February 17, 2021 ⌦ Game Design ⌦ Superheroes ⌦ System
A slight deviation from my normal posting about sci-fi games and design. When my home group takes a break from our usual games we’ll sometimes break out a super-powered pro hero game I mess with on occasion. Don’t know if it’ll ever be more than a set of house rules1.
For now it borrows from a few different systems (you may recognize Crits and d100s from Mothership) and has a few mechanics that are still in flux. Usually after a session we spend some time and see what works and what doesn’t.
The basic premise follows professional heroes with a wide range of unique abilities and powers we’ll call… Knacks2. Their job is to investigate mysteries and rescue ordinary civilians from everyday dangers.
The base mechanics of ULTRA involves rolling a d100 (or 2d10, percentile dice). Anytime you want to act or do something where the chances of success are brought into question the Mastermind (GM, Referee) will call for you to make a Check. When making a Check:
Using Knacks is an exception to this rule. Knacks will almost always work without a Check (unless there are conditions to be met as listed their description).
When creating your hero think of a comprehensive theme. Make your own or borrow one from an existing Hero. Speed, Strength, Justice, Sound. Think of flaws and limitations. Don’t let it be so powerful at the outset that it can’t grow or expand.
Also think of a Costume and Hero Name.
ULTRA doesn’t have a system where you worry about hiding your identity or alter ego as you’re playing as professionals not vigilantes. If I added one I’d probably use the Close Call mechanic from League of Goons.
Heroes have six Base Attributes that make up the core of who they are as a person as well as the enhancements gained from their Knacks. These are all pretty much Hero-level attributes. Your average person would be a 5 or 10. To determine your Base Attributes:
ULTRA doesn’t use Skills to modify Attribute Checks. Special abilities and skills are instead manifested in your character’s Knack. Base Attributes are used for anything your character wants to do that would not use your Knack. Or when using it to contest a check against another character or environmental effect.
Contested Checks may come up when a PC and NPC try to take similar actions at the same time or opposing actions. For Contested Checks, both parties make a check against a relevant Attribute. Whoever rolls lower wins the Contest, unless the result acts as a failure.
Knacks are the innate meta abilities and superpowers that many people now possess and what makes Pro Heroes stand out.
Think of how your powers work and manifest. Remember these can work in tandem with your Base Attributes but don’t have to.
|Permeation grants the user the ability to phase their body through physical matter.|
Can also be called Meta Points, KP allows you to use your Knack. Certain Knacks take more energy to make use of and can take a toll on your body. If you run out of KP, you can start pulling from your HP. Doing so for 20 points or more can cause permanent damage to your body (subtracted from your Max HP).
|(4d10 x 2) + 50|
★ When creating your Hero, spend 30 KP on your first three (3) Knacks.
Health is tied into your KP. If you expend all of your KP and continue trying to use your Knack, you start dipping into your HP instead. Doing so for more than 20 KP can cause permanent damage to your body (subtracted from your Max HP). When you hit 0 you succumb to your wounds and are knocked out.
|2d10 x 10|
To recover health, you can roll 1d10 x 10 to regain HP and KP When you Rest (sleeping overnight).
To recoup all of your HP or KP you can Recover which would be resting with no action or activity for an extended period of time (hospital stay, winter or summer vacation).
The life of Pro Heroes is filled with action. This can be fighting against a villain, racing against the clock or a crumbling building, or rescuing bystanders from a natural disaster. Any time one of these events comes up or you need to know a turn order, the Mastermind (GM) will call for Action!
This is done every Round until Action! is resolved or the Mastermind (GM) calls for an end to Action!
Every Action you take costs a number of Action Points (everyone starts with 6 AP). Actions can be any of the options listed below.
|Activate Knack||-||Use or activate a Knack ability (AP cost varies)|
|Attack||2 AP||Make an attack with a ranged or melee weapon against one or several targets. Critical Hits on can cause a massive push-back that sends the target(s) flying, through walls and buildings.|
|Block||2 AP||Prevent an Action or Event from happening|
|Counter||4 AP||Prevent an Action or Event from happening and take an immediate 2 AP or less Reaction. Critical Hits on can cause a massive push-back that sends the target(s) flying, through walls and buildings.|
|Interact||3 AP||Perform an involved task such as treating a wound, picking a lock, operate a computer or machine|
|Move||2 AP||Move to one (1) adjacent Location equal to your SPD Score; AP doubles if movement impaired|
|Support||2 AP||Supersedes turn order. Use an action to bough another player.|
|Combo||3 AP||Supersedes turn order. Work with another player to execute a special move. Execute at any time between the SPD Scores of participating heroes.|
Instead of a grid or map-based tactical movement4, ULTRA uses Location or area-based movement. Locations typically make up a small area such as a neighborhood cul-de-sac, a floor of a high-rise or multi-level shopping mall, a city block or alley, or even large vehicles (such as a bus or plane).
Some attacks may lead to damage. When this happens you can roll your associated Damage Pool which is a number of d10’s that Hit on a result of 6-10.
1 Hit = 10 DMG
Purpose of a pool is to give you a tactile representation of the power behind your hero instead of relegating that feeling to just high numbers. Same reason a hit is ten damage instead of one. The high numbers give the feel of being more than an average human.
Increase accuracy by lowering the Hit (e.g. Aim reduces hit to 5-10.)
Running ULTRA is very similar to most TTRPG’s. A Mastermind (GM) comes up with a basic scenario
or guides the PC’s through a pre-written one.
When running a game there are a few different types of scenarios that the Players can encounter.
Each of these has its own merit and may allow some Knacks to shine over others but each story arc typically follows a similar pattern.
This pattern can be flipped on end, interposed with other story tropes and concepts.<< | < | >
I like having something reserved that’s just for the home group.↩︎
Don’t mind all the serial number shavings.↩︎
This is taken verbatim from my notes though I don’t remember why.↩︎
I’m a fan of encounter maps and grid-based movement but for high-mobility characters like superheroes, measuring movement in small, square or hex increments (10m, 5ft.), no longer made sense.↩︎