Crime Network: Cosa Nostra — An RPG You Can’t Refuse

Crime Network: Cosa Nostra

Designers: Brendan Davis, Steve Bowden, and William Butler
Artists: Jeff Preston, Leanne Buckley, Adam Schmidt, and Michael Prescott
Publisher: Bedrock Games
Published in: 2010
Page Count: 105
Available Formats:
PDF (DTRPG) – $1.99
Print (linked from publisher website) – $19.99

Just about every genre of fiction literature or film has a roleplaying game adapted for it. Some more than others. One genre that hasn’t gotten much attention is the Italian Cosa Nostra portrayed on the silver screen and in print. The closest mobster games I was aware of until now were games like TSR Gangbusters and Fantasy Unlimited Games Gangsters; set in the gangster era of the 1930s. Finally, there is an RPG where players can imitate great fictional mobsters like Tony Soprano or Vito Corleone as they rise to power within their family businesses.

“Nothing personal, it’s just business” ~ Otto Biederman
a.k.a. Otto “Abbadabba” Berman. Accountant for Dutch Schultz gunned down (age 44) on October 23, 1935, at a meeting at the Palace Chophouse tavern in Newark, NJ.

Set in the modern-day, Crime Network: Cosa Nostra uses the setting of the seedy underbelly of organized crime. Player’s take on the roles of mobsters and they strive to become good earners for their bosses and climb the family ladder while avoiding getting fitted for cement shoes. Character advance by completing goals the player sets for their characters. Characters start at the bottom as associates and if lucky can rise to the head of their family.

Crime Network: Cosa Nostra is part of Bedrock Games’ Network product line. With some adjustments, Crime Network may intermix with other Network products like Terror Network or Horror Show. Each Network game uses a d10 dice pool mechanic against at target number to resolve success or failures of a task.

Character Creation

“No one will ever kill me, they wouldn’t dare” ~ Carmine Galante
 a.k.a. “The Cigar” and “Lilo”. Boss of the Bonanno crime family assassinated (age 69) on July 12, 1979, while eating lunch at Joe and Mary’s Italian-American Restaurant in Brooklyn, NY.

Like making a good red sauce building a character in Crime Network: Cosa Nostra is just as easy and flavourful. The game provides several easy steps to build characters and to add spice for flavor. Player’s begin by choosing one of three personality types that fit with the setting nicely that encompasses the soul of their character; Brain, Brawn or Casanova. Each personality type gives the character an edge in their Primary Skills and Connections.

Players then spend character points in two Primary Skills and four Secondary Skills based on the type of personality previously chosen. There are four incremental skill levels starting at zero a player may raise with character points, paying cumulative for each level. Zero denotes the character has a below average ability with the skill and skills of three denotes the peak of human ability. Skills raise later through play with earned experience points.

Crime Network splits skills into six groups, Combat, Knowledge, Physical, Mental, Specialist, and Defense. Combat skills encompass fighting, Physical covers feats of strength or dexterity, Mental helps the character to influence others or spin a story, Knowledge gauges the characters book smarts, Specialist help the character perform special tasks, and defense keep the character alive.

After skills come connections that the characters can call on for help or information. Connections provide insider information or use their influence for the character’s benefit. Character’s start with two connections and can opt to buy more in the game. There are two types of connections:, Protection Connections, someone who can give you physical support, and Insider Connections who supply the character with insider information. There are five categories that encompass your connection link, Criminal, Political, Social, Business, and Entertainment Connections.

Connections will grant a favor each adventure, but its a two-way street. At some point, you can expect to have to return the gesture. Using your contacts sparing helps keep your owed favors down and lessens the risk of putting them in harm’s way. Characters can lose connections through play or regained them back as the gamemaster sees fit.

To get favors granted, each character has a Respectability rating that represents their standing within the organization. The higher the number the more respect they receive from people. Respectability is also used for avoiding being targeted by a friend or enemy. Starting characters begin with one and advance as they rise in rank.

The last step before outfitting your character is to give them a shortcoming. Shortcomings are a way to add flavor to your character while at the same time gaining more character points to spend. Players may choose up to two shortcomings gaining a point each. There are 20 shortcomings to choose from such as gaining an enemy to being obese.

