Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Another foray into the world of Sword & Sorcery

The Hunter, Blacksmith, and Man-Servant were joined by a hard scrabble Farmer of the Zorab mountains to try and finish off exploring the tomb of Rakoss the Undying.

First they had to try and heal up from their current wounds which put them short of rations to last the week. If there is one condition which cannot be overlooked in the gritty world of Sword and Sorcery is where your food, wine, and water is to come from. The heroes of pulp literature were always on the edge of thirst from trekking across endless wastes, or being nailed to a tree, or left to rot in some subterranean dungeon.

With the hills teeming with degenerate hill-men a confrontation is most assured. As far as game to be had, well, the party does consist of a hunter so bagging a mountain goat was assured also. The hunter and the farmer survived their encounter with the three hill-men on the narrow mountain trail and returned to their encampment with meat enough to last a many day.

The tomb itself was clear of overtly malignant forces outside of acid dripping giant ants. The Farmer had purchased a jar of honey during his initial character creation, and he was wise enough to use it in a simple plan to neutralize the animal threat. Unfortunately once again an encounter with the ants left a party member grievously wounded. In this instance, the Blacksmith. Undeterred they proceeded to loot the sarcophagi found in what appeared to be the final resting place of Rakoss, and his lieutenants. The players may have been surprised the mummified remains did not rise to choke the life out of those who defiled them, but they stuffed their bags with their loot, and made all speed back to the city of Dipur.

Concluding their business with Avant the Failed, the party searched out a merchant who would be interested in gems and jewelry from a long dead necromancer. An exchange which Avant warned them to be careful about. The Grand Inquisitor's men would look dimly on items tainted with dark history to be openly traded in the markets of Dipur. But of course such a merchant was found, and after trading the smaller trinkets for more gold then they had ever seen the party revealed the most mysterious object in their possession. This was an artifact of significant blasphemous origins. So much so that the merchant refused to trade with the party then and there. No, the transaction must be concluded in utmost secrecy, discrete arrangements must surely be made. The merchant assured the party he would call for them in a few days time when all such arrangements had been secured.

This left the party free to commence a classic debauch, and banter about future tasks and adventures in which they could involve themselves. The Blacksmith desired to purchase his trade shop back from the corrupt tax collector, while the Farmer mused about assembling a mercenary force or perhaps purchasing a high commission with the Grand Inquisitor's guards. The Hunter, well, he was satisfied with endless wine, wenches, and joints of meat. I decided this traditional approach was well worth an immediate health bump for they all still had wounds from their previous adventure.

I was also determined to start applying the pace of sword and sorcery adventure. The simple elements which keep the players on the go. When it came time to pay for the nights romp in the wine shop one of the player's fat coin purse came up empty. The swarthy gentleman who had purloined it was sauntering out the door pleased with his luck. Of course the players had to pursue. Of course they were to lose the thief in the twisted warrens of the cities slums, and of course horrible screams would lead them to the thief, now dead and absent the fat money purse. A passing sergeant of the guard advised the party to consider the money as good as gone for it was obvious mad cultists had done the poor wretch in. They were in front of the Shrine of the Seekers, and the open gate before them told the tale plainly to the drunken sergeant. Leave it be he spoke once again as he hurried on to safer parts of the city.

While the Farmer and the Blacksmith debated the wisdom of penetrating the evil shrine in the dead of night, the Hunter was obviously wise to the cannon and declared his intent to win back his gold, and win it before the morning sun gilded the spires of the Grand Inquisitor's city! So onward and inward they went...

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

USR Sword & Sorcery After Action Report

I DM'ed my second game in over twenty years via Google+ Hangouts. It was a Sword & Sorcery game using Scott Malthouse's USR rpg rules. True to all rules-lite systems, the DM is required to embellish the sparse rules with the flavor of the genre you wish to play. For my game I modified character creation by limiting players to human characters. They cannot start with magic capabilities, though this may be acquired through game play. Random rolls on a background table are also required, but the players are free to choose the arrangement of their attribute dice, and their three specialisms. My two players ended up with a Hunter/Hunting Site, and Craftsman(Blacksmith)/Poverty. I encourage the players to embellish these sketchy details, and come up for a reason they find themselves together in the desert city of Dipur mingling with the wine sellers, lotus peddlers, dancing girls, and thieves which are found in the busy South Bazaar. To explain the Blacksmith's poverty the player stated he once had a blacksmith shop in the city, but his competitor had run him out of business by bribing the tax collector to close him down. The Hunter was coming from his prized hunting site in the Zorab mountains with a mountain lion skin to trade for silver. The Blacksmith is a friend who he usually visits to have his hand axes sharpened. 

The story hook revolved around a cairn the Hunter had discovered near his hunting site. Wrought with undecipherable glyphs, the Hunter hopes the Blacksmith knows someone in the city who could explain these strange signs. Of course a city dweller such as the Blacksmith would know that Avant the Failed, an aged scholar, might be able to shed light on such archaic symbols. Another story hook I floated was that the Game Master of the gladiator arenas was paying a princeley sum for exotic animals from the "Spires" found northwest of the city deep in the unholy Ash Plains. I was prepared to pepper the group with other prepared rumors, and story hooks if they spent more time in the city, but they were happy with the scholar's grim tale of Rakoss the Undying, and his supposed tomb sealed and forgotten in the Zorab Mts. Could this cairn with the long ago defeated necromantic lord's symbol indicate the location of this tomb? The aged scholar was most anxious to confirm such a discovery. Such a historical discovery would revive his dim reputation among his peers. The party negotiates for additional muscle, some expedition supplies, and strike a deal; treasure and loot for the players, relics which prove the place is the last resting place of Rakoss for the scholar.

In the morning the party heads due east towards the towering mountains with Gomar the man-servant, and a compliant donkey loaded with supplies in tow. The trek is not uneventful. A wandering monster check brings the degenerate hill men of Zorab down upon them in the night. Since this is the first combat I had run in a dogs age I only sent three of these desperate savages at them. The man-servant was grievously wounded while the ax wielding Hunter chopped all in front of him down. He chased down the last fleeing hill man, and split his skull with ease. In the morning the small group pushes on to the Hunter's prized hunting site to rest, and heal.

