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d20 Modern is a game utilizing the D 20 System, launched in 2002.
Set in the Present Day, the players have access to a variety of modern careers and weapons - any weapon, religion, nationality or anything else that exists on modern-day Earth can be used in game. Optional Sourcebooks expanded the game to cover any post-medieval setting, from the Renaissance to the far future.
There are six base character classes, Strong Hero, Fast Hero, Tough Hero, Smart Hero, Dedicated Hero and Charismatic Hero. These each correspond to one of the classic Dungeons and Dragons stats, and can be expanded on to dozens of advanced classes, such as a Medic or a Celebrity. There are many careers available, from Priest to Criminal, all working as a base to kick your character off into a world of adventure.
The d20 Modern core book suggests four specific campaign models, while later Sourcebooks added more options, and the Game Master has the choice of mixing and matching rules elements from as many different sources as s/he wants. (Elvish Pirates versus Alien Wizards inside Humongous Mecha--IN SPACE? You got it!)
You can read and/or download the MSRD here.
- Core Modern: "Realistic" modern Earth. There are no monsters, no magic--whether you work for a crime syndicate or spy ring, mercenary outfit or the local police, or are just some kid straight out of high school, it's all up to you.
- Shadow Chasers: In this game mode, inspired by shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, normal Dungeons and Dragons monsters roam the earth. These beings, known as Shadow Creatures, came here from alternate worlds. They have no memory of life before they arrived, and depending on their personalities, they either settle down and get a job or need to be exterminated by the player characters. In this world, most of the human population has a built-in Weirdness Censor, and can't see Shadow Creatures for what they are. A normal person would look at an Ogre and see a tall man, or look at a Dragon and see a small Chinese man (a definite case of not judging a book by its cover). Players are capable of seeing these creatures for what they really are, and work for a secret organization that hunts them down. Most characters fight monsters with conventional weapons only, though the Occultist advanced class allows Smart Heroes and villains to tap into the arcane powers of magic. But the monsters must also rely on conventional weapons; you have seen nothing as cool as a dragon with a rocket launcher.
- Agents of PSI: Magic does not exist, only Psionics. Psionics are Psychic Powers possessed by certain people that allow them to use special abilities, either in the traditional "read minds and make things float" sense, or through various forms of technopathy. You can psychically merge with your car so that it becomes an extension of yourself, or surf the net by downloading your mind into it. You work for a shadowy organization that identifies and deals with those who would use these powers for evil.
- Urban Arcana: The classic Dungeons and Dragons, in a modern setting. The character classes and weapons are the same as the basic Modern system, but a variety of new classes are available. There are two categories of magic-users, Mages, based off the D&D Mage, and Acolytes, based off the D&D Priest. However, these have a modern spin; for instance, calling someone on the phone allows a mage to teleport down the phone lines, and the right electricity spell can interfere with your enemies' mobile phones. You can be an Acolyte of whatever D&D god you fancy, or an Acolyte of Christ or Vishnu. Like Shadow Chasers, monsters have somehow crossed the void from classic D&D worlds into our own, and a Weirdness Censor prevents most of humanity from noticing, so it's up to the players to deal with them. In this world, it's just as likely that the CEO of a large company is a gold dragon as a human. Why would a mob boss use a human as a henchman when a cave troll is more loyal? There are several factions that the player can work for or against. Department-7 is a magical organization that works for human interests (but whose biggest backer just happens to be a dragon). The Corsone crime syndicate works as a front for Shadows to gain control of the human underworld. The Fraternal Order of Vigilance is a human supremacist group who hunt Shadows, and the Black Feathers are a group of eco-terrorists run by elves. Arcana has become the most popular of the D20 settings for its mix of modern weapons and fantastical elements, or, as a fellow gamer once put it, "Dude, Uzis and fireballs!" Along with Dark•Matter, it's the only specific campaign model to receive a sourcebook all to itself.
- Dark•Matter: An update of the Dark•Matter campaign setting first published in 1999 for TSR's Alternity RPG (itself an adaptation of 2nd edition D&D rules to non-fantasy settings), this is a world where every lunatic conspiracy theory is true. There really are psychic gray aliens abducting humans and mutilating cattle. The Illuminati really are working to bring the entire world under their control. Bigfoot? He's out there too. And The Government is covering it all up. The players are field agents for the shadowy private organization known as the Hoffman Institute, devoted to investigating the activities of psychics, cultists, and "xenoforms" and protecting humankind from the tide of dark matter seeping into the fabric of the universe that's the ultimate cause of all things paranormal.
