Setting Up a DC Fictional City

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One of the things that’s most distinctive between the Marvel and DC comics universes is that Marvel mostly uses real-world cities, particularly New York City, while DC tends to invent their own. Gotham is basically New York City in all ways that count. Metropolis is probably Chicago, since it’s usually not that far from Kansas. Star City is almost certainly Seattle and Central City is pretty much St. Louis. There’s some argument about exactly which city some of them are modeled on (with the argument that Metropolis is NYC in the day and Gotham is NYC at night), but, superficially, it’s unclear why not just use a fictionalized version of the real city to make it easy to map the events onto knowledge of the real world.

Meanwhile, I’ve always been much more of a Marvel reader, so when I was working on a licensed supers video game and we were talking to one of our licensing reps, I didn’t get why he was so adamant about suggesting things like making sure someone mentions Big Belly Burger if they’re going to be talking about food. I hadn’t actually been aware that DC had its own whole consistent, cross-comic infrastructure of invented businesses, other than the obvious ones like Lexcorp and Wayne Enterprises.

As I work on my own campaign set in the DC-verse, it’s suddenly apparent why all these things are such a good idea (and as true for the comics as for RPGs). Even a fictionalized version of New York City is going to be full of preconceptions. People that know a lot about the city will wonder why things were wrong, or resources were not used that would have helped with the current situation. Just think about every time a TV show or movie has been set in your home town and you’re completely baffled by how they’ve screwed up the geography. But Gotham isn’t anyone’s actual hometown. If Batman can get from the opera house to the stock market in a few panels of roof jumping, nobody can insist that it’s impossible since they’re nearly five miles apart, even as the bat flies. In Gotham, they may not be.

More important for a publishing company that can get sued for libel than for your own game, but still a consideration if you want to post your stuff online or eventually release it as a setting book: completely replacing places, companies, and people with analogues gives you a lot more freedom to use them however you need to for your work. McDonalds’ lawyers might have something to say about a storyline where a villain has been putting addictive substances in the special sauce, but O’Shaughnessy’s doesn’t have corporate representation. There’s still probably a legal curtain where it’s too obvious who or what you’re referencing, but it’s a lot easier to get away with than when you’re absolutely using real world names.

For your game, my suggestions include:

  • Figure out what the most notable things are about the city you’re converting, and convert those first. When your players are like, “we should go to X location,” it’s good to have already come up with an analogue than having to scramble and decide on the fly whether that’s different in your fictional city.
  • This is also a good time to take a page from the Fate Dresden Files game and give those location Faces, people that represent them. This can be a way into fictionalizing notable people for the real city that you want to use. Rather than just having a list of city notables, tie them into the locations that they own or influence. This gives them context and a potential location to find them if the players want to deal.
  • Think of how each location can have a plot hook into the kind of campaign you’re running. Your players are more likely to be interested in doing something with the information you’ve presented if there’s a rumor of something they can accomplish there.
  • Don’t be afraid to drastically change something to show how your city isn’t a 1:1 rename of the real world city. The goal is to keep the players from being totally complacent about geography and resources: this is your city, and things exist as they’re useful for your game, not because the players know it’s available in the real world. For example, DC seems to always add a docks area for smuggling crime, even for conversions of land-locked cities.

For example, the city of Terminus is definitely not Atlanta (it’s totally Atlanta):

The (Assault and) Battery

A few years back, the Terminus Warchanters were about to get a new baseball stadium in an inconvenient part of town, wrung from taxpayer expenses and designed to further destroy traffic at the north end of the city. A group of villains that were in town at the time decided to do something about it, and managed to completely disintegrate the nearly-finished structure. The Warchanters are still playing at the still-relatively-new Cash Field downtown. Not being able to get the money to do anything with the now-gaping-hole in the earth, but with several other buildings and parking garages near completion and still intact, the area became a fairly low-key entertainment venue around a large artificial pond. The uneasy origins and government embarrassment have, however, made it slightly dangerous rather than the theme park it was designed to be. It currently exists in an uneasy detente between upscale entertainment venue and criminal hangout, with just enough of a police presence to keep it from completely sliding into a haven of villainy.

