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12. Horror Adventures

Fearsome forces slither and lurk at the very periphery of human perception. Whether they be sanity-testing creatures from unimaginable adventures, or all-too-human monsters, the chapter lays out rules for bringing them to hideous life in true20 Style.

Being scared is fun. Whether it’s a movie, graphic novel, or video game, we all enjoy the frisson created by fear. Why? Because being scared allows us to experience one of the strongest emotions we have and at the end of the day, we can turn off the television, put away the book, or Unknown Terror

Suspense is a staple of the horror genre and can stand on its own, although it rarely does. Typically, this is handled by the Narrator through pacing techniques, turn off the video console with the full confidence that it is all just make believe.

Horror adventures allow you the opportunity to even more fully

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”

— H.P. Lovecraft, “Supernatural Horror in Literature”

primarily by revealing only a little of the story at a time. There are a few subtypes of suspense that can be fully explored and developed, particularly mysteries and conspiracies. Mysteries can immerse yourself in a world where something is askew. There are many different flavors of horror, so it is important for the Narrator to determine what type of horror adventure or campaign he wishes to run. While he may take input from the players, the unknown elements of the setting are often important components in creating fear in a horror game, so such suggestions may be integrated or ignored at the Narrator’s whim.

Flavors of Fear:


Genre Conventions

Horror is a broad genre with many subgenres in its expansive domain, but at its dark heart, horror is about evoking fear. If you don’t think that’s enough to hang an adventure on, think again. Horror can range as widely as one’s dark imagination allows. Some specific subgenres of horror help to further define and refine how this whole business of how creating fear is generally handled.

Blood and Gore

Splatter horror, often referred to as slasher horror, is one of the simpler styles of horror to handle. Most often the characters are ordinary individuals, such as camp counselors or college students, and must contend with a psychotic serial killer whose cleaver has decided to lay claim on the characters. This style is most suitable for one-shot adventures, as the casualty rate could be a bit high for any type of sustained campaign.

Things from the Other Side

Supernatural horror, on the other hand, is ideal for both short adventures and campaigns, lasting as long as the collective sanity of the characters allows. Characters can range from ordinaries to experts, warriors, and, though quite unusual, even adepts. Encounters can vary from cultists to aliens to things-man-was-not-meant-to-know. The most important elements for this style of play is that true evil is alive and well, and monsters exist in whatever capacity you wish to present them.

range from, “Why does the Hobbs House have flickering lights in its windows?,” to complex conspiracies that typically develop over a campaign’s lifetime, such as, “Why is the United States concealing the fact that extraterrestrial life exists?”

Making It Through the Night

Survival horror comes in two flavors, is simple and straightforward to run, and can lend itself to either a sustained campaign or an evening’s entertainment. Typically, in this scenario, something in the overall setting has gone terribly wrong. An element of the supernatural usually plays a key part in survival horror. Rather than the horror being hidden away, as in suspense or supernatural horror, the monsters, zombies, or whatever are very much at work in the neighborhood, eating their way through the populace and hoping to have a bit of the heroes’ brains for dessert.

The goal of the characters is simple: survive the night, the week, or the journey to a safe destination. When the characters complete this initial goal, continued game play can continue in this style or take on a more strategic aspect, wherein the characters may search for other survivors or mount a campaign against the threat in the hopes of driving it back. Characters are most often ordinaries, but can also have the expert or warrior roles. Adepts are almost never seen in survival horror, but that doesn’t mean your game can’t be different.

It’s the End of the World as We Know It

A variant on the survival horror theme is apocalyptic horror, wherein some catastrophic event has irrevocably modified the world, such as a viral strain that has turned ninety percent of the world into vampires. It is up to the heroes to find a way to survive in a world gone mad.

Notes on Horror Narration

Evoke the senses in a horror story: a sickly sweet perfume wafting up from beneath the rotted door, the sudden chill that whips up from nowhere and mysteriously vanishes, or the lone, mournful cry of some anguished animal echoing across the bay: these are all ways to pull the players more fully into your story. A successful horror game relies on the suspension of disbelief, of leading the characters into closely identifying with their characters. Appealing to their senses, particularly smell, touch, and sound, is a key part of drawing players in.

Pay attention to pacing. Preparation is essential to narrating a solid horror adventure. Some of the best scenarios are built on suspense; it falls upon you, as the Narrator, to be fully familiar with the story you want to tell.

Set the mood. Horror games can be run anytime, but like a scary movie, they are best run at night even if where you are playing is well lit. Why? The fear of the dark is in the very bones of man; unless you are playing in the basement, you have the constant dark lurking just outside the windows. (The basement, on the other hand, provides countless other opportunities to exploit.)

Take your game seriously. Certainly, you’re playing a game, but it is especially important to maintain a level of seriousness in horror games, even more so than in other genres. Humor may arise naturally during the course of play among your players; it is a natural defense mechanism, and should be allowed to run its course. If you allow it to take a central focus in your games, however, the horrific illusion will be dispelled.

This is like survival horror, only rather than making it through the night, the heroes are in an ongoing struggle for survival. They might have a slim hope of reaching or creating some kind of haven for themselves and others, but otherwise their job is to live to fight another day. Apocalyptic horror becomes less horror over time and more of a shoot- ‘em-up survival game.

Horror Heroes

As previously mentioned, heroes in horror stories often come from a variety of backgrounds and life experiences. In this section, we’ll examine the various backgrounds and roles associated with the archetypes we so often find in horror literature and cinema.

Humble Beginnings:


Regardless of whether the characters end up in a fistfight with a fury or running from a wraith, heroes of horror adventures are typically examples of the “common man” or woman, with family and jobs and concerns just like everyone else.


Who they are: Academics are people who have dedicated their lives to furthering their understanding of the world. They are librarians, archaeologists, scholars, professors, students, teachers, and other education professionals.

Bonus Feats: Talented (Bonus Skills), Well-Informed

Bonus Skills (choose any two): Computers, Knowledge (any), Gather Information, Language, Medicine

Favored Feats: Skill Mastery, Well-Informed


Who they are: Athletes include amateur athletes of Olympic quality and professional athletes of all types, including personal trainers, gymnasts, weight trainers, wrestlers, boxers, martial artists, swimmers, skaters, and those who engage in any type of competitive sport.

Bonus Feats (choose any two): Assessment, Endurance, Lightning

Reflexes, Great Fortitude, Iron Will, Run, or Tireless

Bonus Skills (choose any two): Acrobatics, Climb, Concentration, Jump, Swim

Favored Feats: Skill Mastery, Tough

Blue Collar

Who they are: The blue collar background includes factory work, farming, food service jobs, construction, service industry jobs, taxi drivers, postal workers, and other jobs that are usually not considered to be desk jobs.

Bonus Feats (choose any two): Endurance, Skill Focus, Talented, Tireless

Bonus Skills (choose any two): Craft (any), Drive, Handle Animal, Knowledge (popular culture)

Favored Feats: Improvised Tools, Jack-of-all-Trades


Who they are: The creative background covers artists of all types who fan their creative spark into a career. Illustrators, copywriters, cartoonists, graphic artists, novelists, magazine columnists, actors, sculptors, game designers, musicians, screenwriters, photographers, and web designers all fall under this occupation.

Bonus Feat: Any one feat normally available to your role.

Bonus Skills (choose any two): Computers, Craft (visual arts or writing), Knowledge (art or supernatural), Perform

Favored Feats: Jack-of-all-Trades, Skill Mastery


Who they are: This illicit background reveals a life from the wrong side of the law. This background includes con artists, burglars, thieves, crime family soldiers, gang members, bank robbers, and other types of career criminals.

Bonus Feats: Connected, Contacts

Bonus Skills (choose any two): Disable Device, Knowledge (streetwise), Sleight of Hand, Stealth

Favored Feats: Firearms Training , Improvised Tools, Master Plan,

Weapon Training


Who they are: Dilettantes usually get their wealth from family holdings and trust funds. The typical dilettante has no job, few responsibilities, and at least one driving passion that occupies his or her day. That passion might be a charity or philanthropic foundation, an ideal or cause worth fighting for, or just a lust for living.

Bonus Feats: Connected, Wealth

Bonus Skills: Diplomacy, Knowledge (any)

Favored Feats: Jack-of-All-Trades, Skill Mastery


Who they are: There are a number of jobs that fit within this background, including investigative reporters, photojournalists, private investigators, police detectives, criminologists, criminal profilers, espionage agents, and others who use their skills to gather evidence and analyze clues.

Bonus Feats: Contacts, Firearms Training

Bonus Skills (choose any two): Gather Information, Knowledge (streetwise), Notice, Search, Sense Motive

Favored Feats: Jack-of-All-Trades, Well-Informed

Law Enforcement

Who they are: The law enforcement background includes uniformed police, state troopers, federal police, federal agents, SWAT team members, and military police.

Bonus Feats: Firearms Training, Improved Disarm

Bonus Skills (choose any two): Drive, Intimidate, Knowledge (civics), Notice

Favored Feats: Attack Specialization, Stunning Attack


Who they are: A character with a medical background can be a physician (general practitioner or specialist), a nurse, a surgeon, a psychiatrist, or an EMT.

Bonus Feats: Skill Focus (Medicine), Second Chance (Provide Care)

Bonus Skills (choose any two): Computers, Craft (pharmaceutical), Knowledge (behavioral science), Medicine, Search

Favored Feats: Improvised Tools, Master Plan


Who they are: The military background covers any of the branches of the armed forces, including army, navy, air force, and marines, as well as the various elite training units such as Seals, Rangers, and Special Forces.

Bonus Feats (choose any two): Endurance, Firearm Training, Improved Critical

Bonus Skills (choose any two): Demolitions, Knowledge (tactics), Stealth, Survival

Favored Feats: Master Plan, Seize Initiative


Who they are: Religious characters are ordained clergy of all persuasions, as well as theological scholars and experts on religious studies.

Bonus Feats: Dedicated, Skill Focus: Knowledge (theology and philosophy)

Bonus Skills: Diplomacy, Knowledge (theology and philosophy)

Favored Feats: Empower, Imbue Item


Who they are: The technical background is similar to the academic but is much more “hands-on.” Engineers, mechanics, and physical scientists fit within the scope of this background.

Bonus Feats: Contacts, Talented

Bonus Skills (choose any two): Computers, Craft (chemical, electronic, mechanical, or structural), Knowledge (behavioral sciences, business, physical sciences, or technology)

Favored Feats: Improvised Tools, Jack-of-All-Trades

White Collar

Who they are: The white collar background represents office workers and desk jockeys, lawyers, accountants, insurance agents, bank personnel, financial advisors, tax preparers, clerks, sales personnel, real estate agents, and a variety of mid-level managers.

Bonus Feats: Connected, Talented

Bonus Skills (choose any two): Computers, Diplomacy, Knowledge (any)

Favored Feats: Fascinate, Well-Informed


While True20 Adventure Roleplaying has three main roles for characters to select from, we recommend the following six: Arcanist: Someone with a keen intellect and knowledge of the arcane arts whose powers often come through rituals, bargains with supernatural powers, and deeds.

Blessed: Someone with shrewd awareness and self confidence whose powers are based in her faith.

Expert: Someone experienced in a wide range of skills.

Omitting Adepts

While the supernatural plays an important role in horror, the nature of horror demands that the heroes not have the upper hand in this area. As a general rule, access to powers should be limited in scope and restrictive in nature. To that end, four new roles have been introduced (the Arcanist, Blessed, Intellectual, and Psychic) in lieu of the more general adept role.

If you opt to allow adepts, do so sparingly. Adepts have the full gamut of supernatural abilities to draw upon and can quickly change the tone of the campaign from horror to modern fantasy. The best choice is to relegate adepts to the realm of adversaries, such as witches, mad sorcerers, and warlocks—making the level of supernatural power associated with adept something that requires a pact with infernal or otherworldly forces that extract a hideous price.

Restricting the adept role to Narrator characters preserves its rightful place in a horror campaign. Other recommendations and considerations are found in the Powers section of this chapter.

Intellectual: Someone who is highly skilled and posses uncanny deductive ability.

Psychic: Someone with mental agility and social grace whose powers come from within.

Warrior: Someone with skill at arms and various combat techniques.


Some characters are able to decipher ancient writings and piece together fragments of knowledge found in books of forgotten lore. With such knowledge, they are able to command the forces of earth and sky and beyond, should they so choose. Others seek power more directly through bargaining and rituals, while others still prefer to keep their knowledge in the realm of the purely theoretical.

The arcanist role has the following features: Role Type: Adept

Combat Progression: Slow (2 points). The combat bonus is equal to 1/2 the character’s arcanist levels.

Skill Progression: 8 + Int (2 points)

Feat Access: 4 from Adept or General (0 points)

Save Progression: Good Will, Normal Fortitude and Reflex (0 points)

Power Progression: Slow, Unlimited (1 point). The character’s power rank is equal to half his adept levels (rounded up) + 1.

Great Resolve (Core Ability): Through your years of study you have detailed knowledge of folklore, mystical and alchemical formulae, and magical creatures. You can draw on this knowledge to strengthen your resolve in the face of the supernatural. When making a Will save, you can spend a point of Conviction and automatically treat your die roll as a 20. Note this is not considered a “natural” 20, but otherwise works like a die result of 20.

Arcanist Paths

The following sets of starting skills and feats show some of the more common paths taken by the arcanist. (The paths assume an Intelligence score of +0).


The mystic is a character who has abandoned traditional sciences to pursue the ephemeral studies of the Unseen World and the mysteries of the supernatural. He constantly travels in pursuit of enlightenment.

Key Abilities: Intelligence, Charisma

Starting Skills: Concentration, Knowledge (behavioral sciences), Knowledge (history), Knowledge (supernatural), Knowledge (theology and philosophy), Notice, Search, Sense Motive

Starting Feats: Body Control, Iron Will, Mind Over Body, Second

Chance (Fatigue saves)


The occultist dabbles in the supernatural as an academic pursuit, hoarding old books and scrolls as a personal storehouse of arcane lore. A lifetime of poring over forbidden secrets has given the Occultist unnatural insights, teaching him a trick or two that just might be the difference between life and death.

Key Abilities: Intelligence, Wisdom

Starting Skills: Concentration, Knowledge (life sciences), Knowledge (supernatural), Knowledge (physical science), Gather Information, Languages (choose four), Notice, Search

Starting Feats: Eidetic Memory, Second Chance (Sanity Saves), Skill

Focus: Knowledge (Supernatural), Ward


Some characters are touched by the divine in such a way they are able to perform miracles. Others achieve this state through strict discipline and adherence to their faith. In either case, they use their abilities to actively further their cause’s agendas whenever possible. The parameters of characters taking this role need to be carefully worked out and defined with the Narrator as it pertains to the source of their powers and their access to them.

