Character Module Dark FX Module
How FX Work FX Components
FX Types
Using FX
Noticing FX
Countering FX
Creating FX FX Descriptions
FX Modifiers
FX Structures
Creating FX
Advancement Improving and Adding FX

The whole point of having amazing supernatural abilities is using them. While the previous section looked at the basic components of FX, this section discusses how to use those FX in play.

For many FX, which have only one component, this is the same thing, for others, it can make a difference since a FX’s various components can have different requirements in terms of action, duration, result, and so forth. For example, a laser light FX might be scattered by prisms or thick banks of fog or mist. This isn’t a Flaw per se, simply a consequence of the FX’s Descriptors.

Active and Passive FXEdit

FX can be defined as active or passive: active FX require an action to use, and often an attack roll or other skill check. Active abilities normally only work when the user wishes them to do so, unless they are out of the user’s control. Active FX are noticeable by default, having some kind of display associated with them. Examples of active abilities include Attack FX (Damage, Inflict, etc.), Movement FX (Enhanced Movement, etc.), and some Sensory FX (Conceal, Illusion, Obscure, etc.).

Passive FX do not require an action to use or maintain: this means they must have an action of Interrupt or None, and Continuous Duration or Permanent Duration. They work automatically (whether the user wants them to or not, if they’re Permanent). Passive FX are unnoticeable by default, having no particular outward display unless otherwise dictated by the FX’s descriptor in which case, the Noticeable Flaw applies. Examples of passive abilities include some General FX such as Immunity, and some Sensory FX (like Enhanced Senses).

Activating and Deactivating FXEdit

Activating or deactivating an FX takes a particular amount of time, with the type of action determined by the effect: none, Interrupt, Free, One, or Two Actions:

  • None: The FX does not require an action to use; it is always in operation. Effects like this are always passive and have either a continuous or permanent duration.
  • Interrupt: The FX operates automatically in response to some other circumstance, such as an attack. This is much like a Ready Action except it requires no effort on the character’s part and does not count as an action. The circumstance that activates an Interrupt FX should be defined when the FX is acquired and must be approved by the GM. An Interrupt can occur outside of a character’s normal place in the Initiative order, and does not affect the Initiative order.
  • Free Action: The FX requires a free action to use or activate, but must be used during the character's normal place in the Initiative order. Once an FX is activated or deactivated, it remains so until your next round. As with all free actions, the GM may limit the total number of FX a character can turn on or off in a single round.
  • One Action: The FX requires one standard action to use. Since characters are limited to two actions per round, this generally means you can only use one FX per round if you also wish to move, but if you choose to stand your ground and fight, you can generally mange two one action FX in a round.
  • Two Actions: The FX requires a full round of two actions to use. Some FX require even longer than two actions to use, as given in their descriptions, although generally this is only the case for FX modified with flaws and FX drawbacks. FX modifiers may change the action a FX requires. If you’re unable to take the required two actions, then you cannot activate the FX. You can activate a two action FX by taking one action at the end of one round and another action at the start of the following round, but the second action must be your first action that round, or else the activation fails.
    Generally, so long as you’re able to take the required action unhindered, the FX activates. In some circumstances, the GM may require a Focus check to successfully activate an FX, but this is usually reserved for maintaining an FX under difficult circumstances.
    Note that you can only activate or deactivate an FX in a round, not both. This is an important consideration for a variety of tricks, including deactivating a defensive FX like Insubstantial (free action), making an attack (one action), and becoming insubstantial again (free action), not normally an option.
  • Multiple Activations: Activating FX is limited by your available actions, which usually means you can only activate two one-action FX or one two-action FX in a round, along with as many free action FX as you wish (and the GM sees fit to allow).
    A set of Linked FX may all be activated as a single FX with a single action (indeed, they must be activated this way). Container structures can also be activated all at once, although their FX can also be used individually.
    The additional action granted by a surge use of a hero die can also be used to activate an FX, up to and including using it in conjunction with your normal action to activate a two action FX in the same round as another action.

