Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Specialisms as magic in USR

Pyromancer by DismalFiction/ DeviantArt

USR has the luxury of being a super easy game that anyone can pick up and play, but when it comes to something as complex as magic, there's no set way of dealing with it. In Halberd Fantasy Roleplaying there's a system of keywords that work nicely, but are still not as simple as I'd like them to be. This is why I suggest magic being directly tied to specialisms.

Balance is an obvious issue with this method of using magic as it's difficult to know how much of an effect a spell has. If I gave my Necromancer a raise dead specialism (natch) then how easy is it for her to cast that spell? I'd approach it like any other task resolution in USR, using the difficulty table to determine how big the effect is. For example:

Easy (2) - You can probably bring an insect back to life, as long as it hasn't been squashed.
Medium (4) - Dead small animals and fish can be raised at this level.
Hard (7) - Larger animals, such as dogs or sheep, can be raised
Very Hard (10) - Now you can raise a humanoid creature
Impossible (14+) - You're able to raise larger or magical beings from the dead. Careful now!

The same goes for any kind of magic, or superpowers or technowizardry.

In the interest of balance, I'd recommend making sure your magic users have a specific niche. Sorcerer is too broad (and boring) and could easily become overpowered, but a Pyromancer is much more specialised and you can theme your specialisms accordingly. Hell, mash-up some different niches and make a character like the Inferno Necronaut, a magic user who can travel between the world of the living and dead while having the ability to conjure fire. That's so metal!

Inferno Necronaut
Action: d8
Wits: d10
Ego: d6
Hits:  9
Specialisms: Travel to the spirit plane (Wits), Conjure flames (Action), Knowledge of the dead (Wits)

To this end, I wouldn't even think about creating a stock sword-and-board 'warrior' character. Why would you when you could create an Apocalyptic Demi-Titan who can create landslides as well as bust someone up real good with a blade?

Rule of cool, guys.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

The Trollish Delver has been around for six years!

This one completely slipped my mind due to being busy and also finding that doorway to another realm in my closet, but March 11th was this blog's sixth birthday. Six years old! 

I just wanted to take this time to thank all my readers for sticking with me, for commenting and for emailing. Also, for everyone who is doing amazing things with USR - whether it's playing it in their weekly game, using it as a teaching aid or creating new and wonderful materials for it, I'm honoured that people are still into my little game.

Anyway, raise your glass and here's to another six years, when everything will be holograms and stuff.

Halcyon Fantasy - a USR concept game

Halcyon Fantasy

The core concept behind Halcyon Fantasy is to emulate the feeling of playing old school fantasy games using the USR engine. Consider this an 'OSR' game for USR. It's all about dungeon delving, getting loot and killing monsters.

Download the free USR 2.0 rules to get started.

Character Creation

Feel free to random roll 1d4 a character archetype, or pick for yourself:

1. Warrior
2. Mage
3. Thief
4. Priest

Warrior: Stout and hardy - great in a fight. You will be on the frontline, hacking at whatever gibbering creature you're facing that day. Warriors must have a d10 in Action. They gain a default +1 to all attacks and an extra 3 Hits when created and levelling up. Warriors do not have a limitation on what weapon or armour they have use.

Mage: A mage has unlocked the secret power of the nine winds, which has given them the ability to use magic. Mages must have a d10 in Wits. They have access to a magic spell each level. Mages cannot use weapons with bonuses above +1 or armour with bonuses below -1.  See spells below:

Lvl 1: Create light - use one action to create light that shines in a 30ft radius. Can be extinguished at will.
Lvl 2: Electric spike - use one action to fire a bolt of electricity at an enemy. Attack die is d10. Does +3 damage on a hit. Can be used once per combat.
Lvl 3: Slumber - Make a contested Wits attack against 1d6 enemies within 20ft. If you succeed, the enemy affected falls asleep for 1d10 minutes. Does not affect enemies with 20 Hits or higher. Can be used once per day.
Lvl 4: Inferno - Makes a d10 attack against 1d6 enemies within 30ft. If inferno hits, an enemy takes an extra 3 damage. Can be used once per combat.
Lvl 5: Invisibility - you are able to turn invisible for 1d10 minutes. While invisible any attack made against you receives a -5 penalty. Can be used once per day.

Thief: Lurking in the shadows, thieves are experts in dismantling traps, picking locks and moving without being noticed. Thieves must have 1d10 in Wits. Thieves can use all weapons, but cannot wear armour with a bonus below -2. Thieves receive a +3 Wits bonus to picking pockets, picking locks, moving silently and disarming traps.

Priest: The holiest of beings, priests have answered their calling to their god and have been bestowed with the power to bless those in need. Priests must have d10 in Ego. They are able to use their blessing a number of times a day depending on their level to heal themselves or another 1d6 hits. Priests are able to use any weapon and any armour.

