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Austin Adams (order #7154603)

Austin Adams (order #7154603)


A.P. Klosky

Development Pam DiBerardino, Jeff Kintner, & A.P. Klosky

Copy Editing Christine Crabb, Pam DiBerardino, & Jeff Kintner
Cover Talon Dunning
Interior Art Jonathan Barnes, Eric Douthitt, Matt Morrow, &
Christopher Reach
Layout & Design Clay Gardner
Publisher Angus Abranson
Production Manager Gobion Rowlands
Community Coordinator T.R. Knight

Dedicated to Jules, my very own “pretty bird.”

Cold Steel Wardens: Roleplaying in the Iron Age of Comics is © 2013 Blackfall Press, LLC.
References to other copyrighted material (including comics, graphic novels, or characters)

in no way constitute a challenge to the respective copyright holders of that material.
This edition is printed and distributed, under license, by Chronicle City of 58 Woodville
Road, New Barnet, Herts, EN5 5NG, UK. For further information about other Chronicle City

games please check out our website and forums at

Austin Adams (order #7154603)


introduction 3

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character sheet

Austin Adams (order #7154603)

Introduction 3

IT’S ALWAYS RAINING HERE. You get the feeling that the
city is desperately trying to wash away all of the filth and shame that work their
way out into the streets. Even the whores are staying off the sidewalk, huddling
under the Wainwright Bridge and waiting for cars to pull up. A couple of gang-
sters are still out trudging through the greasy avenues, talking big because they’re
young and they think there’s no one there to hear them. It doesn’t matter how hard
it rains; the taint in this city always comes back, grinning its yellow-stained smile.

I took out four no-name thugs who were holding up a pita-cart vendor down in
The River Flats earlier tonight. I broke the big one’s jaw, and the scrawny one won’t be
walking for a few months. Fucker deserved it for pulling a gun on me. The other two
were smart enough to run. Achmed gets to take home his cash box for another day.

I paced back up Sixteenth Street and climbed the Grandview Building. One of
those punks landed a solid hit on my shoulder; it’s swollen and tender. At least that
one didn’t have a knife. I was out of commission for almost six weeks when one of
the Rojo Bastardes caught me in the back with a switchblade.

I think I’m going to start carrying a gun. It’s working for Double-Tap. Hell, we’re
all criminals anyway. The Nornsby Act’s seen to that. When they catch me, I’m
probably looking at ten to twelve in Solitary. Double-Tap will probably get life. He
gunned down a cop as he was trying to get back to his hideout. Serves them both
right:  Double-Tap for being stupid and the cop for trying to take down one of the
good guys. At least the cop lived; he’ll just be doing desk work from now on.

A gun would mean a little more protection. This Kevlar plate only goes so far
and it’s hard to punch a guy when he’s pumping off a .38 into your chest. At the very
least, it would scare off the likes of those pita-punks without having to get in a fight.
I mean, it’s not like I have to use it...right?


Welcome to the Iron Age of comics: one of the most ethically challenging
and creative eras in comic book history. For the uninitiated, the Iron Age of
comics—also known as the Dark Age—is one of gritty realism and brutal con-
sequences. It began in the early 1980s and includes such seminal classics as
Alan Moore’s Watchmen and Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. The most
exemplary story arcs of this era focused on the moral challenges of being a
masked vigilante and the repercussions of living a double life.

The social turmoil of the 1970s and 80s provided ample fuel for content in
the Iron Age. Racism, domestic violence, gang warfare, and drug use became
prevalent topics as writers eschewed cosmic, otherworldly perils in favor of
threats the readers could see in their own lives. Classic heroes like Spider-Man,
Daredevil, and Batman went from being unstoppable pillars of justice to more
relatable, human characters. Old and new heroes alike began waging a street-
level war against the gangs, criminals, and corrupt politicians of their home cities.

Austin Adams (order #7154603)


NEED SOME INSPIRATION? Tabletop Roleplaying Games (RPGs) are unlike any
other sort of game. There is no absolute need for a
You can reference the Sample board and pieces. Action takes place entirely in the
Heroes section (page 253) for players’imaginations with no clearly defined winner
fully fleshed characters. or loser. Sure, the team of Heroes may put an end
to the corrupt mayor, or they could all go down in a
blaze of glory, but there will always be evil, and there
will always be Heroes to fight against it.The most im-
portant parts of a tabletop game are that everyone
around the table works together to make sure their
story is told and that everyone has fun doing so.

Each player at the table controls one Hero.
Your Hero is created and governed by the stan-
dard set of rules outlined in this book. You will cre-
ate your Hero by giving them a set of Skills and
Flaws that defines who they are and how they
operate. Your Hero could be a corporate spy and
expert hacker, a lone-wolf martial artist, or a gun-
slinger who fires off quips as fast as her bullets. The
rules laid out in this chapter will provide you with
the structure to make your Hero into whoever you
want them to be. As cliched as it may sound, your
only real limitation is your imagination.


At their core, your Hero will be defined by a set of
Vitals; these eight core attributes represent how
strong, agile, intelligent, and resilient they are. A
character’s Vitals shape their every aspect—from
their ability to defend themself to their movement
speed. Your Hero will also have a set of Skills to rep-
resent how talented and trained they are in more
focused and complex tasks. As characters become
more trained, they’ll adopt Specialties within their
Skills that grant them conditional bonuses.

Heroes also may also pick up Masteries, which
grant them new uses for their Skills, as well as ad-
ditional abilities and equipment. If you choose to,
you can even give your Hero Powers to make them
a super-powered metahuman. However, no mat-
ter how skilled or powerful your Hero is, they also
have Flaws that foes may use to their advantage.

Austin Adams (order #7154603)

Introduction 5


One of the players at your table will not be playing a single Hero, but will take on
the mantle of the GameMaster.The GM creates the world the Player Characters (PCs)
live in by narrating the scenery and action as well as portraying the Non-Player Char-
acters (NPCs) to give the PCs a plotline to follow. Furthermore, the GM is the judge,
jury, and executioner of the game. It is up to the GM to make sure the players abide
by the rules laid out in this book and to resolve any disputes concerning them. The
GM controls every character the PCs encounter, from the Mayor’s snotty secretary
who pushes them out the door, to the mad bomber who lives in the city sewers.

The rest of the players at the table will need to work together to take down
petty criminals, megalomaniac villains, and corrupt figureheads. Their Heroes may
disagree with each other’s methods, ethics, and philosophies, but if they want to
survive the life of a vigilante and bring a glimpse of hope into the grim world they
live in, they’ll need to put their differences aside and fight together.


The superhero genre has been a favorite of roleplayers for decades. Who wouldn’t
enjoy being able to fly through the sky, blast beams of energy from their fingertips,
or lift a bus and hit the nefarious villain with it?  It’s power fantasy in its purest form.

Within the scope of superhero-based comics, readers and creators alike
speak of several primary eras. Each era has distinct themes and features that sets
it apart from the others. Most readers separate comics into five ages: the Golden,
Silver, Bronze, Iron, and Electrum (also called the Modern) Ages. The Iron Age of
Comics takes place between the early 1980s and the Marvel bankruptcy in 1996.
During this age, writers and artists created some of comics’ most enduring story-
lines:  Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns, Daredevil: Born Again, and countless oth-
ers. Readers come back to these stories and ones like them because of the depth
and complexity of their storytelling. These stories even inspired some of the most
popular comic-based films of all time, such as Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight.

The difference between the Iron Age and the other four eras of superhero
comics comes in scope of subject matter. Iron Age comics combine postmodern
symbolism and realistic character depictions to provide new, fresh takes on clas-
sic caped heroes. Iron Age stories focus on the heroes’internal struggles and their
battles with enemies that seem pulled from the period’s headlines: drug-dealers,
corporate raiders, and serial killers. Combined, these elements imbued a realistic,
gritty essence that resonates with readers even today.

Cold Steel Wardens and its core system—the MAFIANAP mechanic—are
built from the ground up to reflect the Iron Age of Comics in all its grimy, blood-
stained glory, focusing on the roleplaying aspect of tabletop gaming without
sacrificing any of the bone-breaking, energy-blasting action. Through Cold Steel
Wardens, your can tell your Heroes’ story, whether it’s a one to be proud of, or
only fit for the hushed whispers of the underworld.

Super-men need not apply. Heroes need to get their hands dirty here.

Austin Adams (order #7154603)


Austin Adams (order #7154603)

Chapter 01 Character Creation 7


This section is a quick overview of what you’ll need to do to build your Hero. For
more information, see the corresponding sections.
1. Print out or copy the character sheet in the back of this book. Your character

sheet will serve as a reference for all of your Hero’s statistical information.
2. Think of a concept for your Hero. Do you want to be an unpowered de-

tective and martial artist, a master infiltrator and hacker, an shape-shifting
manipulator?  Or maybe you’d like to be something in between?  Do you
see your Hero as a brutal thug, an agile acrobat, a charismatic speaker, or an
intellectual?  How’s your Hero’s health…or their grip on sanity, for that mat-
ter?  Have a strong idea of what you want your Hero to be, even before you
assign your first points. If you are having a difficult time thinking of a concept
or nailing down the finer details of your character, try looking through tables
found in Flaws, Masteries, Skills, etc. to see what appeals to you.
3. Assign points to your Vitals. Every Hero starts with 32 Vital Points. Every Vital
must have at least 1 point put into it and can go up to a maximum 10. 3 is con-
sidered average; 0 is permanently incapacitated—either dead or brain-dead.
4. Assign points into Skills, Masteries and Powers. Every starting Hero also
gets 85 Generation Points to buy Skills, Masteries, and Powers. Again, a
higher Rating in a Skill or Power is better. You aren’t required to have points
in every Skill, nor are you required to take any Masteries or Powers; pick a
combination that fits your Hero’s overall theme. Refer to Skills, Masteries,
and Powers section to find out more information.


Masteries 3 points each
Skill Rating 1 point per Rating
Power Rating 2 points per Rating
Powers Costs listed in Powers section (page 83)

Remember, you can’t save any of your Vital or Generation points from char-
acter creation, so make sure you spend all of them.
5. If available, choose Specialties and Optional Effects. For every 3 dice
that your Hero has in a single Skill, they may choose a focus within that
skill, referred to as a Specialty. These Specialties are conditional bonuses
that add additional dice for working within their area of expertise. Don’t
worry if your hero doesn’t have all the Specialties you want at creation,
remember that as your Hero increases their Rating in a Skill, they’ll gain ad-
ditional Specialties. Similarly, for every 3 dice that your Hero has in a Power,
they gain an Optional Effect. Rather than adding situational dice, Optional
Effects alter the effects of the Hero’s Power.
6. Choose at least 2 Flaws. Every Hero in Cold Steel Wardens has weak points,
which the GameMaster’s villains may exploit. Your Hero must choose at least

Austin Adams (order #7154603)

