True20 Companion Design Journal #2

In this design journal, Steve Kenson explains the optional role customization system from True20 Companion, and provides two example custom-designed roles, the Martial Artist and the Holy Warrior.

The three heroic roles in True20 Adventure Roleplaying—adept, expert, and warrior—are intended to provide simple and easy-to-use frameworks for creating heroic characters. Much of the work of determining the hero’s traits is already done for you: simply choose the starting level, assign skill ranks, choose feats (and powers, for adepts), equip your hero, and you’re done.
Although True20 offers a lot of flexibility in terms of hero creation, some traits are relatively fixed, based on role. Two warriors of the same level, for example, share the same basic Combat bonus before things like abilities and feats are taken into account. Likewise, two experts of the same level can be expected to have similar skill ranks, albeit modified by their respective Intelligence scores and choices in assigning those ranks to different skills. Options for mixing role levels provide more ways to customize, but only at higher levels where players have more than just one or two levels to apply, and mixed-role heroes are more complex.
For those who desire more individuality in their heroes, Chapter 1 of the True20 Companion opens up the basic True20 roles, going "under the hood" to provide players and Narrators with the tools to create their own custom-designed roles. By following just a few simple steps, you can create virtually any role your concept or setting requires, giving you as many or as few roles as you want!
Note that the guidelines in this chapter are an optional expansion for True20 Adventure Roleplaying. Narrators who prefer the simplicity of using the three basic heroic roles can continue to do so.
Role Components
A role is made up of several components, including: the role’s core ability, Combat Progression, Skill Progression, Saving Throw Progression (in each of three saves: Fortitude, Reflex, and Will), Power Progression (if the role has access to supernatural powers), and access to feats.
To create a role, choose Combat, Skill, Saving Throw, and Power Progression options from those given in the Companion. You "spend" a budget of points on these options, so there are trade-offs: you can’t have a role that’s the best in everything, but you can have roles less specialized than the core three roles, more of a "jack of all trades, but master of none," by spreading out your priorities rather than focusing them on a particular area of expertise.
Sample Customized Roles
The following are examples of custom-built roles using the guidelines in the True20 Companion. They are suitable for use alongside existing True20 roles. By way of example, these roles also use some new core abilities described in the Companion.
Martial Artist

Combat Progression: Unarmed Fast, Armed Medium, using the option for Split Combat Progressions.
Skill Progression: 4 + Int
Save Progression: All Medium
Power Progression: Slow, Narrow Power List
Feat Access: Expert, with Improved Strike as a standard feat at 1st level.
Core Ability: Amazing Reflex Save; when rolling Reflex saves, roll two dice and use the better of the two rolls. If you spend Conviction to re-roll a Reflex save, roll only one die and compare it to the better of your original two rolls.

The martial artist is a specialized warrior focusing on unarmed combat, becoming a kind of "living weapon." The role’s unarmed Combat bonus equals that of a warrior, although its skill with weapons lags behind. The role also has access to a narrow set of supernatural powers involving enhancing the body and unarmed abilities, including Body Control, Enhance Ability, Enhance Senses, Supernatural Speed, and Supernatural Strike. It also focuses on more wily expert feats rather than martial warrior feats.
Holy Warrior

Combat Progression: Fast (+1 per level)
Skill Progression: 2 + Int
Save Progression: Medium Fortitude and Will, Normal Reflex
Power Progression: Medium, Narrow Power List
Feat Access: Warrior
Core Ability: Higher Purpose; You serve a higher purpose or calling. It might be a nationality, religion, philosophy, or anything else approved by the Narrator. 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 you can use for the duration of the encounter or scene. The feats or power are chosen when you acquire this ability and cannot be changed. If you ever abandon your purpose, you lose the use of this core ability.

The holy warrior combines the martial skills of a warrior with access to a narrow set of powers suited to the role’s devotion to a particular deity or pantheon; essentially a narrow subset of a priest’s broader powers. Holy Warriors are better fighters than priest-adepts, but have fewer skills and less access to powers overall. They also lack access to power-modifying adept feats, having combat-oriented warrior feats instead. They’re front-line fighters against the enemies of their Higher Purpose.

Evan got his start in the hobby game industry in 1995, as a co-founder of Rubicon Games. Among other games, he has worked on Cranium, Cranium Hullabaloo, and the Pokémon trading card game. RPGs he has edited for include Everway, Ork! The Roleplaying Game, Spaceship Zero, Warhammer Fantasy 2e, the d20 System, A Song of Ice and Fire, Mutants & Masterminds, Dragon Age, Fantasy AGE, Pathfinder, and Critical Role (5e). He has been managing our web sites since about 2002. He co-designed Walk the Plank, our card game of piratical trick taking.