Lvl 1: once per day
Lvl 2: twice per day
Lvl 3: four times per day
Lvl 4: six times per day
Lvl 5: eight times per day.


Just like in old school fantasy games, Halcyon Fantasy has the player choose from a selection of races.

Either roll 1d4 or select from the list below:

1. Human
2. Dwarf
3. Elf
4. Halfling

Human: Just like you and me, humans are adaptable beings that are able to master a variety of different skills. A human begins with an additional Specialism or a +1 bonus to an existing specialism.

Dwarf: Hardy, squat beings with long beards and gruff voices. Dwarves are proud of their heritage and rarely venture out of their underground kingdoms. Dwarves are able to see in the pitch dark up to 30ft. Dwarves gain an extra +1 Hits each level.

Elf: Denizens of the great forests of the world, elves are noble beings in tune with nature. Elves gain a +1 to attacks when using bows or daggers. An elf is able to use a small animal to relay messages to other people within 10 miles.

Halfling: These small beings are about half the size of even a dwarf, but their size gives them great advantages. Halflings gain a +1 Action bonus to moving silently. They are also able to appraise treasure in order to find its accurate value.

Adventuring Gear

Each archetype begins with the following amount of gold:

Warrior: 23 gold
Mage: 25 gold
Thief: 27 gold
Priest: 20 gold

Sword (+2) 50 gold
Dagger (+1) 15 gold
Shortbow (+1) 20 gold
Longbow (+2) 70 gold
Heavy mace (+3) 200 gold
Cloth armour (-1) 10 gold
Leather armour (-2) 50 gold
Chain armour (-3) 200 gold
Plate armour (-4) 500 gold
Onyx armour (-5) 1000 gold
3 x torches: 1 gold
Rations for 3 days: 1 gold
Backpack: 1 gold
Tent and camping equipment: 3 gold

Magic Items
Magical items and equipment are hard to come by and rarely found traded in towns and cities. Below is a sample of the kinds of magic items the adventurers can come across.

Sword of the Dreadflame: +3, when this weapon harms an enemy, they are set on fire for 1d6 rounds, taking 2 Hits per round.

Healing Tincture: One use. Heals 1d10 Hits.

Crown of Darksight: The wearer is able to see perfectly in pitch darkness as if it were daylight.

Boots of Bull Might: The wearer gains the specialism Bull Might +2 (Action), which gives a bonus any time the character has to make a strength-based roll. The wearer loses the specialism if the boots are removed.

Gauntlets of Flight: The wearer is able to fly up to 30ft in the air.

Bracers of the Necromancer: The wearer is able to call an undead servant from the ground for 1d6 hours. The servant will obey all commands made by the wearer. The servant has Action d6, Wits d6, Ego d6, Hits 4, Attack: claws +1. A servant may be summoned once per day and if a new servant is summoned, the other crumbles into dust.

Longbow of Prosperity: +2. If an enemy is killed by this weapon, their treasure value is tripled.

Creature Catalogue

The following are sample monsters that the adventuring party may come across on their travels.

Giant Rat
Action d6, Wits d6, Ego d6
Attack: Bite +0
Hits: 2
Treasure: 1 gold or equivalent

Action d6, Wits d8, Ego d6
Attack: Crude blade +1
Hits: 5
Treasure: 5 gold or equivalent

Action d8, Wits d8, Ego d6
Attack: Sword +2
Hits: 7
Treasure: 8 gold or equivalent

Action d10, Wits d6, Ego d6
Attack: Massive club +2
Armour: -1
Hits: 13
Treasure: 15 gold or equivalent

Action d8, Wits d8, Ego d6
Attack: Sword +2
Armour: -1
Hits: 10
Treasure: 9 gold or equivalent

Action d8, Wits d6, Ego d8
Attack: Claws +3
Hits: 13
Treasure: 14 gold or equivalent
Special: Regenerate - Trolls gain 2 Hits every combat round up to their maximum Hits value.

Action d10, Wits d10, Ego d10
Attack: Fire breath +6 (range 40ft)
Armour: -4
Hits: 30
Treasure: 40 gold or equivalent
Special: Fly - dragons can fly up to 100ft in the air.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Slackers - a USR concept game

Mallrats 2, guys! Actually, I'm generally seeing a tonne of hate for Kevin Smith and his View Askewniverse, but I don't care because I love those flicks.

A while back I was noodling with creating a game called Slackers - a while before USR - that would emulate films like Clerks, Dude Where's My Car? and Mallrats. Aptly, I put Slackers together but never got around to publishing anything.

Can Slackers be done with USR? I'm not sure, but that's not going to stop me from trying. You'll have to download USR 2.0 for free to play along at home.

