Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Character-As-Party with USR: An Example

For the idea behind this post, see this earlier post.

I decided to take an approach I hadn't thought of before - or rather I had, but not quite exactly the same way. After thinking it over, I decided that I would stick with Option 1 and set up a standard USR character. The specialisms would be the classes - giving me some flexibility but, at present, limiting me to 3 members of the party.

Of course, I went with the iconic 3: the fighter, the magic user and the cleric.

The Party's Name: The Three Manzannas
Action: d10, Wits: d8, Ego: d6
HP: 13
Specialisms aka "Characters":
Flub the Fighter (Action + 2)
Melotron the Magic-User (Wits + 2)
Cadillac the Cleric (Ego + 2)

The "characters" are all 1st level.

For spells, I used a variation of my Moldvay-Era Classes for USR: spell casters can cast 1 spell per "+" of their specialism equal to or less than their current level. For spell choice, I'd rely on the well known 1st level spells.

I used the 5-Room Dungeon Model for encounters to make things easy.


Rumors of a lost treasure in the Caves of the Decayed King have long been part of the village history, although none had been brave enough to actually seek it. That changed when a mysterious party of strangers arrived in town with the sole purpose of finding that treasure and liberating it. Known only asThe Three Manzanas, the party, with a hastily scrawled map acquired from an old peasant woman 3 villages over, set out for one of the many caves dotting the mountains of the region.

Room 1: Guardian
The party descended down a 50' slope winding down into the cool blackness which was broken only by their torch light. At the base of the slope, a large fungus garden,nourished by moisture visible on the cavern walls hid a Shrieker. Exposed to the torch light, it let loose its piercing cry.

[I came up with the following for the Shrieker(A:d3 W: d10, E: d2, Specialism: Sound Alarm (W + 2), HP: 2 due to poor die rolling!) Why Wits? Because it seemed to me to make more sense than Action, which implies some kind of physical movement and attack/defense. ]

Flub charged towards the offending mushroom and smote it with his sword! [d10  + 2 vs d3, actual results : 3 to 1 for 2 HP damage!] Satisfied the threat had been neutralized, the party quickly scanned the room.

[Does anything arrive as a result of the screeching? I figure it's only Medium difficulty 4+, and I roll the Wits die, and get a 3, nothing shows up.

Is there anything of value in the room? 1 = yes and, 2-3= yes, but, 4-5 = no, but, 6 = no and. I roll a 4 and decide that means that although there is no treasure, there are two passage ways leading away from the room.]

Other than two passages leading away from the chamber and a heaping pile of mushrooms, they found nothing of interest and rather than waste more time, they decided to take the right-most passage.

Room 2: Role-playing /Trick/ Trap

[Does the party notice the trap? I decide it's Medium difficulty - I probably shouldn't have - and roll Wits and get a 7. So they see it.

Can they disarm it?I don't have a thief, and decide that means it would be very hard to do. I roll a 4. No they don't, in fact they trigger it.]

Peering beyond their torchlight into the darkness of the cavern, they saw several severed skeletons scattered about the floor. Recognizing the possibility of a trap, they opted to check for the mechanism to disable it. Unfortunately, instead, they triggered it.

[I then decided to determine the trap's Action die value, scaling it to the party level:
1= A: d10, 2-5 = A: d6, 6 = A: d4 and again I roll a 4.

The trap "attacked" with a 6, but the party rolled a 7 using their Action die and avoided any damage]

The massive scythe blade swept down from the ceiling , with a creak and a moan, just missing Flub.

"A close call there gents. We best be more careful."

[That's just a narrative license, nothing I did singled out a "character". The stilted dialog is intentional, I swear!

Any treasure here? No, but there is an interesting old statue.]

A seven-armed mantis headed snake, with long twisting ram-like horns, loomed at the edge of the torch light as the party made their way into the room. Panic was checked by the fact that it was made of stone.

Like the good adventurers they are, they searched it for any levers or secret panels that might lead to untold riches.

