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10/17/2002


d20 Modern Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook
By Mat Smith

Campaign Settings Overview

When you snatch up your copy of the d20 Modern Roleplaying Game core rulebook, run home, flip through it, and start trying to figure out what kind of game you want to run, be prepared to deal with an overwhelming number of options.

The whole idea behind d20 Modern is to let you play out any modern, fantasy setting. And fantasy doesn't necessarily mean a game filled with faeries and toy-making elves. In this case, fantasy refers to a campaign set in the modern world that's larger than life.

You could run a campaign in which everyone plays students and professionals in a highly industrialized and technical society, but how much fun would that be?

DM: "OK, make an Intelligence check."

Player 1: "I rolled a twelve, and I've got a +2 bonus, for a total of fourteen."

DM: "Great! You only needed to beat a DC 12--your surround sound system is now hooked up to the entertainment center."

Player 1: "Sweet. I put in that copy of ¡Three Amigos! I picked up for five bucks. Does it work?"

The d20 Modern Roleplaying Game core rulebook gives you all the tools, guidelines, and examples you need to put together any kind of characters and any kind of campaign you want to run that's set in a world very much like--yet different from--the one we're in. All you need is some inspiration.

Look around you at what's going on in the world. Look at TV, comic books, novels, magazines, and video games. You'll find all kinds of action, all kinds of adventure and intrigue. Any interesting story you see, hear, read, experience, or imagine can be played out in a d20 Modern game.

You can bust criminals, hunt aliens, investigate the paranormal, infiltrate evil organizations, go deep undercover, use your amazing powers for the good of the world -- whatever you want your campaign to be, that's what it is. Regardless of where you get your ideas, you'll be able to turn them into gaming reality with the super-flexible rules in the d20 Modern Roleplaying Game core rulebook.

Of course, if you want some solid campaign ideas that're ready to go--"just add PCs"--look no further than Chapter Nine: Campaign Settings.

I could give you a quick overview of each one, but

Shadow Chasers

"Heroes kick ass on supernatural horrors that invade the modern world."

Shadow Chasers is one specific take on modern fantasy. The campaign focuses on heroic horror in the tradition of Resident Evil, Special Unit 2, Alone in the Dark, Angel, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In this campaign, supernatural monsters prowl the modern world. Heroes, sometimes called Shadow Chasers, fight these monsters and offer some small measure of hope in the face of overwhelming horror.

In this setting, the monsters of a million horror stories prowl the streets of our world. They stalk the fog-shrouded night beneath a moon swollen full and hanging ominously over an unsuspecting city. Shadow, the dark realm that discharges monsters into our reality, obscures their horrific nature. Its properties work in conjunction with the natural defenses of the human mind to shield the fragile psyche of humanity from a reality that could shatter it. The heroes emerge with at least a partial awareness of the truth of the invasion, but this knowledge kills as often as it saves.

There's danger as well in knowing the true nature of the world, for being able to see the monsters usually means that the monsters can see you.

The Role of the Heroes

The heroes in this setting are Shadow Chasers, otherwise normal people who have become aware of the intrusion of Shadow. This knowledge leads some to madness and despair, but our heroes are made of sterner stuff. They take up the challenge and decide to fight the denizens of Shadow--either out of a sense of duty and responsibility, or to ensure their own survival.

In this setting, the modern world collides with a world of supernatural horror populated by nightmarish monsters, low-level magic, and the rare magic item. For the most part, the heroes must depend on the technology of our world and each other, although research can put some amount of magic into the heroes' hands.

In addition to the basic classes and the advanced classes, two additional advanced classes are available in this setting: the Shadow Slayer and the Occultist.

Agents of PSI

"Psionic super spies engage in action-packed missions to protect the free world from counteragents, terrorists, would-be conquerors, and the occasional psychic threat."

The Agents of Psi campaign adds paranormal mental abilities to the cinematic spy genre. Its tone is action-packed, conspiracy based, and larger-than-life. Conflicts occur in the shadows between power groups seeking to control (or destroy) the world as we know it. The heroes are dedicated agents fighting the good fight, trying to preserve the freedom and liberties that we know and love. They move behind the curtains of reality and in the corridors of power and stop potential disasters before the public realizes that anything is wrong.

