|Game mechanics based off of Sandy Petersen, Lynn Willis, and Greg Stafford's original Ghostbusters RPG, published by West End Games (copyright 1986).
Hellboy and all related characters are trademarks of Mike Mignola and are used without permission.
Assembling random words from the English language into sentences and paragraphs on this document was entirely my doing. All items on this page that aren't blatant copyright or trademark violations are copyright 2002, Thomas Deeny.
What You Need To Do Before You Even Start Reading The Game Rules.
First, you must put any notions of suing me for using trademarked and copyrighted characters and world settings out of your mind. As this would apply to only a small number of people who may read this document, the rest of you may jump to Secondly.
Secondly, you should read some Hellboy comic books. This will give you an idea of the game world, what the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Development does, and probably get you to realize that there's an awful lot of Nazis still running around.
Thirdly, you should know what a role-playing game is. A good -- and short -- article on what an RPG is can be found at http://landfill.thesnakefarm.com/games/aboutrpgs.php . (While you're there, go ahead and check out the daily webcomics at thesnakefarm.com .)
And last, you should have some six sided dice. Hellboy:TURPS uses a d6 system, which means you'll probably be rolling around four or five six-sided dice every time you need to roll something. One of the six-sided dice should be a different color than the others. This is called the Luck Die. You will come to hate this die.
Your character is a member of the Bureau, most likely a field agent. He or she will travel all over the globe, fighting bad guys, investigating the unknown, and generally saving the planet over and over again. Most employees of the Bureau are Normal Joes and Janes. In other words, they're like you or me. They can't speak to the dead. They don't set things on fire with their minds. They aren't reanimated corpses. They're just normal people who happen to investigate the paranormal.
The more well-known Bureau employees are the Freaks. After all, who's going to be noticed more often, Joe Average or a sentient mechanical man with a brain floating in a glass jar where his head is supposed to be? If you are a Freak, you can do some neat things, but you also have something bad that goes along with it.
While we're talking about Freaks and "something bad", we should stop and mention that unusual looks aren't considered a bad thing in the game setting. There are several mentions in the Hellboy comic book series and the three books (as of this writing) that feature people not noticing Hellboy looking oddly. My favorite example of this comes from Delivered by Greg Rucka in the Odd Jobs short story collection: "... as I'm passing a park, a bunch of kids point and stare and giggle at me. I wave and they wave and eventually I get to the subway stop, catch a ride to Grand Central." That's a big red demon-thing with a stone fist talking. Unusual looks aren't that unusual.
Your character has four stats: Brains, Muscle, Moves, and Will. Each stat is assigned a number. The higher the number in a stat, the better the character is in that field.
You have twelve points to allocate to the four stats. You must assign at least one point to a stat and you may not assign more than five points to any one stat.
Some people in the game setting may have stats higher than five. Most likely, your character will be able to increase his or her stats after you've played through a few adventures.
In order to have a fast flowing game, your character is considered competent in several fields. He or she can drive a car, swim, repair a leaky faucet, play poker, shoot a gun... whatever. If a normal person can do something or pick it up rather quickly ("You mean I just point the skis downhill and turn by leaning?") than your character can do it. However, there is going to be one thing in each of your stats that your character can do rather well. Pick a skill relating to your stat. When your character attempts to perform a task he or she is Skilled in, you get to roll three extra dice.
A note on skills: When taken, the GM and player may discuss exactly what a non-specific skill means to them. For instance, one gaming group may take the Mojo Skill "Unbeliever" to mean that skill is used to counter any magical spells. Another group might say that skill allows the character to disbelieve mental illusions. Another group might think the skill is used when resisting paranormal fear-inducing attacks.
Brains shows how smart your character is. In this game, smart people know a lot about everything. If you have Brains: 5, your character is equally good at astronomy as she is at neuropharmacology, electronic engineering, and recalling baseball statistics. Your skill that is associated with your Brains is your character's specialty. The stat is called "Brains" because it encompasses the knowledge and intelligence of the character, but it's mainly because it's fun to say "Roll your Brains."
Here is a short list of Brains Skills. You may choose one of these or create your own. As with any other Skill, your GM has to approve it.
Muscle illustrates how strong and healthy your character is. This is the majority of your character's physical attributes. With a high Muscle stat, your character can punch a wall to make a hole. Characters with low Muscles can get exhausted chasing after a fleeing villain.
Here is a short list of Muscle Skills. You may choose one of these or create your own. As with any other Skill, your GM has to approve it.
Pick Up Things
Moves in any other game would be called "Dexterity" or "Agility", but here it's that and more. Your Moves characteristic combines your character's sense of balance, hand-eye coordination, and ability to dodge out of the way when something is trying to bite your head off.