The Big Chik ‘N’

National chicken restaurant brand Chik ‘N’ Go has its origin in one of the Terminus’ suburbs. The Catie family still privately owns the restaurant, which has a profoundly religious bent to its hours of operation and philanthropy. This has made the restaurant and its owning family the enemy of many progressives, particularly those that feel marginalized by its attitudes. Having bought out the franchise that erected the giant chicken-decorated building in northern Terminus, they use the easily-identifiable landmark as their flagship store. Many a rogue has tried to bring the place down, if only for the easily-scored notoriety, but somehow the family has enough savvy to fend off such attacks. Some worry they’re playing the long game, which includes planting addictive chemicals in their secret brining recipes.

CCN Center

The Cash family is Terminus old money, but managed to eclipse most of the other families with antebellum roots by investing heavily in media in the latter half of the 20th century, led by current family patriarch Cedric “Ced” Cash and his Hollywood-royalty bride Jen. Cash Communications is one of the dominant cable and internet providers in the region, and the family owns both the Terminus Broadcasting System and Cash Cable News cable channels. In the recent days of 24-hour-news, CCN has become the crown jewel of the family’s holdings, becoming the place most centrists get their news. Ced and Jen have several grown children that have various roles in the business, and his extremely elderly and wealthy mother still sometimes shows up to high society functions.

Crystal Plaza

Crystal Cola has been the dominant soft drink in the world for over a century, and it got its start right in Terminus. Currently the Sampson family profits most from the brand in their role as Terminus nobility, with their patriarch the international corporation’s CEO. They’d long had a museum to the history of the brand in the crime-ridden Underground Terminus, and a few years ago picked up digs and funded a much more elaborate tourist trap next to the Olympic park, the other end of the plaza anchored by a large aquarium that is a frequent villainous target for fish-based schemes (and the local rogues are tired of Aquaman being the most frequent JLA member associated with the city).

High’s Depot Stadium

One of the most popular big-box stores in the nation is headquartered in Terminus, and two of their founders, Aurelius High and August Null, have made their families rich off of the business and stayed local. The High family are noted philanthropists, supporting a diverse series of causes including various Jewish foundations and their own art museum. The Null family are more interested in extreme capitalism, and are known for their ownership of the Terminus Steelwings football team, which currently plays out of the stadium funded by the company he founded.

The Pentacle

Looming near the middle of town, this too-trendy artsy neighborhood has grown up around an ill-advised five-way arrangement of streets. In addition to the traffic implications, complicating drives from all over the area, the mystic consequences are also poorly understood. Once a haven for a particularly off-putting wizard “hero,” Zachary Carstairs, who allowed the culture to grow up around his below-ground sanctum, he eventually went mad with power and had to be put down by a surprising teamup of the local crimefighters and rogues. Since then, the mystical hasn’t really flourished in Terminus, and the area has become increasingly touristy, but the core of mystic alignment theoretically still buzzes in the area, waiting for someone else to make a bid.

The Snarl

Another nationally-famous traffic pattern, this junction of interstates and major surface streets has long contributed heavily to the infamously poor Terminus commute. There’s a running bounty of respect and cash that’s been accumulating for decades to go to the rogue who can manage to smash it so thoroughly that the city has to start from scratch and maybe replace it with something less horrifying. Don Moreland, who also had a mysterious hand in one of the avenues that runs through the Pentacle, is the DoT official responsible for the traffic pattern, and even in his advanced age wields influence to keep it from being replaced. They say that his family has a long and poorly understood stranglehold on the city’s infrastructure planning.

