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Played my first John Carter game - a number of questions

I played my first game of John Carter with some friends and wanted to check on a few things that came up during the game, talent balancing, and clarify some things that appeared in the Dotar Sojat supplemental book. Sorry for the number of questions.

In the one-off I did, the players used the default Red Martian Envoy, Green Martian scout, and Red Martian Duelist. The Red Martian Envoy seemed to cause the most issues due to her focus on social combat.

  1. When Monsters get afflictions, they don’t have any penalty on their stats, right?
    1a. Monsters still get Afflictions when at least 5 stress is inflicted, right?
    1b. A Monster has 7 stress and 5 have already been inflicted. If 4 damage is dealt, does it do 3 Afflictions? In that 1 for filling up the Stress Meter (2 damage), 1 in excess of Stress Meter (1 damage), and another 1 in excess of Stress meter; or does it just do 1 Affliction for filling up the Stress Meter?
  2. When a White Ape uses Dramatic Return to come back, does it have any stress?
  3. When a Radium Rifle (Fearsome) is fired at a Synthetic Man (Immune to Fear), it will still do normal damage but the Fear generated through an effect is prevented, right? (In other words, an attack with the Fearsome quality and a Fear attack are two different things.)
    3a. If an attack is typed with Fear, such as a Thark trying to intimidate an enemy swordsman in combat, if the swordsman defends with Might+Passion, the damage has to go on the Fear track even though Might is typed to the Injury track?
    3b. On the Banth’s Terrifying Roar, it does 3d6 Fear damage. If I role an Effect, it gives an extra damage on the Fear track, right?
    3c. If a character attacks with their fists and no talents come into play (so no Sharp/Fearsome/Psychic qualities), does an Effect do anything, or does it just sort of fizzle as there are no qualities for it to take advantage of.
    3d. Somewhat related, one of my players dumped a lot of momentum and threat into rolling many combat dice to take down a Banth. However, due to a fluke of bad luck, of the 6 combat dice he rolled, he got a one, a four, and four threes, doing only 1 point of stress. Are there any sort of house rules to get rid of the ‘dead zone’ of 3 and 4 on combat dice? I was thinking having 1,2,3,4 each only do 1 damage, with 5/6 doing damage+effect.
  4. The default Red Martian Envoy gets a bodyguard as one of her allies. Does that mean she should always have a minion following her around? Or something else?
  5. How should I handle social attacks against Minions? The Envoy tried to convince a pirate queen and her minions to let them go in peace, and used Momentum to dispatch 3 additional minions. It felt a bit odd for the pirates to run away/let them go as the feared pirate queen was in combat with her minions.
  6. When the Envoy was making the social attack against the Minions, I defaulted to using a difficulty of 1 on both sides as that was the default in the book for attacking and defending. Upon reflection, since what the Envoy was trying to do was more complex than a simple sword thrust, would it have been better to give the Envoy a higher difficulty even though it was a ‘Conflict Action’ just like a sword thrust?
  7. What is the point of the ‘Bend to the Lash’ talent on the Corrupt Jed NPC? If one of the Jed’s followers disobeys him, he can do 4d6 Fear damage. It seems like its only use is to try and wipe out the Jed’s followers and minions if they think about helping the players, but that just leaves the Jed more vulnerable to the players to gang up on him.
  8. The ‘Speak from the Heart’ talent seems like it should cost more than 2 ranks. In addition to letting the character always use Passion (1 rank) and getting an extra combat die (1 rank), it lets the attack do 2 confusion damage on an effect (free?). The extra combat die and extra effect damage, especially when combined with the ‘Symbol of your Royal House’ item, made the envoy better at taking down the Pirate Queen than the Duelist due to the number of combat dice rolled by the Envoy, and the Pirate Queen not having great Attributes/Talents to defend against social attacks with.
    8a. The starting equipment the Envoy gets, ‘Symbol of Your Royal House’ only works in social attacks, right? Or does it also do Psychic damage if the Envoy walks up to an enemy and hits them with it? How does it’s ability to generate Confusion damage on effect work with the 2 confusion generated by ‘Speak from the Heart’?
  9. On the description for Passionate Orator, it says you can reroll any failed die in attempt to convince someone. However, other talents that let you reroll die indicate only one die is rerolled, such as ‘Wealth of Knowledge’. Is Passionate Orator just poorly worded?
  10. Is there any real difference balance-wise between rolling an extra combat die and rerolling a failed combat die? Each die roll has the same chance to give a result, and it would seem rolling an extra combat die is better as your best possible result is improved. However, Calculated Shot combines changing an attribute in addition to rolling an extra combat die; yet Mighty Thews requires the player to spend a momentum to reroll a failed die. Why the difference?
    10a. Any other advice on building/balancing talents?
  11. Stupid question. Is the Green Martian talent ‘Four Armed for War’ something a player has to choose to be active? The Green Martian Scout in my party never used ‘Four Armed for War’ because it was inferior to the rifle talent the character had.
  12. I want to create a scene similar to the one in The Gods of Mars where Carter basically shuts down when he sees Phaidor attempt to kill Dejah Thoris - presumably some form of Confusion and Fear damage. How would I go about doing that under the rules? Threat can be spent to create dangers, but those require the player to make an attribute check first and a fixed level based on the amount of threat spent.
  13. In the Dotar Sojat supplemental book, I just want to confirm that Systems+Cunning is the default used for an attacking ship. The way the book was worded suggested that this was what is used in fringe cases, like shooting at an obstruction, and active combat would be addressed later.
  14. In the section talking about ‘Backup Crew’ (ie if the players are busy repairing the ship and piloting it, the crew can take over firing the guns), the ‘Backup Crew’ quality of 4-6 is separate from the Crew attribute, right? In other words, ‘Backup Crew’ might best be thought of as the quality of the officers who step in when players are elsewhere.
  15. In the section about building your own ships, it says that Main Guns must be 2 combat dice higher than secondary guns. However, in the narrative walkthrough on building a ship, it says that 4 points was spend on guns, giving the ship 2 2d6 guns. However, the ‘ship card’ adjacent to it only says ‘Main guns doing 2d6 damage’. Is the ‘ship card’ missing the second set of guns? Also, how is the ship able to have 2 sets of guns doing the same damage? The rules seem to suggest it would have to be Main Guns doing 3d6 and the Secondary doing 1d6.
    15a. This also plays into the Cruiser on pg104 that has 3/2 for main/secondary.
  16. When a ship suceeds on its attribute test to attack, does it get the default 1d6 as stated in the main rules, or 2d6 as suggested on pg 90? (pg 90 says standard ship guns do 2d6 damage). Or, does it get 0 bonus dice?
    16a. If the cruiser attacks with its main guns, does it roll 3 combat dice, 4, or 5?
  17. If I choose the Research operation variant (-1 combat die) on a ship and put no weapons on it, should it try and attack a ship, would it roll 0 combat dice?

