USR Wednesdays: Two Adventures

Fantasy Intrigue

With inspiration from RPG writer Ryan Macklin. Ask of each character:

  • What does he or she want? (That could be to change something or to maintain the status quo. Don’t fight for change 100% of the time).
  • Why can they not just have that? (That could be adversity, incomplete needs, a bit of both).
  • Point to another character when answering these questions (either or both of them).
  1. Quest giver: The heroes are a team of bodyguards hired by the local lord to protect his cousin and superior, the duke. The duke came to your city with his own set of guards — you are backup. The duke is kind but cheap, and his guards aren’t very loyal. You are paid well by the lord.
  2. Early encounter: While out hunting, the duke wanders off and is attacked by a monster. His guards flee or are killed in the battle.
  3. Clue to final confrontation: Searching the bodies of the monsters, you find the mark of a wizard from your city. If the bodies aren’t searched, indications of a spy watching the battle are noticed by one of the heroes or an ally.
  4. Secondary encounter or challenge: With the threat to his life, the duke is confined to the castle until the lord conducts an investigation. The heroes are assigned to the investigation and head to the wizard’s tower. An illusion of him appears to speak with the characters, and when they ask him about the monsters, he disappears and sends them into a portal to battle a monster.
  5. Secondary challenge or encounter (the opposite): Escaping the battle, the characters rush back to warn their lord and the duke of the treasonous wizard. But the wizard emerges from the shadows to the surprise of the heroes and the duke. The lord and wizard have conspired together to overthrow the duke, and the heroes weren’t supposed to get this far.
  6. Final boss: The wizard fires spells at the heroes. For an extra challenge, the lord can be a skilled warrior or even a shapechanged monster like a doppleganger or a lycanthrope. If the heroes win the battle, the duke rewards them by inviting them to his court… and a smaller than expected reward.
A land cleared of vegetation. And for what?
Blight on her way to the scene of the crime.

Superhero

This is a classic “team of heroes vs. a villain”-type story.

  1. Quest giver: Each hero is in their secret (or public) identity when they see a news report or get an alert that the First National Bank has been robbed in broad daylight, and millions in bills and paper securities has been taken.
  2. Early encounter: A trail of destruction leads the heroes to an abandoned steel-mining factory on the east side of the city. Inside is Catastrophe, the Mountain of Muscle, and/or Commander Pulsar, who fires beams of solid light. They’re ready for a fight.
  3. Clue to final confrontation: Only some of the stolen cash can be found in the factory, in a pile that Catastrophe and Commander Pulsar were building. The rest is being carried away on long, withered vines — the sign of Blight, the Queen of Pollution.
  4. Secondary encounter or challenge: The heroes know McArthur Park is where Blight usually makes her hideout. Getting to her is difficult, with dozens of traps and plant-based minions in the way.
  5. Secondary challenge or encounter (the opposite): Blight is in the park, as expected, but she’s not hoarding the money. Instead, she’s transformed the paper fibers in the cash and securities into a giant plant creature that joins her in the battle.
  6. Final boss: Blight and her monster have to be defeated together before she can, of course, be sent to jail.

USR Wednesdays: Cool Cars

It was so much fun bringing back spells last week that I’m going to pull another one out of the archives… vehicles. We visited the 4A setting not long ago, and that’s all about cool cars. Vehicles have hit points and an armor bonus (which is also the total bonus of weapons they can carry). It was suggested on the USR discussion group that vehicles also have a Handling rating, on top of the Target Numbers established for a maneuver. Makes sense as a Specialism:

  • Bikes: +2 Handling
  • Small Cars, Large Cars, Small Trucks: +0 Handling
  • Large Trucks: -2 Handling

A Civic (Small Car) and an Expedition (Small Truck) perform about the same at high speed while dodging bullets, at least in fiction. You might want to add a few categories here if you’re really getting detailed with your cars. A Mustang or Camaro probably has a +1 or +2 Handling, while a rickety old truck has at least a -2 Handling.

Most comic book ones are pretty good, too.
What I think of first when I think of the Batmobile.

Batmobile (Large Car)

+4 Armor, 20 Hit Points

+1 missiles, grappling hook, and I’m going to boost its armor rating above a standard Large Car because it’s often portrayed as super, super durable.

