Character Development: d20 Modern

Today, we’ll be looking at d20 Modern, a system that became big during the d20 boom of the early 2000’s. Right after Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition came out, everyone wanted in on the cash grab. The market was oversaturated with products for Wizards of the Coast’s d20 System, driven by the popularity of the Open Gaming License. This eventually led to a collapse in the market when Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 rendered many of the 3.0 products obsolete.

Where Dungeons & Dragons was designed to roleplay in a fantasy world, d20 Modern was meant to represent the modern world and the changes in the rules reflect this. Later supplements would include Urban Arcana, adding magic and fantasy races to the mix, d20 Future, and d20 Past. For our purposes today, we’ll be concentrating on the core d20 Modern rules.

If you missed the chance to get your copy during the d20 movement, you can pick up the PDF at Drive-Thru RPG. They also have other books in the series, such as Urban Arcanad20 Past, and d20 Future.

There are several ways to generate your attributes in d20 Modern but today I’ll be using the traditional method of rolling 4d6 six times, dropping the lowest roll, and recording the scores, then putting them in the order I wish.

My rolls are 15, 15, 12, 8, 6, 16. Well, I don’t like the 8 or the 6, but the rest of the scores are decent, so I’ll go with it. I’ll line the stats up as follows, looking to make a tech-savvy hacker.

STRength 8
DEXterity 15
CONstitution 6
INTelligence 16
WISdom 12
CHArisma 15

From this, with a range of 3 to 18, we can see that she (an arbitrary decision on my part) is smart and has a great personality, but not is very strong, and probably gets sick a lot. I could have made her a bit sturdier, but it would have meant sacrificing her Dexterity or Charisma, and I want both to be higher.

In d20 Modern, in place of the fantasy classes like fighter and rogue, you have the strong hero, the fast hero, the tough hero, and so forth. As should be obvious from looking at her stats, this character is going to be a smart hero.

The core rules of d20 Modern only permit humans as races, so she (let’s call her Alice; not her real name, of course) is human. As a human smart hero, she starts the game with 6 hit points, plus her Constitution modifier (which is -2), so she has only 4 hit points. That’s okay, because Alice is a hacker, not a front-liner. I envision her doing her thing behind the scenes.

She also begins with 5 Action Points. Action Points are a mechanic that allow a player to alter the result of a d20 roll to aid in dramatic scenes. Spend an Action Point and you get 1d6 to add to your roll, which can make the difference between success and failure! Her Reputation modifier, determined by her class, is +1.

Everyone in d20 Modern has an occupation; what they did for a living before becoming an adventurer. Occupations grant extra class skills and/or feats, based on the occupation selected. Alice spent much of her time as a Technician, which grants her three skills of her choice as class skills. She selects Computer Use, Craft (electronics), and Knowledge (technology). Since these are all class skills for her (no coincidence there), she gets a +1 bonus on each, rather than making them class skills.

She also gets to choose a Talent. She could choose from Savant or Linguist, and I think that she will take Savant, which gives her a bonus equal to her Smart hero level to a skill chosen from a list. She chooses Computer Use. With the +1 bonus to Computer Use from her occupation, she is shaping up to be a good hacker.

Next up, Alice needs some skills. Since she isn’t going to be a front-line hero, she must have something to contribute to the team. Obviously, she wants to have Computer Use. She gets a total of 9 plus her Intelligence modifier times 4 plus 4 skill points (all humans get four extra skill points), so she has plenty of points (48) to work with.

Computer Use will be her first skill, and since it is a class skill for her, she can put up to 4 points in it. Each point put into a class skill buys one rank, so she has 4 ranks in Computer Use. I also see that Craft is a class skill for her, and as a hacker, she would probably know her way around a motherboard. I’ll also give her Craft at 4 ranks, specializing in electronics. She should also be up on current events, which is a specialization of the Knowledge skill, which also happens to be a class skill for her. She’ll take 4 ranks in Knowledge (current events). That uses up 12 of her 48 skill points, leaving her with 36 points to spend.

To round out her class skills, she will pick up Repair, Research, Knowledge (technology), and Knowledge (popular culture) each at 4 ranks as well. In the realm of non-class skills, each point put into skills counts as half a point. She finishes out her skill list with non-class skills at 2 ranks in each: Concentration, Drive, Gather Information, Sense Motive, and Treat Injury. Note that she did not have to put 4 points into each skill, I just found it easier to do so. Had I wished, I could have put fewer points into some skills and gotten others.

