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Core Elements: Toolbox Edition
by Butch Curry
Based on Core Elements Revised
by James D. Hargrove
A Zombie Nirvana Production http://zombienirvana.sitesled.com
Core Elements - Toolbox Edition is Copyright © 2005 by Butch Curry. The term “Core Elements” is hereby designated Product Identity as defined in the OPEN GAME LICENSE Version 1.0a; section 1(e). All other content in this document is hereby officially designated Open Game Content as defined in the OPEN GAME LICENSE Version 1.0a; section 1(d).
By Butch Curry When James announced his retirement from gaming – hopefully only temporarily – he generously turned over the bulk of his material to me. I’ve been a fan of his work for some time, and consider it a privilege to be able to carry the torch onward in his place. This Toolbox Edition reprints the original Core Elements Revised published by James along with a collection of optional rules. These rules, contained in the sidebars and appendices (along with a few revisions in the core rules themselves) will assist gamemasters in customizing Core Elements to suit their campaigns. I can only hope that this, the first of James’ creations that I’ve had the opportunity to build on, will provide you with some good gaming.
Basic Character Abilities .................................. 3 Character Level ................................................ 3 Buying Abilities ................................................. 3 Character Skills ................................................ 3 Character Hit Points ......................................... 4 Tougher and Weaker Heroes ........................... 4 How to Make Checks ........................................ 4 When to Make Checks ..................................... 4 Making Ability Checks ...................................... 4 AB & DB Explained .......................................... 4 Making Skill Checks ......................................... 5 Making Attack Checks ...................................... 5 Quick Combat ................................................... 5 Making Defense Checks .................................. 5 Making Saving Throws ..................................... 5 Assigning a Difficulty Class ............................... 5 Armor Class ...................................................... 6 Taking Turns in Combat ................................... 6 Health & Damage ............................................. 6 Character Growth ............................................. 6 Appendices A: Modifiers Only .............................................. 7 B: Degrees of Success ..................................... 7 C: Wound Track ................................................ 8 D: Range & Movement ..................................... 8 E: Supernatural Powers .................................... 9 The Limelight Factor ......................................... 9 F: Weapons & Armor ...................................... 11 G: Skill Lists .................................................... 11 H: Action Points .............................................. 12 I: Insanity ........................................................ 12 J: Vehicles & Chases ...................................... 12 K: Races & Classes ........................................ 13 L: Opponents .................................................. 14 M: Feats ...........................................................16
What is Core Elements?
By James D. Hargrove Core Elements is a simple, comprehensible, and functional distillation of the world’s most popular roleplaying system. This revision of the original Core Elements incorporates rules for using magic and fine tunes the character creation rules and combat rules found in the previous releases. Like previous editions of Core Elements, the entirety of this release is OGC with the exception of the title. Core Elements can be used either as a set of rules to play a game, or as the foundation of a game that you plan to publish. That said, however you choose to use the revised edition of Core Elements, I hope that you enjoy it.
Basic Character Abilities
In Core Elements, all characters are initially defined by six different basic abilities - physical and mental qualities that all sentient characters in a given setting are assumed to possess. These six different basic abilities are: Strength (STR): Strength is a measure of your character’s muscle and physical power. Dexterity (DEX): Dexterity is a measure of handeye coordination, agility, reflexes, and balance. Constitution (CON): Constitution represents your character’s overall physical health and stamina. Intelligence (INT): Intelligence determines how well your character learns and reasons. Wisdom (WIS): Wisdom is a measure of willpower, common sense, perception, and intuition. Charisma (CHA): Charisma is a measure of a character’s force of personality, personal magnetism, ability to lead, and physical attractiveness. For each ability, roll four six-sided dice (4d6) and total the three highest results to determine the ability’s score. Each ability will have a modifier ranging from -4 to +4 based on its score as outlined on the table to the right.
Random rolling is an old-fashioned way to generate ability scores for a character, and the unpredictability of it can be fun. But if you’d like a little more control over character creation, try this instead. All your ability scores default to 10, and you have 12 points to spend between your six abilities. You can also lower some abilities below 10 in order to gain additional points, earning one bonus ability point for each point you take away from one or more other abilities. Example: When creating Hiram, a charming rogue, you decide to put all your points into Dexterity and Charisma, putting 6 in each. You’d really like Hiram to be a bit smarter than average though, so you lower his Wisdom by 2 to gain an additional 2 points of Intelligence.
First level characters begin with 5 points to divide between their AB and DB, with a minimum of +1. As they increase each level, both their AB and DB increase by one. Example: You feel that Hiram the thief should be better at dodging blows than hitting people, so you give him an AB of +2 and a DB of +3. At 2nd level, these increase to AB +3 and DB +4; at 5th level, they are AB +6 , DB +7, etc. Mod -4 -3 -2 -1 0 +1 +2 +3 +4
In addition to the six different basic abilities, characters are also defined by a number that serves as an abstract representation of the experience that they have accumulated throughout their life. This is the character's level. By default, characters in games that utilize Core Elements begin play at 1st Level. The level at which a character begins play initially determines two different things - their defense bonus (DB) and attack bonus (AB).