FX ChecksEdit

In some cases, you may be required to make an FX check to determine how well an FX works. An FX check is just like any other check: d20, plus the FX’s rank, plus any applicable modifiers, against a Difficulty Class set by the Gamemaster. Unlike skill checks, ability modifiers are not added to FX checks. The results of various FX checks are described in this chapter.

FX Check = d20 + FX Rank + modifiers vs. Difficulty Class

Taking 10 or 20 on FX ChecksEdit

You can take 10 on an FX check if you are not under pressure, the same as with a skill check. You can take 20 on an FX check if you are not under pressure, there is no penalty for failure, and you can take approximately twenty times the normal time required, also the same as a skill check. If an FX requires Extra Effort to retry (see the following), and imposes a penalty for failure, you cannot take 20 with checks involving that FX.

Retrying FX ChecksEdit

Retrying an FX check is sometimes more difficult than just retrying an ability or skill check. Some FX require Extra Effort in order to retry them against the same target in the same encounter or scene. This does not usually apply to FX checks in response to something else, such as the opposed FX check to avoid having an FX countered or nullified. Specific instances of retrying FX checks are detailed in the various effect descriptions.

When you have failed to successfully use an FX that requires extra effort to retry, you must either expend the necessary fatigue (possibly using a hero die to offset it) or you have to wait until the conditions change before trying again. Generally, this means until the current scene is over, however long that might be. The GM decides the exact amount of time that must pass in order to retry an FX without extra effort, according to the circumstances of the scene and the adventure.

FX checks for passive FX (if any) are never subject to extra effort for trying again. Likewise, rolls and checks other than FX checks are not subject to fatigue from trying again, such as attack rolls with a particular FX, or skill checks involving an enhanced skill (which is also usually a passive FX, and already exempt).

Opposed FX ChecksEdit

In some cases, usually when one FX is used directly against another, an opposed FX check is called for. If a contest is entirely a matter of whose FX is greater, a comparison check may apply: the character with the higher FX rank wins automatically.

For a particular use of opposed FX checks, see Countering FX later in this module.

FX Checks vs. ResistanceEdit

Some FX require compare the result of an FX check against the result of the target's resistance to determine the result of the FX.

FX vs. Skill ChecksEdit

On occasion an FX may be opposed by a skill or vice versa. This is a normal opposed check, comparing the FX's check result against the skill's check result.


Each FX has a default range at which it functions, that can be changed using modifiers:

  • Personal: A Personal Range FX works only on you, the user. Personal FX are therefore usually beneficial in nature. For a personal range FX that works on others, apply the Affects Others extra to the base FX.
  • Touch: A Touch Range FX works on anyone or anything you can touch (which usually includes yourself). You must be Engaged in melee or otherwise adjacent to a target to use a Touch Range FX. Touching an unwilling subject within reach requires an Attack roll against the subject’s Defense, like an attack. Successfully touching the target allows the FX to occur, although the target resists normally (if applicable).
  • Close: A Close Range FX lets you target anyone within your Zone without penalty, or at targets in an adjacent Zone with 1 Penalty to your Attack roll.
  • Long: A Long Range FX lets you target anyone within your Zone or an adjacent Zone without penalty, or at targets in more distant Zones with 1 or more Penalties to your Attack roll.
  • Perception: A Perception Range FX works on any target you can perceive with an accurate sense (usually visual) without any need for an Attack roll. Instead, you must acquire a target with a successful Perception check, opposed by your target's Reflex Resistance. Acquiring a target takes one action, and takes only a Free Action every turn to maintain (like an FX with a Sustained Duration). You automatically succeed on your check to acquire helpless characters and stationary objects as targets. Once acquired, you may use your Perception Range attacks as normal.
    If you wish to attack a new target, or lost your original target (if you were unable to take a Free Action during your turn while Stunned twice, for instance), you must acquire that new target wtih a successful Perception check. Also note that a character aware of your Perception Range abilities can attempt to hide using Infiltration, in which case you must overcome your target's Infiltration check result to acquire the target successfully.
    Since Perception Range FX do not require Attack rolls, they cannot score Critical Hits, nor benefit from traits that modify attack rolls, such as Power Attack.
    If your Perception Range ability has the Mental extra, it acquires a target with Perception opposed by Will instead of Reflex.


