D20 Modern Horror Combat System – Part 1

Well, it looks like the detailed damage info is going to take awhile so in the meantime here is the combat system that will be the basis for the extended bodily damage. This will give you an idea of where I am heading with the overall tone of combat and the lethality of a Modern Horror campaign. Enjoy!


5.0 Combat

NOTE 1 : All non-human antagonists ALWAYS make Aimed Shots at specific body parts; the hit location preferred is dependent on the particular monster (check each creature description for specifics).
NOTE 2 : Unlike normal D20 games, the encounters should be vastly over-powered … one and a half to three times the CR of the party in each encounter (why do you think I made the classes so powerful?). But in every case make sure that the Horror has some fatal weakness that is much easier to hit and/or defeat once the heroes know about it (think silver in the Blade movies, a simple scratch will dust a vamp but they are immune to everything else).

5.1 Aimed Shots & Called Shots
One aspect of earlier editions of D&D that is oversimplified in the D20 system is Called Shots, or more accurately, Aimed Shots. The difference is one of perspective – Called Shots are what Protagonists and their NPCs allies perform against Horrors when they are necessary or they just want to show off; whereas Aimed Shots are what Horrors always employ when attacking us lowly Humans. Called Shots are always -4 to the Attack Roll of the Protagonists. Use the following Attack Roll modifiers when Aimed Shots are made against Humans:
-1 / -3    Torso / Skin (when 50% exposed)
-2 / -4    Chest / Abdomen / Whole Back / Whole Leg / Skin (25% exposed)
-3 / -5    Whole Arm / Upper or Lower Leg / Upper or Lower Back / Buttocks / Skin (10% exposed)
-4 / -6    Upper or Lower Arm / Foot / Whole Head / Groin / Left or Right Buttock
-5 / -7    Neck / Whole Hand / Ankle / Knee / Hip / Shoulder / Face / Skin (1% exposed)
-6 / -8    All Fingers / All Toes / Mouth / Heart or Breastbone
-7 / -9    Individual Fingers or Toes / Eye / Ear / Nose
-8 / -10  Any body part smaller than a finger or eye.
The first modifier is always used for NPCs and Victim Protagonists, the 2nd modifier is used for all other Player Protagonists. This modifier is halved if the attack is a full round action (any damage taken incurs a Concentration check otherwise the standard modifiers apply).

5.2 Hit Points
Hit points don’t work exactly the same as in other D20 rules systems. Consider Hit Points to be raw durability when viewed overall and actual physical durability only on a body part by body part basis. For Aimed Shot purposes consider each body part to have hit points based on the following formulae:
Tiny Body Parts (-6 / -8 modifier and lower) CON + DEX modifiers only (minimum to start is 1 LHP in each Tiny Body Part Location)
Small Body Parts (-4 / -6 modifier to -5 / -7 modifiers) 1 hit point per character level + DEX modifier.
Medium Body Parts (-2 / -4 to -3 / -5 modifiers) 2 hit points per character level + CON modifier.
Large Body Parts (-1 / -3 modifier only) 3 hit points per character level + CON and STR modifiers.
NOTE 1 : Any damage taken to Location Hit Points (LHP) is also applied to overall HP. For example, if a Protagonist takes 3 LHP to his left arm that also removes 3 points from his overall HP. This means a low-level character can be knocked out without taking very much location damage.
NOTE 2 : Double Max : whenever a Protagonist takes double the maximum LHP from a single attack to an individual body part then that body part is considered to be removed or destroyed (with the attendant screaming and profuse bleeding leading to a probable death unless immediate emergency medical care is applied). Refer to the corresponding body part in Section 5.6 for more details.
NOTE 3 : Critical Hits: If a critical hit occurs during an attack to a body part then the DM is to refer to the results under section 5.6 after a successful 2nd roll (the called shot negative modifier applies to the 2nd roll of course). These results supersede normal critical hit rules.
NOTE 4 : Any damage that does not reduce a body location to 0 HP can be healed to full location HP with a successful Treat Injury DC (20 + HP to be healed) check with a First Aid kit. Important : this does not heal your normal HP just the HP for that location (thus, if you took 3 damage to your leg that brought you down from 30 to 27 hit points and had field surgery on it you would still be at 27HP even though your leg would be back to full health). This requires 5 minutes of uninterrupted attendance by the Surgeon to work. A skill check fail still heals 1 HP to that location.

