Wednesday, November 1, 2017

USR Wednesdays: Thor

Now that “Thor: Ragnarok” is coming to theaters, it’s time to take a look at the USR superhero rules and visit Thor and his fellow Asgardians. 

As noted in the superhero rules, the Asgardians are high-powered (Tier 4) characters in a universe with a basic Tier of 3. They get stats of d12, d10 and d8 and a bonus 2 Narrative Points, because they’re just that much more powerful. Note this is Marvel Thor, the noble, sometimes goofy blonde hero, not the quick-to-anger redhead of Norse mythology.

This guy and some of his friends. (image: Marvel Studios)

Thor, God Of Thunder (or as some Marvel media calls him, “Prince Of Thunder” to avoid any religious controversy... didn’t roleplaying leave that behind in the 1980s?)
Level 3, Experience Points 10
Action D12, Wits D8, Ego D10
Specialisms: Strength +3, Lunkheaded Charm +2, Nobility +3
Hit Points: 30
Equipment: Armor +2, Mjolnir (hammer) +2
Narrative Points: 5

Loki the Trickster, Level 3, Experience Points 10
Action D8, Wits D10, Ego D12
Specialisms: Asgardian Magic +2, Deception +4, Loyalty To Asgard When He Has To Be Loyal +2
Hit Points: 28
Equipment: Armor +1, Magic Staff +2
Narrative Points: 6

Odin the All-Father, Level 5, Experience Points 20
Action D12, Wits D10, Ego D8
Specialisms: Leadership +3, Creation +3, Bravery +2, Battlefield Tactics +2
Hit Points: 42
Equipment: Armor +2, Spear +2
Narrative Points: 6

And now, just to change things up...
Jane Foster, Level 1, Experience Points 0 (Tier 1)
Action D6, Wits D10, Ego D8
Specialisms: Astrophysics +2, Medicine +2, Stamina +2
Hit Points: 16
Equipment: none

Narrative Points: 11

All four of these characters have a lot of Narrative Points, beyond the 3 a normal starting USR character has. As noted in the superhero rules, that's to represent their incredible raw power (for the Asgardians) or their ability to survive and contribute in a world that's much bigger than them (for an "ordinary" like Jane).

Which other superheroes need the USR treatment?

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

USR Wednesdays: Slasher Films

It’s Halloween season, time for a look at this classic genre for role playing. There are many ways to mix horror and gaming — fantasy has plenty of horror-themed beasts, and no game is complete without a nod toward H.P. Lovecraft’s creations. But today we’re going back to the 80s and beyond.

Slasher films feature a supernatural creature attacking a bunch of nobodies. Think “Nightmare On Elm Street” and “Friday The 13th.” This is not about setting the mood for a look into the darkness of the human soul; this is about teenagers having sex and showers of blood!

Time to roll for initiative: good luck. (image: New Line)

It’s a perfect genre for a game like USR, because statistics are less important in a narrative game. No one in the setting can go toe-to-toe with Freddy or Jason; they’re much too powerful. Instead, the protagonists have to out-think or at least out-run their enemy. You could have a game where players are the monsters themselves, but that’s really just a superhero game (without the “hero”), and it’s not what we’re going for here. This idea was inspired by the Slasher Flick RPG.

In a slasher film game, each player creates three characters, using the standard Domino Writing-style USR rules (though without assigning equipment or spending Combat Gear points). Specialisms in this game should lean heavily toward stereotypes, like Cheerleader, Jock, Redneck, Naive, and Rebellious.

You can determine Narrative Points and Hit Points for the characters, but they probably won’t use them. And don’t forget to create a slasher — make sure it’s got a signature weapon (a clawed glove, a chainsaw) and a gimmick (attacks in dreams, possesses the body of a doll).

When the slasher is ready to start its rampage, roll a die to decide which of the characters is the first victim. If there’s three players, that’s nine characters; roll a d10 to decide which one is first. Other characters may be in the scene, but the current victim gets the spotlight.

Create a scenario for that victim: what they’re doing before the slasher shows up and what they do to escape or fight back. The scenario should have three die rolls built into it. Here’s a few examples.

  • Run away from the slasher (Action)
  • Build a trap from stuff around the campsite (Mind)
  • Try to explain the horror that’s just up ahead to the gullible county sheriff (Ego)
  • Grab a farm implement and start swinging it at the slasher (Action)
  • Summon magical powers you only have in your wildest fantasies to attack the slasher (Mind)
  • Talk the slasher out of fighting back (Ego)

Tell a story with those dice rolls mixed in. It’s a “best two out of three” situation: if the character succeeds at two or three of the rolls, he or she survives... for now. After each character has told his or her own little story, count up the number of survivors. If more than half are alive at the end, the players win, but that’s the end of that horror movie franchise — fans are there for the clever kills, after all. If half the survivors, or fewer, remain, the slasher joins the fraternity with Michael Myers and Ghostface.

What does your slasher look like?

Monday, October 23, 2017

Microlite 20: Pathfinder-Equivalent Classes

There's a new edition of the Microlite 20 Collection available, over on RetroRoleplaying, which includes everything from the 2012 version plus updates. My games — Ultimate Fantasy, Ultimate Modern-Day, Ultimate Costumes, Ultimate Mecha, and Ultimate Ultramicrolite — are all on there. So those are the versions I'll be referring to when I write new content for the game, and using the page numbers listed there, even though each game has its own page numbers (in case you're not looking at the whole thing).

All these characters can be yours, even without your Pathfinder books. (image:

My new Microlite 20 content will look something like this:

While there are Pathfinder RPG versions in the Ultimate Collection (specifically, page 1169), Ultimate Fantasy offers a unique set of classes, which uses the Class Points rules described on page 212. The classes themselves are on page 233.

