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08/01/2002


Countdown to d20 Modern
Just about everything you’d ever want to use,
carry, wear, shoot, swing, drive, fly, or blow up.

Mat Smith

Making a new character for the d20 Modern Roleplaying Game is like making one for most any other RPG. You pick a class, you roll up stats, assign skill points, pick a few feats, maybe a few other steps, and your new character's ready for action. Well, your new character's ready to go shopping, 'cause character creation doesn't end until you've got your gear.

That's where things start to diverge rather wildly. The modern world's full of all kinds of stuff your character might want, need, or not be able to live without. Not coincidentally, Chapter Four of the d20 Modern Roleplaying Game core rulebook is full of all kinds of that stuff.

Going Shopping

Let's just start with the first sentence of the chapter:

In a world of high-tech wonders, the only limits on the types of equipment available to heroes are the inventiveness of manufacturers and the amount of buying power on the heroes' credit cards.

Wealth

When you go shopping, you've got to know how much you've got to spend. Not only does that determine when you have to stop buying things, but it also helps you make some decisions about the quality of the items you're looking for.

One of the niftiest, innovative ideas in the d20 Modern Roleplaying Game is the system our fine R&D staff developed for dealing with the all-powerful dollar--the Wealth system.

(Charles Ryan, one of the culprits, was so good as to write a great article telling you all about the Wealth system and how it works, so I won't go into great detail about it now, 'cause you can just pop over to his article and read about Wealth in d20 Modern.)

Here's the basic (very, very cool) idea behind the Wealth system: You don't get bogged down by keeping track of individual dollars. You have a Wealth bonus against which you make Wealth checks. (d20 Modern is full of great rules that streamline play like this.)

Handguns

top row, l-r: derringer, Sites M9, Desert Eagle;
middle row, l-r: Smith & Wesson M29, Glock 17, Colt M1911;
bottom row, l-r: Colt Python, Colt Double Eagle

Submachine Guns

top row, l-r: Mac Ingram M10, Beretta 93R;
middle row, l-r: Skorpion, Tec-9;
bottom: Heckler & Koch MP5 K

Shotguns and Rifles

Shotguns, l-r: sawed-off, Browning BP5, Mossberg 500, Winchester 94;
Rifles, t-b: Beretta MP3, HK PSG1, HK 93, M-16A2

A starting character's Wealth bonus is based on various elements, including the starting profession, bonuses from any relevant feats, plus 2d4. And everything you want to buy (whether it's a physical thing like a cell phone or Uzi, or a service or event like an international flight or ballgame) has a Purchase DC.

You can usually take 10 or even take 20 when trying to buy something, it just costs you more time to do so (just like it always does). And you can even have someone assist you when you're making a Wealth check. That's quite helpful, particularly when you're deciding that you absolutely must have your own Abrams tank (DC 47).

OK, enough about that. Charles did a very thorough job of giving you the run-down of how the Wealth system works...check it out.

Shopping Around for Stuff

You can always buy things new. You can also buy things used. You can even try to buy things on the black market. There are rules for all of it. With modifiers that increase the time it takes but lower the amount you spend, you might opt to shop around long enough to pick up a second-hand BMW. Or you might want to try to make the right connections to lay your hands on an AK-47 -- of course, since your character's looking for a fully automatic assault rifle (not generally for sale at your local sporting goods store), it's going to take some time and be a tad pricey.

My favorite bit in the rules for obtaining stuff is the section on On-Hand Objects. This is where you see another great example of how d20 Modern keeps you from getting mired in the details and lets you just play. It's up to your GM to let you do it, but say your character needs to make a fast getaway on the Autobahn. Unfortunately, he left the lights on, draining the car battery. You probably never told the GM you were buying jumper cables, but with a quick die roll, you could discover that you've a set tucked away in the trunk of your sports car. Off you go. You can't check to have things On-Hand in an inappropriate setting (that is, you can't find a hockey stick in the middle of a desert), but you can rest assured that your character is likely to have a Swiss army knife tucked away in a backpack.