Score 3 4-5 6-7 8-9 10-11 12-13 14-15 16-17 18
In addition to the basic abilities and their level, a character is further defined by the skills that they possess. Characters initially receive skill points equal to eight plus their INT modifier (8+INT=Skill Points) per level. These points are traded on a one-to-one basis to acquire ranks in a given skill. You are limited in how many points you can spend on any given skill; you may have up to your current level +3 ranks in any given skill.
If the GM allows, you can choose one skill to specialize in; you can have up to your level +5 ranks in your specialty. That said, note that because Core Elements is merely a system - not a game that is tied to any one genre or setting - there is no default list of skills. Skills in games that utilize Core Elements can be handled in one of three different ways, explained directly below. First, a referee may create their own list of skills specific to the genre and setting of the game that they are running. Second, players may be allowed to create their own skills as they define their character, having them approved by the referee at that time (this is often referred to as '”free form” skill creation). Finally, if neither of those methods suit you, hundreds of pre-defined skill lists exist in other OGL supplements and can be ported into games that utilize Core Elements with very little or absolutely no modification necessary.
How to Make Checks
In order to determine whether a character's action is successful, a player rolls one twentysided die (1d20), adds some numbers to the result of the die roll, and compares the final sum to a difficulty class (DC). If the combined total of the player's dice roll equals or exceeds the DC assigned to the action, then their character has successfully completed the action that they were attempting to perform.
When to Make Checks
Making a check means rolling dice, and any time that players are rolling dice, they're not focusing on their character. The only time that players should make checks is when a character is performing an action under duress - that is, when another character or force (including things such as darkness, nature, time, etc.) stands between them and performing their intended action successfully.
Character Hit Points
Finally, the last step in defining a character in Core Elements is to determine their initial number of hit points. Hit points are an abstract representation of a character's ability to sustain physical damage. A character has a total number of hit points equal to 10 plus their CON modifier at 1st Level, and gains a number of hit points equal to the result of one six-sided die (1d6) roll plus their CON modifier per level thereafter.
Making Ability Checks
An ability check is called for whenever a character is attempting to perform an action that directly relates to one of the six basic abilities or when they are attempting to perform an action for which they possess no relevant skill. When making an ability check, the GM determines an appropriate ability for the action being attempted and assigns a difficulty number to the action. The player then rolls against that difficulty number.
Tougher & Weaker Heroes
Using the standard 10+ CON modifier for hit points results in characters who are fairly tough but still very beatable in a fight. If you’d like to make characters tougher or weaker, you can increase or decrease their starting hit point total: 5 + CON for weak characters, or 20 + CON for tough heroes, for example.
AB & DB Explained
Skill checks in Core Elements function on a simple mechanic: d20 + ability bonus + skill ranks. In the case of combat rolls, your character’s AB and DB are treated like ability bonuses: d20 + AB or DB + skill rank. When making a saving throw, DB steps in in place of skill ranks: d20 + ability bonus + DB. You can allow AB or DB to similarly “fill in” for either skill ranks or ability bonuses for any roll, where the use of skills or abilities doesn’t seem appropriate. 4
Making Skill Checks
A skill check is called for when a character is attempting to perform an action that directly relates to a skill that they possess. When making a skill check, roll a d20 and add the modifier for your appropriate ability plus any ranks you have in the relevant skill. Example: Hiram the thief is trying to sneak past a guard. He has the skill Stealth +4, and a DEX modifier of +3, so he’ll add +7 to his roll.
Making Defense Checks
A defense check is called for whenever a character attempts to parry or dodge an incoming attack during combat. When making a defense check, the numbers that a player adds to the result of the d20 roll are their character's DB and any ranks in the single most relevant skill that they have which corresponds to the defensive action being taken. Example: Your character is locked in combat with an enemy swordsman, who has just swung a vicious blow aimed for your head! You try to parry the blow, making a defensive check: you roll d20 and add your character's DB and ranks in his Swordplay skill to the roll.
Making Attack Checks
An attack check is called for whenever a character attempts to strike an opponent in combat. When making an attack check, the numbers that a player adds to the result of the d20 roll are their character's AB and any ranks in the single most relevant weapon or fighting skill that their character possesses which corresponds to the attack being made. Example: Your character is engaged in a few rounds of fisticuffs with a sailor in the local tavern. You decide to swing a haymaker at the sailor, so you roll 1d20 and add your characters AB and Fisticuffs skill ranks to the roll result.
