Game: Modern Player’s Companion
Publisher: Green Ronin
Series: d20 Modern
Review Dated: 23rd, October 2003
Reviewer’s Rating: 6/10 [ On the ball ]
Total Score: 6
Average Score: 6.00
The Modern Player’s Companion is a post Urban Arcana supplement. In other words, this The Game Mechanics d20 modern supplement has advanced classes and prestige classes in it. We’re not quite at the many thousand supplemental classes that pepper the fantasy d20 landscape but if I hadn’t intended to review the Modern Player’s Companion I would have flicked through the new Advanced classes and Prestige classes here.
Advanced Classes include the Adept, Arcane Scholar, Bounty Hunter, Confidence Artist, Criminologist, Dead Shot, Enforcer, Fixer, Gentle Warrior, Hacker, Opinion Maker, Profiler, Survivalist and Transporter. Favourites would have to be the Confidence Artist and Criminologist, both strike me as great, plot heavy, classes and a good example of what might squeeze in between the basic classes and prestige classes.
Prestige Classes run the gambit of Commander, Dark Sage, Martial Arts Master, Master Tinker, Mentalist, Psionic Assassin and Silent Intruder. I’m not sure “favourite” is the right word to apply here. None of these classes really leapt out the page at me. I prefer the Silent Intruder though since the class does represent that highly focused set of expert skills and is nicely campaign neutral.
But what’s the point? I mean, why have classes in a player companion at all? Wouldn’t it be better if the class mechanic was as transparent as possible for the players? Or that prestige classes came into play when they naturally meet the story rather than because a player fancied Talent X? I might want the game to work that way but I’m probably in a game fascist minority. It might be a nice theory but in practise most players want to get their hands on the mechanics that affect them the most. Players want to see what goodies their characters can enjoy as they increase in levels. As someone once said, (Jan L.A. van de Snepscheut, in fact) “In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But, in practice, there is.” Stan! (who beats Jan L.A. van de Snepscheut in the ‘who’s got the shortest name?’ contest) expertly exploits the practical truth of gaming. The Modern Player’s Companion is pitched squarely at players who want to give their characters more options. What’s the pitch to the GM? GMs should buy the book because that’ll please the players. If you dropped the Modern Player’s Companion it would go splat.
There are all sorts of splat. This particular splat is a strange substance because it’s been expertly polished by the Midas touch of Green Ronin and The Game Mechanics. That’s two good reasons to give the book a fair chance. I did find genuinely helpful rules and advice in the book. I’m going to use it in any D20 Modern game I run.
The good advice from Stan! comes in the form of sage experience and observation. We’re happy to play fantasy because we’re happy to lump knights, swashbucklers and pit fighters all into one fighter class. We don’t get to that with a modern setting though; we’re not happy to lump teachers, lawyers and librarians into one academic class. It’s a suspension of disbelief problem. We’re also encouraged not to run our games using a bean counting money system – stick with the abstract rules in D20 Modern. Doesn’t that sound like GM advice to you? Yeah, it probably is, but it’s good advice.
There are useful rules as well. There’s a set of nicely abstract rules for getting into debt and struggling to maintain a credit rating. Excellent stuff. This is a superb way of doing a gritty street level game, or a student game, or petty criminal game and keep the money in the forefront without it getting annoying.
The talent trees where D20 Modern’s innovation. It was fairly easy to predict we’d see 3rd party support for them. We have that much needed support here in the Modern Player’s Companion (and let’s face it, it seems we’re unlikely to see it from Wizards). There are only two talent trees for the Fast Hero in D20 Modern… not any more, now the Instinctive Tree makes it three. All the basic classes enjoy more talent options, even if not a complete tree.
New careers open up a few extra possibilities for players too. They’re just black and white confirmation of what an experienced author like Stan! feels are suitable mechanics for the new careers though. We’re all capable of listing dozens of “new” modern careers ourselves. The Modern Player’s Companion goes one step further. It is easy to just list careers and it’s not too much of a challenge to work out Wealth Bonuses, Reputation, Feats and Skills for them either. It is rather more tricky to then arrange levels of basic classes so characters can appear to progress in the career. The Modern Player’s Companion does this for us and it calls the class combinations Class Combos. Funny that. Here’s something of an example, the Rock Star Class Combo suggests the Charismatic Hero for levels one and two, with the Bonus Feat and Talent coming in with them, then the Fast Hero for level three and the Dedicated Hero at level four… and so on. The idea is that the combinations stack together to represent the career. Would you say a Pro Athlete was Fast, Strong or Tough? A combination of all three, of course, and the Class Combo for the career is a pretty good guide as to what that combination might be.
Magic. Feats. Equipment. Ammo. I want to mention to ammo and the magic. Really. I want to talk about ammo! Just a little. I know this is the sort of modern shtick gamers want their supplements to cater for. I know bugger all about guns myself (I’m British!) but will want them in my game. If I’m doing a James Bond style adventure (I’m British!) then I’ll need this sort of snippet. The D20 Modern spells I like are the ones that combine nicely with present day technology. I like the feel of them (whereas I tend to shudder slightly at fireballs and Giant Hands) and the Modern Player’s Companion does well to keep this fresh feeling last.
I did enjoy the book; I will use it… but not that much. I found the occasional snippet of wisdom from Stan! more helpful than any of the rules though. Some of the rules are helpful. I don’t imagine anyone will hate the book, I think gamers will divide into two camps; one that goes “Meh. Quite useful” and another that raves “A must have!”
My view – “Meh. Quite useful”