An Introduction to the Universal Heroes Role Playing Game

A long, long time ago, back in 1985, I began to tinker with the idea of role playing games. My introduction to such entertainment was the old-style Marvel Super Heroes Role Playing Game (or MSH RPG, for short). It was a pretty fun pastime, and me and a couple of friends would get together to stage adventures where everyone beat up on whatever imaginary villain had launched whatever ridiculous plot each week.

In the beginning, I was not very good at this sort of thing. I do believe our very first adventure involved Thor and Wolverine hanging out in a bar, seeing who could get drunk first, when a 'giant radioactive dinosaur' suddenly attacked the city. Of course, by this point both of them had managed to get rather tipsy through sheer volume, and chaos (and staggering property damage) quickly ensued.

I eventually got better at the whole storytelling thing, though, and we managed to keep our game going for a decade. After that, our gaming group drifted into other things, a lot of them succumbing to the 'Vampire' chain of games while I instead started running a PlaneScape campaign. I subsequently experimented with numerous other systems, such as Cyberpunk and Rifts, but MSH always felt like 'home' to me.

It's just one of those things, I suppose.

Over the course of that decade of gaming, I believe I cooked up an inordinate amount of NPCs (numbering in the thousands), along with multitudes of customized rule systems. I was always tinkering with things, either streamlining the actual rules themselves, or vastly improving on the character generation options by making all new paths of power for players to walk their characters through.

Having since discovered the Internets, I thought that it would be great to share my original (and some not-so original) creations with the world, doing so mostly through an e mail list dedicated to the MSH RPG. It sort of died a horrible death when it was absorbed by (the jerks), and with the subsequent release of the Marvel Super Heroes Adventure Game (MSHAG), a role-playing game based on the Saga card system.

So I thought 'Why not put it all on my own site'? Thus, on April 9th, 1998, 'Technohol 13: the Atomic Drink' was born! I use the site to house some of the characters and rule sets I'd concocted over the years and put on-line, though there's still a lot of work to do in that regard. The ultimate goal of course is to 'rebuild' the MSH RPG on my own terms, and in my own way, a goal that continues to this very day.

And may yet take many, many years to see completion.

Over time, you'll see me modifying the existing game texts from the 'old' game to transform it into something of a 'universal' rule system, one which will allow a game's Judge to tell tales in almost any genre or setting. Hence the name: the Universal Heroes Role Playing Game. While the Universal Heroes system is based on the core of the Classic, old-school MSH RPG, things will ultimately evolve in their own direction.

The idea is to streamline the rules slightly, to make the action flow either in a faster or more detailed fashion, as the Judge prefers. Also, character generation is being greatly expanded, allowing players as much support as is possible in order to build the 'perfect' character, the one that has been floating around inside their head for a while. Or you know, just occurred to them.

Finally, support will be given to a variety of game settings. Several fully developed game 'worlds' will be presented as either something to directly plug your players into, or just as examples from which one can build their own. These will include a 'modern day' setting of course, along with several different worlds and times with which to focus on one kind of character above others (magic, psionic, etc.).

Stay tuned, 'cause things are just starting to get interesting!

The Big Idea Behind the Universal Heroes Role Playing Game

Well now you know why Universal Heroes exists, but in the event that you've never enjoyed a role playing game before, you may find yourself asking just what the heck you do with this thing. Simply put, the idea behind Universal Heroes is to allow players to assume the identity of at least one character, and play out his, her, or its activities in a setting decided upon by all the players involved.

Most players of Universal Heroes will assume the role of just one character. This character is referred to as a Player Character (or PC). This is the player's 'avatar' in the setting, the means by which they participate within it. Keep in mind that a player character should talk and behave as that character would, not as the player managing them might (unless the player character is some version of their 'real life' self).

On the other hand, one player must assume the role of the Judge. He or she adjudicates all of the rules during play, and handles the roles of every character encountered that is not managed by the other players. A Judge's characters are hereby referred to as Non Player Characters (or NPCs). It is the Judge's job to present a scenario for the other players to operate within, as well as to manage all of the action.

Therein lies the beauty of a role playing game: it is not mere, inflexible fiction.

It is instead a collaborative effort, where the Judge sets the stage for events, and the other players act out their roles, taking their characters wherever their personas would dictate - for good or ill. It is a truly active form of entertainment, one which draws all its participants into the limelight, and lets everyone influence the story. And the story can take place almost anywhere!

From ancient, lost lands where sorcery holds sway to distant planets in far-flung futures, Universal Heroes allows its players to have adventures anywhere, in any time - the only limit is their imagination! Furthermore, these stories can take the form of solitary tales, a 'one shot' sort of thing, or instead expand into an entire campaign - a series of adventures that tell a much larger tale.

While the former can be good fun now and then, the latter allows a group to fully explore their characters and the setting presented to them by their Judge. But either is an acceptable use of Universal Heroes, for both can be equally entertaining. This is just a choice that a group of players needs to make beforehand - though they can surely mix and match between the two as is desired!

But what is required to play Universal Heroes, you ask?

Not much, really. All that's essentially necessary are these rules - and a set of percentile dice. Percentile dice are two ten sided dice, which can be used to generate a number ranging from one to one hundred, though these dice can be hard to come by outside of professional gaming stores. To this end, here is a simple d100 number generator, if you need it.

You can also invest in maps for use in the game, but they're completely optional.

Other than that, all you need is a tiny bit of creativity - and the desire to have fun!

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