Each FX lasts for a particular amount of time, which may be changed by FX modifiers:

  • Instant: An Instant Duration FX occurs and ends instantly, although its results may linger. Most Attack FX are instant; the attack happens immediately, although it may take time for the target to recover from it.
  • Concentration: A Concentration Duration FX lasts as long as you concentrate on maintaining it. Concentration takes one action and distractions may cause your concentration to lapse. If your concentration lapses, the FX stops. Failing to take the necessary action to concentrate means your concentration lapses automatically. Make a Focus check (DC 10 + FX rank) each round you maintain the FX. A failed check means the FX lapses.
  • Sustained: A Sustained Duration FX lasts as long as you take a Free Action each round to maintain it. Since you are capable of taking as many free actions as you wish, you can generally maintain any number of Sustained FX, limited only by the Gamemaster’s judgment. If you are incapable of taking free actions (if you are Stunned twice in one round or Unconscious, for example) then the FX lapses. You can maintain a sustained FX as an Interrupt (allowing you to attempt to maintain it if you are stunned, for example) for one round with a Focus check (DC 10 + FX rank). Make the check each round you maintain the FX as an Interrupt. A failed check means the FX lapses.
  • Continuous: A Continuous Duration FX lasts as long as you wish, without any effort on your part. Once activated, it stays that way until you choose to deactivate it, even if you are Stunned or Unconscious. Continuous FX can still generally be countered or nullified to stop them from working.
  • Permanent: A Permanent FX is always active and cannot be turned off, even if you want to. Permanent FX can only counter other FX at the GM’s discretion, although they may sometimes be countered and can be nullified unless they also have the Innate FX feat.

Involuntarily DeactivationEdit

There are a number of ways in which characters may lose the ability to maintain an FX: damage, distraction, or interference of some kind or another. If conditions cause involuntary deactivation of an FX, it occurs immediately, not on the user’s next action. So, for example, if you’re stunned by an opponent’s attack (and fail your Focus check), then any Concentration or Sustained FX immediately stop working. Lasting FX remain, but they’re no longer under your control.

Once an active FX is deactivated (voluntarily or not) it must be reactivated normally once you’re capable of doing so. This is trivial for a free action FX, but can be significant for FX requiring longer actions, particularly ones with Flaws adding other activation requirements.

Losing ControlEdit

In addition to losing the ability to maintain an FX, it’s possible to lose the ability to control it, which is not necessarily the same thing. An out of control FX may deactivate, but could do other things as well.

A subject under Mind Control can be ordered to activate, deactivate, or use any FX under his control. So you can order a Compelled thrall to lower his force field, for example, or stop maintaining any other FX. Targets may be strongly opposed to certain FX-related actions: turning off your force field is one thing, shutting off your Flight FX while high in the air is another!

You can’t use Mind Control to command a target to do something he can’t normally do, like turn off Enhanced Trait (or any other permanent effect) or exert active control over a passive FX. Likewise, Mind Control doesn’t abrogate any modifiers on the target’s FX: if they don’t work at night, for example, then your control isn’t going to change that.

An FX with the Uncontrolled flaw is never under your control! Although it may sometimes do something useful, an Uncontrolled FX is always under the Gamemaster’s control and is considered a passive FX. Among other things, this means someone usurping control of your FX doesn’t gain any more control over it than you have. It also means the FX may operate even when you’re normally incapable of using other FX, if the GM sees fit.

An Unreliable FX, on the other hand, just doesn’t work sometimes. When you fail a reliability check, treat it as an involuntary deactivation of the FX: it stops working immediately (if it was active) and can’t be reactivated until you recover the FX in some way.

Resistance Against FXEdit

Active FX that work on other characters must overcome that character's Resistance against the FX. The type of resistance (Toughness, Fortitude, or Will against most FX) depends on the FX and its modifiers. The DC to overcome a resistance is 10 + resistance modifier. Add your FX's rank to a d20 roll to see if you overcome the resistance. So the DC to overcome a character's +9 Fortitude resistance is 19 (10 + 9). If you succeed in overcoming the target's resistance, the FX works.

