Improvements to BESM For Nexus

General System Upgrades

Big Eyes, Small Mouth is a pretty good system, but it falls significantly short of my ideal in two respects: it is a flat-percentage-of-success system, and all damage is lethal. These problems are not insoluable.

Target Numbers

All tasks now have an explicit Difficulty rating. The generic default Difficulty when the GM has to pull a number out of his hat is 7 (which gives the same probabilities of success as the original system), but in most cases an action will be directly or indirectly opposed by another character or equivalent, and the Difficulty will be equal to that opponent's relevant Stat plus Skill.

Die rolls are still made using two six-sided dice, but the dice now need to be distinguishable so that one can be labelled positive and the other negative. (By convention, the lighter or bluer of the two is positive and the darker or redder is negative.) To find out if you succeed or fail at an action, add your relevant Stat and any relevant Skill, plus 1 for a relevant specialty (this total of Stat plus Skill plus speciality is also called the action value or AV), plus any situational modifiers, plus the number rolled on the positive die, minus the number rolled on the negative die. If the result is equal to or greater than the Difficulty of the action, you succeed; if not, you fail.

(When referring to the rulebook for situational modifiers, it is important to remember that you are now trying to roll high rather than low, so you must either reverse the sign of any modifier obtained from the book or apply it to the Difficulty instead of the AV.)

If you are performing a dramatic task and you roll boxcars (double sixes), you have the option of taking the action as a Moment Of Truth. You don't have to do this: you can take the result of your AV plus modifiers plus zero, and succeed or fail based on that. If you go for the Moment Of Truth, you have better odds of success, and might get a really amazing success, but you also run the risk of failing pathetically: roll again, counting boxcars as +0 this time. If you succeed, you get a critical success: a better outcome than you would normally get, possibly much much better. If you fail, but an additional +3 modifier would allow you to succeed, you succeed as normal. However, if even if the +3 modifier would not bring you success, or if the dice total is -5 (regardless of whether that should succeed), you not merely fail but get the worst outcome that could plausibly result from the situation, and possibly extra doom if the GM thinks you need it.

You can also get a critical success by exceeding the Difficulty by 10 or more, or fumble by missing the Difficulty by 10 or more, but it rarely comes up.

This change from roll-under to roll-add-and-compare has some specific effects on the combat mechanics. In particular, your Defensive Combat Value (possibly modified by a Skill) is the Difficulty for opponents to hit you; you don't actually make rolls with it. Your DCV is equal to your base Combat Value, rather than two less, so two combatants of equal CV have slightly over a 50% chance to hit each other.

Because you never make a DCV roll, there isn't really any such thing as a Defensive action. You can go on the defensive, though, which increases your DCV by 2 at the expense of your attack action that round.

Trying to preserve the concept of defensive actions was just goofy. Possibly some more concrete actions per round structure should exist, but that would probably be contrary to the BESM paradigm.

In combat, you score a critical hit if you get a critical success either from a Moment Of Truth or by exceeding the target's DCV by 10 or more.


The initiative system isn't *broken*, but the possibility of multiple actions cries out for something better than taking all of them at once with no possibility of interruption.

The initiative roll is still your base Combat Value plus 1d6, and everyone still acts in decreasing order of initiative value, but it is possible to act more than once per round even if you have no levels of the Extra Actions Attribute. The additional actions happen a certain number of initiative points after your first action, depending on how many, if any, Extra Actions you have. ("I" stands for your initiative roll.)

 Actions On
0 I, I-12
1 I, I-6, I-12, I-18
2 I, I-4, I-8, I-12, I-16
3 I, I-3, I-6, I-9, I-12, I-15, I-18
4 I, I-2, I-5, I-7, I-10, I-12, I-15, I-17
5-6* I, I-2, I-4, I-6, I-8, I-10, I-12, I-14, I-16, I-18

*Extra Actions level 6 uses the same decrement as level 5, but provides a +2 initiative bonus.

