Wednesday, June 7, 2017

USR: Archetypes: Modern-Day Heroes

Last time we looked at the classic fantasy races and classes. Now let’s move into modern-day action and adventure settings. Everyone’s human (usually), but the range of skills heroes need to succeed is bigger. These archetypes cover a lot of ground; a sneak, for example, can represent a James Bond-style spy, a Jason Bourne-style secret agent, or even a Jake Gittes-style private eye.

Or these dudes. (image: YouTube)

Primary Stat: Ego
Suggested Specialisms: Charm, Negotiate, Language, Leadership, Etiquette
Suggested Equipment: none

Primary Stat: Ego
Suggested Specialisms: Art (music, oratory, writing, etc.), Charisma, Athletics, Hundreds (Possibly Millions) Of Fans, Target Of Paparazzi
Suggested Equipment: Musical instrument

Primary Stat: Wits
Suggested Specialisms: Repair, Invent, Hacking, Works Best Alone, Focused On The Task At Hand
Suggested Equipment: Miscellaneous Gadgets, Tools

Primary Stat: Action
Suggested Specialisms: Driving, Flying, Repair, Adrenaline Junkie, Team Player
Suggested Equipment: Vehicle (if there’s more than one character with a vehicle in the party, maybe they have one big vehicle, like a space cruiser)

Primary Stat: Wits
Suggested Specialisms: Knowledge (in one topic), Dedication, Bravery, Support Of A University or a Military Organization
Suggested Equipment: Computer, Library Of Books

Primary Stat: Action
Suggested Specialisms: Move Silently, Sleight Of Hand, Hacking, Disguise, Hide, Spot Clues
Suggested Equipment: Lock Pick (possibly an electronic one)

Primary Stat: Action
Suggested Specialisms: Endurance, Intimidate, Leadership, Toughness, Military Tactics
Suggested Equipment: Guns, Knives

Which archetypes are best for the modern world?

Thursday, June 1, 2017

USR: Archetypes - Meet the Big Four

In USR, concepts like class and race are found in the form of archetypes, suggestions for ways to simulate character types long-time roleplayers are familiar with. In Halberd, the predecessor to Tequindria, a lot of the classic fantasy archetypes made an appearance. 

Archetypes aren’t a requirement, just a tool to help you visualize your character better. Every USR setting will probably have its own archetypes (Tequindra does). They’re a good way to get a feel for the kind of characters that would appear in that setting, even if your character stands out as someone different. 

Archetypes for elves, wizards and fighters can be found below.
Source: Wizards of the Coast originally, I think.

Since I’m using my Domino Writing-style version of USR, I’m going to make a few changes to better fit my version of the game. Here’s how they break down:

Primary Stat: This is the stat (Action, Wits, Ego) that should be assigned the d10, or d12 if using superhero rules. It’s not a requirement, but emphasizing that stat is the quickest way to simulate most familiar character types. That said, a really buff wizard (with a d10 in Action) would be a unique take on the spellcaster! Some archetypes have a primary stat of “Any” — the archetype doesn’t call for any specific stat to be favored. Just take your pick, like in the normal rules.

Suggested Specialisms: Several common skills, abilities or powers characters of the archetype usually have. You don’t have to take all three, or even any, of your specialisms from this list, but it’s a good starting point. In Domino Writing-style USR, a character’s combat skills are represented with their gear, so combat specialisms won’t be common. For example, an archer will have a Bow weapon rather than a Ranged Attack or Archery specialism. Also, Domino Writing-style USR doesn’t assign Specialisms to stats; you’ll have to do that yourself. I just represented supernatural powers as a Specialism, since USR has several different magic systems, which are worth looking at in another blog post.

Suggested Equipment: This includes weapons and armor, though you’ll have to decide on their value (Light/Medium/Heavy), depending on how you picture your character, and how many Combat Gear points you have available. It also includes signature tools of the trade, such as a spellbook or thief’s tools. It doesn’t include money; assume your character has enough “pocket change” or credit for any ordinary purchase, unless the GM says something different, of course. It also doesn’t include everything a character would be carrying (ordinary clothes, a bedroll, etc.), just the stuff that makes the character a hero.

Here’s a few examples, the classic “Big 4” races and classes, with a lot borrowed from Halberd.

