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.


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.

Quality of Result

The Rule of Averages dictates that a simple result always does an average amount/outcome for damage or effect. 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 success – 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. Damage and effects are maximum.
  • Critical: The check was perfectly executed, the best possible result (usually a “20” on a D20). Damage is double maximum and effects are maximized. Critical hits on attacks also cause Wounds.

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.

Rule of Averages

HP, damage and other factors are presented with an average. That average is to be used unless noted in materials.


The Sanity attribute is used as a seventh ability for characters to make horror/terror/fear checks with (see 5E DMG p.264). It replaces 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.


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) The target’s natural healing rate is halved; 3) The character cannot have Advantage on Constitution saves; and 4) Each wound reduces a targets maximum HP by 2 until healed. Unless specified, Wound are minor. A character automatically suffers a wound 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.