Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Solo Superhero -- Birth of the Inquisitor!

I had mentioned previously how much fun I find the Palladium system, and especially Heroes Unlimited. Especially when it comes to character creation. I rather glossed over this part when creating Yeoman (alas poor Yeoman!), but I figured my follow up character deserved a more thorough walk-through.

Let's get weird. 
For this character, I'm going to expand my range to include not only Heroes Unlimited 2nd Edition, but also Powers Unlimited 1 and Powers Unlimited 2 (I, sadly, don't have 3 yet). None of these are available as PDF's, unfortunately. Palladium, it seems, hasn't yet full embraced that method of distribution, so you need to get these either at your FLGS or online--might as well go to the Palladium Store and get them directly.

So, character creation in HU2 is broken down into 6 Steps--Attributes, Hit Points & S.D.C., Super Abilities, Skills & Education, Alignment, and Rounding out One's Character. Let's go through it Step-by-Step.

Step 1 -- ATTRIBUTES

HU2 goes with the classic "3D6 in order" for the following attributes--Intelligence (I.Q.), Mental Endurance (M.E.), Mental Affinity (M.A.), Physical Strength (P.S.), Physical Prowess (P.P.), Physical Endurance (P.E.), Physical Beauty (P.B.), and Speed (Spd). If you roll a 16 or better, you get to add an additional 1d6 to that stat. Here's what I get.

IQ      11
ME    10
MA    14
PS      11
PP      14
PE      12
PB      12
Spd     13

These are actually decent results for 3D6, but none of them are high enough for a bonus. Ah well, we'll have a chance to increase them later on.

Step 2 -- HIT POINTS AND STRUCTURAL DAMAGE CAPACITY (S.D.C.)

Palladium breaks damage into two categories, S.D.C. and Hit Points (HP). S.D.C. is "flesh wounds,"--they hurt, but won't stop you. HP are real damage--you're bleeding, it's nasty, and you're close to death. I don't know why this is Step 2. You're HP are based on your P.E. attribute, which might change later, and S.D.C. is based on your hero category and WILL change later. So, we'll ignore this for now.

Step 3 -- DETERMINE SUPER ABILITIES

Now we get to the fun stuff. I pick up Powers Unlimited 2 and roll on the tables there. I roll a "76" first, which is Magic. I just did that with Yeoman, so I roll again. This time I get an "08," which is "Symbiotic."  Which is cool, haven't ever done that before. Let's see what I get!

First off, I now get my base S.D.C. of 30, which is nice--see what I mean about step 2? There will be more additions to it later.

So, there's a lot to determine about this...thing attached to my character, where it's from, what it looks like, what it gives me, and what it costs. Only one way to find out--random tables!

Where did it come from? I roll a "01"--Alien. Fell from space, found in villains lair, or spaceship, or something. Cool--since I'm keeping this game in Crescent City, it's probably tied to the Brotherhood.

What does it look like? 77 -- Mask-like organism that bonds to half my face or head. I reduce my P.B. by 40%, and leaves me with an 8.

What's its intelligence? 29 -- Some kind of plant creature. It only lives 3D6 years, but replaces itself without me even being aware. Is it growing additional symbiotes?  No effective intelligence.

What does it eat? 63 -- Human waste. Cool! Makes stakeouts a lot easier, but I do need to drink a LOT more water than normal.

Benefits to the Host.  I get 1d4 special benefits. I roll a "3."  I get "Nightvision," Natural Armor (attacks that roll 12 or less do no damage to me, and I gain 5 to my S.D.C.), and finally Resistant to Fire and Heat (half damage)

Super Abilities. Ok, I have this poop eating plant attached to my face, what cool super powers does it give me?  2 Major Super Abilities and 2 Minor having to do with Controlling or Influencing others. There really aren't many of these, so I just pick my powers -- Control: Others (Mind Control!) and Disruptive Touch for my Majors, and Extraordinary Physical Beauty and Extraordinary Mental Affinity for my Minors.

