You and the other players should discuss the nature of the upcoming game with the GM. Before any characters are created, the GM should outline such details as genre, setting, campaign duration, story boundaries, and expected time commitment. As a player, you should listen closely to the GM’s descriptions since it will impact directly on the character you wish to create.
Ask for clarification of any rule modifications the GM plans to use as well as any background restrictions on your character. If you have any game preferences involving issues such as combat intensity, maturity level, or drama versus comedy ratio, let the GM know about them. Help the GM create the game that you all want to play.
Starting Character Level
One of the most important things that the Game Master should discuss with his or her players is the starting character Level. While characters traditionally start at 1st Level in most d20 System games, the GM and players may want to adventure with more experienced and thus more powerful and capable characters. Table 2-1 shows the relationship between starting character Level and power level.
Characters that begin higher than 1st Level gain all the benefits and special abilities granted from 1st Level to their current Level and begin the game with an appropriate number of Experience Points. This includes the additional Feats and Ability Score increases presented in Table 5-3: Level-Dependent Benefits.
|Power Level||Discretionary Character Levels||Discretionary Character|
|Low Powered Game||1st to 4th||40 (or 34 + 1d10)|
|Average Powered Games||5th to 8th||42 (or 36 + 1d10)|
|High Powered Game||9th to 12th||44 (or 38 + 1d10)|
|Very High Powered Game||13th to 16th||46 (or 40 + 1d10)|
|Extremely high powered game||17th to 20th||48 (or 42 + 1d10)|
|Epic-powered game||Above 20th||50 (or 44 + 1d10|
Discretionary Character Points
The characters’ starting Level also determines the number of discretionary Character Points assigned. These discretionary Character Points are used to pay for his or her Ability Score Values, Race, Attributes, Skills, and Feats. The GM can either assign all players an equal number of Character Points, or ask each player to roll dice to generate a random number (see Table 2-1: Starting Character Level)
Character Points During Level Progression
If the characters start higher than 1st Level, they may also start with extra Character Points gained from the Special Ability Level progression of their Class (or Classes). In these instances, the additional Character Points are added to the discretionary Character Point total. See the Class Progression charts for more information.
A character outline is a broad concept that provides you with a frame on which to build your character. It is not fully detailed; there is no need for you to concern yourself with the character’s specific skills, powers, or background details at this stage. Use the game boundaries established in your discussion with the GM as the starting point for your character and build your outline on that foundation. Discuss your character ideas with the GM to ensure your character will work with those of the other players and with the overall themes and focus of the campaign.
Generate Ability Scores
A character’s core, base abilities are determined by six values known as Ability Scores. These values describe the character’s innate, natural aptitude at interacting with the world. The six Ability Scores are:
- Strength (Str)
- Dexterity (Dex)
- Constitution (Con)
- Intelligence (Int)
- Wisdom (Wis)
- Charisma (Cha)
The values of these abilities range from 0 to infinity, with a normal human range from 3 to 18. The normal human maximum is 24, but superhuman or supernatural characters may have higher ratings. A value of none for an Ability Score, which is different from 0, is a special case appropriate for specific character ideas.
Establishing Ability Scores
Determine your character’s Ability Scores.
Ability Score Cost
Abilities cost a number of Character Points equal to half the value of the Ability Score (round up), which are paid for by the character’s starting discretionary Character Points. Players may choose to modify the character’s generated Ability Scores up or down by increasing or decreasing the number of Character Points assigned to the Ability Score, on a 1 for 2 basis (1 Character Point equals 2 Ability Scores). If the power level of the campaign provides insufficient discretionary Character Points to pay for the Ability Scores generated by the players for their characters, players must reduce the Ability Scores to (or below) a value that they can afford with Character Points available.
Zero Rating and “None” Ability Scores
It is possible for some constructs (including the Giant Robot class) or alien creatures to have a score of “none.” None is not the same as a score of 0. A score of none means that the creature does not possess the Ability at all. The modifier for a score of none is +0.
A character’s Ability Score can never drop below 0.
- Str 0 means that the character cannot move at all. He or she lies helpless on the ground.
- Dex 0 means that the character cannot move at all. He or she is motionless and helpless.
- Con 0 means that the character is dead.
- Int 0 means that the character cannot think and is in a coma-like stupor, helpless.
- Wis 0 means that the character is withdrawn in a deep sleep filled with nightmares, helpless.
- Cha 0 means that the character is withdrawn into a catatonic, coma-like stupor, helpless.
