USR Wednesdays: Tournament Fighting and Wrestling

There are a handful of pro wrestling-themed RPGs, and even an official “Street Fighter” game. Yes, really, from the early ’90s, when I was playing tournament fighting games. And though a setting that’s 95 percent combat seems like it should require a complex combat system, tournament fighting and wrestling-themed games can work very well in USR. Here’s how.

An ordinary character can be created, though most characters will have Action as their highest stat. But a player who wants to try something different, like a wrestling manager or a Vince McMahon-style macho businessman, could take Wits or Ego as the highest stat.

Combat Maneuvers

Combat Gear points don’t really apply in the setting; wrestlers grab chairs but don’t have one as a primary weapon. A fighter like “Mortal Kombat’s” Scorpion does have his “Get over here!” spear, but that’s not a weapon, in USR tournament fighting. Instead, it’s a Combat Maneuver. Characters typically have one +1, one +2 and one +3 Combat Maneuver, and the another single Combat Maneuver of any bonus, selected when they’re created. A heavy hitter might have two +3s, while a fast character has two +1s, staying in the fight for a long time by moving around swiftly. In game terms, there’s no difference between one +1 attack and another; that’s where your creativity comes in… although the narration can affect your attacks — if a character’s hands are tied, he can’t throw a punch. Name your attacks something interesting and action-packed.

In addition, all characters start with these two Combat Maneuvers.
Punch (could also be a kick or even head-butt) +0: in other words, a basic Action die roll.
Block: if your character chooses a block, he doesn’t attack on his turn, but until it’s his turn in combat again, he can make his defense die roll twice and use the best result. This gives the character no Strain — but he doesn’t recover Strain either (see below for more on Strain).

Here’s a few examples of Combat Maneuvers:

Grab +1
Jab +1
Quick Kick +1
Taunt +1 (this uses the Ego instead of Action)
Tough Skin +1 (this is for defensive rolls, not attacks)

Body Slam +2
Force Field +2 (this is for defensive rolls, not attacks)
Spin Kick +2
Summon an ally (to make a sudden attack, then disappear) +2 (this uses Ego instead of Action)
Throw +2
Uppercut +2

Weapon (sword, spear, pistol) +3
Hadoken Fireball +3 (being magic, this uses Wits instead of Action)

Fighting game finishing moves aren’t Combat Maneuvers; they’re just fun to describe.

Hope you brought a roll of quarters.
I could go either way on this fight, really. (image: Capcom)

Combos

An attack roll that gets the highest result on the die (for example, a 10 on a D10) starts a combo. The attacker can continue to make attacks, as long as they are on the same target as the first attack, and as long as each one hits. When an attack misses, the combo is over. In this setting, everyone has roughly 15 Hit Points, like a typical player character, to keep them in the game for a while, and to give heroes someone to try and score combos on.

Strain

Combat Maneuvers are, in a sense, weapons: they offer a bonus to (usually) Action rolls. But they also come with a cost. A character in this setting has a Strain total, which starts at zero. Each time a character attacks or defends using a Combat Maneuver — only one of each per turn — add the bonus the Combat Maneuver provides to the character’s Strain. If the Strain is less than or equal to the character’s current Hit Points, there’s no problem. If it goes above the Hit Points (or the Hit Points fall below Strain), the character can only make a basic attack, simply rolling a stat to attack without any Combat Maneuver bonus. A character’s Strain drops 5 points if he doesn’t use a Combat Maneuver at all on a turn, though it can never go below zero.

Specialisms

Sure, you can simply create a few tournament fighters or wrestlers, set them up in a playoff bracket-style showdown, and duel it out. But there’s more to the setting than fighting, believe it or not. Think of “Street Fighter’s” struggle against M. Bison, or the romantic storylines of WWE. While you’re thinking about what to call your character’s Combat Maneuvers, don’t forget they have Specialisms too. Even professional warriors have interests and skills — maybe your hero is a Spy, an Expert Pilot, or an Anthropologist who found another hero, a strange man-monster, deep in the Amazon jungle. Perhaps the hero is a former champion passing along his knowledge of Tournament History to the younger characters, or is Suave (or Wealthy) enough to impress non-player characters unimpressed with his talents in the ring.

What does your Tournament Fighter look like?

