Example To Help Explain How 2d20 Momentum/Threat Works

I was asked in a discord about 2d20 and to describe how the game plays different than other games, specifically the Momentum/Threat meta mechanics. This assumes that the Gamemaster has a working knowledge of momentum/thread, other mechanics, and has explained it to the players, and the players look dumbfounded at the Gamemaster. One of my favorite examples of how 2d20 works and how to explain how Momentum/Threat work to new players is the chase seen in the middle of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

– Scene starts with Indiana having just escaped the Well of Souls and rescuing Marion from the plane on the German airfield. The Ark has been loaded on to a truck and is on its way out of camp.

– Indiana makes an observation roll to spot the truck. A simple roll, but nets him a bonus success and thus starts building his momentum. “I’m making this up as a go,” Indy exclaims as he jumps on a horse and uses the bonus momentum to make a successful animal handling check to navigate the horse down a small cliff and catch up to the fleeing German transport.

– He carries that momentum as he dodges fire from a vehicle mounted machine gun and successfully jumps onto the transport and pulls the passenger out. Indy is now at FULL momentum as he begins struggling with the driver. Trading melee checks and driving checks and he knocks the driver out the door, and then rams the lead car. The GM rolls a drive check to regain control of the car and rolling more successes than he needs. The GM uses that gained threat to regain the lead position in the chase.

– Indiana, with a full pool of momentum, starts getting cocky and burns momentum with his drive checks to run one of the chase cars and chasing motorcycle off the road. Indy’s player burns final momentum to drive the last car off the cliff to finish off the trailing cars.

– The GM has a similar pool to Indiana’s Momentum Pool, called Threat. GM introduces a new wrinkle to the scene to deal with the cocky Indiana, and uses Threat to have several soldiers start climbing out of the back of the truck and on to the side of the canvas cover. Indiana is successful in his drive roll vs the soldiers checks to hold on, but it was not without a Complication. One of the soldiers manages to shoot Indiana in the arm before being peeled off the side of truck. Complications CAN happen, even when a player is successful. While the player succeeds, it is at a cost. Indiana takes a Harm, and now each roll Indiana makes is going to be one step more difficult.

– The GM uses his Threat Pool to call up a more powerful enemy to the field, a Nemesis. Up until now, Indiana has been mowing down Minion level soldiers. Nemesis NPCs, on the other hand, are equal to the PC and reserved to really challenge a PC. In this scene, the GM declares a Captain is left in the back of the truck and is a Nemesis. The Captain crawls across the top of the truck, out of sight of Indiana and gets the drop on the PC, a few good hits in, and finally throws Indiana out of the front of the truck.

– Indiana has used up all his momentum and beings failing check after check as Indiana tries to climb up the front of the truck. As the Captain speeds up to ram Indiana into the lead car, Indiana’s Player declares that he will purposely fail his next roll and falls to the dirt. Indiana is out of Mometum and needs to succeed at this final roll. Indiana then BUYS Threat from the GM while under the truck, and converts it to momentum. Using the bought momentum, Indiana succeeds spectacularly in his next roll and uses his whip as a rope to climb back on to the truck.

– Indiana is now building momentum again. Success after success, Indian’s momentum pool grows as he climbs along the side of the truck. In a turn of Fortune, Indiana gets his revenge on the Captain by surprising him, using momentum, and throws him from the truck after a few successful blows. The GM fails his check to keep the Captain on the truck and Indiana burns Momentum to enhance the trucks damage and Indiana runs the Captain over, killing him.

– Indiana senses the scene is coming to an end, and knows that none of his stored Momentum will carry over into the next scene. Indiana uses all his remaining momentum to run the lead car off the road, tend to his wounds, and hide the truck and the Ark just as the lead car pulls up. The scene ends.

– Unlike Indiana’s Momentum pool, the GM’s Threat Pool does not drain after the end of the scene. Later the GM will use the Threat that Indiana bought or came from Complications to introduce other scenarios like a German U-Boat surprising Indiana on the high sees and Indiana getting captured and brought before the Belloq, a Nemesis Rival, who wishes to use the Ark to speak with God and cement Belloq as a powerful Sorcerer.

This is very crude example of how 2d20 plays out with momentum/threat and why it is perfect for pulpy games like Conan, John Carter, and the like. As Gamemasters, the most important thing to remember and explain to new players is “throw caution to the wind.” Use that momentum. Buy that threat from the Gamemaster. “Who dares wins.” Just like Indiana, even if you make it up as you go, players who use ALL of what 2d20’s mechanics have to offer will usually come out on top when all is said and done.


Great article! Thanks for the insight, this should help get my players to the table.

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