So it’s always surprised me that we haven’t gotten an English-language licensed rpg for it. Some games have tried to emulate it, but Adventure Time’s setting is so vibrant that filing the serial numbers off loses a ton.
But many of you know the Spanish language licensed version, Hora de Aventuras Juego de Rol. exists. That game's amazing and I say that as someone who dislikes overtly comedic or cartoony rpgs, like Toon or Fuzzy Heroes. (Yes, I can be a killjoy)
I’m not sure what the story is behind the licensing of Adventure Time. The Nosoloral Ediciones edition came out in 2016. Earlier this year I ordered a hard copy and the pdf from the company. I'll admit I did it mostly because I wanted all cool dice sets which I couldn't get here. Otherwise I would have gotten a copy from Amazon or bought the pdf from Drivethrurpg.
When it arrived, the book blew me away. I had to know what was actually going on with the rules. So I figured out where the rules mechanics began and ended. Then I brought the pdf over into Google docs. That gave me the raw text (with a lot of layout artifacts). Then I broke that text up and used the translate function in Google docs. There’s a limit to how many pages it can handle, but I quickly got a sense of how much a single pass could handle. I brought that pseudo-translated into a Word document and began working through: making terms consistent, retranslating sentences, organizing information, and generally trying to brute force a translation. I got help from several native speakers in our community who answered questions about particular idioms I couldn’t parse.
Long story short—it’s a super cool game and I’m even sadder we never got an official English-language translation by a someone skillful. I want to walk through how the game works, but this isn’t a review. Instead I want to offer an overview for anyone who is interested and then talk what’s so great about AT in general.
Hora de Aventuras Juego de Rol has a simple but rich system. It uses a d6 dice pool with some tweaks I’ll talk about in a moment. You make a character by choosing three stats out of the nine possible. Your rank in a stat is the number of dice you roll. Your best stat has a rank of five to, the next best rank four, then rank three, and everything else is rank two.
One of the biggest challenges of translating the game was in choosing the right word to correspond with the Spanish original. Each has additional inflections and extra meanings. I wanted to get a term which covered the same space. Multiple meanings also meant that Google translate often rendered the same term in many different ways. Here’s what I settled on and my translation of the explanation text:
- Craft: A Clever character always carries the right tool for every occasion in their bag, backpack or satchel. Or you know how to improvise it with things you find along the way. Clever characters invent and repair machines, and they are always ready for whatever comes their way.
- Fight: To attack and defend yourself, you will use the Fighting attribute. If your character has Fight as a key attribute, they will be good fighting with and without weapons.
- Physique: The strength, agility, and endurance of your character are represented by the Physique attribute. If your character is strong in Physique, they will be good at running without getting tired, eating whole things, lifting weights and breaking doors.
- Brains: It's the culture and reasoning of the character. A Brains will have an encyclopedic knowledge of many things: science, history of Ooo, medicine… and will be good at remembering useful data, making scientific formulas and curing people.
- Cool: This attribute indicates how well connected the character is, who they know, and who knows them. A Cool character will be very well known, will have many colleagues and will meet people who know people, you know what I mean.
- Wits: Represents the cunning and perception of the character. A Wits character will be difficult to fool and will notice the details of the things that happen around them, they will be difficult to surprise and will be good with puzzles and riddles.
- Deception: This attribute embodies subtlety and the ability to hide intentions. It is used to lie, hide, steal and act without being seen or knowing what you are doing. If your character is Boastful, they will be good at fooling others.
- Kindness: A Kindness character is likeable and charismatic, they easily convince others, and are attractive and interesting. During the game you will use Kindness to make other characters do whatever you want, but also to encourage or flirt with them.
- Willpower: This attribute represents the character's strength of will and spirit, their ability to resist the influence of others, and their connection to the mystical. Willpower characters are difficult to manipulate and good at magical moves.
Characters also choose a flaw (compulsion, dependency, delusion, vulnerability, etc). These can grant the character Hero Points when they come into play. Equipment’s also chosen, but it’s handled abstractly and easily.
The base mechanic for the game is to roll a pool of d6s equal to your attribute for a particular task. Certain things like equipment and circumstances can add or subtract dice. Each dice which comes up 4-5 counts as a success; a 6 counts as a critical success. You count up the number of successes and compare to the difficulty. If you get enough successes, you make it—extra successes don’t matter, just making the target number.
Critical successes give the player a choice. They can keep those to spend on special benefits and effects, depending on the action being done and on the character’s feats. Alternately they can be changed to a “5”, giving an ordinary success but allowing the player to roll an additional die to see if they can get another regular or critical success.
At first this seems like an interesting choice, but it kind of isn’t. Given that extra successes don’t add to the results, you’d always reroll a critical if you haven’t actually hit your target number and always keep criticals if you’ve already made it. There’s the possibility that reroll could garner more (like a series of critical being rolled, but even that doesn’t seem like a great choice).
Hora De Adventuras takes that fairly simple resolution system and connects it to a detailed action system. In many games we have some basic action types and that in combination with the mechanics lets us cover the range of choices. Fate’s breakdown into Attack, Defend, Overcome, and Create Advantage for example. Or the Basic and Supplemental moves from many PbtA games. Alternately there’s a skill list with a discussion of how each of those is resolved individually. HdARdJ tweaks that approach.