Each Ability has a modifier that is the number you add to or subtract from the die roll when your character tries to accomplish something related to that Ability. A positive modifier is called a bonus, and a negative modifier is called a penalty.
Definition of Ability Scores
Strength is a measure of the character’s physical power. Strength provides a modifier to:
- Damage rolls in melee or unarmed combat or when using weapons that are Muscle Powered.
- Strength-based Skill checks.
- Strength checks.
Any creature that can physically manipulate other objects has at least 1 Point of Strength. A character with no Strength score can’t exert force, usually because it has no physical body or because it doesn’t move. Such a creature automatically fails Strength checks. Note: since armor is handled differently than in other d20-based games, Strength always provides a +0 modifier to melee attack rolls (the “to hit” roll), regardless of the character’s Strength rating.
Dexterity is a measure of the character’s hand-eye co-ordination, agility, reflexes, and balance. Dexterity provides modifiers to:
- The character’s Armor Class.
- Dexterity-based Skill checks.
- Initiative rolls.
- Reflex saving throws.
- Dexterity checks.
Any creature that can move has at least 1 Point of Dexterity. A creature with no Dexterity score can’t move, but if it can act, it applies its Intelligence modifier to Initiative checks instead of a Dexterity modifier (for example, an artificially intelligent computer that has no moving body adds its Intelligence modifier to Initiative rolls). A creature with no Dexterity fails all Reflex saves and Dexterity checks. Dexterity always provides a +0 modifier to ranged attack rolls, regardless of the character’s Dexterity rating.
Constitution determines your character’s health and stamina. Constitution provides modifiers to:
- Hit Points earned per Level (though the value can never be reduced below 1 a character always gains at least one Hit Point per Level).
- Fortitude saving throws.
- Constitution-based Skill checks.
- Constitution checks.
Any living creature has at least 1 Point of Constitution. A creature with no Constitution has no body or no metabolism. It is immune to any effect that requires a Fortitude save unless the effect works on objects. The creature is also immune to Ability damage, Ability drain, and energy drain, and always fails Constitution checks.
Intelligence is a measure of the character’s reason and ability to learn. Intelligence provides modifiers to:
- The number of Skill Points gained at each Level (though the value can never be reduced below 1 a character always gains at least one Skill Point per Level).
- Intelligence-based Skill checks.
- Intelligence checks.
Any creature that can think, learn, or remember has at least 1 Point of Intelligence. A creature with no Intelligence score is an automaton, operating on simple instincts or programmed instructions. It is immune to all mind-influencing effects (charms, compulsions, phantasms, patterns, and morale effects) and automatically fails Intelligence checks.
Wisdom is a reflection of the character’s willpower, common sense, intuition, perception, and life experience. Wisdom provides modifiers to:
- Will saving throws.
- Wisdom-based Skill checks.
- Wisdom checks.
Any creature that can perceive its environment in any fashion has at least 1 Point of Wisdom. Anything without a Wisdom score is an object, not a creature. Additionally, anything without a Wisdom score also has no Charisma score, and vice versa.
Charisma describes the characters strength of persuasion, personality, and the character’s appearance. Charisma provides modifiers to:
- Charisma-based Skill checks.
- Charisma checks.
Any creature capable of telling the difference between itself and things that are not itself has at least 1 Point of Charisma.
|6-7||-2||Significantly below adult human average; youth|
|8-9||-1||Below adult human average; teenager|
|10-11||0||Adult human average|
|12-13||+1||Above human average|
|14-15||+2||Significantly above human average|
|20-21||+5||Best in the region|
|22-23||+6||Best in the country|
|24-25||+7||World-class ability; maximum human potential|
|26-27||+8||Above human achievement|
|28-29||+9||Significantly above human achievement|
|30+||+10 (and up)||Legendary ability|
Step 4: Select Race
At this stage in the creation process you should select a race, paying the appropriate Character Point cost as listed in Table 4-1 (using the discretionary Character Points granted in Step 1). With your GM’s permission, you may design your own racial package and pay the appropriate cost out of your starting Character Points. Included herein is a Character Point break down of standard (common) races, as well as for an artificial construct (such as the Giant Robot class).
Racial Cost Determination
When the special abilities were being assigned Points, each talent was examined closely. If the ability had a direct comparison to an Attribute in Anime d20, that value was used (for example, 4 Skill Points are worth 1 Point; acute vision is worth 1 Point; +1 to a Will save is worth 1 Point; etc.).