Here is a short list of Moves Skills. You may choose one of these or create your own. As with any other Skill, your GM has to approve it.
Slight of Hand
Mojo can indicate two things. For most characters, it is just a stat that covers one's willpower: boldness and bravery. This will you to resist mental attacks and be able to overcome fearsome sights. This will allow you to bluff your way past the three-headed doggie that is trying to make up its minds if it wants to eat you now or save you until later. It's your mental stat that isn't related to how much you know about things. For characters who are Freaks, this is the stat that indicates how well you can get your Freak on. Freaks should decide what the nature of their Freakiness is before picking a Mojo Skill.
Here is a short list of Mojo Skills. You may choose one of these or create your own. As with any other Skill, your GM has to approve it.
Using Stats and Skills
When your character wants to do something he or she might fail at -- like jumping off a collapsing bridge and grabbing a rope -- the game master (GM) will assign a difficulty number to that task. Then you will have to roll a number of dice equal to your stat level to equal or exceed the difficulty number. If you do so, your character will have succeeded: he or she is now hanging from a rope. If you fail, you fall.
Whenever you roll dice, one of the dice should be a different color. This is called the Luck Die If you roll a one on the Luck Die, something bad happened, but count the one anyway. As an example, if your character has a Muscle of 3 and is required to roll to jump from rooftop to rooftop, you would roll two normal dice and the Luck Die, making the total number of dice you roll equal to 3, your Muscle score. If you roll two through six, you've had good luck; a one means bad luck.
The GM does not roll a Luck Die.
If your character had a Jump skill, you would get to roll an additional three normal-colored dice.
If you meet or beat the difficulty number and you don't roll a one on the Luck Die, your character succeeds at his or her task. If jumping from rooftop to rooftop, your character makes it, safe and sound.
If you meet or beat the difficulty number and you roll a one on the Luck Die, your character succeeds, but has a minor setback. You jump across, but don't nail the landing quite right. If you're chasing someone, you slip upon landing and they get a bit further away.
If you roll under the difficulty number and you don't roll a one on the Luck Die, your character fails. Your field agent leaps across the gap between buildings but just doesn't quite make it. He scrambles and twists in the air to see if he can grab onto a fire escape railing (requiring a Moves roll to grab).
If you roll under the difficulty number and you roll a one on the Luck Die, your character fails spectacularly. Your character jumps across, but doesn't make it. He scrambles to grab at a fire escape railing, misses, and winds up falling six stories to the ground.
New characters start with 20 Luck Points. Luck Points are gained as rewards when characters succeed at the end of a mission. When your character does badly or becomes injured, your character loses Luck Points.
You may spend Luck Points at any time. Spending Luck Points allows you to roll an extra die when trying to succeed at a task. You may spend as many Luck Points as you wish. Just know that when they're gone, they're gone. When spending Luck Points to roll extra dice, you have to decide if you are going to spend them before making your task roll. You cannot use them to reroll any failed task.
You can also spend a Luck Point to reduce the bad effects when something happens. Taking the above example of jumping across rooftops: If you have a spectacular failure, you can elect to spend some Luck Points to make the hurting not so bad. If you don't spend any Luck Points, your character will hit the ground from six stories up, hard enough to put him or her into the hospital for quite some time. A GM can have you burn five Luck Points to explain why your character didn't get hurt. You have to give the rationale. "As I plummet to the ground, I spin and grab a passing fire escape railway which bends and breaks, dropping me further. 'Gah!' I shout, flailing, trying to grab something, when I get a hold of the ladder at the base of the fire escape that stops my fall. My inertia and weight snap the release on the ladder and it rushes downward, stopping suddenly and dumping me into a full garbage dumpster." The net result is the same: your character is on the ground, whoever he is chasing has gotten away across the rooftops, but you're not going to the hospital. If your explanation is entertaining, the GM may give you back one or two Luck Points.
If you ever find yourself with 30 Luck Points, you may cash them in to increase a stat by one. This will also increase the associated skill.
If you ever find yourself really really needing Luck Points, you may lower any stat (and related skill) by one and instantly receive 20 Luck Points. You may never drop a stat below 1. Note that if you want to return your stat and skill to what it was before, you still need 30 Luck Points to do so.
Remember: The GM has Luck Points too. About a million of them.
On your character sheet, you should indicate if you are a Freak or not. If you aren't, just write down "Freak: No" or "Normal Joe"/"Normal Jane" on your character sheet. If you are a Freak, you should also write down what type of Freak you are: "Freak: Firestarter" or "Freak: Fish-Thing".
