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Fixing D20 Modern

   Posted by: Wolfgod   in RPG

OK, SO I”M *REALLY* unhappy with the firearms in D20 Modern.  One of our GM’s wants to run a game set in it.  He’s asked us to ‘fix’ the gun combat with as few changes as possible, while keeping the game somewhat heroic - so guns don’t need to be simulator realistic.

WOUNDS AND VITALITY:  We’ve already kind of agreed to use Wounds and Vitality like the first version D20 Star Wars.  I like this system rather a lot and almost wish we’d use it in 3.5.  For those of you who don’t know it, you have Wounds, which are equal to your CON score, and Vitality, which are usually called Hit Points.  You don’t lose Wounds until you are out of Vitality - Unless you take a Crit, which goes straight to Wounds.  (Note - I may have those backwards, so forgive me if I do, I’m in a terrible rush to post this).

SEVERITY CHART:  A ‘Severity Chart’ on a D100 has been suggested - you take a Crit and roll a D100.  You can get effects from this chart - leg hit, lose a little move, arm hit, minus to attacks, lung hit, instant kill, whatever.

MORE CRITS:  Increasing (doubling) the gun Crit Range has also been suggested.  I’m OK with this too - it might not even be enough as ALL D20M Firearms only crit on a 20.  I think most firearms should Crit on a 19-20 with some firearms - like Barret .50 sniper rifles, .577 Nitro Express elephant guns, and other uber-powerful weapons (like, oh, the 25mm Bushmaster Autocannon on a Bradley) critting on an 18 or even lower.

WEAR ARMOR:  Suggested that Armor reduce crit threat range, give a save vs Crits, or something, the better the heavier the body armor is.  Cause after all, armor is covering vital spots.

I’d like to toss out two newish ideas:

HEROIC CRITS:  The GM in question likes some heroic element to survive in his games.  It occurred to me that we could just use Action Points in a new way not covered in the current rules - allow the player to expend an action point to INCREASE HIS CRIT RANGE by D6 points.  I’d let ‘em do it after the roll, and let ‘em expend more than one at a time, so a desperate character could get off that last heroic shot at the charging elephant with their .577 Nitro.

LEVEL DAMAGE:  What if you added your level in D6’s to your firearm damage?  You’re a better shot after all.  What if you added your Base Attack Bonus to the Crit Range?  You’re a better shot, after all.  Either?  Both?

Final Note - we’re still brainstorming, not judging the ideas just yet.  So if you’ve got suggestions, feel free to comment.  I’m sure once we’ve blogged it a bit, we’ll start winnowing down the changes to what we think works.

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This entry was posted on Sunday, December 7th, 2008 at 6:33 pm and is filed under RPG. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

10 comments so far


I like the Heroic Crits idea. I’m not sure how increasing it by d6 points would work, it seems easier to just double it.

The level damage seems to be a good idea, it could be incorporated into the critical table somehow. Maybe (assuming crits get worse as you go up the table), you always add your level to your crit roll.

I’d have to look at d20M again, but I think that all the guns had at least a 19-20 crit (they’re considered piercing). I really think they need to be an 18-20, with some of them being 15-20.

December 7th, 2008 at 8:30 pm

Never mind, color me wrong. I just checked, and most guns crit on a 20. Lame.

December 7th, 2008 at 8:35 pm

First off, do you realize that D20 Modern’s Massive Damage Threshold rules differences greatly from the standard d20 System?

Do you want combat to be one-shot-one-kill? If you use the Wound/Vitality system, and then increase the crit range of guns… Turns rolling low on initiative into a death sentence.

I remember reading a designer blog for D20 Star Wars. Basically they said they wanted to move away from the Wound/Vitality system because after looking at the statistics, you were something like 80% likely to die from a crit shot by 10th level.

I kinda like D20 Modern the way it is. About the only change I’d recommend would be allowing Mastercraft weapons to increase the crit range by their MC value. For example, the Glock 17, Glock 20, and the Colt Python are all automatically MC1 (which lets you add +1 to attack)… I could see upping their crit range to 19-20. If you allow a PC to purchase an MC3 weapon, then they get +3 attack and a crit range of 17-20.

