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about it that really prevented me from wanting to take a look at it further (for example, thinking that it used some version of Hit Points). I was most pleased to discover a system that had been adapted from the d20 SRDs into its own very well designed multi-genre game.
The Book Itself
True20 Adventure Roleplaying Revised Edition (henceforth just referred to as True20 when addressing the system) is a 264 page paperback printed in black and white. A quick flip through shows much of every page devoted to text explaining how the game works, interspersed with B&W art of varying quality. The print is a shade on the small side, but that allows for that much more information to be presented.
True20 really boils down to the basics of d20: Attribute + Skill Rating + d20 to beat either a static Difficulty Check or opposed check. Where it differs from more "traditional d20" is that the middleman of the attribute number has been eliminated and the True20 Attribute is what would normally be the bonus from said d20 attribute. While this is pretty easy to grasp, I can say from personal experience that not everyone will take to it so well as one of my gaming friends - who is well familiar with standard D&D 3.5 d20 - can't quite seem to make the disconnect and dislikes the idea of negative attributes rather intensely.
I'll be honest; I skip most of these sorts of bits in most books, and this was no exception. I did skim enough of it to find out that the Revised Edition not only has the errata fixes from the previous edition, but also has the better part of theTrue20 Companion folded in vice the original settings.
As one would imagine, most the majority of the system is touched on in these seven pages, from how Difficulty Checks should scale to the flow of combat. A very good primer for what follows, and the majority of it can be previewed here.
Chapter One: Hero Creation, Chapter Nine: Role Creation
True20 still uses levels and Classes, but it has distilled down said Classes to three "all-encompassing" Roles: Adept, Expert and Warrior. The standard d20 attributes of Strength (Str), Dexterity (Dex), Constitution (Con), Intelligence (Int), Wisdom (Wis) and Charisma (Cha) are used, and six points are allocated to be distributed as the player desires. One of my misconceptions about the system immediately became apparent, which is that True20 doesn't use an escalating Hit Point system - this was somewhat of a surprise to me. Instead, a Toughness Save is used which is a derivative of the Injury system from Unearthed Arcana, where the damage determined is a static amount that then a character needs to resist. I like the idea in concept, but I think that if I played using the system I would probably switch to something that allowed for a damage roll instead (with then similar results for injuries). Every class gets a pick of four Feats or Powers at level 1 and then a Feat/Power every level after that, which allows for significant differentiation between characters rather quickly. Additionally, every character has a pool of points called Conviction which can be used for various in-game benefits
(re-rolling poor rolls, etc.) with an additional use dependent on the "base" Class (read: level 1) that the character has chosen. I have included Chapter Nine in this as well as it goes and breaks down how each of the three Classes have been configured from a balance perspective so that more specialized Classes can be made for specific character concepts/campaigns; this many points allotted for Feats, Skills, Combat Bonuses, etc. Seeing the "under-the-hood" of the design was quite a refreshing change for me personally, as I haven't personally experienced many games that have stepped through the "whys" of how things were done so that changes can be made that won't unbalance game play.
Chapter Two: Skills
As mentioned previously, Skills hew to the Attribute + Skill Rank + d20 roll vs. either a fixed DC or opposed check. Generating Skills is somewhat confusing, as the information as to what Skills a character starts with is somewhat buried in the text. I would have preferred to have the Skills be either one or the other as opposed to both, with my personal preference being a given number of Ranks per level for a trained Skill. Characters begin with a number of Skills determined by Role plus Int at 4 Ranks; raising Skills is done with Skill points (again determined by Role plus Int). Most of the Skills are taken right from the d20 SRD with a few from the Modern SRD (Computers, Drive, Medicine and Pilot), so some of the skills would have little use in a modern/future setting. These can be seen here. Each Skill is further defined by "Challenges" that may be used in conjunction with said Skill, which increase the DC of the Skill use to provide added benefit - thus making individuals who are highly skilled all the more likely to be capable of accomplishing great tasks.
Chapter Three: Feats
Feats are specialized game mechanics that allow characters to become specialized in whatever manner you'd like, and there is a fair variety for more-than-just-fantasy use. Mind you, many of the Feats are only useful for a fantasy-esque campaign ("Shield Training" immediately comes to mind) and I would have preferred that more modern Feats have been included. A full listing of the Feats available can be found here.