Other abilities were modified depending on whether it was applicable in a wide variety of situations, or only useful in limited circumstances. Occasionally, an ability was valued at a half Point (if its utility seemed to be worth less than a full Point), and sometimes the final total was rounded appropriately. The Game Master may alter the Point cost assigned to each race as desired.
In this game, the default race for a character is human (normally worth 6 Character Points). Consequently, the final number of Character Points assigned to a race equals the calculated value minus 6.
This adjustment means being a human is “free;” no Points must be assigned for this race. Other races are adjusted accordingly. As a result, half-orc characters have 5 Character Points return to them to compensate for their lack of abilities (when compared to humans and other races.
|Immune to poison, sleep, paralysis, stun||4|
|Immune to disease, death, necromantic effects||3|
|Cannot heal (must be repaired)||-4|
|Not subject to critical hits or subdual damage||2|
|Not subject to Ability damage, Ability drain, or energy drain||2|
|Automatic Fortitude saves unless effect can target objects||3|
|+2 save vs. poison||1|
|+2 save vs. spells||2|
|+1 attack vs. orcs/goblinoids||1|
|+4 dodge defense vs. giants||1|
|+2 Appraise Skill checks||0.5|
|+2 Craft Skill checks||0.5|
|Immunity to magical sleep spells||1|
|+2 save vs. enchantment||1|
|+2 Listen, Search, and Spot Skill checks||1.5|
|Detect secret doors||1|
|+2 save vs. illusions||1|
|+1 attack vs. kobolds/goblinoids||1|
|+4 dodge defense vs. giants||1|
|+2 Listen Skill checks||0.5|
|+2 Alchemy Skill checks||0.5|
|Free 0th Level spells (cantrips)||1|
|Immunity to sleep||1|
|+2 save vs. enchantment||1|
|+1 Listen, Search, and Spot Skill checks||0.5|
|Any favored class (when multiclassing)||1|
|+2 Climb, Jump, and Move Silently Skill checks||1|
|+1 all saving throws||3|
|+2 save vs. fear||1|
|+1 attack with thrown weapons||1|
|+2 Listen Skill checks||0.5|
|+1 Feat at 1st Level||2|
|+4 Skill Points at 1st Level||1|
|+1 Skill Point each Level||2|
|Any favored class (when multiclassing)||1|
A class is an archetype that helps you define the baseline capabilities of your character, a template from which you build your anime hero. It is also a label of convenience that tells the Game Master and other players your character’s strengths and abilities (the class name) as well as his or her rank of achievement (the class Level). Each class presents its own progression chart that indicates what new Skills, abilities, Feats, Attributes, and bonus Character Points your character gains as he or she advances in Level. Players should select a class (or possibly classes, if starting at higher than 1st Level) for their characters.
- Dynamic Sorcerer
- Giant Robot
- Gun Bunny
- Hot Rod
- Magical Girl
- Martial Artist
- Mecha Pilot
- Monster Trainer
- Sentai Member
- Tech Genius
As your character acquires experience and advances (or if your character starts above 1st level), he or she may choose to gain levels in one or more new classes instead of only advancing in a single class. Adding secondary or tertiary classes gives the character different advantages, but progression in the new classes occur at the expense of advancement in the character’s other classes.
Though characters do not usually suffer Experience Point (XP) penalties for multiclassing, the Game Master may decide otherwise.
All classes gain various character bonuses at each Level, the exact type and when depends on the specific class. The bonuses granted to each class are presented in a chart in their respective sections.
Base Save Bonus
The two numbers listed under Base Save Bonus in Table 5-2 are added to your character’s saving throws Fortitude (Fort) Save, Reflex (Ref) Save, and Willpower (Will) Save. To determine whether the lower or higher bonus applies to each specific saving throw, see the appropriate class progression chart for your character. These bonuses are cumulative for multiclass characters.
Base Attack Bonus
When attacking in combat, your character adds his or her Base Attack Bonus to the attack check. The bonus associated with each class is listed in Table 5-2. The first number reflects the bonus applied to the character’s first attack, and any additional attacks provided by the Extra Attacks Attribute. Numbers after the slash indicate additional attacks at reduced bonuses. For example, “+15/+10/+5” means the character has three attacks each round: the first at a +15 bonus, the second at a +10 bonus, and the third at a +5 bonus.
