Countdown to d20 Modern
You Can't Have Too Many Skills and Feats
(Though It Sure Makes It Tough to Choose)

Mat Smith

So, every now and then, getting started on one of these can be tough -- just figuring out where to start can be annoyingly elusive. But not this time, because this month, I'm supposed to write some stuff about what I saw when I flipped through the Skills and Feats chapters of the d20 Modern manuscript.

I saw a lot of stuff.

And that's what it's all about: Piles of Skills and gobs of Feats. There's so many things to choose from, you're likely to go a little nuts when you start trying to decide upon the handful of skills and couple of feats you get to start with.

Of course, just making those hard choices for a 1st-level character can be tough enough, but if you've been playing a d20 character for any time at all, you know that planning ahead is a very good idea. You set your sights on a prestige class (or in the case of d20 Modern, an advanced class), and you start taking feats and spending skill points to make sure you'll have the right combination of prerequisites in a reasonable amount of time. Considering the fact that d20 Modern is designed to allow you to start getting into some of those advanced classes around 5th or 6th level (I think), you don't have a lot of time to fool around trying to decide what your characters want to be when they grow up. Gee whiz, even if you decide to stick with basic classes the whole time, you're still going to have fits over the feat trees and all the various and sundry skills you could consider.

I figure a good, solid character concept might be the only thing that could possibly spare you from the complete and utter chaos of a shopping spree you'll have every time you start skimming those charts. Seriously, if life is already full of tough choices, the Skills and Feats chapters of d20 Modern are going to cause a good deal of spillage.

Disable Device Skill Two-Handed
Weapon Fighting
Martial Arts Gambling Skill


There is just a pile of skills (a quick count puts the list at around 40, and that doesn't count all the listed varieties of Craft, Knowledge, and Perform -- or the ones you can add on your own, for that matter). And sheer numbers isn't even the impressive part to the Skills chapter; it's the level of detail and volume of information and description available for each of them. The Bluff skill alone fills a full page in the manuscript (which will translate to somewhere around an entire column, possibly a little more, once it's flowed into the page layout of the actual book). The write-up includes example circumstances for employing the Bluff skill and the accompanying modifiers for the opposed Sense Motive check, along with descriptions of how to employ the Bluff skill to feint in combat, send a secret message, and even create a diversion to help you hide. Most of the descriptions also include information about whether a failed check can be reattempted, special situations or conditions that are relevant for that skill (including whether you can Take 10 or Take 20), and how much time it generally takes to employ any given skill.

Here's an example of just one of the entirely new skills you'll have the chance to hone when you start playing d20 Modern:

Investigate (Int)
Trained Only

Use this skill to analyze a crime scene and use an evidence kit. Investigate allows you to discern patterns in clues, turn clues into evidence, and otherwise prepare a crime scene and evidence for further analysis by a crime lab.

Check: You generally use Search to discover clues and Investigate to analyze them. For example, you might find a blood spatter or a potential murder weapon with a Search check. You would use Investigate to determine from which direction the blood was spattered or to collect fingerprints from the weapon.

If you have access to a crime lab, you use the Investigate skill to collect and prepare samples for the lab. The result of your Investigate check provides bonuses or penalties to the lab workers.

Analyze Clue: You can make an Investigation check to apply forensics knowledge to a clue. By examining a body, you might learn whether the victim fought back against the assailant. By looking at a bullet hole in a wall, you might approximate the location, or at least direction, of the shooter. By looking at a bloodstain, you might tell where the attacker was relative to the victim.

This function of the Investigate skill does not give you clues where none existed before. It simply allows you to extract extra information from a clue you've found.

The base DC to analyze a clue is 15. It is modified by the time that's elapsed since the clue was left and whether or not the scene was disturbed.

Circumstances DC
Every day since event (max modifier +10) +2
Scene is outdoors +5
Scene slightly disturbed +2
Scene moderately disturbed +4
Scene extremely disturbed +6

Collect Evidence: You can collect and prepare evidentiary material for a lab, such as gathering fingerprints from objects touched, making casts of footprints or tire tracks, collecting samples of fluids, fibers, and other materials, gathering scratch marks where tools have been used to break into a location, or collecting bullets from walls. This use of the Investigate skill requires an evidence kit.

To collect a piece of evidence, make an Investigate check (DC 15). If you succeed, the evidence is useable by a crime lab. If you fail, a crime lab analysis can be done, but the lab suffers a -5 penalty on any necessary check. If you fail by 5 or more, the lab analysis simply cannot be done. On the other hand, if you succeed by 10 or more, the lab gains a +2 circumstance bonus to its checks to analyze the material.

This function of the Investigate skill does not provide you with evidentiary items. It simply allows you to collect items you've found in a manner that best aids in their analysis later at a crime lab.