December 7th, 2008 at 11:56 pm

I was thinking of a simpler version of a severity chart, although it may be too lethal. On a crit you roll 2d6. A result of 2 is a head shot, instant kill with no save. A result of 7 is a torso shot; saving throw against the damage done; if you fail, death. Just to add a little balance, a 12 negates the crit and you take normal damage. All other results you take the crit damage but no saving throw is required.

I like this or the severity chart mainly because they involve a small addition to the rules instead of digging greatly into the established game mechanics.

December 8th, 2008 at 7:14 am

Having good gun play in an RPG is really hard to do. Very few game systems have really hit the nail on the head.

The main problem with guns is that they too fast and too deadly.

Guns that fire six or seven shots a seconds are routine. Each bullet can be lethal, even the lightest rounds.

The best way to approach the problem is think about films. Which film are you modeling your gun mechanics on? Something like Reservoir Dogs or Saving Private Ryan guns are deadly to everyone; or Die Hard, where guns are only deadly to minor bad guys?

December 9th, 2008 at 3:11 am

Balancing lethality with heroic play is a tough challenge. I’m more on the lethality side, because not being able to drop a target with seven rounds of .45 (mostly hits) just feels wrong. On the other hand, I don’t think we want every gun battle to come down to initiative rolls and the first hit wins.

Something between the two I suspect - just better than what D20M currently has. There’s some interesting ideas here already. Any more?

December 9th, 2008 at 5:47 am

To bypass the problem with crits being more deadly by higher levels, we need to either:

(a) increase wounds as you level, or
(b) decrease the number of wounds a crit takes.

I can see if you’re doing 14 or 16 points of damage by level 10, there needs to be a check to you taking out someone with one hit.

Maybe there are no wounds? Maybe a crit just causes a roll on the chart, and let the chips fall where they may?

December 11th, 2008 at 12:53 pm

The way we did it with minimum changes to the system was to make guns crit on a 19-20 with a x4 crit damage instead of x2.

When a gun crits, it deals pretty massive damage in this system, with a rifle doing 36 damage on average.

April 12th, 2009 at 9:55 pm

What can I say about d20 modern? I’ve been playing it since 3 years ago, perhaps more, and I grew tired of poor rules. So I changed. I wanted a a stylized game, yet lethal enough.

First of all, falling damage was radically changed. 5 feet would give 1d4 of non-lethal damage; 10 feet, 2d6 of lethal damage; 15, 3d8; 20, 4d10; 25, 5d12; and after that each extra 5 feet would increase damage by 1d12, to a maximum of 10d12.

Damage Threshold changed too. A DT roll was required whenever you take damage enough your Con score, and the DC would be the damage itself!

Armors now give 150% DR instead of AC. And their penalty was also in the Reflex Saves was also included.

Shotguns are the only “19-20 crit”, anything else would be the same. Their damage would increase to 2d12, and after the first increment range, they would be AP 1/2, that’s it: Doubling target “DR” from armor.

All weapons have a Speed Factor. “SF” defines how many attacks your character can make with a gun. Poor weapons have a high SF, and fine weapons a low one.

I’ve added large knives (1d6) and bayonets. Also, any masterwork melee weapons now gives damage bonus too.

I’ve developed new feats, to decrease Speed Factor and augment the Reflex DC from Autofire attacks.

Climb and Jump are now called Athletics (i’ve done it long before D&D4), Hide and Mov. Silently are now Stealth, and we have Perception too.

All skills costs 1:1, even cross-class, but those can’t be raised above (CharLevel+3)/2

June 24th, 2009 at 4:11 pm

Some class abilities like Lightning Shot were modified. They now decrease the Speed Factor and do not give a extra attack at -2 penalty.

The quantity of Action Points is now defined by Char-level plus Char modifier. I’ve done this after growing tired of Char 8 characteres.

And then I’ve been studying the possibility of giving free ‘minor feats’ to be used exclusively on feats rarely picked up, like Athletic.

Stunning was slightly altered, now knocking the target prone.

So, I’ve heavily changed d20 modern in very important aspects, like Reflex Saves, Number of Attacks and Damage Threshold. For me, it’s a great system to play casual games, but I still don’t like the class system.

June 24th, 2009 at 4:28 pm

One Trackback/Ping

  1. [d20 Modern] Firearms Quick Fix « A character for every game    Apr 14 2009 / 2am:

    [...] reading a post over at DireKraken, I was reminded of the fix we used to handle firearms with a little more punch in d20 [...]

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