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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Shadow Squad of Syracuse: Powers and Weaknesses


At Character Creation, a player chooses two powers and assigns a d10 to one and d6 to the other, for their character (called a player character or PC to distinguish from non-player characters or NPCs).

List of Powers:

(a) Telepathy - a PC can either read one character's mind or push a suggestion in a character's mind three times a day of game time for 6 times the die roll minutes. (ATN vs. half victim's ATN die)
(b) Telekinesis - PC may levitate and control an object no bigger than a bread box three times a game day for 6 times the die roll minutes of game time. If using the object as a weapon, use ATN vs half victim's TUF die and assign a device die to object to score damage. Six minutes is equal to one round of combat but the the attacker cannot move the object and attack with it or anything else in the same round. If the character is interrupted by say having to parry another characters attack, the object drops. If the character uses it again that counts as another attempt for that game day. 
(c) Power blast - fires a blast of mental energy confusing and crippling a sentient target (ATN vs. half victim's ATN die) for 3 times the die roll in damage, once per game day. PC must be able to see the victim.

Special Ops: Special training allows you to master a weapon. Player chooses a weapon (melee or ranged). D applies to the weapon but PC adds one to his die rank (TUF or STW) when using that weapon.

Tech whiz - can intuitively work with new or found technology and receives a special device. The die is assigned to the device but the PC raises his die rank (ATN) whenever they use it or any similar source technology (say from the same planet of origin).

Shaman - Uses PC's ATN to perform magic. Shaman powers usually indicate that the PC is associated with one of the Native American nations near Syracuse, who more than any other group are aware of how deep the mystery goes in the city.
(a) Prophetic Insight - may discern a secret truth or anticipate something about the immediate future. The content and reliability of the insight are determined by the die roll once per game day.
(b) Healing - May restore one die roll of HP to any one character once per game day.
(c) Blessing/Cursing - Add your die to another character's die or against it and add or take away your roll from theirs.

Cybernetic - you add your die to any activity that uses a specified body part (eye, ear, arm, leg) three times a game day.

Changling - Your PC is a hybrid of humanity and some specified other creature (alien, fey, animal). You may call upon the special abilities of that other creature for six times the die roll game minutes three times a game day.

Mutation - You can alter your body in some specified way for six times the die roll minutes of game time twice a game day (Animal, Mineral, size alteration, elasticity).


A player must choose a weakness at character creation from the following list, specifying the object of the weakness:

Altered appearance
Allergy to Substance
Phobia or Compulsion
Berserker mode
Vulnerable to a power
Wanted by the law or an organization
Personality disorder

Losing or Gaining Powers and Weaknesses:

At the GM's discretion, a PC may lose a power or a weakness as a result of significant game events. A person my also try to lose or mitigate a weakness or gain a power or device through training or research. The GM must decide if such a task is worthwhile (not necessarily telling the player before they have used their resources) and if the player has the enough of the right resources to do it. If so, the GM tells the player when such training or research has been fruitful and then adds the result to their character.

Shadow Squad of Syracuse: Mechanics, Combat, Will Points


The mechanics are taken directly from Dungeon Squad! (see link in original post.) In general, only roll when there is something interesting at stake and not every single time. In many cases, it is clear that the PC can succeed without uncertainty.

When there is some doubt about an outcome that is important to the character, the GM determines which attribute is required to succeed at a task and how difficult the task is. (Ex. Lifting a heavy gate would be a TUF roll while trying to sneak past a guard would be a STW roll. ) Then the GM assigns the task a difficulty rating: 2 if easy, 4 if average, and 6 if hard. Tasks may be harder than that. If the PC is competing with another character, the difficulty rating is half the die assigned to the relevant attribute or half the monster die. (Ex. If Pauli is trying to to sneak past a guard, he must roll STW against half the guard's ATN die value to see if he succeeds.)

A task is successful if the attribute roll is equal to or larger than the difficulty rating. (Ex. The guard's ATN is d8. Pauli's STW is a d4. Pauli rolls a 4 and just squeaks by the guard. He's definitely not cut out for this sort of thing.)


Sometimes a PC will face another character in a fight. Combat is handles as a series of tasks. These tasks take place in rounds of combat, which are assumed to take up 6 minutes of time in the game world each.

Step 1: Surprise

There may be a chance that not all would be combatants are aware of the other being around. For for each player character, roll ATN against the other character's ATN or monster die, to see if they either succeed in surprising or avoid being surprised. All surprised characters player and otherwise do not get to attack on the first round of combat.