Stagcrest Neighborhood

Terminus’ most infamous party zone, this area features most of the bars and clubs most popular with the celebrity set, including globally-known performers that live full time in the city. Because the city’s celebrities have long been focused on hip hop (with a recent influx of film), the area is famous for violent shootings as performers escalate their “beefs.” Rogues know they’ve reached a certain level of notoriety when they’re invited to go clubbing with rappers who want to associate with them for the street cred, or film stars that want to up their bad boy/girl personas for the tabloids by being seen with a villain in public.

Wolfheart-Holbrook International Airport

One of the busiest in the world, Terminus’ airport is a centerpoint of all kinds of smuggling, with most savvy rogues figuring out a way to get some leverage on the operation. Lambda Airlines owns a whole terminal, and uses the city as their international hub. The Dean family currently profits most from the airline business, with their patriarch the brand’s CEO. While the MARTHA (Metro Area Rail Transit and Helicopter Authority) subways don’t reach as many places in the area as most would like, they do conveniently start at the airport, making it easy for travelers willing to brave the trains to get to most of Terminus. The odd addition of helicopter-transit to the agency’s remit is a historical legacy of a brief villainous fad to abuse private helicopters in the 70s, resulting in the city moving them to public control.

Rogues: Making a Villainous Character

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This is an exercise I put together for coming up with a street-level supervillain PC, on par with the Gotham rogues for power level. After outputting the character summaries, you can then use those as a guide for building the character in your system of choice.

Character Creation

  • What is your gimmick/theme? Start thinking about your brand as a villain, and how it will inform your skill choices below.
  • Skills:
    • What is your primary skillset? Suggestions include: Intellectual/Scientist, Ninja/Martial Artist, Brute/Wrestler, Thief/Catburglar, Con Artist/Actor, Daredevil/Provocateur, Ex-Police/Lawyer, Soldier/Mercenary, Industrialist/Mobster.
    • Pick two narrowly defined skills from within your primary skillset (e.g., a particular academia, science, weapon, style, type of criminal skill, role, etc.). Write them down for later.
    • What is your “power”? This can be either a low-level meta power or a particular physical or mental competency that is a maximum or slightly-beyond-human norm. If the latter, it should be directly relevant to your primary skillset (e.g., Acrobat works for Ninja, Thief, or Daredevil but not for Intellectual or Brute).
    • What is your hobby? This should be something useful that you devote a lot of time to, but not directly relevant to your primary skillset.
    • What is your primary social interaction method? Examples include charming, sexy, scary, witty, psychiatrist, threatening, cool, terse, etc.
  • Take the six skills you defined above (skillset, sub-skill 1, sub-skill 2, power, hobby, and social) and rank them from best to worst. If your sub-skills are worse than your skillset, they represent particular weaknesses in your technique, and if they’re higher, they’re areas in which you excel. Your second-lowest skill will be something that you’re barely trained in, and your lowest skill will be something in which you’re amusingly incompetent.
  • Why are you stuck in a life of crime instead of using your skills for honest work? This is often a mental illness (like most of Batman’s rogues), but could be something else you can use that would keep you from going straight without a huge reason.
  • What’s your main weakness that the “heroes” have used to defeat you in the past? This can be the same reason you’re stuck in a life of crime.
  • Optional, but could have story perks: Pick an established DC character that you have a personal connection to (e.g., villain you used to hench for and know how to use their gadgets, hero you have some level of foil-rivalry with such that your relationship is frenemies, etc.).
  • Come up with a name (real and costumed) and a rough description of your costume.
  • Rank the following criminal motivations for how they matter to you personally, from most important to least:
    • Wealth: Just in it for the life of luxury
    • Competence: Reputation for accomplishing what was intended
    • Fear: Reputation for causing death and pain
    • Notoriety: Reputation among civilians for being a villain
    • Honor: Reputation for keeping one’s word and avoiding universal taboos (like harming children)
    • Respect: Reputation among other criminals/villains