Also, any idea when the Jeddak of Jeddaks supplemental book is coming out? I recently ordered the Dotar Sojat book and must have just missed the release of the Prince of Helium.

Thanks so much for your help!


I’ll try to help with as many as I can.

I’ve never seen anything that says monsters are exempt from the general rules for afflictions. I’d apply the penalty to all checks and if they gain 5 stress from 1 attack then they get an affliction.

You don’t break up damage that way so the monster would take 1 injury for filling up it’s stress track. They did not take damage after their stress track was already full. Similarly, if something were hit with 12 stress and that filled it’s stress track it would take one affliction for meeting the condition of taking greater than 5 stress, and then a second for filling its stress track.
(barring the application of the narrator’s choice optional rule, which I personally would reserve only for obvious death situations like you dove out of an airship face first into the ground)


If the target is a PC or a nemesis then no, the target elects which of the tracks they take the damage in (except for the sharp or fearsome quality bonus stress).

The only way the target could have used might to defend is if they somehow leveraged their physical strength in the defense (like moving in and wrestling with the Thark, or countering the intimidation by lifting something heavy as a demonstration of their own strength), which opened them up to the possibility of physical injury.

It’s entirely appropriate to reject defending with might in that case if there’s no way to leverage might in the defense, like if their description of their own defense doesn’t actually incorporate might or make it obvious how they could be risking injury. Description first, then appropriate mechanics. I would include someone having a Talent for using a particular attribute to defend. Describe your character using that talent.

I would not. It does not say that it has the fearsome quality, so rolling effects would only deal the normal 1 that comes from an effect.

An effect counts as 1, so even if you don’t have a special quality or talent to leverage the effects, they’ll still be 1 stress.
That does mean the Fearsome and Sharp qualities are effectively (no pun intended) 1+1.

I’ve never done so in any 2d20 game (Conan, STA, JCoM) that I’ve run. The games are all balanced around having those two values be zero. Rolling dice is a gamble and that’s the intended risk of rolling combat dice in 2d20.

I use the dice that go with the games (for STA and JCoM) that don’t have 1 through 6 on them, to eliminate the “I rolled a 4 though” weird feeling. The stakes are clear by looking at the dice—there are two blank sides that could come up. I hate the Conan combat dice for having 1 through 6 on them. It’s completely counterintuitive to the primary use of the dice.