Wait, hear me out. What if he was right?
So, I can con and BS with the best of them, can shut them down by manipulating and over loading their nerves, and can take control of individuals and make them do my bidding. This is the most bizarre hero I've ever rolled up--I feel like I'm playing the Purple Man. Eh, I could have just chosen Flight, Strength and Invulnerability if I wanted to be boring!

All these powers also give me the following bonuses: M.A. increase to 29 (and +10% to skills of deception), P.B. increased to 27 (since it's the Symbiot that gives me this power, I'm not reducing it. The thing on my face just makes me look distinguished!). Disruptive Touch adds 4 to my P.E.and 40 to my S.D.C. I get +6 against Possession for Control: Others, and an get to add 7 more to my M.A., to a total of 36. This does me no good, as the chart caps out at 30--where I have a 97% chance to get anyone to either trust me or be intimidated by me. So, I drop Extraordinary M.A., (with the Control Bonus, my M.A. is now only 21, still pretty good!) and go with "Unnoteworthy -- Forgettable" from Powers Unlimited 1. Despite his charm and good looks, no one ever seems to recall anything in particular about this guy.

Step 4 -- EDUCATION AND SKILLS

Let's see what kind of training this guy has had.  Rolling on the table, I get a 93--a Masters Degree. Huh, this is a bit better educated than I would have figured, but so be it. He's definitely focused himself, or maybe he just really enjoyed University.

I get 4 Skill Programs and 10 Secondary Skills. Now, despite his education, certain programs are off-limits--espionage, law enforcement, thief, etc. I really don't see this guy as a Doctor or an Engineer--his skills are with people, so that's where we'll go. First I grab Physical--it gives me 4 Physical skills, but I waste 3 on Hand to Hand Martial Arts and one on Boxing. Because I am a power gamer.

Second one, I go for Investigation and get Computer Operation, Research, Surveillance Systems, and Writing.

Third one I go with Technical, and grab Computer Programming, Business & Finance, General Repair & Maintenance, and Law (General).

For my Fourth, I go Investigation AGAIN, but now I can pick more skills. I grab Computer Hacking from Rogue, Intelligence and Interrogation for Espionage, and Seduction.

Finally, I need to pick 10 Secondary skills. I already have Pilot: Automobile, Mathematics: Basic, and English and Literacy. I grab W.P Pistol and W.P. Sword to give my guy some fighting  chance, as well as a smattering of basic skills to try and keep him alive.

Step 5 -- ALIGNMENT

Palladium still uses Alignments. They're better explained and a bit more nuanced than D&D, but they're still there. This guy is a hero, but he's not a squared jaw pillar of righteousness. I pick "unprincipled"--he has no problem lying to and cheating a bad guy, but would never harm an innocent or allow them to be harmed by inaction.

Step 6 -- ROUNDING OUT ONES CHARACTER

He begins with some money and basic heroic gear. The big question I have is his name. Given his mental powers, I poke are Wikipedia for some famous psychics, and then mangle one of their names He is Douglas Hume, and he goes by the superhero name THE INQUISITOR!


Yeoman, Issue 1 -- Tragic Hero

I was able to get a bit of playing in. Things did not go well for Yeoman.

Unsure where to begin,  I rolled up a random crime from the Heroes Unlimited 2 G.M.'s Guide.  I got a group a group of two-bit thugs committing forgery in order to commit a crime, with a complication that the heroes couldn't get involved--like, it would expose their identity.

It began on a typical night on campus. Scott and his room mate Chris were heading off to one of the computer labs to get some Quake time in (remember, this is mid-90's). Entering the lab, they stumbled upon a group of older students making fake ID's. The older students first tell them to leave, then intimidate them out (they have guns).

