d20 Modern RPG Week Day Seven

And we’ve made it to day seven. Doesn’t time fly? That’s what we’re going to look at today – time. Supplements took d20 Modern out of the Now and transplanted it into the Past or Far, Far Future.

d20 Past is a personal favourite of mine. It’s a thin supplement, but manages to pack a stunning amount of goodness into a mere 96 pages. As well as providing Occupations, Feats and GM information suitable for use in any era from the Middle Ages to early 20th Century, is also offers three fleshed-out campaign settings. Wow!

The first of these, Age of Adventure, gives us swashbuckling pirates in the seventeenth century. It’s a testament to just how good d20 Modern is that there’s no rules hackery required to make it fit the setting. In keeping with d20 Modern’s D&D heritage this is fantastic pirates with all too real Sea Serpents, Sea Devils and Zombies. Here be monsters, indeed. For characters there’s the Shaman and Sorcerer Advanced Classes and the Musketeer Prestige Class. Oh, and there are three ready to run adventures too.

That’s the first campaign setting. Of three. In a 96 page book. The quality of writing is such that it feels neither rushed nor squashed to fit.

Shadow Stalkers is the second setting. This transplants d20 Modern into the Gothic Horror world of 1872. If you want to play a consulting detective is fog-shrouded London, an archaeologist battling The Mummy or even a Cowboy gunning down Ghouls, this is the setting for you. If  Age of Adventure is Pirates of the Caribbean, Shadow Stalkers is The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen complete with Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde. This setting is rounded out with the Mesmerist and Spiritualist Advanced Classes and the Frontier Marshall Prestige Class. And two more adventures.

Finally from d20 Past we have Pulp Heroes world of the 1920s and ’30s. Here you are battling evil Nazi Scientists who want to take over the world with their wicked quantum mega-emitters (and yes, there is a Random Mad Invention Table). This is gangsters in Chicago and Spitfires above Europe, all wrapped up in a two-fisted tale that would make Doc Savage himself proud. Want more classes? How about the Gangster, Scientist and Flying Ace. And two more adventures.

So that’s four hundred plus years of history, nine Advanced or Prestige Classes and seven adventures in 96 pages of beautifully written and presented awesomeness. Phew!

Then there’s d20 Future. I’ve said before that I don’t like this supplement, and while my opinion has mellowed a little (I was pretty brutal in my review) it still feels too cramped and overambitious to me. Even though it’s two a a half times larger than d20 Past it feels crowded and sketchy in it’s presentation. Trying to cover space travel, giant Mecha, cybernetics, mutations, aliens and much more in a single “do everything” book is a laudable goal, but the end result is a book that, I feel, barely does any of the topics justice. I don’t think it helps that the single campaign setting chapter tries to squeeze no less than eight settings into just twenty pages, and that includes 6 Advanced and Prestige classes.

For example, the Bughunters setting (cloned space marines against alien insects!) is just over two pages long, and a page of that is the Bughunter Advanced class. I want a map of the star systems, a timeline, dropship rules, a random insectoid alien generator, encounter tables………..

It’s a shame as much of what d20 Future contains is very, very good indeed. You’ll just be left wanting more.

As is typical with these RPG Weeks, just like d20 Future I’ve barely scratched the surface. As a stand alone one book system, d20 Modern is right up there in the gaming Hall of Fame. Add the Urban Arcana uber-supplement and you’ve opened up a whole world of D&D into the present day. Add d20 Future and d20 Past, and you can take your gaming to places you’ve only dreamt of.

If you want to take a look at d20 Modern yourself the majority of the system is freely available under the OGL. Here’s a HTML version of the rules (mirror of the zipfile). Enjoy.

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5 Responses

  1. Questing GM says:

    The supplements for D20 Modern from Wizards has been considered one of the weak points in the product line. I haven’t look at Past but can agree the points with Future. Fortunately, Wizards was able to churn out Future Tech and Cyberscape (in the genres I liked) after that which covered some of the aforementioned weak spots. Another supplement is Apocalypse which has a pretty nice touch.

    Weapons Locker, Critical Locations and Menace Manuals are top mark books for me that ever came out from Wizards for this line. Urban Arcana too if only for the much better and expanded equipment list and the Special Forces and Sniper prestige classes.

    Oh, let’s not forget that Dark Matter, the only setting book that Wizards ever published for D20 Modern is a pretty good book on its own even though many have said that it was mainly copy pasted from the original.

    However, I still think that the strongest line of supplements comes from third party publishers like Game Mechanics and many others. The Blood & … series and the Modern Companion books.

  2. Greywulf says:

    Absolutely. I love both Blood & Brains and Blood & Space and rate them as two of the best 3rd party supplements for d20 Modern. I’ve written a review of Blood & Brains, here.

    Both the Menace Manual and Urban Arcana are pretty essential purchase if you’re planning a longer d20 Modern campaign. My copies have seen a LOT of use :D

  3. by_the_sword says:

    Just to let you know, the links to the free downloads that you have provided are no longer viable (it is nearly a year after those links were posted).

    Here is the URL to the Wizards site where the d20 SRD can be downloaded for free:http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=d20/article/msrd

  4. greywulf says:

    Quick update.

    I’ve found the latest version of the nicely formatted d20 Modern SRD. This one comes complete with d20 Future, Urban Arcana and Menace Manual supplements too.

    I’ll update the links to the zipfile in these posts accordingly, or you can snarf it directly, here.

  5. Xyvoln Sylvadrak says:

    If you want “space marines against alien insects”, do your part and check out the d20 Starship Troopers game, which was designed specifically for that.

    Remember: Service Guarantees Citizenship!

    Would you like to know more?

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