General Lee (Small Car)

+2 Armor, 15 Hit Points

Let’s give this one a +1 to Handling because of all its jumps and swerves. It’s pretty large to be considered a Small Car, but it’s known more for its ability to move than its ability to take a hit.

Pursuit Special (Large Car)

+3 Armor, 20 Hit Points

Mad Max’s car isn’t armed itself, but it carries a lot of riders who have weapons.

Aston Martin DB5 (Small Car)

+2 Armor, 15 Hit Points

James Bond’s signature ride has +1 machine guns and +1 tire slashers, plus an ejection seat and a few other gadgets that will come in handy just in time (part of Bond’s Super Spy Specialism?).

Hell Cycle (Bike)

+1 Armor, 10 Hit Points

The flaming tires are the most memorable part of Ghost Rider’s demonic vehicle (traditionally — more recent Ghost Riders drive cars) and they provide a +1 attack bonus.

USR Wednesdays: DC Superheroes

We’ve touched on Marvel’s heroes before, but what about DC’s? These versions are, like most traditional superheroes, at Tier 3, and blend the best of each version of the character (comics, movies, animation, and so on).

trinity - USR Wednesdays: DC Superheroes
Truly iconic.

Superman, Level 4, 15 Experience Points, Tier 4
Action D12, Wits D10, Ego D8
Specialisms: Super-Strength +4, Journalist +2, Role Model To All +3
Hit Points: 37
Equipment: Invulnerable +3 (not equipment, but used in combat)
Narrative Points: 6

Batman, Level 3, 10 Experience Points, Tier 3
Action D10, Wits D12, Ego D8
Specialisms: World’s Greatest Detective +2, Wealthy Sponsor Of Gotham City And Superheroes +2, Obsessive Hunter +2, Bat-Gadgets (Free-Form Specialism) +2
Hit Points: 32
Equipment: Martial Arts Expert +2, Batarangs +1, Grappling Hook
Narrative Points: 3

Robin, Level 1, 0 Experience Points, Tier 1
Action D12, Wits D10, Ego D8
Specialisms: Detective In Training +2, Friend To Other Superheroes +2, Teetering On The Dark Side +2
Hit Points: 22
Equipment: Martial Arts +2, Staff +1
Narrative Points: 8

Wonder Woman, Level 2, 5 Experience Points, Tier 3
Action D12, Wits D8, Ego D10
Specialisms: Princess Of Themyscira +2, Representing The Power Of Women +2, Always Does The Right Thing +3
Hit Points: 25
Equipment: Sword +2, Deflecting Bracelets +2
Narrative Points: 3

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: 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

Microlite 20: Power Packages

I finished that project I started back in the fall. The one thing that most superhero RPGs have that Microlite 20 Costumes didn’t is a list of power packages, or combinations of abilities and skills ready to plug in to an existing template. Microlite 20 Costumes features six templates, generic character types at different levels:

  • Pulp (level 4)
  • Street Level (level 6)
  • Sidekick (level 8)
  • Typical (level 10)
  • Advanced (level 12)
  • Superior (level 15)

Each leaves between 20 and 90 Power Points available to spend on powers and abilities. And with the new Power Packages collection, you can pick your favorite power set, adjust them for number of Power Points you have to spend, and go. No need for a lot of math to calculate your superhero. Here’s the Power Packages available:

  1. Aquatic
  2. Battlesuit
  3. Brick
  4. Construct
  5. Cosmic
  6. Demon
  7. Duplicator
  8. Elemental Controller
  9. Energy Blaster
  10. Gimmick
  11. Jungle Lord
  12. Lucky
  13. Martial Artist
  14. Mimic
  15. Mind Controller
  16. Paragon
  17. Plant Avatar
  18. Psychic
  19. Rage Monster
  20. Secret Agent
  21. Shape Shifter
  22. Size Changer
  23. Sorcerer
  24. Space Explorer
  25. Speedster
  26. Stretcher
  27. Summoner
  28. Teleporter
  29. Vigilante Detective
  30. Weapon Master

That covers most of the superheroes found in the Big Two’s books, and makes getting started with Microlite 20 Costumes a lot quicker. The Power Packages are a separate document from the Costumes rules, though found in the same place here on the web site. Next up: a little road-testing of these rules, with an all-out superhero slugfest brought to life on the tabletop.