Making Saving Throws
A saving throw is a special kind of ability check made whenever a character is trying to avoid the effects of an outside force or condition, such as disease, insanity, or an explosion. When making a saving throw, roll against the assigned difficulty, adding your DB and your appropriate ability modifier to the roll.
Assigning a Difficulty Class
For saving throws or character actions that are not being actively opposed by another character or creature, the referee assigns a difficulty class ranging from five (easy) to thirty (near impossible) or possibly even higher (a snowball's chance in hell). When in doubt, a DC of 15 is a good default. When a character is attempting to perform an action that is being actively opposed (a combat attack or defensive sword parry, for instance) by an opponent, both sides roll and apply any skills or other bonuses. The character with the highest total wins.
There may be times, particularly when the characters are fighting minor opponents, that you want to speed up combat. One way to do this is to remove initiative and Defence rolls, and resolve each round of combat with a single opposed attack check. The character with the highest roll wins and damages their opponent. In the case of a tie, neither side damages the other.
In the standard Core rules, combat is resolved with a series of opposed die rolls. If you’d like a little less dice-rolling, you can set a static defence number, called Armor Class (AC), which becomes the DC for any attack rolls against that character. Your AC equals 10 + your DB.
Health and Damage
Successful strikes in combat inflict damage equal to the sum of a weapon's damage rating (DR) of the weapon that inflicted the attack and the STR (for melee attacks) or DEX (for ranged attacks) modifier of the attacking character, less the armor rating (AR) of any armor that the defending character is wearing. This damage is subsequently subtracted from the hit point total of the character who was struck. Once a character's hit points have been reduced to zero, the character is disabled (not unconscious, but close to it); if their hit points are reduced to less than zero, but not less than -10, they are unconscious; and when their hit points have been reduced to less than -10, they are dead. Injured characters heal 1d6 hit points of damage per eight hours of rest that they receive.
Taking Turns in Combat
During combat, time is divided into turns. During any given turn, a character may attempt to perform one action, making check as previously described. To determine the order in which characters can take those actions, each player rolls for initiative. To determine initiative, players whose characters are involved in the combat make a DEX check. Characters act in order during combat, counting down from highest roll result to the lowest. In every round that follows, the characters act in the same order. If two or more combatants have the same initiative roll result, the combatants who are tied act in order of total initiative modifier (highest first). If there is still a tie, the tied characters should roll again to determine which one of them goes before the other.
As characters interact with the world around them, they gain life experience. This experience (as previously mentioned), is reflected by a character’s level. Generally, characters gain enough experience to increase a level after every two adventures they complete. The GM can make this process more or less frequent depending on the demands of the campaign. When a character gains a level, they do the following: · · · Add 1d6 + CON bonus to their maximum Hit Points. Gain a number of skill points equal to their INT bonus. Increase their AB and DB by one point.
Every third level (3rd, 6th, 9th, etc.), they also increase one of their ability scores by 1 point, gaining any modifier bonuses that this increase might grant.
Appendices: Options & Additions
This section includes additional optional rules for Core Elements. Choose any of them - or none at all - to customize your experience with the Core rules.
Appendix B: Degrees of Success
Core Elements, and d20 in general, uses a simple pass/fail system: your roll either succeeds completely or fails utterly. You can add a degree of success or failure with the following rule: If you exceed the DC of any roll by 10 or more, you’ve made a critical success. Not only did you do whatever it was you were trying, you made it look easy! You can take a +2 bonus to your next roll or force a -2 penalty on your opponents next roll, whichever is appropriate. Or, the GM could grant some other relevant bonus. Example: Hiram the thief wants to pick the pocket of a passing merchant. The referee assigns a DC of 15; with his bonuses and a high roll, Hiram gets a total of 27, a critical success! The GM declares that not only did Hiram pick the merchant’s pocket, he also managed to slip the rings off the rube’s fingers! Alternately, the GM could give Hiram a +2 to his Persuasion roll when he tries to get a better price when fencing the ring a few minutes later. If you fail a roll by 10 or more, you’ve made a critical failure. You didn’t just fail, you flubbed it badly. You take a -2 to your next roll, or your opponent gets a +2 to their next roll, whichever is appropriate. Alternately, the GM could incur some other relevant penalty. Example: Unfortunately, when Hiram is trying to fence the stolen rings, the negotiations go awry, and Hiram ends up in a knife fight with his fence. The fence makes an attack roll of 28, but Hiram only gets a 12, a critical failure. The fence gets a +2 to his damage roll against Hiram. The GM could also declare that the fence disarmed Hiram, and the thief will have to use an action to retrieve his dagger or draw a new one.
