Saturday, 30 March 2019

Heroes Unlimited: Phenomenal Paragons - Introduction


Inspired by Jacob Possin over at Walking In Shadows I have decided to world build a super hero setting using the Heroes Unlimited 2nd edition from Palladium Books and populate it with characters. The downside is I haven't heard back from Mr Possin from my attempts to contact him. So I'm probably commiting a terrible intellectual faux-pass just posting this.
For those of you who don’t know it Heroes Unlimited is a class and level based super heroic ruleset with more than a passing resemblance to old school D&D. In fact it uses the same system as all the other Palladium books. I talked about the system when I created a version of the Magpie for Palladium Fantasy over on the weareassassin blog here and here.

Most people are familiar with the Palladium rules (officially the Megaverse system) either through the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles RPG, and/or Rifts; the everything-and-the-kitchen-sink post apocalyptic setting. Kevin Siembieda, the creator of Palladium Books and Games, not only managed to get licenses to create games for the TMNT and the Robotech IPs back in the 80's but kept and maintained them for years.

But from an OSR perspective it's more interesting than that. In fact I'd argue it's the original OSR game system. Scratch deeply enough and you can see AD&D 1e beneath the surface. You can tell Kev's table played with psionics and comeliness back in the day. Of course 1e psionics are a horrible, almost unplayable, unbalanced mess. I suspected that Kevin might have tried fixing that, realised he had something worth money, and built Palladium around it. File the serial numbers off AD&D enough that TSR can't sue, bolt on a percentile based skill system, replace combat with your own home-brewed thing with 15 second rounds, individual actions and this whole active defence thing going on. Suddenly you've got the core of a whole new system.

It's a system which is a mass of subsystems, not all of which mesh well with one another, but as a whole work. A system that will support any setting you might want to drop on top of it, with minimal chance of collapse. Sure you might have to get a hammer out to bash it into shape but it'll work. However we're not encouraged to do that; only licensed game designers (Kev' and his people at Palladium). There is an air of what I've read described as "Cargo-cult game design", with Kev' just following the same steps as worked before; the system as a whole hasn't really been updated since the 80's. However I think it's more of bench-thumping game design. Each subsystem works on its own and they're essentially modular, so they can work together. Right? You just have to hammer in a subsystem to get them to gear. Psionics and magic? Leylines. Giant robots and squishy normal people? Megadamage (which is normal damage x100 and you have to do at least 100 damage to do 1 point of megadamage or nothing happens; humans can take less than 100 damage before dying). Modern setting? Make skills separate from character class and base them on character education. Or on their jobs. And so on an so forth.

There's something like a dozen settings for the rules, each vaguely compatible with the rest. Heroes Unlimited doesn't have an official setting as such. But there are sourcebooks. So we're going to use the characters we generate to flesh out a setting as we go.
I’m going to follow Possin’s rules (where unchanged I’ve made them italicised), as he followed them, with a few minor changes of my own. Here they are.
1.      I will be using only the books I have: Heroes Unlimited 2e, Powers Unlimited books 1 through 3, Ninjas and Superspies and whatever else I can get my hands on. If any of you feel like treating me I have a wishlist here. Any of the Palladium Books listed there would be wonderful, thanks.
2.      All percentile rolls with mechanical benefits or downsides get chosen rather than rolled. Other percentile rolls can be rolled or chosen as needed. Although in practice I tend to roll anyway.
3.      Attributes all start at 11, unless something else is required for the power category. In which case the first boosted attribute will be 20 and all subsequent boosted attributes 15, or the minimum required; whichever is higher.
4.      When rolling for any other non-percentile roll count the first die gets the low average, the second the high average and so on. For example: If I were rolling 3D6, the total would be ten, the first die would be a 3, the second a 4, and the third a 3.
5.      Do not worry about the percentages of the non-combat oriented skills. They might be useful, but the nature of the palladium house system means they will take hours to properly fill out, and that is just a nightmare. The combat stuff will be complex enough on its own. I’ll fill them out if I need them, but not before.
6.      All budgets will be maximum, unless I feel otherwise.
7.      I’ll roll for random alignments so I can decide if this is a hero, villain or whatever. However I’ll waive this if I have a clear idea for a character.
The alignments I’m using are the main 7 from the rules: Principled, Scrupulous, Unprincipled, Anarchist, Aberrant, Miscreant and Diabolic. I’ll also use Taoist from the Mythic China source book and the two of my own creation: Conformist and Non-Conformist.
This gives me 10 alignments to play with. I’ll roll d10 and read off from the list  above so that 1 is Principled and 0 is Non-Conformist
8.      I’m using the classes chart from Powers Unlimited volume 2 to randomly pick which class I generate next. I’m aiming for a minimum of 1 of each class and subclass but I’ll happily pad things out with repeated classes, just not back to back.
Also every character has a 1 in 10 chance of being either a Crazy or a Mega Hero (1=Crazy; 0=Mega)
9.      I’ll be using the P.P.E. channeling rules from the Best of Rifter when it comes to magic. But more of that as and when.
10.   I’m using Cameron Corniuks house rule for repeat skills. Namely +10% for the first repetition and +5% for each thereafter. For weapon proficiencies it’s +1 level per repetition. For hand to hand styles I can either increase their levels or add them together to get the next style up.
Okay those are the ground rules laid. I’ll see you back here next week for... 68...

The Immortal!



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