The Occupational Class of ’04

posted by Fossilized Rappy Original SA post

It's not often that you see the creators of a product tied to a big name company end up moving to a third party label to make more stuff for that same product: the Game Mechanics are a strong exception to this. Made up of a team of Wizards of the Coast contributors and freelancers including JD Wiker, Stan!, Monte and Sue Cook, Marc “Sparky” Schmalz, and Rich Redman that gathered forces after fears of corporate layoffs, TGM produced four major supplements (nine in PDF form, as they are split into parts as PDF) to the d20 Modern ruleset. And really, who better to start with for non-Fieldian d20 Modern guides than with the people who created it in the first place? Our first TGM title will aptly be the first one, the Modern Player’s Companion, a sourcebook comparable to the whole “Player’s Handbook 2+” idea Dungeons and Dragons went with. I will be reviewing them in the Modern Player's Companion and Modern Player's Companion II format the PDFs provided rather than as one single book like the print version, as this is easier than putting both into the same post more efficient given that they were printed as PDFs first and book versions second.

The Occupational Class of ’04
It turns out that a book titled “Modern Player’s Companion” ends up focusing mostly on materials for the player. Shocking, I know. The first of these options you’ll end up getting are occupations. One of the big things about d20 Modern is that role is not tied to class alone. Occupations in a nutshell: in addition to base, advanced, and prestige classes, you have your occupation, which reflects what job your character did or is doing or what lot in life they happen to have. These grant you the choice to add extra class skills, feats, Reputation, and/or wealth on top of what your class would normally get. This means that while it's logical to have the Military occupation for a character who has levels in Smart Hero and Soldier, you could just as easily have the same classes combined with the Domestic occupation to make Peyote the War Gardener or whatever.

Out of the Open Game License-approved d20 Modern books from Wizards of the Coast themselves, we ended up getting a strong headstart with 33 occupations: Academic, Adventurer, Athlete, Blue Collar, Celebrity, Creative, Criminal, Dilettante, Doctor, Emergency Services, Entrepreneur, Investigative, Law Enforcement, Military, Religious, Rural, Student, Technician, and White Collar from the d20 Modern Core Rulebook, the Apothecary, Hedge Wizard, Novitiate, Psychic, Shadow Scholar, and Squire from Urban Arcana, and the Astronaut Trainee, Colonist, Drifter, Gladiator, Heir, Outcast, Scavenger, and Transporter from d20 Future. The Modern Player’s Companion adds seven more to the mix to patch up holes the creators saw in the occupation list.

Advanced Classes
While I won’t be listing them out this time as they don’t really have any “shame, shame, overlap” I feel from some of the occupations, it is worth noting that d20 Modern’s OGL “core books” provided a total of 44 advanced (basically always10 level prestige classes that are usually meant to be taken at your fourth character level) and prestige (always 5 level....erm, well, prestige classes...that are meant to be taken around your tenth or eleventh character level) classes. Even with that many, they somehow managed to not really have an overlap problem with the advanced classes the Modern Player's Companion provides.

There are a total of 26 new feats in the Modern Player's Companion, of which five are expansions on the Dodge feat tree and another five are reprinted from the gun nut equipment sourcebook UltraModern Firearms. While some of the feats are pretty boring or straightforward things such as Bull's Eye (spend an action point to automatically confirm a critical hit with a firearm), Haggle (you can lower or raise the price of an item you are buying/selling by one Purchase DC if you make a successful Bluff or Diplomacy check), or Improved Dead Aim (a +3 bonus on a full round of aiming a gun shot over Dead Aim's +2 bonus! ), there are some interesting ones worthy of note.