Slackers: A USR Concept Game

Create a character or whatever

In Slackers, you play a regular schmo - average or below. You're probably young, poor and things don't tend to go well for you. You've probably just starting out on the job ladder that you hate and not many friends. Think Jay, Silent Bob, Randall and Brodie. Oh, and it's probably set in the 90s - the height of slackerdom.

Roll for your job. 1d10 please.

1. Video store clerk
2. Delivery boy/girl
3. Chain restaurant server
4. Unemployed
5. Arcade clerk
6. Convenience store clerk
7. Call center agent
8. Fast food clerk
9. Gas station assistant
10. In college

Roll for a goal. 

1. Win back your ex
2. Win the heart of the person you love
3. Have one amazing night
4. Throw the greatest party of all time
5. Get your high school diploma
6. Get your dream job
7. Get laid
8. Hang out with your buddies
9. Escape from a gang
10. Discover the greatest drink ever

Setting or something

Generally, a slacker film is set somewhere in the suburbs, probably in a more run-down area of the country. You'll have a convenience store (Kwik Stop), video store (set in the 90s, remember?) and a mall. These are all locations more familiar to people living in America, but you can be a slacker in any country.

What kind of stuff happens in Slackers, anyway?

Slacker films can be pretty tame on the violence (a la Clerks) or go all out (Pineapple Express), or fit in somewhere in between. The point is that your characters are going to be regular people thrown into a situation that they're not prepared for. It could be a road trip, a run in with a gang, or simply encountering a series of crazy people in a store. You're going to be doing more talking than fighting, in Slackers, so you're not going to be equipped with weapons from the get go or anything like that. Everyone has their own goals, so it's about how you attempt to achieve those and in what order you do them.

Don't think that everything has to be grounded in reality, though. Feel free to bring in supernatural elements, aliens, time travel. Whatever. Just make it funny.


1. Clerks
2. Mallrats
3. Chasing Amy
4. The Big Lebowski
5. Dude, Where's My Car?
6. Super Troopers
7. Fast Times at Ridgemont High
8. Slacker
9. The Hangover
10. Dogma

Monday, 23 March 2015

It came from VHS! A USR concept game

It's the 1980s and you're in a video store. You're browsing the shelves, looking for something that pops, that catches your eye and makes you want to grab it. Then you see it: a man wielding a sword mounted on a velociraptor. Dino Ninja 4: Return from Hell.

This is literally the greatest thing you've seen in your life. Nothing is going to stop you from renting this B-movie trainwreck. You claw it off the shelf and pass it to the girl on the desk, who looks at you disapprovingly. "But it's a ninja...on a dinosaur," you reason, handing over some change. She slides the box over to you, rolls her eyes and continues packing tapes into the drawers behind the counter.

Take it to the max

Running a game of It Came from VHS is license to bend the rules. You're about to become a mutant biker with a gun for an arm or a cyborg soldier from the year 2033. It's about cheaply made, pulpy movies with larger than life heroes and insane bad guys. It's about over-the-top, impossible action and badly-designed sets. You'll want to download the free USR rules to play.

Character concepts

If you're lacking imagination, then roll 1d10 twice on the table below to get your character concept:

1. Cyborg
2. Ninja
3. Dinosaur
4. Stripper
5. Biker
6. Demon
7. Alien
8. Barbarian
9. Mutant
10. Vampire

Roll 1d10 below for a background:

1. You're from hell
2. You're from space
3. You're from the future
4. You're from the past
5. You're from the swamp
6. You're from the sewer
7. You're from another dimension
8. You were made
9. Your family was murdered
10. Your the last of your kind

Freena is a barbarian cyborg from hell. This will be the best character you will ever play.

Equip them

This should be fairly simple. Think about what your character would ideally have to begin with and have it. Barbarian cyborgs have retractable arm blades - so let's call that a medium weapon at +2. She probably has a cool leather jacket at a revolver she stole from a gang member she impaled. Another +2, but ranged.

Stat them

Use the USR rules to fully create your character. Freena's going to have Action d10, Wits, d6 and Ego d8. She's pretty damned good with her arm blade.

In terms of specialisms, let's go with 'Fears no evil (wits)', 'Blademaster (action)' and 'Insane gymnast (action). Remember to make your specialisms over-the-top - VHS got no time for your milquetoast specialisms.

Get started

Now get your group together and go crazy.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

7 people who should play Green Lantern in the next movie

With news that Chris Pine is in the running to play Hal Jordan in the next Green Lantern movie, I want to take a look at some other famous figures who would be great picks to don the power ring.

1. Gary Busey

2. Jerry Seinfeld

3. Betty White

4. One Direction

5. The Jesus Fresco

6. Mick Jagger

7.  Tina Belcher