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Monday, May 17, 2021

Deluxe USR Sword & Sorcery

 First part of the book is done! This includes all the rules, magic and spells, carousing and a bestiary. Now the second half of the book; World of Xoth setting and three new adventures. Shrine of the Keepers will be included as well, but has been circulating for a while. This shit is coming together, love it.



11 comments:

  1. Hi Jay, looking forward to this - are there going to be any changes to the rules after all these years of play ?

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    1. Yes, yes and no. Combat rules, carousing, character creation and magic no changes. I am surprised, in a good way, my tweaks to the standard USR combat rules with simultaneous combat resolution has stood up so well over time. It was just a gut move back in 2012 to set up my combat rules as they are. My worry over how armor, hits and action rolls, combined with critical hits and fumbles could make for an unrealistic trainwreck of a procedure and players would find it too fiddly, or too lethal, or too easy to game and avoid the lethality, have proven untrue. So this shit is not going to change. I'm even happy with the way I handled ranged combat (non-contested as opposed to contested action roll) and the open question/answer advising a Crypt Keeper to freely decide when damage is "just getting roughed up" by the city guard, you are knocked out or "you have a yard of steel sticking out your back, you choke on your own blood" and time to roll up a new character. Which is quick as shit.

      What is new is mass combat rules designed to be used in a roleplaying game and not a seperate tactical or strategic war game. The rules need to focus what it is like for a roleplaying character in the middle of a mass battle, regardless of whether they are a foot soldier or someone significant in the chain of command, perhaps even the commanding general on the field!

      How do you stay where the action is, the players, and at the same time give a feel for the overall carnage? And know who won without hand-waving it. So this is entirely new!

      What else is new is the creator of World of Xoth gave the okay for me to use it as an "official" setting for USR Sword & Sorcery! So I have cobbled together a fairly decent chapter just on that. Being "Deluxe" I need to give a user everything they need to start playing quickly and this includes a place for everyone to be.

      Not new but new is Horrors Material & Magic Malignant is folded in to the base book. This is the "monster manual" and "spell list" any fantasy book should include. Which was not an initial position I took as "necessary", my point of view you have all the setting books already on your shelf, needed to relent on this position so you get it.

      The final new but not new thing is including adventures. Whenever I buy a game book I want it to include an adventure. Show me how you the creator of this game play it. And you do that by showing an adventure which allowed you to have a great game with these rules. Show don't tell. Problem is, outside of the classic intro Call of Cthulhu adventure, most adventures you find in the back of a rulebook suck. They stuck it in there because it was not going sell on its own. So, one, you are going to get the classic Shrine of the Keepers adventure again. It has proven to be a good one. There will also be a very short adventure, really a detailed "random" encounter which is for players brand new to S&S pulp adventure to show some of the tropes you want to consider and as Crypt Keeper you will need to come up with detailed encounters which are cool on the fly and here is an example of one. Then comes a big fat awesome new adventure and finally the book finishes with an adventure to use the new mass combat rules with.

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    2. Oh, and you are coming across as anonymous, which is fine, but let me know who you are!

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  2. My only houserule was one I got from this blog, that crits and fumbles only affected NPCs, works a treat to maintain the bold S&S tone - players aren't too scared of combat, I mean it's lethal enough without being grimdark

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    1. Hey thanks so much for saying this. Blog writing, at least here at the Vanishing Tower, is much like shouting into the void. I say what I say right or wrong, to test myself and ideas in regard to gaming. Since having a blog about a niche within a niche within a niche lack of (understanbly) feedback I don't get to "spar" over ideas and find out if I'm wrong or right. So yeah the house rule is flexible too. Fighting the mooks keep the house rule in effect. Squaring off with Thulsa Doom, one-on-one, and the crits and fumbles are on the table for both of you! Makes entire thematic sense.

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    2. Oh, and you are coming across as anonymous, which is fine, but let me know who you are!