5.3 PAIN
Body part damage is excruciatingly painful compared to standard D20 damage, after all you may have been sliced open and bleeding or gods forbid you lost a body part. Any damage that drops a body part to 0 location HP causes a Pain Level to the Protagonist. Each Pain Level incurs a -1 to attack rolls, damage rolls, skill checks and all saving throws, as well as a 5‘ combat movement penalty. NOTE: Each feat placed in Toughness abates 1 Pain Level.

5.4 Physical Rehab
After especially violent encounters a Protagonist may be missing one or more body parts. With time, patience and sweat the Protagonist can recover some or (remotely) all of his former functionality. The after effects of catastrophic injury are very time sensitive to rehab, all rehab programs must be undertaken within 1 month of receiving initial treatment for the injury.
Standard physical rehab can be undertaken for free with proper supervision, this means that STR CON and DEX are easily regained. Scarring and brain damage are an entirely different matter. CHA costs $10,000 per point to repair. INT, WIS and neurological DEX damage costs $1,000 per point to repair.
In all cases it takes 1 month per point of stat damage for rehab. Thus, if the Protagonist has had a particularly violent encounter and suffered 2 pts of STR damage and 1 pt of CHA damage it would take 3 months and $10,000 for complete rehab.

5.5 Treat Injury Skill
Treat Injury gains more capabilities under these combat rules. Pain Relief allows the practitioner to remove one Pain Level that has been inflicted within the last 5 minutes. It requires bandages, splints, thread, needles and a basic pain reliever (aspirin or Tylenol). It takes a full minute to perform and is DC 15.
Staunch Wound allows the practitioner to stop a single bleeding wound (each application of bleeding is cumulative in effect but each application is to be considered a separate wound for purposes of skill use). It requires bandages, gauze, rubbing alcohol, thread and needle. One wound can be closed per full round usage of this skill and a DC 15 check.
Triage Surgery allows the medic to reduce the severe after-effects of Critical Injuries. If immediately applied within 5 combat rounds of the critical hit and a DC 20 check is successful then all stat loss from the wound is reduced by a single point (thus a head wound that causes 2 CHA and 3 INT loss will be reduced to 1 and 2 points respectively). This takes a full combat round and a complete medical kit (a First Aid kit just won’t cut it).
Preserve Limb may be employed when the inevitable happens and a Protagonist suffers a forced amputation. A DC 20 check is made and if successful the limb will be preserved for a number of minutes equal to the base rank of the medic (if he spent 4 earned skill points on Treat Injury then he can preserve a limb for 4 minutes). This can be increased to hours rather than minutes if the medic has access to a cooler and a large supply of ice (thus 4 hours instead of 4 minutes in the above example). The only place a limb can be reattached is a fully equipped hospital.


A Modern Horror update

Hello everyone,
Sorry about the long quiet period between postings but I never realized how much work needs to be done to the D20 combat system to make it more visceral. I think back to my days playing 1st edition AD&D and the various critical hit tables you could get for it (Arms Law was by far the best) and realize how much they have homogenized this game since those long ago days. Even D20 Call of Cthulhu which is somewhat of a spiritual ancestor of my work is bland and bloodless! I want to be certain that what I am writing gets across the violent nature of the world I wish for all of you to explore, but unlike writing a work of fiction this is rather hard on the psyche. At the moment I am trying to design detailed combat effects based on the body location damaged. You would think this is easy but its more like leafing through an unexpurgated forensic medicine handbook with full colour photo plates… inside my own mind. Due to this I have had to take breaks in between entries, it’s not like writing a work of horror since there is no build up to the violence. just the gross-out (Danse Macabre is such a wonderful examination of the genre… thank you Mr. King).
In the meantime, here is a sample of what I have so far…