USR Wednesdays: Mecha

Maybe it’s a feeling of nostalgia, maybe it’s wandering down the Transformers aisle in the supermarket toy section, maybe it’s the need to round out my science-fiction gaming genre collection: I realized there are no rules out there for giant mecha combat in USR. Here’s a few guidelines for your game. To start with, giant mecha (or mechs) in these rules refer mainly to the Transformers (G1 especially) and old-school, FASA Battletech. I don’t watch much anime, and I can’t say I was really impressed by “Pacific Rim” either, though I like the concept. It should’t be hard to take your USR mecha game in any direction you like, though.

How far transforming technology has come.
Call him Jetfire, call him Valkyrie, any name is fine. (image: tfw2005.com)

The biggest change is probably not what you’re thinking: mecha, though more powerful than ordinary humans (say, Rick Hunter from “Robotech” or Sam Witwicky from “Transformers”), don’t use the superhero tiers rules. Humans can’t possibly compete with a mecha, with one exception — if you stretch the definition of mecha to include robot suits, like Iron Man or the Space Marines of Warhammer 40,000, which we’re not doing here. If you want a Transformers-style game, every character is created using the regular Domino Writing-style USR rules… they’re just giant robots. If you want a Battletech game, where the humans are the ones with stories and the mechs are just gigantic weapons platforms, you can do that too. It’s best in that case to make one human character, the pilot of a mech “character” you also create.

It’s the game master’s call on what each character can do; a mecha can’t pick a lock, while a human can’t change shape into a car. That’s why you need both characters to simulate a lot of mecha fiction. The main way they interact in the rules is in damage. Combat is calculated normally for mecha-to-mecha or human-to-human fighting. But when they mix and match:

Mecha attacks human: double the damage the human suffers.
Human attacks mecha: if the human’s attack total minus the mecha’s defense total is 5 or less, it does 1 damage to the mecha. If it’s 6 or more, it does 2 damage.

Destroyicon narrowed his optic sensors at Jack. “Get out of my way, puny human,” he growled, his voice rumbling the rocks beneath Jack’s feet.
“No way!” Jack shouted. “This is for the Herobots!” He squeezed the trigger on his laser pistol.
An Action roll of 6 +2 for his pistol is an 8. Destroyicon’s defensive Action roll is a 4 +2 for his Villitron armor plating. Jack’s 8 minus Destroyicon’s 6 results in a 2, enough to hit for a single point of damage.
A scorch mark seared the giant robot’s leg. He laughed coldly. “My turn, fleshling,” he said, and swung his energy sword.
This time, Destroyicon rolls a total of 10, and Jack’s total is 6, for a hit and a difference of 4. Doubled, Jack takes 8 points of damage.
Jack looked around frantically for the Herobots.

The Transformers change shape normally. That doesn’t call for a die roll, but you can represent their “alt mode” as a Specialism. Optimus Prime, for example, has a “Transforms Into Semi-Truck” Specialism, while each of Voltron’s pilots has “Voltron Form” as a Specialism. Keith, Pidge, and the rest are the heroes, and joining into Voltron is an action that doesn’t call for a roll. The weapons and special abilities of Voltron do require a roll, though, by whoever is taking their turn at “controlling” Voltron.

What’s your favorite mecha fiction?

USR Wednesdays: Warhammer 40,000

I didn’t get to see the preview of “Wrath & Glory,” the new Warhammer 40,000 RPG, at Free RPG Day a few weeks back, though it’s coming to PDF soon. The mechanic that I am aware of in the game, the one that caught my eye, is a balancing mechanism to make sure super-soldier Space Marines can be in the same party with low-level Imperial Guardsmen… it’s basically superhero tiers, like in Domino Writing-style USR. In that game’s case, the Guardsman has enhancements to reach the Marine’s level; in USR, of course, the lower-Tier hero has extra Narrative Points to accomplish the things other characters are expected to do normally.