This sourcebook contained rules for playing games set in the world to be, from Twenty Minutes Into the Future to the time of Crystal Spires and Togas and everything in between (though it could be adapted to sci-fi campaigns set in the past or present just as easily), with chapters on futuristic gizmos, alien environments, genetic engineering, super-science like cloning and Nanomachines, Teleporters and Transporters, Cool Starships, Humongous Mecha, robotics, cybernetics, and Mutants. It even has rules for sentient alien species for use as Player Characters, most of them culled from TSR's older sci-fi games.
Additionally, d20 Future spawned two sub-sourcebooks detailing games based on specific sci-fi genres: d20 Apocalypse for post-apocalyptic campaigns and d20 Cyberscape for Cyberpunk, as well as d20 Future Tech, an add-on with additional rules for gizmos, gadgets, and other cool science-fictiony technology to fill up your inventory.
Like the core d20 Modern rulebook, d20 Future and its spin-offs suggested specific campaign models:
- d20 Future:
- Bughunters: A Bug War setting in which you're a genetically engineered Space Marine clone grunt sent to kill some Big Creepy-Crawlies. Adapted from TSR's early-'90s RPG Amazing Engine.
- Dimension X: You work for an organization charged with monitoring various Alternate Universes, searching for a way to stem the tide of an approaching Armageddon that's destroying The Multiverse one dimension at a time.
- From the Dark Heart of Space: Cosmic Horror in the depths of the cosmos. Eldritch Abominations lurk in the space between stars and corrupt average humans to use as their tools.
- Genetech: Genetically-altered mutants and human/animal hybrids fight for survival in a world ruled by heartless megacorporations. Later got its own sourcebook that expanded it into a full campaign setting.
- Mecha Crusade: War engulfs the solar system! Hot-Blooded heroes clash in mighty mecha! A setting inspired by sci-fi anime, first published in Polyhedron magazine #154 and adapted for the d20 Future hardcover.
- Star*Drive: In the wake of a galactic war, humans and aliens spin elaborate treaties while working to rebuild their world. Meanwhile, a new, implacable race of buglike aliens from a far-off star system ravages fringe worlds and threatens the galaxy's stability. Like Dark•Matter, Star*Drive was originally published in the '90s as an Alternity setting, and updated with d20 rules.
- Star Law: You're a space cop out to bring law and order to the baddest planets in the galaxy. Loosely based on TSR's Star Frontiers RPG from the 1980s.
- The Wasteland: It's After the End and Earth is a ruin. You and the rest of humanity struggle to survive in the nuclear waste while fending off savage mutants and power-hungry marauders. This model inspired the d20 Apocalypse book.
- d20 Apocalypse:
- Earth Inherited: The Rapture has come to pass, the righteous whisked off to Heaven and the evil consigned to Hell, and those who remain bear witness to earthly battle between legions of angels and demons. But the gates of Heaven and Hell have closed, and angel and demon alike are tapped on Earth with us. Inspired by the Left Behind novels, but less sectarian (i.e., not only Christians were raptured).
- Atomic Sunrise: Similar to but more developed than the "Wasteland" campaign model from d20 Future, a nuclear holocaust has destroyed 95% of the human race, sending the survivors back to a new Dark Age. Dozens of power groups struggle to determine the fate of the human race.
- Plague World: Aliens invade the Earth, but mess it up. In the wake of the vast bio-engineered mutagenic plague unleashed by the invaders to wipe out Earth's civilization, the aliens themselves succumb to their own weapons and degenerate into mindless beasts. Meanwhile, the heroes, soldiers put in suspended animation at the start of the war, awake to a world blown back to the Iron Age.
- d20 Cyberscape:
- CyberRave: In a world of capitalism and government intrusion gone mad, a new subculture of street ravers fight against the system. Cybernetic implants are commonplace, the Internet has evolved into the full-immersion VRNet, and information is the ultimate commodity.
d20 Past explores RPG settings from every time period from the Renaissance up to the Cold War, acting as a sort of bridge between Dungeons and Dragons and the main d20 Modern setting. From sailing the seven seas in the age of exploration to stalking the streets of Victorian London to kicking Nazi ass in World War Two, the d20 Past sourcebook includes rules for pre-modern weapons and vehicles as well as more fantastic story elements such as sea serpents, pulp super-science, and Jekyll-and-Hyde monsters.
Following the example set by d20 Future, d20 Past suggests a few specific campaign models:
- Age of Adventure: Swashbuckling deeds of daring in 16th and 17th centuries, inspired by explorers like Sir Francis Drake and authors like Alexandre Dumas. The setting can take you from intrigue in the court of King Louis XIV to the hideouts of vile pirates on the Spanish Main. Sea serpents, ghouls, and wicked sorcerers lurk beyond the edges of the map.
- Shadow Stalkers': d20 Moderns "Shadow Chasers" campaign transported back to the late 1800s. You can rub shoulders with Sherlock Holmes in London, fight cattle rustlers in The Wild West, or explore the tombs of the ancients in Egypt. Vampires, mummies, werewolves, and other monsters lurk in the corners of society's eyes and shady occultists help or hinder you in your adventures.