Example Rogues

Thomas West

A local threat that peaked a few decades ago, the Dieselpunk was all about vehicle-based mayhem. A tatted-up rocker with a penchant for leather and goggles, most of his crimes involved elaborate cars and trains that he’d built himself into essentially tanks (but do NOT call him Thomas the Tank Engine, he hates that). It was unclear at the time why such a competent individual didn’t leverage his skills as a mechanic or driver for legitimate means, but he admits that it was mostly being brought up by criminals and having too-deeply embraced the anarcho-socialist mentality of his preferred music scene. Unfortunately, basing all your crimes on large vehicles that need roads or tracks makes it easy for more mobile crimefighters to head you off (especially in Terminus rush hour), so the Dieselpunk was successful less often than hoped, and spent a lot of years in jail.

After his last long stint in the pen, he finally did what most aging anarchists do and embraced wealth and the respect of his peers, going more or less legit. He wound up inheriting a gentrifying old train depot from former local villain King Plow, and opened the Terminus West nightclub and concert venue. He still affects a cleaned-up punk vibe and keeps painfully thin, so despite going gray he maintains an aura of cool that serves him well as a rock venue owner. The complex also has an unadvertised underground lounge that admits local criminals, and features numerous escape tunnels in case of crimefighter raids. This serves as one of the primary networking spots for local rogues, and the only real drawback is that Mr. West (“Call me Tommy”) will often show off the latest jams he’s been working on (he always was more enthusiastic than competent as a musician). He’s generally willing to give advice and help on mechanical engineering to the good tippers at his lounge.

Skills: Driving, Mechanic (Power), Vehicle Daredevil, Cool, Piloting, Music
Aspirations: Wealth, Respect, Notoriety, Competence, Honor, Fear

Companion Cube

Terminus villains have an answer to the Bat-family’s Oracle in the mysterious hacker Companion Cube. Believed to be a protege of the Calculator, the almost-certainly-a-she presents to her clients as simply an icon of a cube with a heart on it taken from a relatively-recent video game and a digitally-masked voice. Excellent in most computer-based disciplines (though with a slight problem managing to pilot drones effectively when she “comes along” on a job), she especially excels at handling security systems (and keeping an eye out for incoming crimefighters). Most of the local rogues with any kind of computer expertise assume she must be a low-level technopath to accomplish some of the things she manages. She clearly wants to make her social persona a terse, no-nonsense type, but she frequently gets excited or too-comfortable with her clients and talks way too much. This is how everyone found out about her deep investment in cosplay, and there’s a running game at the Terminus West lounge to try to figure out which of the heavily-costumed groupies is Companion Cube in her latest disguise. She has a sideline producing costumes for many of the city’s villains (and possibly some of the heroes).

She seems to largely be turned to a life of crime out of disgust at trying to live the straight life. Many suspect that she must have hit the glass ceiling for female programmers, and bounced off of it hard and angrily. However, since she mostly oversees jobs for the cred, trying to be a L33T H4X0R, her biggest weakness is that she’s probably still holding on to her day job, and isn’t available a lot of the time. Crimefighters with money have managed to sideline her in the past by various attempts to investigate local technology firms, which gets her to slow down her nighttime activities for a while to not look suspicious.

Skills: Security, Hacker, Cosplay, Drones, Technopath, Terse
Aspirations: Respect, Competence, Honor, Wealth, Fear, Notoriety

Trailblazer

Perhaps the quirkiest rogue in Terminus is Frank Torres, the Trailblazer. A fairly-powerful meta with super-strength and invulnerability, he isn’t particularly fast or agile, and is too heavy to be easily transported by most consumer vehicles. So he is an avowed pedestrian and explorer, and has an unparalleled on-the-ground understanding of Terminus’ map (he’s an enthusiastic geocacher). The mountain of a man doesn’t bother with a costume very often, because he’s over seven-feet tall and thick enough to compensate for the square-cube law, so he doesn’t exactly blend, but he sometimes goes with an ironic British explorer motif complete with pith helmet, khakis, and mustache (he can grow an excellent mustache). Surprisingly quick-witted for those that expect your typical dumb brute, he unfortunately isn’t that great of a hand-to-hand fighter and is absolutely terrible at situational awareness (most rogues want their brutes to pay attention to where the crimefighters are, and not accidentally take out load-bearing walls).