Guns, Guns, Guns, and More

“You can get much further with a kind word and a gun then you can with a kind word alone” ~ Al Capone
a.k.a. “Scarface”. Boss of the Chicago Outfit died (age 48) on January 25, 1947, of apoplexy from after suffering cardiac arrest days earlier.

No mobster is complete without a firearm or two. Starting characters begin with five hundred dollars plus $200 per level based on their Finance skill to spend. Melee, firearms, explosives, and toxins are the four types of weapons used in Crime Network. Firearms and broken down further into subcategories. All firearms use the standard list of statistics, magazine capacity, range, damage, etc. Firearms use the Combat skill while melee weapons use the Muscle skill. There are three categories for explosives:, set, thrown, and launched. A character using an explosive uses their Explosive skill. Toxins use a rating for their lethality, the speed at which they work, its effects on the victim, and a Medicine skill target number to determine its success rate of medically treating the subject poisoned.

Spending all your cash on weapons might be a sensible thing in the beginning, but as character progress, they will earn more money to spend. A list of vehicles based on their quality level is a great incentive to move up the ranks and earn more. Another great incentive is having enough money to buy body armor. It could be the difference between life and death for a character for it prevents instant death from a single blow. If a character has money left over the game has a list of mundane equipment and services from antacid pills to a fine bottle of wine like Masseto. Whatever fancies your mobster, don’t forget to outfit them in a tracksuit.

Rolling them bones

I respectfully decline to answer because I honestly believe my answer might tend to incriminate me” ~ Joey Gallo
a.k.a. “Crazy Joe” and “Joe the Blond”. Gangster for the Profaci crime family bumped off (age 43) on April 7, 1972, while celebrating his 43rd birthday at Umberto’s Clam House in Manhattan’s Little Italy.

To adjudicate the success or failure of a task in Crime Network the player uses a pool of d10 as previously mentioned. The number of d10s a player gets to roll depends on the level of the skill being challenged or used. A player with a skill level of three would roll three d10s while a character with one level rolls one. In the case of a character rolling on a skill of zero the player rolls two d10s taking the lower of the two results. The result of each die must meet or exceed the Target Number set by the gamemaster to succeed. Target number ranges from one to ten. A one indicates the task is super simple to do, while a ten is an incredibly difficult task to carry out.

A high number on the d10 has a better chance of success than a lower result. Tens are the best result. A ten produces a special effect, which acts differently in combat, non-combat, and damage rolls. In combat a result of 10 allows you to add a d10 to your damage pool. A result of 10 in non-combat situations indicates a total success. Rolling a 10 for damage means the character inflicts one extra wound on the target.

There are two types of rolls—Character vs. Character and Character vs. Environment. Character vs. Character covers rolls against their defenses as well as making offensive rolls. Character vs. Environment encompasses rolls against environmental elements like scaling a wall or eating spaghetti without getting gravy on your white shirt. As with most roleplaying games, a gamemaster can add modifiers to the rolls to make them easier or more difficult.

Ooh! That’s got to hurt
Hardiness, a skill under Defense, defines the toughness of your character. It also dictates if you receive damage from an attack. Attackers roll their damage pool of d10. The highest d10 result must meet or exceed a character’s Hardiness skill to inflict a wound. A character receives only one wound per damage pool unless the result is a ten. A rolled ten adds another wound to the character. When a character receives three or more wounds they become incapacitated and face death. For every wound suffered the character loses one die per wound of their dice pool until healed. Healing happens naturally at the rate of one wound per week or if treated by another person with the Medicine skill. A character wearing body armor, which adds to a character’s hardiness, reduces damage to non-lethal thus preventing the character from slipping into unconsciousness or death with one shot. An incapacitated character has an equal number of rounds to their Hardiness skill from someone to stabilize or heal them with a Medicine skill. If a character sustains a wound after being incapacitated they die immediately.

Leave the gun, take the cannolis
What would a mobster RPG be without assassinations? Any character with the Assissnations skill can perform one by writing down his intent and when he is going to do it on a piece of paper and handing it to the gamemaster. They can also have a private conference with the gamemaster. It’s done this way so the player next to you doesn’t know he’s the one about to get whacked. The hit could be against an NPC or a player character. The gamemaster adds or subtracts modifiers to the attacker or defender, then asks the assassin to make their assassination roll. The result from the roll must beat the targets Wit score under the Defense skill for a successful assassination. If, not regular combat ensues.

