USR Wednesdays: Animal Heroes

Not long ago, I released a series of archetypes for animal-folk, from apes to wolves. I called them animal-folk because I was thinking of bipedal creatures, basically humans in animal costumes, with maybe one or two of the real animal’s natural abilities.

But there’s another way to role play animal heroes: as actual animals who can talk. They don’t interact with humans (except maybe that one special human) but they can talk with one another. Animated movies like “Ratatoullie” and “The Secret Lives Of Pets” or novels like “Watership Down” or “Animal Farm” fit the bill. And even Aslan, the lion of “The Chronicles Of Narnia” books, is this type of character, though he’s more of a special fantasy race than part of a talking animal setting.

Dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria!
A classic VHS and perfect for this type of setting. (image: Disney.com)

The animal-folk archetypes work just as well for animal hero games: strong, tough, or sneaky animals should have Action as their stat with a D10, while clever, scheming characters can make their best stat Wits or Ego. The major changes are in combat.

An animal hero only uses the highest value of its Action stat to determine its starting Hit Points (so it would be 10, 8, or 6).

Also, animals don’t normally carry equipment — yes, a knight’s warhorse wore armor and had a lance mounted on it, but it was to help the knight accomplish his goals, not for the horse to fight on its own. So animal heroes don’t get Combat Gear Points, nor the bonus Narrative Points regular heroes earn for not spending all 4 Combat Gear Points.

This means animal heroes are weaker than human adventurers, which makes sense for the genre (humans rarely enter the story, and if they do, they’re as an all-powerful master or threat). The exception to this is super-pets, like Superman’s dog Krypto or He-Man’s Battle Cat. They’re somewhere between ordinary animal heroes and normal heroes. Krypto, being a Kryptonian dog, should have a d12 Action, and the Flight Specialism. Battle Cat has +2 Magic Armor and +1 Claws.

Since the characters are weaker, the game master needs to tone down the level of challenge in the adventure, too. Crossing a rushing river might take an Action roll to leap over it, or a Wits roll to build a makeshift bridge in an ordinary game. In an animal hero game, though, lashing together a few branches is impossible! The players will have to come up with something different. And a confrontation with a wild raccoon, not even a combat encounter in an ordinary adventure game, could be a major fight sequence with animal heroes.

USR Wednesdays: Characters For Every Game

This week, I’ll look a back at some of my recent rules and settings and provide characters for them.

Tournament Fighting and Wrestling
Ryu, Level 1, 0 Experience Points
Action D10, Wits D8, Ego D6
Specialisms: Focused On Training +2, Barely-Contained Dark Side +2, Strong But Silent +2
Hit Points: 18
Equipment: none
Narrative Points: 7

Combat Maneuvers

+0 Punch
Block

+1 Side Kick
+2 Hurricane Kick
+3 Hadoken Fireball
+3 Dragon Punch

Hadouken!
Believe it or not, I couldn’t find a picture of all three characters together. Here’s Ryu. (image: capcom.com)

Animal-Folk
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

Hijinx
Elvis, Level 1, 0 Experience Points
Action D6, Wits D8, Ego D10
Specialisms: The King, Baby +2, Ballad Singer +2, Party-Time Fun Singer +2
Hit Points: 14
Equipment: Microphone, Guitar, Sequin Jumpsuit
Narrative Points: 7

USR Wednesdays: Animal-Folk Part II

Fish
Primary Stat: Action
Suggested Specialisms (3): Swim And Breathe Underwater, Quick Reflexes, Explore The Depths

Frog
Primary Stat: Action
Suggested Specialisms (3): Prehensile Tongue, Leap, Disguise

Hawk
Primary Stat: Action
Suggested Specialisms (3): Flight, Sharp Eyesight, Noble

Alcoholism is probably not a Specialism.
Best for an Ego-based adventure, instead of an Action-based one, probably. (image: netflix.com)

Horse
Primary Stat: Action
Suggested Specialisms (3): Endurance, Running, Handsome

Insect
Primary Stat: Wits
Suggested Specialisms (3): Wall-Crawling, Annoying Harassment, Agility

Lizard
Primary Stat: Action
Suggested Specialisms (3): Camouflage, Sharp Teeth, Sinister