Face (Small Body LHP)
ZERO LHP : The character is knocked unconscious until he is restored to at least 1 LHP on his Face.
DOUBLE MAX : Your face is a gruesome mess, you won’t lose your sight but it will be a close thing. The character is immediately rendered unconscious. If Treat Injury DC 20 is performed within 1 round then he will regain 1 location HP and also consciousness. He will still be unable to perform any coherent action since he has been massively concussed. Movement at 10’ per round and no actions. This persists until face damage is healed up to 1 point. The character will also suffer 1d3 CHA loss without plastic surgery. If this wound reduces the character’s overall HP to 0 or less then he will begin to choke on his own teeth and blood and die within 2 rounds unless someone simply clears his airway and lies him on his side to drain off anymore bleeding. Anyone within 20’ that was looking in this direction must make a Will save at DC 20 or lose 1 SAN point due to the gruesomeness.
CRITICAL : Gunshot : BOOM! HEADSHOT! Yup, you’re dead.
Slice : Death Scene Inspiration – Taye Diggs in Equilibrium. Death from shock and blood loss in blind screaming agony within 2 rounds. Even if somehow saved the character is now permanently blind and faceless (CHA permanently 3).
Pierce : In through the front, out through the back! Face impaled, do I even need to say it? Okay, fine, I will! Yup, you’re dead.
Crush : Face Pulped! The character is immediately rendered unconscious. If Treat Injury DC 20 is performed within 1 round then he will regain 1 location HP and also consciousness. He will still be unable to perform any coherent action since he has been massively concussed. Movement at 10’ per round and no actions. This persists until face damage is healed up to 1 point. FORT Save DC 20 once per eye or lose sight in that eye. Lose 1 CHA immediately, REFLEX Save DC 20 or this increases to 1d3 CHA. Anyone within 10’ that was looking in this direction when the attack occurred must make a Will save at DC 20 or lose 1 SAN point due to the gruesomeness.
Rip / Tear : Death Scene Inspiration – The Space Marine face removal in Hellraiser : Bloodlines. Same effects as Slice.
Fire : Chippendale Char Face! REFLEX Save DC 20 to be blinking during the attack. Failure means permanent blindness. 3rd degree burns to your whole face immediately incurs 1 CHA loss, failing a FORT Save DC 25 (rejected skin grafts) increases this loss to 1d3 CHA.
Acid : Death Scene Inspiration – Drake in Aliens and that poor security guard in The Fly 2. REFLEX Save DC 20 to be blinking during the attack. Failure means permanent blindness, even if the save is made that means your eyelids are fused together until you get to a hospital (temporary blindness). Severe acid burns to your whole face immediately incurs 1 CHA loss, failing a FORT Save DC 25 (rejected skin grafts) increases this loss to 1d4 CHA. Anyone within 10’ that was looking in this direction when the attack occurred must make a Will save at DC 20 or lose 1 SAN point due to the gruesomeness.

Adventure 3 : Dirtwood the Glorious vs. Satan’s Army Pt.1

Hello everybody!

Sorry for the delay on content but I have always had trouble designing puzzle-based adventures and writer’s block was an issue as well this time. The one drawback so far to blogging here seems to be posting hand drawn maps so for the design of the Tower you will have to use your own judgement (and my less than ideal descriptive skills) until I can finally figure this out.

PS: Next up will be the D20 Modern Horror Combat System so expect that in the next 2 weeks.

Adventure 3 : Dirtwood the Glorious vs. Satan’s Army!

Part 1 : The Scavenger Hunt…. Of Evil!