Now for her feats. She gets one feat right off the bat. Everyone starts with Simple Weapons Proficiency, permitting use of weapons like knives and baseball bats. She’ll pick up Gearhead, giving her a further +2 on Computer Use and Repair checks, and Personal Firearms Proficiency, because a girl must be able to protect herself and without it, she suffers a -4 penalty when using firearms.

Next, Alice must choose her allegiances. In d20 Modern, you don’t use alignments; instead you select allegiances for your character. These are groups, individuals, organizations, countries, or philosophies to which you pledge your loyalty. Alice, being a grey-hat sort of hacker, pledges her allegiances to chaos and to her hacking group, the Grey Mousers.

All that’s left is for Alice to pick up some gear. d20 Modern is different from Dungeons & Dragons in that instead of tracking cash, you have a Wealth rating, determined by rolling 2d4 and adding your wealth bonus from your occupation. Alice rolled a 4 and gets a +3 Wealth Bonus from Technician, so she has a Wealth rating of +7. In game terms, she can afford pretty much anything with a rating of 7 or lower. For more expensive items, she will need to make a wealth check.

She gets some items that she knows won’t cost her over her wealth level, including a flashlight (4), a small handbag (4), and a cellular modem (6). None of these exceed her Wealth rating so her Wealth rating is unaffected.

Now, I’d like for her to have a notebook computer (when the game was written, things like tablets and smartphones were future tech). Unfortunately, the cost DC for a notebook computer is a DC 23. She might make the roll (she gets a +7 on the d20 roll), but it’s going to temporarily reduce her wealth rating if she makes it. She roiled a 17, plus 7 is 24, which exceeds the cost of a notebook computer, so she has her notebook! However, because it was so expensive, she loses 1 point because the DC was higher than 15, and she loses another 2d6 points because the DC was 16 points or more above her Wealth bonus, so she loses a total of 8 from her Wealth bonus. Her bonus can’t go below +0, so she is at +0 now. She would like to try to pick up a weapon (a 9mm pistol has a DC of 18), but she has no more purchasing power right now and can’t buy anything with a DC of 10 or higher.

Don’t worry overmuch, her wealth rating will increase again as she goes up in level, and will, in fact, fluctuate throughout her entire life.

That takes care of everything, so the final version of “Alice” looks like this:

Alice: CR 1; Medium-size humanoid; HD 1d6; hp 4; Mas 6; Spd 30 ft.; Defense 12, touch 12, flat-footed 10 (+2 Dex); BAB +0; Grap -1; Atk -1 melee (1d3-1 nonlethal, unarmed strike); Full Atk -1 melee (1d3-1 nonlethal, unarmed strike); FS 5 ft. x 5 ft.; Reach 5 ft.; AL chaos, Grey Mousers; SV Fort -2, Ref +2, Will +2; AP 5, Rep +1; Str 8, Dex 15, Con 6, Int 16, Wis 12, Cha 15.

Skills: Computer Use +11, Concentration +0, Craft (electronic) +8, Drive +4, Gather Information +4, Knowledge (current events) +7, Knowledge (Pop culture) +7, Knowledge (technology) +8, Read/Write English, Repair +9, Research +7, Sense Motive +3, Speak English, Treat Injury +3.

Feats: Gearhead, Personal Firearms Proficiency, Simple Weapons Proficiency.

Talents: Savant (Computer Use).

Possessions: Notebook computer, flashlight, handbag, cellular modem; Wealth +0.

Of course, she has other skills, but these are the ones in which she is trained. “Mas” in stats block above stands for Massive Damage Threshold, equal to your current Constitution score. If a character takes more than this amount of damage from a single attack, they must make a DC 15 Fortitude save or drop to -1 hp immediately. This means that Alice will need to stay out of combat as much as possible, and when the bullets start flying, she seeks cover!

To finalize the character, I’ll say that she has raven black hair, green eyes, and she adopts a British accent, even though she is American. She stands 5’6” tall and weighs only 108 lbs. She maintains several different online personalities, both male and female.

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