8 Cold Steel Wardens two Flaws before beginning play. For every addi-
tional Flaw, your Hero gains an additional 3 Ad-
A COLD STEELWARDENS GLOSSARY vancement Points to use to purchase Skills, Mas-
teries, or Powers. Your Hero may have as many
d10  A 10-sided die. This is the only Flaws as you like—and may even gain some
type of dice used in Cold Steel over the course of the game. But remember,
Wardens. Entries may tell you the GameMaster will be keeping these Flaws in
to add, subtract, or roll a num- mind as they run the game. Take too many, and
ber of dice–the dice will always your Hero will find themself in over their head.
be d10s. 7. Decide on your Hero’s Memories, Motiva-
tions, and Stances. These elements all reflect
Difficulty  The target number for your Hero’s background. Memories refer to peo-
a Test. Players make a test by ple and places that are important to your Hero’s
rolling their d10s, totalling the past. A Memory could be anything from a trau-
number of hits, adding any matic event to an NPC your Hero cares deeply
modifiers, and comparing it to for. Motivations refer to your Hero’s current
the Difficulty set by the GM. goals. These can range from abstract concepts
A Test succeeds if it meets or like“love”or“revenge”to more specific aims like
beats the Difficulty. “Ensuring that Boss Gianelli meets justice, one
way or another.” Finally, Stances refer to how
Flaw  A physical or psychological your Hero feels about controversial elements
character defect that affects a within their life. A Hero who is “Willing to kill to
given Hero. Flaws contribute to get the job done” or “Hates corporate fat-cats”
Heroes’ Vigilance dice. is much different than one who “Refuses to kill,
no matter the danger”or“Believes in the Ameri-
Mastery  An ability that opens up can Dream.”  Choose at least two of each, and
new ways Heroes can use their remember that the GM rewards Heroes that
Skills, or grants the Hero expen- meet and struggle with their Motivations and
sive gear, or a NPC ally. Stances, so give your Hero personality traits that
they will come face to face with.
Memories  Past events that led 8. Calculate the Hero’s derived stats which are
to our Hero’s current actions. based on theirVitals, Specialties and Powers.
Memories contribute to the Derived Stats include their Pace, Strain (both
Heroes’Vigilance dice Mental and Physical), Defensive Value, and
Breaking Points.
Motivations  Current goals that a 9. Give your hero a Name and a Secret Identity.
Hero is pursuing. Motivations
contribute to the Heroes’Vigi- SUCCESS AND FAILURE
lance dice.
Players and NPCs both take actions by making
Narrative Control  The ability to Tests. Nearly all Tests in Cold Steel Wardens work
take control and alter the pres- the same way:
ence or behavior of NPCs, the 1. The player declares an action.
setting, and plot information. 2. The GM sets a Difficulty for the Test (See page
Under normal circumstances,
narrative control lies in the 178 for a table of suggested Difficulty targets.)
hands of the GM, though Vigi-
lance allows players to assume
varying degrees of narrative
control at the cost of Vigilance

Austin Adams (order #7154603)

Chapter 01 Character Creation 9

3. The player rolls their dice and adds up their Optional Effects  An added func-
hits, telling the GM their total. If the Test is a tionality for a Power, gained
Skill or Power Test, the player adds their Asso- each time a Hero’s Power Rat-
ciated Vital value to the number of hits before ing reaches a multiple of 3 (e.g.,
announcing the total. ratings of 3, 6, 9, etc.). Optional
Effects vary based on the Power
4. The GM resolves the action—this usually in- being altered.
volves telling the PC the result, but not always.
Power   A unique effect granted
All Tests in Cold Steel Wardens are made by rolling outside of the normal scope of
10-sided dice. A roll of 6,7,8, or 9 equates 1 hit, and human ability, whether through
a roll of 10 equates to 2 hits, while a roll of 1 equates innate power, technology, or
to -1 hit. If your total number of hits (plus any modifi- another source. Individuals with
ers) meets or beats the GM’s Difficulty, you succeed. Powers are collectively referred
to as metahumans.
If you beat the Difficulty by 5 or more, you
have achieved a Total Success: your Hero not only Rating  A numerical value that
succeeds, but goes above and beyond the intend- represents a Hero’s training or
ed result. The results of a Total Success range from natural prowess in a Skill, Pow-
dealing double your maximum damage to being er or Vital. A higher Rating is
able to narrate additional effects. always better, as the character’s
Rating determines the number
of d10s rolled during a test.

Skills  The 25 proficiencies a Hero
has—such as Unarmed Combat
or Driving. Skills are separated
into 5 categories:  Physical, So-
cial, Investigative, Knowledge,
and Technical.

Specialty  An area of expertise
within a Skill, gained each
time a Skill’s Rating reaches a
multiple of 3 (e.g., Ratings of 3,
6, 9, etc.). When working within
one of their Specialties, the
Hero adds an additional d10 to
their Test.

Test  Tests are called for whenever a
player wants to take an action
that has a chance of failure,
such as throwing a punch
or driving a car over a ramp.
Players make tests by rolling a
number of d10s all at the same
time; the success or failure of
a test is determined by the

Austin Adams (order #7154603)


number of hits achieved. See If you’ve ever played an RPG, you should be famil-
the Success and Failure section iar with Experience Points (XP). Experience Points
to the right for more informa- represent the wisdom, insight, and knowledge
tion on making tests. gained through acting in the world. Heroes earn
Total Success  Test results grant XP by solving investigations and combating the
additional benefits when the criminal element of their cities. They then use their
number of hits exceeds the XP to improve the Ratings of their Skills, Powers,
Difficulty by 5 or more. The and Vitals, as well as to buy more Masteries, ap-
character goes above and be- plying their knowledge from past experiences to
yond what they intended to do: improve themselves.
they hit harder, discover more
significant information—just GMS AWARD EXPERIENCE FOR...
about anything can happen.
Heroes who achieve a Total Completing an investigation.
Success with an attack deal Defeating (neutralizing, capturing, or killing) a
double maximum dam-
age. When a Total Success is major threat.
achieved for a non-damaging Performing a critical action that advances an
Skill or Power, the results are
entirely up to the GM. investigation.
Stances  Philosophical and ethical Performing an action that is particularly “in-
statements that sum up what
a Hero believes and how he character” or suitable to the Hero, even
acts. Stances contribute to the though it may be to that Hero’s detriment.
Heroes’Vigilance dice. Providing a major service to an important NPC.
Vigilance Dice  A central, limited
pool of dice usable by players In a typical, 4-hour game session, a Hero should
to add dice to a Test, reroll a earn 1–2 Experience Points. When the Heroes
Test, or assume narrative con- complete a major investigation—one that has
trol during a scene. Vigilance taken several sessions to complete—they should
dice are refreshed by the GM earn 4–5 XP each.
when introducing elements
that challenge a Hero’s Flaws, Heroes may spend Experience in numerous
Memories, Motivations, or ways:
Vitals  The 8 statistics that repre- HEROES WANT TO... COST
sent a Hero’s core attributes.
XP  Short for Experience Points, XP Increase a Skill Rating by 1 1 XP
are a relative measure of how Increase a Power Rating by 1 2 XP
experienced and powerful a Purchase a new Mastery 3 XP
Hero is. XP are spent to increase Increase a Vital Rating by 1 5 XP
Skill, Power, and Vitals Ratings,
and to buy Masteries. Normally, Heroes may NOT purchase new Powers
after character generation, unless they are given
express permission by the GM. Doing so has an
XP cost equal to the Power’s original cost, and the
Power has a Rating of 1. The hero can then spend
XP as normal to increase their Power’s Rating.

Austin Adams (order #7154603)

Chapter 01 Character Creation 11

XP does not need be spent immediately; it can GMS: REWARDINGYOUR PLAYERS
be saved up as long as a player wants and spent
whenever it is needed, even during an encounter. Rewards don’t have to be given
The player should track their Hero’s Experience— out at only the end of every ses-
both Total Experience and Unspent Experience— sion as XP- the GM may choose
in the boxes on the left side of the character-sheet. to change it up by rewarding the
Heroes with cold, hard cash or
STARTING WITH MOREEXPERIENCED HEROES high-grade equipment, or even
by increasing their Reputations
If you’re starting a campaign that will require more with a Specialized group. These
from your players right off the bat, you may want rewards can be given out instead
to have them create Heroes that already have of, or in addition to, the XP the
some extra Generation Points to spend. Here are Heroes normally get; just make
some guidelines for starting with higher amounts sure that the players are being
of GP. This amount is based roughly on the num- properly rewarded for their work.
ber of major investigations completed:


Unsung (1–2) 95 GP
Enforcer (3–5) 105 GP
Seasoned Vet (6–10) 120 GP
Legend of the Night (11+) 135 GP

These additional points can change the overall feel
of the game, as they equate to relative Power level.
If you’d like to focus on an Iron Age storyline that
features Powers more prominently—the classic
X-Men storylines “Days of Future Past” and “Age of
Apocalypse” might provide inspiration—starting
with the Enforcer or Seasoned Vet levels may be
more suitable, since buying additional Powers is
normally not permitted after character generation.

Austin Adams (order #7154603)

chapter02VITALS, TESTS, &

Austin Adams (order #7154603)

Chapter 02 Vitals, Tests, & Derived Statistics 13


A Hero is defined by their Vitals; each of these eight core attributes provides a
basic assessment of a character’s raw ability. The higher a Hero’s Vital Rating, the
stronger they are in that realm. A Hero with an Intellect Rating of 5 is smarter
than a Hero with an Intellect of 2. A rating of 3 in any Vital is considered average.
The maximum for any Vital Rating for a Hero is 10—no Hero can permanently
raise their Rating higher than 10, although some Powers allow them to tem-
porarily break that threshold. The GameMaster may create extremely powerful
NPCs with Vitals that go above and beyond the PC’s limitations.

The eight Vitals are evenly divided into two categories: Physical and Men-
tal. Each Vital also directly relates to other aspects of the character, from their
Skills to their Hit Points. The below table lists all of the eight Vitals, as well as
what Skills and Derived Stats they influence.

Magnetism Affects all Social Skills and Canvass.
Accuracy Affects Armed Ranged, Driving, Piloting, Vehicular Weapons,
and Fine Manipulation.
Affects Athetics and all melee damage.
Force Affects all Knowledge Skills, Examination, Mechanics, and
Intellect Wealth/Status.
Affects three Physical Skills, Pace, and Defensive Value.
Agility Affects Physical Strain Threshold and Defensive Value.
Nerve Affects four Investigative Skills and and Intuition.
Awareness Affects Mental Strain Threshold.

Together, the 8 Vitals form the acronym MAFIANAP: Magnetism, Accuracy,
Force, Intellect, Agility, Nerve, Awareness, and Psyche. Magnetism represents a
Hero’s strength of personality and charisma. Accuracy demonstrates fine motor
control and hand-eye coordination, while Agility covers gross motor control
and balance. Force is pure, raw physical strength, while Intellect covers raw
intelligence and problem-solving ability. Nerve and Psyche represent physical
and mental resilience respectively, while Awareness represents a Hero’s overall
perceptiveness and sensory understanding.


Vitals tests encompass actions that relate to one of the eight Vitals, but not
covered by any of the twenty-five Skills (listed in Chapter 03). In order to make
a Vitals Test, roll a number of d10s equal to the Rating of the Vital.

A roof collapses and Lockshanks is trapped under a heavy rafter. Crackdown steps
up and tries to lift it off of his ally by making a Force Test. Crackdown has a Force
Rating of 6, so he rolls 6d10, getting 4 hits. That’s enough to lift the rafter, and Lock-
shanks stumbles to safety.

Austin Adams (order #7154603)

14 Cold Steel Wardens VITALS TESTS IN PLAY:

GMS: ASKING FOR VITALS TESTS Angie is playing “Razor’s Edge,” a vigilante
who’s been investigating a series of murders in
One thing to remember about Greensburg. Several notable doctors have been
Vitals tests is that they’re meant to found dead in their offices, including Dr. Wayne
cover actions that are not covered Matthews, one of Razor’s trusted allies. She has
by a Skill or Power. While Vitals are followed a series of clues to the morgue under the
involved in almost every roll in the northeastern wing of the now-closed St. Anne’s
MAFIANAP system, actual Vitals Hospital.
rolls should be relatively rare.
Before asking for a Vitals test, ask GM: Okay, Razor. You’ve made your way down
yourself if a Skill would fit better in the stairs into the morgue. It looks like it’s
that case. If a Skill could reason- been abandoned for several years. There are a
ably cover the action, ask for the few drawers here, for bodies, but most of the
Skill test instead. doors have been taken off their hinges and
are gone. A broken cart lies against the corner
The most common reason for a here. There are some rusting filing cabinets
GM to ask for a Vitals Test is to on the far side of the room, near an area that
determine whether a character can might have held a desk or some other office
reduce its Strain through use of supplies.
Nerve or Psyche. While Heroes can-
not typically resist Strain dealt as
damage through a Vitals test (such
as through a gunshot or the use of
the Alter Emotions Power), they are
permitted to do so to avoid Strain
through exertion, mental fatigue,
intimidation, or other factors.
More information on these Tests
can be found in Chapter 08: Strain,
Injuries, and Psychoses.