The first Base Attack Bonus is cumulative for multiclass characters, which will determine how many additional attacks the character can make and their bonuses. Additional attacks are gained once the character’s lowest Base Attack Bonus reaches +6, +11, or +16; an additional attack is then gained at a +1. For example, a 12th Level samurai/8th Level giant robot has individual Base Attack Bonuses of +12/+7/+2 and +6/+1. The character’s combined first bonus equals +18 (12 + 6 = 18). Consequently, the character’s combined Base Attack Bonus is +18/+13/+8/+3.
Gaining Attribute Ranks
When an Attribute is listed in the Special section of each specific class progression chart, your character gains a Rank in that Attribute upon achieving that class Level. If the character already possesses one or more Ranks in that Attribute, his or her Rank is increased by one. If the Attribute is new for the character, he or she gains the Attribute at Rank 1. You can determine specific details regarding the Attribute with GM approval. For example, if your character gains the Special Attack Attribute, you should add Attack Abilities and Disabilities as appropriate for your character, and then discuss your ideas with your Game Master. With the Game Master’s approval, any Attribute Ranks gained through Level progression can be exchanged for a number of Character Points equivalent to the cost of the Attribute through the Incomplete Training Defect.
Unless specified otherwise, abilities listed in the Special section refer to Attributes.
Character Point Bonuses
When Character Points are listed as a Level progression Special bonus, you can spend them to: increase Ability Scores, increase Attribute Ranks, obtain new Attributes, add new Feats, acquire new or raise existing Skills (through the Highly Skilled Attribute), or eliminate current Defects. The Character Point cost for these modifications is the same as it is during character creation. If you prefer, Character Points can be saved for future allocation (with GM permission).
See Table: Level-Dependent Benefits for information regarding Level advancement.
Maximum Skill Ranks (Optional)
The maximum number of Skill Ranks your character can have in a class Skill, if your Game Master uses this optional rule, is equal to his or her character Level + 3. For cross-class Skills, the maximum is one-half the maximum for a class Skill. Class and cross-class Skills are listed with the descriptions for each class.
In addition to specific class benefits, your character gain one Feat at 1st Level (two if he or she is a human) and an additional Feat at 3rd, 6th, 9th, 12th, 15th, and 18th character (not class) Level, as listed in Table 5-3.
Ability Score Increase
At 4th, 8th, 12th, 16th, and 20th character (not class) Level, your character increases one of his or her Ability Scores (your choice which Ability) by one Point.
|Class Level||Base Save Bonus||Class|
|Gun Bunny, Martial Artist, Samurai||Giant Robot, Hot Rod, Magical Girl, Mecha Pilot, Ninja, Sentai Member, Shapechanger||Adventurer, Dynamic Sorcerer, Monster Trainer, Student, Tech Genius|
|Character Level||XP||Maximum Skill Ranks (Optional) Class||Maximum Skill Ranks (Optional) Cross-Class||Feats||Ability Score Increases|
Beyond 20th Level
Once a character reaches 20th Level, advancing beyond is handled a little differently. While the XP needed to achieve higher Levels follows a logical progression [XP needed for Level Y = (Level Y-1) x 1,000], the character no longer receives anything automatically at reaching a higher Level: no Base Attack Bonus increase, no save increase, no extra Hit Points, no additional Skills, etc. Instead, the character gains +10 Character Points at each new Level, which can be used to acquire Attributes, Feats, and Ability Scores the character desires.
In a role-playing game, most character or NPC actions do not require any particular rules. A player simply says his or her character walks across a room, picks up an object, drives a vehicle, or talks to someone, etc., and if the GM agrees that it is possible, this simply happens. Personal interaction between characters or NPCs normally consists of the players and GM talking “in character” and describing what their characters are doing. In the GM’s case, he or she describes what the characters are seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, and tasting.
In the course of a game, circumstances may arise where specific rules can help determine what happens. This is usually the case when the outcome of an action or event is uncertain and the result is important to the story. If a character needs to fix a broken reactor pump to prevent a nuclear meltdown, can he or she do it in time? If a character’s car drives off a cliff, can he or she jump clear in time, and if not, how badly will the crash injure the character? If two people fight, who wins?
A character’s Ability Scores, Attributes, Skills, and Calculated Values help resolve these dramatic questions. In many cases, dice rolls can add additional hazard and drama to the action. The dice rolls represent elements beyond the direct control of the character or the uncertainty that results when opposing characters interact.
In some situations, the GM may elect to determine the results by simple fiat, without rolling dice. The GM may do so if he or she thinks a particular outcome is certain or is dramatically necessary to the game.
