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Converting Unknown Armies to 6e


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Because I'm both a huge fan of the game, and I want to know if it's possible to make such a behavior-focused game in 6e.


For those of you who don't know, Unknown Armies is an Urban Fantasy/Horror RPG with the fundamental premise that humanity actually is the center of the universe; it's human will that ultimately will decide what the form the next iteration of the universe will take, when the Invisible Clergy (the post-human embodiments of universal archetypes-the Warrior, the Hunter, the True King, the MVP, etc.) reaches 333 members (well, 332-the last seat is reserved for the embodiment of the concept of humanity as a species). Upon that day, the divine realm of the Stratosphere will collapse, returning all to primal chaos-except for the Clergy, who will fuse into one being whose first and last act will be to create a new universe informed by the personality, goals, and aspirations of the full Clergy. In effect, the fabric of reality is the ultimate representative democracy, to use 3rd Edition's analogy; the Clergy is born of and part of every human to exist, and so if we elevate saints, heroes, and generally nice people to the majority of the seats, the next universe will be a paradise. By contrast, jerks, villains, and monsters will create a regular hell.


Of course, the thing about representative democracies is that everything is done by committee-which means there are places in the universe where universal constants and laws just don't fit together. This is the origin of magick (and the 'k' is important), and all its products; without the laws of the previous Clergy, the universe defaults to the universal subconsciousness of humans to figure out what some undefined force or energy is supposed to be. And of course, certain humans have become the flaws; avatars, people who (intentionally or not) embody the archetypes of the current Clergy and gain power from them, and adepts, who have had what could easily have been a psychotic break and now understand a fundamental occult law of reality (or possibly believe in it so strong reality plays along) and have learned to channel that law through symbolic paradox into mystical power. And of course, there are proper rituals and true monsters born of the unnatural that has come to life-most infamous of these are demons, who are actually what the unlearned ponies (ie, the occult underground term for "easily manipulated idiots") call "ghosts"; the only thing that allows the dead to remain active is raw obsession, and being a spiritual entity boils away just about everything but that obsession. It doesn't matter if the demon was your best friend, your wife, your most frequent Wal-Mart greeter; to her, it's either something that gets her closer to her obsession, and thus important and useful, or it's not, and thus utterly irrelevant.


Thing is, the big thing about UA is that magick requires sacrifice, and the greater the power, the greater the sacrifice. Avatars have to remain in character at all times lest they lose their connection to the Clergy (Merchants must always be looking to maximize their profits, while Warriors can never compromise with the enemy), while adepts have to perform outright insane acts in order to absorb magickal charges, and have a taboo that, should they break it, drains all of their power (chance-altering entropomancers have to take Jackass-and-up caliber risks to gather charges, and can never dare someone else to take a risk they wouldn't, while movie-obsessed cinemancers must get people, including themselves, to invoke common tropes and cliches to fill the tank, and must always complete an archetypal scene they notice-if you're in a car chase with a cinemancer, any nearby fruit stands are not long for this world). That, and it's all pretty subtle when it comes down to it; the normal extent of magick is that it can retroactively change things to fit a specific spell so long as that doesn't undo death, and that requires a lot of juice or mojo (and must fit within the magick school or avatar; a cinemancer can talk smack about someone and then note he's probably right behind her to rewrite history so that he was somehow able to overhear the entire tirade in person, but they can't make it rain unless someone else was verbally relieved it wasn't). This is a game where playing a normal or mostly-normal person is viable, because said person is likely the only one keeping her nutcase mystic buddies out of jail or insane asylums.


Operative word is "normal" here-in a world where human will is the only true universal constant, wanting things hard enough, and working for them, is what decides what is and is not possible. Reveal existence of magick to the world? Create an alternate universe? Found a mystical dynasty that will govern the shadow of the world? Ascend to the Clergy? Replace a member of the Clergy? Or just get that creepy cult leader arrested before he hurts people? If you're willing to accept the cost and are lucky enough, anything you want, friend. Just remember; the catch-phrase Sleepers (a mystical conspiracy of magick-hunters who exist to make it secret, and safe-so long as you aren't endangering the general public, they're cool with you, in theory-they still kill people, and generally aren't that sane) is "You Did It" for a reason. It implies "You Fix It."


So, any tips on how I would convert the setting to Dark Champions? It's ultimately a very mystical noir-ish game that wouldn't be out of place in default Hudson (it doesn't take a stretch to imagine Card Shark as leading a cabal of entropomancers who enhance their crimes with chance magic, knowing full well they're taking the kind of risks that power them up simply by doing their jobs). I don't want it to be perfect, of course (Unknown Armies is also a game based around avoiding violence by any means necessary, and this is superhero comics), but I'm open to suggestions on how the Power Loss of adepts and avatars would function.

Edited by Leliel
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  • 3 weeks later...

I read some of the UA books a long time ago; I remember thinking they had some interesting ideas and I borrowed some bits for an urban fantasy/monster hunter game I ran years ago, but only cosmetically. IIRC the original UA was very rules-lite "story games" focused? The flexibility of Hero seems like it would make adapting UA to Hero an interesting exercise. I think the key might be to keep a lot of the "here's how magick works" stuff as campaign settings rather than trying to stat everything out in detail.


The big challenge as you point out is that UA tends to be much more focused on avoiding combat compared to most typical Hero games, so you'd need to have a long talk with your players about expectations. The one Horror game I tried to run (20 years ago) quickly morphed into the aforementioned urban fantasy/monster hunter game which was much better suited to both the players and my GMing style. It is certainly possible to run a combat-free game in Hero, but it does kindof beg the question of whether or not you need such a mechanics-heavy system if you're not going to use it much of the time. So just depends on what kind of game you want to play.

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  • 4 months later...

Being a Hero newbie, and only having read the second and first edition books of UA, I might be forgetting key points of both games. However, my version of UA magic in Hero would look something like this:


Instead of using charges, create a new pool of usable resource (Endurance -like) that costs more points than Endurance, and which requires the use of rituals and actions mentioned in the UA core books to generate resource points. In Hero, this could be more flexible in the sense that you don't generate minor, significant or major charges, you just generate juice into your magick pool.


As for the spells, you can start with the ones listed in the UA book, and either create more spells or use a variable power pool to represent the abilities of Adepts.


Avatar skills can be created as powers, requiring an Skill roll using the Avatar: Whatever skill first. This system can also be more flexible than the one in the UA books.


Just for flavor, you could limit the everday skills Adepts have, because of their obsessive nature towards whatever magick they practice and the general lack of coping skills to deal with real life.


A DC game (Unknown Hero) set in this kind of occult world would probably be a blast.

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