The blessed role has the following features: Role Type: Adept

Combat Progression: Slow (2 points). The combat bonus is equal to 1/2 the character’s acolyte levels.

Skill Progression: 6 + Int (1.5 points)

Feat Access: 4 from Adept or General (o points)

Save Progression: Good Will, Normal Fortitude and Reflex (0 points)

Power Progression: Fast, Broad (1.5 points). A blessed hero can only choose powers from the broad list of powers provided below.

New Core Ability: Brave

A Narrator can incorporate this new core ability into his campaign either by allowing players to swap out their character’s normal core ability, or by creating a new role (using the method detailed in Chapter Nine) and using this as the core ability.

Brave: You can spend a point of Conviction to immediately erase all startled, spooked and scared conditions (and their associated penalties).

Higher Purpose (Core Ability): You serve a higher purpose or calling, inspired by your faith. When faced with a challenge directly related to your Higher Purpose, you may spend a Conviction point to gain either two feats or a single power (with a Fast Power Progression equal to your total level) you can use for the duration of the encounter or scene. Choose the feats or power when you acquire this ability, they (and your higher purpose) cannot be changed. If you ever abandon your purpose, you lose the use of this core ability. The Dedicated feat (page 45) is quite common for heroes with this core ability.

Fall from Grace: Should you not adhere to the tenets of your higher purpose, you are incapable of using you core ability or you supernatural powers until such time as you have made recompense for you misdeeds. Alternately, if you are using the Corruption rules, if you have one or more points of Corruption, you are incapable of accessing your core ability or powers.

Blessed Paths

The following sets of starting skills and feats show some of the more common paths taken by acolytes. (The paths assume an Intelligence score of +0).

Avenging Angel

This character is gifted with offensive powers enabling them to further their cause. Often, a character taking this role improves its effectiveness by combining it with one or more roles of warrior, making them more effective combatants. Wisdom is especially important for channeling their divine powers, while Dexterity and Constitution enables them to mix it up.

Key Abilities: Wisdom, Dexterity

Starting Skills: Concentration, Knowledge (theology and philosophy), Notice, Sense Motive

Starting Feats: Dedicated, Supernatural Strike, Supernatural Weapon, Weapon Training

The Chosen

This character fills the traditional role of his chosen faith, be it ascetic monk, priest, or rabbi. His dedication and devotion has brought to him divine gifts that he must somehow understand and use for the good of humanity. These chosen become known as saints, faith healers, and holy men and women of all colors and creeds. Wisdom and Intelligence are paramount for putting these divine gifts to best use.

Key Abilities: Wisdom, Intelligence

Starting Skills: Concentration, Knowledge (theology and thilosophy), Notice, Sense Motive

Starting Feats: Cure, Dedicated, Skill Focus: Knowledge (theology and philosophy), Ward


The expert role is focused on skill and interaction but is also a capable fighter when need be. In a horror campaign, an expert can be an adventurous college professor, a hard-boiled private eye, or even a member of the criminal underworld.

Expert Paths

The following sets of starting skills and feats show some of the more common paths taken by this role. (The paths assume an Intelligence score of +0).


Investigating murder and mayhem are all in a day’s work for a detective. His knowledge of the criminal mind and the streets can serve him in good stead in a variety of campaign types.

Key Abilities: Charisma, Intelligence

Starting Skills: Gather Information, Knowledge (civics), Knowledge (life sciences), Knowledge (streetwise), Notice, Research , Search, Sense Motive

Starting Feats: Benefit (Detective), Firearms Training, Jack-of-All-

Trades, Skill Mastery (Gather Information, Notice, Search, Sense Motive)


A man who wants to get his story at any cost, the reporter often finds himself drawn into situations far greater than he could ever believe possible.

Key Abilities: Charisma, Intelligence

Starting Skills: Bluff, Diplomacy, Gather Information, Knowledge (current events) Notice, Perform (acting), Research, Search

Starting Feats: Benefit (Press Pass), Improvised Tools, Skill Mastery (Bluff, Diplomacy, Gather Information, Search), Well-Informed

Bliss Body Control Calm Blessed Po


wer List

Cure Blindness/ Deafness

Cure Disease Cure Poison Earth Shaping
Elemental Resistance Enhance Senses Fire Shaping Heart Reading Heart Shaping Imbue Life Imbue Unlife (vice) Light Shaping
Mind Touch Nature Reading Object Reading Purifying Light Second Sight Severance Sleep Suggestion
Supernatural Strike Supernatural Weapon Teleport True Visions Truth-Reading Visions Ward Water Shaping
Weather Shaping Wind Shaping Wind Walk


Making a Non-Combat Expert

Intellectuals are highly educated people possessing very keen powers of observation and deduction. Their ability to pick up on subtle clues borders on the uncanny, giving them almost superhuman problem- solving capability.

The intellectual role has the following features: Role Type: Expert

Combat Progression: Slow (2 points). The combat bonus is equal to 1/2 the character’s intellectual levels.

Skill Progression: 8 + Int (2 points)

Save Progression: Good Will, Normal Fortitude and Reflex (0 points)

Feat Access: Any 4 from General or Expert (0 points). Since an intellectual has Power Progression, you can swap out a feat in exchange for a supernatural power on the Intellectual Power List.

Power Progression: Fast, Narrow (1 point). The intellectual can only choose powers from the narrow list below. Rather than being true supernatural powers, these abilities represent the intellectual’s extraordinary talent for deduction, understanding of human nature, and logic. The Narrator may allow you to include other powers on a case-by-case basis provided they can be described as natural abilities rather than supernatural powers.

Common Sense (Core Ability): It may not be that common, but you’ve got it. Whenever you’re about to do something foolish or downright stupid, the Narrator must warn you, usually with something along the lines of “Are you sure you really want to do that?” Based on this, you may choose a different course of action. Common Sense doesn’t cost Conviction, but it’s also not under your control.

Face it: a studious, absent-minded professor wouldn’t necessarily know how to use a firearm effectively, and he certainly wouldn’t be very effective in a fistfight. The expert role seems tailor-made for a highly skilled academic, however, so how does one reconcile the combat capability of the role with a character concept that doesn’t include such capability? Players and Narrators have a few options available to them to resolve this dilemma.

Stay on Concept

At the simplest, all one must do to make a non-combative expert is to stay on concept and stick with skill-based feats, not take the Firearms Training or Weapon Training feats. Lacking a Weapon Training feat imposes a –4 penalty attack rolls with firearms and martial weapons. Without a weapon feat, an expert needs to be 7th level in order to have a +1 to hit (not including Dexterity, of course). Although an expert without a weapon feat is not as capable in combat, it does not affect his Defense. The character lacks basic skill in combat but he can still effectively dive for cover when he needs to.

Simple Weapon Training as a Virtual Feat

All roles provide proficiency in simple weapons. This can be considered a “bonus feat” that all characters receive regardless of role; even ordinaries get free proficiency in simple weapons. If one considers Simple Weapon Training as a feat, it further solves the problem of combat-capable experts. A player who wants to make an expert with absolutely no training in combat can voluntarily give up this “virtual feat” in exchange for any other General or Expert feat. In this case, Simple Weapon Training is considered to be a prerequisite for Weapon Training. Without it an expert has a –4 penalty when using simple weapons. The expert can pick up the Simple Weapon Training and Weapon Training feats later on as the studious professor grows into a skilled monster-hunter.

The Point-Buy Role System

Players and Narrators can use the point-buy role creation system presented in Chapter Nine to create a highly-skilled role with little or no ability in combat. One such “non-combat expert” role, the Intellectual, is provided here as an example.

Intellectual Po

Enhance Ability

wer List

Enhance Senses

Heart Reading Heart Shaping
Nature Reading Psychic Shield
Second Sight Suggestion
True Vision* Truth-Reading

Describing the Intellectual’s Powers

The powers of the intellectual are not actually supernatural. Rather, they are observational abilities gained through deductive reasoning and *True Vision is from the True20 Bestiary

Intellectual Paths

The following sets of starting skills and feats show some of the more common paths taken by intellectuals (The paths assume an Intelligence score of +0).


Practical professors, antiquarians often offer their services as appraisers and experts in the world of art history to a broad and eclectic range of clientele. Over time, they often accumulate great storehouses of knowledge, both practical and esoteric. Sometimes, innate curiosity or greed gets the better of them and they leave their positions as resident expert and journey into the realms of the strange and mysterious, in search of artifacts, knowledge, or both.

Key Abilities: Intelligence, Charisma

Starting Skills: Diplomacy, Gather Information, Knowledge (art), Knowledge (history), Knowledge (supernatural), Languages (French, Italian, Latin), Notice, Search

Starting Feats: Contacts, Enhance Senses, Fascinate, Suggestion keen insight. Players and Narrators can use the explanations below to describe an intellectual’s powers, or invent their own.

Enhance Ability: You have an innate understanding of the principles of applied force and leverage, which manifests itself as a temporary boost in Strength or Dexterity.

Enhance Senses, True Vision: Your skill with deductive reasoning naturally augments your Notice skill and makes you difficult to Bluff.

Heart Reading, Truth-Reading: You have the ability to detect the emotions of others through the interpretation of subtle body language and micro-expressions.

Heart Shaping, Suggestion: Your detailed understanding of human nature enables you to subtly manipulate the emotions of others.

Nature Reading: Your understanding of the natural world allows you to make educated guesses about your environment.

Psychic Shield: Your logical mind makes it difficult for psychic power to affect you.

Second Sight: You have a knack for making assumptions about the use of supernatural powers based on their lingering influences on the environment.



Beast Link Bliss Body Control Psychic Power List Enhance Senses Fire Shaping Heart Reading
Heart Shaping Manipulate Object Mind Probe Mind Reading Mind Shaping Mind Touch Move Object Nature Reading
Object Reading Pain Psychic Blast Psychic Reflection Psychic Shield Psychic Trap Scrying Second Sight
Sense Minds Suggestion True Visions* Truth-Reading Visions Ward


An expert analyst and forensic specialist, a criminologist studies normal social behaviors and how certain factors influence deviation from the norm. Combining elements of statistician, psychologist, and sociologist, this highly trained academic is invaluable for their practical creativity and logical thinking. Their keen understanding of the human psyche enables them to trigger emotional states in potential suspects as well. Criminologists are often drawn into cases through the discovery of bizarre deaths and their drive to find the underlying truth of a mystery.

Key Abilities: Intelligence, Wisdom

Starting Skills: Concentration, Diplomacy, Gather Information, Knowledge (Behavioral Sciences), Knowledge (Forensics), Notice, Sense Motive, Search

Starting Feats: Heart Shaping, Improvised Tools, Talented (Knowledge (behavioral sciences) and Knowledge (forensics)), Well-Informed


Psychic characters are those that have had their inner core awakened and are capable of performing feats of extrasensory perception, psychokinesis, or both.

The psychic role has the following features: Role Type: Adept

Combat Progression: Slow (2 points). The combat bonus is equal to 1/2 the character’s psychic levels.

Skill Progression: 6 + Int (1.5 points)

Feat Access: 4 from Adept or General (0 points)

Save Progression: Good Will, Normal Fortitude and Reflex (0 points)

Power Progression: Fast, Broad (1.5 points). The Psychic can only choose powers from the Psychic Power List. Certain overt powers, such as Psychic Blast and the fatiguing version of Move Object, may be further restricted at the Narrator’s discretion if they do not fit the campaign.

Higher Guidance (Core Ability): You just know things sometimes and there seems to be a higher power watching over you. You can spend a point of Conviction to ask the Narrator a direct question about something and get a truthful answer, although the Narrator’s reply may be brief (often just a “yes” or “no”). The Narrator may choose not to answer if it would adversely affect the flow of the game, in which case you get your Conviction point back.

*True Visions is from the True20 Bestiary

Psychic Paths

The following sets of starting skills and feats show some of the more common paths taken by psychics (The paths assume an Intelligence score of +0).


A clairsentient is an empathic character capable of sensing and interpreting energies around people, places, and/or things. As she progresses, she grows in understanding these energies and frequently expands her abilities and powers.

Key Abilities: Charisma, Wisdom

Starting Skills: Concentration, Gather Information, Knowledge (supernatural), Notice, Sense Motive, Search

Starting Feats: Heart Reading, Object Reading, Truth-Reading, Visions


This type of psychic does not deal with the gentle subtleties of the mind, but learns to use sheer force of personality to affect the world. This mind-over-matter ability can manifest in a variety of ways.

Key Abilities: Charisma, Constitution

Starting Skills: Concentration, Knowledge (supernatural), Notice, Sense Motive

Starting Feats: Cure, Fire Shaping, Manipulate Object, Move Object


The warrior’s strengths involve combat and physical toughness. Warriors are hardy men and women who are capable of handling themselves in a fight and can more easily resist poison and disease.

Warrior Paths

The following sets of starting skills and feats show some of the more common paths taken by Warriors. (The paths assume an Intelligence score of +0).

Government Agent

Often sent into situations to observe and investigate, an agent may have a secret agenda or be quite the company man. Wisdom and Intelligence are essential in helping analyzing data and perform due diligence in his primary fields of expertise, while Dexterity enables him to aim accurately should such situations arise.

Key Abilities: Wisdom, Intelligence

Starting Skills: Gather Information, Knowledge (Behavioral Sciences), Notice, Search

Starting Feats: Benefit (Security Clearance), Firearms Training, Skill Focus: Knowledge (Behavioral Sciences), Talented (Notice, Search)


The soldier is the modern warrior, trained to fight (usually for a nation, but sometimes on a freelance basis) in myriad situations and circumstances around the world. The soldier is hardened by combat and conflict, and ready to deal with any threat—usually with violence. Dexterity and Wisdom are important for selecting and striking the best targets, while Constitution and Intelligence aid in all-around survivability.

Key Abilities: Dexterity, Wisdom

Starting Skills: Climb, Disable Device, Stealth, Survival

Starting Feats: Accurate Attack, Endurance, Firearms Training, Tough

Skills & Feats

The skills and feats detailed in chapters Two and Three suit most horror games, but some more subtle skills and unique feats also fit into the genre, as described here.


Following, you will find refinements of two existing skills for use in your horror campaign and the introduction of a new skill, Research.

Knowledge (supernatural) (Int)

The occult, magic and the supernatural, astrology, numerology and similar topics including:

  • Clues about a creature’s weakness or origin.
  • Insights into the cultural origins of magic, cults or rituals based upon evidence as varied as an inscription, an offering or a chant echoing down a hallway.
  • The link between current strange occurrences and those in the past.


    Trained Only, Requires Specialization

    Language is an unusual skill. Each rank in this skill gives you the ability to read, write and speak another language at its basic level.

