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.

USR Wednesdays: Weapons Rack

Though weapons and armor can be worth any bonus — in Domino Writing-style USR, they’re +1 (Light) to +3 (Heavy) — some equipment is typically bigger and badder than others. Here’s a weapon catalog to get your hero armed and dangerous, of archaic weapons. Look for guns and armor soon. This list of weapons is taken from an old role playing game I wrote years and years ago, which had a few good ideas in it, I think!

No bonus: kicks, punches, headbutts
Martial arts training offers a bonus of +1 (ninja mook) to +3 (black belt)

Archery weapons
+1 (Light) weapons: Slingshot
+2 (Medium) weapons: Crossbow, longbow
+3 (Heavy) weapons: Composite bow

Blade weapons
+1 (Light) weapons: Dagger (knife), cavalry saber, fencing sword (rapier, epee)
+2 (Medium) weapons: Hatchet (pick, tomahawk), laser sword, longsword, polearm (scythe, halberd), scimitar, short sword (cutlass, machete), spear
+3 (Heavy) weapons: Battle axe, chainsaw, greatsword, pike (lance)

Sword Rack
Look at all these +2s! (image: kultofathena.com)

Blunt weapons
+1 (Light) weapons: Brawling weapons (brass knuckles, chain, large rock), club (baseball bat, cricket bat, baton), staff
+2 (Medium) weapons: Flail, mace, hammer
+3 (Heavy) weapons: Great hammer (maul)

Stun baton: This is a special weapon, which like other clubs has a +1 bonus to attack, but if it hits, the opponent loses d3 turns in combat.

Martial Arts weapons
+1 (Light) weapons: Caltrops, sai, throwing star (shuriken)
+2 (Medium) weapons: Katana, nunchaku

P.S.: since you’re looking for it to complete the set, the bo is a staff (blunt +1 weapon).

USR Wednesdays: Tai-Rikuji

Tai-Rikuji, or Sun Land, is the home of the People, the farmers, merchants, soldiers and nobles of an island nation that rules the world — or at least all of the world they can see. For thousands of years, the great kingdom of Tai-Rikuji covered the length and breadth of the land, from the ice-covered mountains in the north to the dense, sweaty jungle in the south. They used spirit magic to control nature and sometimes settle disputes among one another, but nothing serious: there was never a revolution, nor civil war in the land. The Tai-Rikujin, the People, were safe, happy, and productive, until some 100 years ago, when the first ships of the foreigners landed on the eastern shore.

At first they seemed like friends, willing to trade goods and bring new learning to Tai-Rikuji. But the dream of peaceful harmony ended quickly. The strangers brought new weapons, deadly guns and massive tanks, but they weren’t necessary. The strange men and women from over the Great Sea had their own horrifying secret: they were half human and half beast. They called themselves werewolves and wererats, wereboars and werejaguars, shapechangers of every kind. The People just called them Yonaka, the Night Creatures.

Some of the Yokana slaughtered the Tai-Rikuji, while others tricked them, stealing their land or claiming thrones for their own. The People learned to fight back with the Yonaka’s own weapons and their own magical powers… though some find becoming Night Creatures themselves is the best way to win the war.

Tai-Rikujin Clans
The Clans and their symbols. That last one is the horse. (image: dreamstime.com)

Archetypes

The classic fantasy hero types all have a place in Tai-Rikuji, though there are no elves, dwarves, or any non-humans (except lycanthropes). The setting is a fantasy Japan, so the warriors are samurai and ninja, the sorcerers meditate to regain spells, and healers touch pressure points to cure wounds. Thematically, spells reflect the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac: a straightforward attack spell might be called “Tiger Claws,” while a spell that lets the caster see into the future could be named “Eyes Of The Rabbit.”

New Rules

The Tai-Rikuji setting uses the Influence rule in two ways.

Honor is something all characters and NPCs have. It starts at +1 for the Tai-Rikuji, and -1 for most Yonaka. It raises when a character does something helpful and good, and drops when a character harms another without reason, or takes an action that ultimately damages his friends and family — physically, socially, or otherwise. Deciding on what is and isn’t an honorable action is a big part of any adventure in the setting. Influence maxes out at +3 or -3, and a character at either of those ratings gains a special ability. Here’s a few examples:

  • Blast: The character can fire a pulse of raw energy, swelling with good or evil light (depending on the character’s Honor), that does 1d6 damage in addition to the regular damage applied when making an attack.
  • Aura: The character sends out a wave of mystic power, making allies stronger (+1 to their next action) or making enemies cower and fail at a die roll.
  • Elemental Control: The character can ask the spirits of the land for aid (for Honorable characters) or bend them to his will (for Dishonorable characters). He can walk on water, pass through fire without even a cinder, or crush stone into dust.

Influence is also used as Faction Specialisms; in the Tai-Rikuji setting, factions are clans of Tai-Rikujin, torn apart and suspicious of one another thanks to the plotting of the Yonaka. Like spells, the clans use the 12 animals of the zodiac — the Rooster Clan is reliable and firm in its decisions, while the Monkey Clan is clever and sly, sneaking and scheming to rid themselves of the Yonaka, and the other troublesome clans. A character with a +1 or more with a clan can call on its members for support: supplies, troops, whatever the clan can offer.

What stories will you tell in the world of the Tai-Rikuji?

 

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.

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.