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Game Designer Roundtable
d20 Modern Roleplaying Game

Skills and Feats

In addition to the new skills, there are also several familiar ones available to characters. How did you decide what to pick up, add, change, and/or delete?

Jeff Grubb: We started with the standard skill list from our previous games, D&D and Star Wars, then started paring away those pieces that did not seem to fit into a modern setting (like Use Magic Device or Astrogate), and adding those that are more applicable (such as Drive). There was a lot of debate on the number and type of Knowledge subgroups, as we were balancing real world accuracy versus splitting the subgroups into too many pieces that sucked up too many skill points.

Bill Slavicsek: We tried to balance between covering every conceivable skill use in a contemporary setting and making a playable game. Our design philosophy is to have broader skills, both so the spending of skill points is equitable and so that characters don't become so specialized that they have nothing to do in certain situations. When a skill list gets to be so specific that you have the skill "Fix Sports Car" instead of the broader-use "Repair," then you have a problem. We think we reached the right mix of skills, and we're very pleased with how Craft, Knowledge, and Perform have developed.

Do you think a lot of gamers are going to be porting the d20 Modern Roleplaying Game versions of those skills over to their other games because of that?

Rich Redman: The whole idea of the d20 license is that as games come out, they can take the best from previous d20 games and improve on things that needed work. I certainly hope that gamers feel this skills chapter is more definitive than what we've done in the past.

Charles Ryan: Absolutely. We've worked to clarify, expand, and strengthen most of the skill descriptions. Of course, we've also focused on matching their function with the needs of the modern world. Craft, for example, works very differently in d20 Modern than it does in D&D because the sorts of things people are going to do with Craft in the modern world are very different from what you do in a medieval world. And not just the types of things you make, but why you make them, whether you make them from scratch or store-bought components, etc. Computer Use is different from the Star Wars system to reflect the modern world's use of computers and not how they work in the Star Wars setting. Even skills like Forgery can have big differences (medieval forgers rarely attempt to make drivers' licenses).

So there's a lot of focus on how you use these skills in the modern world. Mechanically, you can definitely take them into other d20 games and have them work, but their functions may not be completely relevant in other, very different settings.

It looks like the skill descriptions are a lot longer than we've seen before. Is that because the skills are more complex, more flexible, just needed more elaboration, or something else?

Charles Ryan: Mostly it's because we've called out more ways in which the skills can be used.

Jeff Grubb: A good part of this is that we are dealing with a world that our players are familiar with, whether from real life experience or from the media. As a result, there are more situations where one can say "Hey, what about . . ." that we need to cover.

Bill Slavicsek: We discovered while working on the Star Wars Revised Core Rulebook that clarity and examples take up space. We want to make sure that the rules regarding the use of each and every skill are clear, complete, and contain a useful example. For this reason, our skill descriptions and some of our feat descriptions are longer than they are in other d20 games. We make sure, for example, that every skill clearly tells you how much time it takes to use, what kind of action it represents, and whether you can take 10 or take 20 when making a skill check.

Chris Perkins: In a modern-day setting, even common skills tend to have broad applications. In many cases, a skill can be used to accomplish more than a single specific task.

There are a ton of feats (nearly 100), and a lot of feat trees as well, all of which are going to make selecting feats a tough choice at every turn. What was the driving force behind amassing this treasure trove of character building?

Rich Redman: In my opinion, the nature of the d20 Modern Roleplaying Game is a genre-less book. We had to give people the building blocks they needed to create characters appropriate to the genre of their campaign.

Charles Ryan: I agree--we have to cover a lot of game styles, whether you're playing a game like a John Woo movie, a Tom Clancy novel, or Scooby Doo. Also, there are a lot more skill-boosting feats (feats like Alertness that give a +2 bonus to two skills). Now, every single skill is covered by one of that sort of feat. Add to that a bunch of driving feats and some nifty firearms-related feats, and you've got a list that's just a little bit longer than the ones in D&D and Star Wars.

Jeff Grubb: In the playtests, I kept referring to Scoobies and SWATs, very different playing styles that can exist in the same party. There are those who treat modern roleplaying as more investigative and cognitive in nature, and those who are more action oriented (and those break down further into martial-artist types and firearms experts). The size of the feat list is a reflection of giving the solid foundation to a number of playing styles. We aren't JUST doing modern fantasy or spies or military adventure, but providing the basis for ALL of them.

Chris Perkins: True, the list of feats is extensive, but heroes in the d20 Modern Roleplaying Game have lots of feat "slots" to fill.

What's your favorite combination of starting feats?

Rich Redman: The game's not even out yet! How many characters do you think we've built? Seriously though, for me the combination isn't just starting feats, it's also class abilities. So my favorite combination varies with character class.

Charles Ryan: Yeah, it definitely depends on what you want to do. I think there's some really neat combinations of unarmed combat feats -- martial arts and brawling. With a good selection of feats, you can build a character who is really dangerous with just his hands.

Chris Perkins: My character in Charles' Friday afternoon game started play with a melee-oriented feat (Combat Martial Arts) and a ranged combat feat (Point Blank Shot), both of which are excellent launching pads for even cooler feats at higher levels. Can't go wrong sticking to the basics, at least to begin with!

Jeff Grubb: I like the Personal Firearms and the Point Blank Shot trees. One of the early decisions was to put the power in the player, not in the gun. The ability to accurately strafe or use autofire is a nice way of character development. A low-level punk with a gun is still dangerous, but to pull off the stunts you see in the movies you need the feat.

Bill Slavicsek: Feats are cool. They help differentiate characters and they help players further define the characters they want to play. We pulled in the best feats from the other d20 games, then developed a bunch of new ones for use in cinematic action-adventure stories that can be played in a contemporary setting. I think every combination of feats you can imagine is just as good as any other. It all depends on the character class you start with and the concept behind your character. So, my favorite combination would be different, depending on the campaign and the character I was going to play. There's just a wealth of options, and that makes this game versatile and exciting.

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