  • Basic; Level: Taking a language once grants you literacy and fluency in a language. You have a regional accent as well. This is the level that all characters speak their Native tongue at, unless they elect to take another level of proficiency.
  • Expert; Level: Taking two ranks in the same language grants the character complete and utter fluidity. The character copies slang, local dialects and cultural body language with ease. (A character with English at this level may emulate regional American accents, as well as British, Cockney, Irish and other English accents, for example.).

    Dead Languages (Common) Dead Languages (Exotic)
    Aramaic Enochian (Angelic)
    Gaelic Incantic (Blasphemer’s script, cryptographic, written only)
    Greek Lethe (The forgotten tongue)
    Hieroglyphics (Written only) Mortis (Corpse tongue)
    Latin Lucent (Corrupted Enochian)

    Dead or Exotic Languages: These languages require the assignment of two skill ranks to have at the basic level and three skill ranks to have at expert level.

    Research (int)


    Even if you don’t know something off the top of your head, a good reasearcher can often turn up answers. Given enough time (usually a few hours) and proper information sources like libraries, newspaper morgues, microfilm, microfiche, and computer records, you get a general idea about a given topic. The Difficulty of a Research check is 10 for basic knowledge, 15 for more obscure data, and 20 to 30 for very obscure bits of lore. This assumes that no obvious reasons exist why such information would be unavailable, and that you have a way to acquire restricted or protected information. The Narrator determines how obscure a particular topic is (the more obscure, the higher the Difficulty) and what kind of information might be available depending on where you are conducting your research.

    Challenges: You can accept the following challenges when making a Research check.

    Scanning the Headlines

    You may add +5 or +10 to the Difficulty to reduce Research time by half or one quarter respectively.

    Time: A Research check normally takes an hour.

    Topic Difficulty Example Source
    General 10 Textbooks
    Specific 15 Computer records
    Obscure 20 Newspaper morgues
    Disorganized +5 Scattered notes
    Restricted +5 Police case files
    Protected +10 Government documents


    In this section we present new feats to aid your heroes in their battles against the horrors of the night.


    Alternate Approach (General)

    Instead of relying on willpower and discipline, you handle the mind- bending and sanity-stretching effects of horror with either sheer guts or incredible mental flexibility.

    Benefit: Select either your character’s Intelligence or Constitution score. Use that ability score’s modifier for all Sanity saves (see Fear and Terror later in this chapter).

    Prerequisites: Strength +1, Combat bonus +1

    Brute Force (General)

    Your fighting style takes advantage of your impressive strength.

    With a battleaxe, club, quarterstaff, sword or warhammer (or any other melee weapon your Narrator allows), you may add your Strength instead of your Dexterity to attack rolls.

    You cannot make a finesse attack while using the Brute Force feat.

    Challenge [Fast Feint] (General)

    You can make a Bluff check to feint in combat as a move action.

    Cold-Blooded (General)

    You get +1 to Sanity saves and +1 to Intimidation attempts. Also, you gain +2 on saving throws to resist the Mind Touch power—your mind is a cold, dark place where few go willingly.

    False Attack (Warrior)

    Prerequisite(s): Challenge [Fast Feint]

    You can make a feint to set your opponent up for a devastating attack on a vital area. By taking the full round action, you can make a single false attack. If you miss, you have a –2 penalty to your defense the following round. If you hit, you deal +2 damage.

    Improved Knockout Punch (Warrior)

    Prerequisite(s): Improved Strike, Knockout Punch

    When your first unarmed attack is against a flat-footed opponent, treat a successful attack as a critical hit. This critical hit deals +4 damage instead of +3.

    Improved Overrun (General)

    Prerequisite(s): Strength +1

    When you attempt to overrun an opponent, the target may not choose to avoid you. You also gain a +2 bonus on your Strength check to knock down your opponent.

    Improved Rush (General)

    Prerequisite(s): Strength +1

    When you perform a rush, you gain a +2 bonus on the opposed Strength check to push back the defender.

    Inspire (Expert)

    The following is a new use of the Inspire feat (page 47).

    Commanding Voice: You are especially good at snapping people out of a freeze and reassuring them that things aren’t as bad as they seem. If you shout at someone who has a failed Sanity save, they can immediately reroll their Sanity save using your Charisma bonus to determine the new result. Doing this counts as a standard action and is considered the use of an interaction skill, even though no skill check is required. This means your subjects have to be able to hear and understand you. You can affect a number of subjects equal to half your expert level (with a minimum of one). You can use this feat once per day per expert level. You can spend a Conviction point for an additional use that day.

    Impromptu Weapon Proficiency (General)

    Household items are lethal weapons in your hands. You take only a –2 penalty on attack rolls when using any kind of improvised weapon. Additionally, Impromptu Weapons count as a weapon type for you, allowing you to acquire additional feats such as Attack Focus, which are normally unavailable for Impromptu Weapons.

    Jaded (General)

    You’ve seen it all. You receive a +2 bonus on all Sanity saves.

    Knockout Punch (General)

    Prerequisite(s): Improved Strike

    When your first unarmed attack is against a flat-footed opponent, treat a successful attack as a critical hit. This damage is non-lethal damage.

    Loner (General)

    You have few connections to other people or ideals. You do not suffer any penalties to Sanity saves for being alone or only having one other person present.

    Ritual Knowledge (General)

    Prerequisite: You must have discovered a ritual in written form and had at least a week to study and practice it.

    You have memorized the requirements and procedure for a particular ritual. Pick one supernatural power. You can perform that power as a ritual without requiring access to the written form of the ritual. You must still meet all other requirements of the ritual, such as special materials and conditions. See Rituals for further details and examples.

    Urban Tracking (General)

    You can track down the location of missing persons or wanted individuals.

    To find the trail of an individual or to follow it for 1 hour requires a Gather Information check. You must make another Gather Information check every hour of the search, as well as each time the trail becomes difficult to follow, such as when it moves to a different area of town.

    The Difficulty of the check and the number of checks required to track down your quarry depend on the community population and the conditions:

    Urban Tracking



    Checks Required

    Fewer than 2,000 5 3
    2,000-–9,999 10 4
    10,000–49,999 15 5
    50,000–99,999 20 6
    100,000–499,999 25 7
    500,000+ 30 8
    Urban Tracking Condition Modifiers


    Difficulty Modifier

    Every three creatures in the group being sought –1
    Every 24 hours the quarry has been missing or sought +1
    Tracked quarry “lies low” +5

    If you fail a Gather Information check, you can retry after one hour of questioning. You can cut the time per Gather Information check in half (to 30 minutes per check rather than one hour per check), but you suffer a –5 penalty on the check. This is the same as a challenge on your Gather Information skill check (limited to urban tracking) and you can take the Challenge feat (page 44) in order to cut the time for urban tracking in half without any penalty on your skill check.


    Supernatural powers are common in horror stories, but most often in the hands of the heroes’ adversaries! The Narrator should decide what, if any, powers are available to heroes (including the existence of the other power-wielding heroic roles described on pages 213–215). If powers are available to the heroes, they may include some or all of the following.

    Purifying Light

    Fatiguing, Concentration

    You can wield the power of pure light as a weapon against the forces of evil. This power allows you to do two things.

    Light Blast

    First, you can cast a supernatural bolt of light like an Elemental Blast (see Chapter Four), except it only affects undead and supernatural creatures of innate evil (creatures with the vice subtype), such as fiends.

    Shining Ward: Second, you can call forth a shining light to fill an area up to 60 feet across. Maintaining the area of pure light requires concentration. Any undead or supernatural creature with the vice subtype must make a Will save in order to enter the area of light, and another Will save each round to remain there. A failed save means the creature cannot enter the area and must leave immediately if it is already inside it.

    Both uses of Purifying Light are fatiguing. You make the fatigue save after each Light Blast and after you stop maintaining a Shining Ward.

    Time: Both uses of Purifying Light require a standard action.

    Summon Outsider


    Prerequisite: 6th-level adept or higher, trained in the Knowledge (Supernatural) and Knowledge (Theology and Philosophy) skills.

    You can summon outsiders, beings from other planes of existence, to serve you. This requires a check of d20 + adept level + your key ability with a Difficulty of 10 + twice the outsider’s level. Summoning a 5th level outsider is Difficulty 20, for instance. Summon Outsider is fatiguing (Difficulty 10 + the outsider’s level). Thesummoned creature does your bidding foranumber of days equal to your adept level before returning to its home plane.

    Time: Summon Outsider is a standard action.

    True Vision

    Fatiguing, Concentration

    Your insight is difficult to fool. You can use your True Vision bonus in place of your Sense Motive bonus to resist Bluff attempts. You can also use it in place of your Will save bonus to overcome Illusions and other supernatural powers that fool your senses. These benefits operate automatically for you once you have learned this power.

    If you take a full-round action, you can make a True Vision check, opposed by the bonus of any illusory or concealing ability or the Disguise or Stealth bonus of any creature. If you win the check, you see the subject as it truly is, ignoring the effects of any disguise, illusion or concealment. This effect is fatiguing and requires concentration to maintain.

    Time: True Vision normally requires no effort to use, operating automatically.


    More so than many other genres, horror is a feeling that transcends time and space. As such, Narrators may well to take players back in time to some of the more popular periods for horror, such as the Victorian era, the 1920s or the 1950s. Many are content to blend their horror with the contemporary era, while others prefer their horror in the cold depths of space. As such, rather than present you with a laundry list of goods, we’d prefer to present the Narrator with some guidelines to keep in mind.

    First off, consider the Wealth score your friend. Regardless of the period in which you elect to play, you can still use it as a rule of thumb. Just be aware of items that did not exist in the period in which you wish to game as it can break the atmosphere. If your party is sneaking through a foggy street in 1840s London and a rough pops out with an Uzi, you’ve probably lost their attention (and respect) unless you have an awfully good reason.

    True20 Adventure Roleplaying covers a lot of the basics, especially if you’re not overly concerned with details such as specific gun types and keeping up with ammunition variances. Should you find resource management an integral part of a horror experience and that sweating where your next bullet is going to come from really attenuates the horror, we’d like to recommend the exhaustive weapons list found in True20 Worlds of Adventure.

    Certain other items are of particular use to explorers of the dark and a sampling of such staples follows:

    Digital I/R Thermometer

    A hand-held, pistol-grip device, a digital infra-red thermometer can detect the surface temperature of an object at a distance of 20 feet. It can even detect ambient temperatures if aimed at a point in the air. When an apparition manifests or uses any of its powers, it draws energy from the environment. This draw of energy results in a rapid decrease in temperature around the entity. A digital thermometer can detect and record this change, but the results are often open to interpretation. For example if a reading is taken near an air conditioning vent or by a window at night, one would expect the ambient temperature of that area to be lower than the rest of the room. Only significant and abnormally rapid decreases in temperature are possible indications of a supernatural presence. Purchase Difficulty: 13.

    EMF Detector

    An EMF Detector is a device that can measure fluctuations in the ambient electromagnetic field (EMF) of an area approximately 30 feet across. Although EMF Detectors are normally used to locate power leaks and electrical wiring, paranormal investigators have also discovered that they can also detect the presence of supernatural entities. If an invisible creature of any kind is within 30 feet of an EMF Detector, the device will register an increase in the ambient EMF. Of course, a similar increase will occur if the detector is within 30 feet of an electrical device or power source, so great care must be used in interpreting the readings. Getting an accurate reading usually requires measuring the normal ambient EMF in every room in a house to get an idea of what is baseline for the area; baseline EMF is usually between .5 and 1.5. Any reading significantly above that baseline may indicate the presence of an invisible supernatural force. Purchase Difficulty: 10.

    Special Materials

    There are a few special materials that often crop up in the horror genre.


    Cold-wrought iron is a powerful ally in the fight against supernatural creatures. Its mystical properties include the ability to hold ghosts at bay, and to cause great injury to mischievous faeries and goblins. A weapon of cold-wrought iron ignores the DR of fey creatures and certain fiends. An apparition is unable to cross a complete circle of cold iron, which is why old cemeteries were encircled wrought iron fences; if a ghost wanted to wander, it was confined to the cemetery grounds. An apparition (see the True20 Bestiary) must succeed on a Difficulty 20 Will save to cross an enclosed circle of iron.


    Salt is believed by many cultures to hold magical properties. It can be used to keep spirits at bay and even ward off the devil himself. Spilled salt cast over the left shoulder fends off bad luck, and a circle of salt is often a component of summoning rituals to fence in the summoned entity. In a horror game, pure salt can be used in a variety of ways.

    Against Zombies

    A zombie animated by the Zombie ritual—but not one animated by the Imbue Unlife supernatural power or by other means—can be de-

    animated if it tastes salt. The usual means of defeating a zombie is by filling its mouth with salt and sewing it shut so it can never rise again. In more desperate situations, a handful of salt can be thrown into a zombie’s mouth to de-animate it. A human mouth is a Fine target, so getting salt into a zombie’s mouth is an attack roll with a Difficulty equal to 10 + the zombie’s Defense + 8.

    In Shotgun Shells

    A character who succeeds on a Difficulty 10 Craft (Gunsmith) check can open a shotgun shell and replace the shot with rock salt. Farmers often use this technique to scare off trespassers without inflicting serious injury on them. Rock salt counts as shot for damage purposes (see Chapter Five), and the range increment is only 10 ft. Used against the living, rock salt converts the shotgun’s damage from lethal to non-lethal. An interesting side effect of a rock salt shotgun blast is that it can temporarily disrupt an apparition’s ability to manifest. An apparition (see the True20 Bestiary) hit by rock salt must succeed on a Will save with a Difficulty equal to 15 + the shotgun’s damage. On a failed save, the apparition cannot manifest for 1 round. If it fails the save by 5 or more, the apparition cannot manifest for one minute (10 rounds); if it fails the save by 10 or more, it cannot manifest for one hour. This is only a temporary solution, of course, and other means must be followed in order to truly banish an apparition.

    In Wards and Summoning

    A circle of pure salt aids in keeping spirits at bay. An adept using the Ward or Summon Outsider supernatural powers receives a +2 bonus on the power check after spending a full round drawing a circle of salt. The salt must surround the area to be protected or where the entity will appear once summoned.


    Silver is a common material for weapons in the fight against the supernatural. It is a metal associated with purity and with the moon, and its properties when used against lycanthropes are well known. A silver weapon ignores the Damage Reduction of a lycanthrope. Silver was also once used as a backing for mirrors, and this may be why a vampire casts no reflection in a mirror—the purity of the silver “rejects” the vile image of the undead creature. In the modern day when mirrors no longer have silver backings, carrying a silver mirror is a simple means of verifying whether or not a person is indeed a vampire.

