Incarna D20 Essentials

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The essential D20 System (5th Edition) modifications for Incarna. All mechanic changes reflect the intended “gritty realism” of Incarna (see 5E DMG p.267). This 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 uses a system of averages and scaled results; This speeds up resolution, reduces dice dependency, and puts the emphasis on quality of success as opposed to random dice rolls.

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. Instead of character powers and health regaining swiftly, that pace is slowed to something more realistic. However, epic actions are encouraged through limited use bonuses – characters must be judicious in their use.

  • Inspiration: Characters have no limit on the Inspiration they can earn. They can only use up to their Proficiency Bonus in Inspirations on any single activity.
  • Blessings: Characters of faith can earn Blessings instead of Inspiration. A character can only use a single Blessing at a time on any activity. Effects such as Divine Aptitude, Shared Litany and others allow those of the same faith to combine Blessings, having a cumulative effect:
    1. A single Blessing can be used as an Inspiration, or as a Bless spell.
    2. Two Blessings can be used at once to trigger both a Bless and Aid spell on a single target (if the recipient is hit by a Spiritual Weapon/Spirit Guardians of an opposite faith, it reduces the damage of each hit by the same amount).
    3. Three Blessings can be used at once to trigger the effect of 2, plus a Protection from Evil/Good or a Calm Emotions spell.

Ability Scores and Sanity

You may use whatever method works best for your group. Incarna uses 7 scores, adding Sanity to the standard 6. The Sanity attribute is used to make horror/terror/fear checks with (see 5E DMG p.264). It replaces other Ability based saving throws (usually Wisdom and Charisma) for the same type of effects. Generally, no race should get 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 as a base (10 for half breeds).


All things have Essence, with higher order beings having more. Essence follows the normal explanation of it in Incarna – Bonds of faith and patronage, attunement, and Aptitude (optional; enables strict transcendence of class rules) will require it. Many classes require the character sacrifice a small amount of Essence in order to be able to use their powers on The Pattern.

  • Attunement and Bindings all require Essence (minimum 1); it returns at 1/Short Rest once it is no longer used for this.
  • Essence can be used to barter for powers and enhancements with powerful creatures (like “Selling your soul”) capable of granting such.
  • Essence is calculated as: (Sanity x2) + Charisma adjustment.

Health, Resting and Recovery

A Short Rest is a full night of rest (after which time character regain 1 + 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 and conditions can adjust this. The normal Survival Rules for Incarna apply otherwise.

  • Starting HP: Characters start with only an average Hit Dice at first level, unless noted.
  • Fatigue Damage: Fatigue damage is light stress and strain. If it drops a character below 1, they become unconscious – it cannot kill. Unless noted, 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 the D20 normal rest and recovery times 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 use a simple/average/critical outcome scale 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 (ex: A sword doing 2d6 does 7 damage + adjustments).
  • Major: The check was 20% or more than what was needed (5 or more on D20) for success or double that (10 or more on D20) for failure. Base damage and.or effects are maximum (ex: A sword doing 2d6 does 12 damage + adjustments).
  • 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 can also cause Wounds. On a failure result, it is the worst possible result (usually a “1” on a D20 – the target takes full damage on a save, stumbles and may fall, or has some other calamitous result).

Resilience of Items

The Incarna basic Resilience rules for items are 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 any AC adjustment or damage done by it is reduced by 1. Greater Resilience indicates resilience loss has no impact on the item (such as damage or AC reduction). Anything can be used for Resilience – sacrificing the item (it is destroyed/ruined) in the process if it has no Resilience and is used this way. Resilience can be restored by an appropriate crafter or technology, usually for a cost.


A character who is “Wounded” suffers 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. Unless specified, Wounds are minor. A character automatically becomes Wounded when:

  • They take a critical hit
  • They drops to 0 hit points (of non-fatigue damage) but are not killed outright

Minor Wound: The effects of 1 Minor Wound are negated after a Short Rest is completed; Additional ones take a Short Rest for each.

Major Wound: The effects of 1 Major Wound are negated after a Long Rest is completed; Additional ones take a Long Rest for each.

Universal Class Specific Changes

If not covered elsewhere in this synopsis, the following changes also apply:

Barbarian: 1 Essence (cost @ 1st level)


Cleric: 2 Essence (cost @ 1st level)

Druid: 3 Essence (cost @ 1st level)


Monk: 1 Essence for any but Way of the Open Fist (cost @ 1st level)

Paladin: 1 Essence (cost @ 1st level)



Sorcerer: 1 Essence (cost @ 1st level)

Warlock: 1 Essence (cost @ 1st level)