Appendix A: Modifiers Only
You might have noticed that your ability score modifier is all you actually use in play; the ability score itself is only referred to when your character is leveling up. With that in mind, you can simply drop the ability scores altogether. Every three levels, instead of increasing one of your abilities by one point, increase one of your modifiers instead. If you decide to use the Point Buy variant, you can still ditch the numbers; starting characters have +6 bonus levels to divide among their abilities, and can get extra points by taking a penalty in one or more other abilities. Example: This time, when building Hiram the rogue, you give him a +3 in Dexterity and a +3 in Charisma, for a total of +6. Since that’s all the points he gets for free, Hiram takes a -1 to his Wisdom to gain a +1 to his Intelligence. When a character would gain an additional ability point in the standard Core rules, they gain a +1 modifier bonus instead. This option is particularly useful if you’re interested in running a superhero-level game, since it saves you the trouble of having to calculate the bonus for a particularly high ability score.
Appendix C: Wound Track
This section presents an alternative to the hit point system. When a character is hit in combat, the attacker rolls d20 plus the appropriate attribute modifier (STR for melee attacks, DEX for ranged attack) minus the target’s armor to determine damage. The injured character marks the damage on a copy of the following table: 1-5 6-15 16-20 21-25 26+ Bruise: No effect Scratch: -1 Wound: -2 Injury: -4 Incapacitated O O O O O O O O O O
Appendix D: Range & Movement
Powers and ranged attacks have four range classes in Core Elements: None, Short, Medium, and Long. Only one of these, None, is explicitly defined: it either effects the user or someone he can touch. Beyond that, it’s up to the GM to determine how detailed the range system should be. It’s entirely possible to use it with only these loose definitions. Rather than use tactical movement - where characters can move X number of feet a round - Core Elements uses a similarly loose system for moving characters about. If a character wants to get from point A to point B, the GM declares how many rounds it will take. If you’re the GM, and you’re not sure, roll a d6 to see how many actions it will take. This time can be increased or decreased as needed, depending on the actions of the characters involved. Example: Hiram needs to take out a guard at the end of a long hallway. The GM determines that he can sneak into Short range with two successful Stealth checks over the course of about a minute. Hiram don’t have time for that, and wants to charge into knife range as quickly as possible. The GM declares that he can hustle for a round, then throw the next round with no penalty, or run flat-out and throw his knife in the same round with a -2 to his attack roll. If you want to introduce tactical movement, allow characters to move 4 + their DEX modifier in inches each round, or twice that if they don’t attack. Characters with a DEX modifier of –4 can either attack or move 1”; they can’t do both.
A Bruise is a wound so minor that it has no effect. Scratches, Wounds, and Injuries have a penalty attached to them. Characters with one of these wounds take a penalty to all their rolls equal to that of the greatest wound they’ve received; the penalties are not cumulative. If all the wounds on a row have been filled, mark the next available wound on the following row. Incapacitated characters can take no actions. They can be killed by any opponent who takes an action to do so. After a combat scene, characters can remove all their Scratch wounds automatically, and their Incapacitated if they receive immediate medical attention. Other wound marks are removed one at a time for each 8 hours of rest the character gets. Injury marks are removed first, then Wound marks. The table can be easily modified to suit your own campaign by changing result numbers or adding or subtracting hit dots. Weapons and Armor: Weapons in this system have a fixed value (+1 for a dagger, +3 for a sword, etc.), which add to the d20 damage roll. Armor has a fixed value which subtracts from it. 8
Appendix E: Supernatural Powers
Hurling fireballs, reading minds, and leaping tall buildings in a single bound are all different supernatural powers and are all handled with the same rules in Core Elements. Mechanically, supernatural powers are treated identically to skills in Core Elements: they are purchased with skill points, and are resolved with a d20 + ability modifier + skill roll. To use a power, the player describes what they’re attempting to do and the specific outcome they’re trying to achieve. They then make a skill check, based on a DC set by the GM; if they’re successful, the power functions as they described it.
Duration: Powers default to a fairly short duration, only having an effect in the same round they’re used. Increasing this length of time increases the difficulty. The durations used are Instant, Rounds, Minutes (or for the duration of the scene), Hours, Days, Months, Years, and Permanent. Most powers will have durations in the first three categories; increasing the duration beyond these should result in a sharp increase in difficulty. Variance: Powers can often be used to accomplish feats for which they might not have initially been intended. The greater the variance from the norm, the more difficult the spell becomes.
Effects of Powers
In some cases, the effects of a supernatural power are binary: either you’re turned invisible or you’re not, for instance. In these cases, a simple skill roll to determine success or failure is all that’s required. Damaging effects do 1 point of damage for each point by which you exceeded the target number when casting + your AB. This formula can also be used to determine the amount of damage blocked by shielding spells, the length of time that certain spells last, etc.
Setting DC for Powers
Determining a few basic factors will help you set the difficulty for a power. Number of targets: By default, a power effects a single target (or a small area of effect for powers which don’t have a specific target). The difficulty for the power increases as the number of targets or area of effect increases. Range: There are four range classes for powers: None, Short, Medium, and Long. Powers default to a range of None: they effect only the user or a target they can touch. Increasing the range of the spell effect increases the difficulty.