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  3. (anonymous-sorry) I only started reffing USR S&S a week ago with a new group, we played through Shrine of the Keepers (tense and bloody) and I'm impressed how there are enough rules to support the genre without fiddly bits or gimmicks (I owe you a review). I'm glad you're sticking to the core rules (as you they, they work really well) and the additions sound interesting - Xoth is a sound and rich setting, and mass combat based around the characters sounds totally appropriate.

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    1. Sean, thank you very much for considering writing a review for USR Sword & Sorcery. Honest reviews of your game stuff is as rare as a really good adventure.

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    2. I worked up the game after trying to find what I was looking for off the shelf. I take that back, Chaosium’s Stormbringer can work in a pinch. But I wanted something divorced from an established setting. I looked at BoL, and Crypts and Things but I thought too many fiddly bits and gimmicks. I did not want to write a game, I wanted to play a game and test out my ideas of what made for a good roleplaying game and what made for “best practices” as a Game Master. I narrowed my choices down to Savage Worlds and Scott Malthouse’s free generic rules USR. I noticed USR did the different dice thing like Savage Worlds but managed to contain all the granularity I would want without all Savage World’s fiddly bits. It did mean I would have to write the rules of game more or less because USR was a generic set of rules. It wasn’t going to tell you what the modifiers were going to be for a man on horseback attacking a man on foot. I wasn’t even sure if these kinds of distinctions were even important? I did know I wanted to have simultaneous combat. That was the only thing I was certain, but what did that even look like? Fortunately, USR would give me the room to experiment with and was so well thought out it didn’t fall apart in front of my eyes. Classic Traveller has simultaneous combat so I could see that it can be done, had been done. Contested actions and non-contested actions was clear the only two types of actions I needed to adjudicate any and all game results. The different dice and the simple rules for specialisms gave all the probability spread I would need. Plus, players only have three attributes and one derived stat, Hits. Which would mean players would have to think up stuff instead of looking for some “Feat” or crunchy bonus combination to game the to hit roll. I wanted players focused on the action at hand. The fact players could create their own Specialisms at the front end, only three of them, was a pretty wide-open opportunity for a player to customize their character to their hearts content.
      I had one design principle, no additional rule to the game if it did not serve a genre conceit. Outside of my original version of a “meta-currency” being healing through carousing, but you have to have cash to do it, and if you have cash and you don’t want carouse you need to make an Ego save to not spend it, everything else in the game fell together because Scott’s generic rules lite system was so solid. He really knows how to design mechanics in service of a roleplaying game with very few “notes”.

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    3. It stood up to my tinkering without falling apart or being bastardized into an unworkable mess. I was really surprised how the combat components I decided to include, my chrome if you will, seemed to stand up when I played the rules out with all the different situations I thought someone might do in a Sword & Sorcery fight. I really thought the elements I wanted to use would make the whole game experience lame. Once again, a testament to Scott’s design genius with the generic USR rules. Then I managed to get three to six players to play test it in a two- and half-year campaign in the world of Xoth. One player was my brother who didn’t game at all, one was a dedicated FATE player and the other four were all OSR junkies. And I found what you have just found, for some reason this set up all works in service of a Sword & Sorcery game like the one I wanted to play! Then random people I never met started using it and critiquing it and I was really stunned that what I wrote down for very specific reasons was exactly, without confusion, picked up by other users of the game. It is one thing to run a home brew game with rules you wrote yourself. Even if I didn’t write a rule covering a situation, I knew what I was after and could make the game serve my needs. But people I never met saw the same thing I did and had the same experience I did. Even the criticism it would get was right on point with the deficiencies I considered the game had. So being able to articulate a vision that strangers could understand has been the most rewarding part of the whole process. I have link to the first episode of Hobbs and Friends of the OSR where the guest gives a detailed accounting of the playtest years. This at least gives the curious an unbiased opinion on the game’s merits.

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  4. Super cool to hear that Sword & Sorcery is still a living rule set which changes with feed back and experience and is still being built upon. Great to hear that the World of Xoth is now official.

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