Since the number of dice being
rolled for a Vital is typically much
lower than for a Skill or Power,
Vitals tests should never require as
many hits to succeed. Typically 2 is
a good baseline number for a Vitals
test, with more difficult Vitals tests
set between 3 and 5. Any Vitals test
exceeding 5 invites failure for any
Hero who isn’t specialized in that
area: a Difficulty 6 Accuracy test is
going to be an extraordinary failure
for any Hero who isn’t an experi-
enced, naturally gifted marksman.
Be judicious and flexible, and see
Chapter 12 for more information.

Austin Adams (order #7154603)

Chapter 02 Vitals, Tests, & Derived Statistics 15

Angie: Filing cabinets? Let’s have a look. I sheathe my blades and slink on over.
GM: Alright. You go to open the top drawer, but it’s rusted shut. Can I get a

Force test, please?
Angie: Okay, Razor has a Force of 3. [Angie picks up 3d10 and rolls. She gets

results of 3, 7, and 8.] Two hits!
GM: You give the drawer a quick jerk, and it pops open with a loud thud. There

is still a series of files inside.
Angie: I’ll scan the files to see what I can find. Should I roll Research?
GM: Don’t bother with Research; this one’s obvious. Dr. Matthews is all over

these files and they’re covered in strange markings.
Angie: Markings? Like what?
GM: You’ll have to wait on that one. Give me a quick Agility test…
Angie: Uh-oh…at least my Agility is good. [Angie picks up 5d10 and rolls, but

gets only 1 hit.] Eep.
GM: You hear a familiar sound—a whistling, followed by the “clink-clink” of a

grenade across a tile floor. It explodes into flame and shrapnel, and it looks
like Razor’s Edge didn’t get out of the way in time…


A Hero’s Vitals are tied to almost every other aspect of the character sheet. Skills
and Powers each have associated Vitals, through Heroes also have Derived
Stats, which increase along with the Vital or Skill from which they are derived.

Pace: How quickly a Hero may move, measured in yards. While in combat, a
Hero may move up to their Pace with a single Action. A Hero’s Pace is deter-
mined by their Agility Rating, plus a baseline value of 2. Certain Masteries
and the Speed Power alter a Hero’s Pace, as well.

Defensive Value (DV): The Hero’s ability to defend themselves by dodging,
parrying, or withstanding attacks outright. Defensive Value is calculated by
adding together a Hero’s Nerve and Agility Vitals, and adjusting with any
bonuses from Masteries or Powers.

An example of a Mastery Bonus is the Defensive Fighting  special maneuver.
Defensive Fighting reduces a Hero’s dice for all attack types—Unarmed, Armed
Melee, and Armed Ranged—by up to 4 dice, but gives them an equal bonus
to their DV for that turn (i.e., if a Hero drops 2 dice from their attack, they
gain a bonus of 2 to their DV until their next turn starts).

Wealth and Status: A relative measure of how affluent the Hero is, this Derived
Stat combines credit rating, savings, investments and the like into a single
numerical value. The higher the Hero’s Wealth and Status, the more money
they have access to. A Hero’s Wealth and Status is calculated by adding
together a Hero’s Intellect Rating and Reputation Rating.

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16 Cold Steel Wardens

Wealth and Status may be used to purchase items in a manner that does
not necessarily involve cash on hand. For a description of how to use
Wealth and Status when purchasing equipment or services, see Chapter
09: Equipment and Vehicles.
Strain: Represents how much mental or physical punishment a Hero can take
before reaching their Breaking Point. A Hero’s maximum Strain Threshold is
equal to three times their Nerve or Psyche Rating, plus 3. Strain is discussed
at length on page 123.
Breaking Point: Represent the point at which a Hero simply cannot take any
more Physical or Mental Strain. They are no longer able to deflect hits or
ignore damage; glancing blows become lethal and simple nervousness
shifts into desperate fear. A Hero’s Breaking Point—for both Physical and
Mental Strain—is equal to one-third of their Strain Threshold, rounded up.
A Hero with a Physical Strain Threshold of 24 has a Physical Breaking Point
of 8; if that Hero has a Mental Strain Threshold of 15, they have a Mental
Breaking Point of 5.
Height and weight and other physical features can be important character
values in terms of role-playing, though they have little mechanical bearing
on a Hero in Cold Steel Wardens.
Maximum Skill/Power Rating: Not only are Vitals added as a bonus to Skill
Tests, but they also determine a Skill’s maximum Rating. Any Skill Rating
maxes out at the value of the associated Vital + 5. So, if Crackdown has an
Awareness of 3, his Notice Rating can be raised only to 8 until he raises his
Awareness Vital. Note, however, that a starting Hero’s maximum Skill/Power
Rating is only their Associated Vital +3! This reduced cap applies until the
Hero has gained at least 10 XP.

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Chapter 02 Vitals, Tests, & Derived Statistics 17

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Chapter 03 Skills & Specialties 19


A Hero’s Skill Rating represents their education, training, and talent in a given
area. As with Vitals, a Skill’s Rating determines the number of d10s rolled in a
Test. The maximum number of dice that a Hero may have in a Skill is 15, although
the GameMaster’s NPCs may break this rule in exceptional circumstances.

In Cold Steel Wardens there are a total of twenty-five Skills, which are sepa-
rated into five categories: Physical, Investigative, Social, Knowledge, and Techni-
cal. Each Skill has an Associated Vital, which provides a bonus to Skill tests but
also limits the maximum Rating of that Skill.

At character generation, a Hero’s maximum Skill Rating is the Skill’s Associ-
ated Vital +3. However, once the Hero has 10 Total Experience, the maximum
Skill Rating increases to the Associated Vital +5. For example, Lockshanks has a
Force of 3, meaning that his Athletics Skill Rating can go as high as 6. Once he
has accumulated 10 Total XP, he can raise his Athletics Rating as high as 8 with-
out having to increase his Force Rating.


As a Hero trains and puts work and experience into their Skills, they will be able
to refine their expertise and gain Specialties within their skillset. While each
Skill represents a general field of expertise, Specialties reflect areas of focus
within those Skills. For example, the Scientific Knowledge Skill covers a very
broad area of subject matter. The Medicine and Chemistry Specialties are two
areas of focus within the Scientific Skill, just as the Electrical Repair and Vehicle
Repair Specialties are areas of focus within the Mechanics Skill. While a chemist
likely took biology courses and knows a good deal about science in general,
his skill with medicine cannot match a doctor’s. While an electrician might be
able to hotwire a car in a pinch, he won’t be able to do any extensive repairs
like a mechanic.

A Hero gains a Specialty each time their Skill Rating reaches a benchmark of
3, 6, 9, 12, or 15. Whenever you make a Skill test involving one of those Special-
ties, add a d10 to the roll. When you are eligible to gain a new Specialty, you may
choose a new one or increase the bonus on a Specialty you already have by 1 die.


At character creation, Will decides to build his character, Manifesto, as a burly
ex-soldier who has been augmented by the Russian military. He purchases 4 dice
in Athletics. Because he has at least 3 dice in Athletics, he can choose a Specialty.
He chooses Power-Lifting, and he will gain an additional die (for a total of 5 dice)
whenever Manifesto attempts to lift something.

After some successful investigations, Manifesto decides to buy 2 more dice in
Athletics (for a total Rating of 6). This gives Manifesto an additional Specialty. He
chooses Climbing, gaining an additional die (for a total of 7), when he climbs build-
ings, cliffs, or ledges. Much later, Manifesto gains more Experience and puts 3 more

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20 Cold Steel Wardens dice into Athletics. This time, Manifesto chooses to
enhance his existing Power-Lifting Specialty, which
GMS: SPECIALTIES AND VITALS allows him to add a second additional die when
Power-Lifting—that’s a total of 11 dice whenever
Occasionally, a character’s Manifesto makes an Athletics test to lift anything.
Specialties, which normally only
interact with Skills, may be ap-
plicable to a Vitals test. One good
example of this is the Power-
Lifting (Athletics) Specialty, ref-
erenced in the nearby example.
If Manifesto attempts to pick up
a heavy piece of rubble, the GM
will typically call for a Force test,
not an Athletics test; however,
the Power-Lifting Specialty seems
like it should apply. As such,
the player should ask the GM
whether the Specialty applies.

Note, however, that whether a
Specialty—and its bonus dice—
apply is up to the GameMaster’s
interpretation of the circumstanc-
es. A GM is well within their rights
to accept the Specialty on one
occasion, but decline it if circum-
stances change. If Manifesto tries
to uproot a small tree from the
ground, the GM could easily say
that the Power-Lifting Specialty
does not apply. The GM might
argue that the primary action
isn’t the lifting of the tree, but the
wrenching of its roots from the
ground, and that therefore the
Test is a straight Force test.

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Chapter 03 Skills & Specialties 21


Skills in Cold Steel Wardens provide the most ba- The Specialties presented in this
sic functions for any given Hero. When making a book are meant to be somewhat
character, it becomes easy to focus on the Skills general. You and your players are
that a would-be avenger is best at: a certain pow- encouraged to come up with new
er, unarmed combat, detective work, or the like. Specialties. However, doing so
involves a good deal of discus-
However, it bears stating that characters sion and negotiation between
should be well-rounded, even as they try to focus yourself and the players. If a
on their areas of expertise. Even a few dice in a giv- player reaps the bonus of a new
en Skill Rating can make the difference between a Specialty too often, then it’s prob-
successful test and utter, abject failure. While use ably too good. In such a case, the
of Vigilance dice can help offset untrained Skill GM should work with the player
use, Vigilance dice are often at a premium; their to revise the Specialty. You might
use for simple Skill tests restricts players’ ability to reduce the frequency with which
assume narrative control of the game. it can be used, narrow the type
of situations to which it can be
A Hero with no dice in a given Skill has abso- applied, or simply choose a new
lutely no training in that Skill whatsoever. A char- Specialty in its place. Above all,
acter with no dice in Driving is unable to drive and be reasonable and respectful—
certainly does not have a drivers’ license. A Hero on both sides of the GM screen.
with no dice in Scientific, Historical, or Cultural,
regardless of Intellect score, likely did not gradu-
ate from high school and may even be function-
ally illiterate. A Hero with no dice in Research can-
not perform more than a basic Internet search,
and is unlikely to find anything beyond basic

While there is no requirement regarding
the number of Skills in which your Hero must be
trained, think deeply before leaving a Skill with
a 0 Rating. While another Hero might have more
expertise in that area, you never know when the
party might be split or when that Hero might
need some assistance. Having at least rudimentary
training in a Skill can sometimes be critical, even if
it’s not your area of expertise.

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22 Cold Steel Wardens


PHYSICAL skill name vital brief description
Armed Melee Agility
Attacking with a close combat weapon.
Armed Ranged Accuracy Attacking with a gun, bow, or thrown weapon.
Running, jumping, swimming, climbing, etc.
Athletics Force Moving without being seen or heard.
Attacking with fists, feet, and without weapons.
Stealth Agility

Unarmed Combat Agility

INVESTIGATIVE Canvass Magnetism Follow leads by questioning a demographic.
Examination Awareness Detailed analysis of one object or area.
Investigation Awareness Actively search an area for clues or hidden objects.
Notice Awareness Passively pick up clues; detect hidden foes.
Research Intellect Search through records, databases, and archives.