You may want to limit the use of powers in your campaign. If so, here are two options. Slots. You get a number of power slots equal to your INT modifier + your current level. In a given time period defined by the GM, each use of a power uses one slot. Either scenes or days are recommended for the time period in this method, as they require the least amount of bookkeeping to track. Points. Characters begin with (INT modifier + level)x10 in power points. Each use of a power uses a number of points equal to the skill rank of that power. Power points return after a full nights rest.
The Limelight Factor
Another factor you might want to take into account when setting the DC of a power is the degree to which the user might be hogging the limelight or horning in on the specialty of another character. For example, a wizard trying to use a spell to pick a lock rather than allow the party thief to do so might have his DC set much higher than if the group had no thief.
Purchasing Supernatural Skills
You can fine tune the utility and power of powers in your game by defining exactly how supernatural skills are purchased in the campaign. One Skill: Characters purchase a single skill to handle any supernatural powers they might use. One Skill campaigns are usually those where magic is relatively rare or require a great deal of preparation, special circumstances, or unique equipment. In this system, a fantasy wizard might have a Magic skill to resolve all his spell use. Skill Categories: Powers are broken down into a few categories. Each category is purchased separately. Depending on the nature of the categories and the specifics of the powers being used, these categories can sometimes be combined on the fly to create complex effects. In this system, our wizard might have Fire Magic, Ice Magic, or both. Many Skills: In a Many Skills campaign, each specific power has its own skill. This makes magic fairly expensive and less flexible. In this system, our wizard would have to purchase a Fireball skill, a Flying skill, and a Wall of Fire skill separately in order to use those spells. If you’re concerned that supernatural powers might be too overwhelming in your campaign, you can also increase their cost, requiring players to spend 2 or 3 skill points to purchase each rank of a power skill.
Example 2: Fantasy Magic (Skill Categories)
In this system, spells are divided into different schools based on the type of effect they create. Characters can buy one or more of these magic skills, and mix them as desired to create complex effects. Alteration: Alteration magic changes the physical properties of a character, creature or object; altering their body. Magical healing and shape changing, for example, fall under this category of magic. Banishment: Banishment magic compels forces, items, or characters in the caster’s immediate vicinity to depart. Examples of Banishment magic at work include dispelling a curse or turning undead. Conjuration: Conjuration magic creates items or elements (magical or mundane in nature) where none previously existed. The creation of magical fire, for instance, falls under this category of magic. Control: Control magic physically manipulates items or elements. For example, causing a flying arrow to stop in mid-flight or drawing shadows to oneself are both examples of Control magic at work. Enchantment: Enchantment magic endows upon an a character or object magical properties that it does not usually possess. Magic swords and armor are all end products of Enchantment magic. Summoning: Summoning magic calls to the caster creatures, characters, or elements that already exist but are not in the immediate area. Things commonly summoned include demons and alien gods.
Example 1: Ritual Magic (One Skill)
In this example, magic is rare, and involves complex rituals and ancient tomes. Generally, it is confined to the summoning and control of beings from outside of space and time. Any use of this spell takes at least an hour of preparation and another hour of casting, and uses the Ritual Magic skill, which requires special permission by the GM to purchase. The GM also declares that he’ll he using the Insanity rules (see Appendix X), and that each use of the Ritual Magic skill, successful or not, incurs a point of Insanity on the player.
Example 3: Martial Arts (Many Skills)
In this setting, the characters play kung fu experts living in the modern era. Different attacks and other maneuvers are all purchased as indi10
vidual skills. Rather than using the existing limiters, the GM has declared that each power can only be used once per scene. The players are encouraged to create their own maneuvers and give them fanciful names. Example maneuvers include: Soaring Dragon Kick: A leaping, spinning back kick that sends the target flying backwards. No-Shadow Punch: A punch thrown so quickly, it doesn’t cast a shadow. Paper Butterfly: The ability to leap incredible distances and land on impossibly thin perches. Eagle Claw Strike: A raking attack to the opponents eyes, temporarily blinding them. Fang of the Serpent: A lightning-quick nerve strike that temporarily paralyzes the victim.
ing weapon type. In this example, you would have Light AR 2, Medium AR 3, and Heavy AR 4. You can then increase or decrease any of these values if necessary.