    Wooden Stake

    The most common weapon of a vampire hunter, a simple wooden stake can be used to keep a vampire from rising from the grave. In order to be effective, a stake must be made of a wood with certain innate magical properties, such as oak, mistletoe, or dogwood. Just jabbing a stake into the heart of a vampire is not enough to disable it: the creature must be nailed to the ground in order to keep it from rising.

    Optional Rules

    In this section and the next, we present you with a lot of ways to season your horror setting to taste. You’ll find guidelines for using ordinaries as adventurers, a discussion on group dynamics, ways to incorporate rituals neatly into your game, options for mental disorders, variable sanity systems, and directions in which to take your campaign.

    Ordinary Heroes

    In a typical True20 campaign, the characters are created using heroic roles. This assumes a certain level of competence and expertise above and beyond most people; indeed this is why they are called “heroes” in the first place.

    Heroes are not ordinary people. They are more skilled, more capable, and in general more powerful than the average “man on the street.”

    In a horror adventure, however, a Narrator might not want the characters to be quite so heroic. Part of the attraction of horror is pitting the common person against supernatural threats. Mixing heroic levels and ordinary levels allows a Narrator to run games where the characters are not quite as heroic as the normal roles allow. The Narrator can also use the mixed heroic/ordinary option to represent characters who originally know nothing of the supernatural but learn of it and eventually become heroic in their battles against it.

    Ordinary levels can be further modified using the role creation system (see Ordinaries and Role Creation in Chapter Nine). Using that method, the players have a little more leeway in advancing their characters by swapping their skill points for a General feat, a Slow combat progression, or a Good save progression.

    Option 1: Strictly Ordinary

    In a strictly ordinary game, the characters are not allowed to take levels in heroic roles. This approach has some significant pitfalls a Narrator should take into consideration. First, the only benefit the characters receive when they go up in level is skills. They get no Conviction, no Combat bonus, no increase in saving throws, and, most significantly, no feats and no core ability. The lack of feats is perhaps the most limiting factor of a strictly ordinary series. Without feats, a character can only wield simple weapons without suffering a –4 penalty. They have no way to increase their Toughness except through the use of armor, which in turn is limited by the fact they cannot take Armor Training feats to offset the armor check penalty.

    Because of all the disadvantages of the ordinary role, a strictly ordinary game is best left to one-shot scenarios where the characters are not expected to engage in a career of adventure.

    Option 2: Start as an Ordinary, Alternate with Hero

    A Narrator who wants to run a less heroic game can require a character’s first level be taken as an ordinary. Once characters attain 2nd level, they can select heroic roles and advance normally as a mixed-role heroes. Characters made using this option can be even further diluted from the heroic by requiring the player to take the ordinary level at every odd-numbered level.

    The biggest disadvantage for characters made using this option is that they lack the four starting feats heroic roles provide. They also lack Conviction, at least until they attain 2nd level and can take a heroic role. Furthermore, as mixed-role heroes whose first level is not a heroic role, such characters lack core abilities. These factors make for a character significantly disadvantaged when compared to purely heroic characters. However, some Narrators desire a grittier atmosphere in which to weave their horror; it certainly lends an air of quiet desperation to a scenario when the players know their characters have no Conviction to rely upon initially. Kind Narrators may allow characters who attain 2nd level the core ability associated with their selected heroic role, since they didn’t start with one.

    Option 3: Start as a Hero, Alternate with Ordinary

    This is perhaps the best option for Narrators who want the characters to be a little less heroic. Rather than starting out as ordinaries, the characters take on heroic roles at 1st level, but they must take the ordinary role on every even-numbered level (or even more infrequently, such as every third level). This slows the rate at which the character’s number of feats, Combat bonus and saving throws increase, while still allowing for some growth in terms of skill.

    Ritual Magic

    A curious teenager recites an incantation she found in an old book of magic and accidentally calls forth a demonic entity. A business tycoon who is secretly a powerful cult leader erects monuments that enable him to call down his alien god. A brave priest and his assistant face off in an exorcism against an evil spirit inhabiting the body of an innocent child. Rituals are a way for Narrators to enable adversaries and even ordinaries to wield some control over supernatural forces.

    Access to ritual magic should be tightly controlled by the Narrator. Power should not be so easy to come by that it becomes commonplace. A would-be ritualist may have to track down multiple ancient texts in order to piece together the various parts of a ritual, or the book in which the ritual can be found may be closely guarded in the archives of a museum or university.

    The heroes should not be given free and regular access to ritual magic, as that takes some of the mystery away from the horror genre. More than anything, ritual magic should be a plot device that begins or ends an adventure. The heroes may have to fight against a creature called to this world by a ritual, or, more dramatically, they have to interrupt a ritual in progress to prevent the creature from being summoned. Furthermore, many rituals have drastic and lasting consequences. The heroes must be aware of the ramifications of their actions; one who engages in the forbidden art of ritual magic risks corruption, his mind, his soul, and even the fate of the world itself.

    Guidelines for Rituals

    A ritual always requires some form of incantation, usually accompanied by gestures. Most rituals also require certain material components such as incense, a circle containing mystic symbols, or sacrifices of blood from a living victim.

    During a ritual the ritualist must make an Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma check depending on the nature of the ritual. Rituals with more powerful effects have much higher Difficulties, with the most powerful among them having a Difficulty so high the ritualist must rely on assistants to have any chance of success.

    Supernatural Powers as Rituals

    The easiest way to create a new ritual is to base it on one of the supernatural powers in Chapter Four or the True20 Bestiary. Not all supernatural powers are appropriate for conversion to rituals; usually rituals involve calling or driving away supernatural creatures, empowering one’s self, or altering some feature of the local environment (i.e. causing earthquakes or controlling weather).

    Narrators can use the following general guidelines to convert a supernatural power into a ritual.

    • Difficulty: The base Difficulty to perform a ritual is equal to 10 + the power’s normal power check Difficulty. If the effect of a power depends on the result of a power check, the ritualist chooses the Difficulty that will achieve the desired result.
    • Adept Levels: Use the ritualist’s total level as the adept level for any calculation relying on adept level (but not for powers in which the adept level is part of a d20 roll). For example, the Ward power would use the ritualist’s total level to determine its area of effect.
    • Fatiguing: If the supernatural power is fatiguing, increase the base Difficulty by +2. Furthermore, the ritual is fatiguing as well, requiring a successful Will save with a Difficulty equal to half the ritual’s Difficulty to avoid fatigue. The fatigue save Difficulty is calculated from the final Difficulty for the ritual, after all bonuses from aids and extended time have been applied.
    • Maintenance/Concentration: If the supernatural power requires maintenance or concentration, increase the base Difficulty by +2. If it requires both, increase the base Difficulty by +4.
    • Prerequisites: If the power has another power as a prerequisite, increase the base Difficulty by +2 for each required power. If the power has a level-based prerequisite—which includes powers with a power rank prerequisite—increase the base Difficulty by 1/2 the required level (rounded up). For example, Imbue Life has a prerequisite of Cure rank 12, which translates to at least 9 adept levels since power rank is equal to level + 3. This results in an increase of +7 to the base Difficulty: +2 for the power requirement and +5 for the level requirement.

      • Effects: A ritual normally only allows the ritualist to perform a single effect. To allow a single ritual to have multiple effects, increase the base Difficulty by +2 per extra effect. For example, the Ward power entails an area effect and a creature ward. A single ritual that does both has its base Difficulty increased by +2.
      • Time: Multiply the time required to use a supernatural power by 10. The result is how long it takes to perform the ritual. A supernatural power that is a move action or a standard action requires five rounds (30 seconds) to perform as a ritual, and a power that is a full-round action takes at least one minute (10 rounds). This time cannot be reduced, but it can be increased as the ritualist takes time and makes absolutely certain everything is being done correctly. Increasing the time required to perform a ritual reduces the Difficulty by an amount equal to the multiple minus 1. Therefore twice as long to perform the ritual reduces the Difficulty by 1, three times as long reduces it by 2, and so on to a maximum of –19 (20 times as long).

        Ritual Elements

        Each ritual description has the following elements:

      • Power: The supernatural power upon which the ritual is based, if any. Other than the ritual requirements, the power functions as written when used as a ritual.
      • Difficulty: The ability check required and the Difficulty. During a ritual, the ritualist must usually make an Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma check against a set Difficulty. Each assistant must also make a check of some sort, usually similar in nature to the check required by the ritualist. For each assistant who succeeds, the ritualist gets a +2 bonus to her roll as per Aid. A character involved in a ritual cannot take 10 or 20 on any check required by the ritual.
      • Ritualists: Each ritual has a ritualist who leads the ceremony and usually one or more assistants who aid the ritualist.

        Demonic Possession

        In the Horror genre, fiends rarely manifest physically unless they are specifically summoned via the Summon Outsider power or the Summon Demon ritual. Instead, fiends prefer to rely on more subtle approaches to influence mortals; they tempt those who contact them, spreading corruption and vice through suggestions and promises of power. Usually, the most overt actions a fiend takes involve possession of a living host. To reflect this, all fiends with the Mind Touch power have the Malevolence trait: Malevolence

        A fiend can possess a living creature through the use of the Mind Touch power. The target can resist the attack with a successful Will save (Difficulty of 10 + 1/2 the fiend’s level + the fiend’s Charisma). A creature that successfully saves is immune to that fiend’s Malevolence for 24 hours. If the save fails, the fiend vanishes into the target’s body and controls it as if using the Dominate supernatural power. While in possession of a mortal body, the fiend uses its own mental ability scores and Will save and has access to all of its Intelligence-, Wisdom-, and Charisma-based skills, all of its adept feats and skill-based feats, and all of its supernatural powers and traits except the ability to summon other fiends. It does not have access to its physical ability scores, skills, feats, or traits (such as DR).

        If you are using the Corruption rules, a character possessed by a fiend automatically gains a point of Corruption If the character willingly allowed the fiend to possess him, he gains two points of Corruption.

      • Components: Any special items or materials required for the ritual.
      • Aids: Any special qualities the ritualist and her assistants must possess, as well as certain qualities that provide a bonus to the ritualist’s check. One aid consistent for all rituals is adept levels. The ritualist adds half her adept level (rounded down) to her ability score check to perform the ritual.
      • Time: How long it takes to perform the ritual.
      • Costs: Some rituals inflict injury or ability damage, or negatively affect some other aspect of the participants.
      • Success: What effect the ritual has if successful. Usually, success means the power works as written.
      • Failure: What happens if the ritual fails. Unlike normal supernatural powers, rituals usually have some drastic consequence for failure.

      Sample Ritual: Exorcism

      This ritual drives out demons or evil spirits possessing a victim or inhabiting a building.

      Power: Ward (creature ward vs. Outsiders), fatiguing

      Difficulty: Charisma check Difficulty 32 (10 + base Difficulty 20 +2 for fatiguing). Each assistant must succeed on a Difficulty 10 Charisma check to aid the ritualist. Will save Difficulty 16 to avoid fatigue.

      Ritualists: An exorcism requires a ritualist and usually at least one assistant.

      Components: No components are required, but religious exorcists generally use symbols and texts sacred to their religion as well as other substances symbolizing purity, such as holy water, salt, or white candles.

      Aids: The ritualist must be trained in either the Knowledge (theology and philosophy) or Knowledge (supernatural) skills. The ritualist must also be pure of heart and faith: he must have no Corruption and must not have gained Conviction by giving in to his vice for at least a week prior to the exorcism. Other requirements maybe enforced by the Narrator depending on the ritualist’s religion, such as a Catholic priest needing the approval of the church before attempting an exorcism. The Difficulty of the Charisma check increases by +2 for each condition he fails to meet.

      The ritualist receives a +1 bonus if he has 6 or more ranks in Knowledge (supernatural) or Knowledge (theology and philosophy), and a +2 bonus if he has 6 or more ranks in both skills. The ritualist gets an additional bonus of +1 to +4 if he has some sway over the entity, such as having knowledge of a spirit’s past life or knowing a demon’s true name. The amount of this bonus (if any) is up to the Narrator. Assistants with 6 or more ranks in Knowledge (supernatural) or Knowledge (theology and philosophy) provide a bonus of +3 to the primary ritualist rather than the usual +2.

      Time: 5 rounds

      Costs: The ritualist and each assistant may have to make Sanity saves depending on what the entity does during the exorcism. Anyone who fails a Sanity saves automatically fails any other check she must make during the ritual. Any character present at an exorcism can offer himself to the entity to spare the body of the possessed victim. This is usually an act of desperation when an exorcism has gone wrong and the entity threatens to hurt its current victim. In this case, the martyr automatically gains a point of Conviction because of the sacrifice. Of course, the entity can always choose not to accept the offer. The exorcism must begin anew to confront the entity in the new victim.

      Success: If the ritualist succeeds on his Charisma check, the entity must succeed on a Will save or be forced from its host. The save Difficulty is equal to the base Difficulty chosen by the ritualist. (In this sample exorcism, the base Difficulty is 20, so that is the fiend’s Will save Difficulty). If the entity is an outsider, it is forced to return to its plane of origin and may not return unless specifically summoned. If the entity is a ghost it is disrupted and cannot manifest for d20 months. A ghost with a number of levels equal to less than half of the ritualist’s adept levels (rounded down) is destroyed.

      Failure: If the ritualist fails the Charisma check or the entity succeeds on its Will save, the entity remains in place and the exorcism must be started anew. The entity may also choose to possess any character present instead. The victim and the entity must make opposed Will saves, with the entity taking possession of its victim if it succeeds.

      Sample Ritual: Séance

      This ritual enables the ritualist to force an apparition to manifest in order to communicate with it. (See the Apparition template in the True20 Bestiary).

      Power: Mind Touch

      Difficulty: Charisma check Difficulty 20 (10 + base Difficulty 10) if the spirit is in the location where the séance is taking place. If the spirit is being called from another location, the Difficulty is modified by the ritualist’s familiarity with the spirit. Most ritualists are at least slightly familiar with the spirits they try to contact either through personal research or by having them described in detail before the séance. Likewise, prior use of other powers such as Sense Minds and Second Sight may allow a ritualist to learn enough about a local spirit to be considered casually familiar. Each assistant must succeed on a Difficulty 10 Charisma check to aid the ritualist.

      Ritualists: A séance requires a circle of at least two people, one of whom is the ritualist.

      Components: None. The ritualist and each assistant need only link hands and concentrate.

      Aids: The ritualist needs only to have some knowledge of the supernatural; she must be trained in the Knowledge (supernatural) skill. The ritualist gets a +2 bonus if she has 6 or more ranks in Knowledge (supernatural).