The quirkiness of Trailblazer is that he’s not really a criminal. He will sometimes sign onto jobs to get a paycheck (the man has to eat a ridiculous number of calories), but his real claim to crime is that his pet peeve is people that cut off pedestrian access. He has hundreds of thousands of dollars in property damage from stomping cars blocking crosswalks and construction vehicles that park on the sidewalk, because he’s walking here. Because of the magnitude of his powers, there aren’t many crimefighters in town that can do much about one of his sprees, and they’re largely at a loss about what to try. He mostly goes to jail when Superman happens to be in town anyway.

Skills: Unstoppable, Geocaching, Brute, Witty, Fighting, Situational Awareness
Aspirations: Notoriety, Wealth, Honor, Fear, Competence, Respect

Rogues: What Villains Want

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I watched the new Harley Quinn cartoon at about the same time recently that I finally got around to reading the now-venerable Cat Tales fanfic. Meanwhile, I am Pagliacci is an excellent ongoing fanfic that started up recently. All of that got me thinking about why there aren’t more games that focus on the villain side of things, rather than the heroes.

One of my assertions about gaming is that Superheroes and Horror are the hardest genres to run, by virtue of their protagonists generally being entirely reactive. The classic mode of tabletop games is the self-directed D&D adventuring party, and even modern module-based fantasy games generally give the PCs a lot of control over the timing of what they attempt. Running a dungeon is much more akin to committing a crime than foiling one. Similarly, Shadowrun, from a mile-high perspective, is a very similar play cadence to D&D, concerned with getting into the stronghold and acquiring the rewards from the most defended central point.

Meanwhile, games with PCs that are superheroes tend to have a much harder time not making everything a total railroad. Batman is on Joker’s timetable, most of the time. So why not just play Joker?

This post is mostly my brainstorming on the kinds of rewards and jobs that villainous PCs can pursue. With enough time and production value, the GM could make up essentially quest cards with various crime opportunities that are are upcoming, and allow research to plan the job and find out more of the particulars.

Villains Want

  • Wealth: Cash money
  • Leverage: Information or resources that can be used to extract things from others (usually through blackmail)
  • Favors: Pending payback for undertakings previously done on behalf of others
  • Brand: Success at forwarding a personal theme
  • Competence: Reputation for accomplishing what was intended
  • Fear: Reputation for causing death and pain
  • Notoriety: Reputation among civilians for being a villain
  • Honor: Reputation for keeping one’s word and avoiding universal taboos (like harming children)
  • Respect: Reputation among other criminals/villains

Potential Crimes/Undertakings Have

  • Payoff: Value of the score itself (Wealth, Leverage, or resources that can be used for a further undertaking)
  • Danger: Base danger to the villain on attempting it (from on-site defenders)
  • Emergency: Speed of response from law enforcement/super heroes
  • Collateral: Risk of harm to bystanders or unrelated infrastructure (potential loss of Honor, but increase of Fear)
  • Branding: Being on theme for one or more villains