Notes and other GM fun
Class Combinations
Arguably something for GMs looking for NPCs more than the players, there is a section in the Modern Player's Companion that introduces what the designers call a class combination. This is basically a "recipe" on specific base classes, talents, and feats to combine together to make a specific character concept instead of trying to head straight for an advanced or prestige class. The recipes provided are for an archaeologist (Smart/Dedicated with a few levels of Charismatic spattered in), bouncer (Tough/Strong/Charismatic), counselor (Dedicated/Charismatic with a few levels of Smart), entrepeneur (Charismatic/Dedicated with a single level dip into Smart Hero to get more skill focus), lawyer (Smart/Charismatic with a couple of levels in Dedicated), lay clergy (Dedicated/Charismatic with one level dip in Tough Hero to get the talent Remain Conscious), pro athlete (Strong/Fast with a couple of dips into Tough), Reporter (Dedicated/Charismatic), and rock star (almost entirely Charismatic Hero, but with three one-level dips: a level in Fast Hero to get the talent Evasion, a level in Dedicated Hero to get the talent Empathy, and a level in Tough Hero to get the talent Second Wind).

While there are a few modern amenities eschewed in the d20 Modern Core Rulebook such as laser pointers and duffel bags that get their stats here, the brunt of new equipment in the Modern Player’s Companion is made up of survival gear. Canteens and flasks, rain gear and waders, and fishing gear are all given for those adventurers who happen to not stay in the city all the time. Perhaps more relevant, however, are the idea of equipment packages. These are quick-select packages for a specific starting occupation that have a list of items for standard Wealth and further items added at Wealth bonuses of +5, +7, and +9 – they’re stated to be used for quick player character creation, but I could see them being just as good for fast NPC gear. The occupations that get listed equipment packages are Adventurer, Criminal, Law Enforcement, and Technician.

Notes of note
While technically not a segment unto themselves, this post wouldn’t be complete without a mention of the designer’s notes that are found in green text blocks scattered around the title. These are "why did we do what we did?" posts on the design process of d20 Modern and include such topics as the purpose of occupations (I already explained this), why having a combo of base classes instead of heading into an advanced class may be better for your character concept, and the reasoning behind what is made an advanced or prestige class feature versus what is made a feat (wider access [feats] vs. exclusivity [class features]).


Next time: the Modern Player’s Companion 2.

A Show of Character

posted by Fossilized Rappy Original SA post

Alien Rope Burn posted:

I haven't really had plans to do them or really intended to claim them, so it wouldn't be sniping at all! Feel free to do Pathfinder stuff, I may return to it someday, but after doing the core it just feels like anything I would have to add would just just be beating on a dead horse. Certainly, you'd be better off doing the later Bestiaries , because there's more original creatures to comment on rather than my original misery of "fuck, what do I say about owlbears that hasn't been said?"
Keen. My three big goals after TGM's sourcebooks are the Pathfinder Bestiaries due to my unhealthy obsession with monsters to the detriment of any other RPG subject I try to write in my own time, the various attempts to "Pathfinderize" d20 Modern, and the two occult American Revolution roleplaying games out there (Colonial Gothic and Northern Crown).

Adnachiel posted:


Hex-O is credited with this monstrosity. I was under the impression that they were an in-verse producer of educational materials and the disclaimer for the thing you're talking about was just a way to cover their ass from... magical lawsuits or something.

How the fuck does that even work?! Goats are four-limbed vertebrates like us, why wouldn't a transmutation like that just involve "face becomes goat face, legs become goat legs" instead of goat head crotch ?

Thankfully, my post has nothing to do with horrific face-dicks. Instead, we get to start out with those requested class combo and occupation images from the Modern Player's Companion before we head into MPC2.

Alright then, with that out of the way, let's head onward.

The Modern Player's Companion 2 covers both some d20 Modern staples the first MPC didn't cover and some features that were not truly relevant until Wizards of the Coast published the d20 Modern sourcebook Urban Arcana.

A Show of Character
One of the key features of d20 Modern is that its base classes are based on the six ability scores - these being the Smart Hero (Intelligence), Dedicated Hero (Wisdom), Charismatic Hero (Charisma), Fast Hero (Dexterity), Tough Hero (Constitution), and Strong Hero (Strength) - and have selectable class features ("talents") rather than the fixed class features of D&D classes. Unsurprisingly, the Modern Player's Companion 2 gives us some new talents for all six base classes.

