Wednesday, July 26, 2017

USR Wednesdays: Superheroes part 2: Super-Specialisms and hit points

Specialisms for superheroes can be powers - which can be used as weapons and armor, unlike most specialisms – but also personality traits (“billionaire philanthropist,” “mild-mannered reporter”). Because they’re so free form, super power Specialisms don’t have particular damage amounts or limits (for example, how many people are mind-controlled at one time?). Turn to the comics, animation and movies: if you can find an example of the power being used in the media, you can use it, though maybe with the use of a Narrative Point.

Almost every rules-moderate to rules-heavy superhero RPG (including my own Microlite 20 Costumes) has a catalog of super powers for characters to purchase, and which count as Specialisms in superhero USR. As with any Specialism, though, the descriptions that allow for more narration are often more interesting in play. The Punisher’s Lots Of Guns is kind of boring as a Specialism, but the Flash’s Runs Fast Enough To Access The Speed Force is a simple to understand power with a unique twist (lots of heroes have Super-Speed, but don’t also get access to the Speed Force). With the Ice Control Specialism, Iceman of the X-Men can fire ice darts at a villain, but he also creates ice slides to move quickly, duplicates of himself in ice form, and so much more.

A Specialism of Magician means you can do just about anything in a superhero setting. (Also, you were expecting Dr. Strange or Zatanna, right?) (image: King Features Syndicate)

Another superhero-specific element is hit points. Heroes can take a beating, and shrug off most ordinary damage. Boosted Action and Wits stats help represent that, and so does increasing hit points, to (maximum Action die value + maximum Wits die value) x2. Alternately, heroes can be delayed in the hospital, or outright killed, only to return dramatically in the next adventure.

The superhero card game Sentinels of the Multiverse keeps defeated characters in the game until the end with one simple rule. Characters that lose all their hit points can only take one action on a turn, and it has to be used to help another hero who is still in the game. It’s described as inspiring the surviving characters to fight harder. The same concept can be used in USR, with knocked-out heroes offering a +1 to certain kind of die rolls, or a once-per-battle reroll to their surviving allies.

What are your favorite superhero Specialisms?

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