But what if we added the 40K universe to the USR rules? There’s plenty of reference material — you know what an Adeptus Astartes is, even if you’ve never played any 40K game of any kind — and USR is a great way to tell the expansive variety of stories that can be told in that universe:

  • A down-and-dirty gang war (to show how tough and non-heroic ganger characters are, limit them to 2 Gear Points, take away all their Narrative Points, and roll dice to determine starting Hit Points, like in regular USR);
  • A battle against the ravening ork horde (take a cue from our exploration of tropes, and consider one ork blown away for each point of damage rolled by our heroes); or
  • A struggle between the mighty Space Marines and a daemon of Chaos (the main heroes and villains are at Tier 5 in a setting where the baseline character might be a Tier 2. Also, boost up their armor and weapons: Space Marine armor is probably worth more than a +3, maybe a +4, and Terminator armor is a +5 — higher than that and it will be tough for anyone to score a hit).
You're definitely stretching the rules with Space Marines.
Who doesn’t want to play these guys at least once? (image: Games Workshop)

If you’ve ever read any 40K fiction, or even watched 40K video game cut screens, you’ll know there’s not much to most characters’ personalities: with the exception of a few Imperial Guard characters, everyone in the 40K universe just wants to kill somebody else (usually a lot of somebodies). In a role playing game, characters need to be distinct somehow, to be a “role” you can play. If you don’t want to go too far off the traditional 41st Millennium character type, try Specialisms like “Lone Wolf,” “Carries Big Guns,” or “Quick To Anger” — they offer the right attitude without making the characters much more than traditional 40K killing machines.

Here’s some other Specialisms for 40K: Team Player, Aggressive (all orks), Good With Native Populations, Devoted To His/Her Commander, Natural Leader, Perfect Physical Specimen, Hates Psykers, Lockpicking Tools, Likes Big Explosions, Stealthy, Historian

Who will you be in USR 40K?

USR Wednesdays: Expanded Domains

Domains, sets of spells based on a common theme, are an unbelievably simple way to give a character personality and in-game benefits at the same time. I’ve already introduced domains for Domino Writing-style games, but didn’t offer much in terms of game rules. Here’s one option.

Most domains grant a Domain Die in certain situations. The Domain Die is an additional d6 that’s rolled along with the regular stat die when attempting an action where the domain is relevant. If you’re using the Domino Writing-style superhero rules, the Domain Die is a d10 instead of a d6. A hero can use the Domain Die (or use a domain ability) a number of times equal to twice his her or her level per day. In a game with more powerful characters, a hero can roll the Domain Die as many times as he or she wants, as long as the game master approves.

Air: add the result of the Domain Die to the stat die result when using magic that affects the air, like creating a thunderstorm or pushing someone from a distance using the wind.

A very green sky, apparently.
Harness the power of the sky! (image: WotC, probably)

Most other domains can use the same rule for the types of magic they cover. The domains listed elsewhere in this blog that this applies to are:

Animal, Birth, Chaos, Creation, Darkness, Death, Deceit, Destruction, Earth, Evil, Family, Fire, Freedom, Friendship, Good, Hope, Justice, Law, Life, Light, Love, Nature, Passion, Plant, Protection, Secrets, Storms, Strength, Travel, Water

Community: add the result of the Domain Die to any die roll another character makes, as long as the action that character is making is contributing to building a community (for example, an Ego roll to rally a group of rebels, or an Action roll to secure a kingdom’s long-lost treasure). Combat rolls don’t count: though slaying a roving band of orcs would help the halfling village survive, killing isn’t building community!

Healing: after a battle, roll 2 dice and add them together. That’s the total number of hit points the hero can restore to himself and/or his allies. A character with this domain can only roll once after each battle.

Insanity: once per battle, select one enemy and roll the Domain Die. On an odd number, that enemy does not move or attack for that many turns. On an even number, nothing happens.

Knowledge: add the result of a Domain Die roll to any activity related to learning or what the character already knows, like how to repair a car, or what the hero remembers about the royal family. Most often, of course, these are Wits rolls.

Luck: if the character rolls a 1 on any die roll, flip the die over so it shows its highest result.

Movement: the character can move twice his or her normal speed for a full minute (or for an entire battle in combat).

War: once per battle, the hero can make a second attack immediately after the first, and rolls the Domain Die along with each attack.

Wealth: whenever the character needs money, roll the Domain Die and multiply the result by 5. That’s how many gold coins, credits, or dollars the character is able to come up with at the moment. If the character needs to appear wealthy in high society, add the Domain Die result to an Ego roll.

