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Official Cowboy Bebop tabletop RPG drops out of hyperspace and onto Kickstarter in 2022

The adaptation of Watanabe’s popular anime comes by way of Don’t Panic Games and Mana Project Studio.

An officially licensed tabletop RPG adaptation of the Cowboy Bebop anime has been announced ahead of a Kickstarter campaign in 2022. The publishers, who are working directly with Sunrise, say they hope to have the book on shelves by the end of next year.

While fans of Shinchiro Watanabe’s jazzy space western-meets-noir anime series are already anticipating Netflix’s live-action adaptation, those who want to play out their own adventures in the solar system of 2071 can look forward to at least a core rulebook being published by a partnership with Paris-based Don’t Panic Games and Mana Project Studio, out of Italy.

The pair announced Cowboy Bebop: the Role-Playing Game on October 11th, saying “players will live through their own stories of bounty hunters in space, in a jazzy universe blending Western, Film Noir, and buddy cop movies, accompanied by one of the best anime soundtracks in history.” That hopefully means the book will provide players with some soulful background tunes, but details likely won’t be provided before the campaign launches.

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Don’t Panic has worked with Sunrise - the Japanese animation studio that originally produced Cowboy Bebop for television - in the past on titles such as Attack on Titan: The Last Stand and Naruto Ninja Arena. In fact, this will be the second time both companies have collaborated on a Bebop-based game, as Don’t Panic Game published the 2019 card game Cowboy Bebop: Space Serenade.

The third partner, Mana Project Studio, previously handled titles such as Norse Grimoire, Historia and Journey To Ragnarok. Their latest RPG, the hero-centric and genre-melding Not the End, won the 2020 Italian Game of the Year award. Fumble GDR, the creative team behind Not the End, will be designing Cowboy Bebop: the Role-Playing Game

“Cowboy Bebop is part of those anime that made up our cultural background. As fans of the anime, we are thrilled to be able to work on this project, a unique opportunity to design on both the themes of CBB and its strong visual identity. Our goal is to share our passion for Cowboy Bebop with you with this game,” said Michele Paroli, Mana Project Studio founder and lead designer, in a press release.

This mock-up of the book was provided in the press release, featuring the original character designs for the Bebop crew.

It will be interesting to see how the world and characters of Cowboy Bebop translate to the table. The 26 aired episodes - ahem, sessions - portrayed a solar system gripped by wheels-off capitalism that seized complete control of a human race that fled Earth in the wake of a global catastrophe. Much of the people and factions were framed by the crew of the Bebop and the personal demons haunting their journey, but will this adaptation take a similar approach?

Players who want to tell stories in a similar emotional space can look towards the recently released indie TRPG Orbital Blues from SoulMuppet Publishing, which is essentially Cowboy Bebop with the serial numbers filed off. The rules-light storytelling and focus on characters pushed to the peripheries of civilisation aptly emulates the hardscrabble and moody feel of the anime’s central cast.

Those attending Essen Spiel this year can visit Don’t Panic Games booth for more information on the upcoming title. The Kickstarter campaign for Cowboy Bebop, the Role-Playing Game launches sometime in 2022, with pricing and release dates likely not coming until that point.

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