Scott and Chris head to another lab, where Chris is able to hack into the system and see that they're making ID's that match various school administrators. Curiosity peaked, Scott decides to follow them and see what they're up to. He heads to the exit and hides, but a combination of an "Interrupt" and a bad Prowl roll leads to him heading out of the bushes just as a passing student vomits loudly, drawing the forgers attention. A few rolls on the Fate table, and Scott is being hurried away at gunpoint--these kids mean business.

Aware that his life is in danger, once they get to secluded spot, Scott strikes out at the criminals. A nasty and ugly brawl ensues, and Scott can't use Shillelagh, but he does eventually emerge the winner. Bloody, but victorious. While one of the forgers lies on his back, writhing in pain, Scott turns into Yeoman, and uses Shillelagh's magic to force the truth from the crook (Words of Truth).

Turns out, they were all in debt to local gangster. He offered to wipe their debts clean if they would boost several pieces of artwork that were on loan to the school. They didn't ask why, just took the offer as the best they could get.

Despite being wounded (down to just better than half S.D.C.), Yeoman decides to go check out this "Slim Jimmy" and find out what he can.

And this is where everything went wrong.

A few rolls on the villain tables. revealed that Jimmy is an average (if 3rd level) thug, with about 5 guys with him. Two of them are fairly bad ass Enforcers, the other three are just Thugs. But, they're all armed. The Enforcers with sub-machine guns, the Thugs with pistols. Yeoman climbs up to the roof of their auto-body shop, and attempts to listen in on their conversation (through a conveniently open sky light, as you do). A failed Prowl roll reveals him, and Fate indicates these guys HAVE dealt with vigilantes in the past, and so are itchy and nervous about caped figures lurking about. The Enforcer fires a burst at Yeoman The shots land, and drops him through the sky light (crit by the enforcer).

Initially, the fight is tolerable for Yeoman. I decide that the boss and one of his Enforcers are in a side office, so he "only" has to fight one Enforcer and the three Thugs. With Shillelagh, he now has access to both armor and the ability to summon a mystical Shield to help protect him.

It's not enough. He's able to take down the Enforcer and a Thug, but when the boss and the second Enforcer arrive, he's worn down and quickly and dropped to less than half of his hit points.

Curse you and your easy to use
tables that reflect the messiness
of life!
I ask the fates (i.e. Mythic GM Emulator) if these guys are going to take him captive, figuring it's a Sure Thing. A roll of 100 makes this an Exceptional No, and the career of Yeoman ends on a bloody shop floor.

So, what did we learn?

First off, Palladium works pretty well for Solo. The combat was fun and exciting to play through. Though, I had forgotten how quickly it can go from "I'm unstoppable" to "crap, I'm dead." Guns are nasty in this system.

I say "pretty well" because there's a lot up to the Game Master in Palladium. I'm generally a pretty fair/fudge on the side of the players GM, but I also need to be fair to the game and the NPC's. If I was running this for a player, Yeoman probably would have been able to escape--wounded and humbled, but alive. Since I was both,  I had to rely on chance, and Yeoman paid the price.

What next? Probably make a new character.  I could start over with Yeoman and his adventures in Crescent City, but that just feels like cheating. He had his brief career, but this is why most supers become villains. Heroism is dangerous work. Also, I think for a Solo game I need a "jack of all trades" type character. Yeoman was really putting a lot of faith in his Prowl skill of 50% (he had it as both a Professional skill through a Skill Program AND bonuses thanks to his Gymnastics and Acrobatics), and it wasn't enough. I need someone who can fight, yes, but also someone who can sneak, talk, and move when things go bad.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Solo Heroes Unlimited--Secret Origin!

I've finally managed to get the base line work done for my solo run of Heroes Unlimited. The initial world building stuff really helped to focus my energies, and I can't wait to take this game for a spin.

