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Written Review – Spirit of 77

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D.J.: All right now, for all you boppers out there in the big city, all you street people with an ear for the action, I’ve been asked to relay a request from the Grammercy Riffs. It’s a special for the Warriors, that real live bunch from Coney, and I do mean the Warriors. Here’s a hit with them in mind…

Spirit of 77 is a game about getting on the streets and showing some soul despite all the jive turkeys cramping your style. It elicits films like “The Warriors,” “Grease,” “Shaft,” and similar films of an era. The setting has homages to “Dukes of Hazard,” “The 6 Million Dollar Man” and more. If you like the 1970s vigilante flicks of a bygone era, then this is the game for you. The system it uses is the easy to handle Apocalypse World engine.

Table of Contents

  • What is Spirit of 77?  (page 8)
  • Let’s Get It On – How to Play Spirit of 77  (page 11)
  • Characters Come Alive!  (page 63)
  • The AM DJ – Running a Game  (page 145)
  • The FM DJ – Running a Game (Advanced)  (page 173)
  • This is a Perfect World – The World of ’77  (page 197)
  • In the City  (page 207)
  • Move Index  (page 237)
  • What I’d Say – Glossary of the ’77  (page 292)
  • You’ve Been My Inspiration  (page 294)

The Spirit of 77 game was created and written by David Kizzia and Bob Richardson of Monkeyfun Studios. The Cover Art was done by Conceptopolis. The Interior Art is done by Ron Joseph.

How to Play

Luther: [clicking beer bottles together] Waaaarrrrrriiiorsss, come out to pla-ay!

Spirit of 77 is similar to other Apocalypse World games, players have basic moves they can perform and in addition they get special moves depending on the Playbook they choose. Playbooks are like character classes or similar from other games, each Playbook defines a unique character trope and play style. Each character chooses one Playbook which determines most of their description, special moves, gear and similar details needed to get into the game. Character creation takes about 15 minutes even with brand new players to the game.

There are several different types of Basic Moves any character can perform during a game, these moves are based on which Attribute the character will be rolling (Might, Hustle, Smooth, Brains, Soul). The Basic Moves are really just a list of what a character should be doing in order to get more information about a situation, take an action during a scene or create an advantage in some way for the rest of the team. Under the Might attribute, a character can “Deliver a Beatdown,” by attacking a foe in close combat, “Take a Hit” allows a character to absorb the blow from another foe, while “Get in their Face” allows a character to intimidate another Actor in the game. Moves like “Smoke his Ass” or “Get outta the way” under Hustle or “Get what you want.” under Smooth seem rather self-explanatory.

The game is played by rolling 2d6, you add the appropriate statistic (like Hustle, Smooth, etc.) to the die roll based on the type of Move you are attempting. When rolling a 1-6, you have failed at your task and maybe something bad happens, 7-9 is a partial success and provides a degree of success and sometimes while also taking a drawback (such as when making a partial success at “Smoke his Ass” you have to open yourself up to counterattack or endanger someone else or you can choose to deal only 1 Harm to your opponent instead of full damage of your weapon). A 10 or higher is considered the best type of success you can roll, meaning everything goes off without a hitch. When you do something in game, usually based on a special move from your Playbook, you can choose to “Roll with Something More” where you roll 3 dice and drop the lowest result. Additionally, if you are heavily wounded or get into a bad situation due to some treachery by the DJ, you could “Roll with Something Less” which means you roll 3 dice and drop the highest result.

Speaking of making moves, how does initiative work in Spirit of 77? Well, it has no system for it at all, its entirely based on the Narrative. Generally speaking, the NPCs or DJ chooses a move and the characters get a chance to each react accordingly. This gives quite a bit of room for each PC to shine and allows you to get to the action of a funky beat down.

When using weapons in combat, Spirit of 77 favors a more narrative flavor than the more war-gaming theme of most RPGs that require measurement and exact distances. Intimate distance requires you to be close enough to kiss someone or whisper in their ear, such as in a grapple. Hand distance is for hand-to-hand combat naturally and is relatively easy to imagine if you’ve ever been in a fight. Close range is for things like pistols, shotguns and thrown objects. Far range is for rifles and effects that can be done over a shouting distance. Extreme range is targets so far away you’d need Binoculars or a scope perhaps.

Lets talk about Harm and getting hurt in Spirit of 77, for PCs and any major NPC villains, there are several levels of Harm. If you have 0 Wounds on you, you’re good to go. If you’re at 1 Wound you’re Bruised, battered but okay. 1 Wound generally heals over a night’s rest. 2 Wounds makes you Bloodied and you will need a week and some stitches to recover. 3 Wounds is Bruised and Bloodied, you’ll likely need a week in the hospital. 4 Wounds is Broken and you are wounded enough to “Roll with Something Less.” 5 Wounds is Down and you’re knocked out of the fight. 6 Wounds means you’re Dying and will fade away unless the crew gets you medical attention by the end of the fight. 7 Wounds and you are Dead, sorry hombre. 8 Wounds is Destroyed, you’re dead and there isn’t much of you left either. Most DJ characters (NPCs) will only have 5 Wounds, then they’re out of the fight.

