Where's the Magic and Mind Control?
The modern world is filled with science and technology which assumes that there's a rational explanation for everything that happens. If someone sees a powerful burst of electricity arcing in a straight line from one person to another, it's probably caused by some sort of atmospheric disturbance, a massive build-up of static, or some other, perfectly understandable reason. From that perspective, mind-reading and other psychic powers are things you only find at carnival side shows and on phone calls that run $7.95 a minute -- because such things are "for entertainment purposes only."
There are no Jedi mind tricks in the modern world. There's no magic in the modern world. And that's why there's no psionics or spells in a d20 Modern game.
Unless you want them to be, that is.
Because fireballs, healing magic, and telekinetic abilities are what you might call "unusual," they're also whatcha call "optional."
Of course, if you're running an Urban Arcana campaign, the magic's a given. The same goes for psionics in an Agents of PSI campaign. If you just want to have magic or psionics (or both) in your non-setting-specific d20 Modern campaign, all you need to do is put the advanced classes from those campaign settings into play, because those abilities are accessible only to characters with levels in the appropriate advanced classes.
Since you've got to build toward the prerequisites to take a level in an advanced class, you'll have some time to shop around in Chapter 10: FX Abilities to see what you want to be when you grow up.
Consider, if you will, a small excerpt from the d20 Modern Roleplaying Game core rulebook, chapter ten, page 328:
Arcane spells, divine spells, and psionic powers are all representative of abilities beyond the scope of most ordinary individuals, and are called as a group FX (just as in the film industry, short for "special effects"). FX abilities are features of a few advanced classes, and are not available to basic classes. FX have a number of similarities to each other as well as obvious differences. This chapter examines the basics of casting spells, manifesting psionic powers, and using special items that have magical or psionic powers.
Here's what Chris Perkins, Design Manager for the d20 Modern Roleplaying Game core rulebook, had to say about the magic and psionics in d20 Modern when I asked about it for the game designer Roundtable on FX:
"The d20 Modern magic system works like the D&D magic system: Mages and Acolytes prepare spells as wizards and clerics do. The psionics system works similarly to the system presented in the D&DPsionics Handbook, only we've stripped out Attack Modes and Defense Modes to make psionics and magic more interchangeable. Telepaths and Battle Minds spend Power Points to activate and sustain psionic powers, and the number of Power Points they have in their 'pool' increases as they gain levels."
Another good bit of info -- Chris explains there is a 5th-level cap on spells and powers you'll find in the d20 Modern Roleplaying Game core rulebook. No point in copy/pasting that whole thing here, 'cause you can just pop over to the Roundtable to check it out.
So, some things have been altered, deleted, or augmented, but if you've played with the spells in the Player's Handbook or the psionic powers in the Psionics Handbook, you'll be very familiar with what's going on in Chapter 10. Of course, there's also some new stuff tucked in there.
Here's a good example of how a familiar D&D spell (collection of spells, really) was adapted for d20 Modern:
Level: Acolyte 2, Mage 2; Components: V, S, M/DF; Casting Time: 1 action; Range: Touch; Target: Creature touched; Duration: 1 minute/level; Saving Throw: Will negates (harmless); Spell Resistance: Yes (harmless)
The spell grants a +5 enhancement bonus to one ability score (Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma) chosen by you at the time of casting.
An increase to Intelligence or Wisdom does not allow Mages or Acolytes to gain extra spells, but the save DCs for their spells increase. An increase in Intelligence doesn't grant extra skill points.
Arcane Material Component: An origami animal representing one of the six abilities: bull (Strength), cat (Dexterity), bear (Constitution), fox (Intelligence), owl (Wisdom), or eagle (Charisma).
What a great deal. You can prepare one spell (multiple times) and dole out the most useful version for each character in your party under any given circumstances. What adventuring party could bear to be without it?
Of course, if you wanna talk about a spell that provides real convenience (or, more accurately, deals with a particular inconvenience), you'll want to contemplate adding this to the Spellbook file on your Mage's PDA:
Level: Mage 1; Components: V, S; Casting Time: 1 action; Range: Touch; Effect: Powers one electrical or mechanical device; Duration: 10 minutes/level; Saving Throw: None; Spell Resistance: No
This spell provides power to an electrical or mechanical device that does not have a power source but is otherwise functional. For example, you can make a notebook computer work even if its batteries are dead, or make a car run even if it is out of gas. The device functions exactly as it normally would if it had conventional power.
