August 30, 2011

4E Modern - Wealth and Omega Tech

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Whew! I've had quite a rollercoaster ride on both the home front and the work front these last 24 hours. Regardless! It is time to get back into the action, both guns blazing, and deliver some epic Modern adventure. 

Cue James Bond music!


For now on, I'll be referring to player characters as Agents. It fits the mood and feel of the system just too well not to.


The modern setting default has all the cash, credit, and wonder (and pain) of a 21st century, first world economic system is at the fingertips of the heroes. d20 Modern handled this brilliantly by taking a leap into the abstract and simply measuring the relative wealth any given character has at their disposal with a quantifiable single number - the Wealth Bonus. A number of factors increased an Agent's Wealth Bonus; occupation, success on a mission, etc. A high Wealth would enable the purchase of cheap goods, bullets for example, without any real bookkeeping. A purchase with high enough cost, however, would put a strain on a character's checkbook and decrease his or her overall Wealth bonus. This system really jived with me, and worked almost seamlessly with the kind of high action, think-on-your-feet style adventure I like to run.
In 4E Modern, I've kept this spirit alive and taken it a step further. Agents receive at no expense any mundane equipment that is all of necessary for the Agent to function in his or her role, relatively cheap, and easily obtained by a government agency. Thus, Department 7 will provide each Agent with up to three weapons and/or shield, one set of armor, basic weapon ammunition, travelling expenses (including cab fare), basic meals, and up to 5 pieces of mundane equipment (as detailed here, or ad hoc at the player's request and Game Master's permission).

These items are the Agent's to use during the assignment, and all weapons etc. shall be returned to Department 7 custody when an Agent is not on an official assignment. This system of basic gear ensures that the player feels free enough to grab whatever kind of wondrous marvels of modern technology are available in the real world, while still providing the Game Master an easy means of adding a layer of difficulty or quick/cheap plot hook by introducing and adventure that is not specifically sponsored by Department 7.

Each Agent is also equipped with advanced technology, disposable vehicles, occult relics, and recovered alien technology known collectively as Omega Tech.

Omega Tech

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To cover the high-Wealth and magical items of d20 Modern, I turned to the Omega Tech cards of Gamma World. Gamma World Omega Tech, however, has a number of interesting mechanics that reinforce its post-apocalyptic theme that aren't necessarily what I'm trying to convey in this modern setting. Whereas Gamma World is full of broken, residual technology; 4E Modern is the wellspring of that very same technology. This is the height of civilization, as far as we know, and the pinnacle of human technology. Thus, all Omega Tech in 4E Modern starts as though it were already Salvaged. In essence, there is no longer any Salvage roll. In the modern world, there is enough power, ammunition, fuel, and easily accessible maintenance to keep any Department 7 Agent's gear in working and usable order. Thus, Omega Tech items never "break" or in any way lose functionality. There is no Omega Tech roll. Lastly, it made sense on a number of levels to have Omega Tech be chosen by the player.

All these changes to Omega Tech make the items much more powerful and useful. To ensure that the level of power the Omega Tech items conferred is kept under control, the number of item distributed has been drastically reduced. Each character now receives one Wealth Roll every time the character attains a new level, including 1st Level. Wealth Rolls may be cashed in at locations to acquire Omega Tech. When cashed in, the controlling player rolls 1d4 and adds 1/2 of their character's Level. This value is the maximum Cost of the Omega Tech item that the character can receive. Cost includes a multitude of factors such as initial cash investment, cost of maintenance, licensing, and cost to the Department in terms of collateral and public relations control. Highly destructive or supernatural items tend to damage the image and secrecy of Department 7 much more than the actual monetary value of the item. Characters keep all acquired Omega Tech, and receive additional Omega Tech as treasure rewards at about one or two new Omega Tech items per level as determined by the Game Master. These rewards can take the place of specific items, such as finding a cache of fragmentation grenades, or as a generic form of wealth, such as recovering stolen Nazi gold. These rewards should be tailored to the adventure at hand, creating another layer of immersion in the campaign world.

Characters may save their Wealth Rolls for use at higher levels. Omega Tech with a Cost of 10 or higher is typically reserved as a special adventure reward or as a crazed invention of a brilliant Field Scientist Hero.

The Omega Tech items themselves were very fun for me to design. I started by taking all of the Gamma World Omega Tech cards and sorting through which items seemed particularly appropriate to a modern era and set those aside. I then flipped though my d20 Modern and looked for particularly iconic or useful items that I wanted to include, and thought long and hard as to how those items should be used in the game. For example, detcord is used outside of combat, with little distractions, and used to break through sealed doors and the like. That informed how the 4E Modern Omega Tech version would play out. Next, I assembled a listing of iconic magic items from D&D that I wanted to be represented in Modern. I assigned a Cost based on the item’s original Salvage value, shoehorned new items to fit, and adjusted based on some particulars of the system, such as the ability to fly being amazingly useful for Chase Scenes.

Used Car Lot

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Omega Tech comes in four different categories: Spec Op, Occult, Psi, and mundane vehicles. This category split in Omega Tech mirrors that of Talents and makes it very easy to add or restrict what FX elements you want in your campaign. It is very easy to run a modern campaign devoid of magic, if you want to have things more "realistic", by simply removing items and effects with the occult and psi keywords. This split feels very natural to me, as it also mirrors the basic campaign types setup in the original d20 Modern – basic Department 7, Shadow Chaser / Urban Arcana, Agents of Psi. The flexibility and modularity of this system feels so natural. With a simple talent and/or Omega Tech choice I can mix and match my characters military training and magical aptitude. There’s no fumbling around to match the right ability scores, to get the right class or the right feats. Pick up your wand of fireballs and let’s go!

The category split in Omega Tech also introduces an immersive element into 4E Modern. Omega Tech can only be purchased at a designated location for that item type. Mundane Vehicles can be purchased at a Car Lot, Spec Op items may be purchased at Department 7 headquarters or a appropriate military base, occult Omega Tech may only be purchased through esoteric antiques dealers, and psi items may only be purchased from renegade alien arms-dealers or advanced government research laboratories (for example, Aperture Sciences). this list of locations is not exclusive and should be used judiciously by the Game Master as a means to immerse the players in the campaign world and introduce meaningful obstacles that lead to fun challenges during their adventure.

Mundane Vehicles

Occult Omega Tech

Psi Omega Tech

Spec Op Omega Tech


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