Example Undertakings

  • Rob a bank/museum (night): High Payoff, usually moderate Danger, potentially reduced Emergency depending on how it’s handled, low Collateral
  • Rob a bank/museum (daylight): As night, except higher Emergency and very high Collateral; increased chance of gaining Notoriety and potentially lowered security measures (because things aren’t locked up for the night)
  • Rob a secure facility: Usually high Payoff and Danger, variable Emergency depending on whether the facility is legit and calls for help, usually low Collateral
  • Rob a vehicle in transit: High Payoff and often lower difficulty and Danger than robbing a building, potentially high Collateral and Emergency depending on where the vehicle is attacked
  • Rob a party: High Payoff (often easier to rob socialites wearing jewelry than hit safes), usually low Danger depending on the party, but very high chance of Collateral and Emergency in most cases
  • Break out another criminal: Low Payoff except in Favors, high Danger and Emergency, usually low Collateral; good way to increase Respect
  • Extortion: Variable Payoff depending on the target, usually low Danger but high Emergency (or vice versa if it’s the kind of person that won’t go to the law), low Collateral but good way to increase Fear
  • Kidnapping: High Payoff but extremely high Emergency and Collateral; this can go very wrong if all the variables aren’t accounted for
  • Hostages (People): This differs from Kidnapping in that the hostages are usually taken in a particular location; extremely high Emergency and Collateral, and this is rarely successful except as a delaying tactic for some other plan, as people don’t like to pay for this; can be a way to increase Honor or Fear
  • Hostages (Infrastructure): This usually involves using explosives or similar to threaten to destroy an important inanimate object/structure; often safer than taking people as hostages, as governments will often pay for this, oddly; Collateral may be lower depending on what’s rigged to blow
  • Destroy Infrastructure: Sometimes the plan is simply to destroy infrastructure for some other ongoing purpose; there’s usually no immediate Payoff (unless as part of some kind of real estate or stock shorting scheme in which case this is probably Insider Trading), high Collateral and Emergency, and various reputations can increase drastically
  • Trafficking: Gain ownership in the distribution tree for illegal goods (drugs, weapons, prostitutes, etc.); this is usually a high recurring Payoff but involves a lot of Danger to set up (or a series of other undertakings) and an ongoing chance of Emergency as the law and heroes try to break up the business
  • Smuggling: High Payoff, low Danger, variable Emergency, low Collateral; unless the smuggling is very high profile, this is often a pretty safe crime to do to build money, but doesn’t involve a lot of reputation increases because of that
  • Suborn Institution: Use blackmail, mind control, disguise, etc. to control a person or otherwise infiltrate an organization; this can have a very high Payoff, and other things are highly variable based on what’s being suborned and what methods are used
  • Assassination: Potentially high Payoff if contracted, and usually commensurately high Danger and Emergency but low Collateral in most cases; good chance of raising different reputations depending on the target
  • Insider Trading: Do a crime that will inflate the value of something already possessed; high Payoff and variable other risks depending on what’s being done
  • Crusade: Do something that only has value in forwarding a personal agenda; high Branding but low Payoff, with variable amounts of other risks

Savage Worlds Rules Summary

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I put this together for my players in the Scion game. It’s a summary of the rules for the 2019 Explorer’s Edition update of the Savage Worlds rules.

Basics

Skill checks:

  • To make a check, roll the skill die plus a wild die (usually d6) and keep the highest result. Both dice explode (“Ace”).
  • If you do not have a skill, you roll a d4 plus the wild die and subtract 2 from the highest result.
  • The difficulty is 4 unless noted otherwise.
  • Every +4 on the margin of success is a Raise and has a special effect (e.g., rolling an 8 against the standard difficulty is one Raise and rolling a 12 is two).

The basic attributes define soft caps for skills but are not added to skill rolls. Instead, attributes are used for:

  • Agility is used to resist physical Tests.
  • Smarts is used to resist Taunt and generate Power ranges.
  • Spirit is used to resist Intimidate and remove Shaken.
  • Strength defines encumbrance and adds to melee damage rolls.
  • Vigor controls Toughness and is used to recover from Incapacitation (and Wounds with a Benny).
  • Pace determines movement speed.
  • Parry is the target number of melee attacks against you when you are armed.
  • Toughness is the difficulty of a damage roll against you (it usually includes armor as well).

Bennies:

  • A Benny is the game’s equivalent of a drama/hero/fate point.
  • Most players start each session with three and can be awarded more for story goals and whenever any PC draws a Joker in combat.
  • You can spend a Benny to:
    • Reroll of any trait test (reroll all dice) that isn’t a critical failure. You can spend multiple and keep the best result. You can also spend Bennies to reroll damage rolls.
    • Recover more quickly from Shaken or to try to soak Wounds.
    • Draw a new action card after everyone has drawn (i.e., after you’ve seen when you’ll go).
    • Immediately regain 5 Power Points.
    • Narratively edit the story.

