Systems for modern day RPG

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Aladdar's picture
Systems for modern day RPG

Are there any good systems and modules for doing like a military or spy type campaign in modern times? I'm a bit bored with the fantasy ideals, but it would be fun to try to work through a modern day spy/espionage module, have a "thriller" where you're having to survive a serial killer, or even a military campaign.

Has anyone had any success with those?

deadDMwalking's picture

My take is that the market isn't great with it. From a realism standpoint, people are fragile and a single grenade can transform a party into chunky salsa. A game like that has to balance genre emulation with meta-rules that help characters survive improbably. Alternatively, the game has to assume that characters really are replaceable and someone with new orders will be assigned as appropriate...

Trying to balance the rules that let PCs continue to exist, but still make wading into a hail of bullets a bad life choice can be hard to balance.

Delta Green is an off-the-shelf Cthulu-hack that combines X-Files and GI Joe - you're a military organization that deals with supernatural threats. I've heard mixed things, but it could be a good starting point - or a relatively easy way to jump into an established game and see if it scratches that itch.

Aladdar's picture

Yeah, I think a standard military campaign probably isn't going to work that well. It would have to be some sort of Rambo, secret ops, or Mission Impossible/James Bond spy type story (Which could be great fun) with tons of technology available to help people stay alive.

I don't mind bending reality a bit with "super soldiers" or technology for fast healing, crazy damage Bond stuff.

Fixxxer's picture

I used d20 Modern to run the In A World of Dead People game, where we had modern-day US soldiers as characters. It worked well enough, and was extremely easy to use for both DM and players because it's 90% identical to d20 D&D. What I like most about d20 Modern is that while it's not quite as modular as a system like GURPS, it's very flexible and customizable. Whether you're using it to run a world like the Dresden Files or Zombies or Siberian Train Mogul or whatever, there's probably a small, cheap splatbook out there that you can use to customize the base rules. As an example, the Post-Apoc splatbook has options for dumping the standard Wealth system in favor of a barter economy. Good stuff.

Catalyst's picture

I’d also recommend having a look at Delta Green, I’ve heard mostly good things about it. There’s also FATE or a PBtA game if you want to do something a bit more story-driven.

Talanall's picture

I've run D20 Modern campaigns here as well. I was doing something relatively far removed from what Fixxxer was up to; both of his D20 Modern campaigns, at least of those he conducted here, were non-fantasy zombie apocalypse scenarios. Mine were urban fantasy offerings, both of which kind of petered out on us.

I agree with him that D20 Modern's draw is primarily that it's easy for people who know 3.X/Pathfinder to pick it up and play it, and it's customizable. I wouldn't say that you can just throw D&D 3.X material straight into it, but the adaptation work is pretty lightweight, and that has some utility if you've already got a bunch of 3.X material lying around. The 3.5 Eberron setting material outright borrows some conventions from Modern. Fair to say that by default, D20 Modern games strike me as being very "comic book" in nature.

If something happens to end more than one of the campaigns I'm currently running, there's a pretty decent chance that I'll float a D20 Modern campaign as one of the successor options.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Aladdar's picture

I'd be interested in a modern day campaign.