Inspection of the weird cairn by Avant's man-servant suggests that the writings are a warning, and indicate the location of the tomb is due east against the towering walls of the mountains a short distance away. After hours of exploration the Hunter locates a narrow ravine which opens up into a large chamber, and behold, at the end of the chamber is a large sturdy door! While the door is locked with no visible means of opening it does help to have a Blacksmith, and a donkey in your group. It takes some time, but the group is able to pry the door open enough to slide on in. 

So far the party has survived the initial horrors found within, but they have just scratched the surface. What terrors lay withing the unexplored chambers, well, we shall see!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Equipment List for my USR Sword & Sorcery Campaign

Equipment List for the World of Xoth

The common coin of the realm is silver, and following equipment list costs are in silver. 10 silver pieces make for one gold. Copper is the lowest coin, needing ten of these beggar chips to make one silver. Copper is usually only good for buying moldy bread, and cheap clothing. The sourest of wines can be had for a few copper, but only slaves would be found drinking such foul fare.

Gems are the most concentrated form of wealth, ranging in value from 100 to 1,000 gp’s and up! Most cutthroats would sell their soul for a chance to steal but a few gems.

Player characters start with basic equipment relative to their character backgrounds, and therefore get to list three such items for free. They also get to roll 3d6x20 starting silver to purchase some additional gear. Remember to keep some silver on your person to by that first nights round of ale, and mutton.

Rules for the game using Scott Malthouse's USR mechanics can be found here!

Dagger                                  20           +1
Mace                                    50          +1
Sickle                                    60         +1
Club                                      2           +1
Heavy Mace                       120          +2           2H
Morning Star                       80           +1          
Spear                                  20           +1           ranged weapon
Long Spear                         50           +1           first strike opportunity, set against charge
Quarter Staff                      5              +1
Heavy Crossbow               500           +2           ranged weapon
Light Crossbow                 350           +1           ranged weapon
Dart                                    5                           ranged weapon
Sling                                    1                          ranged weapon
Throwing Axe                    80           +1            ranged weapon
Miners Hammer                 10          
Hand Axe                          60           +1
Light Pick                          40          
Short Sword                     100         +1
Battle Axe                         100         +2
Flail                                    80           +1           first strike opportunity
Long Sword                      150         +2
Scimitar                            150         +2
War Hammer                    120         +1/+3 vs. Plate
Pole Axe                            85           +2           2H, first strike opportunity, set against charge                   
Great Axe                          200         +3           2H
Great Sword                      500         +4           2H
Long Bow                         750         +2           ranged weapon
Short Bow                         300         +1           ranged weapon               

Leather coif                       100         +1           head only
Steel Cap                          100         +3           head only
Leather Jerkin                   600         +1           body and arms
Quilted Jerkin                   400         +1           body and arms
Chain Shirt                       600         +2           body
Leather Leggings               350         +1           legs
Quilted Leggins                 250         +1           legs
High Leather Boots           250         +1           legs
Chain Cowl                      250         +2           head
Full Helm                         350         +3           head
Chain Jerkin                     1,500     +2           body and arms
Hide Coat                         900         +1           body and arms
Scale Corselet                  1,500     +2           body and arms
Bracers                           100         +1           arms
Armored Gauntlets           200         +2           arms
Greaves                           100         +1           legs
Chain Skirt                      100         +1           legs
Breastplate                      900         +3           body
Banded                           750         +2           body

Fully Armor Suits
Quilted                          1,500     +1           all
Leather                         2,000     +2           all
Chainmail                     5,000     +3           all
Scale                            5,000     +3           all
Plate                            15,000   +4           all

Buckler                        150         +1           you may use a bow or crossbow while equipped
Small Shield                 70           +1
Large Shield                 100         +2
Tower Shield               300         +4           provides cover from aimed ranged weapons

Mundane gear can be bought using the same prices in the Dungeons and Dragons Player’s Handbook. Keep in mind that most of the prices there are listed in gold coins, so multiply the cost by ten to determine the price in silver!

Friday, November 29, 2013

USR Halberd Character Generator

Peter Gagliardi has made a fine character generator for Scott's USR fantasy rules. Link to the generator can be found at Gags Dev website here.

Gets one into a game quick!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

So I'm playing now

Instead of talking about how I want to play role playing games now.

Not truly face to face, but on line.

Outside of my face to face scrum of a railroad adventure mashing up B10 Night's Dark Terror with Chaosium game mechanics, I have not enjoyed face to face play since 1988.

But the live play via on line video chat has been really enjoyable, and has let me try these lovely games once again.

But answer me this. Why are people thirty years later playing D&D the same way I played it when I was eleven? Seasoned gamers wax poetically on player agency, sandbox play, collaborative story building, the thrill of open ended adventure and what if. Why role playing games are so off the hook when it comes to social entertainment compared to watching sports or pitching horseshoes with your buds. All sorts of heady stuff.

Finally, it seems to me, there are a plethora of experienced players loose on line available buying into the greatness of the medium. I find them blogging, playing, creating, publishing here on line.

While available technology such as video chat has allowed instant gaming opportunities gathering a good gaming group is still something to cherish, and takes work. I feel very lucky to meet complete strangers on line and get nothing but good vibes, good cheer, and a good time. Now lets play. Okay, we head to the caves. How many days travel? Okay, what do we hear? We rush in. What do we see? Faaack.  My first on line game with the OSR was a trip down eleven year old lane.

Yeah we were playing B2 Keep on the Borderlands, a well known adventure relic, but that whetted my appetite all the more. I looked forward to tackling a long ago played treasures with a more informed, and enthusiastic intent.

So I was completely mystified why most PC's were against any other plan than to march directly to the caves, charge in, and have to with whatever came our way. My PC has survived three hack and slash approaches. Just barely. Bumping and grunting against psychotic subterranean foes. Jabbing spears into each others vitals, letting the probability die fall where they may. It has left me with meager gains, and a character still breathing. Not much else. I ponder a better way to ring the caves like a blood soaked rag filled with diamonds. I ponder the absurdity of the economic system of the Keep itself. I ponder the validity of stumping into someone's home, slaughtering them and their family, and taking their valuables.

My mistakes in this situation are numerous. I've not asked other players around the virtual table what their expectations for the game are. I have not asked my DM what his expectations for the game are. I have not stated my expectations for the game at the outset. And I sure as shit did not think to make the Thief take a full wineskin of oil with him into the ogre cave. We could have easily torched the beast while he slumbered on his rancid bear skin bedding. Could have spared Anselm the retainer's poor life.