Well, Dirtwood found you and is begging for your help to stop the followers of Satan from destroying the Spear of Destiny and the Holy Grail. Dirtwood isn’t sure where either object is but thankfully neither do Satan’s minions. While he frantically researches their locations he wishes to send you to a place where you can find objects of power to help you defeat the Forces of Satan. As far as Dirtwood can tell so far Satan and his Army are looking for these Holy Relics to somehow expel God from Gaul and England making Satan the only deity available for worship in either land.

Despite being only a 9th level Hedge Wizard, Dirtwood works within his limitations. He has developed a Ritual Magic spell that allows him to Teleport Without Error up to 12 individuals within the boundaries of England, but it requires 24 hours to cast. Any interruption longer than a single movement only action or free action (such as drinking water or peeing) will disrupt the spell and it must be started over. All the recipients must remain within a 24 foot diameter magic circle for the duration of the spell with anything and everything they can fit within that area.

But before Dirtwood performs that magic ritual he must tell you a tale…
There is a place, deep within the Forest of Dean.
It is a dark place, a corrupt place, nothing grows there
…except grass…and lots and lots of rabbits.
At the center of this dark vale, this sleepy hollow if you will….there resides a tower.
A tower of black basalt, even though it looks like it is constructed of hewn blocks, the tower is of a piece unto itself. As if one day it grew straight up from the ground.
Atop this Tower is a light, sometimes green, sometimes golden, sometimes the brightest white.
Where there is Light there is Treasure, at least that’s what my father used to say, the sceevy old codger. I am going to send you to this dark hollow and you will get the treasures hidden away there to help in your quest against Satan’s Army. The omens I have read tell me this to be so.

The Black Tower of Dean
The Tower is 90’ tall from base to the top of the cupola,110‘ wide at the base and 40‘ wide at the battlement. The battlement has a 10’ wide parapet and 5’ tall crenelation with the cupola situated in the center, the cupola has a 5’ tall and 2’ wide slit on each of its four sides. It is formed from a single block of black basalt that seems to be carved to look as if it made from carved blocks, the seams being 5’ apart vertically and 7’ horizontally (Climb DC 22 on dry days, DC 30 in the rain, luckily it hasn‘t rain in the last week here). If a climber reaches the arrow slits at 50” (2nd floor) a Swarm of Bats (MM pg. 237) will issue from the closest slit and attack the Hero until she falls or somehow defeats them. It is comprised of 3 internal floors as well as the 10’x10’ cupola on top. The bottom floor comprises a single barren 70’x70’ room with a plain dirty floor. The Tower sits in the center of a 300’ radius clearing covered in 3-Eyed Energized Bunnies, they sit exactly 5’ apart, each bunny sits in the middle of a 2’ radius circle of bare ground with a verge of green grass between the circles around each bunny. The cupola will be glowing with a white light upon the arrival of the Heroes. It changes colour dependent on certain events, the light will become golden when a rabbit is killed or the shadow is defeated or the Dot Room is solved. 5 rounds after the first Bunny is killed the light will turn green for one round and all dead Bunnies will be replaced by new ones popping straight out of the ground. The light will also turn green 5 rounds after the Heroes exit the Shadow Room or the Dot Room and those rooms will also reset. And finally, when the Heroes reach the cupola and remove the items found in the geode, it will turn red and within 5 rounds the Tower will begin to sink into the earth forever. This process will take 5 rounds as well.

Challenge the First : Death By Bunny Electrocution
When the Heroes teleport in they will be on the edge of the clearing under the shelter of the surrounding trees. Initially, the Heroes won’t notice the third eye on the bunnies unless they make a Spot Check DC 12. After a few minutes the 3rd eye will become obvious though. The first challenge will be to find away through the bunnies without dying from slow electrocution.

