Wednesday, July 30, 2014

USR 2.0 Review

Scott Malthouse's (U)nbelievably (S)imple (R)oleplaying game has just had an update, and as someone who uses the system here are my thoughts on version 2.0.

No fuss, no muss. No hand holding either. But that is the approach I look for in a rules lite universal rpg. I find Scott's USR rules achieve the goal of a unified mechanic which resolves all character interactions and encounters. The two components in which a rpg cannot do without; character creation and encounter resolution, are presented in a total of eight pages of this twenty one page free PDF. Players will be able to get their game on fast with USR, as long as the Game Master is up to it.

The introduction gives Scott's reasons for the revision. One being more advice for new players starting out with roleplaying games. I would have thrown into the introduction something stating USR is best run by experienced Game Masters who have a firm idea of what type of game they want to run. New GM's may be overwhelmed by the need to not only carry along new PC's into an exciting narrative, but also being able to ground the adventure in a sufficiently immersive campaign world. New players will then benefit from both a simple rule set which won't confuse them, and an old hand who knows how to show an rpg'er a good time!

Character creation is the same simple process which should have generate a fully realized PC in ten minutes or less. Especially if the GM has useful campaign information for the players to use.

How To Play is the simple core mechanics of the game. In two pages you have all you need to adjudicate any situation in the course of the game. If you are experienced with Savage Worlds you might find USR a dumbed down version of this game system. Then again, players who have been using any of Chaosiums various manifestations of its Basic Role Playing system will easliy know how to exploit the rules to deliver similiar results. 

While every rpg has detailed rules for combat, here the one page combat rules nicely highlight that combat rules in USR are nothing more than an example of how to adapt the core game with your own additional "chrome", house rules, grafted on rule hacks, etc. Once you have grasped this concept you become capable of resolving everything in the game you need to.

In my own sword and sorcery game I'm still blowing back and forth on all the choices I've made in how I run combat. I've ditched turn order and have made combat simultaneous. I'm still seeking the best method to resolve ranged combat. Applying critical hits and fumbles is still up in the air. Hit locations, and the application of armor... Fortunately my players have been amicable to my on going trial and error play testing of the combat rules as the campaign goes. So far. As long as it is in the service on how to best deliver the flavor of pulp fantasy blood and steel then perhaps I will in the long run be forgive.

I still find it odd Scott's choice to apply weapon bonuses only to the attacker, but with even rules on how order of attack is established omitted, your one page of combat rules are the absolute bare minimum in guidance while still working all the way through. Once again, this an example of why I recommend USR for the experienced Game Master. You are going to have to be comfortable coming up for rulings on the fly for range, cover, multiple attackers, fighting with two weapons, etc. The usual random chaos of unpredictable mayhem which players get up into will keep you on your toes so a good set of prepared spot rules for anticipated combat maneuvers is highly recommended.

An Example of Play and Setting Packages are a nice touch to give the bootstrapping GM an idea on how Scott envisions his game rules being used. 

Two optional rules finish the rules; Narrative Points, and Character Advancement. I don't use Narrative Points in my game, but I do use Character Advancement rules. As with every other aspect of the game, the application of experience for Character Advancement will need close supervision and rulings from the GM who takes fidelity of his campaign world seriously. 

I highly recommend USR for the GM eager to craft from whole cloth the campaign settings of his desires.