A lot of it probably has to do with going along to get along. Finding a game to play live, whether in the flesh or through the internet, with others which fits your time schedule isn't always easy. And I truly enjoy talking with all the players around the table trying to forge an exciting adventure.

But I find a lot of resistance from the group to. No one seems interested in, say, muck stables for three months at the Keep. Watch the coming and goings of the place. How many wagons of food a day does it take to keep people fed, how far do these goods come from, do the hired guards seem satisfied with their pay or is their a high turnover, is the Keep ever attacked by the monsters from the caves, do the people love their Lord, what relationships exist among the inhabitants of the Keep? Does anyone live outside its walls? If I'm working out of this place paying top dollar for food and lodging why doesn't the group start wholesaling to the Tavern, Provisioner, Smithy, etc? Why are players reluctant to approach the caves of chaos from above, and spend days watching the comings and goings of the place? To recon, gather information of the world in which our PC's inhabit so as to begin to find the tools we need to exploit our surroundings, satisfy our ambitions and goals? But I only find my character in front of some cave entrance trusting to the luck of a d20 roll.

It is most likely these interests of mine are just not the interest of anyone else in the group. Then clearly I am barking up the wrong tree. I'm sure I'm barking up the right game though :)

Thursday, October 10, 2013

New games, new posts, old music to my ears

Feeling to full of myself I demanded Treasure Island was the best adventure ever written. Pacing, dialogue, immersion, character development; the whole work is entirely off the hook. The electricity coming off the fingers while the quill dipped the inkwell, well, if I could capture that call me Stephen King!

This was orated in front of the television before a not too interested roommate who had just completed a Jules Verne story.

While Jules Verne illuminated great ideas Stevenson breathed stale breath in my face, forcing involuntary fingers to twist powder in the breach of my flintlock.

That is story telling. That is TRPG!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Google Hangout blues

So I joined a Google+ Hangout to actually play TRPG's in earnest since finding players to sit across a table on the western slope of CO is impoooosible.

The advantages of such technology in which to play are wonderful. Besides no one has to smell your ass gas while you verbally flatulent fantasy nonsense for four hours at a time, and you never have to leave your own gaming sanctum; I imagine the ability to find the game you want to play becomes much easier.

But how does one begin to find additional gaming Hangouts? The current, and only Google+ Hangout game I am involved in was from a direct invitation. As is how I would want such a gaming invitation to come. I gingerly try and cultivate a quality gaming relationship through my blog, comment on people who post wonderful content and game theory, and look to play the game everyone seems to be shooting for

...but where are all these great games being played? Cause I waited two weeks for my next game, and while some great players showed up on time the DM was no where to be found. With such a disposable medium, and commitment is just a click away I got the distinct feeling I would have to spend just as much time on searching for a Google+ Hangout group I can relish in as much as playing the game I want to play.

Therefore, if anyone has some great sources for finding TRPG Hangouts let me know, I look forward to the play!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Google Hangout

Played my first game utilizing Google Hangout, and I must say I am impressed with how well a live gaming session can be done.

The group total was nine, eight PC's and the DM. I have not used my video cam in forever, but all it took to join the game was just one click. Bam, game on! The interface has many features in which to modify the visual, and audio presentation. I particularly liked being able to post your name/character name/any text really on screen. Makes it easy to call each other by your character name when you don't have to ask for it first. There are probably a host of other features I am not aware of, but most importantly you are able to look and talk with everyone around the virtual table with ease. Especially fun is trying to see what everyone has on their bookshelf behind them. Games mostly!

Here is what I most like about this mode of play; not having to leave home. No drive time. Most likely there are endless opportunities through the hangouts to play games. Probably any game you want to play there are most likely a group getting it going. Completely disposable. Don't like the game or group just drop out and try another. Is it as good as sitting around a table live? Real close. Especially if you are like me and don't have many other options for gaming.

The Vanishing Tower recommends you give it a try. Great opportunity to meet and play with fellow gamers you would never be able to otherwise.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

USR Hard Boiled Combat System...

For all your Two Fisted combat needs!

Combat Turn Order; 

1. Declare Intent.
2. Roll for Initiative.
3. Resolve declared intent in order of initiative.

1. Declare Intent: Here all players get an opportunity tell the GM what they plan on doing for the upcoming Combat Turn. If someone declines to declare their intent, that is fine. The only penalty for not declaring intent in this phase is the GM may rule your intended action a failure for various reasons, such as the influence of other actions which have already occurred in the combat turn.

2. Roll for Initiative: This will most likely be every one's Action die. The combat turn is resolved one player at a time in order of initiative score from highest to lowest. For such Ego based powers such as psionics, magic, etc. an Ego die may be asked for to resolve the players initiative score. The player whose turn it is is the attacker.

3. Resolve declared intent in order of initiative: Moving, Attacking, and Other Activities are the three broad categories PC's will find themselves involved in on any given combat turn. Usually moving in for an attack, or moving in an attempt to defend, or moving to escape confrontation are routine examples players can expect to see in any given encounter. How are you going to resolve all this shit? 

With USR, Scott Malthouse's free rules-lite RPG,  it comes down to an Attribute die roll with all modifiers factored in and affecting the final total to resolve all actions. 

Melee attacks, and other activities pitting the PC against any active agent (pirates, robots, apes, etc.) are Contested Attribute rolls. The attacker totals all specialism bonuses, and any situational modifiers. Likewise the defender does the same. Both attacker and defender roll their attribute die, and the defender's combat total is subtracted from the attacker's combat total.

If this number is positive this is the amount of damage, or "hits" the defender takes. If the total is a tie or negative the defender is unaffected. What about Armor? As in the USR basic rules, Armor is added into the defender's combat total. What about Weapons? Weapon bonuses are able to be added by both the attacker, and the defender to their respective combat totals. As the GM you will have to use whatever bonuses for weapons used seems most reasonable. Effects on initiative, and first strike should be considered as well with weapons, such as spears vs someone armed only with a dagger, or bare-fisted.