Deception Magnetism Lying, crafting disguises, hiding messages.
Frightening NPCs to back down/give in.
Intimidation Magnetism/
Force Reading between the lines, recognizing Deception.
SOCIAL Convince NPCs to aid you or change their behavior.
Intuition Awareness Influencing others by using your reputation.

Persuasion Magnetism

Reputation Magnetism

KNOWLEDGE Criminal Intellect Gangs, mob families, major underworld figures.
Cultural Intellect Literature, music, sociology, current events.
Esoteric Intellect Cults, metahuman abilities, occult weirdness.
Historical Intellect Past eras/civilizations, geography, law.
Scientific Intellect Chemistry, engineering, medicine, computing.

TECHNICAL Driving Accuracy Operating a car, motorcycle, or other land vehicle.
Highly detailed work; lockpicking, disarming bombs.
Fine Manipulation Accuracy Building and repairing vehicles, computers and tools.
Piloting an aircraft or boat.
Mechanics Intellect Proficiency in vehicle-mounted ranged weaponry.

Piloting Accuracy

Vehicle Combat Accuracy


Physical Skills: Actions that involve movement and attacking. Physical Skills are
all associated with either Force, Agility or Accuracy.

Armed Melee Combat (Agility)
Suggested Specialties:  Chain, Knife, Sword, Staff, Improvised Weapons, Nunchuku,
Sai, Mace, Hammer, Other melee weapons.

Armed Melee Combat represents the Hero’s proficiency with weapons in close
combat. Armed Melee is always tested against a target’s Defense Value.

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Chapter 03 Skills & Specialties 23

As with Armed Ranged, Specialties for Armed GMS: FLEXIBLE ASSOCIATIONS
Melee Combat deal specifically with individual
weapon types. If a Hero takes a Specialty in Im- One thing to keep in mind while
provised Weapons, that Hero no longer suffers the running the game is that Associ-
-4 penalty to attack with an Improvised Weapon; ated Vitals only include the most
however, the Hero does not gain additional dice general uses of a given Skill.
to attack with said weapons. Athletics is linked to Force, for
example, because most feats of
A successful Armed Melee test deals damage athleticism require raw strength.
equal to the attacker’s subsequent Force test plus However, there are numerous
additional dice based on the weapon being used. uses for Athletics that might take
advantage of a Hero’s Agility or
See Chapter 07 for more information on combat. Accuracy: feats of acrobatics, for
instance, rely more on Agility
Armed Ranged Combat (Accuracy) than Force. In those instances,
Suggested Specialties:  Pistol, Shotgun, Rifle, Bow, Cross- feel free to change which Vital a
bow, Thrown Weapon, Grenade, Other specific weapons. Hero adds to their hits on the Skill
test to reflect what makes the
Armed Ranged Combat represents the Hero’s pro- most sense.
ficiency with projectile weapons. Armed Ranged is
always tested against the target’s Defense Value plus Another example of a flexible as-
any penalties from Range or Cover. If the target is far sociation might be a Hero trying
away or somehow obscured, it will be harder to hit. to impress a scientist NPC with
their knowledge of advanced
Specialties for Armed Ranged Combat deal physics. While the GM might still
specifically with weapon types. When a character call for a Persuasion test, Intellect
is wielding a weapon of that type, they add their makes a more logical Associated
Specialty dice. Vital than Magnetism in this case.
The GM might even allow the
Using a ranged weapon while in melee is ask- Hero to add their Specialty dice
ing for trouble. A character engaged in melee has in Physics, gained through the
a penalty of -6 dice to hit any target with an Armed Scientific Skill.
Ranged test. However, if the attacker does hit with
the Armed Ranged test, the attack deals twice the In all cases, remain flexible and
normal damage dice. This applies to attacks made listen to your players.
with any ranged weapon, aside from grenades or
other explosives, which always deal fixed damage.

A successful Armed Ranged test deals dam-
age equal to the attacker’s subsequent weapon
damage test.

See Chapter 07 for more information on
ranged combat.

Athletics (Force)
Suggested Specialties:  Climbing, Swimming, Scuba-
Diving, Power-Lifting, Parkour (free running), Sprint-
ing, Long-Distance Running, Long Jump, High Jump,
Gymnastics, Acrobatics

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24 Cold Steel Wardens Athletics acts as a catch-all skill, covering a num-
ber of feats of strength and stamina. These include
GMS: SILENT TAKEDOWNS climbing, swimming, sprinting, jumping, diving,
dodging, and just about anything a Hero has to do
Much like The Dark Knight him- to overcome a physical obstacle. When climbing,
self, your Heroes will likely want jumping, and swimming, the Hero may use half
to isolate and take down thugs of their Athletics test result as their Pace for that
from the shadows, using Stealth round. However, if a Hero exceeds their normal
as a key tactic. Silent Takedowns Pace, they immediately take Physical Strain equal
mechanically represent how a to the difference. This Strain may be reduced by
Hero can do just that. Performing a subsequent Nerve test, as normal. If the Hero
a Silent Takedown always takes needs to sprint, they can make an Athletics test as
both of a Hero’s actions in a given an Action and replace their Pace with the result. Be-
turn. A Silent Takedown must be cause they can use both of their Actions to sprint,
completed on one turn; not split the Hero will usually end up moving more than
over two turns. twice as far as normal.

Step 1 The Hero must make a Lifting items typically falls under the realm
Stealth test at -4 dice. The Hero of a raw Force test, though Specialties such as
may move during this Stealth Power-Lifting might apply to such Tests. The Dif-
test at half their Pace, as normal. ficulty of the Athletics test is based on what is be-
Remember, moving faster than ing lifted; benchmarks for lifting and carrying can
this incurs an additional -4 dice be found on page 177.
penalty. This test is always op-
posed by the enemy’s Notice. A Hero with the Gymnastics or Acrobatics
Specialty may use Athletics to defend themself in
Step 2 If the Hero succeeds at the combat, instead of as a method of movement, by
penalized Stealth test, they may tumbling away from attacks. If Athletics is used in
attack their foe with a Skill or such a way, the Hero may not attack during that
Power of their choice, with a +4 round, but may use the result of their Athletics
dice bonus to both their attack check as their Defense Value for the round.
and to any subsequent damage
test. Obviously, the Hero must Stealth (Agility)
be within melee range to use Suggested Specialties:  Move Silently, Hiding, Break-
Unarmed or Armed Melee on a Si- ing and Entering, Silent Takedown, Camouflage,
lent Takedown. If the Stealth test Conceal Item, Stakeout
failed, however, the Hero may still
attack but receives no bonus dice Stealth is the ability to perform actions unseen
and may not move onto Step 3. and unheard—obviously a useful skill to have
when you are trying to get the drop on a cult or
Step 3. If the attack brings the foe avoid the police. While making Stealth checks, a
to their Breaking Point, the Hero Hero may only move at half of their normal Pace.
may make an immediate Stealth If the Hero moves any faster, they must make their
test as a Non-Action to hide both Stealth test at 4 fewer dice than usual. Stealth is
themself and, if they choose, typically opposed by Notice, though some Powers
their foe’s body. If the foe is not aid in detecting a character as well.
incapacitated, combat continues
as normal.

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Chapter 03 Skills & Specialties 25

If one character’s Stealth test matches or beats the other’s Notice test, the
first character remains undetected.

Stealth also allows a Hero to perform a maneuver called a Silent Takedown. Si-
lentTakedowns combine both of a Hero’s combat round Actions to powerful effect.
If a Hero sneaks into melee range of a target and succeeds at a Stealth test at -4 dice,
that Hero may attack the unwitting target with their second Action, gaining a +4
dice bonus on the attack and damage tests. If that attack successfully incapacitates
the target, the Hero can, as a Non-Action, make an immediate Stealth test to hide
the foe’s body without being noticed, taking out the target in complete stealth.The
Hero may choose to leave the body in a hidden location or transport it somewhere
else. Moving a body may require multiple rounds and additional Stealth tests.

A Silent Takedown is extremely difficult, though certain Masteries improve
a Hero’s chance to successfully perform this difficult maneuver.

Unarmed Combat (Agility)
Suggested Specialties:  None—see the Combat Style Masteries (p. 44) for options to
enhance Unarmed Combat. Damage increases by 1 die at Ratings 3, 6, 9,12, and 15

Unarmed Combat represents the Hero’s ability to fight foes with punches, kicks,
knees, elbows, and other body parts in lieu of weapons. Unarmed Combat has
no Specialties attached to it. Rather, Heroes can adopt multiple martial arts
styles by taking Combat Style Masteries. Each time a Hero would normally gain
a Specialty in Unarmed Combat, they instead gain a bonus damage die, which
applies to their Force test for dealing damage.

When attacking an armed opponent, an unarmed attacker takes a -2 pen-
alty to their Defensive Value, unless they have at least 3 dice in Unarmed Com-
bat. If their Unarmed Combat Rating is at least 3, this penalty does not apply.

An Unarmed Attack is always tested against the target’s Defense Value. A
successful Unarmed Attack deals damage equal to the attacker’s subsequent
Force test, plus any bonus dice.

See Chapter 07 for more information on melee combat.

Investigative Skills: Investigative Skills represent a Hero’s methods of gather-
ing information over the course of a case. Investigative Skills are associated
with Awareness, Intellect and Magnetism.

Canvass (Magnetism)
Suggested Specialties:  Underworld, High Society, Reporters, Private Detectives,
Bounty Hunters, Police Force, Political Figures, Barflies

Canvassing represents a Hero following up on leads and gathering information
through connections and rumors. A single Canvass test typically represents a
few hours of shaking down informants, questioning locals, and visiting public
areas to gather information. The GameMaster sets the Difficulty of a Canvass
test based on the willingness of NPCs to come forward with information and

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26 Cold Steel Wardens

on the difficulty of gaining access to a given NPC.
Note that successfully Canvassing a group of contacts does not necessarily

mean that the NPC is willing to divulge relevant information, only that such an
NPC exists and could be contacted. The player should follow up using their Hero’s
Social Skills and role-playing out the investigation with the GM and other players.

Specialties in Canvassing focus on specific types of people or professions
within a city. A Specialty in one of these areas does not mean that the Canvass-
ing Hero has specific contacts within that Specialty area—it simply means that
the Hero excels in dealing with members of that segment of society and can
better traverse their social circles.

Examination (Awareness)
Suggested Specialties: Fingerprinting, Appraisal, Microscope Usage, DNA Testing,
Ballistics Analysis

Where Investigation allows a Hero to locate clues and make their way through
a crime scene, Examination is the act of analyzing a clue on a minute level and
determining its significance.

Examination is done on a significantly smaller scale than Investigation or
Research, focusing on the fine details of a single clue. The GM sets the Difficulty
of the Examination test based on the length of time devoted to Examining the
material and the relative difficulty of the information being assessed: finger-
printing a window, for example, is much easier and takes much less time than
performing a full DNA analysis.

Both Ballistics Analysis and DNA Testing are particularly difficult disciplines,
so Heroes are required to take specific Masteries in order to perform either of
these procedures.

Examination tests require a either a special kit or a laboratory or similar
station where the Hero can conduct their investigation. Without such, the GM
should impose some severe penalties (-6 dice or greater), or just outright reject
the attempt. There’s no way a Hero would be able to perform a DNA test while
crawling through the sewers.

Investigation (Awareness)
Suggested Specialties: Tracking, Pick Out Detail, Quick-Analysis, Autopsy, Establish
Crime Scene
Heroes use Investigation whenever they want to search an area for clues or
look for hidden doors and compartments. While a successful Investigation test
can locate a clue, the Hero or their ally will need to make additional Research
or Examination tests to identify its importance (although in some cases, a Total
Success on the Investigation test will do).
While Heroes may use Investigate to make a cursory examination of
a dead body, they will need to take the Medical Examiner Mastery in order to
perform a full autopsy.