Chapter Four: Supernatural Powers
Powers in True20 work much the same way that Skills do, with the Power Rank (determined by Adept level) being added to Attribute + d20. The concept of having certain capabilities Fatigue the user is introduced, where each time a Power is used the caster/user makes a Fatigue saving throw or is weakened; this replaces the fire-and-forget style of magic that is otherwise largely prevalent in standard d20. The Powers are of a decent selection, allowing for more modern sorts of adventures more readily than the Feat selections.
Chapter Five: Equipment
The equipment section begins with an explanation of a Wealth mechanic, which replaces the need to track specific expenditures - and thus reduce bookkeeping. I tend to gloss over for most laundry lists of equipment, and past the Wealth mechanics I gave this section a cursory glance, making note that various sorts of weapons/armor/vehicles/etc. might be available, and there's a fair selection with varying degrees of explanation. More on this a little later.
Chapter Six: Playing the Game
The mechanics of the game are more explicitly gone over, starting with the differentiation of Physical and Social Actions. Combat makes up the majority of this section, and much like the rest of True20 there are slight differences between it and regular d20. For example, all attack rolls are made with a Dex modifier to one's Combat bonus, while Ranged attacks are opposed by a Dex modifier while Melee is opposed by a Str modifier. Damage works in a "death spiral" where failed Toughness saves result in either penalties to further Toughness saves or penalties to all actions, depending on the difference in Toughness save roll vs. damage dealt. This allows for a mechanical expression of one being wounded which I personally like.
Chapter Seven: Narrating the Game
Brief advice is given as to how to cover situations that aren't otherwise covered by the rules already presented, how to dole out Conviction points as well as how to advance characters.
Chapter Eight: Adversaries
The better part of the adversaries presented is largely geared toward fantasy gaming; I'll get that out of the way right now. Descriptions of various creature types are given for custom-making one's own beasties, along with a handful of premade critters.
Chapter Ten: Fantasy Adventures
The specifics of building a fantasy geared campaign are gone through rather thoroughly in this chapter, with both options for both players and GMs alike. Fantasy specific roles, particular styles of fantasy settings and more specific equipment is gone into in quite a bit more detail than previously examined early in the book.
Chapter Eleven: Space Adventures
Further delineation of what the system can be geared for regarding particular sorts of sci-fi/future settings are presented, giving many options for Skills, Feats and Equipment. Vehicular design is covered as well as possible adventure ideas, universe building and environments that would otherwise not be taken into account (i.e., vacuum).
Chapter Twelve: Horror Adventures
Different styles of horror campaigns are discussed as well as new Roles presented for horror-specific styles of games. Sanity mechanics, as well as possible insanities that can be developed, are also gone into in some detail.
Chapter Thirteen: Modern Adventures
What I was really hoping to get out of this chapter - modern specific Feats - are not present; instead there is a fair amount of the chapter dedicated to how to obtain "hard to get" items via the Black Market. There is also a slight update of equipment, but on the whole this chapter seemed to have the least amount of usable information in it out of all the Adventure chapters.
Appendix: D20 System Conversion
The particulars of converting over all that D&D 3.X material you might have are gone over quite thoroughly for being covered by two whole pages.
I really liked True20 and can't wait to implement this in any number of game ideas I have been kicking around in my head. The setting specific information is - for the most part - superb and allows for quite a bit of focus that you might not otherwise think of while either adapting or creating a setting. I would make some slight changes to the mechanics to suit my personal tastes, and the way that the mechanics are presented - with the "whys" of the way that many of them have been implemented - make those sorts of changes very easy to do. I wasn't too fond of the way that the text was broken up; it seemed like most of the book had large black chunks that were fairly distracting. I will also say that the art wasn't spectacular, but it got the point across. I'd also like to point out that while I can see it handling a number of genres particularly well, I wouldn't necessarily say it could be used to run everything. The Powers section makes a note that superhero games can be done, but given some of the alterations that would need to be taken into account I think that I would just use True20's close blood relative,Mutants & Masterminds instead. There's a wealth of support for the system online as well as Quick Start Rules for further consideration.