Critical Hits & Fumbles; If the attacker rolls a natural high number (ie; 0 on a d10), and the defender rolls a natural 1 the attacker has an opportunity to scored a critical hit. The attacker rolls an additional 1d10, and on a score of 0 the critical hit is achieved. A critical hit ignores any armor the defender may have or finds a weakness in a creature's natural defenses. A critical hit does not negate any other effects which may prevent damage, such as magical protection, enhanced immunities, etc. A critical hit indicates only a well placed blow by the attacker. 

If the action is something other than a melee attack a critical "hit" represents more of a critical "success". Whatever the attacker was attempting to accomplish succeeded beyond expectation.

A fumble is merely the reverse. The attacker has rolled a natural 1 while the defender has rolled their natural high number on their attribute die. The attacker rolls an additional 1d10, and on a score of 1 the attacker has fumbled his attack/action. What the exact fumble result is to be will be declared by the GM. Having some of your favorite fumble tables from any of your games will be useful here.

Nonlethal Combat & Nonlethal Damage; I've decided that there really isn't such a thing as "nonlethal" damage. But there are certainly degrees of severity of damage. The damage received by a gunshot is much different than the damage sustained from a sprained knee, or a tazer. Therefore I've decided on damaged received by getting pummeled by fists, and other brawling actions is recorded as normal, but only half the total damage is applied directly to Hit Points. For example; Joe Bruno lands a meaty haymaker inflicting 8 points of damage. Paulie Newman sees stars for the moment, and deducts 4 Hit Points. What about getting knocked unconscious? Whenever a character receives half their total Hit Points in real damage in one combat turn then the character is out. Seriously wrecked, groaning, and writhing. Now this is the character total max Hit Points, not their current, wounded Hit Point total.

Ranged Combat; Attacking at distance is an attribute roll vs. an assigned difficulty number. This difficulty number is based on the range of the attack. Once the difficulty number has been established any situational modifiers and/or specialism bonus need be applied. For example, leaning against the bar cradling your Walther PPK 9mm at close range is a much different shot then diving for cover over the same bar squeezing off three rounds as you go at close range. 

Difficulty Rating based on Range

Point Blank, Easy-02 (The weapon is very close or actually touching the target. It will almost always hit doing maximum damage)
Close, Medium-04 (The weapon is attacking at one quarter the listed range)
Medium, Difficult-07 (The weapon is attacking at one half the listed range)
Long, Hard-10 (The weapon is attacking at the listed range)
Extreme, Extremely Difficult-14 (The weapon is attacking at twice the listed range)

Damage in ranged combat is augmented by the particular firearm in use. Using your preferred Weapons Table of choice just add the Damage dice as an additional factor to the total damage achieved. 

For example; Joe Bruno fires his .45 automatic pistol at an intruder and achieves a hit. The pistol does +6 additional damage per shot which hits. This is in addition to the amount of damage derived from the initial Contested Attribute Roll for the attack.

The first step in applying damage is to figure out where to apply it. Most  combat attacks are just barely aimed; you're looking for an opening, your opponent slips up, and you take it. This means that unless you attempt to aim your shot at a specific location (and take the an increased difficulty target number), you will have to determine where you hit on a random basis.

Hit Location is rolled on a 1d10; 
1. Head, 2-4. Torso, 5. Right Arm, 6. Left Arm, 7-8. Right Leg, 9-10. Left Leg

If the Hit Location rolled is a part of the body which is behind cover, the shot hits the cover instead of the intended target. This will usually negate all damage unless the weapon used is capable of penetrating the protective cover.

Any armor worn on the Hit Location will reduce the damage amount by the protection given, including for called shots. You will have to come up with your own appropriate armor table and each types stopping power. This is the amount of damage reduced by any hit delivered.

For additional realistic detail you may apply debilitating effects for certain amounts of damage. Generally though, a well place gunshot will wipe you or your opponent out with one shot. So keep your head down! 

Second Wind

To simulate the cinematic nature of your Pulp hero bouncing back from terrible blows a player has a Second Wind value equal to 1/4 their maximum Hit Points. Characters can use their Second Wind to add that value to their current Hit Points once per game (not once per encounter!) and they can only do this in combat immediately after having been struck by a foe. Additionally, a player must role-play what their character does to gain their Second Wind; pithy one-liners, profanity-soaked oaths, and emphatic demonstrations of bloodlust are highly encouraged.

Time Travel... The Ultimate Cross Over for your Genre Tree

If there is a genre on the menu which immediately doesn't grab the players, then perhaps the Time Travel option of the Espionage branch of the RPG Genre Tree will give them the exotic pallet which to paint their rpg masterpiece! Whether a dedicated agent of some "Time Patrol", a victim of a scientific experiment, or an unwilling pawn in temporal battles, time travel adventures literally cover the entire spectrum of time and space. A Time Travel or Cross Dimension campaign allows for the widest possible variety of player characters and NPCs. Characters can be drawn from any world in any time!

Typical Character Types; Adventurer, Agent, Criminal, Expatriate, Fanatic, Ghost Chaser, Historian, Hunter, Investigator, Inventor, Journalist, Merchant, Native, Scientist, Soldier, Student, Tourist, Technician, etc. These traditional time hopping character types can all be supplemented by character types of any other game world as well. Superhero, sci-fi, western, fantasy, whatever! All the genre choices available.

Planetary Romance campaign worlds are a natural for players craving time travel adventures. A desire to explore historical times and places, accidental displacement from the players current campaign world. The choices are numerous. The wise GM with vision will find opportunity to introduce a time travel adventure in any players current campaign world, generating wonder and excitement afresh.

For my RPG Genre Tree Time Travel Branch I would give my prospective players the following two options; Time Corp or Accidental Tourists.

3.3 Time Travel branch of the RPG Genre Tree

3.3.1 Time Corp; a tight knit group of jumpers dragging a string of windows through time. Some Absolute Now is maintained to avoid Crunch Time, while your group pursues its mission dictate.

3.3.2 Accidental Tourists; besides being able to utilize any other campaign world I've designed for the RPG Genre Tree to fulfill my players whimsy, thereby recycling already prepared material, here I can also put forth any compelling visions I have for an intriguing campaign world.