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Chapter 03 Skills & Specialties 27

Suggested Specialties: Spot Ambush, Spot Motion, VS. EXAMINATION
Keen Hearing, Keen Sense of Smell/Taste, Locate
Hidden Character Though Notice, Investigation, and
Examination may seem similar, each
Notice allows Heroes to passively pick up on ob- serves a distinct purpose. Notice
scure clues, identify an ambush, detect a sniper, serves as“passive perception”and
or pick out a specific face in a crowd. Notice is a provides a direct counter for Stealth.
passive Skill. A player never asks to make a Notice Though players might ask to roll No-
test; the GM informs them when it is time for them tice, Investigation is usually a more
to make one. fitting Skill, with few exceptions.
Investigation encompasses tracking,
Notice is also used to oppose Stealth tests. If searching for clues, finding hidden
a character’s Notice test matches or beats another areas, locating out-of-place mate-
character’s Stealth test, the latter is discovered. rial, etc. Note that a Hero could use
Investigation to locate a hidden foe
Research (Intellect) only if they know the foe is nearby
Suggested Specialties: Newspapers, Databases, In- and are actively looking for the foe’s
ternet, Books/Library, Archives location. In most cases, Notice makes
the most sense when dealing with
Cold Steel Wardens assumes that all heroes are Stealth. Examination lets the Hero
literate and have at least rudimentary computer locate clues or information on a min-
skills. Word processing, spreadsheets, presenta- ute, even microscopic, level or see
tions, and the like do not require any Skill roll, un- patterns within existing information.
less, of course, your Hero has a Flaw that prevents
them from understanding advanced technology Investigation finds the bullet hole in
at all. Research is a more difficult process, rep- the victim’s apartment.
resenting a Hero digging through archives and
online databases for information: their ability to Examination finds the shot’s trajectory
locate the intel they need no matter how obscure and the type of gun.
or well hidden it is.
Notice spots the hidden gunman
Using the Research Skill takes a significant across the street.
amount of time. One Research test may require
hours of actual research, as your character pores Wolverine uses Notice to detect Hellfire
over books in a library and navigates through Club guards in the New York sewers.
online databases of information. Using Research
requires access to research materials: a database, Rorschach uses Investigation to search
an Internet-accessible computer system, or hard through The Comedian’s apartment.
Batman uses Examination to analyze
When a Hero makes a Research test, the result traces of Joker toxin on playing cards
of that test might be interpreted in any number of in the Batcave.
ways. A failed Test might represent a lack of head-
way in locating the desired information or simply
that the desired information simply doesn’t exist.
A Hero typically may only attempt a Research test

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28 Cold Steel Wardens

once on a given subject; however, they could try again if new evidence or a
new angle emerges. Smart investigators couple their Research attempts with
other forms of investigation, such as crime scene examination and Canvassing.

Remember that a Hero can’t be out fighting the good fight while perform-
ing a Research test. If their research is significantly interrupted before they can
find what they need, their test automatically fails. The Hero may start again, if
they so choose.
Social Skills: Social Skills represent how a Hero interacts with NPCs. Social Skills are
associated with Magnetism, Intuition, and, in some cases, Force.
Deception (Magnetism)
Suggested Specialties: Bluffing, Gambling, Disguise, Disinformation, Innuendo
(hidden messages)
Deception is exactly what it seems: a Hero’s ability to lie or hide the truth when
dealing with NPCs. Disguise also includes a Hero’s attempt to craft a disguise or
to attempt to pass along a secret message through innuendo.

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Chapter 03 Skills & Specialties 29

Deception tests are always opposed by a target’s Intuition test. If the De-
ception test fails, the target sees through the Hero’s lie and, depending on the
lie, may take hostile action. As with Persuasion, Deception tests receive a bonus
or penalty depending on what the player says while role-playing the scene.

Creating a disguise takes a significant amount of time—at least ten min-
utes to half an hour, depending on the complexity of the disguise and the ma-
terials available.

A successful Intuition test may give some insight into what may make a
lie or a disguise more convincing. Any Hero who focuses heavily in Deception
should consider investing dice into Intuition as well, if only to enhance their
own Deception abilities.

Intimidation (Magnetism and Force)
Suggested Specialties: “The Stare,” Threats, Violent Display, Torture, Taunts

If Persuasion is a Hero’s attempt to play nice with NPCs and Deception is a way
to sneak around them, Intimidation is how Heroes steamroll over NPCs to ei-
ther force information out of them or push them out of the way. A Hero may
attempt Intimidation when they want to scare an NPC into doing what they
want. They may intimidate a number of foes up to the Hero’s Intimidation Rat-
ing. Intimidation is always opposed via Intuition.

A successful Intimidation deals Mental Strain. If the Hero succeeds on their
Intimidation test, they may roll a number of dice equal to their Intimidation Rat-
ing, dealing Mental Strain equal to the number of hits. If this causes the target
to hit their Mental Breaking Point, the target immediately cracks, spilling the
desired information or outright fleeing for their life.

Note that there are several different methods of Intimidation, including
torture. If a Hero resorts to torture, actual physical harm is brought to bear
against the target. The subject of the Intimidation must be helpless for the Hero
to attempt such a check, and the Intimidating character may automatically deal
as much damage to the target’s Physical Strain as they like. If this causes the
target to reach their Physical Breaking Point, the target must make a Nerve test.
If they fail, they immediately lose consciousness. Torture is undoubtedly an il-
legal and immoral act, and is grounds for legal charges to be pressed against
the offending Hero. Further, many other Heroes will not stand for this method
of Intimidation, refusing to work with a vigilante whose violence is no more
ethical than that of the thugs they apprehend.

Intimidation is the only Skill that has two Associated Vitals: Force and Mag-
netism. A charismatic Hero has the ability to use their demeanor and force of
personality to threaten, while a strong character might simply overbear their
subjects. Heroes may use whichever Vital is more favorable to them as their
Associated Vital for Intimidation. Regardless of the Vital chosen, the Hero must
still abide by their Skill Rating limit.

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30 Cold Steel Wardens

Intuition (Awareness)
Suggested Specialties: None, but some Masteries affect Intuition (see Chapter 04)

Intuition is a Hero’s ability to discern lies, get a “read” on someone, and see
through disguises. Intuition is rarely something that a Hero will roll actively;
usually the GameMaster will call for an Intuition roll, setting the Difficulty of
the Intuition test in accordance with the original Deception, Persuasion, or In-
timidation roll.

A basic success on an Intuition roll may not actually give much informa-
tion to a Hero. It may be just a hunch that “something isn’t right,” providing an
impetus for that Hero to begin an investigation. A Total Success, however, lets
the Hero sees directly through any attempt to deceive, persuade, or intimidate
a target, making such attempts irrelevant.

Like Unarmed, Intuition has no Specialties. Intuition reflects only a Hero’s
ability to discern truth from lies.

Persuasion (Magnetism)
Suggested Specialties: Bribery, Brown-Nosing, Seduction, Flattery, Schmoozing,
Negotiation, Debate, Fast-Talk

Persuasion is the Hero’s ability to convince NPCs to aid them or change their
attitude in some way. This takes many forms, from convincing the night-shift
security guard to let you in without proper clearance, to attempting to shift the
mayor’s opinion of masked vigilantes. The GM sets the Difficulty of a Persuasion
test based on the NPC’s attitude towards the Hero and the Hero’s position. How
the player role-plays their Hero throughout the interaction should also factor
in as a bonus or penalty, depending on what they say.

Persuasion Specialties reflect the different methods a Hero might use to
interact with an NPC. Note that not all methods may work on every NPC they
encounter. A straight-laced cop might not appreciate Bribery, but may be sus-
ceptible to Flattery. A successful Intuition test may reveal what forms of interac-
tion will work best on an NPC.

Reputation (Magnetism)
Suggested Specialties: Based on social class or niche group (hackers, vigilantes,
aristocrats, criminals, etc.)

Sometimes, a Hero doesn’t need to attempt to persuade, deceive, or intimidate
an NPC into assisting them. Sometimes their name—whether Hero name or
secret identity—does all the work for them. A Hero with dice in Reputation may
be well-respected or feared, but, in either case, their influence can’t be denied.

Reputation is used to influence a person based purely on the Hero’s back-
ground and prior deeds. Specialties within Reputation hone that Hero’s focus
within a certain group, but they do not prevent a Hero from being known by
others. Typically, Reputation is used in lieu of a Persuasion or Intimidation test,
though certain Masteries open up alternative uses of Reputation.

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Chapter 03 Skills & Specialties 31

The GM sets the Difficulty of a Reputation test based on the availability
of requested information or goods as well how relevant the request is to the
target or targeted group. While a group of hackers may be a great group to
contact if you need obscure computer parts, it may be much more difficult to
get the same parts from a group of martial artists.

Note that Reputation can become a double-edged sword. The more fa-
mous a Hero becomes, the more they can expect interference from rivals such
as interloping police and government agents, envious metahumans, or a gang
that has been closely following them. However, the benefits of being a high-
ranking member within a group or being well known within a specific social
niche may well outweigh drawbacks.

Knowledge Skills: Knowledge Skills represent information that a Hero knows
within a traditional academic discipline, as well as the application of that knowl-
edge. Intellect is the only Vital associated with Knowledge Skills.

Criminal (Intellect)
Suggested Specialties: Crime Families, Metahuman Criminals, Serial Killers, Gangs,
Local Criminals (pick region), Historical Crime

Criminal Knowledge deals specifically with a Hero’s knowledge of the underworld
and how it operates. While the Cultural, History, and Scientific Knowledge Skills
have applications outside of knowing information offhand, Criminal has precisely
one purpose: providing the Hero with information on the criminal element.

The GM should set the Difficulty of a Criminal Knowledge check based
on the specificity of the information requested and the number of records in-
volved. Under no circumstance should a Criminal Knowledge check supersede
an investigation; however, such a test may give a Hero a place to start looking,
leading them to more clues and information necessary for their investigation.
Or, possibly, give them a hint to a mob boss’s weakness. Maybe it’s well known
that The White Russian has five bodyguards with him at all times, except when
he hires an escort.

The GameMaster should also remember that all criminals are different. Just
because one crime family follows a code of honor, it doesn’t mean they all do.

Cultural (Intellect)
Suggested Specialties: Literature, Music, Art, Theater, Gaming, Online Culture, Local
Culture (pick region), Food and Drink, Philosophy, Religion

Cultural Knowledge represents knowledge of the arts and culture, as well as
the actions one might take to pursue a career within a given Specialty. A Hero
with a Literature Specialty not only knows much about Literature, but also is
a talented writer. A Hero with the Gaming Specialty not only knows the new
titles coming out for the major systems, but also knows a fair amount about
computer programming and design.

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32 Cold Steel Wardens

Often overlooked by some Heroes, Cultural tests may provide a Hero that
one vital piece of information linking the branches of an investigation together.
Many classic Iron Age comics storylines focused on serial killers who left behind
clues based on specific cultural references. Lesson learned: don’t neglect this one!

Esoteric (Intellect)
Suggested Specialties: Conspiracy Theories, Cults, Occult, Metahuman Abilities,
Myths and Legends, New Age Beliefs

Esoteric Knowledge fills in any gaps that the other four Knowledge Skills leave
behind, covering items that are not particularly well documented or under-
stood by scholars. The study of mysterious religions, dark conspiracies, and oc-
cult secrets is often looked down upon by scholars, though, with the rise of
metahumans in the 20th century, many have begun to find connections that
had not previously been known.