Primary Stat: Action
Suggested Specialisms: Mining, Brewing, Tough, Leadership, Appraise Valuables, Forge Weapons and Armor
Suggested Equipment: Battle Axe or War Hammer, Armor, Repair Tools, Mug of Ale

Primary Stat: Wits
Suggested Specialisms: Woods Lore, Magic Knowledge, Aloof, Move Silently, Alluring
Suggested Equipment: Long Bow, Cloak of Invisibility

Primary Stat: Any
Suggested Specialisms: Blacksmithing, Inventing, Leadership, Persuasion, Trying New Things, Sailing, Riding, Driving
Suggested Equipment: none

Primary Stat: Ego
Suggested Specialisms: Sneak, Hide, Charm, Bargain, Singing
Suggested Equipment: Short Sword, Food

Primary Stat: Wits
Suggested Specialisms: Healing, Religion, Nature, Charisma, Inspiration
Suggested Equipment: Holy Symbol, Mace, Armor

Primary Stat: Action
Suggested Specialisms: Athletics, Strong, Military Tactics, Leadership, Intimidation, Riding
Suggested Equipment: Sword, Shield, Armor, Dagger, Crossbow

Primary Stat: Action
Suggested Specialisms: Sneak, Climb, Escape, Disarm Trap, Pick Lock, Disguise, Charming
Suggested Equipment: Dagger, Thief’s Tools, Poison Vial

Primary Stat: Wits
Suggested Specialisms: Spell-casting, Identify Magic Item, Monster Lore, History, Create Magical Item, Research
Suggested Equipment: Staff, Spellbook, Dagger

This is a starting point; there will be more archetypes to come, as we build up the range of settings available for USR.

Which archetypes have you created?

Friday, May 26, 2017

New Games

As promised, I've updated a few of my older games, albeit with not a lot of playtesting. So, if you play them, let me know how they work. They're on my website.

Monsters Menace Monopoly: This takes the traditional game and adds giant monsters and hordes. Send your giant lizard and your ninja clan to conquer St. James Place and the Water Works. I'll update the abilities of player tokens as Hasbro updates the pieces that Monopoly comes with. The goal was to create a game using a minimum of outside material that was a lot more fun than actual Monopoly. Paper money is a pain to keep track of, and all those little plastic houses and hotels just demand that someone wander through and crush them.

Plastic Attack: I walk past the action figure sections in the toy store and FLGS; what's the point, any figure you buy just sits there. Miniatures can at least be used in gaming. I do have rules for different sizes of figure in my Very Simple Generic Miniatures Game document. But Plastic Attack is quicker, more of a convention game. Plus, the figures don't even have to be the same scale — it really is about as all-encompassing as a game can be.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

I Am In A Book!

Now I have my second published RPG credit. The first was years ago, in what Seraphim Games called Super Agents (and what I called Agents and Assassins) for the FASERIP revision 4C, where I adapted the superhero rules for secret agent-types. There was some of that in Marvel Super Heroes, the game that FASERIP is based on (pre-Watcher Nick Fury, SHIELD in general), but I tried to be more broad and cover everyone from Buffy to Bond, and to fix a few of the rules in 4C that didn't work.

Like this, but I didn't have vehicle rules.

This time, I'm the winner of the create-a-character contest for Spectrum Games' Cartoon Action Hour Season 3. Specifically for Warriors Of The Cosmos, the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe homage setting book. I created Bubblor, a gum-themed hero, as in, "the action figure would have had a scratch-n-sniff patch on its chest that smells like baseball card bubble gum." It's a classic piece of 1980s childhood nostalgia (I had plenty of those pink planks) and a gimmick that isn't otherwise in the Cartoon Action Hour game.

They were almost always broken. And they tasted awful.
Of course, there are plenty of my games on my website, and that's where I'll be putting out more content in the future. But it's fun to see a few things out in "the wild." If you're playing 4C, or Cartoon Action Hour, or Microlite 20, or USR, or any of my other games, let me know what you think! I'm always interested in feedback.

Monday, May 15, 2017


As I get back to working on my blog more often, it's prompting me to take another look at my games. The role playing games will get special attention, since I have a lot of ideas for Microlite 20 and USR. They're not dead games, especially since the latter just got a new book from its creator and the former is part of the d20 system, designed to never die (just look at Pathfinder).

So I'm going to look more at the other games I've put together, like Monsters Menace Monopoly, Plastic Attack and Mutant Hunter. Are those the best rules sets they could be? I "eyeball" my rules a lot, and don't actually get people together to test them all that often. Solo playing games designed for multiple, competitive players, doesn't always work. This is an ongoing project, but I can at least provide a more up-to-date version of the rules for people to enjoy.

Plus, I have hundreds of miniatures and dozens of maps, let's make use of them somehow.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Tequendria: Our Heroes

So, the creator of Unbelievably Simple Roleplaying, Scott Malthouse, has released a new USR-based game, Tequendria, inspired by the works of Lord Dunsany, which I have not read (I did start "The King Of Elfland's Daughter" thanks to Project Gutenberg).

A Dunsany-inspired game isn't a Tolkien-inspired one, and as a result there's no dwarf fighters or halfling clerics in this game. All characters can use magic, and the free-form style of USR means you don't need the traditional D&D-based races and classes. So, instead of a cleric/fighter/rogue/wizard team, let's create a more Tequendria-style adventuring party.