One situation the rules cover in greater detail is combat. The rules for combat are extensive, giving players a greater sense that they are in control of their characters’ every step. If they lose, they will know the GM has not arbitrarily killed or injured their characters. The GM can also follow a similar procedure with any other actions that affect a character’s fate: treat routine activities in passing and delve into more detail whenever an action influences the player character physically or emotionally.
In the creation of an anime game, certain rules changes have been made from the traditional d20 System to suit the style. Players familiar with other d20-based rule systems may notice some of those changes (some are specifically called out). It is recommended, when running this game, that GM’s use the modified, anime-specific mechanic over the traditional d20 mechanic. The mechanics have been designed with achieving a cinematic, anime feel in mind. In the end, however, you are the final arbiter of what mechanics you do and do not use and should always select the mechanics with which you feel most comfortable.
Since there is a wealth of material published by numerous companies for the d20 System, players and GMs may prefer either the traditional, core d20 system rules or other third party (3pp) material. Feel free to use the mechanics that best suit your style and preference of play. So long as you and your fellow players are having fun, there is no wrong way to use the d20 System.
Do not hesitate to go beyond the rules if you are the Game Master. If you dislike a rule presented in the Anime d20 RPG, you are encouraged to modify it to suit your needs and those of the players. Do not let your own vision of an anime role-playing game be superseded by anything you read in this book. This book is filled with guidelines and suggestions, but certainly do not reflect the “One True Way” to role-playing success. Use what you like, discard what you do not, and fill in the blanks with your own ideas.
Time in the Game
“In game” passage of time in a role-playing game is fluid, just as it is in anime movies or TV series. In some situations, like a conversation between two characters, the movement of game time normally matches real world time. More often, the amount of time that passes depends on the characters’ activities as set by the players’ actions and officiated by the GM, who may something like “It takes you two hours to reach the castle” or fixing the computer takes 20 minutes.” The GM should telescope time until something interesting happens: “Two weeks pass as you go about your jobs and engage in routine training. Then the Empress summons you for a special mission. ” Finally, in very dramatic situations such as combat, the GM may keep very precise track of time, using individual “combat rounds.” GMs may go back in time as well to employ flashback scenes. A flashback is a useful tool to establish the background for a story without simply recounting the information in dry lecture fashion, allowing the player to work through the event.
Scene, Round, and Initiative
Three common measures of game time in Anime d20 are a scene, round, and Initiative. A scene is any situation where the events remain linked, moment-to-moment. Think of it in anime terms – a scene lasts until the camera cuts to an entirely new setting, potentially with new characters. If, for example, a character is listening to the pleading of a distraught farmer, the conversation constitutes a scene. Once the GM switches scenes to the character entering a dark uninhabited section of the forest, the farm scene ends and a new scene begins in the forest. If a bandit interrupted the conversation by attacking the farmer, intent on shutting him up before he could reveal any important information, the scene would not yet end when the character chased after the bandits toward the forest. Since the events are still linked moment-to-moment, it is still a part of a scene although the setting has changed.
A round is a measure of time of approximately 6 seconds in length, while an Initiative is one specific moment in time. When combat occurs, characters roll Initiative and each is allowed to act on his or her Initiative. The round is broken into a number of Initiatives equal to the highest Initiative rolled for the round. For example, in a combat between three characters who roll an 11, 19, and 24, the combat round has 24 Initiatives. The round remains 6 seconds in length, but for the purposes of action within the conflict, there are 24 potential individual moments – 24 instances where a character could decide to act.
Every character is capable of performing or attempting a nearly endless list of actions. These can be mundane activities (talking, breathing, thinking), skilled activities (building a suit of power armor, hacking into a computer, moving silently, climbing the side of a building), or combat activities (fighting, dodging, shooting). A later section on combat covers combat action in detail and thus is not discussed here. Additionally, players can assume that characters carry out routine skilled activities successfully on a regular basis unless specified otherwise by the GM. For example, the GM can assume that characters with the Gun Combat Skill routinely keep their weapons clean, safely stored, and properly maintained.
Every GM has a preferred method for having players describe their characters’ actions. Usually this involves the GM moving from player to player asking, “What is your character doing?” Experienced GMs try to give each person equal role-playing time so that everyone is an important facet of the story (switching between characters as necessary). Conversely, players are responsible for relating their characters’ intended actions to the GM. In return, the GM will describe the results of those actions or will request an Ability or Skill check to determine the outcome.