USR Wednesdays: Breaking The Fourth Wall

The tropes of role playing games can really help when you’re looking to make your game as unbelievably simple as it can be. We’ve already mentioned the archetypes of race and class, which after decades have become shorthand not only for what a character can do, but how he or she is expected to act (you know exactly what a dwarf paladin is as soon as you read the words. Same for half-orc ninja).
But there are other tropes that can shape your game, too, and, depending on the tone you’re going for, can be folded into every game session.

Montage

A movie cliche for years, this is the series of scenes showing the characters getting ready ― training for battle, building the ultimate vehicle, plotting the heist, even going on dates with not-quite-the-right-guy. If all the characters agree to be part of a montage, each one describes what they’re doing during the montage. After the montage, each player gains a +3 to any one die roll related to what was happening in the montage. This can happen only once per game; after all, a montage song is expensive, and the movie studio can’t afford to buy two of them.
The mysterious man in the corner of the tavern told the party about the dragon’s hoard in the nearby cavern. The heroes are gearing up for battle. During the montage, the warrior sharpens his sword and lifts weights, the wizard’s hands crackle with electricity as she practices spells, and the thief slides daggers into his boots. A synth-rock song plays in the background. When the dragon rears its head, the song’s chorus echoes in the cavern. The warrior gains a +3 to his first sword attack against the dragon.

Orc Vs Stormtrooper
Whomever wins, they’re both losers. (image: goodreads.com)

Mooks

Mooks are, of course, the faceless, nameless troops of the bad guy, all in the same outfit: COBRA, Imperial Stormtroopers, orcs, various aliens, etc. They’re meant as more of an obstacle than a threat, a way to introduce action without draining the heroes’ ammunition, powers, or health. The traditional way to represent heroes wiping out armies of mooks is to give them 1 hit point each. If you’re using miniatures rules, you might want to give them 5 hit points each, so they stick around long enough to get placed on the battle mat. For an extra-violent (or extra-silly) take on mooks, a hero’s die roll in combat isn’t compared to the opponent’s defense roll, like it normally is; instead, the attack automatically hits, and the total rolled is the number of mooks annihilated that turn.
The aliens come swarming over the hill as their queen scuttles behind them. The heroes grab their guns and open fire. An Action roll of 6 is enough to defeat the alien’s 4; it falls to the ground. One less beast to deal with.

Deathbed Vow

In a “serious” game, a hero’s death is very final. When the hit points are at zero, it’s time to create a new character. But other settings — superheroes, robots — are meant for heroes who don’t really die. In those kinds of settings, a hero at zero or fewer hit points just falls out of action (unconscious, or simply out of the line of fire, no longer a target for enemies). And a deathbed vow can revive them. Once per game, any hero can give a brief speech while next to or touching a character who’s at zero or fewer hit points. As long as the speech includes phrases like, “He was the best of all of us,” (even if he wasn’t) or, “Your sacrifice will not be forgotten,” the character will immediately regain half his or her total hit points. It’s a special kind of healing that can be done for the victim once per game session (hopefully a character won’t need it that often!).
“Commander! Say something!” called out Private Jackson, leaning over the officer’s bloody body. “You took that bullet for me, I can never repay you…” The commander opened his eyes and reached in his pocket. He pulled out a small Bible with a bullet through the middle. “Always count on the good book, son,” the commander said, and stood up.

Under-equipped or over-equipped

While writing stats for Star Wars and Superhero characters, I discovered something: the “spend 4 Gear Points” character creation rule doesn’t quite apply to movie and comic characters the way it does to RPG heroes. Most screen characters have a single favored weapon, and no armor, especially in modern-day or future settings. Unspent Gear Points are added to Narrative Points, which makes sense, given the amazing things most heroes do regularly. But a game master could also go back to the basic USR rules, and just give characters the equipment that seems appropriate for them. One hero might have a single sword, while his partner carries an entire arsenal of guns ― if the story they’re telling is still fun, there’s no need to “balance” heroes with Gear Points.

What’s your favorite movie montage?

USR Wednesdays: Young and Old Characters

Most characters in adventure fiction (movies, novels, comics, games) are somewhere between age 20 and 40. Thanks to the popularity of young adult fiction ― the “Hunger Games” and “Harry Potters” of the world ― that age range is getting lower. Older characters are getting a little less attention, though for every wise “Obi-Wan“ mentor there’s a still-vibrant older protagonist: think of the “Taken” series, or “The Expendables.”