      Time: 1 minute (10 rounds)

      Costs: The ritualist and all assistants may have to make Sanity saves if an apparition does appear, and may have to make more Sanity saves depending on what it does during the séance. A character involved in the ritual who fails a Sanity save automatically breaks the séance chain, which might dismiss the apparition.

      Success: If the primary ritualist succeeds on her Charisma check, an apparition responds to her call. Depending on its whims, it can manifest and communicate with the ritualist or anyone present in the room. If the séance is held in a place known to be haunted, the answering apparition will be the most powerful entity in that area (measured by level + Charisma) or the specific entity named, whichever condition applies. If a séance is held in a place that is not haunted or where a haunting is only suspected, the ritualist must call a specific entity by name. Otherwise, any entity may answer the call. The latter is a potentially dangerous situation and should only be attempted by a ritualist who is certain she can control the answering entity. Once called, an apparition remains for a number of minutes equal to its Charisma (minimum of one minute). The ritualist can dismiss an apparition before that time expires by making a Charisma check opposed by the apparition’s Will save. Dismissing an apparition is a standard action. If the séance chain is ever broken, such as by a member of the chain releasing her partners’ hands, the apparition can try to possess that person as a free action if it has the Malevolence trait. If it does not possess the trait or cannot possess the person, it must succeed on a Difficulty 20 Will save or be instantly dismissed. A dismissed apparition cannot be summoned by a séance or manifest for 24 hours.

      Failure: If the ritualist fails the Charisma check by 4 or less, no apparition is called and the séance is a failure. If the ritualist fails by 5 or more, the results can be disastrous. The narrator is free to interpret the consequences of a failed séance as he sees fit. One possible consequence is that a hostile entity—such as an evil apparition or even a demon—answers the call.

      Sample Ritual: Summon Demon

      This ritual allows the ritualist to call forth a fiend to do his bidding (see Fiends in the True20 Bestiary.)

      Power: Summon Outsider, fatiguing

      Difficulty: Charisma check Difficulty 37 (10 + base Difficulty 22 + 2 for fatiguing + 3 for level prerequisite). Assistants must succeed on a Difficulty 10 Charisma check to aid the ritualist. Will save Difficulty 18 to avoid fatigue.

      Ritualists: Only a ritualist is required, but assistants are usually utilized due to the high Difficulty.

      Components: The ritualist must perfectly inscribe a summoning circle into which the summoned fiend will appear. The ritualist gets a +1 bonus for each of the following additional components used: an altar specifically dedicated to the summoning of fiends, special incenses and candles, an animal sacrifice (of an animal or animals with a total level of 5 or greater), ritual performed on an unholy day.

      Aids: The ritualist receives a +1 bonus if he has 6 or more ranks in Knowledge (supernatural) or Knowledge (theology and philosophy), and a +2 bonus if he has 6 or more ranks in both skills. The ritualist gets an additional bonus of +1 to +4 if he has some sway over the entity, such as knowing a demon’s true name. The amount of this bonus (if any) is up to the Narrator. The sacrifice of an intelligent creature (Int –2 or greater) provides a +10 bonus.

      Time: 1 minute (10 rounds)

      Costs: When the fiend appears in the summoning circle, everyone present must make a Sanity save with a Difficulty equal to the Terror level of the fiend. Witnesses not subject to Sanity saves are immune. If you are using the Corruption rules, the ritualist and all assistants automatically gain a point of Corruption for participating in summoning a fiend.

      Success: If the ritualist succeeds on the Charisma check, a fiend of the desired type (or the specific fiend named) appears in the summoning circle and awaits its orders. The base Difficulty of this sample summoning ritual is 22; using this ritual, the ritualist can summon a 6th-level fiend (such as a bearded fiend or a succubus from the True20 Bestiary).

      Failure: If the ritualist fails his Charisma check, no fiend is summoned. The ritual is a failure and must be restarted. If the ritualist fails by more than 5 or more, a fiend of 2nd level or lower may appear for no other purpose than to wreak havoc among those involved in the ritual. It obeys no one and attacks everything in sight for five rounds before returning to its home plane.

      Sample Ritual: Zombie

      This ritual allows the ritualist to transform a corpse into a zombie slave. Power: Imbue Unlife, fatiguing

      Difficulty: Wisdom check Difficulty 12 (10 + 2 for fatiguing). Each assistant must succeed on a Difficult 10 Wisdom check to aid the ritualist. Will save Difficulty 6 to avoid fatigue.

      Ritualists: The zombie ritual requires only a ritualist.

      Components: A fresh corpse, grave dirt, at least one pint of animal blood.

      Aids: A ritualist with at least 6 ranks in the Knowledge (supernatural) skill receives a +2 bonus on her Charisma check.

      Time: 10 minutes

      Costs: When a zombie rises, everyone present must make a Sanity save with a Difficulty equal to the Terror level of the zombie. Witnesses not subject to Sanity saves are immune. Creating If you are using the Corruption rules the ritualist automatically gains a point of Corruption for creating a zombie.

      Success: If the ritualist succeeds on her Wisdom check, the corpse animates as a zombie. The zombie is animated indefinitely (until it is destroyed) and is fanatically loyal to the ritualist. The zombie can be destroyed by physical means, or de-animated by filling its mouth with salt.

      Failure: If the ritualist fails her Wisdom check, the corpse is not animated and can never again be subject to any form of the Imbue Unlife power or any rituals dealing with necromancy.

      Fear and Terror

      Whether it’s called a Horror Check, a Fear Save, or Sanity, one of the staples of Horror gaming is some mechanic to represent the character’s “fight or flight” reaction to supernatural events. Although some players claim that such mechanics unfairly deny them control of their own character, it does bring an element of fear into the game itself. You never know how badly you’re going to roll on a Sanity save, and it could mean the difference between fighting bravely and curling up into a terrified ball. That uncertainty helps bring the drama to the player more than just straight roleplaying alone. Certainly, no one wants their character to be the one paralyzed with fear when the monster rears its ugly head, but likewise no one wants their character to be injured in a battle. Having heroes who are subject to fear and terror isn’t all that different from heroes subject to injury and death—it’s just a matter of game mechanics. Physical trauma damages the character’s body, and psychological trauma damages the character’s mind.

      The Sanity Save

      Anyone encountering a sudden shock or horror must make a Sanity saving throw. This is a roll of d20 + the character’s Sanity bonus, plus any relevant feats and represents the mind’s ability to deal with scary situations and reality-bending encounters. Think of it as a kind of “psychological Toughness saving throw.” In fact the Sanity save mechanic uses a system almost identical to the Toughness save mechanic. A character’s Sanity bonus varies, depending on which method the Narrator chooses for the series (see The Basis of Sanity for details).

      A Sanity save has a base Difficulty of 15 plus a modifier equal to the Fear/Terror Level of the encounter. For example, a ghoul springs out of the dark. It has a Terror Level of 3, so the Difficulty is 18 (15+3).

      Sanity Saving Throw = d20 + Sanity Bonus + Feats vs. Difficulty 15 + Fear/Terror Level

      If the Sanity save succeeds, the target suffers no significant effect, nothing more than a slight scare or jolt. If the Sanity save fails, the target suffers mental health damage. The effects depend on the degree of the encounter (Fear or Terror) and the amount the Sanity save result is below the Difficulty.

      Fear is instilled by lesser horrors and scares: a sudden cry, a gunshot, a man leaping out of a dark alley, etc.

      A failed Sanity roll against Fear means the target is startled, imposing a –1 penalty on further saves against Fear, but not affecting saves against terror. If the Sanity save fails by 5 or more, the target is spooked; mark down a spooked condition on the Mental Health Track. A spooked condition also imposes a –1 modifier on further saves against Fear. If the Sanity save fails by 10 or more, the target is frightened; check off the frightened box on the Mental Health Track. If the Sanity save fails by 15 or more, the target is terrified; check off the terrified box on the Mental Health Track. If a target suffers a result that is already checked off, check off the next highest result. So, if a target is already frightened and suffers another frightened result, check off the terrified box. If the terrified box is checked and the character suffers another effect from Fear, check off the first available Terror box (so, go to confused, unhinged and so forth.)

      Terror is inflicted by great horrors and shocks that question the viewer’s perceptions of reality: a window frosting over in the middle of summer, a ghost walking through the wall and so on.

      A failed Sanity roll against a terror means the target is scared. Each scared result imposes a –1 penalty on further Sanity saves. If the Sanity save fails by 5 or more, the target is confused; mark down a confused condition on the Mental Health Track. A confused result also imposes a –1 modifier on further Sanity saves. If the Sanity save fails by 10 or more, the target is unhinged; check off the unhinged box on the Mental Health Track. If the Sanity save fails by 15 or more, the target is psychotic; check off the psychotic box on the Mental Health Track. If a target suffers a result that is already checked off, check off the next highest result, so if a target is already confused and suffers another confused result, check off the unhinged box. If that’s already checked off, check off the psychotic box. A character can only be pushed immediately over the brink of sanity by being exposed to a great shock or a series of shocks while already in a mentally unstable condition.

      Mental Anguish

      Terror effects cause fear effects as well. Whenever your hero suffers a terror effect, check off the corresponding Fear box, too. So, a hero who is confused is also spooked, a hero who is scared is also startled. The effects of the mental health conditions are cumulative, except for startled and scared conditions, where only the highest value applies.








      Startled Spooked Frightened Terrified
      0 0 0
      0 0 0 0
      Scared Confused Unhinged Psychotic Insane

      Impossible Sanity Saves

      If the Difficulty of a Sanity save is so high the hero cannot possibly succeed, even with a 20 on the die roll, the Sanity save is still rolled to determine the effect (the amount by which the character misses the Difficulty). A natural 20 means the character is only startled or scared, regardless of the Difficulty. Fate intervenes to shield the character’s mind from otherwise certain trauma.

      Narrators interested in more realistic consequences for fear and terror should ignore this rule.

      Minions and Sanity

      A minion makes a Sanity save against mental health damage as usual; however, if the save fails, the minion suffers the maximum possible result for the Fear/Terror in question. For Fear, this usually means terrified, while for Terror, this usually means psychotic. This is, of course, subject to the Narrator’s discretion.

      Modifiers to Sanity Saves Situation Modifier
      A loved one is endangered. +4
      You possess something proven to be useful against the threat. +4
      A loved one is clearly endangered by the threat. +4
      A friend or ally is clearly endangered by the threat. +2
      You possess something believed to be useful against the threat. +2
      You have been warned about what you’re about to see. +2
      You are with several (4+) allies. +2
      You defeated a similar threat in the past. +1
      You are in close quarters (no place to run). –1
      You have faced and been defeated by a similar threat in the past. –1
      An innocent is participating in the scene (but not threatened). –1
      Each previously failed Sanity save –1
      You are accompanied by only 1 other person. –2
      A friend or ally is participating in the scene (but not threatened). –2
      Dim light. –2
      You are alone. –4
      Total darkness. –4
      You are at “wounded” or worse on the damage track. –4

      Fear Effects

      • Startled: A startled character receives a –1 penalty to further Fear saves.
      • Spooked: A spooked character receives a –1 penalty to further saves against Fear. The character flees as fast as possible for one full round or cowers, dazed, if unable to get away. He defends normally, but cannot attack. The following round, he can act normally.
      • Frightened: A frightened character loses one full round action. They can take no action, lose their dodge bonus to Defense, and have a –2 penalty to Defense. In the following rounds, frightened characters can only take a standard or move action.
      • Terrified: A terrified character falls to the floor, catatonic and helpless until he recovers.

        Terror Effects

      • Scared: A scared character receives a –1 penalty to further Sanity saves.
      • Confused: A confused character is shaken. They receive a –2 penalty on all checks, including attack rolls and Fortitude, Reflex and Will saving throws. This persists until the confused condition is lifted. Additionally, a confused character is stunned for one round after being confused. They can take no actions, lose their dodge bonus to Defense, and have a –2 penalty to Defense.
      • Unhinged: An unhinged character suffers –2 penalty to effective Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma until this condition is lifted.
      • Psychotic: Psychotic characters suffer a –3 penalty to effective Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma until this condition is lifted and may only take a single action each turn. If a character was previously unhinged, these penalties replace those.
      • Insane: This character is unable to interact meaningfully with the world. This usually means the end for the character, as he is a gibbering shadow of his former self. Powerful sorceries or long-term counseling can restore sanity in some, but not all, cases.

      Regaining Your Wits

      Recovering from mental health damage requires a Wisdom check (Difficulty 10). A successful check erases the mental condition, while an unsuccessful check means there is no significant improvement for that time period.

      You can make a recovery check once per minute for frightened and terrified, once per hour for confused, once per day for unhinged and once per week for psychotic. Insane characters are over the brink and can only be returned to sanity (and to play) by special dispensation of the Narrator.

      You can spend a Conviction point to get an immediate recovery check from Fear effects, rather than having to wait a minute. You can also spend Conviction on your recovery check.

      Startled and spooked conditions fade automatically at a rate of one per minute. Scared conditions do the same at a rate of one per hour.

      Characters may use Knowledge (behavorial science), or an interaction skill as deemed appropriate by the Narrator to use the Aid action to assist the target’s recovery. A character may only benefit from one person’s help at a time in this manner.

      The Basis of Sanity

      When planning the type of horror setting you want to create, it’s essential to consider how you want to handle one of the more aspects of the game, Sanity. Following, you will find three Sanity variations for your perusal. Consider them carefully as each will have a varying impact on your game and how your players will approach your adventures. The effects of each are listed in their individual descriptions. Once you select a Sanity system, you should naturally use the same method for all characters in a campaign.

      Sanity as an Ability Check

      Total Level

      Sanity Save Ba

      Hero Base Sanity Bonus

      se Value

      Minion Base Sanity Bonus

      1 +2 +0
      2 +3 +0
      3 +3 +1
      4 +4 +1
      5 +4 +1
      6 +5 +2
      7 +5 +2
      8 +6 +2
      9 +6 +3
      10 +7 +3
      11 +7 +3
      12 +8 +4
      13 +8 +4
      14 +9 +4
      15 +9 +5
      16 +10 +5
      17 +10 +5
      18 +11 +6
      19 +11 +6
      20 +12 +6

      The character’s Sanity bonus is equal to an ability score, such as Wisdom or Charisma.

      With this option, the character’s Sanity bonus does not increase with level. The bonus only increases through the selection of certain feats and when the character’s ability bonus increases. Since the Sanity bonus does not increase with level, there is no way to model characters growing accustomed to the supernatural. A character is just as susceptible to Fear and Terror at high levels as at lower levels.

      When using this method with Charisma as the key ability, the benefit of the Lucky feat does not apply to the character’s Sanity save bonus (since it’s already a Charisma-based save).

      This method, using Wisdom, is the default method in the Agents of Oblivion campaign setting in True20 Worlds of Adventure.