Attributes and Actions
In some situations, it is important to know how many Attributes a character can activate at one time and how quickly he or she can activate the Attribute. Innate Attributes, such as Armor or Super-strength, are considered always active, unless the character selects a Restriction Defect whereby the Attribute is not always active. Powers which must be activated but do not usually require a dice roll, such as Force Field, can be activated at a rate of one per Initiative starting on the character’s Initiative roll; these activations do not require the character to use an action. Powers that must be activated and do require a dice roll demand focus, and thus the character must spend one or more actions to activate the Attribute. A character can have any number of Attributes active at any moment, though GMs may wish to impose penalties if the character is focusing on too many things. It is usually obvious which Attributes fall into which category, but the final classification is at the Game Master’s discretion.
Using Attributes at Reduced Ranks
Unless a character assigns the Maximum Force Defect to an Attribute, he or she can voluntarily use the Attribute at reduced Attribute Ranks. For example, a ninja with Rank 6 Teleport (maximum safe distance of 1,000 miles) could choose to teleport any distance up to 1,000 miles.
Fractional Attribute Use
The GM might also allow the character to use a fraction of an Attribute’s effect. A character with Rank 4 Insubstantial, for instance, may only want to turn a single body part, such as a hand or head, incorporeal. The GM could decide that fractional Attribute use is more or less difficult than using an Attribute’s full effect, assigning appropriate modifiers to the Attribute’s use.
Dice and Dice Rolls
Anime d20 uses one twenty-sided die (1d20) to handle many aspects of the game mechanics. The core mechanic is a d20 dice roll plus modifiers against a number called the Difficulty Class (DC). If the dice roll plus modifiers is equal to or greater than the Difficulty Class, the attempted task is successful.
There are three major types of dice rolls, or checks, a GM or player may use during game play: an Ability check dice roll, a Skill check dice roll, and one of two combat checks (a “to hit” roll and a defense check). When a player announces the intended actions of his or her character, the GM must decide if a dice roll is necessary. Should a roll be required, the GM chooses which type of check is most appropriate.
In most cases, a player rolls dice to determine the success of an action his or her character performs, while the GM rolls the dice to determine the results of NPC actions when they impact the characters. In situations where NPCs are only involved with other NPCs, the GM should simply decide what happens rather than rolling dice.
In some circumstances, the GM may roll the dice to determine the results of a character’s action instead of having a player roll, keeping the actual dice roll – and the reason for rolling – secret. This is normally done when the player rolling would give away an event that should remain unknown to the character. If, for example, there is something hidden that the character may or may not notice, the GM can secretly roll dice to see if the character spots it. If the GM allowed the player to roll the dice, the player would know that a clue existed even if the character did not succeed in noticing it.
Should I Make My Players Roll Dice?
It is important for the GM to realize that not all actions require a dice roll. Obviously mundane character activities, such as hammering a nail, riding a horse down a road, or eating lunch, should never need dice rolls unless there are exceptional circumstances surrounding the character’s actions. In other situations, the necessity to roll dice is less obvious. If a character is virtually guaranteed to succeed at a task, then the GM should consider whether the check is really necessary.
While it is true that the character might fail, having the player roll the dice will slow the game down. Thus, GMs should recognize when a character is almost certainly going to succeed at a task and, in those situations, not request the check and allow game play to continue, uninterrupted.
Conversely, one might think that if a character only succeeds if the player rolls a 20, then the GM should similarly not request a check and, instead, state that the action fails. This, however, is not the case – player characters should always be given that one slim chance of success, even at difficult tasks that seem doomed to failure (with the exception of tasks that the GM deems impossible).
While the dice roll may slow game-play down a bit, that slim chance of success allows characters to accomplish heroic feats that will be remembered for years. GMs may wish to allow only player characters to make this roll, even in the face of near-certain failure – since NPCs are not the stars of the game, they should not be allowed the same chance of pulling off superhuman feats.
The following is a list of suggestions when the dice should and should not be rolled. If a check is unnecessary, the character should gain an automatic success for the action.
Roll dice when…
- the unpredictability of dice adds to the excitement of the game
- the action is foreign to the character
- the action has been a weakness for the character in the past
- the character is distracted or cannot concentrate
- another character or NPC is working directly against the character
- the action is not of trivial difficulty
- outside forces influence the actions
- the player wants to roll the dice Do not roll dice when…
- a roll would reduce the enjoyment of the game
- the action is routine for the character
- the action requires a trivial amount of talent compared to the character’s Skill rank
An Ability check is used when the GM believes that innate ability is more important than any learned expertise or combat capability. During an Ability check, the GM decides which Ability Score would be most relevant to the action in question. For actions that fall under the domain of an Attribute, the relevant Ability Score is usually given in the Attribute description.
