Friday, May 14, 2010

Willow & Tara: d20 Modern

d20 Modern and Urban Arcana

D20.  To many it was the best thing since sliced bread and the Internet. To others, well, they were vocal on how much they hated it.   D20 Modern is the modern version of the 3.x Dungeons and Dragons game (there is no Modern d20 game out yet for 4th edition).   I was always mostly neutral to it.  I liked it, yes, but it seems like a huge tool to do the job I was already doing quite well with Unisystem.  Though I really wanted to run a modern D&D game that took place on Oerth or even my own world.  So all the same countries and species, in a world where jet fighters and computers exist next to dragons and magic.  Yeah Dragon Mag talked about doing it years ago with their Greyhawk 2000 game.  One day I'll get to do it.

Anyway, back in the day I was doing tons of conversions.  I would (and still do really), pick up a game read it, digest it, and then figure out how to convert some of my characters.  I have a lot I convert, an immortal assassin, a teen witch, a staunch defender of good and a hunter of demons, and an occult scholar.  All of which are very interesting. To me.  But not so much to others I think.  Sure I have had a long history with these character since the early 80's in some cases.  I know them, but no one else really does.  My old players from High School and College might, but I don't think they read this blog or my posts at all.

So I figured if I was going to do conversions then I needed a) the same character(s) each time so I could compare and contrast the outcomes, b) characters others knew so I could talk about them and get some opinions back and c) had magic since that was what I most interested in.  Since I had already been playing a Willow and Tara based game that began with WitchCraft, moved to Buffy and then Ghosts of Albion the choices seemed obvious to me.  Plus it was part of my mandate to get Willow and Tara together in every world.  So, my course was set.  I was going to try out a bunch of d20 based modern games to see if I could create a world that was a modern supernatural horror game with more of an emphasis on character building and role-playing than I had done before.  Unisystem was perfect, but if I wanted to do something on my own I needed a system I could use on my own.

The best way to emulate a Willow & Tara RPG style game using the core d20 Modern rules is to use the Urban Arcana supplement. Urban Arcana is a little heavier on the open magic than your typical Unisystem game, but less so than your average D&D game. But perfect for my Willow & Tara, Season 3 game that I had planned out.  In fact I would have to say that it was these d20 conversions, in particular this one, the Mutants and Masterminds one and even, if I dare, the Macho Women with Guns d20 one.  The whole idea here is this would be a world where everyone knew magic was real and the monsters that used to haunt the night would walk about during the day.  Urbana Arcana then seemed a good fit.  Almost.

Here is the first problem. None of the six basic core classes has a magic using option. Most of the magic using advanced courses require at a minimum 6 ranks of a skill. Sure you can get to that in two levels, so that is not so bad (and actually works well for Willow) it is more difficult with someone like Tara who has been casting since she was little. The Hedge Wizard profession works ok for level 2 and the magical heritage feat can cover some more, but this feels less organic than say just taking a level of Sorcery/Magic or the Gift.

Here are Willow and Tara for the d20 Modern RPG

Willow Rosenberg: Female Human, Smart Hero 5, Occultist 1, Mage 7 (level 13). Medium Humanoid. Student/Hedge Wizard, hp 45, DC 14, Init +0, BAB +3 (+2 melee, +3 ranged), Fort +1, Ref +1, Will +7, Reputation +3, Wealth +1 Action Points 75.
Strength 9 (-1), Dexterity 11 (0), Constitution 11 (0), Intelligence 18 (+4), Wisdom 16 (+3), Charisma 17 (+3)
Height 5’3”, Weight 110lbs, Eyes Green, Hair Red, Date of Birth Jan 1981 (25 in 2006)
Skills: Bluff +4, Computer +19, Concentration +10, Craft (Chemical) +10, Craft (Electronics) +8, Craft (Mechanical) +7, Decipher Script +14, Diplomacy +4, Disable Device +9, Drive +2, Escape Artist +2, Gather Information +8, Handle Animal +4, Hide +1, Investigate +9, Knowledge (Arcana) +18, Knowledge (Earth Sciences) +8, Knowledge (Physical Sciences) +8, Knowledge (Theology) +9, Listen +5, Navigate +5, Perform (Ritual) +7, Read/Write Languages (Latin, French, Hebrew) +2, Repair +8, Research +20, Sense Motive +4, Speak Languages (Latin, French, Hebrew) +2, Spellcraft +14, Survival +5, Use Magical Devices +9.
Feats: Archaic Weapons Proficiency, Educated (Arcana and Sciences), Focused, Gearhead, Magical Affinity, Meticulous, Simple Weapons Proficiency, Spell Slinger, Studious, Toughness, Trustworthy
Talents/Special Abilities: Savant Computer Use +5 and Research +5, Plan, Spell Resistance +6, Arcane Spells and Skills, Combat Casting