Older versions of Dungeons & Dragons have rules for younger or older characters, which basically boil down to: older characters have more mental ability but less physical ability, and vice versa. Very young children (under 10) are not playable because they can’t keep up with adult characters. But of course there’s plenty of child-focused action-adventure fiction: “PJ Masks” and “Stranger Things” on TV, Power Pack in the comics.

RPG rules adjusting character stats to account for age do seem to be a thing of the past. So instead let’s look at a few potential settings for young and old heroes.

Kid Supers

Teen superheroes may be tortured with the angst of gaining unique, incredible powers while trying to fit in. But kids actually enjoy having powers: it’s not a burden, it’s a joy. Our kid supers are mutants, born with abilities and living with kind and loving families. No horrifying scientific experiments or orphaned children here; this setting isn’t about grim darkness. These heroes have fun being super, and stopping bank robbers. Our model here is Dash from “The Incredibles.”

Kid Paranormal

Like animals, kids can see the supernatural when adults can’t. They can peer through the mystical illusion created by ghosts which makes them invisible, and the one cast by vampires which hides their undead nature. Kids know the truth; getting adults to believe them is difficult, so a lot of the time they have to stop the monsters on their own. A secondary trope of this genre is the power of belief; a child’s courage or fear is more “pure,” more powerful, than an adult’s, which is tempered by skepticism and being too busy to think about things like monsters. The 1987 movie “The Monster Squad” and Stephen King’s “It” are the models.

In both of these “Kid” settings, the children are as competent as adults, if not more. Giving them lower stats or fewer Specialisms would be a punishment, and not really represent the characters as seen in fiction. Instead, the players should be challenged not by game mechanics, but by societal rules that hamper what they can do. A young character can’t get anywhere he wants to go, unless he can ride his bike there, or get someone older to drive him. A young character isn’t old enough to have a credit card… but she has resources, if she’s good at using the internet (in a setting where it exists).

Eleven is a little more powerful than the others.
Kid Paranormal at its finest. (image: Netflix.com)

Older Heist

A bank robbery or a sting operation is fun to watch on screen ― as long as the team making it happen knows what they’re doing. The best way to guarantee the heist happens like clockwork is to bring in the long-experienced experts. Start characters at level 4 or 5, toward the top of the Domino Writing-style experience track. Pick skill Specialisms like Hacking, Lock Picking, and Getaway Car Driving. The heroes will be able to accomplish almost everything, but remember that the difference between the die roll result and the Target Number can tell the game master how well they accomplish a task: Say there’s a thief making an Action roll against a Target Number of 6, to sneak past the guards. On a result of 12, he gets past them easily. On a result of 7, he still gets past them, but not without making a little noise ― cut to a scene of the guard radioing to his partner that he’s going to investigate a sound (on a result of 4, the guard wouldn’t hesitate, he’d just sprint over to where the thief is).

Royal Intrigue

There’s an old saying: Old age and treachery will always overcome youth and skill. Everyone in a royal court is scheming to increase their power and influence, but it’s the veterans in the palace who have the connections, the money, and the ruthlessness to succeed. A character in this setting should put the d10 in the Ego stat, then follow up with the d8 in Action (for former generals) or in Wits (for master courtiers). Heroes don’t fight the battles; they send poor saps out to do the fighting. A die roll in this setting isn’t about quietly, carefully assassinating a foe ― it’s about how convincing the character is in pretending to grieve the “mysterious death” of a rival the next morning.

How old will your characters be?

USR Wednesdays: Disease

I didn’t post last week because I was really sick, and I’m just now recovering, a week and a half later. Last Wednesday evening I watched the hours slip away, knowing I wouldn’t get in front of the computer that night. But it did inspire this week’s post.

Disease is something that’s not often used in role playing games; in traditional fantasy RPGs it’s no challenge at all, easily overcome with a spell. In contemporary or modern settings, technology like medicine or super-healing machines eliminates disease quickly (not quickly enough for me, unfortunately). No matter what the setting, having a character slowed to a crawl by an illness usually means you can’t tell a fun story… unless you describe it the right way.

