USR Wednesdays: American Pantheon Part III

Lone Wolf
God of independence and travel
Suggested Divine Domains: Travel, Freedom, Strength, War
Favored Weapon: Sword
Colors: black, white, grey
Symbol: wolf’s head
Lone Wolf is the protector of a world that never was, a place where an individual has to live or die all on his own, and always makes the right choice when both options have value. He claims to be alone all the time but that’s not true; his priests are there to counsel people who feel like they’re ready to follow the wolf, so no one is really ever by themselves. His followers are young men, who usually mature into followers of other deities. More serious adherents of the Lone Wolf are hunters, ranchers and creative people like actors and writers.

The adventure is about to begin.
The Lone Wolf taking action on the Earth. (image: providr.com)

Man In Black
God of vengeance, the night, anger
Suggested Divine Domains: War, Chaos, Darkness
Favored Weapon: Assault Rifle
Colors: black, red, dark blue
Symbol: full moon dripping blood
The Man In Black is not evil, not in all his forms. Most often he represents the dark side that all people have. He stands for the anger of a young man whose friend is gunned down in a city street, the impotent road rage that leads to accidents, even the guilt of a parent spending too much time at work and not enough at home with the kids. He has few priests, because The Man In Black prefers to work through individuals, twisting them from the inside. He does encourage worshipers under the names of “psychologist” and “self-help guru” because each person who considers him important enough to worship is a person who gives him power.

Monster
God of bloodshed and horror
Suggested Divine Domains: Death, Evil, Insanity
Favored Weapon: Claws
Colors: black, red, yellow, sickly green
Symbol: crossed knives
Monster was once The Man In Black’s sidekick, a story told to make children behave, and a safe way to enjoy frightening things. He’s every vampire and every zombie ever seen on screen or on the page. But in recent years Monster has left The Man In Black behind and threatens to overthrow even Uncle Sam himself — he’s the patron of serial killers and mass murderers, powerful establishments and anyone who uses fear to control others.

USR Wednesdays: American Pantheon Part II

Foreigner
God of the unknown
Suggested Divine Domains: Secrets, Knowledge, War
Favored Weapon: Bomb
Colors: orange, black, green
Symbol: face with mustache
Foreigner changes from time to time, from “Savage Redskin” to “Yellow Peril” to “Desert-Dwelling Terrorist.” Though most legends put Foreigner in league with the other villainous members of the pantheon, like Monster, he’s not evil, and doesn’t encourage evil in his followers. He just has a different way of looking at the world and how his priests should behave.

Independent Woman
Goddess of femininity and justice
Suggested Divine Domains: Good, Freedom, Protection
Favored Weapon: Dagger
Colors: pink, white, purple
Symbol: full moon
She is the twin sister of Teen Hero, more serious and stronger, because her priestesses (and priests, there are some of both that follow her) are often the target of insult and injury. She appreciates the beautiful — like Blonde Bombshell — and the regal — like Lady Liberty, and gives the gifts of both to her followers as she can.

Statue of Liberty
The home of Lady Liberty’s power. Her priests must travel there at least once in their lives. (image: nps.gov)

Lady Liberty
Goddess of women and cultural expansion
Suggested Divine Domains: Friendship, Knowledge, Protection
Favored Weapon: Spear
Colors: white, yellow, green
Symbol: scales
Lady Liberty is the mother who births both America’s bounty and her peoples, and welcomes those who wish to join the great masses of the country. Lady Liberty first appeared as a native maiden, then gradually became Uncle Sam’s partner in many ways, great and small. She represents not only motherhood but the things that make a family strong: love and concern for all people, to one degree or another.

USR Wednesdays: American Pantheon

One of the reasons I introduced Divine Domains to Domino Writing-style USR is to feature these, the “American Pantheon” of god-like entities that represent aspects of modern American culture. They’re meant to be tongue-in-cheek, obvious stereotypes, but still representative of the U.S. today. And in a modern urban fantasy game, they’re probably more useful for heroes than gods are.