As mentioned before, only a few of the Bureau employees are Freaks. Your typical field agent doesn't have rocky orange skin, isn't a reanimated corpse, and doesn't have sudden flashes of the future. But the ones that are noticed most often are the Freaks.
Your Fish-Thing character might attempt to disguise himself in a heavy coat, scarf and large hat when going outside, but it's not because other people are going to act negatively towards him. It's because as a Fish-Thing, your character might want to not be noticed by everyone. Or he might feel ashamed at looking different. Or he might just be cold and want to bundle up.
Most Freaks have certain abilities that require a task to perform: contacting the dead, starting a fire with their mind, dropping the temperature of a room by fifty degrees. To activate an ability, the character rolls their Mojo against a difficulty number set by the GM.
All Freaks have some bad thing that goes along with their abilities. This should be something that could come into play during the course of a game.
Below are a sample of some Freaks that might work for the Bureau. Feel free to create your own Freak type. All Freak types must be approved by the GM.
Concentrate long enough and you can make anything burn. You can create a fire by making a successful Mojo roll. You can control a fire by making a successful Mojo roll -- this includes snuffing out a fire as well has having it move or grow. If you are ever knocked out, the fires you create and control may continue to burn if there are any fuel sources for the fire.
The downside: If you are ever under stress such as spectacularly failing a Mojo roll to overcome fear or a stressful situation or being very injured, your powers can go a little out of control. Things start to burn around you. Even then, you can control them by making successful Mojo rolls. It will be much more difficult to control these fires than the ones you naturally call up.
Suggested Mojo Skills:
You're a fish/human hybrid. You can swim for a long time and can breathe underwater. You don't have any particular ability that relies on your Mojo.
The downside: You've got to stay moist or you start feeling not up to speed. Some sort of water every eight hours or so and you're okay. If you stay dry, your stats and skills start going down level by level, hour by hour until you resoak.
Suggested Mojo Skills:
Intuit Direction Underwater
Converse with Fish
Concentrate on someone and you can make out their surface thoughts. Push harder and you may even be able to probe deeper.
The downside: You get horrible headaches and nosebleeds after using your powers. Brains, Mojo, and related skills are lessened for a period of time after using your abilities. Particularly strong emotions and thoughts can intrude upon you giving you headaches.
Suggested Mojo Skills:
You've astrally projected yourself, but when you came back home you found that squatters had taken over and they wouldn't let you back in. Perhaps you came back and your body was killed. Either way, you're minus one body. The good news is you can communicate with the outside world through an experimental suit. You can automatically see dead people, but because of your state, you might have a hard time telling if they're spirits or actual living beings.
The downside: To keep your astral form from dissipating, you have to wear a containment suit. You can exist outside of the suit for short times, but if you are stuck outside of the suit for a long enough time, you will fade away.
Suggested Mojo Skills:
Converse With the Dead
You're back from the dead somehow. By nature of your unliving state, you're really hard to hurt. When you do get hurt, you're really easy to repair. Some surgical staples, a little duct tape, perhaps a dollop of super glue and you're all better. You don't have any particular ability that relies on your Mojo.
The downside: Reanimated Corpses aren't the swiftest people around, even if you have a high Moves stat. You will always go last whenever there is a need to determine who acts first. Your Moves Stat may never be higher than 2 when beginning your character and the highest you can raise that is to 3. Your rotting corpse smells a bit. You can't enter churches. Good churches, at least.
You can sense dead people. Perhaps you can sense when something bad has occurred in an area. Or you may be able to speak to people who have passed on. You can make a Mojo roll to detect the presence of a lingering spirit, to determine what happened in a location, or to talk to the dead.
The downside: The dead can attempt to take you over. Or perhaps you're more susceptible to mental attacks.
Suggested Mojo Skills:
Converse With the Dead
Psychically Read Location
When your character attempts to do something they might fail at, they get to roll their Stat or Skill dice, plus any dice earned by Luck Points to see if the character succeeds in the task. You roll, add up all the pips on the dice, note if a one came up on the Luck Die, and see if you've beaten the difficulty number the GM has set for the task.
Difficulty numbers range anywhere from 3 to 30. Sometimes the difficulty number will be higher than that to reflect near-impossible odds.
For a task that is considered Very Easy, the difficulty number would be between 3 and 5. An Easy task would be between a 6 and a 10. Moderate tasks fall in the 11 to 20 range. Difficult tasks are 21-30. Near-Impossible tasks require something higher than 30.
Let's look at jumping things.
Your character is running down the road and wants to jump over an open manhole. This is Very Easy and the GM sets the difficulty number at 3, if the GM even requires you to roll at such a simple task.