Disease As A Weapon

The simplest way to represent disease is as a weapon — think of post-apocalyptic mutants carrying plagues, or evil druids spreading contagion. If an actual weapon, like a tainted sword or corrupt spell, is used to deliver the disease, the attack delivers its normal damage. If that attack is a hit, the effects of the disease also take place, usually a penalty of -1 or -2 to stat rolls: Action (physical illness), Wits (affected mental performance), or Ego (impaired social interaction). The penalty lasts as long as it makes sense in the story.

Bonuses to defend against disease.
The eternally cool and creepy plague doctor. (image: public domain)

Lingering Disease

To represent long-term disease, something that has an impact on a character without interfering with adventuring, try stepping down Hit Points. After the character first contracts the disease, make an Action roll against the Target Number of the disease (usually 7) to fight off its effects. A Specialism like “Very Healthy” or “Antibiotics” could help on the roll. On a failure, the character loses 5 total Hit Points and 5 current Hit Points. If the character’s total Hit Points fall to 0 (zero), he or she is dead. On a successful roll, the disease gets better, and the character regains 5 total Hit Points — but not current Hit Points; he or she still needs recovery time. When the character is back to his or her actual total Hit Points, the disease is completely cured, and no more rolls are needed.

Repeat this disease/healing check as often the game master decides is appropriate; once every two or three days of game time is realistic (that’s how often I felt incrementally better this past week). Extremely intense moments, like combat with “boss” monsters, may call for disease checks too, as the character suffers major strain.

Disease As Adventure

A disease can also be the trigger for the adventure: find the magical fountain of healing, or the special medicinal ingredient located deep in the wilderness. Alternately, the disease could be the villain, where the heroes have to retrieve a vial of lethal plague that was stolen from a medical research lab before it’s released in public, or unrest grows in a war-torn country as doctors struggle around-the-clock to come up with a cure for a deadly disease — can the heroes buy them enough time to do their work?

How will you use disease in your USR adventures?

USR Wednesdays: Armor Closet

Armor has a long tradition in role playing games of being assigned to light, medium, and heavy groups, just like it is in Domino Writing-style USR. The bonus that’s provided is for defensive Action rolls in combat. We can get a little more specific here, though, since we’re really concentrating on making armor distinct without making the rules for it more complex. Depending on the setting, certain kinds of armor may not protect against bullets and/or laser or energy weapons.

Knight's Armor
Plate mail, +3 bonus. He probably doesn’t need the shield. (image: theknightbay.com)

+1 (Light)
Bulletproof Vest: a lightweight coat worn under normal clothing, also a flak jacket.
Leather: a layer of toughened leather or heavy fur, sometimes strengthened with metal studs; also modern-day military flight suits, and even heavy sports equipment.
Shield: made of wood, metal or plastic, a shield is carried in one hand while still giving the attacker room to maneuver.

+2 (Medium)
Chainmail: the standard fantasy body armor, a coat of metal rings over a layer of padding, also bronze Roman-style plate armor.
Heavy Shield: a tall shield that can cover a human head to toe. It’s usually used as a barrier, where the attacker stays fixed in one place and attacks from behind it.
Military: the standard modern-day body armor, thick plastic plates inside flexible, padded clothing.

+3 (Heavy)
Plate Mail: the classic gear of “a knight in shining armor.” Flat steel pieces cover every inch of the warrior’s body, from the top of his head to beneath his feet. This is also the decorative armor of the samurai.
Powered Armor: the most powerful armor available, electronics and mechanical parts (and often weapons) included with the armor almost make it into a vehicle rather than just something to wear.
Riot Gear: heavier than typical military armor, this often includes a full face mask and extra padding on the most vulnerable areas.