A successful Ability check involves the player rolling equal to or greater than the difficulty class for the given task with 1d20 + the character’s modifier for the applicable Ability Score. DCs usually fall between 5 (rather easy task) and 30 (very challenging task) though they can certainly be higher for exceptionally difficult or near impossible tasks.
The check is unsuccessful if the value is less than the DC. The greater the difference between the value and the DC, the greater the degree of success or failure (see Table 12-1: Degrees of Success).
- Roll is less than the DC by 16+ Overwhelming Failure
- Roll is less than the DC by 11 to 15 Extreme Failure
- Roll is less than the DC by 7 to 10 Major Failure
- Roll is less than the DC by 4 to 6 Minor Failure
- Roll is less than the DC by 1 to 3 Marginal Failure
- Roll is equal to or 1 greater than the DC Marginal Success
- Roll is greater than the DC by 2 or 3 Minor Success
- Roll is greater than the DC by 4 to 6 Major Success
- Roll is greater than the DC by 7 to 10 Extreme Success
- Roll is greater than the DC by 11+ Overwhelming Success
Task Difficulty Classes
The Difficulty Class (DC) is a number set by the GM that reflects how easy or challenging any given task is to complete. Providing a list of sample DCs is pointless because the DC of each task changes based on the situations involved. Walking across a tightrope may be a DC 15 task one time but may be a DC 12 task the next time (the GM decides the rope is thicker or more stable this time) or the DC may be 22 (a thinner rope with a stiff and erratic cross-breeze). The GM must take all variables into account when assigning a DC to a task and should endeavor to remain as consistent in selecting the DC of a task as possible. If the GM decides a “difficult” task has a DC of 20, then all “difficult” tasks should have a DC of 20. GMs should use Table 12-2: Difficulty Classes as a rough guideline when determining the DC of a task.
Table: Difficulty Classes DC Task Difficulty
3 Practically Guaranteed (why roll dice?)
5 Extremely Easy
10 Average Difficulty
15 Above Average Difficulty
20 Difficult – success above this DC is possible only under favorable conditions (when a situational bonus is applied) or by talented characters (who have a Skill Rank and/or Ability bonus)
25 Quite Difficult
30 Extremely Difficult
35 Supremely Difficult
40 Practically Impossible
Critical Success or Failure
Regardless of the actual DC, an unmodified or “natural” roll of 20 always succeeds (it is considered at least a “marginal success”), and an unmodified roll of 1 always fails (it is considered at least a “marginal failure”). This rule is important because it reflects the extreme possibilities that even the most talented characters sometimes fail in their tasks, while even the most awkward characters can succeed.
If two or more characters are working directly or indirectly against each other (such as two people pulling on a contested object), each character must make a check. The character with the greatest degree of success (or least degree of failure if both characters fail) is considered to have the advantage over the contested action. In the event of a tie, the characters are locked in contest and may re-roll next round.
Often, a character can try a Skill check again if he or she fails, and can keep trying indefinitely.
Some actions have consequences to failure that must be taken into account, however, as determined by the situation and GM.
In some instances, the GM shouldn’t even bother to make the player roll dice and instead allow the player to Take 10 or Take 20.
Checks Without Rolls – Taking 10
When the character is not in a rush and is not being threatened or distracted, the character may choose to take 10. Instead of rolling 1d20 for the Skill check, calculate the character’s result as if the character had rolled a 10.
Checks Without Rolls – Taking 20
When the character has plenty of time, and when the Skill being attempted carries no penalties for failure, the character can take 20. Instead of rolling 1d20 for the Skill check, calculate the character’s result as if the character had rolled a 20 (but its is not considered a “natural” 20). Taking 20 means the character is trying until the character gets it right. Taking 20 takes about twenty times as long as making a single check would take. Unless the GM deems the task is considered impossible (such as performing brain surgery without any training), the character automatically succeeds.
For example, a character who is attempting to break the coding on a computer disk to read the top secret files can take a 20 – nothing bad will happen if the character fails and the character has all the time in the world to slowly break the code. If the character had to break the code in ten minutes to learn the location of the bomb that is about to explode, however, he or she could not take a 20.