      Sanity as a Will Save

      The character’s Sanity bonus is equal to her Will save bonus.

      As a Will save, the character’s Sanity bonus increases with level and is explicitly tied to Wisdom. The character can be assumed to be growing more accustomed to the unnatural as she progresses in level, thanks to the increasing Will save. Naturally, adepts and experts who select Will as their good save have a distinct advantage over other characters when using this method. Furthermore, since the effects of the Iron Will, Jaded, and Lucky feats stack, it is easy to build up a character’s bonus to Sanity saves.

      Sanity as a New Save

      Sanity is a new saving throw in addition to Toughness, Fortitude, Reflexes, and Will.

      Like Will save-based Sanity saves, this method has the advantage that it increases with level and can be further augmented through the use of feats designed to counter fear and terror. A Sanity save using this method is made like any other saving throw. A character’s Sanity save bonus is equal to base Sanity save value from level plus Wisdom or Charisma modifier.

      The Narrator chooses whether to use Wisdom or Charisma as the key ability for Sanity saves. When using this method with Charisma as they key ability, the benefit of the Lucky feat does not apply to the character’s Sanity save bonus (since it’s already a Charisma-based save).

      Unlike other saving throws, which are role-dependent, all heroic characters have Sanity as a good save. The reason for this is that heroes are braver and more resistant to fear and terror than normal people; this is part of what makes them heroes. A hero can stand in the face of fear and be relatively unshaken by horrible things that would send a normal person into fits of hysteria.

      Determining the Sanity

      Save Difficulty

      Narrators should keep a few key concepts in mind when setting the Difficulty for a Sanity save. Firstly, they must decide which effect is most appropriate for the save: Fear or Terror. A Sanity save results in a Fear effect if it is caused by frightening but otherwise normal events. A Sanity save results in Terror if it is triggered by supernatural events or events that can cause psychological trauma. A supernaturally inspired Sanity save should only have a low Difficulty if it can somehow be explained away through odd coincidences or natural forces.

      Fear/Terror Level for Creatures

      With the introduction of Sanity saves into the game, it is necessary to add the traits of Fear and Terror to existing Adversaries found in such reference works as the True20 Bestiary. Any creature listed with a Fear or Terror Level forces an appropriate Sanity save and is immune to the effects of Fear and Terror.

      Adding a Fear/Terror Level to a creature is easy: it is equal to its total levels. Consult the chart below to determine the appropriate classification, either Fear or Terror. You can add situational modifiers as you see fit. It is suggested you reserve assigning Fear for animals and vermin to those especially scary ones, like giant cockroaches and hungry wolves, not the neighborhood dog or an individual rat. Likewise, normal animals that are dangerous but which have been rendered harmless (or at least seemingly so) would not trigger a Sanity save; looking at a tiger in a zoo is not nearly the same as encountering one in the wild with no fence between you and it.

      A creature’s Fear/Terror level can be reduced by virtue of its appearance or reputation. For example, unicorns and true gargoyles are each 4th- level creatures, which gives them a Fear level of 4. Unicorns are less fearsome-looking than gargoyles and are more likely to inspire awe than fear, so it wouldn’t be out of line to reduce the unicorn’s Fear level to 2 or even 0.

      *A monstrous humanoid or supernatural beast provokes Fear or Terror depending on its appearance.

      Optional Rule:


      Characters reduced to “unhinged” or worse on the mental health track suffer from severe penalties as a result of the mental trauma they have experienced. Depending on how well those characters roll on their recovery checks, the more severe penalties could last for days or even weeks.

      Rather than dealing with those penalties, a character can wipe out all mental health conditions in exchange for a disorder selected by the Narrator or rolled on the Random Disorder Table. A Narrator can also automatically give a character a Disorder if the player rolls a natural 1 on the Sanity save or recovery check.

      A disorder comes into effect within one day of the event that triggered it.

      If a character develops a mania or a phobia, the disorder should be tailored to fit the circumstances of the event that triggered it. For example, a character who avoided a ghoul in a cemetery by hiding behind a tree might develop Dendromaina—the overwhelming desire to be around trees. Without a tree to hide behind, he feels vulnerable and exposed. Likewise he could just as easily develop coimetrophobia (ghouls dwell in cemeteries, after all) or necrophobia (dead things attract ghouls).


      The character turns an addictive substance to banish the memories that haunt him. While under the influence of the substance he suffers a –1 penalty on all attack rolls, saves, ability score checks, and skill checks. This penalty lasts for 24 hours. He can go a maximum number of days equal to his Charisma or his Constitution (whichever is greater) before entering withdrawal. When in withdrawal, the character must succeed on a Difficulty 10 Fortitude save each day or be shaken until a new fix is gained. A character who is tempted by his addiction (e.g. someone offers him a drink) must succeed on a Difficulty 10 Will save to resist. A character addicted to an illegal substance also risks arrest.

      Stacking Effects: Increase the penalty while under the influence by 1, or increase the Fortitude save Difficulty to resist withdrawal by 2, or select an additional substance to which the character is addicted. A character with multiple addictions must satisfy each addiction to avoid withdrawal. Every time a character receives the Addiction disorder, his Wealth bonus decreases by 1.

      Static Sanity Save Difficulties


      Sample Causes for a Situational Sanity Save

      Fear/ Terror Effect

      5 Hearing a distant gunshot. Fear 5 Finding a human skeleton. Terror 10 Trapped in a potentially deadly situation. Fear 10 Finding a human corpse. Terror 15 Witnessing a scene of great pain or suffering.


      15 Hearing a sudden scream very close by. Fear 20 A large explosion happens nearby. Fear

      20 Seeing someone sacrificed in a dark ritual. Terror

      Creature Fear/Terror

      Creature Type Fear Terror
      Aberration Y
      Animal Y
      Construct (robotic) Y
      Construct (supernatural) Y
      Dragon Y
      Elemental Y
      Fey Y
      Humanoid Y
      Monstrous humanoid* Y Y
      Ooze Y
      Outsider Y
      Plant Y
      Supernatural beast* Y Y
      Undead Y
      Vermin Y
      Random Disorder Table
      d20 Disorder
      1 Weakened mind
      2 Depression
      3 Sociopathic tendencies
      4 Obsessive-compulsive disorder
      5–6 Addiction
      7 Psychotic episodes
      8 Paranoia
      9–11 Phobia
      12–13 Generalized anxiety disorder
      14–15 Delusions and hallucinations
      16–17 Night terrors
      18 Obsession
      19 Mania
      20 Amnesia

      The character mentally blocks out the memories of whatever caused the trauma, but suffers from occasional flashbacks. If this disorder is selected, take note of the event that triggered it and the Sanity save Difficulty. If reminded of the event in the future, the character must succeed on a Sanity (Terror) check with a Difficulty equal to that of the original event as the repressed memories flood back in. If the character succeeds on the Sanity save, her denial is still in effect and she can lock out the memories once more.

      Stacking Effects: If this disorder is caused by a similar event or memories of the original event, increase the Sanity save Difficulty by 1 as the memories become harder and harder to shut out.

      Delusions and Hallucinations

      The character begins to hear voices, catch movement out of the corner of her eye, and see fleeting glimpses of things when nothing is present. She cannot be certain if what she is seeing is real or just the product of her own troubled mind. She has a –1 penalty on all Notice and Search checks and on Sanity saves.

      Stacking Effects: Increase the penalty on Notice and Search checks and Sanity saves by 1.


      The character loses hope for the future and ceases attaching emotional importance to certain aspects of life. He suffers a –2 penalty on Will saves and a –1 penalty on all other saves and checks due to a lack of motivation. This penalty does not apply to Sanity saves; the character simply does not care enough to be particularly bothered by anything he sees.

      Stacking Effects: Increase the penalty by 1 each.

      Generalized Anxiety Disorder

      The character suffers from a variety of physical and emotional symptoms such as jumpiness, twitches, expectations of doom, and hyper-vigilance. He jumps at shadows and is always looking for danger. All attack rolls, saving throws, ability checks, and skill checks (except for Notice checks) suffer a –1 penalty. Notice checks have a +1 bonus.

      Stacking Effects: Increase the penalty on attack rolls, saving throws, ability checks, and skill checks (as well as the bonus on Notice checks) by 1.


      The character has a strong, unnatural desire for some particular object or situation and feels comforted by its presence. In situations where the subject of his mania is not present, he must succeed on a Difficulty 10 Will save or be shaken until he can obtain it.

      Stacking Effects: Select an additional mania or increase the Will save Difficulty by 2 for an existing mania.

      Night Terrors

      The character’s sleep is frequently plagued with nightmares. Each time the character sleeps, she must succeed on a Difficulty 10 Will save or suffer a nightmare so vivid she wakes up screaming and cannot sleep for at least 8 hours. The character is automatically fatigued for the next 24 hours due to lack of sleep. The only way to alleviate this penalty is through a full 8 hours of sleep. A character who resorts to pharmaceutical means to achieve her needed rest may become addicted to the medication.

      Stacking Effects: Increase the Will save Difficulty by 2 to avoid having a night terror.


      The character becomes obsessed with something, investing strong emotional bonds in it or gaining a sense of security from possessing it. The object of the obsession could be a sentimental trinket of some kind or something the character insists can protect or shield them from danger (such as a crucifix or good luck charm). The character must keep the object of her obsession with her at all times. She frequently checks to see if the item is on her person, and absentmindedly fondles the item in times of stress. If the item is removed from the character, she becomes frantic and suffers a –1 penalty on all attack rolls, skill checks, ability checks, and saving throws until the object is returned or the disorder is removed.

      Stacking Effects: Increase the penalty on all attack rolls, skill checks, ability checks, and saving throws by 1.

      Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

      The character develops a set of rituals and nervous responses that he must perform. This unsettles people around him, giving the character a –1 penalty on all Charisma-based checks. If the character is prevented from performing his rituals, he suffers a –1 penalty on all skill checks.

      Stacking Effects: Increase the penalty on Charisma-based skill checks by 1.


      The character becomes convinced that enemies are everywhere. He suffers a –2 penalty on Sense Motive checks and always believes that others are plotting against him if he fails a Sense Motive check.

      Stacking Effects: Increase the penalty on Sense Motive checks by 2.


      The character has a strong, unnatural fear of some particular object or situation. If confronted with the subject of her fear, she must succeed on a Difficulty 12 Sanity (Fear) check. If the Sanity save is triggered by a creature, the creature’s Sanity save Difficulty is increased by +2.

      Stacking Effects: Select an additional phobia or increase the Fear (panic) save Difficulty by 1 for an existing phobia.

      Psychotic Episodes

      The character suffers occasional psychotic episodes during which he becomes mentally detached from reality. He may become delusional and see terrifying hallucinations, or he may become manic and rant wildly about the horrors that he has seen. Before each game session, the character must succeed on a Difficulty 15 Will save or suffer a psychotic episode at some point during the game session. The Narrator decides when the psychotic episode occurs. During a psychotic episode, the character is shaken.

      Stacking Effects: Increase the Will save Difficulty to avoid having a psychotic episode by 1.

      Sociopathic Tendencies

      A character who becomes a sociopath slowly loses the capacity to connect with anything he experiences or is involved in. He suffers 1 point of Charisma drain as his emotions deaden and he stops caring about the world around him. The only Charisma skill not affected by the Charisma drain is Intimidate. A character whose Charisma drops to less than –3 by taking this Disorder becomes an incurable sociopath and is taken over by the Narrator.

      Stacking Effects: 1 additional point of Charisma drain.

      Weakened Mind

      A character with this disorder gains a permanent –1 penalty to all Sanity saves and a –2 penalty to Will saves to recover from disorders. This condition must be eliminated before any hope exists of curing other mental disorders the character may have.

      Stacking Effects: An additional –1 Penalty to Sanity saves and an additional –2 to Will saves to recover from disorders. For every two instances of this disorder, the character’s Charisma is reduced by 1 as he exhibits nervous twitches and erratic behavior.

      Prefix Sample Manias an

      Desire for (-mania)/Fear of (-phobia)

      d Phobias


      Desire for (-mania)/Fear of (-phobia)
      Acro- Heights Hemo- Blood
      Aero- Air Herpeto- Reptiles
      Agora- Open spaces Hydro- Water
      Ailuro- Cats Iatro- Doctors
      Andro- Men (males) Icthyo- Fish
      Anthropo- People or society Insecto- Insects
      Arachno- Spiders Ligyro- Loud noises
      Astro- Stars Mechano- Machines
      Auto- Being alone or by oneself Motor- Automobiles
      Automatono- Things that falsely represent a sentient being Muso- Mice and rats
      Automyso- Being dirty Necro- Death or dead things
      Aviato- Flying Nelo- Glass
      Bacterio- Germs Nocti- The night
      Ballisto- Missiles or bullets Nosocome- Hospitals
      Baro- Loss of gravity Nycto- Night or nightfall
      Batho- Depth or deep places Odonto- Teeth
      Biblio- Books Oneiro- Dreams
      Blenno- Slime Onomato- A certain name, word, or phrase
      Botano- Plants Ophidio- Snakes
      Bronto- Thunder and lightning Ornitho- Birds
      Bufono- Toads Osse- Bones
      Caco- Ugliness Pago- Ice or frost
      Ceno- Emptiness, empty rooms Pedi- Children
      Chiono- Snow Phago- Eating
      Chronomentro- Clocks Phono- Noise, including one’s own voice
      Claustro- Confined spaces Pyro- Fire
      Coimetro- Cemeteries Scoto- Darkness
      Coulro- Clowns Somni- Sleep
      Cyno- Dogs Spectro- Mirrors
      Daemono- Demons Taphe- Being buried alive
      Demo- Crowds Terato- Monsters
      Dendro- Trees Thalasso- The sea
      Dipso- Drinking Thanato- Death or dying
      Entomo- Insects Tomo- Surgery
      Gephyro- Crossing bridges Urano- The heavens, the sky
      Geronto- Old people or of growing old Vermi- Worms
      Gyne- Woman (females) Xantho- The color yellow
      Hamarto- Sin or making an error Xeno- Strangers
      Haphe- Being touched Xylo- Wood or wooden objects
      Helio- The sun Xyro- Razors
      Hemato- Bleeding Zoo- Animals

      A Bag Full of Bones

      The list of manias and phobias on the Sample Manias and Phobias table is included as a handy reference and as a source of inspiration for Narrator’s crafting their adventures. Many great works of horror, both cinematic and written, pare down their themes to the essence of one idea and use it as a motif in their work. You, as the director of your own nightmares, can pluck out a bone, such as Automysomania, the desire to be dirty, and easily flesh it out for an evening’s entertainment.