In this setting, government agents with parahuman mental abilities vie to protect (and control) reality as we know it. These individuals have the ability to channel the power of their minds through use of a new force: psionics. They use this power to control minds, manifest strange combat abilities, alter their appearance, and otherwise modify the universe around them. In counterpoint to the PSI agents, other parahumans work for masters with more nefarious goals and ambitions.

PSI agents constantly fight against the forces that threaten everyday life. It is a war conducted in the shadows against secret conspiracies and powerful parahumans. Larger than life, larger than the movies, the future of the world hinges on the outcome of this shadow war. The ripples of this ongoing conflict give birth to all kinds of urban legends. Stories of crop circles may be the result of a psychic conflagration between competing agents, while tales of great, black cats stalking though suburbia might be the harbinger of some new talent bursting upon the scene. Armed with accurate weapons and high-tech hardware, the agents' best, most deadly tool remains the power of their minds.

The Role of the Heroes

The heroes in an Agents of Psi campaign are operatives with a secret mission, powers beyond those of normal humans, and a hidden agenda. They have the potential to be (though are not required to be) individuals with psionic abilities for that extra edge.

The heroes are larger than life, but exist in a relatively real world. James Bond would fit into an Agents of Psi campaign, and so would Sydney Bristow (aka Alias), Napoleon Solo, James West, Mr. Stead and Emma Peel, and Scully and Mulder, among others.

Heroes in an Agents of Psi campaign should plan to have access to the Telepath and Battle Mind advanced classes. Agents at 1st level are considered agents-in-training, learning to master their abilities and develop true psionic powers. At 4th level, they become full-fledged operatives, usually gaining access to one of the psionic advanced classes or to a non-psionic advanced class that could prove useful to the Agency.

Urban Arcana

"Monsters and the magic of fantasy intrude upon the modern world, giving rise to heroes, villains, and a new age of colonization and exploration."

The Urban Arcana campaign setting takes place in the world outside your window, but with a twist: the magic and monsters of mythology and legend are real. In this setting, magic and the stuff of fantasy collide with the modern world. Suddenly magic and enchanted weapons and the monsters of fantasy are set loose on the streets of Manhattan, Tokyo, Chicago, London, and Los Angeles. This intrusion of the fantastic remains largely a secret, as only a select few can perceive (or wish to comprehend) the reality of magic and monsters. The heroes fall into this select group. They are touched by the fantastic, in some cases imbued with its magic, and equipped to protect the good and constructive facets while defending against the evil and destructive elements that also slip into our reality.

In the Urban Arcana campaign, kobolds mingle with street toughs to form inner-city gangs while both good and evil dragons set up residence in abandoned subway tunnels and other deep places. Heroes learn arcane and divine spells as magic infuses the world. Medusas engage in hostile takeovers of large corporations. Displacer beasts and bugbears stalk the night-shrouded streets of the city. Most people, meanwhile, can't (or refuse to) see the fantastic as it takes its place in our world. To them, magic doesn't exist, monsters aren't real, and the troll living in the bowels of their apartment complex is just an obnoxious super with a taste for human flesh.

The Role of the Heroes

Heroes in an Urban Arcana campaign come from any background found in the modern world. A character's economic, ethnic, or cultural history is secondary to his or her determination to seek out adventure and explore the awakened magic in the world.

Heroes have a nearly infinite range of motivations, goals, and agendas spurring them into lives of danger and adventure. The heroes band together for safety, common goals, complimentary abilities, and the need to complete a specific quest, among other reasons. Of course, most other people in the world don't believe that dragons and magic exist. Allies come from the few who have accepted the new reality and from fantastic creatures that are disposed to providing advice and assistance as called upon.

Characters should be introduced to the setting slowly over the course of the first few adventures. As they advance from 1st to 2nd level they learn about the changes in the world and the rising tide of Shadow. Your first adventure or two can be standard action-adventure stories, with perhaps a little touch of the fantastic to hint at things to come. By the time the characters fully understand what's happening, they should be advanced enough to take advantage of the Mage and Acolyte advanced classes. Feel free to use the Shadow Slayer and the Occultist in this campaign, too.

About the Author

Mat Smith is a copywriter who's been here, golly, two whole 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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