Step 2: Initiative

A combat round starts when each character rolls "initiative" to see what order characters attack. Each character rolls their STW die or monster die and records their number. The highest goes first, the next goes next, and so on until the list gets down to "1". A person may attack on the number of their turn and every fifth numbered turn after that. (Ex. Pauli rolls his d12 for ATN and gets 8. He may attack on turn 8 and also on turn 3.) A player may decide to refrain from acting on his turn in order act later. But if their actions are not used by turn 1, they are lost.

Step 3: Attack

On his turn, a player who wants to attack must pick a target in range of his attack and roll TUF if a close combat attack or a STW if an attack with a ranged weapon against the target's TUF or STW respectively, taking the difficulty rating as half the attribute die. If he equals or beats the difficulty rating, he hits the target and may do damage. (Ex. Pauli wants to cold cock a corporate ninja whose TUF is d8 - difficulty rating 4. He rolls a 5 and hits.) A character may move anywhere within the immediate theatre of combat before attacking to get into position.

Step 4: Parry (optional rule)

An attacked character can try to parry a blow as many times as they may attack in that combat round and without costing an attack action or waiting until its their turn. If an attack is successful, the defender may parry by rolling the relevant die to match or beat the attackers roll. If this happens, the hit applies to the defenders parrying device and that alone takes damage (sword, shield, arm).

Step 5: Damage

In the case of a successful hit, the attacker rolls the die for his weapon or power and takes that number off the HP of the defender. If the defender, has armor or parries with a weapon or shield, the device die is rolled and the number is taken off the total number of hits. If the defender is wearing armor, roll the device die for the armor and reduce the number of hits taken from the attackers damage. The rest of the damage is taken off the defenders HP.

Step 6: Start again

After all characters have had their turns, the round is over. Assess damage and see if anyone is dead, unconscious, or unable to fight. If not, start again at step 2 (or step 3, to save time).

Breaking off from combat:

If someone wishes to escape from the theatre of combat, they may use their turn to do so. However, their opponent has a free attack at +1 that does not count against their attacks allowed for that round with no chance of parring. If the character survives the attack, they may escape.


If a character's HP goes down to 0, they are unconscious and will perish if not given appropriate first aid in time. Normal first aid with a kit or training may stabilize a character at 0 HP. If the character applying the first aid makes a successful first aid roll (STW against a difficulty number that is 8 - half the patients TUF die), the patient is stable but not able to fight or do anything until some HP are restored. A full night's rest plus first aid will bring back 1 0r 2 HP each full wight hours of undisturbed game time. A healing power will also restore HP.

HP may also represent loss of sanity. If a character loses HP in a mental or certain magical attacks, 0 HP represents not unconsciousness but a complete mental breakdown. The victim will need to be restrained and receive special treatment before functioning properly. This can only be provided by a specialist but does not die (unless they attempt to fly off a building - without a flight power - GM's discretion).

Weapons are devices of either melee, ranged, or armor. All receive a device die or provide an attribute boost (to the next die up above the normal die for that attribute when the character uses that weapon). See Dungeon Squad for details about melee, ranged, and armor weapons.


Will Points express the PC's will to power and their determination to see to it that life goes according their chosen values. The can be spent for various purposes or lost or acquired.

A person can spend a WP (a) to raise the die on one roll one rank before the die is rolled, (b) to re-roll one roll but must take whatever the re-roll is, (c) in exchange for cash to support training or research.

A person can acquire a WP (a) for as a reward for either great role playing or a great contribution to the game, (b) when either the player or the GM invokes a PC's weakness to the PC's own detriment in the game.

Rolling a 1 on two consecutive die rolls loses 1 WP. Rolling the max value on two consecutive die rolls with any dice gains 1 WP.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Shadow Squad of Syracuse!

"Shadow Squad of Syracuse!" is a Dark "Superhero" Role Playing Game that uses Jason Morningstar's game system "Dungeon Squad!" for it's mechanics. This is a well reviewed pick up role playing system that is billed for kids but works well for any age group. I have basically developed it for my "Shadows of Syracuse" Campaign setting that I have been working on for years to help get it out there. This is a work in progress so check back to this post for updates (whenever I can manage it).

Disclaimer: "Shadow Squad of Syracuse!" is a fictional setting and story that takes place in an alternate history of Syracuse, New York. All persons and entities in it are fictional. No assertions, similarities, or implications about any actual persons or entities are intended and none should be inferred.

For the rules to to Dungeon Squad!, click the title of this post.


SSoS! is a fantasy Role playing game for several players who assume the role of characters in the story/setting and one player (called Game Master or GM) who is responsible for providing the setting and storyline, fairly moderating the rules, and portraying what the players' characters experience in interacting with the each other, non-player characters and the setting.