Underpinning my Time Travel campaign I will rely on my USR/Cyberpunk homebrew rules set. Actually, a revised version of the Cyberpunk rules as I continually tinker with how I plan on running combat. Specifically how do I address ranged vs melee, and deadly vs non lethal damage. Pulp era stories and movies offer a nice touchstone for adaption of the mechanics for all sorts of game genres. Here can be found a garden of cinematic action which can be lifted whole cloth into any campaign as long as you know how you plan to house rule it.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Hard Boiled Pulp Fiction

A simple retooling of your Cyberpunk/USR rule set hack for pulp era equipment, and weapons should get your eager adventurers out into the campaign world quickly. For your Pulp Fiction option on your genre tree I have decided to make Miami '38 the PC's opening sandbox. Any warm blooded GM should be able to take such an exotic, new urbane locale and create story hooks aplenty promising to hit tried and true high notes of pulp adventure. Colorful villains, bizarre crimes and mystery, weird science, etc.

In some ways, the story of Greater Miami is a classic American tale of displacement, entrepreneurship, refugee hopes and desperate innovation. But don’t forget the footnotes: corruption, neglect, and bloody community divisions. The end product is hardly perfect. But it’s also continuously resurrecting itself, as new immigrants push into low-rise tenements, and the nouveau riche reinvent the glittering Miami skyline.

Using the intriguing Abulafia Random Generators for this exercise I get a cocky reporter needing to make his parents proud, a silver tongued mobster with an unrequited love, and a humble archaeologist bent on thwarting a sinister secret cult. I used the USR system to flesh out these characters with their stats, abilities, and gear. From there it would be time to pitch your players with the eternal GM question, "What do you do?"

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Two Fisted Tales for the Genre Tree

Hard Boiled is not simply a genre or era fixed in stone. It is really a state of mind. Fast paced and energetic adventures. Exotic locales, and two fisted action. A wistful and nostalgic glimpse of an era that seems familiar; but simpler, innocent, and daring.

Hard Boiled is all these and more. Some features of the Hard Boiled genre include its simple morality of good versus evil, masked and cloaked heroes and heroines, devious villains and their schemes, gun-wielding desperados, cliffhanger endings, weird science, and a world still lush with unexplored places and lost races. Understanding the nostalgic elements, and the stylistic conventions of the material help squeeze the most enjoyment out of this rip snorting and adrenaline laced gaming genre.

Genres covered were Detective-mystery, Flying, Jungle, War, Western, Sports, Horror, Science Fiction, Romance, "Spicy", Adventure, Spy, and Fantasy of all types. Sometimes these genres were crossbred to produce such unlikely genres as Weird-Menace, War-Horror, Space-Western and Jungle-Detective. Even bizarre niche subjects as "Racketeer", "Financial-Wizardry" and "Zeppelin" found a brief life during this period, providing magazine titles that are highly sought by collectors today.

The "single character" or "Hero" appeared early in these genre magazines. Certain characters were so popular with readers that they had appearances in many issues, and even different magazines. Examples of these included the detective-mystery pulp Black Mask where Dashiell Hammett's "Sam Spade" and Raymond Chandler's "Philip Marlowe" hard-boiled fiction first appeared. If fantasy and horror was more to your taste, the magazine Weird Tales had both, being home to the very popular Conan sword and sorcery stories of Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft's terrifying Cthulhu mythos cycle of tales, and Seabury Quinn's ghost-breaking stories about occult detective Jules de Grandin. 

USR for Hard Boiled Gaming
The furious-paced thrills, deadly perils, exotic globe-spanning adventures, and rough-and-tumble excitement of the Hard Boiled are a natural topic for role-playing adventures. While there has in the past been a few RPGs devoted entirely to the pulps or some aspect of this genre, games such as Justice Inc.DaredevilsMercenaries, Spies & Private Eyesetc., these systems are all out of print or have not been supported with additional supplements or scenarios. Unbelievable Simple Roleplaying rules will have you up and running quickly with your own favorite source material.


No matter which game system is used, all pulp RPG adventures rest on mixing many of the following adventure ingredients;
·        Larger than Life Heroes.
·        Reduced Hero Deaths.
·        Colorful Villains.
·        Gadgets and Weird Science.
·        Bizarre Crimes and Mystery.
·        Exotic Settings and Locations.
·        Lost Worlds.
·        Cliffhangers
·        Deathtraps.

3.2 Espionage; Hard Boiled

3.2.1. Pulp Fiction
3.2.2 Espionage International

The above two choices represent the two campaign worlds available to the PC’s. “Pulp Fiction” campaign world will be set in the up and coming city of Miami, FL 1937. Here players should expect to find traditional two fisted opportunities. “Espionage International” will put the players in post WWII cold war geopolitics.

If players are struggling to capture the fever of a thrilling character concept just reload the Pulp Character Concept page @ Abulfia. If the GM is reaching for adventure hooks to dangle in front of the PC's, the web site Abulfia will deliver again with their B-Movie Title generator. Certainly if you reload this page enough something is bound to come.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

USR Cyberpunk2020 Rules Set

Cyberpunk2020 RPG Game

Cyberpunk is a challenge for even an experienced Referee, in that you must create the right atmosphere of grunginess, sleek technology, and pervasive paranoia. While the Cyberpunk environment is almost always urban, the wastes outside the towering skyscrapers and dangerous alleyways make for great adventure settings and should not be ignored. Trust no one and play for keeps. Cyberpunk groups are not social. They hang out at bars not to meet new adventurers-it's a place to scope potential victims. For this reason, you'll need a more solid "hook" on which to hang a Cyberpunk adventure. The starting PC's will have to agree on the terms of fate which have thrown them together as a team, forcing them to work together.

USR is an easy game to learn but there are optional rules throughout if you fancy making it a bit more advanced. Feel free to add your own rules or change current ones to match your preferences. The most important thing is that you and your group have fun with it.
In the future I will be releasing a number of role-playing games based on the USR system, from pulp action to time-travelling sci-fi, so stay tuned!

I really hope you enjoy this system and have a lot of fun with it. It's always been a dream of mine to get a role-playing system published and put out there for everyone to play.

Scott Malthouse – February 2012

What the heck is a Game Master?

A game master, or GM, acts as the game's referee as well as controlling the people and enemies the players come across. The GM also creates the adventure and the world the players inhabit. Essentially the GM is a god, but don't let it get to your head.

Creating your character

Each player needs a character to take part in the story. Since this setting is specific to the Cyberpunk literary genre, characters will play human adventurers on a future earth. As a Cyberpunk you grab technology by the throat and hang on. You've got interface plugs in your wrists, weapons in your arms, lasers in your eyes, bio-chip programs in your brain. You become the car you drive, the gun you shoot. With cyborg fingers you pick computer locks. With enhanced senses you see into the future.