Here’s the first few:

Uncle Sam (G.I. Joe, Great White Father, The Man)
God of patriotism
Suggested Divine Domains: Law, Protection, War
Favored Weapon: Assault Rifle
Colors: red, white, blue
Symbol: bald eagle
Uncle Sam, often seen as a tall, thin white man dressed a ragged suit and top hat, is often criticized for his militant behavior, but is usually appreciated when he lends a helping hand (though sometimes his help isn’t wanted). He can be strict, telling the more fun-loving deities of the pantheon how they should live their lives, and sometimes interferes with divine powers of other pantheons. He is served by a donkey named Democrat and an elephant named Republican. His priests are politicians and soldiers, leaders of men and great warriors — and con artists who make others think they’re leaders and warriors.

Uncle Sam
He wants you… so he can give you divine magic. (image: public domain)

Blonde Bombshell
Goddess of desire and tragedy
Suggested Divine Domains: Love, Deceit, Luck
Favored Weapon: Whip
Colors: yellow, red, black
Symbol: red light
Blonde Bombshell often appears to mortals as a beautiful young woman, but she changes her hair color like she changes her mood (suddenly and often). She appears to have a perfect life on the surface, but the struggle to be what everyone wants her to be puts a strain on her and her priests. She likes looking good and doesn’t like thinking about anything serious. Her followers use their blessings to get their way, and they see nothing wrong with that; they feel good making themselves happy.

Comic Relief
God of jokes and pranks
Suggested Divine Domains: Deceit, Chaos, Good, Evil
Favored Weapon: Club
Colors: yellow, green, gray, red
Symbol: smiley face
The great comedian exists to make people forget their troubles. Usually he makes them laugh, but in recent years, he’s become darker and more cruel, making offensive jokes that hurt mortals. But to Comic Relief, any joke that someone laughs at is a good joke. His priests are comedians themselves, artists, musicians and writers.

Who else should be in the American Pantheon?

USR Wednesdays: Critical Hits

One of the few things USR doesn’t do well, because of the way it uses dice, is represent critical hits. In the d20 system, for example, a roll of 20 is a critical hit, since all attacks and skill rolls use the same die. But in USR, a player could be rolling a d6, d8, d10 or d12, and using the “you score a critical on the max result of the die” idea doesn’t work, mathematically speaking (you have a 16.6 percent chance of rolling a 6 on a d6, a 12.5 percent chance of rolling an 8 on a d8, a 10 percent chance of a 10 on a d10, and and 8.3 percent chance of rolling a 12 on a d12).

Critical Points

But scoring a critical hit is a lot of fun, and it opens the game to lots of different story opportunities — a quick search online turns up pages and pages of critical hit charts with different effects. The Unbelievably Simple option for critical hits is to simply add damage to the attack (called Critical Points in the chart below), hit points that the opponent loses, even if the enemy has a high enough roll to cancel them out.

Die Type

Critical Points

D6

1

D8

2

D10

3

D12

4

For example, Bragan the barbarian, with an Action stat of D10, rolls a 10 on the die, and adds his Greataxe +2 for a total of 12. Kyranathus the dragon, also with an Action stat of D10, rolls a 9 and adds +1 for his Scales, for total of 10.
Barbarian vs Dragon
Bragan and Kyranathus, just before the critical is rolled. (image: lmddd.org)

Normally, that means Bragan did 2 damage (since the defensive result is subtracted from the attacking result, and the leftover is applied to hit points). But with the Critical Hit roll, he gets 3 Critical Points, and the dragon takes a total of 5 damage. Even if the dragon somehow had a defensive total of, say, 15 (more than Bragan’s attack total, which would ordinarily result in no damage at all), the Critical Points would still apply, and Kyranathus suffers 3 damage.

Special Effects

Another option is spending Critical Points instead, or in addition to applying damage. These can be spent on the following options (and, of course, feel free to create more options):

  • Mighty Blow: roll 1d6 for additional damage, which can be blocked like ordinary damage.
  • Quick Response: make another attack against the same enemy.
  • Special Maneuver: the enemy is tripped, drops his weapon, loses the bonus for his armor, or some similar effect (the attacker chooses at the time the critical is rolled).
  • Sudden Movement: your hero moves up to half his ordinary movement rate immediately after the attack.

Use The Charts

Finally, you can roll a number of times on any critical hit chart you want equal to the number of Critical Points you have, and pick the option you like best. This may call for some judgement on the part of the game master if the critical hit chart has game effects that aren’t used in USR, but the simplicity of the system means it shouldn’t be hard to figure out.

What do your characters do when they crit?