Technology/Warfare
Leadership (Presence/Intellect)
Mechanics (Coordination/Intellect)
Medicine (Awareness/Intellect)
Melee Weapons (Coordination/Brawn)
Missile Weapons (Coordination/Awareness)
Negotiation (Presence/Intellect)
Persuasion (Presence/Intellect)
Seacraft (Coordination/Awareness)
Skullduggery (Presence/Intellect)
Stealth (Coordination/Awareness)
Streetwise (Awareness/Presence)
Survival (Awareness/Intellect)
Unarmed Combat (Coordination/Brawn)
Vigilance (Awareness/Intellect)

Skill Rank - What It Means:
Rank 1 Novice
Rank 2 Adept
Rank 3 Professional
Rank 4 Expert
Rank 5 Master
Rank 6 Prodigy (very few individuals ever achieve this rank)

Skill Check Difficulty - Successes Needed
Easy 1
Average 2
Moderate 3
Hard 4
Difficult 5
Extreme 6
Heroic 7
Impossible 8

To do a skill check, you roll the attribute dice connected to that particular skill you are checking. You need to roll a 4 or better on a die (always rolling two on a check) to be a success. If you roll a 4 on both die, you have two successes. Add your skill rank to get the total number of successes and compare with the check difficulty. Equal to or greater means you succeeded.

Major/Minor/Catastrophic Failure/Success:
If you roll double 1s and fail your action, it’s a major failure/fumble. This would be something like slipping and falling on an Athletics check climbing.

If you roll double 1s and still succeed: it’s a minor complication. An example would be a gun jamming after successfully hitting your target. This requires a Mechanics roll that takes a standard action.

If you roll double 7s and fail your action: you can add a success to see if you succeed. Otherwise, something fortuitous to the players can happen, depending on the situation and GM input.

If you roll a 7 or above on both dice and succeed:
It’s considered a major success. This would be something that is a special effect.

Using Mettle: You may spend a Mettle Point to move one die you roll one step. The steps are: D4>D6>D8>D10>D12>D12+3. There is no limit to the number of Mettle you may spend on one action.

Skill Rank Increases: A character may advance skills under two circumstances.

1) Six months (six issues) of in-game universe time must have passed.
2) The character has spent Mettle using that skill on an unsuccessful skill check a number of times equal to the current skill rank.

Once these two qualifications have occurred, a skill increases. Only four skills can be increased every six months of in-universe game time, but the character does not have to restart the Mettle countdown unless that skill has increased.
 

Malleustein

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Just to clarify, if you roll no successes, do you still count your skills ranks towards success? Talent and skill trumping random chance for low difficulty actions.
 

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Just to clarify, if you roll no successes, do you still count your skills ranks towards success? Talent and skill trumping random chance for low difficulty actions.

Yes there are times you will succeed on tasks just based on your skill rank. You really are rolling the dice at that point to see if you roll double 1s or 7s to see if something happens that alters the scene.
 

Malleustein

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Yes there are times you will succeed on tasks just based on your skill rank. You really are rolling the dice at that point to see if you roll double 1s or 7s to see if something happens that alters the scene.
Gotcha.

That's how I read it, but just wanted to check.
 

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A sneak-peek at my second draft of Snake-Eyes!

A212E1D4-BCF3-47CE-8CC2-7E6EC1D492A7.jpeg
7E5E16CA-D042-4FBA-BEDC-A88F421114C4.jpeg
 

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I guess my biggest concern with the rules is passive defenses vs active defenses. Right now I’ve got the attributes and then a resistance value next to it. As an example, Brawn might be D8/4. The 4 is used as a defense in certain situations, like to resist damage. For something like Intellect, the resistance is used against things like fear checks, etc.

If you had an Awareness of D10/5, a character who is trying to sneak by you would have to roll Stealth against a difficult level of 5 to succeed. But the thing is, if the opposing character was actively looking for a person sneaking, then it would be one check vs the other check to see who prevails and the numbers might not be the same.

I just don’t know if I want to have these resistance values as part of the rules.
 

TristramEvans

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As in the passive result might be much more effective than the active result? What if they are combined, so the active roll provides a bonus to the passive difficulty?
 

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As in the passive result might be much more effective than the active result? What if they are combined, so the active roll provides a bonus to the passive difficulty?

Yes to your first question. I was thinking about adding to the passive but then I think the passive defenses would need adjusted down.
 
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