USR Wednesdays: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Leonardo (Turtle-Folk), Level 1, 0 Experience Points
Action D10, Wits D8, Ego D6
Specialisms: Turtle Leader +2, Spirit Of The Samurai +2, Swimming And Breathing Underwater +2
Hit Points: 18
Equipment: Pair of Katana +2, Shuriken +1, Shell +1
Narrative Points: 3

Donatello (Turtle-Folk), Level 1, 0 Experience Points
Action D8, Wits D10, Ego D6
Specialisms: Does Machines +2, Computer Nerd +2, Swimming And Breathing  Underwater +2
Hit Points: 18
Equipment: Bo Staff +2, Shuriken +1, Shell +1
Narrative Points: 3

Raphael (Turtle-Folk), Level 1, 0 Experience Points
Action D8, Wits D6, Ego D10
Specialisms: “Cool But Crude” Moody Loner +2, Aggressive +2, Swimming And Breathing Underwater +2
Hit Points: 14
Equipment: Pair of Sai +2, Shuriken +1, Shell +1
Narrative Points: 3

Michaelangelo (Turtle-Folk), Level 1, 0 Experience Points
Action D10, Wits D6, Ego D8
Specialisms: Party Dude +2, Friend To Everyone +2, Swimming And Breathing Underwater +2
Hit Points: 16
Equipment: Pair of Nunchaku +2, Shuriken +1, Shell +1
Narrative Points: 3

They're never out of style.
The classic team ready for action. (image: StalePretzels on DeviantArt)

As brothers, the Turtles are excellent at working as a team. They can select team benefits, including the following that are more closely linked to how they operate in the comics and on screen.

Turtle Power: +1 to melee attacks and +1 to defense rolls for the rest of the combat encounter.

Silent Strike: +3 to initiative rolls for one encounter, as long as each turtle is able to approach the enemy without being seen or heard

I Love Being A Turtle: +3 to any die roll to befriend, intimidate, or research, usable on one die roll.

USR Wednesdays: Vampires

Creatures of the night are, of course, one of the most popular character choices in role playing, thanks to a slew of White Wolf games created in the 1990s and beyond. It inspired dozens of similar games, like “Nightlife,” and is still pretty popular; a new edition was released only a few weeks ago.

White Wolf-style vampires are very distinct from traditional RPG characters, with an emphasis on mood and personality, versus an emphasis on killing monsters and taking their stuff. But that’s not the only way to play a vampire game — a vampire can just as easily be a superhero, a character with abilities far beyond those of an ordinary person. There’s Marvel’s Morbius and Blade (a half-vampire, technically). Angel from the old “Buffy” TV show has the advantages but not many of the drawbacks that bedevil Dracula. There’s a vampire protagonist in at least a few of the “Castlevania” video games.

Here’s a few vampire-related personality Specialisms that make for heroes, or at least antiheroes:

  • Hideous Fiend
  • Mysterious Noble
  • Refined Artiste
  • Savage Killer
  • Tortured Hunter Of His Own Kind
You can hear that accent now.
Classic Dracula is best Dracula. (image: Universal)

The word “vampire” usually conjures thoughts of a tuxedo and a cape (Bela Lugosi in the 1931 “Dracula”) or a leather jacket (Edward Cullen in the “Twilight” movies). The looks may change but the powers remain fairly stable. Being fictional, there’s no hard and fast rules about what vampires are capable of, but here’s a few traditional abilities that can make for good Specialisms:

  • Animal Control
  • Animal Summoning — specifically, bats, rats, or wolves
  • Flight
  • Rapid Healing
  • Shapeshifting — specifically into bats, rats, wolves, or mist
  • Super-Speed
  • Super-Strength
  • Walk On Walls

And, of course, the one thing that makes a vampire a vampire: the ability to stay in “un-life” by drinking the blood of the living. In some fiction, the reverse, where a living creature drinks the vampire’s blood, turns it into the vampire. In others, a single vampire bite will do the trick. Sometimes, especially in stories where vampires are essentially dark superheroes, using supernatural abilities “costs” blood. In game terms, it reduces the vampire’s Hit Points. In fiction, a vampire can only use powers a few times before it’s too weak to go on — it needs to drink or sleep to recover.

