August 26, 2011

4e Modern – Origins

Rewriting Gamma World Origins was conceptually the easiest part of this project for me, the generic class system of d20 Modern meshes pretty well with the Gamma World framework, however it required quite a bit of effort just due to sheer volume. Doing the final layout with the original artwork was pretty rewarding for me, as seeing all those old images brought back some nostalgia for me from the last decade.

For those of you not in the know, Origins represent your core background, training, and party role and fill in the same function as classes do in 4th Edition D&D. 4E Modern Origins function identically to Gamma World Origins, except that all Origins are chosen by the player. Each player chooses two different Origins for their character, gaining the benefits of both. Some Origins, such as "Gunslinger", imply a specific skill-set whereas other Origins, such as "Fast", imply only a generic descriptor and leave all the details up to you.

4E Modern Origins do not provide a bonus to any skills or overcharge. Skills in 4E Modern are identical to those in Gamma World, however, each character simply chooses any three skills to receive a +4 bonus in. Overcharge has been removed from 4E Modern Omega Tech.

If you’re just browsing this post and don’t feel like going to the PDF, here’s an example 4E Modern Origin:

SMART HERO (Intelligence)
The Smart hero uses his Intelligence score to best advantage. Taking this Origin demonstrates educational training in an academic or technical subject. Learning and reasoning powers combine to define the Smart hero.
A Smart hero might be brainy or bookish. He might possess uncanny reasoning skills or the ability to puzzle his way out of any situation. He's bright, quick-witted, and possessed of a great deal of knowledge - or at least the ability to gather that knowledge if he so chooses.

Example Smart Hero: John “Hannibal” Smith (A-Team)

* +2 Will
* Savant: When you hit an enemy with an attack, you immediately know all of the enemy's defenses, immunities, resistances, and vulnerabilities.
* Analyze Tactics: Adjacent allies gain a +1 power bonus to attack rolls.

Smart Critical (Level 2 or 6): When you score a critical hit, the target takes an additional 1d10 damage and grants combat advantage to all attackers until the end of your next turn.           

r Trick                                                                   Smart Novice
Through the use of cunning ploys and deception, you temporarily confuse your enemy.
Standard Action                                              Ranged
Target: One creature
Attack: Intelligence + Level vs. Will
Hit: The target is dazed (save ends).

r Exploit Weakness                                         Smart Utility
You use brains over brawn to find a way to gain an advantage over your foe.
Minor Action                                                     Ranged
Target: One creature
Effect: The target gains vulnerability to all damage equal to your Intelligence modifier (save ends).

c A Plan Comes Together                                            Smart Expert
You shout out directions, sweat pouring from your brow as your allies spring at your signal.
Standard Action                                                 Close
burst 5
Effect: Up to three different allies in the burst can make a charge attack, make a basic attack, or shift his or her speed as a free action.

Design Goals

* Keep the original Modern style. I really liked the style and “flavor” of d20 Modern, and so I wanted to preserve that when creating these Origins. As the core part of a character sheet, it was very important to me that the Origins retained the essence and nostalgia of d20 Modern. Also, I took a close look at how the class was intended to function in a party and tried to keep true to that style. For example, it’s obvious the Bodyguard Hero was designed as a sort of proto-Defender, and so I’ve given that Origin many Defender-like abilities.

* Make every class count. One of the weaknesses of the original d20 Modern were the physical Heroes (Strong, Tough, Fast) being far superior in combat than the mental classes (Smart, Dedicated, Charismatic). Just like how 4th Edition D&D sought to level the playing field in this regard, so too does 4E Modern.

* Renamed Charismatic Hero to Suave Hero and Personality Hero to Celebrity Hero.

* Cut down on the talents. In d20 Modern, each class had access to a suite of talents, a kind of cross between superfeats and class powers, to choose from. Many of these were worthless or redundant, and so I’ve left them on the cutting room floor. The ones that remained go split amongst the Origin traits and powers.

* Magic and psionics for all. There was this idea, this theme, in d20 Modern that you could mix and match magic and/or psionics with your non-supernatural game parts and it would work out really well. Spells in one hand, guns in the other, that sort of thing.  In practice, my groups found that not to work out so well, with players mostly staying away from FX, and possible one player going all-out on the FX. My work around for this was to eliminate d20 Modern’s campaign-specific classes, which had the magic and psionics, and port that element over to Gamma World’s alpha mutations, renaming them to “Talents” and removing the random elements.


  1. I like this. Any chance of you running this in the near-ish future?

  2. I am in fact planning on running this for my regular Sunday morning D&D crew starting on (get this) September 11th. The idea is to go through a level's worth of adventure and see how they like it, being as none have any real experience with d20 Modern.

    I scoped it out and see that you live mere minutes away from me. Email me sometime and I'd be happy to run a one-shot or something for your regular group.

  3. A little too near-ish future, but I'll bring it up to my group and see if there is any interest, maybe later this fall.

  4. It feels like people who select 2 origins with a standard action at-will novice power will be a bit behind the curve. How do they compare to people with a groovy situational Enc power or minor/immediate action Novice?

  5. To be honest, a lot of considerations into perfect balance between all the Origins was thrown out of the window. In my 4E Modern games, there's a whole lot more interaction with NPCs, exploration, puzzle solving, and in general non-combative options than a typical 4E D&D adventure. Especially compared to some of the uninspired crap that rolls out of WotC. Even when the combat does come up, there's almost always a host of options (lots of terrain powers, ways to isolate enemies, etc.) that help the Agents who choose to use creativity and cleverness over brute force rolling high and building the most tweaked out character. The Origins' powers are in fact very limited and many are very similar to each other. Because of this, my Agents have gotten into the habit of looking outside of their character sheet and getting immersed in the situation.

    Anyway, in summary, it's not a problem.