[I decided that this is a Wits check, and it's Hard to do. I rolled an 8 with the d8, so if there is one, they'll find it.

Is there any? 50/50, No.

I decided now was a logical time for a wandering monster check. I rolled a 1: yes, and. I interpreted this to mean not only does something show up, but there is more than one of that something: I roll a 1d3+1 and get 2 things.]

As the party poked and prodded the strange looking sculpture, they were almost too distracted to notice that something was setting upon them. Fortunately, Cadillac caught their motion into the torch's edge and heard the mandibles and claws clicking. Rapidly descending on the party with their chitinous legs and spiked tail protruding from a massive brain-like body were two Brain Scorpions.

[I rolled to see what their highest die would be 1= d12, 2-4 = d10, 6 = d8 and got 3, a d10. Keep in mind the stats apply to the group-as-a-whole. That is, it's another use of Character as Party.

A: d10, W: d8, E: d6
specialisms: Quick (A+2), Psionic Blast (W+2), 
Poison Tail (A + 2, requires Hard save vs Action or die (remove a specialism) ) 

Roll 1d6 for type of Attack that round: 1-2 = Psionic Blast, 3-4: Pincers, 5-6 Poison Tail. This does not mean they are coordinating, it just helps with the narrative.]

Cadillac shouted to get the others' attention and then they sprang into action [they won the initiative 16 to 9].

Melotron quickly called forth his Magic Missile  [as per B/X it auto-hits, but for Wits damage. 1d8 and i rolled a 1. This is the Character-as-Party's action for the round] but it was rather ineffective. Flub charged to the fore while Cadillac moved up in support.

The brain scorpions lunged with claws snapping but failed to penetrate the party's defense.

[Round 2, the party lost initiative 16 to 9, i rolled their attack type and got pincers again, and then rolled to hit: a 10. The party rolled their Action die for defense - i didn't use any bonuses for armor figuring that Melotron's lack of armor undoes any gain Cadillac's or Flub's armor would give: 3. 

That's. 7 HP of damage! 

I quickly ruled that if the total amount of damage dealt is higher than the number of sides on any of the dice, it's possible that "character" is killed, i.e. lose that specialism. Although it's higher than Cadillac's d6, he's behind Flub at this point and so I decided the attack hit Flub alone]

Cadillac quickly stepped up and cast his Cure Light Wounds on Flub.

[Ego + 2, for 6 points healed. Again, that's the party's action for the turn - the Character-as-Party healed itself.

The next round the brain scorpions took 4 HP of damage, and then in round 4, they dished out 2 points with a Psionic Blast which does Wits + 2 vs. the opponent's Wits die.  I rolled the d8 for the scorpions and got 1, for a total of 3. I rolled the party's Wits die to defend and also rolled a 1.

In round 5, the party landed 3 more HP of damage and I decided to test morale since that's over half the brain scorpions' starting HP. 

I figured that also meant one of them is probably dead or near death and set morale to Hard. With an Ego of a d6, they can't possibly succeed and the brain scorpions scuttled away, injured. 

This prey just isn't worth it!]

The battle over, Cadillac cast his remaining Cure Light Wounds spell [Again, Ego + 2, and I rolled a 1. Fabulous. Thankfully, it's only 1 shy of the maximum. ]

The party realized the truth of the saying that discretion is the better part of valor, and with only 1 spell remaining for Melotron and none for Cadillac, they made their way back to town to rest and regroup.

[Per USR conventions, the Character-As-Party gets 1 XP for the session. It takes 5 to advance a level. At that point I can add a new Specialism, i.e. a "character", or increase one of the existing specialisms' "plus" value, i.e. one of the "characters" goes up a level.]


  1. Brain scorpions sound incredibly icky. I'm relieved there are no pictures.

    1. Hello Michael,

      Thank you for the comment! I have done a lot of solo dungeon crawls in the past year or two and I was getting a little tired of the same old same old. "Icky" is pretty much what I was going for!