As I’m writing some guidance for the new GM chapter, I came to an interesting realization: magic items don’t belong in combat. Since that sounds pretty extreme, allow me to clarify. Modos RPG 1.4 has a category of items called “special equipment.” Many of these items allow a character to do things that would effectively raise the character’s level on a temporary or permanent basis. So having items like these in the game plays havoc with the Character Level rule, but since special equipment can be fun, I can’t just throw it out of the game. The solution is to limit what special equipment can do – mechanically. First, special equipment is dramatic, so its use should remain in the dramatic side of the game – with roleplaying and one-roll conflicts. However, if the situation calls for action-by-action shots, special equipment CAN make an appearance in extended conflict (or combat), but it can’t contribute to Progress. Instead, level balance is maintained if special equipment changes the landscape of an extended conflict: by imposing difficulty penalties or changing how postures behave.
For example, your level 2 character has an endless supply of grenades, which are similar to a level 3 or 4 power (spell) like Fire3. If your character could endlessly cast Fire3, that would make his level effectively 10 or higher, not level 2. So instead of going into an extended conflict with an endless supply of grenades, the GM asks you to use a one-roll conflict, with a Physical contest to attack the enemy biker gang. You add your Missile skill points and get a result of 14, saying you “pull two pins at the same time with your mouth and chuck them at the gang.” The GM says you got a Pro, and that “the gang members scatter, leaving their bikes behind to get blown up in a glorious fireball by your grenades.”
Alternatively, you could use your grenades in combat, but instead of causing Physical damage, their effect would be to prevent opponents from entering offensive posture, as an alternative to a Movement action.
These two examples show that character level can be preserved by using special equipment to add flavor to one-roll conflicts or to create options for using skills in extended conflict – instead of creating instant-win scenarios in combat.