      Eliminating Disorders

      Regardless of the time period, mental disorders are not easy to eliminate. At best, a patient with a single disorder can recover in a month’s time with proper care and intensive counseling. In less prosaic conditions, the character can be subjected to extremes of physical and psychological trauma, possibly resulting in further withdrawal into the dark recesses of the mind.

      Level Gain

      When a character goes up a level, she can make a Difficulty 15 Will save for each disorder she has. On a successful save, she eliminates the disorder.

      Personal Psychiatric Care

      Prolonged one-on-one psychiatric care of at least 1 month, with no odd occurrences during the therapy, allows the character to make a Difficulty 15 Will save to remove a single disorder. The psychiatrist may make a Knowledge (behavioral science) check to assist the character using the Aid rules (page 9).

      Pre-1950 Sanitarium Care

      While the purpose of a sanitarium is to cure mental disorders, in earlier times they more often simply served as prisons for the insane. The sad truth is that a patient in a sanitarium is unlikely to receive the careful attention she requires. In addition, the very conditions in early sanitariums lead themselves to Sanity saves. There is rampant abuse and harsh therapies such as shock treatment. Patients are strapped into straitjackets at the first sign of unrest with little or no concern for their comfort or well-being. Inmates are chained to walls, strapped down, poked, prodded, and humiliated by the orderlies and even the doctors.

      Recovery in a sanitarium works as described above, but because of the lack of proper treatment, the character can only roll for recovery once every two weeks. Furthermore, because of the horrific living conditions the character has a modifier of between –1 to –5 (Narrator’s choice) to all Will saves made on the road to recovery in a sanitarium. As the modifier indicates, many patients in sanitariums would be better off locked in their nephews’ attics.


      In the horror genre, characters can acquire both moral and mental decay quite readily. You’ve already seen the various options provided through the Sanity systems. Now we present you with an additional option you can either use in lieu of the above system or integrate into the Sanity system of your choice.

      Corruption represents moral decay and the slippery slope of a character’s descent into evil thought and deed. In some circumstances, subject to the Narrator’s discretion, evil influences can be so overwhelming that characters automatically gain Corruption. Examples of this can be seen in the Rituals section.

      The possibility of gaining Corruption occurs whenever a character performs one of the following corrupt acts:

      • Using any power in a corrupt place.
      • Using any power while in contact with a corrupt item.
      • Using a power to take life.
      • Using a power to directly control someone.
      • Using a power to read someone’s mind.
      • Succumbing to one’s vice nature while in a corrupt place.
      • Succumbing to one’s vice nature while in contact with a corrupt item.
      • Summoning a creature from beyond the void.
      • Necromancy.
      • Killing in a corrupt place.
      • Performing any other transgression listed on the table below.

      Please note the above list is not comprehensive and the Narrator has final authority on what constitutes a corrupt act.

      Disorders and Corruption

      Disorders and Corruption present additional opportunities for the Narrator to further define and refine their horror setting. If you want to limit the effectiveness of a power like Mind Touch or Vision, for example, attach a “price tag” with an attached disorder or Corruption to it. Maybe reading someone’s mind without permission (the most useful application of that power) leads to corruption. Seeing into the future might expose precogs to things “outside of time” the mortal mind wasn’t meant to see and possibly cause a Sanity save or a weakened mind. You don’t have to ban the troublesome powers outright, but you can ensure that players have good reason to use them with caution. Alternatively, you can make Corruption or a certain disorder a prerequisite for even having certain powers, limiting them to tainted characters only (which is a good way to limit them to the bad guys without flatly saying so).

      When a character commits a corrupt act, make a Charisma saving throw for the character. The difficulty is 10 plus half the rank of the power used for supernatural powers, or according to the following chart for other transgressions.

      Difficulty Act
      10 Minor Transgression (Lying, petty theft)
      15 Significant Transgression (Deliberately hurtful actions)
      20 Major Transgression (Murder, rape)
      30 Mortal Transgression (Conscious betrayal of companion, murder of innocents)

      A successful save means there is no effect other than the consequences of the character’s action. A failed save means the character acquires 1 point of Corruption.

      Corrupt Places

      Places can become tainted with Corruption over time. Classic examples are houses where multiple murders occurred, apartments of serial killers, graveyards where dark rituals took place and so on. It is as though the dark soul of the demented took root and darkened the place for all times. Such corrupt places can spread their evil to those who spend their time there. The amount of evil a place has is reflected by its Corruption score, which can scale from 1 to 10.

      The Effect of Corrupt Places

      Characters that do not have Corruption are not subject to the effects of corrupt places unless they willingly commit any of the acts listed under Corruption above. Characters with Corruption, however, are vulnerable to dark influences and add the Corruption score of such a place up to their own Corruption level. For example, three characters move through a haunted graveyard (Corruption: 2). One character has no corruption, the second has 1 point of Corruption, and the third has 3 points of Corruption. While in the tainted place, the first character is unaffected, the second has an effective Corruption of 2, and the third an effective Corruption of 4. The effects of Corruption then apply normally. Characters that have embraced Corruption gain the additional benefits of an enhanced Corruption.

      Corrupt Items

      A corrupt item is much like a corrupt place, except it only affects individuals in contact with the item. Anyone carrying a corrupt item is subject to Corruption checks. Some corrupt items bestow benefits to their possessor, which makes them darkly attractive.

      Effects of Corruption

      A character’s Corruption score applies as a penalty to the character’s Constitution and Wisdom scores. This means a character with Constitution +2, Wisdom +1, and 2 points of Corruption has an effective Constitution +0 and Wisdom –1. These penalties reflect the impact of Corruption on the character’s physical and mental well-being. Victims of Corruption experience these losses of Constitution and Wisdom as physical and mental symptoms. Physically she suffers fatigue, weakness, nausea, and gnawing hunger. Psychologically, she experiences growing fear, anger, paranoia, and mistrust.

      The character begins losing control over her vice nature. When presented with an opportunity to regain Conviction by acting in accordance with her vice nature, the character must succeed on a Will save (Difficulty 10 + total corruption) to resist. Otherwise, she gives in and follows her vice nature for the scene. Characters who have a Wisdom score of 0 or greater can spend a point of Conviction to automatically overcome this urge. Characters with negative Wisdom cannot. A victim of Corruption whose Wisdom is debilitated goes mad in accordance with her vice nature, completely.


      Eliminating Corruption takes time and Conviction. Characters may take the Conviction point they would normally earn each day and apply it towards their Corruption. Additionally, they may take any Conviction points earned by embracing their virtue during the course of play and apply those toward their Corruption as well. It takes ten applied points of Conviction to eliminate one point of Corruption. Dealing with the dark forces comes with a price.


      In horror, you have free rein to use any creature your dark heart desires. Whether it is goblins in a closet, ghosts in a graveyard, or vampires in the vineyard, you can easily pull such creations out of Chapter Eight or the True20 Bestiary. Simply add the Fear/Terror levels as mentioned in the Sanity section, wrap an adventure around it, and you’re ready to scare your gaming group for hours. It is suggested you build the atmosphere up to the key creature slowly, having several false scares and encounters with more mundane threats before the culminating moment of confrontation with the central abomination!

      Note that characters can still gain Corruption while working toward eliminating it, so it is often a struggle against the character’s darker impulses. Characters may also find themselves in need of additional Conviction on occasion, taking an awarded Conviction point rather than applying it toward their redemption. This slows, but does not interrupt, the process.

      Embracing Corruption

      If not stopped early on, Corruption eventually leads to insanity. A character is therefore faced with two choices: either find ways to eliminate it through conscious effort and virtuous acts, or embrace it. Most characters will obviously choose the path of the light, but some cannot, for whatever reason. They choose to embrace the darkness and dive into its depths. Characters embracing corruption become NPCs under the Narrator’s control and gain the following benefits:

      • The character no longer suffers any Constitution or Wisdom penalties from accumulated Corruption.
      • The character cannotbenefitfrom Cure powers used by a non-corrupt healer. The powers simply have no effect. A healer who has embraced Corruption can use Cure on other corrupt characters, including himself.
      • A corrupt adept changes the key abilities of all his powers to his Corruption score. Instead of applying his Intelligence score to Move Object, for example, the adept applies his Corruption score. This means adepts who have embraced Corruption wield considerable power. The maximum Corruption score is normally 10; characters who have embraced Corruption, however, continue to gain Corruption points, although they add their Corruption score to all future saves to resist gaining additional points.

      Creating a Series: Approaches to Horror

      One of the more difficult aspects of gaming in the horror genre is getting the heroes together in the first place. Unlike a typical fantasy series kick-off, it’s somewhat difficult in a modern-era setting to simply have everyone “meet in a tavern and decide to go adventuring.” There has to be some unity of purpose to a group of monster-hunters, a common thread tying them together and providing a motivation to go out and do what they do.

      This section discusses some ideas for how to bring the characters together, united against the dark horrors that threaten the innocent souls of the world. All groups have an advantage, which sets them apart from the others and determines the tone of the campaign, and a disadvantage, which are drawbacks the Narrator can use to heighten suspense or otherwise throw obstacles into the heroes’ paths. Also provided are suggested skills and feats appropriate for members of a particular group. Not all members of the group have to have these skills and feats; they are just suggestions that mesh well with the group dynamic. These breakdowns along with the example sources should put you well on the road to dark adventure.

      Accidental Tourists

      This was a quiet little suburb a few years ago. Now, things are just… scary. In a horror game of Accidental Tourists, the characters aren’t even heroes: they are everyday people thrust into horrifying situations from which there appears to be no escape. Normal folks square off against unstoppable serial killers, alien invaders, and suave vampires right in their own backyards. A group consisting of these characters is best run as a one-shot scenario.

      Advantage: None. Accidental tourists have no advantage, really. They are outclassed by nearly every monster out there. The fun of a group of Normal folks comes from playing scenarios reminiscentof classic splatter films where the characters are hunted down and killed one by one.

      Disadvantage: Non-heroic. A group of tourists do not use any of the heroic roles. They are ordinaries, meaning they get no feats and no combat bonus. They don’t even get Conviction! They are run-of-the-mill men and women who have to rely on wits and sheer luck to survive. An enterprising Narrator might want to allow the survivors to become heroes eventually, molding them into one of the other types of groups as they progress (see Ordinary Heroes in the Optional Rules section).

      Examples: A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Halloween

      Suggested Backgrounds: Any

      Suggested Archetypes: Any

      Government Agents

      Clad in dark suits and flashing badges in the faces of townspeople and local authorities alike, government agents scour the countryside to uncover the truth—or perhaps to conceal it.

      Government agents are the easiest type of group to assemble and run in a horror campaign—after all, it’s their job. The characters are agents with the FBI, the CIA, the NSA, the DHS, or a fictitious government organization created by the Narrator. They were recruited for their special talents and interests and given the task of investigating (or covering up) claims of the supernatural.

      Advantage: Resources. The primary advantage of a group of government agents is resources. They have access to all the latest technology, from cell phones to laptops to crime databases to other knowledgeable agents they can consult with on a moment’s notice. Government agents can also look into files and records off-limits to others, and can usually count on the assistance—however begrudging—of local law enforcement.

      Disadvantage: Mistrust. Government agents are the least trusted group of all. When mysterious people in dark suits and black cars pull into a small town, the people talk… to everyone but them. With rumors of black helicopters, mind-control techniques, and other conspiracy theories running rampant, a government agent could easily find the people she needs to talk to the most unwilling to even look in her direction. Government agents also have to contend with internal politics of their own agency. If Senator So-and-So wants a quiet resolution to that problem in Roswell, he gets it or you get reassigned. It’s also likely not everyone at the Agency has your best interests at heart—you always have to watch your step.

      Examples: Project Blue Book, Hellboy, The X-Files

      Suggested Backgrounds: Academic, Investigative, Law Enforcement, Military, Technician

      Suggested Archetypes: Government Agent, Detective, Soldier

      Investigative Reporters

      Looking for the truth even if they have to bend the law to do it, investigative reporters dig through old document morgues, interview everyone remotely associated with a mysterious event, and sometimes even fast talk their way into restricted areas to find that precious kernel of truth.

      A group of investigative reporters could be employed by some form of media: a newspaper, magazine, tabloid, or even a television show. It is their job to research and investigate reports of paranormal activities and report them to the world. Since most serious publications tend to scoff at tales of ghosts and aliens, the publication most likely has a disclaimer somewhere that it is “for entertainment purposes only.” That doesn’t matter, though. People have the right to know the truth! More often than not, this group butts heads with the government agents trying to cover it up.

      Advantage: Freedom of the Press. As investigative reporters, the characters are journalists and by law cannot be impeded from reporting what they uncover. Important people and authorities may threaten or otherwise try to coerce the heroes, but when all is said and done, the heroes have the advantage of free speech. Freedom of the Press can be powerful leverage to get people to loosen their tongues when they are reticent. If they don’t tell you everything, you can print what you do know and let the people decide what happened. In many cases, the truth is less damaging than rampant speculation by an underinformed public.

      Disadvantage: Credibility. Because the a group of investigative reporters write articles involving conspiracy theories and things that go bump in the night, they may lack credibility in the journalistic community. Who believes that stuff anyway? Other media outlets may be hesitant to deal with them, and local authorities are likely to dismiss them as crackpots and refuse to tell them anything. There are certainly some people out there who believe every word printed in supermarket tabloids, but most laugh them off as ludicrous. The investigative reporter’s “freedom of the press” doesn’t count for much when what you report is though of as journalistic garbage.

      Examples: Kolchak the Nightstalker

      Suggested Backgrounds: Academic, Creative, Criminal, Investigative, White Collar

      Suggested Archetypes: Criminologist, Detective, Reporter

      Military/Paramilitary Squad

      Highly trained, lethally efficient, and expertly coordinated, the military squad deploys to danger zones around the world to fight the enemies of the state and defend citizens with duty, honor, and bravado.

      Whether members of a national army, a local militia, or a police department, the heroes are crack combat troops more then capable of dealing with threats in a precise manner. This type of group lends itself best to one-shot scenarios pitting the heroes’ training and weapons against an onslaught of supernatural creatures.

      A military squad can be part of a series, but it can be a challenge for the Narrator to come up with scenarios in which such a group could be believably involved. In most cases, this type of group is best treated as a subset of one of the other groups in an ongoing campaign, such as government agents or survivalists. As the former, they are the combat arm of a government agency trained to deal with supernatural threats. In the latter, they are the remnants of a military squad trying to make their way in a world gone mad.

      Advantage: Weapons and Training. Members of a military or paramilitary squad have one major advantage most other groups do not: hardware. Every member of the group has weapons, perhaps some body armor, and even a handful of frag grenades. In a strictly military campaign, the group may have a Hummer or a helicopter or even an APC to carry them around. Along with their ordinance, the members of a military group also have the training and discipline to use them well.