First thing I had to do was put together my "GM kit." Even with games I know pretty well, I find it's helpful to have some cheat sheets. Back when I did a solo run of Vampire (a game I'm pretty certain I could run without any of the books), I still ran into the need for enemy stats and the like.  Oddly, this isn't as a big of a deal for me when I run a standard game. In a group situation, I feel much more comfortable fudging the dice rolls or making things up on the fly. In a Solo game, I feel a much more obligated to be "by the book." Not that it really matters, but I want to keep that dangerous feeling going.

So, my GM kit for HU is pretty basic. One of the Palladium forum user by the name of Glistam hooked me up with an excellent NPC sheet. I've already statted up the various "generic" bad guys, and that one sheet made it really easy to have these "normal" people ready to play. Of course, I can use the same stats for police officers, soldiers, security guards, etc. Adding various super powers to these baselines should be somewhat painless.

Should.

I also have a couple of sheets of simple rules--like ranged combat, the hand to hand charts, and stats for various guns. Palladium has an excellent sourcebook for contemporary weapons, but I really don't need to know the precise type of sub-machine guns the bad guys with precise range and ammo type. Well, most of the time I don't. Just a good generic SMG will be enough 80% of the time.

With the rules and setting figured out, I also finally got to make my character!  I used a bit of random rolling (Palladium's use of tables is one of my favorite elements of their games) with a bit of choice. I'll be playing a Magic/Enchanted Weapon character. He's from a small town in northern California, and discovered a bizarre staff during a Boy Scout camping trip to Redwood State Park. He knew there was something odd about this staff, and he kept it with him, growing increasingly close to it and focused on it. He felt driven to master and understand it, and gradually came to unlock its abilities.

The staff itself I see as being tied to the Brotherhood Aliens. I'm not sure exactly HOW yet, but I know they're involved.  It's Alien Mysticism, and its name, if it has one, is unpronounceable by humans. He dubbed it Shillelagh. Shillelagh packs a heck of a wallop, and has granted my character superhuman strength, extraordinary mental endurance (willpower), and an uncanny zen like sense of his surrounding (radar). To offset the combat powers, he lacks any kind of enhanced movement--no flying or running or the like. He's a grounded hero.

Currently, he's in college, attending University of California at Crescent City. His family isn't terribly well off, but it's a public school and he's on a wrestling scholarship. Otherwise, he's skills are pretty general/liberal arts--research and law and business and the like. His best friend is his roommate, Chris Jackson. they've bonded over their shared passion for fantasy and gaming, though Chris is far more into engineering and computers than running around and hitting people.

For the name, I go with Scott Walterson (derived from Walter Scott, author of Ivanhoe). When dormant, his magic staff is roughly the size of his hand, and is easily concealed. When activated, it extends to the size of a quarterstaff, and generates a red and black costume, seemingly made of leather and chain mail. Scott has decided to dub himself YEOMAN. However, he's only recently become aware of the criminal element in town, when he was nearly the victim of a random mugging a few weeks ago. He's headed out a few times since then, though he doesn't have much of a reputation yet. On the street, he's known as "Yo! Man" or "guy with stick." A few of the more cinephile criminals think his name is "Bo-Man!"

This greatly annoys Scott.

In keeping with the rules and world presented in Heroes Unlimited, the game will take place in the mid 1990's. As the dulcet sounds of TLC, Bryan Adams, and Hootie & The Blowfish drift through the air, we open our first issue...

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Solo Superhero Roleplaying

My brief forays into solo role-playing have fallen dormant. Work, family, "normal" games, and just life in general has a way of making that happen. However, I do really enjoy it and am looking forward to busting out the Mythic GM Emulator again!

I still really like what Mythic did with their Emulator. There are plenty of other systems out there, and I was looking into them for my next game. Since the release of the second season of Daredevil, I've been wanting to bust out a superhero game.  I ran something like one a few years ago, but my actual experience playing supers is pretty limited. I poked around at various systems, some standard, others solo focused. None of them hit exactly what I wanted, so I'm going with my old standby, Palladium's Heroes Unlimited.