Difficulty Class to Overcome a Resistance = 10 + Resistance rank

Harmless FXEdit

Some FX are listed as "(harmless)" after the resistance type, meaning the FX is usually beneficial, but recipients may resist it, if they wish. Successfully resisting against a harmless FX means the FX doesn’t work. This particularly comes into play with passive benefits to resistance, like Immunity.

Staged FXEdit

Some FX are listed as "(staged)" after the Resistance type, meaning the amount by which the check to overcome the character's resistance determines the outcome of the FX. The exact results of the success are given in the FX’s description.

Forgoing ResistanceEdit

Willing characters can forgo their resistance against an FX, if they wish. The player declares the intention to do so before the FX is used. This includes characters that think they’re receiving the benefit of a harmless FX, even if they’re not! You can’t forgo Toughness resistance and there’s no such thing as a “harmless” Toughness FX.


The Immunity FX allows characters to automatically resist certain FX. Moreover, since Immunity is normally Permanent, the character cannot choose to forgo resistance, even if the FX is harmless.

Characters with Continuous Duration or Sustained Duration Immunity can choose to turn the FX off in order to forgo their resistance and receive the benefit of harmless FX, if desired. Even in those cases, you can’t forgo the resistance while Immunity is active, and it requires a free action to voluntarily lower your Immunity.


The result of any given FX is given in the FX’s description, but FX results share certain common terms and systems, described in this section.


Many FX are measured in time, distance, area, mass affected, and so forth. The Time and Value Progression Table handles these measurements for effects in d20 Advanced. Uses of the table are referenced in the individual FX and modifier descriptions in this chapter. The table includes value progressions for different playstyles, from lower-powered games to epic games.

An extended range FX works at a particular distance (or over a particular area) determined by its rank, as shown on the Extended Range Table. Because the FX’s range or area is determined by rank, it cannot be changed using Range or Area modifiers. To alter range or area, increase or decrease the effect’s rank instead. If an FX does not have area based on rank, it uses the Area extra to work over an area.

Lasting ResultsEdit

An FX with “(lasting)” listed after its duration means the target must recover from the FX by making additional checks with the resistance the FX targeted, with a Cumulative +1 per previous attempt. A successful check eliminates the lingering FX (and the need for further check).

An Instant Duration lasting FX allows a new recovery check each round on the initiative count when the FX occurred. So an instant lasting FX that takes place on initiative count 12 of a round offers a new check at initiative count 12 on the following round, even if the FX-user or the target’s place in the initiative order changes.

A Concentration Duration lasting FX allows a new recovery for each interval on the Time and Value Progression Table, starting one minute after the FX occurs (then 5 minutes, 20 minutes, and so on). The FX lasts until the target successfully resists or the user stops concentrating whichever comes first. If you stop concentrating, the subject gains a new check every round (like an instant lasting FX), with a Cumulative +1 per atttempt, until the FX is eliminated. Once you stop concentrating on the FX, you can’t start again without an entirely new use of the FX.

A Sustained Duration lasting FX allows a new recovery check for each interval on the Time and Value Progression Table, the same as with concentration duration, but does not require an action to maintain; its FX continue until the target successfully saves. If you concentrate during an entire time interval (taking a standard action each round), the subject does not gain the Cumulative +1 for that interval. Once you stop concentrating on a sustained lasting FX, you cannot start concentrating on it again without an entirely new use of the FX.

A Continuous Duration lasting FX does not allow new checks at all; if the initial effect succeeds, the FX lasts until countered or reversed in some way. The GM should carefully regulate sustained and continuous lasting FX in the game. Generally, there should be some reasonable way to reverse a continuous lasting FX other than countering or nullifying it, such as a medical treatment, folk remedy, other FX, or the like. The GM decides what’s reasonable for any given FX.

It should be noted that there is no such thing as a “Permanent lasting” FX; continuous is as close as it gets, and the Permanent flaw does not apply to the duration of lasting FX. No FX in d20A should be completely irreversible unless it is a plot device controlled by the GM, and even then Gamemasters should consider carefully whether or not such an absolute effect is fair.