Beginning characters will first assign their three attribute dice, choose a character role, and then create their specialisms.

Action – This attribute determines how well-versed in combat the character is as well as how quick and dexterous they are.

Wits – This attribute determines how intelligent and perceptive the character is.

Ego – This attribute determines how the character acts socially. A high Ego means the character is a good leader and able to charm the pants off most people.

Hits – This determines how much punishment a character can take before she dies or is knocked unconscious. Hits are reduced when a character is hurt and can return to its initial score when the character heals.

After you've jotted each of these attributes down you're going to need to assign dice to them. Each attribute apart from Hits can have one (and just one) type of die assigned to it from the following selection: d6, d8 and d10. 
Your Hits score is derived by rolling your Action and Wits dice – the total being the highest number you get combining the two dice.
Example: Glenn decides that his character ‘Superficial Shave’ is going to be more brain than brawn, so assigns his attributes thus:

Action: d8
Wits: d10
Ego: d6
Hits: 12 (randomly rolled)

Fleshing out your character

Cyberpunk requires each starting character to pick a role. There are nine to choose from;

Solo - Bodyguards and assassins
Special Ability: Combat Sense; +2 Bonus on Awareness and Initiative Action rolls. This ability may be increased through experience, drugs, cybernetic enhancements, etc.

Rockers - Musicians 
Special Ability: Charismatic Leadership; +2 Bonus on controlling crowds for this Ego based skill. This ability may be increased through experience, drugs, cybernetic enhancements, etc.
+3 Nightclub
+5 Arena sized concert
+9 Mesmeric ability - can control armies

Nomads - Travellers
Special Ability: Family/Clan Affiliations; +2 Bonus on receiving aid from your "pack" with this Wits based skill.
+2 Get several of the pack to help
+5 Make major pack decisions
+9 Pack leader

Corporates - Money and Power
Special Ability: Corporate Resources; +2 Bonus on receiving aid from your "corporation" equal to your level in this Wits based skill.
+2 Access to a company car
+5 Use company jet or hire a solo team
+9 Access to all levels of the corporation and requisition most any company resource.

Media - Reporters
Special Ability: Credibility; +2 Bonus on convincing people with this Wits based skill.
Your bonus level also establishes your reputation on the streets of Night City.
+3 Convince most people of minor scandals.
+5 Front page stuff.
+9 Leading media mogul of your day.

Special Ability: Jury Rig; temporarily repair or alter anything for 1d6 turns per level of this Wits based skill (begins at +2). Not a permanent repair. After elapsed, the jury rig will break down.

Med Tech
Special Ability: Medical Technician; stabilize a patient, and restore hit points. Add any equipment's tech level to the ability level bonus. Whatever the number above the difficulty level the roll is represents the number of hit points restored.

Special Ability: Authority; +2 Bonus on all Ego attribute roles.
This ability may be increased through experience, drugs, cybernetic enhancements, etc.
Your bonus level also establishes your reputation on the streets of Night City.

Fixers - Black Market Lords
Special Ability: Streetdeal; +2 Bonus acquiring illegal items, and/or secret information. 
This ability may be increased through experience, drugs, cybernetic enhancements, etc.
Your bonus level also establishes your reputation on the streets of Night City.
+2 Designer Drugs, Muscle for Hire
+5 Politically Sensitive Secrets
+9 Mafia Crimelord.

Netrunners (NPCs only)
While any PC can learn to be an expert hacker, no beginning character has the connections to become one of these mysterious avatars of the purely digital world.

Specialisms show specific skills and knowledge the character has acquired through his initial character concept, what he comes to the game world as. 

A character may choose three specialisms at +2, or reduce one or more +2 specialisms into three +1's. This means you may have up to nine individual specialisms listed at +1. 

Your Special Ability does not count against your initial Specialism total. 

There is no set skill list which comes with your free USR rules set. To cover every genre would take a hell of a long time, and you should expect any rules-lite rpg game will put world building squarely on your shoulders. So you will need to think of something yourself and run it by your GM to make sure it's appropriate. 

If you have access to ye ol R. Talsorian GamesCyberpunk 2020  rule book, or the handy Cyberpunk 2020 Character Generation Walkthrough, you have all the information you need to create skills for your new Cyberpunk PC! 

For his new character, Superficial Shave, Glen could choose 'Handgun' as one of his specialisms.

A specialism is tied to an attribute and gives a bonus to an attributes die roll when the specialism is used. With Superficial Shave, his Handgun specialism is tied to Action, so he gains a +2 when rolling for Action (d10) when engaging with small, hand held projectile weapons.

Specialisms are written on character sheets with their bonus in brackets, such as Handgun (+2 Action).

Examples of Specialisms

Action: Athletics, Close Combat, Riding, Intimidating, Musician, Climbing.

Wit: Electronics, Street Deal, Awareness/Notice, Forgery, System Knowledge.

Ego: Leadership, Bartering, Initiative, Charming, Empathetic, Manipulative.

Example of a character

Superficial Shave
Fixer, ETF Inside Trader
Action: d8
Wit: d10
Ego: d6
Special Ability
Streatdeal +2
Handguns (+2 Action), 
System Knowledge; Financials (+2 Wits), 
Cyberware; Digital/Wi-Fi Recording (+1 Wits), Audio Enhancement/Recording (+1 Wits), Boosted Arms (+1 Action).
Shave is a small time financial trader making purchases based on his own proprietary software. Extremely sensitive about staying under the radar, he lives and works out of a secure high rise apartment.

Special Abilities
Your Special Ability does not count against your initial Specialism total. This is an inherent ability of the initial Class you select for your PC. This does not mean a PC's special ability cannot be impaired, altered, or lost during game play.

Playing the game

Here we look at how the game is played, from hacking a mainframe to blazing off against the local municipal.

Contested Attribute Tests

There will come a time in every game when a player is put in direct conflict with someone or something. This could be a bake-off, court battle or motorbike race, whatever it is there's a really simple way of working out who comes out on top.

When someone is actively competing against someone else the player makes an attribute test. Both the player and the GM (or another player if it involves another character) rolls a die corresponding to the relevant attribute. If the player was locked in an arm wrestle with a decadent flesh merchant, both would roll their Action attributes. The highest roll wins the contest. On a tie the test is re-rolled until there is a clear winner.