Variant Rules
Sort of pushed after the new talents are a few new variant rules for d20 Modern. The first of these is an interesting one on the topic of multilingual nations and cultures. The creators note that having one starting language is not exactly always realistic in our world of Earth, and that with the Game Master's permission you can have multiple starting languages without spending skill points. There aren't really many rules for this: fiction-based artificial languages cannot be granted by starting multilingual and must be granted by spending skill points (no starting Klingon for you, buddy), and the GM has the say on whether or not your selected languages are okay for your concept and the campaign (being a German-American doesn't exactly mean you should get Speak Elven as a bonus language).

The other variant rules are all discussions of money. The Wealth system d20 Modern runs on is meant to emulate having a modern individual's cash flow and banking ability rather than having gold coins in the back of your pocket any time you want something. Some people felt the system created was a bad decision and gave players too much freedom for buying goods. As a result, the creators decided that they'd address this in the Modern Player's Companion 2. Their answer is pretty much "don't do it, you dumbass, our system makes life easier", but they also give options for "bean counting" if you want to have your characters on a short leash for buying power or "credit rating" if you want to have your characters be Mitt Romney.

Advanced and Prestige Classes
Advanced Classes
More new advanced classes? Sure!

Prestige Classes
As stated in the last review, prestige classes in d20 Modern are defined as having 5 levels and meant for at least halfway through your character's career compared to the early access 10 level advanced classes. They aren't really used often in Wizards of the Coast's d20 Modern books or in that many third party sourcebooks I've read, but there are at least a few here for us to go over.

...And The Rest
Honestly, there's not much to say about feats this time around. Most are either psionic versions of metamagic feats, D&D imports like Cohort and Brain Burn, or a tree of feats that grants spell resistance. The only feats that really get to the standard of the first Modern Player's Companion are Follow That Car (spend an action point, tail a vehicle in a chase better) and Signature Skills (get two more permanent class skills on top of what you get from your occupation). There is also the 1st level only feat Multilingual and a similarly featified version of the Smart Hero's Linguist talent, but that was already gone over back in the segment on rules variants.

The big deal around equipment this time is the books system, something that is rather novel and was surprisingly not even briefly mentioned in any d20 Modern supplements published by WotC. Basically, books give you an equipment bonus to specific Knowledge checks, the size and skill varying. For instance, a popular magazine on celebrities will only net you a +1 equipment bonus to Knowledge (Popular Culture) checks, while a heavily specialized textbook on biomechanics would grant a +5 equipment bonus to Knowledge (Physical Sciences) checks. There's even a handy way to replicate a whole library's worth of books for those cram sessions.

Modern Player's Companion 2 also has some more equipment packages. These are not only more occupations than those from the equipment packages segment of the original MPC, there are even some packages this time around that are tailored toward multiple similar occupations rather than just one. The equipment packages provided are for Academic, Blue Collar, Emergency Services, Jet Set (the Celebrity, Entrepeneur, and Dilettante occupations) Military, Scientist (Doctor and Technician), Vagabond (pretty much any occupation on the move), and White Collar.

FX Abilities
Last but not least, the Modern Player's Companion 2 gives those who want a big more magic in their lives just that. Since there aren't a huge amount of spells or magic items, I'll be going over all of both. Let's start with the spells.

And for the magic items, we have...


Next time: we have three more d20 Modern companion series and a minor sourcebook from The Game Mechanics to go. You, the viewers, choose what we subject we go for from them next - kung fu action, future stuff, cops and robbers, or urban magic.

It's Magic, You Know

posted by Fossilized Rappy Original SA post

I had planned on this being up sooner, but I ended up being consumed by Pokemon busy. Very, very busy.