- Pulp Heroes: Inspired by novels and movies written or set in the 1920s to the 1950s, from Tarzan to The Maltese Falcon to Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow. You might go up against Chicago gangsters, Hong Kong drug cartels, Those Wacky Nazis, or even little green men from Mars. This setting was originally published in Polyhedron magazine #149 and spruced up for d20 Past.
In addition to the books listed above, a few other campaign models were suggested for d20 Modern, mostly in the pages of Polyhedron magazine:
- Thunderball Rally: Inspired by '70s and '80s action Road Movies like Smokey and the Bandit and The Blues Brothers, the players are participants in a huge, illegal, and extremely lucrative cross-American road race. It was published in Polyhedron #152 and, as a joke, had rules for creating orangutan player characters.
- Omega World: A post-apocalyptic world gone mad, filled with human explorers and deadly mutants. Inspired by the classic Gamma World RPG. Published in Polyhedron #153 and incorporated into d20 Apocalypse.
- V for Victory: Hard-bitten heroes taking on the Nazi menace. A game of World War II combat published in Polyhedron #156, later incorporated into d20 Past.
- HiJinx: Published in Polyhedron #158, this scenario takes the "kids in a rock band" formula of '70s and '80s cartoons (Josie and the Pussy Cats, Jem and The Holograms, etc.) and throws in a healthy dose of turn-of-the-millennium self-awareness and irony. Players race to go platinum while getting into wacky misadventures with mobsters, robots, and aliens.
- Iron Lords of Jupiter: Mixing elements of d20 Future and d20 Past, this setting draws on pulp Planetary Romance stories like John Carter of Mars. It turns out that Jupiter actually has a solid surface under all those clouds (and miraculously has an oxygen-rich atmosphere and gravity low enough for humans to survive there) and is home to numerous alien races with Bronze Age technology. The players may be humans shipwrecked on the planet or members of the local civilizations. Published in Polyhedron #160.
- d20 Spectaculars': A book planned to be published in 2006, d20 Spectaculars would have given rules for playing superheroes, but it was canceled and never saw the light of day. It may have been because d20 Moderns sales were slipping, because they decided supers didn't fit with the rest of the line, or because Mutants and Masterminds already provided a d20 superhero game that was compatible with d20 Modern with a little rules-tweaking. The start of the work on 4th Edition might have had something to do with it, too.
- Prime Directive: Based on the Starfleet Battles universe (a licenced alternate Star Trek universe).
This Game Provides Examples Of:
- After the End: All of the d20 Apocalypse settings.
- Alien Invasion: In the backstory of Plague World. It ended badly for everyone, including the aliens.
- Bug War: In Bughunters.
- Caught Up in the Rapture: Happened to most of humanity in Earth Inherited, but with a twist (see above).
- Cloning Blues: In Genetech.
- Cool Starship
- Conspiracy Theorist: In Dark•Matter, every conspiracy theory is true.
- The Corruption: How dark powers influence people in From the Dark Heart of Space.
- Cosmic Horror: In From the Dark Heart of Space.
- Cyberpunk: In d20 Cyberscape.
- Cyberspace: In d20 Cyberscape.
- Everything Is Online: In d20 Cyberscape.
- Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke
- Government Agency of Fiction: Department-7.
- Hollywood Cyborg
- Human Popsicle: The PCs in Plague World.
- Humongous Mecha: In Mecha Crusade, later rolled into D20 Future.
- Lucky Charms Title: Dark•Matter, Star*Drive
- Rare Guns: The core book has the requisite Desert Eagle and .44 Magnum, and Future has stats for the OICW.
- The Illuminati: Present in Dark•Matter.
- The Masquerade: A central conceit in both Shadow Chasers and Urban Arcana. The main difference is that in the former, the PCs are normal humans outside the masquerade and looking in, while in the latter, they are hidden magical creatures themselves or their allies.
- The Multiverse: In Dimension X.
- Mutants: In Omega World.
- Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Inevitable when mixing Sourcebooks.
- Petting Zoo People: "Moreaus" are genetically-engineered human/animal hybrids in Genetech.
- One Stat to Rule Them All: Want to be able to handle a gun? Want to have a high Armor Class in a world where nobody wears armor anymore? Put points into Dexterity.
- Planetary Romance: In Iron Lords of Jupiter.
- Psychic Powers: In Agents of PSI.
- Space Marines: The PCs in Bughunters.
- Space Opera: In Star*Drive.
- Space Police: In Star Law.
- Those Wacky Nazis: In V for Victory.
- We Help the Helpless: Department-7.
- What Could Have Been: d20 Spectaculars.
- The Wild West: In d20 Past.