It provides a list of 47 possible actions—from Sneaking to Enduring to Cheering, to Eating to Flirting to Remembering. Each is detailed with the attribute used, what attribute resists the action, difficulties, and what criticals do when attempting the action. It rigidly defines things—and since those connect to other elements (feats and conditions), it means the GM needs to follow those guidelines. It isn’t tough—most things are pretty obvious, but it does mean there’s some cognitive load. GMs more used to being flexible and hand-waving elements may find it a challenge.
There’s a similar level of detail in what are called Estados or States (or conditions, depending on how I’ve translated it from section to section). States represent effects done to the character and they’re crucial to the feel of the game. A character can have up to three states in play at one time. Some states allow you to ignore certain other states. Some states, if applied, will cancel out other states. The system has 30 states from In Love to Sad to Stuffed to Hidden to Frozen to Weird.
These are the crux of play and managing your conditions feels like a fun thing. The game book has card versions of all of the states—and you can buy decks of these. This kind of tactile element would be super fun and I like how varied and weird they are. However it is another big list of things the GM has to absorb and keep track of.
Overall it’s a clever and fast system. At first I thought it might be overelaborate, but now I think it’s a great entry point. It has a broad approach to what you can do in play. Unlike some trad games, combat and magic don’t take up most of the space, with skill challenges as a weak add-on. Instead it offers a variety of approaches which fit the source material. And it provides a solid and detailed road map for how to handle those elements. That makes it a great starter game without being a stripped down, rules-thin game.
But again this isn’t a review- it's a reading impression based on going through the book and translating just the core mechanics. The rulebook has a ton of other material—guide to the world of OO, stats for NPCs and creatures, a GM section, and sample adventure.
It is lavishly illustrated in full color. There’s a wonderful approach to the graphics which echoes the TV show but doesn’t get in the way. The varied page frames don’t create visual chaos, but instead add to the overall effect. The font choices work. The small illustrated dialogues between characters, commenting on the rules, add to the feel of the book. Even though I literally can’t read the book, I love looking through it.
And even in translation, the voice of the designers and writers comes through. It’s smart and funny without being silly. It takes the absurdity of the setting seriously.
I love Adventure Time and honestly there’s never been a better time to watch or rewatch it. All the AT episodes are up on HBOMax. Plus they have four new episodes, sort of short movies called Distant Lands. As well they’ve announced that they’re doing a Fiona and Cake series soon. The show, for me at least, lives up to re-bingeing. The setting slowly grows and develops. The lessons about growing up, miscommunication, and loss are similar to those given in Steven Universe and Gravity Falls. But Adventure Time feels richer and more organic to me.
For one thing it doesn’t have a modern setting's baggage "reality." Adventure Time builds its world slowly and carefully. It seeds in details that it follows up on over time, maybe seasons later. I love that it establishes places, rules, and peoples but never lets any of those keep the stories from going to new places and exploring new ideas. Its contradictions make sense in the context. And it feels emotionally real throughout. Even when Adventure Time is its most absurdist, the characters seem true. They’re more YA than not.
But beyond the show there’s a massive additional set of resources in the Adventure Time comic books. Nearly everything for AT is available as part of Comixology Unlimited on Amazon. You can sign up for a free trial and tear through that in a month. There’s much more than just the base series.
But that base is amazing. The first 35 issues written by Ryan North (Daily Dinosaur Comics, Squirrel Girl) ranks as one of the five best comic runs I’ve ever read. It goes up through Volume 8 of the collections. Every issue is smart, imaginative, and entertaining. They explore ideas and themes in a wondrous way while keeping the stakes high. North references the show’s opening and close in his first and last issue with a wonderful, quiet flourish. You can see why it won an Eisner Award.
And there’s so much more beyond that. There’s two Fiona & Cake books, one a collection and one a full story; Season 11; an Ice King miniseries; Sugary Shorts Collections; a Marcy & Simon miniseries; and the absolutely amazing Marceline and the Scream Queens (by Meredith Gran of Octopus Pie). But there's also a series of single-story amazing graphic novels written by great writers like Danielle Corsetto (AT: Playing with Fire, AT: Seeing Red), Kate Leth (AT: Bitter Sweets, AT: Masked Mayhem), Josh Trujillo (AT: The Four Castles, AT: President Bubblegum), Ashly Burch (AT: Islands), and others. They’re great and move between cartoon heroic adventure and poignant commentary about roles and responsibilities.
If you like Adventure Time, play TTPGs, and can understand Spanish I encourage you to take a look at Hora de Aventuras Juego de Rol. If you qualify for the first two of these, but not the third, maybe do your own brute force translation. I may also have a functional character keeper for HdAJdR—I’m using that to run a session of it on the Gauntlet Calendar in October.
If you haven’t fully checked out the Adventure Time show to get on that. Binge or dole it out in small doses, it works equally well. And if you’re a comic reader, then you ought to check out Ryan North’s amazing run on the series.