USR Wednesdays: Superhero Movie Stars

Deadpool, Level 2, 5 Experience Points, Tier 3
Action D12, Wits D8, Ego D10
Specialisms: Weapon Mastery +2, Fourth Wall Breaking +3, Invulnerable +2
Hit Points: 25
Equipment: Guns +1, Pair of Katana +2
Narrative Points: 4

Deadpool & Black Panther: Movies At War
Is this a clickbait image? Yes, yes it is. (image: quirkybyte.com)

Black Panther, Level 2, 5 Experience Points, Tier 3
Action D12, Wits D10, Ego D8
Specialisms: King Of Wakanda +3, Black Panther Legacy +2, Endurance +2
Hit Points: 27
Equipment: Black Panther costume +2 (both weapon and armor)
Narrative Points: 5

Beast Boy, Level 1, 0 Experience Points, Tier 3
Action D10, Wits D8, Ego D12
Specialisms: Shapechange Into Green Animals +2, Friendly To Everyone +2, Practical Joker +2
Hit Points: 18
Equipment: none
Narrative Points: 7

Darkseid (or Thanos), Level 4, 15 Experience Points, Tier 5
Action D12, Wits D8, Ego D10
Specialisms: Lord Of Apokolips +4, Omega Beams +2, Hatred Of All Life +2
Hit Points: 35
Equipment: none
Narrative Points: 7

USR Wednesdays: Gun Locker

Continuing where we left off last week, we’re turning to firearms and explosives this time around. These weapons add new rules options to Domino Writing-style USR combat.

Ammunition: USR, in any form, is much too unbelievably simple to worry about ammunition. It’s assumed a character has enough ammunition (arrows, bullets, explosive charges) to never run out. But to add a little more challenge to a combat encounter, consider the following option: on an attack roll where the die result is a 1, the weapon has enough ammunition for just a single attack before it will be completely useless (or it jams). The hero won’t have time to refill ammo until it makes sense to do so in the story.

NERF Guns!
Guns everyone can agree on. (image: gadgetreview.com)

Pistol weapons
+1 (Light) weapons: Dueling pistol (1600s to 1800s), needler
+2 (Medium) weapons: Regular pistol (assault pistol or revolver: .357, .38, .44, .45, 9 mm, Wild West “six-shooter,” WWII Mauser), laser pistol

Rifle weapons
+1 (Light) weapons: Matchlock rifle (arquebus), flintlock (musket, blunderbuss)
+2 (Medium) weapons: Carbine (Wild West “buffalo rifle”), WWII infantry rifle
+3 (Heavy) weapons: Hunting/sniper rifle, laser rifle

Ranged weapons
+1 (Light) weapons: Blow gun, bola, boomerang, sling, whip

Area of Effect weapons: When making an attack, the player names an enemy target, as usual. The attack is made with a +2 bonus to Action rolls. But an attack with one of these weapons also affects every other character (enemy and ally) within 5 feet/1 space of the target at a +1 to Action rolls. All of these attacks count as the same action for the attacking character.
The assault rifle, sub-machine gun, shotgun, “Tommy gun,” grenade, and the chain gun/mini-gun (which has a +3/+2 bonus) are all Area of Effect weapons.

Flamethrower: This is an Area of Effect weapon, which it continues to burn anything it hits, possibly causing more damage on the next turn.

Bombs and dynamite are Area of Effect weapons, but they’re also explosives. A weapon that is on a timer doesn’t rely on a hero’s skill to make an attack. Instead, treat a bomb like it has an Action stat of d10, “attacking” whenever it’s set to detonate. To disarm a bomb, a hero has to make a non-opposed Wits roll against a target number of 7 or more — and make sure the disarm attempt is appropriately tense!

Stun gun, taser: This is a special weapon that has a +1 bonus to attack, and if it hits, the opponent loses d3 turns in combat instead of taking damage. These rules can also be used for entangling weapons like nets, webs, and even whips and vines.

Tranquilizer gun: A larger version of a stun gun, with darts that attack with a +1 bonus. If the target is hit, the opponent loses d6 turns in combat instead of taking damage.

Chemicals: A chemical, whether coating a sword blade or fired from a grenade launcher, has an effect above and beyond the damage the weapon does to its target, if any.

  • Acid: d6 points of damage.
  • Nerve gas or tear gas: the opponent has -4 to his or her next die roll.
  • Poison: 1 point of damage per turn until the target is healed.
  • Sleep drug: the opponent loses d3 turns in combat.
  • Smoke gas: the opponent is unable to see on his or her next turn.

Even bigger guns, like a rocket launcher, bazooka, pulse rifle, and rail gun, may not be available to heroes to buy with Combat Gear points. If they are, the weapons probably provide a bonus of +4 or even +5.