d20 Modern is a game utilizing the d20 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 & 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 & 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 & 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 one 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 20 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 Nano Machines, 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 Cyber Punk, 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 space. 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.
- 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 trapped 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 & 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 II, 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 Modern's "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.
- 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 Pussycats, Jem, 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 Modern's sales were slipping, because they decided supers didn't fit with the rest of the line, or because Mutants & 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:
- Action Bomb: In Urban Arcana, The spell Resist Energy (concussion) allows you to take 120 points of concussion damage without getting hurt before it gets discharged. Explosives deal Concussion damage. When you combine the two...
- Action Pet: The Wildlord's Animal Companion. Can be a dog, a bear, a wolf... And can often dodge grenades without even trying.
- 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.
- Ambadassador: The Ambassador in d20 Future.
- Badass Bookworm: The Mage / Techno Mage, able to cast spells, incantations, and hindering enemies.
- Badass Driver: The Speed Demon, whom is THE badass driver, using supernatural powers to enhance his piloting abilities and make one with the vehicle. (Urban Arcana).
- Badass Grandpa: Any old character with heroic levels is either this or...
- Badass Normal: Any high level hero without supernatural powers/ mutations / cybernetics in a campaign with powers / mutations / cybernetics.
- Badass Preacher: Any hero character with the Novitiate or Religious starting occupation.
- Bag of Holding: Backpacks of holding are among the magic items in Urban Arcana.
- Bare-Fisted Monk: the Martial Artist Advanced class.
- Bling-Bling-BANG!: There is a simple rule for it: for an extra cost, you can get an item with luxury features (that do nothing in game terms). So it is possible to buy gold plated guns, although they are more expensive and have the same effects as a normal gun.
- 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 Kitchen Sink: In Dark•Matter, every conspiracy theory is true.
- The Corruption: How dark powers influence people in From the Dark Heart of Space.
- Cosmic Horror Story: In From the Dark Heart of Space.
- Cyber Punk: In d20 Cyberscape.
- Cyber Space: In d20 Cyberscape.
- Double Tap: A feat having this exact name allows you to deal +1 die of damage with an attack made with a semi automatic weapon if you take a -2 penalty to your attack roll. It requires two bullets in the magazine to use, obviously.
- Escape Artist: There is a skill called "Escape Artist" allowing a character to become exactly that.
- Everything Is Online: In d20 Cyberscape.
- Flamethrower Backfire: "A flamethrower’s backpack has hardness 5 and 5 hit points. ... A backpack reduced to 0 hit points ruptures and explodes, dealing 6d6 points of fire damage to the wearer (no save allowed)..."
- 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.
- Incendiary Exponent: A Tough Hero with 22 Constitution and the Energy Resistance (Fire) talent can shrug off being on fire, since being on fire inflicts 1D6 fire damage per round, and the character described above has Fire resistance 6.
- Also, in Urban Arcana, the Fortify incantation seed can be used to grant an Inherent (read: permanent and stackable with everything else) bonus up to +5 to any energy resistance type (and can be used more times to apply to all of them). It means that, on average, a character on fire looses 1 Hit Point every 6 rounds.
- Kill Sat: In Urban Arcana, Gnomes "designed a fully functional orbiting laser cannon platform" that proved too expensive to be built.
- Little Miss Badass: Characters as young as 15 (12 in Apocalypse) can be heroes.
- Lucky Charms Title: Dark•Matter, Star*Drive
- The Illuminati: Present in Dark•Matter.
- Meaningful Name: One of the D20 Modern Urban Arcana iconics is Maddie Webber. She is a drow elf. (Drow elves use a lot of spider imagery, to say nothing of their patron goddess Lolth.)
- Mini-Mecha / Humongous Mecha: D20 Future and Mecha Crusade provide rules for mecha that vary from Large (~9 feet tall) to Colossal (Godzilla-sized).
- The Multiverse: In Dimension X.
- Mutants: In Omega World.
- Nano Machines
- Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Inevitable when mixing Sourcebooks.
- 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.
- Our Cryptids Are More Mysterious: Several kinds are featured in the Menace Manual.
- Our Vampires Are Different: d20 Modern has the typical folkore vampires, while d20 Future (and by extension, d20 Apocalypse) has mutant vampires, that is to say humanoids with mutations giving them fangs, Blood Hunger, and, for some of them, Ultraviolet Allergy.
- Outside-the-Box Tactic: In Urban Arcana, Resist Energy (Concussion) is a spell allowing the target to absorb 120 points of damage from explosives without getting hurt. It is most often used to resist hostile explosives, but it allows someone to blow himself up with a few blocks of C-4 and ending up unharmed, unlike his unfortunate targets...
- The Paladin: The Holy Knight from Urban Arcana is basically a modern paladin, trading his shining armor for a forced entry unit, his tower shield for a riot shield, his sword for a shock baton, and not needing to be lawful.
- Parasol Parachute: The Umbrella of Feather Falling, which functions as a feather fall spell when opened.
- Petting Zoo People: "Moreaus" are genetically-engineered human/animal hybrids in Genetech.
- Planetary Romance: In Iron Lords of Jupiter.
- Pop the Tires: Defied in the setting Urban Arcana with two vehicular magic items, the Reinflating Tires, reinflating once and only once when they get punctured, and the Impervious Tires, which are tires possessing a hardness of 20 (In Layman's Terms, they can resist .44 Magnum bullets.)
- Post-Modern Magik: In Urban Arcana
- Prestige Class: Two different tiers, the "Advanced Classes" that require multiple levels in at least one base class but are usually accessible at low levels, and "Prestige Classes" that require levels in advanced classes.
- Pretentious Latin Motto: The Fellowship in Urban Arcana has "E Umbra Fiat Lux" ("Let there be light on the shadow.")
- Psychic Powers: In Agents of PSI.
- Rare Guns: The core book has the requisite Desert Eagle and .44 Magnum, and Future has stats for the OICW.
- Right-Wing Militia Fanatic: The Fraternal Order of Vigilance from the Urban Arcana setting, dedicated to wipe out shadow from the face of the Earth.
- Sniper Pistol: In d20 Future, you can get one of those with the Gadget System. By applying the Compact Gadget followed by the Miniaturized gadget, you can reduce a sniper rifle to pistol size. Such a weapon uses expensive custom made miniaturized ammo though.
- Space Marines: The PCs in Bughunters.
- Space Opera: In Star*Drive.
- Space Police: In Star Law.
- Supernatural Phone: The Eldritch Cell Phone, which can contact any person's phone without needing the number, or even call the phone nearest to the person if they don't have one of their own. It also has magical encryption and protection against tracing.
- Telephone Teleport: The spell Wire Walk, which transports you to any telephone you call, as soon as it's answered.
- Those Wacky Nazis: In V for Victory.
- Throw Down the Bomblet: A character specializing in grenades is totally possible. Oddly, the strong hero Martial Artist is the path most effective to do it.
- Took a Level in Badass: Any hero character at level up.
- Two-Fisted Tales: In Pulp Heroes.
- Universal-Adaptor Cast: The iconic characters, being "iconic". So, for instance, Roberta Cain (Smart Hero) goes from a TechnoMage and Mastermind in Urban Arcana to a Flash Gordon-type Scientist in Pulp Heroes.
- We Help the Helpless: Department-7.
- Weirdness Censor: A central concept in Shadow Chasers and Urban Arcana: most muggles cannot see the supernatural for what it is, and instead keep finding more rational explanations for what happens around them. A fireball becomes a gas leak, an orc becomes a malformed human, and so on.
- The Wild West: In d20 Past.