Released in May of 2003, Urban Arcana was the first supplement Wizards of the Coast produced for d20 Modern, for both better and worse. It was a pretty solid sourcebook in my opinion, giving a lot of new options for urban fantasy games such as fantastical species and new spellcasting classes as well as options for more down to earth campaigns like the Street Fighter Warrior and Swashbuckler advanced classes, lots of urban gear like glass cutters and various rescue tools, and new vehicles such as fire trucks and tug boats...but also helped perpetuate the stereotype of d20 Modern as "just D&D with guns" by deciding that the campaign setting part of the book should have mentions of gods and concepts from Greyhawk like Kyuss and his spawn, St. Cuthbert, Pelor, and Wee Jas. Modern Magic is more or less the Modern Player's Companion equivalent for Urban Arcana's urban fantasy aspects sans the Greyhawk baggage, and it's what we are going to be looking at today.

It's Magic, You Know
Not one to tease, Modern Magic's very first chapter is a glut of new spells. They are broken down into twenty-two arcane spells, six divine spells, and five spells that are accessible by both arcane and divine spellcasters. For school coverage, there are no Necromancy spells, one spell without a listed school, one Enchantment spell, two spells that are listed as having two schools at once, two Abjuration spells, three Evocation spells, three Illusion spells, four Divination spells, eight Conjuration spells, and a whopping nine Transmutation spells. And level coverage? Definitely a bit front-loaded, with five 0-level spells, eleven 1st Level spells, five 2nd Level spells, six 3rd Level spells, four 4th Level spells, and two 5th Level spells.

The spells themselves may have a predilection towards two schools and lower levels, but they still have a decent variety to them. There's no real favoritism toward "spellcasters should be fighting" versus "spellcasters should be helping" or "spellcasters should be stealthy", instead having a little something for various roles. I've cherry-picked some of the book's spells that are particularly interesting or I am rather fond of to list below.

Words and Actions of Power
As I have stated before in at least one previous review, incantations were a system introduced in Urban Arcana to allow 6th level and higher spells to exist in the form of long, complex rituals that anyone capable of making the proper Knowledge (Arcane Lore) checks could cast. Modern Magic decides to take the incantation system and tone it down, creating a form of swift but still Knowledgee-based rituals that more closely replicates things such as Hermetic magic and Lovecraftian magic compared to the standard d20 system's "boom fireballs!". The head honcho of lesser incantations is the Ritualist advanced class, which focuses on magic circles, charms, and enhancing the casting of elemental spells and incantations. Lesser incantations themselves are basically just incantations that have short (usually instantaneous with a duration) casting times, small Knowledge DCs, and minor effects.

The chapter on ritual magic also introduces the Laws of Magic, ways of decreasing the Knowledge DC of proper incantations. The Law of Names posits that those who know the name of a target hold some magical power over it (ranging from a -1 to the Knowledge DC for just knowing the full name of the target to -8 for having knowledge of the target's "true name"), the Law of Connection is tying ownership to the spell (ranging from a -1 for having a personal possession of the target to -4 for having their blood or some other body fluid), and the Law of Sympathy indicates that like is stronger with like (ranges from -1 for a doll or toy representing the target to -4 for physically manipulating the target during the ritual in an appropriate manner, but also has a potential +1 to +4 penalty if you do something counter to the incantation's purpose such as lighting a candle during a water-related ritual).

(Magic) Army Strong
The third chapter of Modern Magic deals with a very specific topic, namely the military applications of magic. In addition to the idea of military-issue spellbooks where your commanding officer limits what spells you can utilize, there are three campaign ideas for military magic presented: Rare and Secretive (there's a dangerous hidden world out there and one or a handful of shadowy agencies capitalize on that with magical agents), Available and Specialized (magic is open knowledge but very few people actually know how to control it, with intelligence agencies being one of those that hold the power), and Common as Dirt (eldritch tanks and foot soldiers shooting lasers out of their hands are no big deal). To augment these concepts there are various new game rules, including a new advanced class and two new prestige classes. The Magic Grunt advanced class isn't the most powerful spellcaster around, but augments its lesser magic functionality by casting better in armor, broadening the area of spells' effects, and resisting enemy magic. The two prestige classes, the Thaumaturgist and Arcane Spec-Op, are both meant to augment spellcasting advanced classes: the Thaumaturgist basically grants Mage class features to spellcasters who don't have the Mage advanced class, while the Arcane Spec-Op is a dangerous foe who is skilled in assassination techniques and combining guns and spells.

