The recent RPGSite review, by Krakajak, brought up some discussion and thoughts among my home group. Specifically, one point he made about combat being much more dangerous.
One point was made about called shots. Yes, they make things more dangerous, but not a lot. You have to be high level before you can reliably pull off head shots and even then, that's just an increased chance for double damage.
As opposed to multiple attacks, it seems that called shot and burst fire remain more of a wash than anything else. A stylistic choice.
You can do both at low levels (make a called shot, or find an automatic weapon and go burst fire) and you get better at both as you raise your ranks in the firearms skill.
A second point, brought up in the review, was the presence of Hit Location, and how the double damage it can bring randomly makes combat more deadly.
Now Modern20 has three hit locations (out of 20) that inflict more damage, two that inflict double damage, and one that increases damage by 50%.
However, there are FOUR locations, out of 20, that inflict half damage.
I'm more of a "gut" statistician than a trained one. I have a sense of how things will work in game and a good eye for balance when I'm running things.
Still, my gut tells me that a 15% chance to inflict more damage, a 20% chance to inflict less, and a 65% to inflict normal damage isn't that much more dangerous than d20 Modern's flat 5% chance of a critical hit inflicting double damage (with no chance to inflict less).
Finally, there were a couple of points my players raised that weren't raised in the review:
First, on the less dangerous side, there's the fact that armor in Modern20 acts as Damage Reduction.
Second, on the more dangerous side, is the fact that Modern20 firearms inflict more damage than their d20 Modern counterparts at close range, effectively enough to negate the damage reduction of armor (more or less).
And of course, if you dont have body armor, this makes a point blank firearm attack VERY dangerous in Modern20, especially with a chance for a headshot.
Of course, this is not accidental. One of my goals in Modern20 was to make gunfire at point blank range bad, and gunfire at point blank range without body armor a Very Bad Thing (TM).
I wanted players to respect guns.
But, my feeling, and my players agreed, is that if you were moderate level, wearing body armor, and able to keep the enemy from getting too close, that Modern20 wasn't much more dangerous than d20 Modern.
A little, but not much.
What do you guys think?