USR Wednesdays: Influences, or Faction Specialisms

A Specialism has been defined in this blog before: “Specialisms are what a character can do, or how he or she does it, in a way that’s appropriate to the setting.” That includes skills like Computers, special abilities like Spellcasting, or traits like Charming. It can also include aspects that build the world the character lives in, like Captain Of The Starship Conquest (now the game world contains spaceships) or Former Member Of The Thieves Guild (now the game world contains enough thieves to form a guild). These kinds of Specialisms can lead to more things in the game — the Captain may own his own spaceship the heroes can use, if the game master allows; the Thieves Guild may be after the hero, a ready-made story hook for adventures.

But what if they’re not important enough aspects of a hero to be one of his or her three starting Specialisms, or won’t come into play in every single scenario? That’s when they become Influences.

Influences

Influences are “minor” Specialisms. While an ordinary Specialism starts at +2 and goes up to +5, at least in Domino Writing-style USR, an Influence starts at +1 and only can reach +3. It’s not meant to be an additional Specialism, just a bonus in certain situations that reflect the game world. The entire adventuring party could even have the same Influence.

Unlike a Specialism, which increases when the character reaches a new level, an Influence changes when the story calls for it. A hero who performs a great deed may earn a +1 to one of his Influences, while another character whose behavior indicates that she’s turning away from the source of the Influence could lose a bonus (possibly even going into the negatives — another difference from Specialisms).

What is an Influence? Its other name, Faction Specialism, is one idea: a political or other authority in the world which can lend money, equipment or other resources, like a royal house (the Starks or Lannisters from “A Song Of Ice And Fire”), a military force (G.I. Joe or SHIELD), or a private organization (a mafia syndicate). A character with a +1 in the Sunburst Clan could use his Influence to impress members of the clan, or intimidate its enemies. A character with a +3 in Her Majesty’s Royal Air Force could use the bonus to try and requisition the best planes for himself and his men.

A little too conspicuous.
The official costume of the Sunburst Clan ninja? Probably not. (image: brandsonsale.com)

Powers

Another kind of Influence is a characteristic that powers a character, or a lot of characters in a certain kind of setting. This could be Honor or Sanity or even a pair of Influences — say, Light Side and Dark Side, where one increases when the other drops. Influence could also be more combat-related too, like the “power meter” a video game fighter needs to charge up to release his Ultimate Attack. Each time the hero performs a particularly cool move, his Power Influence goes up by one, making him more suave, tough and fast. When it’s time to blow away the bad guy, it’s all used in a single attack roll, and falls back to zero.

What Influences will be in your game?

USR Wednesdays: American Pantheon Part V

Teen Hero
God of optimism, enthusiasm, youth
Suggested Divine Domains: Good, Freedom, Movement
Favored Weapon: Switchblade
Colors: white, blue, yellow
Symbol: sunburst
He is the son of Uncle Sam and Lady Liberty, the one they count on to bring new worshipers to the pantheon. But most of the time Teen Hero is imagining himself champion of the world, the one who defeats all the villains and remains beloved by everyone while doing it. He wants to be a moody rebel like Lone Wolf or Independent Woman (though he’s a little frightened of her), but he’s too pure of heart and cute to make it happen. Some of his followers burn brightly, and flare out before their time. Teen Hero is what everyone wishes they could be, in a perfect world.

The green man is ironically not green.
Wildman is an ancient deity who has taken many forms. (image: marbleinspiration.co.uk)

Wildman
God of nature
Suggested Divine Domains: Air, Animal, Earth, Fire, Plant, Water
Favored Weapon: Staff
Colors: green, blue, brown
Symbol: Tree
Wildman doesn’t represent people, unlike most of the rest of the pantheon. He represents the earth itself, and often takes the female form of Mother Nature. But sometimes he needs to be more aggressive in defense of the earth, or more primitive for followers that want to test themselves against everything Wildman can throw at them. Wildman rarely speaks or acts unless he has to; he prefers to keep to himself and only reveals his true power to those who are quiet and peaceful in his presence.

USR Wednesdays: American Pantheon Part IV

Playboy
God of sex, money, and fame
Suggested Divine Domains: Luck, Wealth, Deceit
Favored Weapon: Dagger
Colors: gold, white, green
Symbol: diamond
Blonde Bombshell’s son is infatuated with himself, and how he looks and acts at all times. He manipulates his followers, and the other deities, to get what he wants, all the while insisting that any bargain he makes helps not just himself but the other person too. In his more positive aspect, Playboy encourages men to find their playful side, and loves interacting with mortals, the better to spread his message and gain more followers. Playboy’s priests are mostly male, with good grooming, the best clothes, and a lot of confidence.

Santa Claus
Father of imagination, god of children and gift-giving
Suggested Divine Domains: Good, Creation, Light
Favored Weapon: Quarterstaff
Colors: red, white, green
Symbol: Christmas tree
Santa represents not only commercialized Christmas but all holidays and special creatures, from the Easter Bunny to the Tooth Fairy. He represents the importance of children to families, and encourages good feelings in everyone. The dark gods of the pantheon dislike Santa’s joyful light, but mostly ignore him, since he’s rarely actively working to diminish them.

She blinded him with science.
A cleric of Science deep in religious ritual. (image: Universal Pictures)

Science
God of research
Suggested Divine Domains: Creation, Community, Healing, Knowledge
Favored Weapon: Needle
Colors: black, white
Symbol: computer
The Great God Science has introduced many amazing and helpful things to the world, but he’s also been responsible for some of its evils. He’s very independent, sometimes even insisting that none of the other deities deserve any attention. He’s been rising to a more prominent position in the pantheon over the last several decades, and his holy texts (science fiction) point to an even more lofty role in years to come.