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.