Because heroes who have access to intriguing ways to get around should be able to use them, we'll include Aethership, where our heroes can cruise toward adventure.

Bramwell: He's a bold young sailor, whose imagination was captured the moment he saw his first Aethership soaring high above the small farm where he grew up. He loves exploring and finding new decorations for his ship, and meeting new people along the way.

Bramwell, Aethership Pilot
Action D8, Wits D10, Ego D6
Hit Points: 9
Specialisms: Aethership (Action), Navigator (Wits), Mechanic (Wits)

Equipment: 50 shards, telescope, goggles, duster jacket, short sword
Ability: Aether navigator

While the tales of Lord Dunsany aren't about wandering around, slaughtering thousands of nameless foes, there's a need now and again for a little muscle. And so we have a warrior.

Nohote: She is no stoic killer, but instead a friend to everyone. She has weapons, and knows how to use them, but prefers to out-think her enemies instead of strike them down. She takes great pride in making her foes surrender without a blade pulled or a bow fired.

Nohote, Tulthian Warrior
Action: D10, Wits D8, Ego D6
Hit Points: 9
Specialisms: Athletics (Action), Speed (Action), Tactics (Wits)
Equipment: 10 shards, Tulthian totem (a giant eagle's talon), lucky magma stone, leather armor, short bow, 10 arrows, light mace
Ability: Mighty

Every good fantasy adventure needs a warrior — and a wizard. Since Tequendrian characters can use any kind of magic, we don't need a dedicated healer or blaster as most fantasy games do. We can instead go for the most interesting character for the story.

Khiok: To use his Icur magic, he has to be in the presence of three or more people. They don't have to be human, and they don't have to know he's working his magic, at least until they feel the pull of their souls. That makes him effective in royal courts, where he "encourages" rulers to follow his instructions, and on the battlefield, where stone and flame appear from thin air. He tries not to seem devious and sinister when he does so, but sometimes, he just can't help himself.

Khiok, Icur Sorcerer
Action: D8, Wits: D10, Ego: D6
Hit Points: 9
Specialims: Ancient Lore (Wits), Mountaineering (Action), Religion (Wits)
Equipment: 30 shards, incense sticks, jet bracelet, half mask
Ability: Icur

I don't know about you, but I can picture Nohote and Khiok aboard a ship piloted by Bramwell, coming to dock outside the Hills of Hap. It seems they've heard about a long-lost treasure chest holding enough shards to finally pay off the merchant who's loaning an Aethership to Bramwell...

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Microlite 20 Character Generators

One of the reasons I don't play games like Pathfinder or Rifts often is because they're very statistics-heavy. There's lots of numbers, lots of names, and stuff you have to look up in several different places. Spells, for example: a character sheet may list the names of spells, but (for space reasons as much as copyright ones) there's no description of the spell's effects there. Players have to turn to an entirely different piece of paper — or more often, a book. Kind of reduces the effect of having the entire character on one page.

Microlite 20 doesn't avoid that problem, as spell-casting characters can use any spell, as long as they have the hit points to pay for it. A character could just list signature spells with a brief, Microlite 20-style spell description. That's also why there's pre-generated spell lists (page 25 of Ultimate Microlite Fantasy) and the starter spells (on pages 26 and 27).

It's also why I created the character generator templates, simple Excel spreadsheets that calculate most of the numbers you need to get your character ready to play. There's one for Fantasy and Modern-Day games, and another for Costumes, which calculates the number of Power Points you have to spend.

As the instructions state, you type in the numbers in the purple and blue boxes, and write down the final results listed in the purple and red boxes. Just add description (race, class, equipment, etc.), and you're ready to go. It saves time on the math and makes sure you have all the bonuses and advantages your character should have, which of course can be unwieldy in a d20 System-based game.

Let's walk through character creation in my most popular game, Microlite 20 Costumes. Here's our hero, Remarkable Man, who is not unlike another well-known superhero, the first one ever.

Remarkable Man is Superman, okay?
I don't want to violate copyright law, so I'll just "suggest" who I mean.

1. Level and Power Points: As noted in the Microlite 20 Costumes rules, Remarkable Man's inspiration is a level 15 (superior) hero. That goes in cell B1 and results in 225 Power Points.

2. Races and Classes: Remarkable Man is an ordinary Earth human, who gained his powers in, oh, let's say a lab accident. No aliens here.

3. Stats: Remember, stats above 19 count as powers, so we'll plug that in here and also note it as powers in step 4. He's super-strong. Also remember that stats cost Power Points, unlike other Microlite 20 games.