This spell can affect any household or handheld device, scratch-built robot, or general-purpose vehicle. Larger or more intricate devices cannot be powered with this spell.
Hey, with enough levels under your Mage's magic-using belt, you'll be able to play Neverwinter Nights non-stop on international flights. That's real power.
Psionically-inclined folks get cool new stuff, too. First off, you get to take a new feat (to meet the prerequisites of the two advanced classes) that gives you a nifty little bit of power:
You can manifest one 0-level psionic power.
Benefit: Select one 0-level psionic power. You can manifest this power up to three times in a 24-hour period. There is no power point cost for using this power.
Telepaths have eight 0-level powers to choose from, and Battle Minds have five. A short burst of speed or a little telekinesis can go a long way (especially when you can do it three times a day and it's free.)
How 'bout a little sample of one of the new things you can do when you put your mind to it?
Level: Telepath 3; Display: Visual; Manifestation Time: Attack action; Range: 60 ft.); Target: One living creature; Duration: Instantaneous; Saving Throw: Will negates; Power Resistance: No; Power Point Cost: 5
You deliver a telepathic strike that stuns the target for 3d4 rounds.
Three to twelve rounds is a long time to be doing nothing when you're in the middle of a combat (or supposed to be guarding a checkpoint or something).
Of course there's a treasure section. FX Items start on page 372 and run through 379. That may not seem like a terribly big amount of space for all the nifty stuff you want to find in treasure hoards around the modern world, but when you remember that FX are optional, there's a lot more coming in Urban Arcana, and the whole d20 Modern Roleplaying Game core rulebook has been designed to provide the baseline against which you can develop your own stuff, you've got all you need to get going.
Here's a quick barrage of a few new things you'll find nestled in the FX Items section.
Tattoo of Spider Climb: The bearer can climb and travel on vertical surfaces and ceilings for 30 minutes. The bearer gains a climb speed of 20 feet and need not make Climb checks to scale a surface. The bearer cannot take run actions for the duration of the effect.
Type: Tattoo (magic); Caster Level: 3rd; Purchase DC: 13; Weight: --.
Tattoos function pretty much the same way as a potion--they're one-shot items. The neat-o bit about 'em is how under-the-radar they are. Hey, it's just a spider tattoo, man.
How 'bout a little portable psionic energy you can tuck away in a shoulder holster?
Crystal Pistol: This item is the same size as a Small handgun and consists of a crystal shard attached to an ornate pistol butt and trigger mechanism. Pulling the trigger activates the psionic energy stored inside the crystal. The energy strikes a single target designated by the user and deals 3d6 points of bludgeoning damage. The user may choose to have the device deal nonlethal damage instead.
The target must be within 130 feet. A crystal pistol can be fired 50 times before the crystal shard is completely drained of psionic energy. This item cannot be recharged.
Firing a crystal pistol is an attack action and does not provoke attacks of opportunity.
Type: Wondrous Item (psionic); Manifester Level: 3rd; Purchase DC: 19; Weight: 2 lb.
I saved the best for last:
Duct Tape of Repair: This magic brand of duct tape can repair damaged objects and vehicles. When a 5-foot strip of the duct tape is applied to the damaged area, the duct tape disappears and the object regains 1d8+5 hit points instantly.
Duct tape of repair comes in a standard-size roll and can be used 14 times before the roll is exhausted. Applying duct tape of repair is a full-round action that provokes attacks of opportunity.
Type: Wondrous Item (magic); Caster Level: 5th; Purchase DC: 21; Weight: 1 lb.
(You know MacGyver and Red Green order this stuff by the case.)
That pretty well takes you on a whirlwind tour of the FX Abilities chapter. It also fairly well finishes off these monthly previews of the d20 Modern Roleplaying Game core rulebook. (Don't forget to check out the Campaign Setting Overview to get a feel for the three campaign settings that make up Chapter Nine.)
If you still want to learn more about the d20 Modern Roleplaying Game core rulebook, then not only have I done my job here, but you're in luck--it comes out next month. Hang on just a little longer. And then, have fun.
There it is.
About the Author
Mat Smith is a copywriter who's been here, golly, two whole years now. He's been playing roleplaying games for a disturbing length of time, and now gets to spend an astonishing portion of his days thinking about clever ways to get more people to do the same.