Try Again? Generally, analyzing a clue again doesn't add new insight unless another clue is introduced. Evidence collected cannot be recollected unless there is more of it to take (for instance, a large pool of blood may allow for a retry, since there's enough for more than one sample).

Special: You can take 10 when making an Investigate check, but you cannot take 20.

Collecting evidence requires an appropriate evidence kit. If you do not have the appropriate kit, you suffer a -4 penalty on your check.

A character with the Attention to Detail feat and at least 1 rank in this skill gets a +2 bonus on Investigate checks.

Time: Analyzing a clue is a full-round action. Collecting evidence generally takes 1d4 minutes per item.


Have a thirsty hand towel or terry cloth bib on-hand when you get to the Feats chapter -- the uncontrollable salivation can really become a nuisance because there's nearly 100 of 'em.

When I first sat down to read through the chapter, I skipped over the table that lists all of the feats and just started in on the descriptions, so I had no idea just how many of these things there were. When I finally finished reading the whole chapter, I had to go back and read it again. And again. I flipped back and forth through the whole thing three times before stopping to count them all.

I remember keeping mental notes on which feats I were my favorites, and it went something like this:

"Wow, Advanced Combat Martial Arts, I've got to be a Martial Arts guy."

"And Advanced Defensive Martial Arts, they'll never touch me."

"Agile Riposte, cool. I have to do that."

"Brawl . . . If I did that with Martial arts, extra damage -- oooh . . ."

And that just continued, until I started amassing a backlog of firearms-related feats. Then, I had to be a Gun Guy. Then a Never-get-touched-in-hand-to-hand-combat Guy. Then a Sniper Guy. I'm still not sure what I want to play now because there were too many things I wanted to get to use. I'm sure I'd have to play the same character for years to amass all the cool Feats each one of my imagined characters would just have to have.

I mean, look at this collection of Feats, and try to convince yourself that playing a Gun Guy isn't something you absolutely must do.

Advanced Firearms

You can use firearms set on automatic fire.

Prerequisite: Personal Firearms Proficiency.

Benefit: You can fire any personal firearm on the autofire setting without penalty.

Normal: Characters without this feat take a -4 penalty on attack rolls made with personal firearms set on autofire.

Burst Fire

When using a firearm with an automatic setting, you can fire a short burst at a single target.

Prerequisite: Personal Firearms Proficiency, Advanced Firearms, Wisdom 13.

Benefit: When using an automatic firearm with at least five rounds of ammunition loaded, you may fire a short burst as a single attack against a single target. You receive a -4 penalty to the attack roll but deal +2 dice of damage. For example, a firearm that deals 2d6 points of damage deals 4d6 instead.

Firing a burst expends five bullets and can only be done if the weapon has five bullets in it.

Normal: Autofire targets a 10-foot-by-10-foot area and can't be aimed at a specific target.

Special: If the firearm has a 3-round burst setting, firing a burst expends three bullets instead of five and can be used if the weapon has only three bullets in it.

Personal Firearms Proficiency

You are proficient with all types of personal firearms.

Benefit: You can fire any firearm designed to be carried and used by a single person without penalty.

Normal: Characters without this feat take a -4 penalty on attack rolls made with personal firearms.


You can use an automatic firearm to affect a wider area than normal.

Prerequisite: Personal Firearms Proficiency, Advanced Firearms.

Benefit: When using a firearm on automatic setting, you can affect a 5-foot-by-25-foot area.

Normal: A firearm on automatic setting normally affects a 10-foot-by-10-foot area.

The whole chapter is full of stuff like that. Each feat is pretty cool all by itself. Wen you start imagining how each one would stack up with others, it gets pretty sick, pretty fast. The feat trees are all just begging to be climbed. I can only imagine how much fun it is to see the d20 Modern world from the top of them -- look out, NPCs.

Of course, as soon as I settle on the type of character I want to play, it'll be time to go shopping for equipment. And I don't even want to think of what a (pleasant) nightmare of choices that's going to be. I got to flip, briefly, through the Equipment and Vehicles chapter (which also includes the extremely cool new Wealth rules) and saw weapons and more weapons, technology, equipment, vehicles, and more. But if you wanna find out more about the stuff in d20 Modern -- the guns, equipment, guns, vehicles, and guns -- you'll have to wait. Not until November, when the book hits the streets; just until next month.

There it is.

d20 Modern in Polyhedron Magazine

Polyhedron Magazine is another great place to get peeks at what's coming.

Issue 151 -- Shadow Chasers (campaign setting)

Issue 152 -- the Tough Hero

Issue 153 -- Thunderball Rally (vehicle combat) and Genetech (campaign setting)

Issue 154 -- Agents of P.S.I. (campaign setting)

Keep picking up Polyhedron, 'cause it's going to keep offering crunchy d20 Modern preview material every issue until the game hits the streets.

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