When I play d20, I generally play a Pathfinder/Epic 6 Variant, with a dash of D&D Next.
Epic 6 is an approach to d20 gaming that stops character development at 6th level. This has several implications, such as no spells of level 4 or higher, no magic items of more than +2, and so on. The rules are detailed here: http://www.myth-weavers.com/wiki/index.php/Epic_6
When kicking off a campaign we have each player generate 3 characters, Ironman style (i.e. 3d6 for each ability score, roll straight, no rerolls, assignments, point swapping, etc.), random hit points, and 1d6x10gp starting wealth.
Humans are the only race that can take a Feat as a Commoner.
When they level up to 2nd level, all ability scores increase by +2 except for 2 (determined randomly) that increase by only +1.
You cannot take any of the other NPC classes in this approach as they will break the Epic 6 approach. You could allow that and call it Epic 7, but, well, that's not what we were trying to do.
Note: when playing with IronCommoners you actually go to Level 7 to allow players to get 6 levels of Heroic Classes.
The original Epic 6 was for D&D 3.5. The principals apply the same to Pathfinder, however.
This can be taken at after Level 6, and it can be taken multiple times. Each choice of the Feat after the first increases the Leadership score by +2.
All d20 rolls are done with 2d10. This does make things a little tougher, but that's okay.
There should be no DCs about 30.
Tricky 15 Professional has even odds, Untrained will likely fail
Difficult 20 Expert has even odds, Professional will likely fail, nigh-impossible for Untrained
Extreme 25 Master has even odds, Expert will likely fail, nigh-impossible for Professional
Impossible 30 Legend has even odds, Master will likely fail, nigh-impossible for Expert
Untrained +0 no bonuses
Professional +5 1 rank, class skill, +1 trait bonus; can earn a living at this
Expert +9 3 ranks, class skill, +2 trait bonus; well known professional
Master +14 6 ranks, class skill, +3 trait bonus, +2 tools/feat bonus; well known expertLegend +19 6 ranks, class skill, +5 trait bonus, +5 tools/feat bonus; renowned master
In assessing difficulties based on APL (Average Party Level), the base DC should be 9+APL. Modify this by the following:
Is a character unlikely to succeed without training? +5 Training required
Is the challenge difficult relative to the group? +5 Shift from even odds, to unlikely success
Is skill focus required (tools, feat, trait)? +5 Primary aspect of the character
This technique allows a GM to quickly set the DC for a challenge or to easily interpret the results of a roll if no DC was set.
Unchanged, however if you roll in the crit range and the attack hits it is automatically a crit; do not ever roll to confirm. On a crit, maximize your damage for the attack and then roll additional damage per the weapon's multiplier -1 (i.e. x2 = roll damage once more, x3 = roll damage twice more, x4 = roll damage three times). Maximizing the base damage ensures the crit is significant but doesn't change the total damage range for the crit.
I wanted to eliminate as many modifiers as possible from the game while retaining the shift in probability created by circumstance. The D&D Next notion of Advantage/Disadvantage works well here, but I wanted to have a little more effect than just a single additional die. The use of 2d10 actually enables this very well. This means that a character's bonuses really don't change from action to action, eliminating the time (often significant) spent recalculating totals.
When a circumstance benefits a player, an Advantage, he adds an additional die to his roll. This will usually be a d10, but in the case of damage or some outlier cases it may be an additional die of the same type as the base roll. When a circumstance challenges a player, a Disadvantage, he either offsets an Advantage die or he adds a Disadvantage die to his roll.
If the net result is additional Advantage dice, the roll is made and the best dice for the roll are chosen. In the case of ability checks, attacks, and skill rolls this would mean the best two dice are chosen. If the net result is additional Disadvantage dice, the roll is made and the worst dice for the roll are chosen (for a 2d10 roll, the lowest two dice are chose).
This may seem complicated, but it is actually quite straightforward. This mechanic speeds play by eliminating the need to look up specific modifiers and also provides a mechanic to support creative play in or out of combat. Additionally, this system also prevents circumstances from modifying the die roll result outside of the d20 range; only ability, skill, class, and item bonuses will modify the numbers outside this range. It shifts the probability in the right direction, without changing the range of results.
For example, here is the standard distribution for 2d10. You can see the average is at 11, with a standard deviation of 4 (2/3 of all rolls will be between 7 and 15). The change in standard deviation relative to a d20 is significant in that many rolls in Pathfinder, especially at standard DCs, will be a little harder. I don't see that as much of an issue however, as this slight increase in challenge I think is a net positive. It also only manifests starting a DC 15, barely, and becomes significant (somewhat) at DC 20. Hence the above adjustments for over DC 20.
Now, here's the distribution for the same roll but with two Advantage dice added (i.e. roll 4d10, pick the best 2).
You can see that the average has shifted by 4 points to 15, and the standard deviation has dropped by almost a point. This means you will tend to roll high, and the variance from that point is going to be lower (2/3 of all rolls will fall between 12 and 18). Also, if your crit range was 19-20, the odds of a crit just went up (from 3% to 8.68%). Since a crit result requires no confirmation, the odds of a crit have actually increased significantly, even relative to using a d20 by the standard rules (which would be 10%, modified for confirmation which will likely adjust it to 5% or lower).
So, now circumstances can affect not just the probability of success, but also the probability of significant success.
Attached to this page is a quick reference document that adjusts the DCs to fit this system and clarifies Advantage/Disadvantage relative to conditions.
Feb 9, 2013: I am still working on simplifying the overal DC listing structure to simplify this document. This first pass really addresses the base DCs above 20, Breaking Things, and the translation of nearly every combat modifier to this approach.
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