If you want even more military magic fun, there is also a new feat called Armored Caster that lowers your arcane spell failure chance in armor by -10%, as well as two metamagic feats called Fork Spell (doubles the amount of targets of a spell) and Mass Spell (increases the targets of a spell to half your caster level, so have fun with that smoldering crater of foes).

The Emporium
Last, but certainly not least, in Modern Magic is the chapter on magic items. There are a total of thirty-eight new magic items, ranging from silly but clever entries like the balloon of air elemental summoning to more down to earth and practical devices such as the marksman's bullet . As with spells, I'll be listing some that are either interesting or I am personally fond of to give you an example of what you'd be getting into.

There are two appendices after the final chapter, one showing what lesser incantation elements can be used to replicate existing spells and another that has d20 Modern conversions of size Large elementals of the four classic types. Hooray.


Next time: Modern Magic Volume II, wherein varied divine spells, Haitian rituals, and magic CSI occur.

Absolutely Not An Episode of AHS: Coven, Despite Voodoo

posted by Fossilized Rappy Original SA post

AccidentalHipster’s review of Naruto d20 reminds me that there was also a d20 Modern Pokemon fan-sourcebook of all things. I've never been able to actually find it again, and the XP laptop that I had originally read the PDF on literally went up in flames ages ago.

Modern Magic Volume Two has a bit of a different focus than Volume One. While the first volume of the pair focused heavily on traditional urban fantasy genre conventions, Modern Magic Volume Two has a larger focus on translating real world religious beliefs and superstitions into something with real power. Of course, we're still going to start out with spells that can be quite varied in their use, so let's not be too hasty on that matter.

Arcane Art s
The spells presented in chapter 1 of Modern Magic Volume Two are just as mage-focused as the first volume, with eighteen arcane spells opposed to seven divine spells and seven spells useable by both types of spellcaster. For spell school coverage, we're still pretty strong on the same themes as well: nine Enchantment spells, eight Transmutation spells, five in Illusion, three in Conjuration, three in Divination, two in Evocation, one in Necromancy, and then one spell that counts as both Abjuration and Conjuration.

The spell levels are probably where Modern Magic Volume Two's new spells differ the most, being less front-loaded and more mid-loaded with three 0-Level spells, eight 1st Level spells, ten 2nd Level spells, seven 3rd Level spells, and four 4th Level spells. No 5th Level spells this time, sorry to you power players out there. As with last review, let's look over some of the more notable/interesting ones.

Urban Vooodoo
Voudon (the spelling used by the writers here), also known as vodou, vodun, or voodoo, is a mingling of western African religion with Caribbean traditions and - in the case of Louisiana voodoo, at least - Catholicism. It also just so happens to be the focus of the second chapter of Modern Magic Volume Two, presenting voudon as an alternative magic system. It can be used as the only magic system in a campaign, one of several ritualistic magic systems, or even just one form of ritual magic that exists alongside more "game-y" magic. To truly understand how voudon works in d20 Modern, though, we need to dive into the two advanced classes that use it in two very different ways.

The first voudon advanced class is the Houngan, a divine spellcaster who has a heavy burden to bear...if spirits are heavy, that is. They get their power from the Loa, powerful spirits that may or may not cross into deity territory depending on whose religious practices you ask. In addition to having to perform a ceremony known as the Great Caille every week in order to keep their divine spellcasting juiced, the Houngan advanced class has the ability to call upon the Loa to "ride" (possess) them. While possessing the Houngan, a Loa imparts specific bonuses and penalties to ability scores and/or free ranks in a certain skill that increase in number as the Houngan gains levels in that advanced class, but in return the Houngan character must roleplay certain personality traits. Offending a Loa means the Houngan gets placed under a "burden". That burden has roleplaying restrictions and removes the ability to cast certain spells that are associated with that Loa until a specific ritual to atone is made. The specific Loa given in the title are as follows.