Combat

  • Rounds are six seconds.
  • Initiative is “rolled” every round by drawing from a deck of cards and acting in order Ace to Deuce. If you draw a Joker you can go at any time, and also gain +2 to all trait and damage rolls for your action.
  • You can perform multiple actions in a round (you get a free move on top of your action). These actions must be different things or at least involve different wielded weapons (e.g., you can’t attack twice with the same weapon). You take a -2 to all actions for each extra action you perform.
  • Attacks:
    • Melee: Roll Fighting vs. a difficulty of the target’s Parry.
    • Ranged: Roll Shooting or Throwing (at a -2 penalty for each extra range increment beyond short) against difficulty 4 (may be further modified by cover, concealment, or attacking armed targets point blank).
  • Damage:
    • Every Raise on the attack roll adds +1d6 damage.
    • You don’t roll a wild die for damage, but the dice do Ace.
    • All damage dice are added together.
    • The damage total is compared to the target’s Toughness/Armor total.
    • If the roll is a success, the target is Shaken. If the target was already Shaken, he takes a Wound. Each Raise also deals a Wound.
  • Shaken and Wounds:
    • Shaken characters can only take free actions (such as moving) and attempt to remove Shaken.
    • On your turn, you must make a Spirit roll to remove Shaken. You may spend a Benny at any time to remove Shaken.
    • When you are about to receive one or more Wounds, you can spend a Benny to attempt to Soak the damage. Roll Vigor: each success and Raise reduces the Wounds taken by 1.
    • Wounds apply penalties to Pace and all trait tests (-1 for each Wound).
    • A character with four Wounds is Incapacitated and must roll Vigor to avoid dying.