Appendix G: Skill Lists
If you’re pressed for time or simply don’t have the desire or opportunity to create or find a skill list, here are two you can use. The first is suitable for fantasy-type games, while the second is appropriate for games taking place in the modern age. Fantasy Skill List Climbing Concealment First Aid Intimidation Knowledge Running Search Shield Stealth Survival Tactics Thievery Tracking Unarmed Combat Weapon (choose one)
Appendix F: Weapons & Armor
By default, CE uses a simple system: Weapons do a variable amount of damage, plus the appropriate attribute bonus (STR for melee attacks, DEX for ranged attacks), minus the targets Armor Rating (AR). This allows you to easily modify how lethal you want combat to be in your campaign. For more cinematic campaigns, for instance, weapons can be set to do minimal damage, with armor providing a lot of protection. In a grittier, more lethal campaign, weapon damages are dialed up, while armor is scaled down. If you don’t have the time to develop long weapon and armor lists, here’s a simple method you can use to create them in just a few moments. First, divide weapons and armor into three classes: Light, Medium, and Heavy. Assign a die type to the weapons; an easy method is to use three consecutive die types, like Small d4, Medium d6, Heavy d8. Then assign the three armor types an AR equal to half the die type of the correspond11
Notice Parry Persuasion Profession Riding Modern Skill List Computers Con Disable Device Disguise Dodge Driving Firearms Gather Information Intimidate Knowledge
Medicine Melee Combat Notice Parry Piloting Profession Running Search Sleight of Hand Stealth
Appendix H: Action Points
Action points are a hedge against bad luck, and are appropriate for games where the characters are larger-than-life heroes. After making any d20 roll, but before the GM declares the results of it, a player can expend one action point to add 1d6 to their roll. Players can spend more than one action point a round, but they can only spend one on any given roll. You could spend an action point to improve an attack roll and a damage save in one round, for instance, but you couldn’t spend two action points on a single attack roll. The number of action points allotted to each player is up to the GM. A cinematic, over-the-top game might allow as many as five, while a grittier, more realistic game might only allow one, or none. Three is the recommended number for most campaigns.
Removing points of Insanity takes time. Characters with 5 or less Insanity points take 1 week per point to recover. At 6 or more points, characters need professional health care and 1 month per point. Characters who gain 10 points are completely insane and are effectively removed from play: they’ll need to be institutionalized for at least a year to bring them down to 9 Insanity. Note that you can also use the Insanity system for tracking other, similar intangibles, such as humanity, morality, or fear.
Appendix J: Vehicles & Chases
Core Elements uses a set of simple, characterdriven mechanics to handle vehicles and chases. The emphasis is placed on the driver or pilot rather than the machine. In this system, vehicles have three stats: Speed, Handling, and Body. Speed and Handling are rated from –3 to +3, though this rating is relative to other vehicles of the same type. Average vehicles of any given type will always have a Speed and Handling of 0. For example, when dealing with ground vehicles, a bulldozer and a single-engine prop plane might both have a Speed rated at –3, but the plane is considerably faster than the bulldozer. Should a situation arise where you’re mixing and matching vehicle types in this way, the GM should adjust the relative bonuses and penalties as needed, or simply rule that the faster or more maneuverable vehicle will automatically win any contested rolls of that type. Body measures how hardy the vehicle is, and represents how much damage it can sustain while still remaining functional. Vehicles have a Body score ranked from 1 (flimsy) to 10 (a tank). When a vehicle’s Body is reduced to 0, it is stopped dead.
Appendix I: Insanity
When playing in a setting where the potential for going insane is a factor, you can use this system to track your character’s current mental health. A character’s degree of insanity is tracked on a scale from 0 (perfectly sane) to 10 (totally nuts). The bad news is that the more sane you are, the more likely you are to be driven nuts when you encounter something horrifying! When faced with something sufficiently horrifying, you’ll need to make a Wisdom save, adding your current Insanity score to the roll. If you fail, you add 1 to your current Insanity level. If the GM determines that the horror was particularly intense, you could add even more. Player characters start with 1 Insanity (they have to be a bit nuts to do the things they do, after all).
Here a few vehicles and their respective scores: Average Bicycle: Speed 0, Handling 0, Body 1 Mountain Bike: Speed 0, Handing 0, Body 2 Racing Bike: Speed +2, Handling +2, Body 1 Skateboard: Speed -2, Handling +3, Body 1 Motorcycle: Speed 0, Handling 0, Body 3 Big Hog: Speed +1, Handling -1, Body 4 Crotch Rocket: Speed +2, Handling +1, Body 2 Typical Sedan: Speed 0, Handling 0, Body 5 SUV: Speed 0, Handling -1, Body 6 Sports Car: Speed +2, Handling +1, Body 5 Race Car: Speed +3, Handling +3, Body 4 Vehicle chases are handled through a series of opposed rolls, with each driver adding their appropriate Skill rank and AB to the roll. The chase ends when any one of the following conditions are met: when one side accumulates X number of successful rolls (5 for a short chase or 10 or more for a longer one are recommended); when one side wins 3 rolls in a row; or when the vehicles on side or another are too damaged to continue. Vehicular weapons (machine guns, rocket launchers, etc.) do 1d4 Body damage. Other significant attacks do 1 or more Body, at the GM’s discretion. Shooting a motorcycle with a handgun would do 1 Body, while shooting a tank with one would not, for example. Slamming into an enemies vehicle with your own does 1 Body to both vehicles, or more for a serious collision.