Syracuse . . . a city of old ethnic communities and refugees relocated from all parts of the world, struggling with hard economic times, low jobs, and urban tensions. But unknown to most of the citizens, Syracuse is also in the center of five Elemental Circles of Power and at the crossroads of powerful ley lines. It is also under the protection of the intergalactic space pirate Imperium and seen as an imperial reserve. Finally it is at the basis of the Axis that connects the cosmos to the realm of the ancient ones who wait for the opportunity to return to power. The fate of the cosmos turns on what happens or will happen in the city.

The impact of these strange forces tends to go unnoticed, thanks to the effort of various secret organizations who wish to be the ones to determine how these influences will be used. Behind them are the machinations of more uncanny factions from eldritch realms, deep space, and other dimensions. But many ordinary citizens have in one way or another been "touched" be these forces. They have received special abilities but also have become hunted by these organizations. No one dares reveal there hidden nature. Finally all seek to understand the ultimate role the city will play in the final destiny of the universe and beyond.

In SSOS!, players play native born citizens who have been "touched", known, if known, as the Touched. For them their new abilities are both a blessing and a curse, forcing them to live in the shadows and develop a secondary set of survival skills, forcing them to take unusual steps to find a way to live in the city. They join with others working odd jobs or anything that will help them live and hopefully understand what is happening to them.


Characters are native born citizens of the city from one of the ethnic neighborhoods in town such as Solvay, or Tippery Hill, or Grant Ave. But they also experienced something that imbued them with strange powers, something they ate or encountered or which happened to their parents and was inherited. Each player must provide and origin story that includes there original neighborhood, the event in which they have been imbued, and how the made it through their teens and survived until young adulthood without capture or death while living in Syracuse.

Characters have three attributes: Toughness (TUF), Attunement (ATN), and Streetwise (STW). The event that gave them there abilities also always affected them physically to some degree and direction or another which is measured by TUF. This is useful for strength, health, and close combat. The event also connected the character with the ultimate flow of destiny to a certain degree, wiring their thought and intuition to anticipate the way things will go which is measured by ATN. This is useful for magic and psionic power. Finally, the life of trying to preserve oneself from detection and harm has helped them cultivate a certain sensibility and skill set measured by STW. This is useful for picking locks, sneaking around without getting caught, and using diplomacy or intimidation to get information or cooperation. The player, consistent with his story assigns one each of a d4, a d8, and a d12 to each attribute. The larger the die the more likely the character will be successful in that area.

The character also picks two powers or devices from the list indicated. A device is a power that anyone can use or lose. These are the powers that came as a result of being "touched". Assign a d10 to one and a d6 to the other.

Each character must also choose a weakness from the list indicated. This is a downside of being "touched".

Powers and weaknesses may gained or lost (or not) because of damage, powers, encounters, or training but this is up to the GM. A player may wish to acquire a new power or device by training or researching but he must announce this and spend whatever resources he has to sufficiently work toward this. The GM then tells the player when the training or research is complete. He may require a saving through to see if it is successful.

A player then calculates both his hit points and will points. Hit points indicate how much damage the character can take before they are "written out of the saga" either through unconsciousness, death, or insanity. Will points reflect the player's will to power and determination to live life on their own terms. Will points may be spent before a turn to grade a dice roll +1 rank. or re roll the dice after a roll to get a different result, or to exchange for money or resources to train or research, or can be lost if a player rolls "1" twice in two consecutive rolls. Will points can be gained if either the player or the GM invokes a player character's weakness to damage his chances in the game in some way, or if the GM wants to reward the player for good roleplaying or contribution to the game, or if the player rolls the max number on a die two consecutive times.

The starting number of hit points for each new character is 10 + half the number of the die assigned to TUF. The starting number of Will Points of a character is 2 plus the sum of the numbers of the dice assigned to ATN and STW divided by 4. (HP = 10 + TUF/2, WP = 2 + (ATN+STW)/2)

Example: Pauli grew up in Solvay when the town was bathed in a meteorite shower that consisted of crystallized alien tissue which desolved and concentrated in some parts of the area and was assimilated into Pauli's body. The result for Pauli was that he developed psionic abilities. He reluctantly allowed himself to be recruited by the MIB (Men in Beige), the city's own security agency that seeks and utilizes the psi gifted, in order to survive.

TUF: d8
ATN: d12
STW: d4

Telekinesis: d14
Psion Blast: d6

Weakness: Photo-sensative, psionics are less effective and/or reliable in direct sunlight.

14 HP, 6 WP

More coming later.