There's a lot of negativity about Palladium's system, but it hits the sweet spot for me. Or, maybe it's just because I've owned the books for so long and never really got to play with them. In any case, I'm going with HU2 and the Mythic.

I spent probably too much time rolling up various random characters, but none of them clicked for me. When I did Andrei for Vampire, I had the advantage of using the Players Kit to generate a pretty solid background that gave the game a lot of focus and drive. I tried using Central Casting Heroes NOW! for inspiration, but it just didn't work for me. Though, I would really love to see an updated take on the "generic random background generator" idea. 

So, part of it is the generators, but part of is the "blank page problem." I talked about before how, when you're running a Solo game, the world and setting are as important, if not more important, as when one is running a standard game. And right now, I have nothing. Vampire, at least, had an implied setting, and Chicago by Night filled in for the rest. HU2 has something of an implied setting, but nothing as neatly detailed as Vampire or a superhero game based on Marvel or DC. 

But, coming up with a setting is a pretty big job, and I kind of want to get playing. Fortunately, back when I was running Heroes Hunter I came up with a couple of random tables for quickly generating locations for my team of villains to commit shenanigans, and I see no reason to let that work go to waste! 

I decide to go with "Crescent City," a generic home brew setting. It's a coastal town, around the actual Crescent City in California. But, other than that, it's entirely going to be made up.

My idea for the city is that the super elements are hidden from the masses. Other cities in the world are like Metropolis or Gotham or New York, but here people assume there are no flying men or aliens. The city itself is mid-sized, around 500 thousand or so people. 

Rolling on my tables,  I get the following:

Law Rating: 2--sufficient for day to day situations. This fits my idea, the majority are both unaware of, and unprepared for the amazing.

Factions: 3. There are three different groups of "supers" operating in this town. This is not counting the various individuals who operate independently. For now, they are dubbed A, B, and C.

Group A
  • Relationship to Government: Hunted
  • Alignment: Unprincipled
  • Public Face: Terrorists
  • Private: Heroes
  • Type: Special Training
  • Scope: Local
Group B
  • Relationship to Government: Working Relationship
  • Alignment: Diabolic
  • Public Face: Criminal
  • Private: Criminal-Scientific
  • Type: Psionics
  • Scope: Regional 
Group C
  • Relationship to Government: Unknown
  • Alignment: Aberrant
  • Public Face: Religious Organization
  • Private: World Conquest
  • Type: Aliens
  • Scope: Regional
Alright. So, team A are the heroes. They're mundane--specialized training isn't inherently "super," which keeps the theme. They are engaged in something like a war against Group B, which have effectively co-opted the mundane government. I decide to call them "Liberators." 

Group B is known as a crime syndicate, probably the biggest and nastiest group in the city. They have bribed and corrupted most of the institutions of the city, but are still careful to avoid anything obvious. The fact that they are all, or mostly, psychics greatly aids in this. As a crime syndicate, they are known on the streets as "The Firm."  They seek the next advancement in human capability, and use their criminal activities to fund illegal scientific experiments, and enslaving those that succeed. 

Group C is the most subtle of the groups, They consist of a small force of Aliens who seek to establish dominance over the world. Their front is "The Universal Brotherhood," a Christian/New Age movement that is rapidly spreading across North America, with small congregations in Europe and missionaries elsewhere. Most members are decent people, unknowingly serving their dark masters. 

I now have a pretty decent idea of how the city is operating. Experiments, mutants, bionics, and, naturally, psionics can be the result of the Firm's activities. Aliens could be rogue members of the Brotherhood, or even noble aliens opposed to the vile group. Any hero category can team up with the Liberators. 

I fortunately already have created various generic character types (thugs and the like) for Palladium. Now, I want to stat up the Group's per the Villains Unlimited Organization rules, and make a few key NPC's for each Group. Then, I'll be ready to make my character, and we can see where the game takes us!

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