nus is equal to all races and classes. Any included skills must be purchased from the character’s existing pool of skill points. Here are a few examples: Elf Attributes: STR –1, DEX +1, CON –1, INT +1. Skills: Bows, Notice. Dwarf Attributes: STR +1, DEX –2, CON +2, CHA –1. Skills: Hammer, Spelunking. Warrior Attributes: STR +1, CON +1, INT –1, WIS –1. Skills: Choose a melee weapon skill. Wizard Attributes: STR –2, INT +2. Skills: Choose a magic skill. Hacker Attributes: STR –1, DEX –1, INT +2. Skills: Computers. Librarian Attributes: STR –2, INT +3, CHA –1. Skills: Research, at least one Knowledge skill. Gunslinger Attributes: DEX +1, WIS –1. Skills: Pistols, Fast Draw. You can also introduce special racial or class abilities if you choose, though whenever possible these should be represented as a skill. Druids, for example, might have the ability to change into different animal shapes; this could be purchased as a Shapeshift skill. Other abilities or penalties can be assigned an attribute point value based on their usefulness. A minor power might be substituted for a +1 bonus, a fair power for a +2, or a substantial power for a +3. Nightvision, flight, or bonuses to skills or types of skills are all examples of powers and abilities that could be attached to a racial package.
Appendix K: Races & Classes
By default, Core Elements contains no character classes and no specific races such as elf, dwarf, Vulcan, etc., but these can be easily built as needed or desired for your campaign. In Core Elements, Races and Classes are nothing more than a package of attribute modifiers and skills. When creating a new race or class package, all attribute modifiers should generally total 0; if all the players are required to select a race or class, you can adjust this up to give the characters an attribute bonus, so long as the bo-
Appendix L: Opponents
There are a number of different ways to represent opponents in Core Elements. One Number: Useful for minor opponents who are of little consequence to the storyline, this system represents enemies with a single modifier, like this: Skeleton (+1), sword (1d6) Any roll the skeleton makes gets a +1 modifier. It’s assumed that the GM will only make rolls that are appropriate for the opponent; our Skeleton wouldn’t be able to make a Profession: Blacksmith roll at all, let alone get a +1 when making it. Categories: If the One Number system isn’t quite detailed enough for your purposes, or isn’t suitable for certain enemies, you can use this version. Skeleton: Physical +1, Mental –1, sword (1d6). Like the One Number version, a Categories enemy is abstracted. In this case, our skeleton gets +1 to any physical checks or saves: AB and DB, STR, DEX, or CON rolls, physical Skills, etc. He takes a –1 penalty to any mental activities: INT, WIS, or CHA checks and saves, noticing things, mental skills, and the like. Relevant Only. Opponents recorded in the Relevant Only notation only have their important abilities and skills noted. Anything not recorded is assumed to be at +0. Skeleton STR –1, DEX +3, INT –2. Combat: Sword (+3, 1d6-1), DB +0, HP 6. Skills: Notice +1, Stealth +1. This version gives us a bit more detail. If there aren’t many relevant attributes, it can provide a good thumbnail sketch of an opponent. If there are a lot, though, you might as well do a full writeup.
Full Writeup. Even if you do a full writeup of your opponents, they’re still quite simple. Skeleton Abilities: STR -1, DEX +3, CON n/a, INT –2, WIS +0, CHA +0. Skills: Swords +1, Notice +1, Stealth +1. Combat: AB +2 (+3 sword), DB +0, damage 1d6–1 (sword), HP 6. Traits: Swords and other edged weapons are less effective against a skeleton, taking a –1 penalty to hit and damage. This gives us all the detail we need to run our Skeleton. When you have plenty of time to prepare, or if you’re creating a personal bestiary, a full writeup for each monster can come in handy. But if you’re pressed for time, one of the other options can allow you to whip up whole armies of opponents on the fly without missing a beat.
Depending on which damage system you’re using, you have several options for tracking damage to opponents other than hit points. One Hit Wonders. Regardless of which damage system you’re using, this is the simplest system: any attack which hits the enemy drops them. You can extend this to two or three hits, but beyond that you’re better off using a more detailed system. Altered Wound Track. Minor enemies might have a contracted wound track, looking something like this: 1–15 16-20 21+ Scratch (–1) OO Wound (–2) O Out O
Or for slightly tougher foes, like this: 1-5 6-15 16-20 21+ Bruise Scratch (–1) OOO Wound (–2) OO Out O
A really tough opponent might have a wound track like this: 1-10 11-20 21-30 31+ Bruise Scratch (–1) OOOOOO Wound (–2) OOO Out O
Note that these opponents are built with the same skill points and AB/DB as player characters. You can easily make these opponents more or less challenging by increasing or decreasing their level.