The last initiative count of a round is 1 (one), not zero, so any actions that would happen on 0 or a negative initiative count are lost.

If this is not clear, consider the example of Alice (CV 9, 0 extra actions), Bob (CV 5, 3 extra actions), and Cornelius (CV 7, 1 extra action). Alice rolls 1, for a total initiative of 10 and only one action (her next action would be on -2, so she doesn't get it); Bob rolls 6, for a total initiative of 11 and four actions on 11, 8, 5, and 2; Cornelius rolls 5, for a total initiative of 12, but only gets two actions, on 12 and 6 (his next action would be at 0, so he doesn't get it).

The initiative count for the round goes like this:

12: Cornelius
11: Bob
10: Alice
8: Bob
6: Cornelius
5: Bob
2: Bob

Nonlethal Damage

Using Energy Points as Stun was just goofy, since they aren't based on Body at all. Also, doing lots of division during play is annoying to players who aren't hardened Champions veterans.

In order to allow the somewhat unrealistic but genre-appropriate and fictionally convenient possibility of characters being knocked out without being nearly killed, another damage track needs to be created.

Unlike Health Points, which are lost as attacks bring you nearer to death, Stun accumulates as you get nearer to passing out. If at any time you have points of Stun equal to or greater than your Health Points at that moment, you fall unconscious and remain so until you have less Stun than Health Points. Since you can never have less than 0 Stun, if your Health Points ever go below 0, you become unconscious until your Health is raised to a positive value (in addition to being mortally wounded). If your Health is below 0 by an amount equal to your Shock Value, you are dead but resuscitable by advanced medicine or powerful healing magic; at twice your Shock Value below 0, you are really truly dead and only turning back time or divine resurrection will restore you to life.

If you gain Stun equal to your Shock Value in one blow, you lose your next offensive action (although you may still defend). If you lose Health Points equal to your Shock Value in one blow, you begin bleeding or otherwise suffering progress damage of 1 HP per round (or minute noncombat) as described in the book. Stopping the bleeding with Regeneration or Healing counts as healing 5 HP (so a slow regenerator who is badly wounded might still croak before she starts regaining Health), or it can be slowed with Medical (First Aid) and stopped with Medical (Surgery) as described on p230. The base difficulty is 7 for both tasks.

Depending how nasty they are, attacks do some fraction of their damage as Health Point reduction and some as Stun increase. A sword, bullet, laser pulse, or necromantic spell will do only Health Point damage, while an advanced knockout drug or sleep spell might do nine-tenths of its damage as Stun. Bashing or other damaging but not outright lethal attacks, such as fisticuffs or clubs, do half and half; an intermediate case like a lead pipe might do 2/3 lethal and 1/3 Stun damage. This fraction needs to be decide when the attack attribute is purchased or otherwise written down on your character sheet, and it's easiest if you just record the damage as, eg, for an attack with a total damage of 26 (damage 20, CV 6) that does 2/3 lethal damage, "17L+9S", and annouce it as "17 lethal, 9 stun".

Armor decreases Health Point damage first; if all the Health Point damage is absorbed, any remaining armor reduces Stun damage. For example, if the attack described above were used against a victim with 4 points of armor, the damage inflicted would be 13 Health Points and 9 Stun. If the victim had 20 points of armor, all the lethal damage would be absorbed and the other 3 points of armor would absorb Stun, so the final damage inflicted would be 6 Stun.

Ordinary weapons, and most attacks bought with the Special/Weapon Attack Attribute do between all and half lethal damage. Some unusual weapons, or Special/Weapon Attacks bought with the Stun modifier do less, down to about 1/10 lethal. Attacks that truly do no Health Point damage at all are very rare; even the most benign methods of rendering someone unconscious can't do it quickly without some risk.

Natural healing restores Health Points equal to your Body Stat per day, and removes points of Stun equal to your Body Stat per hour. The Healing Attribute or any equivalent method of quickly restoring Health Points also removes an equal number of Stun Points. Energy Points return naturally at twice the sum of your Mind and Soul Stats per day (or the average of Mind and Soul per six hours).