Tara Maclay: Female Human, Dedicated Hero 6, Mystic 6 (level 12). Medium Humanoid. Student/Hedge Wizard, hp 49, DC 12, Init -1, BAB +4 (+5 melee, +3 ranged), Fort +6, Ref +1, Will +9, Reputation +2, Wealth +1 Action Points 41.
Strength 12 (+1), Dexterity 9 (-1), Constitution 12 (+1), Intelligence 16 (+3), Wisdom 18 (+4), Charisma 16 (+3)
Height 5’5”, Weight 125lbs, Eyes Blue, Hair Blond, Date of Birth Nov 7, 1981 (25 in 2006)
Skills: Bluff +4, Computer +7, Concentration +6, Craft (Chemical) +3, Decipher Script +9, Diplomacy +10, Gamble +7, Gather Information +3, Handle Animal +7, Hide +3, Investigate +7, Knowledge (Arcana) +12, Knowledge (Philosophy) +11, Knowledge (Theology) +11, Listen +10, Navigate +3, Perform (Dancing) +8, Perform (Painting) +8, Perform (Ritual) +7, Perform (Singing) +8, Read/Write Languages (Latin, Greek, French, Japanese) +2, Repair +3, Research +12, Sense Motive +13, Speak Languages (Latin, French, Japanese) +2, Spellcraft +12, Survival +9, Use Magical Devices +8.
Feats: Archaic Weapons Proficiency, Cautious, Creative, Educated (Humanities), Focused, Iron Will, Low Profile, Magical Heritage, Meticulous, Simple Weapons Proficiency, Studious, Trustworthy
Talents/Special Abilities: Spell Resistance +6, Divine Spells and Skills, Arcane Skills Talent: Empathy, Talent: Intuition 5/day, Talent: Healing Knack, Brew Potions, Combat Casting, Turn Undead

Willow is obviously a Smart Hero, no question. I also gave her a level of Occultist to cover her “dabbling” stage and Mage to cover her spell casting. Tara on the other hand is less obviously a Dedicated Hero but it fits well. I opted for Mystic for her and not Mage since magic feel different. This does give her the troublesome Turn Undead which is a power that does not exist in Unisystem. However, since this is the Dragon and Phoenix canon Tara did gain the divine ability to frighten vampires and undead. I’ll tone down this power and amp up her Healing Knack to cover her Healing power in Unisystem.

Both start out as students and then gain the Hedge Wizard occupation as well. This gives them a few more cantrips (minor spels) before they enter their magic classes proper. Both can use incantations. Tara also has intuition and empathy to cover her Empath and Sight qualities from Unisystem.

Neither are strong fighters, here or in Unisystem, so that converts well enough.

Qualities convert to Feats as per AFMBE-R (Eden's "All Flesh Must Be Eaten"). Many were based on what feats were offered by class and what makes sense. At this point I’d imagine both girls (and any Unisystem character for that matter) would have Archaic and Simple Weapons Proficiencies.
Willow has Magical Aptitude to cover her quick rise in the magical ranks and Tara has Magical Heritage since her mother and grandmother were both witches.
Toughness (feat) is roughly the same as Hard to Kill (quality).

Skills convert on a 1 for 2 basis, so every one rank of Unisystem gives you 2 ranks of d20. That works fine as a base, but the two games are not powered the same. So to get a level based on Spell power, you end up with a higher level character (Willow is 13th level here) and a lot more skill points to spread around. Fortunately there are a lot more skills in d20.

Drawbacks are (will continue to be) the big issue. Modern d20 has nothing similar and this is a problem because they really should. For this we will have to move to other games. To use the Nega-Feats rules from AFMBE-R then conceivably we swap in a few feats and reduce their overall level. But that might not be an issue really and should only give us an extra level or at best two.

Overall I was pleased, just not overly so.  They certainly worked but they were not as satisfying as the Mutants and Masterminds versions I post earlier (but actually did later).  The nice thing about d20 was (and is for those still using it) that there was always going to be some 3rd party product that would come along that I could add in to all of this.

After I wrote these conversions the d20 Dark*Matter came along.  I had been a fan of the Alternity/Dark*Matter game when it came out, but went down the path of the WitchCraft RPG instead.  I added some bits from that, but mixing Urban Arcana and Dark*Matter is like mixing WitchCraft RPG with Conspiracy X.  Yes tehy cover similar ground, use the same rules and even have things in the games that the other game can use, but most of the fundamental philosophies of the games make even the same thing look complete different.  So they were less compatible than I hoped.

I have other ones I have tried to various levels of success.  But in every case I took something away from the process that I would use in later games, regardless of the system used.  From this I got obviously the d20 feel, but also the idea that running a modern game in a magic rich world is a good idea.


BlUsKrEEm said...

"I liked it, yes, but it seems like a huge tool to do the job I was already doing quite well with Unisystem."

You just summed up my feelings exactly.

Havard: said...

I prefer Unisystem to D20 Modern any day, but I think these conversions can be useful for bringing material back and forth between the systems. D20 Modern is also a great game, and did provide alot of neat ideas for modern style gaming.

Good work Tim!

Tourq said...

You really got me interested in the Unisystem - I'm going to have to find out what that is all about.