Here's a list of Pathfinder classes and their Microlite 20 Ultimate Fantasy class equivalents, because one of my goals for Ultimate Fantasy was to cover as many "Fantasy RPG" bases as I could with the game expansion. This includes all the Pathfinder classes to date, as found on

Pathfinder Class Microlite 20 Ultimate Fantasy Class
Barbarian Barbarian
Bard Bard
Cleric Cleric
Druid Animal Master, Druid, Wanderer
Fighter Fighter
Monk Monk
Paladin Paladin
Ranger Animal Master, Ranger, Twin Blade
Rogue Rogue
Sorcerer Sorcerer
Wizard Wizard
Alchemist Alchemist
Cavalier Knight
Gunslinger Gunslinger
Inquisitor Wrathbringer
Magus Mystic
Oracle Invoker
Summoner Summoner
Vigilante see below
Witch Warlock
Anti-Paladin Anti-Paladin
Ninja Ninja
Samurai Samurai
Arcanist Sorcerer, Wizard
Bloodrager Barbarian
Brawler see below
Hunter Ranger
Investigator Assassin, Rogue
Shaman Shaman
Skald see below
Slayer see below
Swashbuckler Swashbuckler
Warpriest Cleric
Kineticist Warlock
Medium Cleric
Mesmerist see below
Occultist Wizard
Psychic Psion
Spiritualist Summoner

There are a few classes that don't have a match in Microlite 20 Ultimate Fantasy.

Class Type: Rogue
+1 Subterfuge, +1 Knowledge, +1 Communication
Improved Initiative, Monster Knowledge, Reputation (Easy To Ignore), Wealth

Class Type: Fighter
+2 Physical, +1 Subterfuge
Attack Bonus: Melee/Hand-To-Hand, Strikeback, Unarmed Damage, Wuxia Defenses

Class Type: Rogue
+1 Physical, +2 Communication
Brute Force, Good Fortune, Medium Armor, Performance

Class Type: Fighter
+1 Physical, +2 Subterfuge
Attack Bonus: Melee/Hand-To-Hand, Heavy Armor And Shields, Medium Armor, Monster Knowledge

Class Type: Wizard
+2 Knowledge, +1 Communication
Lesser Spell List: Illusionist, Quick Thinker, Sneak Attack

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

USR Wednesdays: Star Wars Part VII — Villains

Our villains are presented as of the beginning of “Return Of The Jedi” — so they’re all still alive... none of them actually survive the film!

Darth Vader, Level 4, Experience Points 15
Action D10, Wits D8, Ego D6
Specialisms: Pilot +2, The Force +4, Intimidate +3
Hit Points: 33
Equipment: Lightsaber +2, Body Armor with Breathing System +3
Narrative Points: 3

Is this Polish "Return Of The Jedi" poster the best of all "Star Wars" movie posters? Yes, yes it is. (image:

Jabba The Hutt, Level 3, Experience Points 10
Action D6, Wits D8, Ego D10
Specialisms: Command +2, Great Wealth +3, Underworld Contacts +3
Hit Points: 24
Equipment: None
Narrative Points: 7

Boba Fett, Level 4, Experience Points 15
Action D10, Wits D8, Ego D6
Specialisms: Bounty Hunter +3, Pilot +3, Negotiation +3
Hit Points: 33
Equipment: Mandalorian Armor +2, Blaster Rifle +2, Grappling Line, Rocket Pack
Narrative Points: 3

The Emperor works in the background, even during the final showdown at the end of “Return Of The Jedi” (all he physically does is shoot Force Lightning — and fall down a ventilation shaft, of course). He’s better represented as a Power Level VI monster than as a character.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

USR Wednesdays: Star Wars Part VI — More Heroes

Just like last time, this is as of the beginning of “Return Of The Jedi,” except for Obi-Wan).

The new trailer for "The Last Jedi" has been released, but our blog post is a look at "Star Wars" history. (image:

Obi-Wan Kenobi, Level 4, Experience Points 15 (note: his statistics are as of the start of “A New Hope” — after that, he becomes a Specialism for Luke)
Action D8, Wits D10, Ego D6
Specialisms: The Force +4, Inspiring +3, Investigation +2
Hit Points: 33
Equipment: Lightsaber +2
Narrative Points: 5

C-3PO, Level 3, Experience Points 10
Action D6, Wits D10, Ego D8
Specialisms: Etiquette & Protocol +3, Languages +3, Storytelling +2
Hit Points: 26
Equipment: none
Narrative Points: 7

R2-D2, Level 3, Experience Points 10
Action D6, Wits D10, Ego D8
Specialisms: Computers +3, Repair +3, Deception +2
Hit Points: 26
Equipment: Electric Shock Probe +1 (note: R2-D2 doesn’t use his rocket jets in the original films, so they’re not included here, either)
Narrative Points: 6

Lando Calrissian, Level 3, Experience Points 10
Action D8, Wits D6, Ego D10
Specialisms: Bureacracy +3, Pilot +2, Gambler +3
Hit Points: 24
Equipment: Blaster +2, Expensive Clothes, Unlimited Line Of Credit (until it’s called in by the bank)
Narrative Points: 5

Yoda, Level 5, Experience Points 20
Action D8, Wits D10, Ego D6
Specialisms: The Force +5, Inspiring +2, History +3
Hit Points: 38
Equipment: none (note: again, as this doesn’t include the Prequel movies, Yoda is simply a wise mentor, not a super-acrobatic military leader)
Narrative Points: 7