The rules for the allies gained with renown are in Chapter 6, page 86. The way I understand it, you can seek them out for specific help or they can show up to help. The former requires deliberate effort, and the later costs momentum. The Martian Duelist has their old sword master as an ally, but it’s unlikely that they’re following their former student around. The Okar Spy’s 5 renown worth of allies don’t sound like an entourage. Also, the ally isn’t equipment, they’re a relationship. You can end up owing them. They can ask you for help and get mad if you ignore them too many times.

For the bodyguard I’d use them in a case like “oh no, that swordsman has challenged me to a duel to the death because they’re clearly an assassin. I spend 2 momentum and as I open my mouth to say I accept the duel my loyal comrade who is far better with a sword than I am calls out that he accepts the duel in his chieftain’s stead, because the challenger is clearly a dastardly knave, not worthy of [my] blade.”

It depends on the specific situation.

If the Envoy is reasoning with the pirates or trying to convince them that the PCs are trying to act against the pirate’s enemies then I would not have involved the minions since she’s there. Any action to convince the pirates to let them go would have just been in opposition to their leader. They know they’re dead if they disobey the order to attack and it’s a matter of loyalty not who they fear more. The difficulty of the Envoy’s action and the Queen’s defense would be based on the Envoy’s approach and argument and the situation. I woudn’t necessarily have involved stress tracks at all. It would just have been a function of whether the queen can be convinced.

If he were trying to frighten them into running away then I’d do something like:

  • If that pirate queen had a talent that let her defend against such actions for her minions (either because they are loyal to her or they fear her) then I’d .
  • Another option (maybe requiring talents) is to treat the defense against intimidation as a teamwork action for her and her minions. The more of them there are the harder it is to convince them to abandon the fight. The nature of the Envoy’s action could affect the difficulty of their defense. If he’s laying out evidence of how she’s betrayed them or pointing out how she mistreats them then the defense roll could have a high difficulty.

The default difficulty is always modified by the situation as appropriate (sometimes +0 is appropriate). In this case the minions had their queen there and they might have had superior numbers. As I said, based on your description I’d have run it differently, but if I were running it as an attack on the minions like you did, then I think I probably would have made the difficulty of the Envoy’s “attack” higher. I may have also had her defend for them. It’s a pretty reasonable talent for a pirate queen.

I would consider it to be more intended for use with if a PC under the command of the Corrupt Jed. That is an entirely possible situation. They are a Jed. They’re the leader of a city or settlement like a duke or a baron. That could be the PC’s city or settlement, meaning she’s their Jed and the PCs fall into the “their people” circumstance of the talent. If they elect to not follow his commands then they suffer the consequences. They still get to disobey, but they experience some fear over the consequences because they know their Jed is not a merciful woman.

The Envoy wasn’t taking her down. She was never going to drop dead as a result of being spoken to. The Envoy is the face character and he’s good at convincing someone to see things his way. This talent is there to emphasize that.

Don’t forget to consider when a talent doesn’t apply also.

  • “Your words can soften hearts, win over allies, and confuse your foes.”
    Circumstance: When speaking or negotiating.

Based on both the description and circumstance I wouldn’t apply it when the envoy is trying to beat information out of someone in an interrogation or intimidate with threats. Limitations on when talents apply reduces their grade. It’s also possible for the Envoy to be attempting to use this talent through impassioned oration or negotiation in a situation like a battle where nobody’s interested in listening to his words or can’t hear over the sounds of airships crashing into each other, so the difficulty of his action is higher than 1. I this case if she was already engaged in battle and/or beginning with an attitude that was not receptive to negotiation that could raise his difficulty.

Treat it like a weapon for social “attacks.” It’s not 2 bonus combat dice it’s 2 dice instead of 1 die on that social “attack.” I’d apply the effects of that talent in addition to the psychic quality. There are situations the symbol might work when I would not allow that talent to apply, so it’s not a big deal. That’s the area the envoy is super specialized in and there are situations where that approach might be inapplicable (Banths, white apes, a battlefield against an army).

If you’re concerned that it’s too powerful then I would hold Passionate Orator strictly to the spirit of the description (including the italicized description), not just the wording of the circumstance to keep it clearly limited since it’s a grade 1 talent and remember that circumstances can always modify the difficulty of an action roll in or out of combat. The Envoy’s social strength is in the council amphitheater or the negotiating table and they can dominate there.

Mighty Thews doesn’t reroll one combat die. It rerolls all of the ones that failed.

The process of creating talents is collaborative, with the Narrator having final say. It’s not something like other game’s point buy power building tables. Create the talent through a conversation. Make sure that you and the player define the limitations and costs of each talent to the degree that everyone is comfortable with. A talent you build at your table might have different limitations and cost from a similar one that another group builds and that’s OK because your group decided what was right for your group.