Under normal circumstances, Esoteric does not have a function outside of
pure knowledge: a Hero can’t use it to write a novel, as with Cultural, or pros-
ecute a criminal, as with Historical. However, Esoteric might be used to replicate
an obscure cult ritual or to provide some degree of insight into a weakness in
a metahuman’s abilities.

The GM sets the Difficulty of an Esoteric test based on the rarity and
strangeness of the information being asked for. Esoteric tests are often much
more difficult than the other four Knowledge Skills, due to how rare and poorly
documented this area is.

Further, some Esoteric checks have the potential to be mentally damaging
to those Heroes who succeed at them. If a Hero pieces together some horrific
truth through an Esoteric Knowledge check, the GM may choose to inflict Men-
tal Strain upon that Hero (which may be reduced through a Psyche test, as per
usual). Such occasions should be rare, and certainly should not take place un-
der routine circumstances, such as an attempt to identify a metahuman Power.

Historical (Intellect)
Suggested Specialties: Geography, Ancient History, Medieval/Renaissance History,
Modern History, Local History (pick region), Modern Politics, Law

Historical Knowledge is the Hero’s knowledge of the past and present, their
Specialties being their areas of focus. A Hero with a Politics Specialty likely is
well-abreast of politics, reads the news, and knows a great deal about public

Navigation via a map or the like relies on Historical knowledge, with a Spe-
cialty in Geography. While Historical tests do not require a laboratory, they may
require additional Research tests, depending on the information the Hero is
trying to obtain.

A Hero with the Law Specialty may also use Historical tests to prosecute
criminals, if the Hero takes the Lawyer Mastery (see page 56).

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Chapter 03 Skills & Specialties 33

Scientific (Intellect)
Suggested Specialties: Medicine, Computing, Geology, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, As-
tronomy, Archaeology, Anthropology, Mathematics, Psychology, and numerous others

Scientific Knowledge covers the various disciplines of mathematics and science,
and the actions that one would take when pursuing a career in that discipline.
A Hero with the Astronomy Specialty not only knows a large amount about
stars, planets, and the like, but also could attempt to operate an observatory
telescope or collect data from a satellite. Similarly, a Hero with the Chemistry
Specialty not only can identify a chemical compound but also might be able
to synthesize it in a lab.

While basic information is available with a successful Scientific test, nearly
all Scientific Specialties require a laboratory for lengthy operations such as mix-
ing chemicals or performing an autopsy. If the Hero is without the required
facility, the GameMaster should assess a large penalty (-6 dice or more) or out-
right decline the test. Normally, a Hero can obtain the appropriate facility by
taking a Mastery that provides them with a laboratory.

Medicine, as a Specialty, bears specific mention, as the need for it tends to
arise during and after combat. A Hero with the Medicine Specialty may attempt
to make a Scientific (Medicine) test to attempt first aid on themself or others, but
may only restore Physical Strain if the subject has Minor Injuries or issues of less
severity. Such an attempt usually takes at least five minutes, though Heroes with
Lasting Injuries must undergo more lengthy procedures to be healed. See Chap-
ter 08 for more information on Minor and Lasting Injuries, and check out page 56
for the Surgeon Mastery, which can help circumvent this rule.

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34 Cold Steel Wardens

Computing, as a Specialty, also bears men-
tion. A Hero does not need to test Scientific
(Computing) every time they attempt to use a
computer to play a game, check their e-mail, or
use a search engine. Nor does a Hero need to test
Scientific to discover information: that would be
a Research test. Computing involves writing com-
puter programs, maintaining or breaking network
security, and the like, although a Hero cannot
hack a computer or network system unless they
have taken the Hacker Mastery (see page 56).

Technical Skills: Technical Skills represent a Hero’s
ability to operate machinery, technology, or similar
items. The Associated Vitals for Technical Skills are
Accuracy and Intellect.

Driving (Accuracy)
Suggested Specialties: Car, Motorcycle, Truck, Indus-
trial Machinery, ATV, Semi-Truck

Driving represents a Hero’s ability to pilot a land
vehicle under adverse circumstances. There is no
need to make a Drive test every time the party
enters a car. Driving tests are only required when
there is more than a miniscule chance of failure.
Normally, this means a Chase Scene (see Chapter
09 for the rules on Vehicles and Chase Scenes) or
a sudden change in the situation on the road. If
someone jumps out in front of the Hero’s vehicle,
the GM may ask for a Driving test to avoid hitting
them. Similarly, if a Hero attempts to drive during
adverse conditions, such as heavy rain or ice, the
GM may call for a Driving test. The GM sets the
Difficulty of the Driving test based on the Hero’s
speed and the surrounding traffic, environment,
and road conditions.

Fine Manipulation (Accuracy)
Suggested Specialties: Lockpicking, Explosives Us-
age (Arm/Disarm), Sleight of Hand, Pickpocketing,

Some Heroes prefer a more subtle approach. Fine
Manipulation represents a series of skills related

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Chapter 03 Skills & Specialties 35

to keeping a steady hand and a cool head. For the most part, these skills revolve
around highly dexterous and precise actions centered on fine motor control.

Fine Manipulation tests can be opposed by any number of other Skills. The
GM sets the Difficulty for tests involving inanimate objects, such as locks and
bombs, based on their quality and the difficulty to pick, arm, or disarm them.
If used against another person—such as in the case of the Sleight of Hand,
Pickpocketing, and other misdirection Specialties—the Fine Manipulation test
is opposed by the victim’s Notice test.

Mechanics (Intellect)
Suggested Specialties: Electrical, Vehicular, Robotic, Computers, Jury-Rig, Sabo-
tage, Engineering

Things break. Things tend to break spectacularly when reckless vigilantes
smash into them. A Mechanics test allows a character to either repair or en-
hance a vigilante’s equipment.

Mechanics always requires a substantial toolkit and, in severe cases, a full
laboratory or workshop. Without access to such items, the GM should apply a
substantial penalty (-4 dice or more) or outright decline the attempt.

Jury-Rig is a specific type of Specialty allowing the user to slap together a
temporary fix on an item. It is useful only for short-term repairs. After a single
use of the repaired item, the item returns to its broken state and may not be
Jury-Rigged again. Jury-Rigging an item does not require the aforementioned
workshop or laboratory.

Sabotage, obviously, is not a Specialty in repairing equipment. Sabotage allows a
Hero to make subtle adjustments to a mechanical device that cause it to break when
used. Sabotage is detected either with a Notice test taken at -4 dice or by examining
the device for faults via a Mechanics test. In either case, any attempt to detect Sabo-
tage is opposed by the original Mechanics test made to sabotage the device.

Piloting (Accuracy)
Suggested Specialties: Small Boat, Large Boat, Personal Watercraft, Small Plane,
Large Plane, Glider, Personal Flight, Skydiving/Base-Jumping

Just as Driving reflects a Hero’s ability to command a land-based vehicle, Pilot-
ing governs a Hero’s ability to run a sea or air-based vehicle. Just as with Driving,
Piloting tests are not necessary to perform basic functions under non-stressful
conditions. Heroes do not need to test Piloting to row a boat, fly a glider while
on vacation, or ride a Jet-Ski for fun.

Rather, Piloting tests are required during Chase Scenes (see Chapter 09 for
rules on Vehicles and Chase Scenes) or when the situation suddenly changes.
If a child falls into the water right in the Hero’s path, a Piloting test would en-
able the Hero to swerve out of the way or stop in time. Similarly, if a sudden
storm brews up, a Piloting Hero should expect Piloting checks until the weather
settles down or they can regain control.

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36 Cold Steel Wardens

The GM sets the Difficulty of the Piloting test based on the Hero’s speed,
the surrounding traffic, and environmental conditions.

Vehicular Weapons (Accuracy)
Suggested Specialties: Rocket Launcher, Machine Gun, Grenade Launcher, Artillery,
Armored Cavalry

Sometimes a Hero needs a little more firepower. Occasionally, a Hero just needs
to roll a damned tank right down Main Street, letting the bullets fly. That’s when
they’ll need the Vehicular Weapons Skill. Vehicular Weapons represents a Hero’s
proficiency with heavy artillery and vehicle-mounted weapons.

Most Vehicular Weapons tests are opposed by a target’s Defense Value af-
ter factoring in penalties based on Range and Cover. However, some attacks—
for grenades and missile launchers, primarily—are resolved differently. Check
Chapter 07 for specific rules regarding explosive attacks.


On occasion, a player may attempt to have their Hero attempt to perform a Skill
in which they have no Skill Rating. This is referred to as an Untrained Skill test.

It is always the GM’s option to permit or deny a request to make an Un-
trained Skill test. In many cases, it simply doesn’t make sense for a Hero to be
able to attempt an action without any training. For example, a Hero would have
no idea how to fire a Howitzer unless they have at least 1 die in the Vehicle
Combat Skill. However, for Skills like Stealth, Athletics, Notice, and Knowledge
Skills, it makes sense for a Hero to be able to attempt a Test without actual
training. Again, it is at the GM’s discretion to allow or deny an Untrained test.

A Hero attempting an Untrained Skill test makes a Vitals test, using the As-
sociated Vital for the Skill in question. For example, a Hero attempting to make
an Untrained Stealth test would simply make an Agility test. However, the Dif-
ficulty for this test remains the same, although Vitals tests are typically lower in
Difficulty than Skill tests, this Difficulty remains at the higher value, as it is still,
in essence, a Skill test.

There is one major exception to this Difficulty guideline. If a Hero uses at
least one Vigilance die (see page 159 for more information on Vigilance), that
Hero is treated as being trained in the tested Skill for that roll only. The roll
is made just like a normal (trained) Skill test, not as a Vitals test, as explained
above. Needless to say, pulling Vigilance dice greatly increases a Hero’s chance
of success!


Jules is playing Cheap-Shot, a gun-slinging heroine from Oklahoma who has trav-
eled to Greensburg to get to the bottom of an arms smuggling ring. Cheap-Shot is
an expert in all things related to firearms, but when a helicopter strafes the ware-
house she’s in, she needs to find a way out, and fast!

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Chapter 03 Skills & Specialties 37

Cheap-Shot has no Skill Rating in Stealth, but ASSISTED SKILL TESTS
Jules would still like to have Cheap-Shot try to leave
without being noticed. Her GameMaster permits the Occasionally, Heroes may want
Untrained Skill test, and Cheap-Shot rolls an Agility to work together to achieve a
test. Her Agility is 4, and the roll results in 3, 4, 7, and common goal. Investigative and
10 on the d10s—three hits. The GM informs Jules Social Skill tests lend themselves
that it isn’t enough to pass the Stealth test, but she particularly well to teamwork,
isn’t happy with that. though other Skills can be
used cooperatively as well. For
As such, Jules decides to pull Vigilance dice. instance, two Heroes could work
There are no objections at the table—everyone together to repair a vehicle us-
wants to see Cheap-Shot get out before the helicop- ing Mechanics.
ter blows up the warehouse—so Jules pulls 2 dice.
This allows Cheap-Shot to move as though she were If the GM allows two Heroes to
trained in Stealth for this roll only. Jules rolls the 2 work together on a single Skill
dice, getting a 9 and a 7—two hits—and adds her test, the Heroes must first
Agility Rating for a total of 6. The GM rolls the oppos- choose a “lead” Hero. The Skill
ing Notice test and tells Jules that her 6 is just enough test defaults to that Hero’s Skill
to avoid the helicopter and slip by unnoticed. Rating and Associated Vital
Rating. The assisting Hero may
either substitute their own As-
sociated Vital for the lead Hero’s
or add a number of bonus dice
equal to half their Skill Rating.

