Incarna D20 Essentials

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The essential D20 System 5th Edition modifications for Incarna. All mechanics changes reflect the intended “gritty realism” of Incarna (see 5E DMG p.267). Thi is represented as an increased level of lethality and danger inherent in combat, damage and confrontation, and difficulty in acquiring and using pertinent knowledge and capability. It also attempts to speed up a system that uses lots of dice rolls, reducing these to averages and scaling the result based on quality of success.

Advancement on Story

Incarna was conceived around an overall slower and more precise advancement with capability based on individual skills. Using Incarna rules, the Game Master determines when the characters advance based on story milestones and way points (see 5E DMG p.261). Most Incarna adventures are written for a middle range of character capability (levels 3-8), so that they can easily be modified to make them scale for different challenge levels.

  • Inspiration: Characters have no limit on the Inspiration they can earn.
  • Blessings: Characters with Shared Litany and Divine Aptitude earn Blessings instead of Inspiration.

Ability Scores and Sanity

You may use whatever method works best for your group. Generate 7 scores, adding Sanity to the standard 6. The Sanity attribute is used as a seventh ability for characters to make horror/terror/fear checks with (see 5E DMG p.264). It can replace other Ability based saving throws (usually Wisdom) for the same type of effects. Generally, no race gets a modification to Sanity. It is generated however each GM desires it to be depending on the method used (points, rolls, etc.) or simply assume an 11.


All things have Essence, with higher order beings having more Essence. Essence follows the normal explanation of it in Incarna – Bonds of faith, attunement, and patronage will require it. Essence is calculated as: (Sanity x2) + Charisma adjustment.

Resting and Recovery

A Short Rest is a full night of rest (after which time character regain their CON bonus (min of 1) in HP). A Long Rest is a full week of rest (after which time character regain their full HP). Wounds can inhibit this, and quality of care can adjust this. The normal Survival Rules for Incarna apply otherwise.

Fatigue Damage: Fatigue damage is light stress and strain. If it drops a character below 1, they become unconscious – it cannot kill. It is completely healed after a Short or Long Rest.

Hard Damage: Hard damage is damage that does not heal at normal rates. Hard damage heals at the rate of 1 per Long Rest. Very few effects produce Hard Damage.

Empowered Magic

Because of the normal rest and recovery times’ ability to have a character regain their spells so rapidly, magic was nerfed so that many spells that used to be fail once/failed for the duration are now fail once/re-check each round. Empowered Magic removes the “check each round” aspect of spells. Once a spell save is failed, the primary effects are failed for the duration.

  • Warlock Eldritch Invocations do NOT use a warlock spell slot, they are each a “per short rest” power.

Rule of Averages/Quality of Results

HP, damage and other factors does a simple/average amount/outcome for damage or effect. That average is to be used unless noted in materials. With this in mind, the actual result of the check determines both success and quality, instead of random dice to follow up. This speeds up combat significantly and emphasizes skill over luck.

  • Average: (Simple) The check was a minimal amount of what was needed to succeed.
  • Major: The check was 20% or more than what was needed (5 or more on D20) to succeed or failure by more than 10. Damage and effects are maximum.
  • Critical: For success, the check was perfectly executed – the best possible result (usually a “20” on a D20). Base damage is double maximum and effects are maximized. Critical hits on attacks also cause Wounds. On a failure result, it is the worst possible result (usually a “1” on a D20).

Resilience of Items

The basic Resilience rules for items is used. Every point of Resilience can be used to reduce the Quality of Result at the expense of using the item to take the blow and reduces its effectiveness (for example, a medium light shield has 1 Resilience – it can absorb 1 blow and its AC adjustment is reduced by 1, the next blow will render the shield useless). Greater Resilience has no impact on the item until certain parameters are met.


A character who is wounded suffers some immediate and longer term effects. The source of the wound may describe other specific effects, but always cover the following: 1) The target gains a level of Exhaustion (cumulative, to a maximum of 5 – i.e. cannot kill), 2) Their sequence of Death Saves starts with one failure; 3) The character cannot have Advantage on Constitution saves; and 4) Each wound reduces a targets maximum HP is reduced by 1 HD (or half a HD at first level). Unless specified, Wound are minor. A character automatically becomes wounded when:

  • When it takes a critical hit
  • When it drops to 0 hit points but isn’t killed outright

Minor Wound: The effects of the wound are negated after a Short Rest is completed. Only 1 Minor Wound can be recovered from per Short Rest, additional ones take a Short Rest for each.

Major Wound: The effects of the wound are negated after a Long Rest is completed. Only 1 Major Wound can be recovered from per Long Rest, additional ones take a Long Rest for each.