That’s entirely up to the player. There’s plenty of times I’d rather use Four-Armed. Like if there’s no situation already suggesting that I can’t use Reason for my rifle attack. Then calculated shots is just a bonus damage die instead of momentum I can use for anything. Or if something is in melee combat with me so I’m not making a ranged attack against it with the rifle.

That’s all the questions I can think of an answer for. I don’t have Dotar Sojat yet.


Thanks for your help! If you can offer your thoughts on a few more questions, I would appreciate that. I’m trying to get used to some aspects of the rules as my playgroup does D&D almost exclusively.

I get the use of allies in the Okar context, but I guess the bodyguard ally in specific is tripping me up. Suppose the players are on a mission to visit a hostile jed, and the envoy, reasonably, takes steps to ensure her familial bodyguard is able to come along with her. It would be odd if the bodyguard was not there all the time by her side, appearing beside her when the jed tries to kill her, but not there later as the players try to escape through a banth-infested cave.

Sorry, I wasn’t clear. The envoy ‘took down’ the Pirate Queen by doing confusion damage in trying to convince her to give the players and airship so the players could leave and not kill any more of her guards. That would seem to fit under the ‘confuse your foes’ condition for the talent. How do you see “confuse their foes”?
Related, in the Speak from the Heart talent, do you know where Modiphius got the “does 2 confusion damage on effect” from as the two talent ranks already appear to be accounted for in the different talent use and extra damage die?

I guess I’m having some trouble wrapping my head around using social attacks to inflict confusion damage. Can you offer any examples from sessions you have been involved in?

Thanks for clarifying that. The similarity of its language to Passionate ORator made it seem like it only permitted one reroll.

I would have them there but in that sort of capacity I’d avoid taking focus off the PCs by treating them like a piece of equipment. They’re still an NPC under your control and they can be part of conversations. Unfortunately I don’t see general guidelines for equipment like Conan has.

If the body guard is helping them just give them an extra momentum added to the result. Maybe 2 when the guard is protecting them. The guard could be helping attack, move a heavy thing, anything an NPC could help with. Still the PC’s roll and it’s just momentum on the result (important for defense which is a contested roll so the result is determined by each side’s momentum not raw successes). I’d even let the PC elect to “sacrifice” the guard to avoid an injury. Now they have an injured friend who can’t help them whom they need to keep safe.

Because it’s not usable all the time. That lowers the level of the talent. There are situations where it doesn’t apply. It’s not for intimidation or berating somebody. I don’t see speaking as “any time I make words with my face hole” because it says speaking or negotiating. To me that puts speaking in a similar context to negotiation. Your having a semi-civil conversation.

Not specific examples that have happened, but it’s not brain leaking out of your ears D&D psychic damage. Confusion won’t kill anyone or even convince somebody of something. It would just make them flip the table and leave angry. In the case you described it would be less of a fleeing and a temporary she can’t figure out right now why your argument is BS, so she’s giving in for now. There’s a ticked off pirate queen who’s going to figure out she was hoodwinked and come back even less reasonable than she was the first time.

Mechanically they got Blacked Out in combat but they’ll be back. It’s not reasonable to bring her back in the same adventure because Blacked Out is equivalent to stabbing somebody with a sword, but some day. You could have conceded before all those afflictions got inflicted, like voluntarily Blacking Out, and have her crew swoop back in later as a threat spend when she figures out that she got tricked.

If the PCs goal was to genuinely convince her of something then that’s a different roll than a social attack. Maybe use a social attack to inflict a couple afflictions as the envoy lays out their argument but then separately make a check to convince the queen, which is just an opposed check not an attack. Most momentum (not successes) wins. The queen could be counter negotiating inflicting afflictions on the envoy too. The afflictions make the negotiation harder for the queen (or envoy if they took some in return. The situational modifiers to the envoy’s negotiation roll (the queen is here to kill you or capture you not talk, and you’re negotiating with her in the middle of a battle, she has the upper hand, etc.) probably make their end of the negotiation roll higher difficulty than the queen’s so the afflictions balance the field to help them score more momentum than the queen. Result: the queen is actually convinced by the Envoy’s negotiation tactics and might not be their enemy. Enough extra momentum spent and maybe she becomes an ally—at least temporarily.

For all those roles the envoy and queens rolls would have situational difficulty modifiers (like if the envoy didn’t actually have any reasonable argument and was just throwing words at her). You’re free as the narrator to apply the appropriate difficulty modifiers to any role. Just make sure they’re reasonable and apply them fairly (so NPCs might have them too).

It’s one reroll but all the combat dice that come up blank (3 or 4) so they get to keep all the good dice. It can only ever help you.

Passionate Orator is the d20s not the combat dice and it’s condition is a failure to succeed on the check. If you roll 3 d20 and get 2 successes against a 4 difficulty you can reroll all 3 d20 and hope to not roll worse.