Energy Points can still be spent to boost Health Points at 5 EP per 1 HP if you are still conscious. You can also spend Energy points, at 10 EP per 1 HP, at the moment you are knocked unconscious, if and only if you can bring your Health Points above your Stun by doing so. This is the only case in which you can spend Energy Points not on your action (though spending Energy Points does not count as a combat action). The bonus Health Points last for a few minutes, which is typically enough to span an entire fight scene.

Unskilled Use of Skills

Since many games of characters of widely varying background, it is not always obvious which Skills should be usable unskilled at +0 and which should take a penalty for having no levels. Accordingly, almost all Skills take a base -3 penalty for unskilled use (plus any additional modifier the GM deems appropriate for actions truly alien to your background) unless Familiarity has been bought for them. Only the two defensive combat Skills (Close Defense, Ranged Defense) are exempt from this, and may be used at +0 without Familiarity.

Everyone should get their full DCV as default; being unfamiliar with ducking is for normals. Also, the Unarmed Defense Skill is pretty silly as written and doesn't get a lot better even if you try to sensify it, so it's history.

One skill point allows you to buy Familiary with Skills that total to a cost of 5 points for one level in each: 1 5/level Skill, 5 1/level Skills, 1 2/level and 1 3/level, etc. The Skills you're familiar with are considered to have 0 levels, so your AV is just equal to the appropriate Stat (plus any situational modifiers).

Nexus-specific Additions

New Special Attribute: Portable

Cost: 1-3 points/Level

Relevant Stat: None

The character's or mecha's special powers and abilities, whether magic, psionic, or technological, work in more zones of Nexus than would normally be the case.

If the special abilities only work well enough to keep the character alive or the mecha physically intact in more zones than usual, Portable costs 1 point/Level.

If a few of the character's or mecha's special abilities still work usefully in more zones, Portable costs 2 points/Level.

If most or all of the character's or mecha's special abilities function in more zones, Portable costs 3 points/Level.

Without this attribute, a character's or mecha's special abilities that rely on a particular aspect of her zone of origin (silicon being semiconducting, the earth having spirits, Kirlian auras being able to interact) will work in only a few other zones.

Level 1The character's or mecha's special abilities function in most zones that are reasonably similar to their zone of origin.
Level 2The character's or mecha's special abilities function in all zones except where the nature of the zone specifically prohibits them.

Skill Costs

The genre-crossing nature of Nexus requires its own set of skill costs, distinct from those of most other campaign types.

General Skills
Animal Training1
Biological Sciences2
Business Management3
Controlled Breathing1
Cultural Arts2
General Skills (cont'd)
Military Sciences3
Performing Arts2
Physical Sciences2
Police Sciences2
Sleight of Hand2
Social Sciences2
General Skills (cont'd)
Urban Tracking4
Visual Arts2
Wilderness Survival1
Wilderness Tracking1
Combat Skills
Close Defense5
Gun Combat4
Heavy Weapons4
Melee Attack5
Ranged Defense5
Thrown Weapons5
Unarmed Attack5

New Skill: Close Defense

Relevant Stat: None (uses Defense Combat Value)

Specializations: Empty-handed, Sword, Shield, Staff

The ability to dodge, parry, block, or otherwise avoid the pain of close-combat attacks (ie, ones made with Melee Attack or Unarmed Attack). This skill replaces both Unarmed Defense and Melee Defense.

New Skill: Nexan

Relevant Stat: Average of Mind and Soul

Specializations: Spotting Interfaces, Analyzing Zones, Zen Navigation

The ability to make one's way safely and efficiently through the mutable patchwork environment of Nexus with its interfaces and zones, including a practical knowledge of how it all works. This is not the same as Physical Science (dimensional physics) or any Social Sciences: it covers only practical knowledge of the physical environment of Nexus.

This file was last modified at 1313 on 23Mar01 by