How does d20 Modern handle the common situation of having someone at gunpoint, or entering a room with your firearm in hand, cocked and ready to fire?

I'm asking because I notice that to draw a weapon is a Move Action that does not provoke an Opportunity Attack. Thus, this means that an attacker could enter a room with his weapon drawn, lose initiative to his opponent, and the opponent could draw a weapon and shoot the attacker dead quite easily.

This is not a situation that happens frequently in real life, movies, etc. Normally, if you have someone at gunpoint and you pull a weapon, they shoot you.

If the attacker won initiative, they could use an Attack Action to ready an attack on their opponent if they drew a weapon, ran, etc. But if they lose initiative, they're out of luck.

Similarly, the opponent with initiative could use two Move Actions and run out of sight before the attacker could fire on him.


In d20 Modern, there's no thing as "gunpoint" per se. There is:

  1. Surprising someone and getting them flat-footed, in which case they lose their Dodge bonus. The problem is, it requires GM fiat to say "you're still flat-footed until someone twitches" instead of the first combat round going by, everyone rolling init, and rushing the guy. But, RAW...

  2. You can ready an action to shoot someone. Of course, in d20 Modern one shot isn't likely to kill anyone, so it's not as intimidating as one might hope. And if you got them flat-footed or got initiative on them, then you can have a readied action before they get to act.

  3. The fact that ranged attacks provoke attacks of opportunity is an additional wrinkle, but in the real world cops etc. know not to keep melee opponents at gunpoint at very close range because experience has shown a guy with a knife or whatnot can be on you before you can fire in many circumstances.

  • 6
    \$\begingroup\$ I'll add a 2 cents - this is one of the major problems that the d20 system ended up having. It grew a culture of "you can't do that unless there's a rule for it or you have a feat for it or you have an advanced class ability that lets you do it." There is no good reason a GM can't say "he's got the drop on you (or vice versa) and it's going to be an auto crit threat if you move and he plugs you." But d20 leads you to expect a "Get the Drop feat" or some other nonsense to be required. I like a lot of things about d20 but in retrospect it really changed the tenor of gaming from earlier eds. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - SE stop being evil Jan 28 '11 at 21:52

I'm away from my books, but in D&D 3/3.5, if a character is carrying a readied weapon there are 2 ways to resolve this:

  1. Surprise round. If the attacker breaks into the room and the flat-foot is surprised, attacker gets a round before initiative is rolled.

From the SRD:

The Surprise Round

If some but not all of the combatants are aware of their opponents, a surprise round happens before regular rounds begin. Any combatants aware of the opponents can act in the surprise round, so they roll for initiative. In initiative order (highest to lowest), combatants who started the battle aware of their opponents each take a standard action during the surprise round. You can also take free actions during the surprise round. If no one or everyone is surprised, no surprise round occurs.

Unaware Combatants

Combatants who are unaware at the start of battle don’t get to act in the surprise round. Unaware combatants are flat-footed because they have not acted yet, so they lose any Dexterity bonus to AC.

2) Readied attack. If the attacker does not surprise the flat-footed character, but does have the gun out already (and safety off, hammer cocked, gun loaded, etc.) then the attacker can take a single attack before initiative. I know I have no reference on this, but I could not find it after digging. I remember reading it from the D&D 3 book, but I'll be darned if I can find it. (My recollection is that the character had to have a missile weapon out and readied, arrow knocked and bow in hand. the PC then can draw/fire assuming aren't surprised).



If you are holding someone at gunpoint, you need to stay at least 10ft away from them and preferably ready an action to shoot them if they make any sudden moves. The standard D20 rule that firing a ranged weapon provokes an Attack of Opportunity can really mess with your suspension of disbelief in these situations. The illustration on the first page of the combat chapter, where someone is pulling an assault rifle out of their opponent's hands before they can fire it, says it all.

Certainly not the way that these things generally play out in the movies, if you are aiming for a cinematic style of game ... unless it is a martial arts action movie where guns are next to useless in close quarters.

You might want to consider at least one level of the Gunslinger advanced class (page 169 of the core rulebook):

Close Combat Shot

At 1st level, a Gunslinger gains the ability to make a ranged attack with a Medium-size or smaller firearm while in a threatened area without provoking an attack of opportunity.

You get a paltry +2 bonus on an Intimidate check if you are holding a gun on someone, and only then if they are flat-footed (core rulebook p64).

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ That's depressing. You'd think a game set in the modern era would be able to model this situation better than requiring PCs to take a level in an advanced class. \$\endgroup\$ – cr0m Jan 27 '11 at 22:48
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ @cr0m That's one of the pitfalls of trying to faithfully convert a fantasy system obsessed with balanced combat to a genre with guns. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Nov 3 '11 at 22:18

SpyCraft (as a flavour of d20) has a ruling for this, calling it a Terminal Situation.

Characters sometimes find themselves in appalling peril. They fall from planes at 20,000 ft. They’re at the center of an explosion that wipes out a fortified building. They find assassins standing beside their beds in the morning, holding pistols at their temples. Spycraft 2.0 calls these "Terminal Situations". Outside combat only, the GC may declare that any situation from which a character cannot logically escape is a Terminal Situation. Until the situation abates, any of the victim’s opponents with line of sight to him may spend 1 action die to cause him to either fall unconscious or die (his wound points immediately dropping to –9), as appropriate to the circumstances at hand.

I suspect it wouldn't take much work to apply a similar mechanic to d20 Modern...


Doesn't a surprise round limit you to a single action, whether it be a move or a standard? So in your example, the attacker enters the room 'gun drawn'. Then, in the surprise round, one or both parties can act. If the defender is unaware, the attacker's action can be a gunshot. Done. If the defender is aware, then he and the attacker must roll initiative for order of actions in the surprise round. If the defender wins, he can draw his gun; but he has no actions remaining to shoot! So the attacker, on his turn, can fire. Of course, if the defender already had his gun out, he could fire it in the surprise round, but that seems pretty reasonable to me.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't disagree with you--that certainly would be one way of modelling the situation. However, surprise is a pretty specific situation. Certainly IRL, someone could walk into a room, and I would have heard them coming--thus I'm not unaware--but then discover that they have a gun. So in d20 terms I wouldn't be surprised, but I would be at gunpoint. \$\endgroup\$ – cr0m Nov 18 '11 at 21:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 I would model the situation just like this. @cr0m, I guess if there is a gunfight outside the window, the guy in the room would not hear the killer in the door. On the other hand, if the victim hears the "killer", he would draw and aim at the door - then both of them are at gunpoint. Perfect. \$\endgroup\$ – Vorac Sep 21 '12 at 9:34

One thing that a lot of the criticisms are forgetting is d20 modern is meant to be that heroic non realistic style, there are even rules for bringing it down to 'realistic' or buffing it up to 'superheroic'. The fact is its simple, surprise round, yes, readied action yes, but like the heroic setting of Hollywood or our favorite novels, d20 modern wants the dash/dive to escape, the flamboyant counter attack. Feats and skill aren't needed, just using the combat rules such as disarm, aid another, charge and such. It's meant to be creative and if you want it to be 'realistic' you adjust the stats not the rules


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.