4. Powers: We already have Super-Strength accounted for. Let's see, our role model has Flight, Energy Blast (two kinds: heat and freezing), Invulnerability (multiple forms), Super-Speed, Tunnel (probably) and X-Ray Vision. And that's the normal list, not even considering all the variations from space rocks or Silver Age comics! Remarkable Man has the big ones, like Flight at rank 15, Energy Blast (heat) at rank 10, Invulnerability (ordinary weapons) at rank 15, and X-Ray Vision at rank 10.

5. Gadgets, Limits and Magic: None for Remarkable Man! He's powerful enough.

6. Skills: In his day job as a mild-mannered... well, no one pays reporters any more, so we'll say he does social media marketing. A skill has a maximum rank of level +5 (20 for our hero). We'll split his 3 Free Bonus as 1 in Knowledge and 2 in Communication. We'll add a little bit in Physical, Knowledge and Communication. Other heroes handle the stealthy stuff.

7. Combat: We're getting to the end of our character generator, with just a few points left to spend (remember, financial status is still out there). He already has the Invulnerability power, but we'll boost his Armor Class to about the same as his Melee/Hand-To-Hand attack bonus, and we'll push up his woeful Initiative bonus.

8. Financial Status and Equipment: A red, blue and yellow costume comes at no cost, and we'll pretend social media marketing pays well enough for a Comfortable status (no points).

9. Flaws: Our inspiration has his weakness to cosmic rocks, usually green, but Remarkable Man doesn't need more Power Points. No flaws for him; plenty while playing the character, but none on the character sheet.

All that leaves us with 8 Power Points, which are dropped into Hit Points. So here's Remarkable Man, as determined using the character calculator:

Level 15
STR 25 (+7), DEX 18 (+4), MIND 16 (+3)
Physical 17, Subterfuge 15, Knowledge 17, Communication 18
Flight 15, Energy Blast (heat) 10, Invulnerability (ordinary weapons) 15, X-Ray Vision 10
Hit Points 97, Initiative +7, Melee/Hand-To-Hand +22, Missile/Ranged +19, Magic/Supernatural +18, Armor Class 27
Heroism Points 10, Financial Status Comfortable

Voila! A superhero character ready to play, without too much cross-referencing and confusion.

(image: Robert Linder)

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

M20: Indiana Jones

This past weekend, I was at a convention (covering it for a magazine: two interests at once!), where the main activity was the local chapter of the Pathfinder Society, some two dozen games or so. There's also plenty of d20 activity happening, like Paizo's upcoming "Starfinder" and a steady stream of 5e books. So, let's revisit our version of the d20 system, Microlite.
I'm not changing anything; the newest and best versions of each rules set (except for Purest Essence itself) are on my website. Instead, I plan to continue to update options, adding more character classes and races, creating more rules, and bringing what I call "famous" characters to the Microlite 20 experience. For example, let's take another look at an old classic:

Indiana Jones (Henry Jones, Jr.)
As of: End of “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”
Uses Microlite 20: Modern-Day (late historical era)
Level: 13
Species, Focus and Special Abilities: Human, Intellect Focus, Research, Quick Draw, Combat Style (Melee/Hand-To-Hand) +2, Combat Style (Missile/Ranged) +2, Connections (6 times per day), Lucky (3 times per day)
STR: 15 (+2)
DEX: 13 (+1)
MIND: 18 (+4)
Physical: 16
Subterfuge: 10
Knowledge: 21 
Communication: 12
Technology: 9
Hit Points: 67
Armor Class: 20
Initiative: +7
Melee/Hand-to-Hand Attack Bonus: +15
Missile/Ranged Attack Bonus: +14
Magic/Supernatural Attack Bonus: +17
Financial Status: Comfortable
Equipment: Leather Armor, Whip, Machine Pistol, Fedora

This is a straightforward translation of a well-known hero, perfectly ready to play, or inspire the creation of similar heroes. Does seeing classic characters in game terms help your game night, or do simple stats not work for you? Let me know in the comments.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Revisiting VSGMR

For the first time in about four years, I took a look at VSGMR (Very Simple Generic Miniatures Rules). There are other good simple miniatures games available (One Page, Two Hour, Brikwars, even Age of Sigmar), but I like the option of using all the standard roleplaying dice and different scales of figures. I'm going to revisit it, as there are still people in the Yahoo group.

Some of those other games are even simpler than VSGMR, and as I have less and less time to set up and play games (jobs, family, the same issues as everyone else), I lean more and more in that direction. I also want to make use of the figures I already have: 28 mm fantasy characters, 10 mm characters from wargames, and standees, the cardboard flats with a small plastic base.

These are standees.
I don't think the rules need a revision, since they're pretty smooth right now (move 6 inches, roll 4 or 5 to hit, roll 4 or 6 for defense if there's armor). There are a few special abilities, and options for using figures of different scales. I'd like to add more custom-made armies, since there are new miniature games available since 2013, with new options. So look for that soon (really!).