Start Making a List

There's a huge pile of things to choose from. Handguns, longarms (rifles), heavy weapons (like M-60s), explosives, melee weapons, armor, clothing, electronics, surveillance gear, survival gear, cars, trucks, watercraft, aircraft, and more.

The thing that's really interesting about the extensive list of items in the d20 Modern Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook is how limited it is. Lemme explain that. You've got pages and pages of things to choose from, but you won't find everything in the world (that's a bit of a given, I know). What I mean is that the folks making the list of equipment for this core rulebook made sure that you've got a huge variety of things to choose from so you can build the character you want, but not so many that you get bogged down trying to figure out exactly which particular combination of statistics (and aesthetics) fits your idea best. It really makes sense, and for a couple of reasons.

First, just think about how many different kinds of pistols are available in the world. Now, how different are they from each other? Sure, there's a big difference between a derringer and a desert eagle. But the distinction between two different .38-caliber revolvers is less obvious. The distinction is, most likely, more a matter of style than statistics. So, the arsenal of handguns listed in the d20 Modern Roleplaying Game core rulebook is just over 15. That may not seem like a lot, but it's certainly enough. Between descriptions of the pistols and the table of related game mechanics, 15 pistols take up a respectable amount of space. The idea behind picking that particular array of handguns is that you have a generous selection with enough variations to let you pick a weapon that fits what you're looking for, without eating up too many pages.

The selection of motorcycles is an even better example, 'cause there are three:

Civilian Motorcycles

Unlike getting into a car, mounting a motorcycle is a free action. Motorcycles tend to perform better than automobiles, but they provide no cover to their occupants.

Ducati 998R

This is a top-of-the-line "crotch rocket" style street bike with a strong heritage of winning races. The 998R is one square wide and two squares long.

Harley-Davidson FLSTF Fat Boy

This huge motorcycle sports a 1,450cc engine. It's designed to look cool and compete for space on the roads with automobiles. It is one square wide and two squares long.

Yamaha YZ250F

A classic dirt bike, this is very similar to the motorcycle used by United States Army cavalry scouts. The YZ250F is one square wide and two squares long.

Of course there are more than three different motorcycles out there in the world. We know that. What you're looking at is a selection of archetypes. You've got a racing bike, a street bike, and a dirt bike. Wherever you're riding, whatever you're doing, one of those three bikes is going to be appropriate. If your character is jumping hills on a Kawasaki instead of a Yamaha, simply scratch out Yamaha and write Kawasaki on your character sheet.

By limiting the equipment list to a selection of weapons, equipment, and vehicles that are representative of the entire world market's offering, the d20 Modern Roleplaying Game core rulebook allows you to have the stuff you want without getting bogged down by details.

What if you want to get bogged down by details? What if you're interested in the fine distinction between the various capabilities of an array of sniper rifles? What if you want to race a Ferrari, like the one on Magnum P.I., against the Lamborghini that's listed in the core rulebook and have the performance of the vehicles come into play?

That's what sourcebooks are for. Keep in mind that everything you need to play any kind of modern-genre RPG is inside the d20 Modern Roleplaying Game core rulebook, but also keep in mind that a lot of other publishers out there are working on source material to expand the d20 Modern Roleplaying Game. Check out the d20 Modern section of the In the Works web feature for August to see a list of just a few of the publishers currently working on stuff for the d20 Modern Roleplaying Game.

Of course, the only thing more important than choosing the right sniper rifle or the right sports car is being able to really take advantage of them. To be a deadly accurate shot or wickedly gifted behind the wheel, you need to multiclass your way into an Advanced Class.

Odd I should mention that, because we get to look at those next month.

There it is.

About the Author

Mat Smith is a copywriter who's been here, golly, almost two years now. He's been playing roleplaying games for a disturbing length of time, and now gets to spend an astonishing portion of his days thinking about clever ways to get more people to do the same.

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