If a hit succeeds, it doesn’t mean nobody knows about it or who did it. There could be little clues left about who whacked who. After a hit, assassins need to make an extra Assassination roll at a set target number adding a plus one for every level above the victim rank above the associate level. Fail the roll and victim’s family knows who the assassin was and may retaliate. Assassinating above your rank within your family without consent from a higher ranking boss gives an extra plus two (+2) to the target number. Fail that roll and your character better fake his own death because they are the next to get whacked. Characters who assassinate within their own family ranked below them do not risk retaliation. Assassinations of higher ranking members of your family are very dangerous even with consent. Characters with consent still need to make a Respectability roll or become victims themselves.

My turn, your turn
Combat rounds in Crime Network measure around 5 seconds. Each character gets a turn based on their Speed Skill. Players roll their dice pools and the person with the highest die result acts first. In cases of ties, the person with the highest speed skill goes first. Any 10s rolled adds one to the highest die roll. A standard action is a move and attack. Characters can move up to 20 feet plus 10 feet per their Speed skill. Players can choose to use combat tactics when in combat. Using these tactics can improve your combat results but cost you time. Tactics include how you position yourself, your facing, restraining your opponent, taking aim, making a called shot, laying down suppression fire, and shooting more than one target with a fully automatic weapon.

Step on it
Crime Network took special care in providing rules for vehicle chases. The rules are fairly simple to carry out. Each vehicle is statted out with a maneuverability rating, handling speed, top speed, Hardiness, and max wounds it can sustain before breaking down. When maneuvering a vehicle at handling speed the vehicles maneuverability rating is the player’s Target Number on rolls. If performing a maneuver in a dangerous situation, where failure means crashing, a special chart to help gamemasters determine the damage suffered by the vehicle and its passengers.

The Way of the Gangster

“This life of ours, this is a wonderful life. If you can get through life like this and get away with it, hey, that’s great. But its very, very unpredictable. There’s so many ways you can screw it up.” ~ Constantino Paul “Big Paul” Castellano
a.k.a. “The Howard Hughes of the Mob” and “Big Paulie”. Boss of the Gambino crime family fatally shot in the head (age 70) on December 16, 1985, while getting out of his car in front of Sparks Steak House in Midtown Manhattan.

Chapter four of the rulebook, “The Way of the Gangster” is a history of the Italian mafia in America. It starts with its first agreed evidence of organized crime activity in the U.S., the murder of New Orleans Police Superintendent in 1890. It then spans through Prohibition, the “Five Families”, the Witness Protection Program and RICO act in the 1970s to the modern-day, before moving to the family ranking structure.

Characters start at the lowest point in the organization, associates. Associates are not made men in the organization but aspire towards it. They get the dirtiest of work to perform. The first rank once accepted into a family is the rank of soldier or soldato. Soldiers are the bottom of the organization, but at least they aren’t associates. They have very little influences and rarely deal with anyone higher than a Captain. Captain or Capo is the next rank in the origination. They are responsible for a large number of soldiers and a geographical location. The Captian’s job is to make money for those higher than him while retaining a cut for himself. The next in the rank is the Consigliere, advisors to the head of the family. Consigliere usually takes care of the bookkeeping as well as handles disputes within and outside the family. Next is the Under-Boss or Sotto-Capo. They are the next in line to succeed the head of the family. The Under-Boss sees to the daily running of the organization. Final you have the Boss, the big man, head of the family. This is the highest rank characters can attain in Crime Network. The ranking system doesn’t stop here. There is a rank called Boss of Bosses or Capo di Tutti Capi which simply means the biggest boss among all the families. It’s the Boss with the biggest influence out of all the families. It usually is an unspoken title for it can draw a lot of attention and create enemies.

To get influence families to have to make money. The section on sources of income comes with a chart to help gamemaster determine the target numbers on operations based off of their payouts. A $500 job is easier to pull off than a $128,000 job. Three money making schemes that are most associated with mobsters is Racketeering, The Vig (lending), and setting up an operation. At higher ranks, players use their Crime skill to find how well they plan their money-making endeavors.