Situational Rules

  • Aim: Take a round aiming (no movement either) to get +2 to next round’s ranged attack (or ignore up to 4 points of penalties from range, cover, called shot, scale, or speed).
  • AoE: Any AoE attack rolls one attack roll but separate damage against all affected.
  • Bound and Entangled: Entangled characters are unable to move and Distracted. Bound characters are also Vulnerable. See page 98 for rules on breaking free.
  • Breaking Things: Items have a Hardness rating. Damage must equal or exceed the Hardness to break that item with an attack. You can use these rules to break shields and cover.
  • Called Shot: Get around Armor by taking a penalty to hit unarmored locations (Limb -2, Hands/Head -4, Armor joint -6) or similarly hit a small target. Head shots deal +4 damage. Hand shots count as a Disarm.
  • Cover and Obstacles: If target is covered, attack rolls suffer -2 (light), -4 (medium), -6 (heavy), or -8 (near total). Your attacks might punch through certain types of Cover as if they were armor.
  • Defend: A defense as your action (no multi-actions) increases Parry by +4. You can move but not run.
  • Disarm: Make a called shot at -2 or -4. The defender must beat the damage with a Strength test if it hits the item. If the defender is hit instead, he must roll Strength at -2 or -4 plus Wound penalties if the attack shakes or wounds him.
  • Distracted and Vulnerable: Both states last until the end of your next turn. Distracted makes you take a -2 penalty to all trait rolls. Vulnerable grants opponents +2 to attack you.
  • Drop, The: If you are unaware of an opponent, she gets +4 to attack and damage against you for one action (this does not stack with Vulnerable). If you are Shaken or worse, make a Vigor roll (-2 if hit in the head) or drop unconscious.
  • Evasion: Some slow attacks may be evaded if you succeed at an Agility roll (with a -2 penalty).
  • Fatigue: Certain effects apply Fatigue rather than damage. You become Fatigued, then Exhausted, then Incapacitated. Each level of Fatigue applies -1 to all trait rolls.
  • Finishing Move: You can automatically kill a helpless target with a lethal weapon as an action.
  • Firing Into Melee: Use the innocent bystander rules.
  • Ganging Up: Each ally adjacent to and attacking a target past the first gives +1 to all allies for the attack. Each adjacent ally of the target cancels a point of this bonus.
  • Grappling: Make an Athletics roll against the target’s Athletics to Entangle the target (Bound on a Raise). See page 101 for additional rules.
  • Illumination: Attack rolls suffer -2 in dim light, -4 in darkness (and targets can’t be attacked more than 10” away), and -6 in pitch darkness/target is invisible.
  • Improvised Weapons: Take -2 to attack rolls, and deal Str+d4 for light objects, +d6 for medium, and +d8 for heavy.
  • Innocent Bystanders: If you miss with a ranged attack and roll 1s on both dice, you hit a random victim adjacent to or otherwise in the line of fire of the original target. Shotguns and automatic weapons may have an easier time hitting bystanders (see page 102).
  • Nonlethal Damage: You can do nonlethal damage with fists or blunt melee weapons (-1 to attack for edged melee weapons using the flat). A target Incapacitated by nonlethal damage is knocked out for 1d6 hours instead of being in danger of dying.
  • Prone: Gain medium cover against ranged attacks from 3” or further away, but -2 Parry and Fighting rolls in melee. Standing uses 2” of movement.
  • Push: Make an opposed Strength or Athletics test. On a success, push the target 1”, or 2” on a Raise. Running, Shields, and Size affect this (see page 104).
  • Ranged Weapons in Melee: You cannot use long guns in melee. The TN is the target’s Parry instead of the normal 4. If you try to attack a non-adjacent target while opponents are threatening you in melee, you immediately become Vulnerable.
  • Recoil: Automatic weapons can impose a -2 penalty when taking multiple shots.
  • Reloading: Arrows and sling stones can be reloaded once per turn as a free action. Bolts, clips, magazines, or single bullets require an action to reload. Some specific weapons reload even more slowly. You must roll Agility (at a -2 penalty) to reload successfully when running.
  • Shotguns: Shotguns are weird. See page 105 for shotgun attack rules.
  • Size and Scale: It’s easier to hit proportionately larger targets and harder to hit proportionately smaller ones. Creatures have scale from -6 to +6 (humans are 0). See page 106.
  • Stunned: If you are stunned by a power or stun weapon, you’re Distracted, Prone, can’t move or take actions, don’t count towards Gang Up, and are subject to the Drop. Make a Vigor roll at the start of your turn to remove Stunned (but you become Distracted and Vulnerable without a Raise).
  • Support: Make a relevant skill roll to assist. Add +1 to the target’s roll for a success, or +2 for a Raise. Support bonuses are usually limited to +4.
  • Suppressive Fire: See page 107.
  • Surprise: Ambushers are automatically on Hold (can go whenever they want in the first round), but draw cards to check for Jokers. Roll Notice to be dealt in on the first round. Otherwise, you can’t act the first round of combat.
  • Test: Roll Athletics or Fighting opposed by Agility, Taunt opposed by Smarts, or Intimidate opposed by Spirit. On a success, the target is your choice of Distracted or Vulnerable. On a Raise, the target is also Shaken (or other situational effects, like being tripped prone). Modifiers may apply, and repetitive tests may have less effect over time.
  • Touch Attack: Simply attempting to touch the target (e.g., for a Power) adds +2 to your Fighting.
  • Two Weapons: Without edges, a second melee weapon adds +1 to your Fighting rolls against opponents with one or fewer weapons and no shield (does not help against creatures with natural weapons).
  • Unarmed Defender: If you aren’t armed, melee attackers gain +2 to their Fighting rolls to hit you.
  • Wild Attack: Add +2 to your attack and damage for the action, but you become Vulnerable.
  • Withdraw from Melee: All non-Shaken enemies get a free attack (but you could Defend).