      Disadvantage: Chain of Command. As a member of a combat unit, you are subject to the orders of superior officers who may not fully understand your position. Members of a military squad are required to stay within the proper chain of command and follow orders without question. Although it is the duty of those in the field to inform their commanders of the situation so they can issue proper orders, the brass might not want to hear about it when facing supernatural opponents. Another disadvantage of the military group is that, despite the hardware, all those weapons are of little use against monsters that are immune to bullets.

      Examples: Dog Soldiers, Predator

      Suggested Backgrounds: Athlete, Blue Collar, Military, Technician

      Suggested Archetypes: Government Agent, Soldier

      Monster Hunters

      Ordained by some higher power to defend mankind from the creatures of the night, the monster hunters walk the twilight between reality and the supernatural. Monster hunters are not exactly normal people. They are empowered, by birth, destiny or even technology, to track down and dispatch supernatural creatures. Secretive Vatican agents, teenagers given awesome powers by forces beyond, and psychics who take the fight to the source of evil are all examples of monster hunters. This group is perhaps the freest group of all, since they aren’t subject to government policies, chains of command, or (in some cases) codes of ethics.

      Advantage: Power. Monster hunters, by their very definition, have the power to confront and defeat monsters on their own terms. Of all the groups, monster hunters are also the easiest in which to play adepts. Sometimes you need a little supernatural ability of your own when you fight vampires on quiet suburban streets.

      Disadvantage: Supernatural magnet. Monster hunters have a lot of power and ability—and the monsters know it. Because they are so effective in hunting down and exterminating supernaturalthreats, the heroes attract all manner of ghoulies and ghosties and long-legged beasties who want nothing more than to exterminate them back. With great power comes great responsibility, but also great enemies. A group of monster hunters is frequently assailed on all sides by the forces of darkness.

      Examples: Angel, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Ghostbusters, Supernatural, Van Helsing

      Suggested Backgrounds: Academic, Creative, Dilettante, Investigative, Religious, Technician

      Suggested Archetypes: Antiquarian, Avenging Angel, Clairsentient, Criminologist, Occultist

      Personal Horror

      In a setting of personal horror, the roles are reversed. The heroes are the monsters, hiding from human persecution or dealing with the tragedy of what it means to be a monster. Because they are outnumbered by the teeming masses of humanity, the heroes of a game of personal horror must act carefully lest they draw attention to themselves. The heroes may belong to a society of monsters living right under the humans’ noses, closely following a rigid set of guidelines designed to keep their existence a secret, or they may be in hiding somewhere in the wilderness, only occasionally visiting areas of human habitation. Although players may be strongly tempted to run “evil” characters in a game such as this, Narrators should stress the fact that the characters are still supposed to be heroes. Perhaps they are trying to restore their humanity or protect innocents from the depredations of other monsters who are not so kind. This serves to enhance the roleplaying opportunities and caters to the tragedy inherent to the genre. Even “good” monsters are still seen as monsters no matter how hard they try; therein lies the real horror.

      Advantages: Power. Because they aren’t human, the heroes in this type of game aren’t bound by the normal restrictions of character design. They can possibly have abilities above +5, bonus supernatural powers, and non-human traits (such as Scent or Flight). Narrators who want to run a game of personal horror should be aware of the imbalance that such powerful characters bring to the game. They will likely be stronger, faster, and more capable in combat than most human adversaries. In light of this possible imbalance, it is recommended that Narrators either tone down the abilities of the creatures in the True20 Bestiary before allowing them as heroic backgrounds, or make up their own versions using the rules for creating new backgrounds in True20.

      Disadvantages: Persecution. When you’re a monster, you are feared. There’s no getting around that. Even the best of intentions can be misinterpreted when you’re obviously inhuman. A hero in a game of personal horror must tread lightly, not attract too much attention, and know when to run. Even powerful creatures can be hunted and killed by skilled humans, and that includes powerful supernatural creatures like you. Certain humans might also know of your weaknesses and will certainly take advantage of them to bring you down.

      Examples: Nightbreed, Interview with the Vampire, An American Werewolf in London

      Suggested Backgrounds: Any

      Suggested Archetypes: Any


      Life is a daily struggle against things that yesterday were strictly unheard of outside of video games and horror stories. Survivalist horror depends on some world-altering event that destroyed civilization and forced people to find ways to survive. The End could have been caused by a hideous sea god rising from the ocean floor and sending forth masses of cosmic horrors against the world, the Biblical Revelation coming to pass with demons and monsters erupting from fiery cracks in the earth, or a bizarre plague that turns the bodies of the recent dead into cannibalistic ghouls. This is the horrible world in which the Survivalist group must make their way. It is a bit of a departure from the “investigate and defeat” motif of the other groups and often crosses over completely with other genres, such as post-apocalyptic and science fiction. Elements of horror still exist, however, but they are blatant and commonplace and more often dealt with using outright combat.

      Advantage: Freedom. In a survivalist horror campaign, the characters have no laws to restrict them. They can go guns blazing into almost any situation if they want to. There is no authority to oppose them or to prevent them from ransacking a military laboratory for the information they need. They won’t be arrested for harassing or killing those that try to impede them.

      Disadvantage: Lack of resources. With society either completely gone or in a rapid downward spiral, the hardest thing for a group of Survivalists is to find what they need to survive. Weapons are important, certainly, but now that mass-produced food is a thing of the past, where will the group find sustenance to keep them healthy enough to use those weapons? Not only are common necessities at a premium, but the heroes may also encounter a dearth of research materials. When a tentacled horror is eating its way through the huddled refugees of a city in ruins, where do you go to find out what can kill the thing? Another major disadvantage of this style is a high mortality rate. With monsters everywhere, it can be quite a challenge just to survive the night.

      Examples: Dawn of the Dead, I Am Legend, 28 Days Later

      Suggested Backgrounds: Any

      Suggested Archetypes: Any

      Horror Through the Ages

      Another important element of a horror game is the era in which it is set. The era in which a horror game is set determines the overall tone of the game. Certain themes are more prevalent in some eras and less prevalent in others. For example, most horror in the 1950’s deals with subversive aliens and giant bugs. The horror of the Victorian Era is primarily philosophical in nature and deals with pseudoscience. In addition to the tone, naturally the era in which a horror game is set restricts the heroes in their choice of equipment. In some cases, the era even restricts the heroes’ choice of skills and feats. Although a Narrator can run a horror game in any era, the following times tend to be the most popular. This section looks at the major eras of horror, from the Victorian Age up to the present, and how to create stories that evoke their particular styles in your True20 game. These aren’t the only approaches but they’re the ones that capture the style of horror fiction from each era.

      The Victorian and Edwardian Eras

      The Victorian Era begins in the mid-19th century with the coronation of the woman for whom the era is named: Alexandrina Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. After her death in 1901, the Edwardian Era began with the coronation of Prince Albert Edward.

      The Victorian and Edwardian Eras are times of change and rapid scientific advancement. The people of these eras saw the rise of industrialization, the birth of the middle class, and the first significant advances in the fields of medicine, forensic science, and biology. Unfortunately, they also witnessed advances in the art of war, culminating in the so-called “Great War” in 1914. This roughly 70-year period is also a time of rigid social mores and strict rules of behavior that dictated “propriety” in thought and deed. This is the age of Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison, Pierre and Marie Curie, Wilbur and Orville Wright, and Charles Darwin… but it is also the age of Aleister Crowley, Bram Stoker, and Edgar Allan Poe.

      Despite the great advances in science and society—or perhaps because of them—the people of this time developed a strong interest in matters of the occult. Spiritualism and mesmerism were all the rage. People consulted psychics and fortunetellers, and occultists gathered in arcane societies to further their understanding of the world beyond that of the living. Even as men and women of vision looked towards the future and created inventions that were thought impossible only years before, others cast their gazes into the past and dreamed of fantastic things even science couldn’t explain.

      The Victorian and Edwardian Eras are excellent settings for a horror game because they are an age in which the beliefs of humanity existed in a strange no-man’s land between science and the supernatural. The horrors of this time include creatures of myth and folklore (Dracula), human horrors (Jack the Ripper), and the tragic results of poorly understood science (Frankenstein, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde).

      The Prohibition and Depression Eras

      The Victorian and Edwardian Eras gave way in the early part of the 20th century as society rebelled against the inflexible rules of propriety in the face of global unrest. The Prohibition and Depression Eras comprise the “Interwar” period between 1919 and 1939. The boys were home from the war, the horrible Spanish Influenza epidemic was finally over, and it was time to get back to basics and rebuild. Alcohol was outlawed much to the chagrin of many people in the nation, but that didn’t stop them. What couldn’t be bought in the stores and pubs was easily available through other less legitimate means, making many people wealthy.

      The middle class, born of the industrialization of the Victorian Era, grew by leaps and bounds as more and more people found themselves with disposable income and that most precious of resources: free time. People were well fed and happy. There was enough to go around. And if there wasn’t enough, you could easily take out loans or play the stock market ,which seemed to get better every day and make men millionaires overnight.

      That all changed on Tuesday, October 29th, 1929. The high times of the Prohibition Era collapsed into the Depression Era. The Crash of ’29, “Black Tuesday,” ushered in an economic depression that lasted over 10 years and only ended with wartime production in the early years of World War II. In stark contrast to the previous decade, the 30’s were a time of great upheaval and poverty. Bread lines extended around the corner as fortunes were lost overnight.

      During this time, the inventions of men like Robert Goddard and advances in telescopes and astronomy caused greater and greater interest in what lay beyond the atmosphere. The Prohibition and Depression Eras also brought about unparalleled advances in travel with mass produced automobiles, extensive rail lines, and even commuter airlines. The fanciful ideas of the Victorian “natural philosophers” faded away to true scientific speculation of the natural world. Much of the speculation was dark, however. This is the age of H.

      P. Lovecraft, Robert Bloch, Clark Ashton Smith, and August Derleth, who imagined ancient beings with forms and motives unfathomable by humankind.

      The Prohibition and Depression Eras are excellent settings for a horror game because they are an age of discovery and mystery. Much of the world is still unexplored; it was still possible for ancient secrets and arcane lore to come face to face with modern science wielded by men and women of adventure. The horrors of this time include the same threats as the Victorian and Edwardian eras, in addition to alien entities beyond the imaginings of humanity (The Call of Cthulhu) and the mysteries of lost civilizations (King Tut’s curse).

      World War 2 and the Atomic Age

      World War 2 began in 1939 with Hitler’s invasion of Poland and the Sudetenland. America stayed out of the “European conflict” until 1941, when Japan launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. The war soon raged from one end of the globe to the other, engulfing nation after nation. Millions died in Nazi death camps and the stalemate of the eastern front in Russia.

      The Depression Era came to an end in America as wartime production created jobs for millions. Even women entered the workforce, taking up jobs that were traditionally held by men. Eventually the Allied Forces prevailed; the war in Europe officially came to an end on May 7, 1945. The war in the Pacific ended on August 14 of the same year when Japan surrendered to the United States. This war, even more so than the Great War that preceded it, saw terrible advances in military technology. Jet planes, rocket-propelled bombs, submarines, RADAR, and even early computers were brought into the war effort on all sides. Most horrifying, however, was the development of the atomic bomb. The destruction of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki ushered in the Atomic Age.

      After World War 2, the world entered a so-called “Cold War” between the superpowers. The United States and the Soviet Union each developed atomic weapons. Mistrust grew on each side and paranoia escalated. Never before did humanity have the means of destroying the world, and now this power was in the hands of two antagonist nations teetering on the brink of war. In the United States, paranoia was at an all-time high as Senator Joseph McCarthy launched a witch hunt to weed out “Communist Influences.”

      Aside from the nuclear escalation of the Atomic Era, the world at large saw other advances in science. The first true computers were invented, and that technology grew by leaps and bounds from vacuum-tubed behemoths that filled entire rooms, to refrigerator-sized consoles that ran on magnetic tape, to tabletop units filled with microchips. At the end of the sixties, a man even walked on the moon.

      World War 2 and the Atomic Age are excellent eras for a horror game because this is the time in which horror became almost entirely scientific and psychological in nature. Nazi scientists researched genetics, eugenics, and the occult. This is also the time in which UFO lore got off to a strong start with Kenneth Arnold’s sighting of “flying saucers” near Mt. Rainier, not to mention the alleged crash of an actual alien spacecraft in Roswell, New Mexico just 2 weeks later. Furthermore, the Atomic Age saw the birth of radioactive horrors. The perils of radiation and tinkering with the very building blocks of the Universe became the new nightmares (Them!, The Amazing Colossal Man). In addition to the perils of atomic energy, the rampant paranoia of the age gave rise to the horror of alien creatures bent on world domination and the subjugation of humanity (The Thing From Another World, The Invasion of the Body Snatchers).

      Modern Day

      The Modern Day era spans the early 1970’s to the current day. The Vietnam Conflict came to a close; the Cold War got even colder before finally finding its own conclusion and fading from the public mind. The United States and the U.S.S.R. rattled their sabers at each other from time to time, but overall they settled for using other nations as pawns in a potentially explosive chess game.

      Computer and space science grew by leaps and bounds during this time. Just 10 years after landing on the moon, America had an orbital shuttle that could launch and return to Earth like an airplane. The Internet, born in the mid-60’s, also grew by leaps and bounds as computers continued to get smaller, faster, and cheaper. By the early 1990’s, almost the entire world was connected to the global information grid.

      This was a time of relative peace in the world, a time of social and scientific advancements and prosperity. Ultimately, the Soviet Union collapsed and the Iron Curtain came crashing down. The Cold War was finally over. Unfortunately, at the dawn of the new millennium, a new war was about to begin. Terrorists aligned in global organizations unlike any that had been seen before. On September 11, 2001, the World Trade Center towers in New York City and part of the Pentagon in Arlington, VA, were felled by terrorist attacks. Another plane crashed in Pennsylvania, brought down by the heroic actions of its passengers.

      The Modern Day is an excellent setting for a horror game because it is the era most gamers are familiar with. The social mores and historical events of the previous eras are sometimes difficult to effectively work into a game, so the Modern Day makes the Narrator’s job a bit easier. As far as horror itself, gone were the giant radioactive bugs and conquering aliens. Instead, horror became gory and graphic (Halloween, Friday the 13th). This time saw some of the earliest instances of new sub-genres of horror: survivalist horror (Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead) and backwoods horror (The Hills Have Eyes, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre). The Modern Day also saw the return of supernatural threats as people experienced a renewed interest in the occult (Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist, The Omen). The horror of the Modern day likewise mixes in equal amounts of action and adventure; vampire hunters are just as likely to use shotguns and grenades as mallets and holy water (John Carpenter’s Vampires, From Dusk til Dawn).