Non-Contested Attribute Tests

Sometimes the player won't be in direct competition with anyone else. Perhaps they're trying to climb a smooth concrete wall or formulate a chemical explosive. Here they must roll their relevant attribute on a difficulty table to see whether they succeed.

For example, Superficial Shave is forcing open an elevator door to escape billowing smoke. He decides to use his "boosted" strength to pry the sliding doors open. He tells the GM he will try and pry open the doors. The GM asks for a medium Action roll (the choking smoke hinders Shave). The player rolls a 5(+1 for cybernetics)=6, which is a success. Superficial Shave escapes the smoking elevator cab, and now scrambles into the hallway looking for an exit. Coming to a locked fire door, Shave pulls out his Dai Lung Streetmaster handgun, blows away the lock. The GM calls for a Contested Attribute Test to establish damage. Since it is a close shot on a static target the GM concludes no To Hit roll is required. With the difficulty level set at Hard (for the stoutness of the mechanized lock) Shave rolls a 3+(2d6+3 from the Weapons Table), or 3+(3,4,+3) Total:13. Shave inflicts a total of 6 points of damage to the lock. Shave has successfully disabled the lock, and now only has to force it open before he is through.

Difficulty Table

Successful Roll Difficulty

2+Easy (e.g. Jumping a low wall, bartering for food)

4+Medium (e.g. Riding a horse, rock climbing)

7+Hard (e.g. Breaking into a safe, hot-wiring a car)

10+Very Hard (e.g. Understanding a foreign language, building a robot)

14+Impossible (e.g. Disproving relativity, downing a bottle of tequila without vomiting)


Fighting is handled in the same way as contested attribute tests but with a little extra added on.

All contested rolls use the Action attribute during combat, but in this instance one participant is the attacker and the other is the defender.

If the attacker rolls higher than the defender then the attacker has scored a hit and the defender's Hits score is reduced by the difference between the winning and losing rolls.

When Hits reach 0 the character is dead.

Alternatively the GM may rule that the character is merely unconscious.

Hits may be regained through healing, but may never go above the initial score.

For example, Shave is fighting an intruder. Shave scores a 6 with an Action attribute roll, and the GM rolls a 4 for the intruder. The intruder then has his Hits reduced by 2 (6-4=2).

Weapons and Armor

Weapons can give bonuses in combat, giving one side the edge over the other. Each weapon may give a bonus to the Action roll when attacking and/or defending. Weapon types are as follows:

Light weapon +1 (e.g. knife, improvised, small caliber handgun)
Medium weapon +2 (e.g. advanced melee weapon, typical small arms)
Heavy weapon +3 (advanced small arms, explosives, autofire)

The character only gets a weapon bonus when they are able to bring their weapon to bear. It should be noted firearms give a bonus to attack only, they do not give any advantage towards defense. Defense capabilities of weapons are usually only applied to melee weapons. 

Similarly, armor can be used to negate the effects of being hurt. Each armor type reduces the number of Hits taken in combat.

Light armor -1 (e.g. thick leather jacket, bike helmet, sturdy suitcase)
Medium armor -2 (e.g. flak vest, knee pads)
Heavy armor -3 (e.g. riot gear, plastasteel)

For example, The security guard blasts the intruders. His assault rifle is a medium attack weapon, but he is letting lose with a three round burst so the guard receives a +3 on his Action roll. He rolls a 5 and adds the 3 resulting in a total of 8. The first of the gang members takes a massive amount of trauma to the torso falling down dead.

These examples are by no means the only weapons and armor that you can have in a game. The GM could create a pistol that gives the character a +5 attacking bonus or disruption fields providing a +4 in protection. Just use the above examples as guidelines and have fun making up your own bad-ass creations.

How combat flows
It's up to you how you want combat to play out. You could play it fast and loose, going round the table clockwise to determine the order players act in, or you could assign each player an initiative score based on their Wits roll + their Action roll, the acting order going from highest to lowest.

During combat a player may take two different actions: including but not limited to moving and attacking. USR keeps movement fairly abstract because of the nature of the generic system, so it's up to the GM to determine how far a character can move. 20 feet per action is generally a good guideline when on foot.

Using specialisms in combat

Hand to Hand specific specialisms apply their bonus directly to the characters attack and defense rolls. Close Combat +2, Unarmed Combat +2, Zulu Hand to Hand +2, etc. All these types of combat specialisms give a bonus to the combat rolls. These specialisms can also be used to attempt difficulty maneuvers during combat or otherwise gain an edge in combat situations.

If the character has a specialism that directly affects combat, like Ranged Attack, they can add an additional +1 to their attack with a successful specialism roll. The GM sets the difficulty level.

For example, Shave wants to try an aimed shot on an unsuspecting target in a city park. Armed only with his medium autopistol, he uses his cyber enhanced eyesight and Handgun specialism to give himself a +3 on a Very Hard (10+) shot . Rolling 1d10 for a 1(+1+2)=4, he achieves a very solid miss. Instead of splattering the street punk over the crowded sidewalk, Shave has hit an innocent bystander, causing startled cries and chaos. 

Any specialism may be used. With role play you can gain an edge in a combat situation. For example; the ruthless drug dealer wants to find a volatile solution on his cook's stained shelves to throw. As his first action he uses his Streetdeal special ability to try and find a substance which might be useful in combat. The GM says it's a medium difficulty roll with a 5 or greater needed for success. The dealer rolls a 2 and adds 2 for his special ability level, giving a result of 4 – a failed roll! The GM tells the desperate dealer the shelves are clear of the most combustible solutions. With nothing but an empty boiling flask, he turns to the noise battering and hammering at the laboratory door

Friday Night Firefight (FNFF)

You will have to learn how to fight, and win every engagement when the guns come out in Cyberpunk. 80% of gunfights occur between untrained amateurs at a range of 21 feet. 40% of raging gun battles happen within 8 feet or less! Most occur in difficult, and dimly lit conditions such as rainy dark alleys. Participants are usually rushed from adrenaline, pausing momentarily to snap off a badly aimed shot. Hits are surprisingly rare, and when they do occur the victim is usually hors de combat from the wound, shock, and terror. A solid hit with a .44 will splatter a street punk all over the graffiti covered wall.