After the complexities of the Houngan, it's probably for the best that the arcane spellcasting voudonist is a lot simpler. The Bokor advanced class is capable of creating magical charms, summoning djab (any creature with the Outsider creature type), and eventually being able to perform a ritual to transform someone into a sombi as the capstone ability of the class. I'll go over the zombi in a minute, but first I'd like to note the fact that the Bokor's arcane spellcasting works a little bit differently than the standard Mage's. The Bokor's magic has the "Bokor's price", which causes them to take 1d4 + the spell's level worth of damage any time they cast a spell. No pain, no gain, I guess.

Last but not least for chapter 2 is the whole deal about those zombi. Rather than being undead like zombis, the zombi template is applied to a Humanoid and they stay Humanoid in type. It is mindlessly subservient to the bokor that created it, however, and has the ability to be turned as if it were an undead creature with +4 turn resistance. Zombi are also capable of fighting even when they are dying, have higher Strength than their normal form, and can punch things harder than your average Joe. The zombi template is removed and the character goes back to normal when either the vessel that holds their soul is broken or the Bokor releases them of their own free will.

When Worlds Collide
The third chapter of Modern Magic Volume Two is entitled "Mundane Magic". If the title confuses you, it can be summed up as "weird shit that people who can't cast spells or incantations can still do". These are little rituals or charms that help non-magical players deal with magical foes. Or so the idea is, at least, as the granted boons for most of these can be best described as quite minor. As with spells and magic items, I'll be listing some noteworthy ones to avoid to much clogging.

More useful than any of these trinkets are the feats that come after them. Magical Ground is a feat that grants spell resistance equal to 5 + half your total character level. This would be good enough on its own, but it also lets you take Magical Sink, a feat that makes you into a walking anti-magic field that forces anyone in the area to succeed on a level check with a DC of 5 + your total character level if they want to cast any spell or use a spell-like ability near you. While you can't get any spellcasting class levels, cast incantations, or even use magical items (including potions), the sheer defensive capabilities these feats give you against the supernatural is pretty damn desirable. They are also just sort of stated as something you can do rather than implementing the Anti-Magic Atheist cliche I have seen in way too many d20 Modern titles.

Finally, the chapter ends off with a really interesting discussion of how magic affects crime and punishment. Not only does it show how spells can be used for crimes, such as casting mage hand to do a minor deed with major consequences such as remotely flicking the trigger of a sitting gun to make a murder look like a suicide, it also discusses how mundane but knowledgeable people can figure out the hallmarks of a supernatural crime even though they can't pop out detect magical aura whenever they want to, spells that aid in investigation if you are a Harry Dresden type, and even workarounds for the pressing question of how to prosecute a supernatural criminal even if you are in a world where magic isn't commonly believed in. There is also a handy new advanced class, the Arcane Investigator, which allows for a character to sniff out the supernatural even though they themselves are not necessarily spellcasters.

The Item Shop
Magic items: you want 'em, we've got 'em. 29 of them, in fact. Let's cut to the chase and hit the highlight reel.

We are also provided with four new magic weapon qualities, two of which only apply to firearms. Chameleon is a weapon ability that lets you take an attack action to turn your weapon into a similarly-sized mundane item or back again, Hollywood is a firearms-only magic weapon quality that lets you keep firing in combat even when you are out of ammunition but requires you to feed the leftover amount you "owe" back into the weapon once combat is over, versatile grants your magical gun an extradimensional second ammo clip with a different type of ammunition from your actual clip so that you can freely switch between two ammo types without reloading the main clip, and whispering lets you make the ranged weapon it is applied to fire completely silently twice per day.


Next time: We will not be looking at another TGM product or even another d20 Modern title, as I'll be taking a break from those.


Well, it's the month of Thanksgiving here in the U.S. of A., and that means only one thing: alternate history Colonial America with technomage Benjamin Franklin!