Sunday, October 28, 2012

A USRPS/Champions Superhero Mash Up



USR by Scott Malthouse looks to have drawn sizable buzz in the geek community and I threw the system at my Champions adventure books to see what became of the mash up.

The superhero genre was one I first embraced with gusto after the D&D glowing fan boy attraction began to dim under the games disappointing role play mechanics. 

I was choosing between Villains &Vigilantes from Fantasy Games Unlimited and Champions from Hero Games. I ordered a back issue of some gaming magazine which gave a review of the different systems. It could have been in Dragon Magazine, I don’t know. 

While I was attracted to the wide open system of character generation, Champions turned out to be a cruel joke in state of the art game design. Math and dice heavy, the game rules were another product which helped hide the potential inherent in role playing games behind a voluminous rule set. It was another case of players not being placed front and center of the story. At least for me. Maybe others had better success with complicated rules when they were thirteen, but for me dense rules hindered more than helped. Not that I would have been aware of this back then. Besides, Champions was the only thing on the shelf at Toy City in Fort Eddy Plaza when I managed to gather enough bread for purchase. 

So maybe “Unbelievably Simple Role-Playing” would be the trick to tame the hundreds of dollars of Hero products which once dotted my dusty bookshelves. I am down to a few items left so I pulled out the campaign sourcebook “Millennium City” and the adventure sourcebook “Sharper Than A Serpent’s Tooth”.

 With only seven pages of text USR puts all the creative elements in the players and GM’s hands.

Your starting character is created with three attributes and three “specialisms”.

Assigning your attributes is simple. 

Really think about your specialisms though. Besides adding a +2 for your attribute skill rolls, which is how you resolve everything, it is the three defining elements of your character. 

The premise of the system is these three freely chosen game elements, these specialisms, give you all you need to flesh out your characters strengths, powers, and abilities. Let us see how such premise holds up against a wild card character as a player character superhero. 

The two initial characters I came up with are;

a gifted scientist from Millennium City who has discovered the ability to time travel, and

a time travel agent from the far off future.  

A superhero is nothing if not the story behind his origin. Spiderman was created through the bite of a radioactive spider, Batman from the terror of violence, and Superman by the color of Earth’s sun. Our intrepid scientist has created a machine which he believes will allow movement back and forth through time. On his first experiment he succeeds, but with some ramifications. He is not sure where he has been and he is not sure what happened to him on the trip. All he is sure of is the journey has fried his experimental equipment and by the mere thought of a past event he finds himself at that place in time. Travel back to his last recalled present moment is possible as well, but conceiving himself in any future which has not occurred yet does not result in a time “jump”.

I wrap this unique ability around the specialism “Enhanced Movement, Time Travel +2 Action”. In the spirit of an Unbelievable Simple Role-Playing I am capturing the entirety of this character’s time travel superhero ability in this one specialism. The fact that it gives a +2 to his Action attribute roll will aid in many tasks including combat.

The next specialism is easy to conceive, “Theoretical Physics +2 Wit” is a nice tag for a comprehensive knowledge of the latest scientific thought.

A third specialism is causing me some consternation, but I finally settle on “Persuasion +2 Ego” to simulate the characters ability to convince others of the soundness of his science, to secure research grants to fund his experiments, and his expertise in navigating the competitive world of scientific research found at most prestigious schools of learning.

So the three attributes are simply selected per the rules and now I have three abilities (a power and two skills), this character has started to take shape. All that is now required, and insisted on by the rules set, is a background story.

While I let this new superhero's back story percolate I'll move on to the "Time Agent" character concept...