Three-Eyed Energized Bunny
Use the stats for Rat (MM pg. 278) with the following alterations:
Hit Dice: ¼ (2 hit points)
Initiative: +6
Speed: no climb
Attack: Static Shock +4 Touch (1hp damage), automatic attack once per round per Size S being within 2’ of the Bunny (that includes other Bunnies, yes that means mating is very quick), or 5’ for Size M and larger.
Feats: Improved Initiative, Alertness, Cannot be caught flat-footed.
CR: ½

Challenge the Second : The Dot Room
When the Heroes walk up the stairs the first character that sets foot on the floor of the Dot Room will instantly trigger the trap and hear a distinctive tinkling noise as he does so. The 10’ squares surrounding the stairs will be blank slate until stepped on, at which point a single round 3” diameter white dot will appear in the center of the slate square. As long as the Heroes step on the next consecutively dotted floor panel nothing will occur. If a Hero should step on a panel out of numerical order he will immediately take 1d6 per dot on that panel of electrical damage (Fort Save DC 22 for half damage). He will continue to take that damage per round thereafter until he steps back onto the last safe panel. Once a Hero reaches the 6 dot panel he may continue forward on a single dot panel. If a Hero steps on one of the 2 panels designated with an X-O pattern he will take 7d6 damage (Fort Save DC 25 for half). A Hero may also safely walk back along the path in reverse numerical order at any time as well as long as he is following his original path.

Challenge the Third : The Shadowy Jawbone of Shadow
This cramped 30’x30’ room is shrouded in deep shadows, all light sources can only illuminate a 5’ radius (with the exception of very powerful divine magic). When the Heroes finally stumble upon the ladder the first light that strikes the human lower jawbone lying on the floor in front of it will trigger the waking of the Shadow Beast. The jawbone appears to be carved from a single piece of black basalt in exquisite detail. It will rise from the floor to become the lower jaw of the shadow creature that attacks the party. During the course of the entire encounter there will be a low whistling issuing from the jawbone as the Shadow blows between its teeth constantly.  It is completely immune to normal damage except to the jawbone. Any silver, cold iron or magic weapon that strikes the shadow will cause it to recoil as if in pain but will not in fact hurt it. Use the stats for Shadow (MM pg. 221) except that its DEX is 18 (AC 14) and it does normal damage with each strike instead of STR and this is truly a shadow and is not Undead so it cannot be turned. To hit the jawbone requires a called shot to the mouth (-6 to hit). The jawbone only has 9 hit points though.
When the jawbone has taken 9 points of damage it will fall inert to the floor and the shadows will flee from the room, returning it to normal illumination. The light in the cupola will respond accordingly and in 5 rounds will turn green and reset the room trap.

The Finale : The Cupola
Once the Heroes ascend the ladder they will find an even more cramped 10’x10’ room with a large blindingly bright light source in the center. With a successful Spot Check (DC 13) the character will be able to discern that it is in fact a large chest made out of pure clear crystal. Another Spot Check (DC 14) will also discern a number of objects lying at the center of the light. As long as a Hero reaches in with both hands he will grasp and pull out the one treasure he most needs (by item type not power level). If he reaches in with only one hand then the Hero receives 2 points of electrical damage, every time he tries it and he will pull back nothing as a result. This process will continue, double-reach-pull-out-treasure, until everyone that entered the Shadow Room has pulled out an item, at this point the light will turn an angry but viewable red and the whole Tower will shudder. After 5 rounds of shuddering the Tower will slide back into the Earth forever (this process will take a mere 3 rounds). The Heroes can either attempt to race to the bottom and out, quite possibly being buried alive in the process, or else they can exit through the concealed door on the north side of the cupola (Spot Check DC 14 but only after the light has gone red). The cupola will remain above ground so the characters will be safe upon the parapet or exiting the cupola after the Tower has sunk.

End-note: Unbeknownst to the Heroes this Tower was a magical experiment being conducted by the Daouine Sidhe Lord, Malbinogre. With enough time and divination magic he will eventually find out who desecrated and looted his property.