Bloodsucking is a melee/hand-to-hand attack, made without any bonuses from weapons. If the victim isn’t willing, the vampire must succeed at an Action roll to hold the victim in place long enough to drink blood (which takes a single action — unless you want it to take longer for dramatic effect). Each Hit Point that’s drained from a victim is restored to the vampire, like any other healing.

USR Wednesdays: Simple Dice

If you’re like me, you have a pile of miniature figures and battle maps that don’t get nearly the amount of time on the tabletop as you’d like. And you have dice… so many dice, of different shapes and colors. Some unique dice with unusual faces — but most of them are the types seen in so many role playing games: d4 through d20. In USR, only the d6, d8, and d10 are used (also the d12 in a Domino Writing-style superhero game). But what if you don’t have those dice at hand?

Unlikely, since if you’re reading this you undoubtedly have gaming dice, or at least access to a free die-rolling app. But I’ve roleplayed on a backpacking trip, and when on a trip away from home in the pre-cell phone days, when the only gaming material on hand was a deck of playing cards and a partial Monopoly game. Monopoly has tokens you can use as miniatures, and more importantly for our purposes it has two six-sided dice, or 2d6.

Steal 'em from Monopoly, of course.
These dice, specifically.

You can use 2d6 to simulate the die results for the typical USR game:

 

Die Size

D6s to roll

Range of Results

d6

1d6

1 to 6

d8

1d6+2

3 to 8

d10

2d6

2 to 12

d12

2d6+2

4 to 14

As you can see, you’re more likely to see higher results than with ordinary USR dice, especially after adding in Specialisms, weapons and armor. It also doesn’t work if you need to roll a critical success (highest result on the die) or critical failure (lowest result on the die), as the odds of rolling each are very skewed. This option isn’t really meant to replace the standard rules, but instead fill in when needed.

USR Wednesdays: Willpower

Psychic defenses are almost as commonplace in fantasy and science fiction as swords and fireballs. Heroes are always gritting their teeth and powering through blasts of supernatural force, struggling mightily to resist a villain’s mental domination (often with their friends urging them to, “Remember who you are!”), or gathering their thoughts after being confronted by a horror from beyond the stars.

In brightest day...
Some heroes are nothing but willpower. (image: DC Comics)

That’s willpower, the mental stamina to resist what can’t be blocked by shield or armor. There’s no formal rule to represent willpower in the USR rules, though of course Strong Willpower can be a Specialism. As I mentioned last week, the “horror save,” which is willpower used defensively, either uses a Wits die roll, for characters trying to use logic to explain the illogical, or an Ego die roll, for characters who have a forceful personality — in this situation, they’re “keeping their cool.”

Which stat should characters use in your game? It depends on the tone: the higher of the two works for most games, where heroes are supposed to be capable of things most people can’t do. But for a “grittier” game, use the lower of the two stats whenever a character needs to make a willpower roll/horror save. The target number of the danger is determined like any other die roll: 4 for a medium-grade threat, 7 for hard, 10 for very hard.

Sanity

And for a traditional “Call of Cthulhu” feel, where characters are eventually going to have their sanity shattered no matter what, there’s “Beyond Fear,” Scott Malthouse’s rules for USR Cthulhu. It offers the Madness Roll, a simple roll of the character’s Wits stat die, not against a target number. Instead, a result of 1 or 2 on the die means the character has lost his or her marbles and gets a token, or simply a mark on the character sheet. Three tokens means the character is irretrievably insane. I inadvertently borrowed the idea of the Madness Roll last week in the zombies post, where a die result of 1 means zombie infection.

Most often, willpower is used on the defensive, resisting attacks or scary things. But it can also be used as an attack, where your hero uses his “force of will” to make someone else do something. That’s similar to spellcasting — a Wits or Ego die roll instead of an Action die roll against the opponent’s Wits or Ego die roll.