Your character is running across the park and wants to jump over a hedge. This is Easy, so the GM sets the difficulty number at 10. If you had specified you'd use the park bench right there to give you a boost over the hedge, the difficulty number would have been lessened to a 7.
Your character is running on the rooftops and wants to jump across a narrow gap to the next building. This isn't too hard to do. The GM says this will have a target number of 15, a Moderate task.
Your character is running along the rooftops and wants to jump across the alley to the next building. This is much harder to do, so the GM assigns this a target number of 25.
Your character is being shot at up among the rooftops and needs to jump across a wide alley and land on the fire escape landing of a much taller building in the rain. This is extremely difficult. The GM says this will require a 38. If it wasn't raining, the GM might assign this a 33.
Sometimes your character will be in conflict with another person. You might be arm wrestling, fighting, or seeing who can jump higher. In these cases, both you and the other person involved (the GM if it is not someone else's character) roll the appropriate Stat or Skill, adding in dice from Luck Points. Remember to roll the Luck Die in your die roll. Whoever rolls higher wins the task.
There are two kinds of combat: Hand to Hand and Ranged. When fighting hand to hand, your default stat is Muscle. If you are brawling with an opponent and you have the Brawl skill, you would roll that instead. If someone has a weapon, that person gets to add some dice to their combat roll as judged by the GM.
When fighting with a ranged weapon, you have a difficulty number to beat to affect your target. Your default stat is Moves. A point-blank attack would have a difficulty number of 3 to 5. Short range would be between 6 and 10. Medium range is 11 to 15 and long range is 16 to 20. Your target may dodge and do nothing else: The difficulty number increases by whatever the target player rolled on his or her dodge roll. If you succeed, do an opposed test between the weapon's damage and the character's Muscle. Ties go to player characters, not to non-player characters. If the damage roll is more than twice the Muscle roll, the weapon has done Major Damage.
+1 die -- Brass knuckles, blackjack
+2 dice -- Frying pan, knife, chair
+3 dice -- Sword
+4 dice -- Big ol' axe, chain saw
4 dice - Pistol
5 dice - Big gun
6 dice - Submachine gun
7 dice - Machine gun
Heroes -- and that is what you are playing -- don't die. Your character will get hurt. Your character will be seriously injured. Your character will be knocked out. But for the most part, your character won't be killed.
Unless something really bad happens and even then, the GM should provide opportunities for the character to get out of their predicament. If the characters don't take advantage of what they can do to get out of the deathtrap or the peril, they will die. If a character has been outrageously reckless or extraordinarily careless or had been just running on luck fumes, a GM may decide that the character has pushed his or her luck too far and that this charmed life is over.
This will not happen often and the reasons for the character's death should be made clear to all playing the game. The GM could point out where the player should have spent Luck Points to roll higher -- the character was in imminent danger -- and when the player should have burned Luck Points, even if it meant reducing a Stat, or even pointed out that the character should have looked around the trash compactor to find something to brace the walls apart before he got squished.
Sample Luck Point Loss for Damage
Weapons: One point for a nick from a sword, up to ten a piece has been lopped off. One point if grazed by a bullet, up to fifteen if it's a fatal shot that the player decides to burn Luck Points instead of dying.
Falling: One point per story fallen, up to a maximum of five. You fall five stories, you fall fifty, it's going to hurt as much. Besides, people fall great distances in the comic book all the time.
Drowning: One point per minute up to ten points when the player has to decide if they want to keep playing the character or not. Make sure to explain why your character didn't die.
Poison: One point to up to fifteen for deadly poisons that didn't quite kill off the character.
Descriptions of Areas
The GM will not be able to describe everything in exact detail and keep the game moving quickly. You, as a player, may take that to mean if an item would logically be in a location the GM has described but not specifically mentioned, that item may be there.
For instance, if your character is in an alley in the middle of the night and a two headed thing is approaching him, you can say, "I pick up a fist-sized rock and throw it at the bad guy," and there probably would be a rock nearby you can pick up. However, in the same situation, if you say, "I pick up a discarded .45 Magnum and shoot the bad guy," there probably wouldn't be a discarded .45 Magnum lying around, even if your character is in New York City. The GM has the last word on if something could logically be in a location.
Additionally, if the GM says you're backed up to "a fence" by the approaching hordling, you can say that you're climbing the chain-link fence to get away. However, if you do say that and don't get over the fence, you can no longer say you're going to grab a loose board off the fence and use it as a club. As part of the cooperative story-telling exercise that this game is, you've shaped the alley by establishing a chain-link fence there instead of a wooden fence.