Sunday, August 18, 2013

Characters in The Masters of the Universe RPG

Skeletor's back, better than ever!
In last week's comments, there was some discussion about what the character generation rules could have been like in The Masters of the Universe Role Playing Game, had such rules been included.  We can make assumptions based upon the presentation of the pre-generated characters and clues provided by the rules.

On page 7 of the rules, He-Man informs the reader that “characters are defined by six attributes and several skills or magic spells!”  He lists five 'basic' attributes but follows up with information about skills without mentioning the sixth attribute (which is evidently 'Movement Points').  The five 'basics' are Strength, Agility, Intelligence, Life Force, and Magic.  He-Man further mentions that “66 is the highest and 11 the lowest – and the worst!”  These are the numeric values associated with the 'basic' attributes. Upon examining the attributes for the twelve characters provided with the game – six 'player' characters and six 'evil' characters – there are no attribute values that end with 7, 8, 9, or 0.  As mentioned last week, this suggests the use of d66 as an attribute value generator.  (For d66, two six-sided dice are rolled; one die represents 'tens' and the other represents 'units.')

By necessity, the attributes are self-explanatory; the game provides no formal definitions.  A character is able to sustain a maximum amount of damage equal to his or her Life Force.  Attempting to cast a spell requires the expenditure of Magic Points; a character that needs to spend Magic Points has an amount equal to his or her Magic attribute.  The respective functions of the other three attributes are not so obvious.  The 'Movement Points' score seems to be one-tenth of Agility (rounded down); otherwise, Agility has no effect in the game.  Aside from when He-Man lists the 'basic' attributes on page 7, the only other mention of Intelligence is when it is used (along with the Magic attribute) to determine the modifier for using one particular magic item – a modifier that could have been derived just as easily from the Magic attribute alone.  Given that the featured character, He-Man, is renowned for his strength, it is curious that the Strength attribute is not used for anything in the game.  What's the point in having an attribute if you're not going to do anything with it?

A character's skills (and spells, if any) “are rated from 1 – basic familiarity to 6 – a master!”  As is, only combat skills come into play:  Hand-to-Hand (weaponless combat – “martial arts, boxing and wrestling skills”), Sword (actually, “all bladed weapons”), Club (also referred to as Club/Hand Weapon – “anything you can pick up to strike someone with,” other than bladed weapons I suppose), Pistol (“one-handed firearms of any kind”), and Rifle (“two-handed firearm”).

The provided characters have other skills but they are neither used nor explained.  Some skill names are intuitive (such as 'Animal Riding' and 'Medical'), but others are not. 'Machine' skill is distinct from 'Machine Use' skill because there are characters that have both.  (In one instance, 'Machine Use' is listed as 'Uses Machines' and in another instance as 'Using Machines.')  A third skill is 'Tinkerer,' which suggests the repair of machines.  So, what can the 'Machine' skill provide that does not involve the repair or actual use of machines?  A skill for identifying machines (but a separate skill for their use)?  Machine trivia?*  The ability to mimic the sounds made by machines?  What?  Beastman has the 'Animals' skill at a rating of 6; he also has the 'Animals' skill at a rating of 4.  Did he max out and contribute points to a redundant skill?  Ram-Man also has the 'Animals' skill while Mer-Man has the specialized 'Sea Animals/Plants' skill.

Among the provided characters, those who have spells have a Magic attribute of at least 53.  These characters are the only ones who use Magic Points, yet Ram-Man and Fisto both have a series of boxes on their character cards to track their Magic Points.  Perhaps at one point during the design of the game Ram-Man and Fisto were required to spend Magic Points to activate their special abilities?

The rules describe six different spells:  Shield, Teleport, Fly, Shrink/Grow, Animate, and Blast (Listed as 'Offensive Blast' with some characters in order to distinguish it from what other kind of blast?).  Shrink/Grow (or sometimes Grow(th)/Shrink) causes a target to either grow to twice its size or shrink to half its size; however, the only game effect is that that target's hand-to-hand damage is doubled or halved respectively.  The only function of Animate is to “cause any object to attack who[m]ever the player wants.”

The spellcasting characters have ratings in spells not described in the game.  As mentioned previously, these spells were to be addressed in the never-to-exist 'advanced' version of the game.  These spells are:  Viewing, Illusion (Creation), Telekinetics (not to be confused with the Object Movement spell), Seek, Control (Being), Project Thought, Counter Spell, Space Portal, Disguise/Transform, and Summon(ing).

*  The world's first vending machine dispensed holy water.

1 comment:

  1. Any chargen system true to the cartoon would start with some kind of gimmick (viz. Mekanek's neck) and then translate the gimmick into an attack or a spell. But anyone other than He-Man would have at least a 90% chance of critical failure when attempting to do anything at all.