Example: Manifesto and Cheap-
Shot are on the run from police,
who have shot out the tire on
Cheap-Shot’s van. Manifesto
decides to aid Cheap-Shot on her
Mechanics test as she changes
the tire. Cheap-Shot becomes the
lead Hero, as she has the higher
Mechanics rating (6, compared
to Manifesto’s 2). Manifesto
could allow Cheap-Shot to use
his Intellect (3) on the test, but
Cheap-Shot’s Intellect of 4 is
higher. Manifesto instead decides
to give her bonus dice equal to
half of his Mechanics rating. With
a rating of 2, Manifesto isn’t much
help in changing the tire, but the
burly super-soldier does what he
can and grants Cheap-Shot a 1
die bonus.

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chapter04 MASTERIES

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39Chapter 04 Masteries


Masteries provide heroes with new abilities for their Skills and grant them
equipment they wouldn’t normally have. Unlike Specialties that Heroes pick
up as they improve their Skills, Masteries have to be purchased with Advance-
ment Points and XP.

Like Skills, Masteries are grouped under the Physical, Investigative, Social,
Knowledge, and Technical categories. However, Masteries have two additional
categories: Combat Styles, which are a subset of Physical Masteries, and Miscel-
laneous. Combat Styles change how a Hero uses their Combat Skills by grant-
ing them extra attacks or movement, or by upsetting their target’s ability to
fight back. Miscellaneous Masteries aren’t associated with any Skills, because
they either alter the way a Hero makes a Vitals test, improve their Derived Stats,
or perform a function independent of Skills, such as giving the Hero equip-
ment, a secret Hideout, or a combat-ready vehicle.

Masteries often have Prerequisites that the Hero must fulfill before they
can purchase them. If, for some reason, a Hero no longer fulfills a Mastery’s Pre-
requisites—probably due to an injury—that Hero loses access to the Mastery’s
benefits until they meet those Prerequisites again.

A Hero may have as many Masteries as they can purchase, and will probably
gain several more over the course of their career. Bonus dice granted by Masteries
stack with other bonus dice, unless a description specifically states that they do not.

Combat Style Masteries can never be combined or stack their bonuses. A
Kung Fu Master takes out their opponents differently than a Boxer or a Street
Fighter would. A Hero may have multiple Combat Style Masteries but may use
only one Combat Style at a time. During combat, a Hero can only switch be-
tween Combat Styles at the start of their turn.


Anonymous—a vigilante and hacker—gets into a brawl in a back alley. He has
both the Street Fighting Mastery and the Judo Mastery. Anonymous needs to take
out these thugs fast, so he starts with Street Fighting, because it deals more dam-
age. He makes his Unarmed Combat test but misses.

The thugs attack him on their turn, dealing him 5 Physical Strain. Things are
looking bad for Anonymous. When it’s his turn again, Anonymous switches to
Judo, so that he can try a Knockdown on one of his attackers. Anonymous succeeds
and knocks the thug on his ass, thanks to the bonus Specialty dice from his Judo


The Name of the Mastery (Prerequisites: Vitals, Skill Ratings, and Specialities)
List of bonuses and abilities granted.

A detailed description of the Mastery and its uses, as well as any limitations that
could be applied.

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40 Cold Steel Wardens PHYSICAL MASTERIES

GMS: CREATING MASTERIES Street Fighting, Combat Style (Unarmed Combat 5,
Armed Combat 5)
If one of your players has a charac- Add 1 die when fighting unarmed or with a chain,
ter concept that requires abilities knife, or improvised weapon. Half penalty to En-
not covered in this book, you tangle. Free Stun/Knockdown/Push attempt after a
may want to work with them to successful hit.
create their own. (See the Custom
Specialties sidebar on page 21 for Street Fighting is not so much its own style of
more information.) martial arts than it is several styles cobbled to-
gether out of necessity in barroom brawls. While
Jim has created a custom weapon using the Street Fighting Combat Style, a fighter
for his Hero, a set of hooked adds 1 die to their Unarmed attacks or to Armed
blades that can be used akimbo or Melee attacks made with a chain, knife or impro-
combined for greater range and vised weapon. A Street Fighter also takes only half
mobility. Jim asks the GM for a the normal penalty when attempting to Entangle
Specialty that allows him to hook/ a foe. If a Street Fighter successfully hits a foe with
unhook his weapons as he fights. an Unarmed attack or while wielding one of the
The GM considers Jim’s concept weapons listed above, they may immediately
and references similar maneuvers. make a free Stun, Push, or Knockdown attempt
She decides to alter the Capoeira against that foe as a Non-Action. (See pages 118–
Mastery by replacing the require- 121 for Advanced Combat rules on Stun, Push,
ments with Armed Combat (5), and Knockdown.)
Specialty—Hooked Swords, and
Fine Manipulation (5), and she Judo, Combat Style (Unarmed Combat 5)
replaces the additional move with a Add 2 dice to Unarmed Combat rolls. Automatic
Non-Action to connect/disconnect Knockdown if attack deals 4+ Strain.
his blades.
Judo is an ancient form of martial arts that em-
The key to making new abilities phasizes holds, locks, and throws. While in the
for your players is to recognize Judo Combat Style, a fighter adds 2 dice to all
when a Specialty or Mastery is Unarmed Combat rolls. Further, if a Judo fighter
more appropriate. Specialties are deals at least 4 Strain with a single attack, their
generally areas of focus that grant foe is automatically knocked prone, as if through
minor bonuses; Masteries gener- a Knockdown attempt.
ally unlock a new way for the Hero
to use a Skill or to improve the Kung Fu, Combat Style (Unarmed Combat 5)
way they use it. For example, the Add 1 die to Unarmed Combat rolls. May make two
Thrown Weapons Specialty grants Unarmed attacks at -2 dice each as a single Attack
1 bonus die when attacking with a Action.
thrown weapon and can be taken
multiple times. Compare it to the Kung fu is a Chinese style of martial art that is prac-
Dartboard Mastery, which lets the ticed worldwide and has numerous interpretations.
Hero ignore the target’s cover, in A kung fu practitioner uses both fists and feet to as-
addition to granting 2 bonus dice sail enemies with a powerful blitz of attacks.
to their Test. Masteries are always
better than Specialties.

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Chapter 04 Masteries 41

While in the Kung Fu Combat Style, a fighter may choose to make two
Unarmed Combat attacks, at -2 dice each, as a single Action. The fighter must
declare that they are making multiple attacks before making the first attack roll,
and they may only do so only once per turn.

Tai Chi, Combat Style (Unarmed Combat 5, Armed Melee Combat 5, Specialist—Sword)
Add 1 die when fighting with a sword or Unarmed. Free Push if 4+ Strain dealt.

Tai Chi is a Chinese form of martial art focusing on slow, deliberate movement
that often serves as a basis for mediation. Tai Chi practitioners often use a sword
as a focus while practicing in this combat form.

While in the Tai Chi Combat Style, the fighter adds 1 die to any Unarmed
Combat attacks or Armed Melee attacks with a sword. If a Tai Chi fighter deals
at least 4 Strain with a single Unarmed or sword attack, they may choose to
automatically Push the target away.

Boxing, Combat Style (Unarmed Combat 5)
Add 2 dice to Unarmed Combat and 2 to Defensive Value against Melee attacks
when fighting in this Combat Style.

Boxing has been a celebrated sport for centuries and can be considered one
of the few Western martial arts that do not focus on a weapon. Boxers are well
known for artfully dodging and blocking their opponents’ attacks, waiting for
the opportune moment to deliver a devastating body blow.

While in the Boxing Combat Style, the fighter adds 2 dice to Unarmed Com-
bat attacks and gains a +2 bonus to Defensive Value against Melee attacks.

Krav Maga, Combat Style (Unarmed Combat 5, Armed Melee Combat 5, Specialist—Knife)
Add 1 die when fighting Unarmed or with a knife. On a successful hit, target must
test Nerve or be stunned.

Krav Maga is a modern martial art from Israel that utilizes quick, brutal strikes
to immediately neutralize a threat.

While in the Krav Maga Combat Style, the fighter adds 1 die to Unarmed
Combat rolls or Armed Melee rolls with a knife. If they successfully hit a target
with either an Unarmed strike or a knife, the target of that attack must make a
Nerve test equal to half the damage dealt or be stunned until the start of the
attacker’s next turn.

Capoeira, Combat Style (Unarmed Combat 5, Athletics 5, Specialist—Acrobatics)
Add 1 die when fighting Unarmed. May take an additional move before, during, or
after Unarmed attack.

Capoeira is a Brazilian form of martial arts that focuses on mobility, incorporat-
ing elements of dance and acrobatics into a lethal combat form. While in the
Capoeira Combat Style, the fighter adds 1 die to any Unarmed Combat attack
and may move up to their Pace as part of their attack. The fighter may take this

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42 Cold Steel Wardens

movement before, during, or after making an Unarmed Combat attack. This
movement is in addition to any taken during the fighter’s normal Actions.

Fencing, Combat Style (Armed Melee 5, Specialty—Sword)
Add 1 to Defensive Value when fighting with a sword. May Lunge to increase the
range of the attack.
Modern fencing evolved from the brutal combat of the Middle Ages into a
gentlemanly art through the Renaissance. Olympic-style fencing, while not a
true combat style, teaches its practitioners the basics of Renaissance swordplay.
While wielding a sword and in the Fencing Combat Style, a fighter adds 1 to
their Defensive Value. If they choose, the fighter may Lunge at a foe, adding one
yard to the fighter’s attack reach but taking -2 dice on the Armed Combat test.

Kickboxing, Combat Style (Unarmed Combat 5)
Add 2 dice when fighting Unarmed. On a successful hit, deal 2 additional damage dice.
Kickboxing reflects several types of martial arts that focus on using the fighter’s
legs and feet as efficient and lethal weapons. While in the Kickboxing Combat
Style, the fighter adds 2 dice to their Unarmed Combat attacks. On a successful
hit, the fighter rolls 2 additional damage dice.

Archery, Combat Style (Armed Ranged 5, Specialist—Bow OR Specialist—Crossbow)
Add 2 dice to damage with bow or crossbow. Reduce penalties to Called Shots by 2
dice. May use ranged weapons as improvised weapons in melee.
The bow is one of humankind’s most ancient weapons, dating back to the Paleolithic
era. It is the hallmark of a“true”marksman. At least, that’s what archers tend to say.

While in the Archery Combat Style, the fighter may add 2 damage dice to
any Armed Ranged attack made with a bow or crossbow. Further, the fighter
reduces any penalties from Called Shots by 2 dice (minimum -2 dice penalty)
and may even use the bow or the crossbow, and its ammunition, as small im-
provised weapons in melee, with no risk of breaking them. Damage for these
items is treated as that of a club (2 dice + Force).

John Woo, Combat Style (Armed Ranged 5, Specialist—Pistol)
May shoot with a pistol in each hand (at -2 dice each) as one Action. May move and
shoot as one Action.
Filmmaker John Woo became famous for directing numerous action movies
that romanticized gunfights, making them into slow motion poetic master-
pieces where combatants fired pistols from each hand. While in the John Woo
Combat Style, may attack with a pistol in each hand, taking -2 dice to each
Armed Ranged test, as a single Action. These attacks may be split between
two different targets. Further, the fighter may move and make a single Armed
Ranged attack (with any weapon—not just a pistol) as a single Action.

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43Chapter 04 Masteries

Sniper, Combat Style (Armed Ranged 5, Specialist—
Bow OR Specialist—Rifle)
Double all ranges for bow or rifle. Reduce Called
Shot penalties by 2 dice.

Snipers have been used since the advent of mod-
ern warfare to take out targets of priority. Snipers
are known for their ability to deal death from a
long distance, using high powered rifles or com-
pound bows.

While in the Sniper Combat Style, the fighter
doubles the effective range of their bow or rifle.
Further, any penalties for Called Shots the fighter
makes are reduced by 2 dice.