Giant Rat (1st level)
STR –1 DEX +3 CON –2 INT –3 WIS –2 CHA –2 Skills: Climb +2, Hide +1, Melee combat +2. Combat: AB +2 (+4 bite), damage 1d4–1 (bite), DB +3 (+5 melee), HP 3.
As you can see, the wound track can be easily modified to help represent the toughness – and importance – of any enemy or group of enemies.
When dealing with large numbers of weak or unimportant enemies, you can represent them as a single entity. Rather than individual toughness, you can use hit points or the wound track to represent how many of the enemy are left standing, like so: 1–15 16-20 21+ Mob (–1) OO Handful (–2) O All out O
Goblin (2nd level)
STR –1 DEX +1 CON +1 INT +0 WIS –1 CHA –2 Skills: Hide +1, Move Silently +2, Notice +2, Swords +1, Bows +2. Combat: AB +3 (+4 swords, +5 bows), damage 1d6-1 (sword), 1d8+1 (bow), DB +2 (+3 melee), HP 12. Traits: Nightvision. Goblins can see in complete darkness without difficulty.
Or, as another example: 1-5 6-15 16-20 21-25 26+ All up Mob (–1) Gang (–2) Handful (–4) All out
Orc (3rd level)
OOO OO O O STR +3 DEX +0 CON +1 INT –1 WIS –2 CHA –3 Skills: Notice +2, Axes +4, Bows +1. Combat: AB +6 (+10 axe, +7 bow), damage 1d8+3 (axe), 1d8 (bow), DB +3 (+7 melee), HP 18.
In each round, the players aren’t just attacking a single opponent; they’re swinging, kicking, punching, and shooting like mod, dropping foes left and right. Depending on the type and size of the horde, it might be able to attack only a single character or all the characters within a given area. The GM should determine who can be attacked by the horde, but no character can be attacked more than once a round.
Ogre (4th level)
STR +5 DEX –1 CON +2 INT –2 WIS +0 CHA –2 Skills: Intimidation +3, Notice +3. Combat: AB +7, damage 1d10+5 (big club), DB +4, HP 28.
Giant Spider (5th level)
STR +2 DEX +3 CON +1 INT +0 WIS +0 CHA –4 Skills: Climb +5, Hide +5, Notice +2. Combat: AB +7, damage 1d10+2 (bite), DB +6, HP 30. Traits: Poison. On a successful bite, the target must make a CON save at difficulty 15 or take an additional 1d6 points of damage. 15
This is a small collection of enemies to get you started in your Core Elements game. They all have Hit Points listed (5 + CON bonus/level for quick figuring), but of course you can change them to use one of the previously discussed variants.
Appendix M: Feats
Many d20 games use Feats, special powers and abilities the characters possess which really set them apart from normal folk. Given the simplified nature of Core Elements, many of these Feats are unnecessary; CE simply lacks the mechanics to support them. If you decide to include Feats in your game, here are a few that you can use. It is recommended that characters start with one Feat and gain a new one every odd-numbered level after that (3rd, 5th, 7th, etc.). You can easily add to this list by grabbing your favorite d20 book and using any appropriate Feats included there, with the GM’s approval.
When making a DEX check for initiative, you get a +4 to your roll.
Jack of All Trades
Once per game session, you can attempt to use a skill you haven’t purchased. This skill has an effective rank of +3.
If you’re using the Action Point system, your character begins each session with one extra Action Point. If not, characters with this feat can gain the benefit of an Action Point (adding 1d6 to any d20 roll) once per session.
Martial Arts Master
Your unarmed attacks deal damage equivalent to a medium-sized weapon, such as a large club, in addition to your STR bonus.
You can subtract up to 5 from your damage and add it to your AB for a single attack. This attack will do a minimum of 1 point of damage.
You can subtract up to 5 from your DB and add it to your AB until your next action. This can reduce your DB to +0 or less.
You’re adept at taking out lesser opponents by the dozen. When engaged in melee combat and you deal enough damage to drop an opponent, you immediately get another attack against an opponent in range of your attacks. You can continue Cleaving as long as you
You can subtract up to 5 from your AB and add it to your damage for a single attack. This can reduce your AB to +0 or less.
Choose one combat skill. You gain a +1 bonus with that skill each time you choose this feat, up to a total maximum bonus of +3.
Choose two related non-combat skills. You get a +2 to your skill checks with these skills each time you take this feat, up to a total maximum bonus of +6. Examples of related skills include Ride and Handle Animals, Thievery and Move Silently, or Running and Jumping.
You can subtract up to 5 from your AB and add it to your DB until your next action. You cannot do this in response to a surprise attack. This can reduce your AB to +0 or less.
You gain an additional 5 hit points each time you take this Feat. If you’re using a Wound Track instead, you gain an additional Scratched dot.
Hit and Run
You can attack and then move, or make a short move, attack, and move again.
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