Initiative, the order in which antagonists get off their shots becomes of paramount importance during a firefight. Each PC should roll their Action attribute die, and add any relevant bonuses to establish their initiative number for  the current turn. High roll shoots first. The GM will roll for the initiative of the NPCs.

The Fast Draw or Snapshot
The Fast Draw is an example of a specialism which makes sense in the rapid pace world of Cyberpunk. A +2 specialism in Fast Draw gives a character a +2 bonus on their Initiative roll, but must take a -2 on their To Hit roll.

What about an Ambush?
The best way to deal with a powerful opponent is to get the drop on them, to set up and ambush. A successful ambush gives the attacker automatic initiative as well as an additional +5 bonus to hit.

To Hit
To Hit a target with a ranged attack requires a successful Non-Contested Attribute Test vs a Difficulty Rating established by the GM. This Difficulty Rating should take into account range, attack bonuses, and the target size/cover. 

Difficulty Rating based on Range; 

Point Blank, Easy-02 (The weapon is very close or actually touching the target. It will almost always hit doing maximum damage)
Close, Medium-04 (The weapon is attacking at one quarter the listed range)
Medium, Difficult-07 (The weapon is attacking at one half the listed range)
Long, Hard-10 (The weapon is attacking at the listed range)
Extreme, Extremely Difficult-14 (The weapon is attacking at twice the listed range)

One way of improving your chance to hit is to aim. Each turn of aiming adds +1 to your attack up to a maximum of +3 gained from this method.

On a natural roll of 1 you have fumbled. Roll a 1d10 and check the Fumble Table:

1-4   Clear miss.
5      You drop your weapon.
6      Misfire, no ammo loss.
7      * Weapon jams.
8      Wound yourself, minor.
9-10 Wound another target.

* Automatic weapons jam on a roll of 1-4 and clear miss on a 7 when engaged in full auto.

Automatic Weapons
There are three ways to use automatic weapons. The three-round burst, Full Auto, and Suppressive Fire.

The three-round burst is a setting used on most automatic weapons to conserve ammunition and improve accuracy. The three-round burst gives you a +3 hit advantage at Close & Medium Ranges. If successful roll 1d6/2 to see how many rounds actually hit the target.

The full auto option is based on the rate of fire of the weapon. If attacking more than one target you must divide the the ROF of the weapon by the total number of targets, then roll for each target individually. At close range add a +1 for every 10 rounds fired. At medium, long, and extreme ranges subtract -1 for every 10 rounds fired.

Suppressive fire is used to cover an area with bullets making the area hazardous to pass through. Divide the  number of rounds by the width in meters of the fire zone to find the save number a character needs to achieve to pass through the zone without being hit. If he doesn't make it light him up!

Damage in ranged combat is augmented by the particular firearm in use. Using the Weapons Table from Cyberpunk2020 just add the Damage dice as an additional factor to the total damage achieved. 
For example; Shave fires his Dai Lung Streetmaster at an intruder and achieves a hit. The Dai Lung does a 2d6+3 additional damage per shot which hits. This is in addition to the amount of damage derived from the initial Contested Attribute Roll for the attack.

The first step in applying damage is to figure out where to apply it. Most  combat attacks are just barely aimed; you're looking for an opening, your opponent slips up, and you take it. This means that unless you attempt to aim your shot at a specific location (and take the an increased difficulty target number), you will have to determine where you hit on a random basis.

Hit Location is rolled on a 1d10; 
1. Head, 2-4. Torso, 5. Right Arm, 6. Left Arm, 7-8. Right Leg, 9-10. Left Leg

Any armor worn on the Hit Location will reduce the damage amount by the protection given, including for called shots. Look to the Armor Table in Cyberpunk2020 for the SP (Stopping Power) value listed. This is the amount of damage reduced by any hit delivered.

Use Cover
You don't have to lug around an armor jacket with you. Often the best armor is what you can find around you. Cover allows you to move from place to place, letting something else soak up the gunfire.

Common Cover Armor Points
Sheetrock - 5
Stone Wall - 30
Large Tree, Phone Pole - 30
Brick Wall - 30
Concrete Block Wall - 10
Wood Door - 5
Heavy Wood Door - 15
Steel Door - 20
Concrete Utility Pole - 35
Date Term - 25
Car Body - 10
Armored Car Body - 40
Engine Block - 35

Remember cover doesn't always mean automatic safety. If your target is hiding behind a wood door and you have a rifle, go ahead and shoot through the door. The penalties for blind firing won't stop you if you're at point blank range. Also, check your line of sight. Cover doesn't count jack if you are being shot at from someone above you. And don't forget the power of suppressive fire. Sure, you will probably not hit at a long range, but the chance that you might will make your opponents keep down.

Wound Effects

A light wound (1-3 pts of damage) a character suffers no penalties.
A serious wound (2-6 pts of damage) a character a -2 to all rolls. He is bleeding, hurting, and definitely hampered.
A critical wound (7-12 pts of damage) a character is holding in his guts with one hand and doing his damndest to to stay in the battle.
A mortally wounded character (13-plus) is out of the action and is going about the business of expiring messily.

If a character takes eight or more hits in a limb area in one attack, the limb is severed. The character must make an immediate death save vs their Ego. A head wound of this type will kill automatically.

Do Unto Others, Then Cut The Cards

Always make your enemy play the Game your way. Lure him into chasing you. Pick a place where you can see him coming. Stash some food and ammo for a long stay, if need be. Smart punks always have at least a dozen hideouts set up. Don't always go to the same one, or one night your sleep-mat will go BOOM! Be sneaky, shoot from the rooftops, then fade away. Use a high powered, scoped rifle to take on that Euro-Solo. String some mono-wire at neck height where the Nomad gang plans on rolling through. In short, never tackle anything head on if you can do it quieter, and neater another way.

Trust no one. Keep your Miniami 10 handy...

Paranoia is important in a Cyberpunk run. PCs shoud not be able to tell who are the good guys and who are the bad guys just by looking at them. Choices between sides should be ambiguous. There should be no clear cut sense of good and evil. Your world should have staggering contrasts. In the glittering citadels of the rich there should be fine food, expensive vices, and beautiful scenery. On the street nothing but cold, hunger, and desperation. There is no middle ground between the haves, and the have nots. It is all or nothing.