Lets take a minute to go over the Roles, Stories and Buzz characters can choose from to make their character feel real. Each character is created by picking a single Playbook and a single Story, which serves as a background before their character became who they are or highlights part of their special nature. The Basic Stories are: All-Star: a former pro-athlete now caught in the game, Ex-Con: out of jail and trying to turn over a new leaf or maybe not, Former Badge: An ex-cop now out on the streets, Glam: A fabulous and fame seeking highroller, Humble Beginnings: A small time hitting the big time, Kung Fu: Years of training has made your body a lethal weapon. One Bad Mother: You’ve got rep on the street and the ability to back it up. War Vet: right out of the jungles of the war, straight to your doorstep. X-Tech: You are all about the weird science. Each Story has its own moves and special benefits, for example, being an Ex-Con gives you “Friends on the Inside” which allows you to make a special Smooth roll to contact former inmates and criminals for intel on the streets. Now each Playbook or “Role” allows the player to choose who their character really is and they can choose from; Bopper: an old school gang member archetype who can design their gang, Good Old Boy: speed demons and daredevils with their very own cool vehicle, Honeypot: Charismatic con artists with all the right moves, Rocker: hardworking and rowdy musicians wanting to make it big, Sleuth: wisecracking gumshoes and investigators, Tough Guy: Hardcore fighters who can take the pain and Vigilante: regular folks dishing out justice from a smoking gun. Each Role plays very differently, a Sleuth is more likely to approach a situation by first gathering information ahead of time, where as a Tough Guy might just beat the info out of whoever they come across, although the Honeypot may just seduce the villain into revealing his plan. Each character can also choose a “Buzz” which is a motivation for doing what you’re doing, your Buzz also grants you the bonus of giving bonus experience points. Buzzes range from common tropes such as “Cold Hard Cash,” “Payback,” “Honor,” “Fame and Glory,” and “Thrills” as well as many others.

The DJ or Game Master has their own list of moves to give the characters some challenge and conflict. There are rules in the “Lets Get It On” chapter for creating gangs and for handling “Heat” which tracks how wanted the characters are by Johnny Law. The rear section of the book details “The City” an amalgamation of all the tropes of 70’s film settings without getting too specific (it could represent Chicago, New York or LA just as easily). The setting material presents gang politics, various NPCs (both allies and enemies), as well as strange goings on in the city. This is all wonderfully spliced with artwork to elicit the feel of Newspaper ads from a fictional 70’s setting.

To Be Played At Maximum Volume


As the first page of the book informs you, this game is meant to be played at Maximum Volume. There is no reason not to go over the top. Spirit of 77 is a game designed for fans of the high action films and TV of the early and late 70s era – everything from The Warriors, Shaft, Dukes of Hazard, the A-Team and more. Its not about being part of big powerful organizations or playing remote godlike characters, but playing above-average heroes who take matters into their own hands when the streets get bloody and “The Man” is not going to help the people. Spirit of 77 is hands down one of most fun games to run when your group doesn’t want to spend too long making a character or taking things too seriously. There are meant to be cheesy references, dialogue full of jive talk (there is a whole glossary in the back of the book as well as lists of songs perfect for your game session, all from the 1970s). Spirit of 77 is about beating the Man at his own game, about ruffing it out with the local bikers at the roadhouse, its about getting dirty in the back alleys or keeping the glitz in the hottest night clubs. If you haven’t already bought this book by now and you’re still on the fence, just watch “Black Dynamite” about twenty times and you should be in the proper mindset to run this game. And yes, Richard Nixon is a villain mentioned frequently for the setting.

The game includes a great Game-Mastering section full of ideas about “The City” and local gangs, as well as the popular hangouts and locales for a 1970s game, everything from Photo-Booths to the corner Bodega. There are personalities of the City that seem pretty iconic if you’re familiar with “Willie Dynamite” or classic Kung Fu films from the era, I would have liked to have stats for these NPCs, but they wouldn’t be hard to come up with on the fly. There are also stats for common NPC antagonists, everything from Gang Members and Mafia to Cops. A section for Weird X-Tech also gives you ideas if you want to include a little bit more “Bionic Man” action into the world with some weird science.

The split between Stories and Roles for the characters to choose from makes things easy, but also ensures that even if two people in the group are playing Vigilantes, their feel could be very different if one is an All-Star ex-athlete and the other is a War-Vet from the jungles of Vietnam. I can’t say there has been a single character played in Spirit of 77 games I’ve run that doesn’t seem to have leaped right out of the action-packed cinema of the era and left an impression on me. You want to play a badass Luchadore with a heart of gold? An actress with dreams of glamour and wealth? An ex-con indebted to the mafia looking for a way out? I can dig it, can you?