The character is working against the clock and doesn’t have the luxury of slowly puzzling the coding out. Further, if the character was instead attempting to disarm the explosive, he or she similarly could not take a 20 since failure will probably result in the bomb exploding.
A Skill check is similar to an Ability check, except it is used when the task is one that the GM decides would be governed by both a particular ability and a particular Skill. For example, if a task required general intellectual ability (such as remembering the name of a person the character had met), an Intelligence check would be made. Determining the origin of a rare alien species would also require an Intelligence check, but this task is governed by the Knowledge: Biological Sciences Skill (more specifically, the Xenobiology Specialization, if Specialization optional rule is used). In game terminology, this task would require a “Intelligence-based Knowledge: Biological Sciences (Xenobiology) Skill check.”
The DC of a Skill check is determined by the difficulty of the task. If the character possesses the appropriate Skill (even without the exact Specialization), he or she receives a bonus to the check. This bonus is equal to the character’s Skill Rank (if the task does not fall under his or her Specialization) or one more than the character’s Skill Rank (if his or her Specialization does apply). A successful Skill check involves the player rolling equal to or greater than the DC.
The GM is responsible for deciding which Ability Score, Skill, and specialization are relevant to a particular task, using the Ability Score and Skill descriptions given in Chapter 7: Skills. Since these questions can often be tricky, the GM should listen to the player’s reasoning why a particular Skill or Specialization might apply. The final decision belongs to the GM, however.
Combining Skill Checks
When more than one character tries the same Skill at the same time towards the same goal, their efforts may overlap – they can work together and help each other out. In this case, one character is considered the leader of the effort and makes a Skill check against the assigned DC, while each helper makes a Skill check against DC 10 (the character can’t take 10 on this check). For each helper who succeeds, the leader gets a +2 circumstance bonus to his or her Skill check. In many cases, a character’s help won’t be beneficial, or only a limited number of characters can help at once. The GM limits co-operation as she sees fit for the given conditions.
It is possible for a character to have two Skills that work well together, such as Investigate and Knowledge: Streetwise, or Computer Use and Open Lock for a computerized lock. Having 5 or more Ranks in one Skill gives the character a +2 synergy bonus on Skill checks with its synergistic Skills, as determined by the situation and the GM.
Often, a character will attempt an action for which he or she does not possess the relative Skill.
If the character is undertaking a familiar action, the Skill check is unchanged – the task is treated as a simple Ability check without a bonus from the relevant Skill. The familiarity should have been established previously, such as in the character’s background story, or be consistent with the character’s role within the setting. The player should explain to the GM why his or her character is familiar with the current task. The GM, of course, has final say whether the character is sufficiently familiar to avoid an unfamiliar action penalty.
For example, a student who attends university to study astronomy undoubtedly has at least a cursory familiarity with many academic fields. Similarly, almost all characters living in New York City will be familiar with the process of driving a car, even if they do not possess the Drive Skill; in North America, attempting car-related actions is familiar to nearly everyone. A hermit living in the depths of the Amazon, however, is likely not familiar with motor vehicles and therefore driving would be an unfamiliar action.
If the character is undertaking an action with which he or she is unfamiliar, the task should be treated as a normal Ability check with an unskilled penalty applied to the roll. This reflects how difficult it is for an unskilled character to accomplish the task. The unskilled penalty should range from – 2 to -10, depending on how much the GM feels training is required and how background aspects of the character could affect the attempt. The DC does not change; rather, the character’s chance of succeeding is reduced.
For example, keeping a plane in the air after the cabin crew suddenly falls unconscious is a daunting task for anyone who is not trained as a pilot. An average character might therefore suffer a -8 penalty to the check. A character who is an aficionado of combat jets and aircraft documentaries might only suffer a -4 penalty … even if he or she has never actually piloted a plane before.
The GM may decide certain tasks automatically fail when performed by characters lacking the required Skill. Examples of required Skill activities include: performing brain surgery, deciphering ancient hieroglyphics, concocting an antidote for a poison, estimating the value of a rare piece of art, etc.
Power Usage Skills
Some characters may select the Power Usage Skill for one or more of their Powers. This Skill provides a bonus when the character makes any check involving the specific Power. Unlike other Skills, Power Usage does not provide an additional +1 bonus for Specializations. For example, a teleporter with an Intelligence of 16 (+3 bonus) and the Power Usage: Teleportation Skill at Rank 4 (+4 bonus) makes Teleportation checks with a +7 bonus.