Deadshot, Combat Style (Armed Ranged 5, Specialist—
Pistol OR Specialist—Shotgun)
Suffer only -3 dice (rather than -6) to shoot while in
melee. Use firearms as improvised melee weapons.

Shooting a firearm in melee is particularly dif-
ficult, though the damage a gun deals at point-
blank range is harrowing and can end a fight al-
most instantly. A character who takes Deadshot
thinks that the extra damage is worth the risk.

While in the Deadshot Combat Style, if the fight-
er is at point-blank range or in melee, the penalty to
fire is only -3 dice, rather than -6. Point-blank shots
deal double dice in damage, as usual. A Hero with
Deadshot may also use firearms as melee weapons,
without taking the penalty for improvised weapons.
Damage for firearms in melee is treated as normal
(one-handed = small; two-handed = large).

Dartboard, Combat Style (Armed Ranged 5, Specialist—
Thrown Weapons)
Reduce penalties from cover by 2 dice. Can ricochet
throws around corners at a ‑4 penalty. Drawing
weapons is a Non-Action.

Many comic book characters over the ages have
utilized thrown weapons, whether batarangs,
throwing knives, or playing cards, and have even
turned them into trademarks.

While in the Dartboard Combat Style, a fight-
er reduces penalties from cover by 2 dice, and

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44 Cold Steel Wardens

may even arc thrown weapons around corners and off of walls to strike at foes
outside their line of sight. Such attacks suffer a -4 dice penalty. In addition, a
Dartboard fighter may draw weapons as a Non-Action.
Weapon Expert (Armed Ranged 5 or Armed Melee 5, Specialty—weapon of choice)
Add 2 damage dice and 2 dice to perform advanced maneuvers with chosen weapon.
After a Hero uses a weapon for so long, sometimes it just becomes an extension
of their body. While wielding their chosen weapon, the fighter deals 2 extra
damage dice and adds 2 dice to their Armed Melee or Armed Ranged roll to
perform advanced maneuvers, such as Disarm, Stun, or Push. Unlike other Mas-
teries, characters can take Weapon Expert multiple times; each time, a different
weapon must be chosen.
Acrobat (Athletics 6, Specialty—Acrobatics OR Specialty—Gymnastics)
Double dice to reduce damage from falling. Move at full Pace while tumbling.
Heroes find gymnastic training to be of particular use, particularly when tra-
versing rooftops and fire escapes. A Hero with the Acrobat Mastery doubles
the normal number of dice to roll when testing Agility to avoid falling damage.
Further, an Acrobat may move at their full Pace while tumbling, performing
gymnastic maneuvers, and the like.

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45Chapter 04 Masteries

Expert Climber (Athletics 6, Specialty—Climbing)
Climb at full Pace. Scale sheer surfaces without rope/grapnel.
A Hero with the Expert Climber Mastery is capable of phenomenal feats of
climbing. An Expert Climber climbs and scales areas at their full Pace, and is
able to even climb seemingly sheer surfaces without a rope or grapnel. If a
climb would be penalized for a non-expert, the Expert Climber takes only half
the assessed penalty.

SCUBA Expert (Athletics 6, Specialty—Swimming, Specialty—SCUBA)
Hold breath for twice normal timespan. Know how to use and maintain SCUBA
Full Description: A Hero with the SCUBA Expert Mastery is an expert on all
things aquatic. SCUBA Experts may hold their breath for twice the normal
length of time. Further, the Hero is certified in SCUBA and can use, refill, and
repair SCUBA equipment (using the Mechanics Skill). The Hero also is assumed
to have a personal set of SCUBA gear.

Infiltrator (Stealth 6, Specialty—Hide, Specialty—Silent Movement)
Move more swiftly while in Stealth. Free Stealth test after moving behind cover.
The Infiltrator Mastery helps a Hero stay hidden when it matters most. A Hero
with this Mastery may move at their full Pace while maintaining Stealth, rather
than moving at half Pace. Further, if an Infiltrator ends their movement behind
an object that provides at least 50% cover, the Hero may automatically make a
Stealth test as a Non-Action.

Takedown Expert (Stealth 9, Specialty—Hide, Specialty—Silent Movement, Specialty—
Silent Takedown)
No penalties to Stealth when attempting a Silent Takedown. Extra action after Si-
lent Takedown.
You’ve made so many people disappear without a trace that by this point the
penalty is merely a formality. Takedown Experts take no penalty to their Stealth
tests when performing a Silent Takedown. Further, they may take an extra Ac-
tion after successfully performing a Silent Takedown.

Case the Joint (Stealth 5, Specialty—Stake-Out)
Add 5 dice to Stealth and Investigative tests when staking out a location.
Rather than follow a suspect and risk losing them in a crowd, some Heroes
prefer to set a trap for them. A Hero with the Case the Joint Mastery adds 5
dice to all Stealth and Investigative tests while on a stake-out and for one hour
afterward. This bonus ends once the Hero moves from the stake-out location
or is spotted by their quarry.

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46 Cold Steel Wardens

Gymnastic Fighter (Athletics 6, Specialty—Acrobatics OR Specialty—Gymnastics)
Free unarmed attack while fighting defensively. Tumble and attack simultaneously.
A true gymnast knows their body better than any other. A Hero with the Gym-
nastic Fighter Mastery may choose to tumble and attack as a single Action by
making both their Athletics and combat tests at a -2 dice penalty. Further, when
using Athletics in place of their Defensive Value, a Hero with the Gymnastic
Fighter Mastery may make a single Unarmed Combat attack at -4 dice against
any valid target as a Non-Action.

Marathon Runner (Athletics 6, Specialty—Running)
+1 Pace. No Strain taken for continual running.
A Hero with the Marathon Runner Mastery knows the definition of true endur-
ance. A Marathon Runner increases their Pace by 1 and never needs to make
Nerve tests to avoid taking Strain from continual running.

Defensive Fighter (Armed Melee 3 OR Unarmed Combat 3, Specialty—any weapon [only
for Armed Melee])
+1 DV. Reflexively drop Action to block a Melee attack.
When a Hero with a Defensive Fighter Mastery is wielding their chosen weapon
(which can include Unarmed attacks), they gain a +1 bonus to Defensive Value.
If a Defensive Fighter is hit by a Melee attack while wielding their chosen weap-
on, they may choose to lose an Action from their next turn to block that attack
entirely, taking no damage. Critical hits may not be blocked in this manner. This
Mastery may be taken more than once, but it applies to a different weapon
each time it is chosen.

Improved Disarm (None)
Make Disarm attempts at no penalty. Follow-up attack after successful disarm.
Sometimes, the best way to defend yourself is to make it so you don’t have
to. A Hero with the Improved Disarm Mastery takes no penalty to their tests
when attempting to disarm a foe. Further, if the disarm attempt is successful,
the Hero may choose to make an immediate follow-up attack, using an attack
Skill of their choice.

Brute Strength (Athletics 5, Intimidate 5)
Make an Intimidation test as a Non-Action to scare foes after succeeding at an Ath-
letics test.
Sometimes, you need to remind your enemies why they should be afraid of you.
If a Hero with the Brute Strength Mastery succeeds at an Athletics test in front of
a foe—a massive jump, a powerful lift, or some other powerful action—the Hero
may immediately make an Intimidation test against that foe with a +2 dice bonus
as a Non-Action. This Intimidation test can deal Mental Strain, as usual.

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47Chapter 04 Masteries

Leap of Faith (Athletics 6, Specialty—High Jump, Specialty—Long Jump)
No Strain taken for jumping/leaping beyond Pace. Double dice against falling
Some Heroes consider the rooftops of New Corinth their home away from home.
A Hero with the Leap of Faith Mastery never takes Strain when using Athletics
to leap or jump, even if they exceed their Pace. Further, such a Hero doubles the
normal number of dice when testing Agility to avoid falling damage.

Speedy(Athletics 3, Specialty—Running)
+2 Pace, +2 Initiative.
Whether you’re chasing an arsonist through the streets of Chinatown or run-
ning from the cops, it just pays to be fast. A Speedy Hero increases their Pace
by 2 and adds 2 dice to all Initiative tests.

Lashing Fists (Unarmed Combat 9)
Make an additional Unarmed attack at -4 dice.
An expert martial artist becomes a blur of motion in combat, felling their foes
with ease. A Hero with the Lashing Fists Mastery gains an additional Unarmed
Combat attack at -4 dice, made after the Hero’s Actions. For all intents and pur-
poses, this Unarmed Combat test is made as a Non-Action during the Hero’s
round. This Unarmed attack can be made even if the fighter is wielding a weap-
on (although they cannot use it for this attack) and stacks with other Masteries
such as Two Weapon Wielder and Kung Fu.

Two Weapon Wielder (Armed Melee 9)
Make an Armed Melee test with a weapon in each hand, each at -4, as one Action.
Two heads are better than one. Especially when you cut them both off at once.
A Hero with the Two Weapon Wielder Mastery may make two Armed Melee
tests as a single Action to attack with a weapon in each hand, each at -4 dice.
The attacks do not both need to target the same enemy. Note that Two Weapon
Wielder may not be used with Unarmed attacks.

Smash Through (Unarmed Combat 3 OR Armed Melee 3, Investigation 3)
Deals double damage to objects. Can use Investigation to seek out weak points.
Some Heroes can phase through walls. Others don’t need to. A Hero with the
Smash Through Mastery deals twice their normal amount of Physical Strain to
all objects, regardless of what weapons they wield. Further, a Hero with the
Smash Through Mastery may use Investigation as an Action to locate weak
points or structural imperfections in an object. The Difficulty for locating these
is set by the GM.

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48 Cold Steel Wardens

Sure-Footed (Athletics 5, Stealth 3, Unarmed 5)
No penalty for moving on unstable platform. Knockdown as Non-Action.
You’re at your best when others are on their ass. A Hero with the Sure-Footed
Mastery never takes penalties to Skill tests for standing on unstable or rough
terrain, regardless of location. Further, a Sure-Footed Hero may attempt a
Knockdown against a foe in melee as a Non-Action once per turn. This Knock-
down attempt is made at a -4 penalty (instead of the normal -2), and uses Un-
armed Combat for its opposed test.

Swashbuckler (Athletics 6 and either Unarmed 5 OR Armed Melee 5)
+4 dice on attack immediately after using Athletics to move.
Errol Flynn has nothing on you. A Hero with the Swashbuckler Mastery gains a
+4 dice bonus on any attack made immediately after using Athletics for move-
ment. Typical uses of Swashbuckler would come after jumping down into a
melee or swinging on a grapnel line.


Facial Recognition (Notice 5, Examination 5)
Add 2 dice to any Notice roll made to recognize an individual; can use Facial Rec-
ognition technology.
When attempting to identify a particular individual, a Hero with Facial Recogni-
tion adds 2 dice to any Notice or Examination roll. Further, the Hero is able to
use Facial Recognition software, provided that they have access to a computer
with the appropriate program. The Hero also receives a free set of said software.

Sense Ambush (Stealth 3, Notice 5)
Automatic Notice test to detect ambushes. +4 dice on Initiative.
Whether you have sharp senses or are just paranoid, you know when trouble is
waiting around the corner. A Hero with the Sense Ambush Mastery automati-
cally gets a Notice test, as a Non-Action, to avoid an ambush or trap. Further,
such a Hero gains +4 dice on all Initiative tests.

Night Sight (Notice 3)
Reduced sight penalties in darkness.
A Hero with the Night Sight Mastery takes no penalty to any Vital or Skill test
while in dim lighting. In total darkness, said penalties are reduced to only -2 dice.

Exceptional Hearing (Notice 6, Specialty—Keen Hearing)
Detect stealthy or invisible foes by sound.
A Hero with the Exceptional Hearing Mastery can actively make Notice tests to
detect foes using Stealth or Invisibility to hide, and can attack them without

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