Since players are criminals, there will be a time when characters might be facing time in prison. Being in prison is not the end for the characters’ career. Mob bosses always need people on the inside to perform tasks for the family. As long as they don’t break the Omerta Code the chances of getting whacked in jail is less. Though that’s not to say they won’t. Prisons are dangerous places and mobsters who have longer prison sentences need to make Respectability checks to make sure that the family will believe they will stay true to their word and not flip for a shorter sentence.

Gamemasters Section

“If a man is dumb, someone is going to get the best of him, so why not you? If you don’t, you’re as dumb as he is” ~ Arnold Rothstein
a.k.a. “the Brain”. Kingpin of the Jewish mob in New York City gunned down (age 46) on November 6, 1928, at a business meeting at Manhattan’s Park Central Hotel.

In most RPGs players are the heroes of the game. In Crime Network players are anti-heroes. Understanding this the gamemaster’s section helps to explain how to use anti-heroes to produce an enjoyable game. It also aids gamemasters with advice on developing their own settings, families, creating NPC, themes, storylines, using law and order, and inspirations films and books. The NPC section is the largest section and provides many personality types with brief descriptions of each so you can build your own. For the most part, this section has advice for the gamemaster in running the game and creating set pieces for the game.

Remo Loves Lucy

I can’t stand squealers, hit that guy! ~ Albert Anastasia
a.k.a. “The One-Man Army”, “Mad Hatter” and “Lord High Executioner”. Boss of the Gambino crime family assassinated (age 55) on October 25, 1957, at the barbershop of the Park Sheraton Hotel in Midtown Manhattan.

Crime Network provides an introductory adventure called “Remo Loves Lucy”. The adventure has the players whacking a crocodile, a pet belonging to a rival boss. The characters’ new capo is upset about how his predecessor died. The characters’ old Capo was fed to a rival boss’s pet crocodile. The new capo wants to take revenge by having the characters whack the crocodile and bring back the body so he can have shoes made of its hide and send it to its owner. They also need the body of the crocodile for in its stomach is the former capo’s wallet with a key and the pin number to his safe deposit box.

The adventure is laid out very nicely in easy to find sections. The adventure features “Box text” for those who need it. It has color maps of the areas to explore. Finally, there is a section to add a little more flavor to the adventure which adds complications. Overall, it looks like a fun adventure.

The Baybridge Setting

“Judges, lawyers and politicians have a license to steal. We don’t need one.” ~ Carlo “Don Carlo” Gambino
a.k.a. “The Godfather”. Boss of the Gambino crime family died (age 74) on October 15, 1976, of natural causes at his home in Massapequa, NY.

The last section of the rulebook covers the pre-generated world of Baybridge, a ready-to-go setting for the gamemaster. Baybridge has easy to digest descriptions of places of interest, outlines which families control which of the twenty territories, detailed NPCs, and stock characters to use as fodder.

Final thoughts

“You know what I’ll do? I’ll get a knife and cut out his tongue, and we’ll send it to his wife” ~ Giovanni “John” Stanfa
Boss of the Philadelphia crime family (age 78) currently serving five consecutive life sentences at a United States Penitentiary.

Crime Network: Cosa Nostra uses a clean two column design with black and white text and line and grayscale art. It features easy to understand rules, that are brief and concise. The game mechanics are easy to use and quick to pick up. The game convincingly creates the feel of mob films and novels. Reading through the text was a pleasure. The authors’ tone in the text was in keeping with the theme. They often would add in humorous text with mobster slang. Each chapter of the book began with a quote to put the reader in the mood. I read the PDF for this review but I plan on getting a hardcopy in the future to display on gaming shelf and bring to the table. The PDF uses bookmarks, which lists items in an odd order. Instead of listing the sections in the order they appear in the book, it looks like the items higher on the list are items a gamemaster would refer to more often. Needless to say, when I needed to look up an item I was able to find it quickly on the list, so their system has merit. I feel Crime Network: Cosa Nostra really captures the genre very well. It’s a game that I would like to bring to my gaming table and fans of mobster movie will enjoy it too. It’s an RPG I can’t refuse.

~ Stephen Pennisi

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