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13. Modern Adventures

Gangsters, Spies, terrorists—the heavily armed and armored forces of evil threaten the stability of the world as we know it. This chapter presents the rules, equipment and adversaries for True20 adventures in the modern world.

So what is a modern adventure anyway? Good question. First things first. Let’s talk about what it isn’t. A modern adventure isn’t paying your taxes and dealing with your boss or the ongoing water-cooler soap opera that is your job. A modern adventure isn’t dealing with traffic jams, or mowing the lawn and fixing that pesky water leak in the bathroom sink. It isn’t minivans, soccer games, Friday night sleep-overs or report cards.

In short, a modern adventure isn’t the world you live in.

A modern adventure is a hyper-real, mind-bending journey into the world of espionage, organized crime, modern warfare, counter-terrorism, the war on drugs, gritty urban-punk and martial arts action. It’s a non-stop, heart-pounding adrenaline rush filled with high-speed car chases, dogfights 35,000 feet above the earth, and HALO drops into war-torn Chechnya or a dozen other hot spots around the world. It’s being jettisoned out the torpedo tube of a ballistic missile submarine a quarter mile off the coast of Iran to get intel on a suspected plutonium enrichment facility. A modern game is filled with political intrigue, shadow governments, weapons dealers, drug czars, crooked cops, and homicidal maniacs.

In short, a modern adventure is the world you live in.



As heroes in a modern series, you might be apart of an elite black-ops division of the CIA. Your division is tasked with bringing down various international organizations bent on acquiring chemical weapons, deadly viruses, nuclear weapons and other top secret technologies which serve to further the agendas of these nefarious groups. This is a game of ultra- modern cloak and dagger with exotic next-generation gear only available to people in your line of work; people that, for all intents and purposes, don’t exist. Stories are filled with exciting plot twists, betrayal and high tension. Time is always working against you and you never know exactly who you can trust; that includes your fellow heroes.

Your characters might be apart of the special forces, operating behind enemy lines on recon missions or covertly smuggling guns into a third-world country. Your characters are elite, the tip of the spear. Your operations have saved the lives of countless men and women in the armed forces. Adventures in this genre can be straightforward military operations in war zones across the world, covert ops or even rogue adventures in which you play mercenaries hired to do extractions and any number of other missions.

If saving the world in a more direct way is your style, then your heroes can hunt down nefarious terrorist cells around the world as you wage the war against terror. Your team might be comprised of spec-ops forces with varying skill sets and CIA operatives or even FBI agents. These types of games merge the best of military and espionage adventures. You’ll need a wide range of skills and extreme patience as you infiltrate these highly secretive militant groups if you want to prevent another major terrorist attack on U.S. soil. Games like these aren’t always “kick down the door with guns blazing” operations. Many times you’ll risk your life just to get a name, a photograph or some other tiny clue in your ongoing quest to bring down major terrorist organizations. That’s all part of this high-stakes game you play.

Looking for something with a little bit of dirt on it? How about organized crime? Plunge your characters deep into the underbelly of criminal organizations such as the mafia, the Japanese yakuza, the Chinese triad, the Russian mafia and myriad lesser criminal groups. Your characters might be hit men, bodyguards, or running a small- time crew who engages in racketeering, blackmail, extortion, or armed robbery. These heroes get to act with relative impunity so long as they kickback a percentage of the profits to the organization that controls the town you are operating in. The heroes might even be made-men, brought into the family and entrusted with larger operations, such as running a casino in Atlantic City or Las Vegas.

If being the bad guy isn’t to your liking, you might choose an undercover cop, playing a dangerous game of cat and mouse as you secretly gather information. These types of games are extremely dangerous and veritably ooze with suspense. Your characters have to continuously prove themselves to the individuals they are trying to bring to justice. You have to live your cover identity. One miss-step, one lie that doesn’t jive with every other lie you’ve told these dangerous people and you go swimming in the closest river with a concrete pair of shoes. Expanding on the crime-theme prevalent in many modern games, you might play a detective, hunting down notorious felons and sifting through clues. You might be tasked with investigating a suspected group of cops who have crossed the line, abusing their power for personal gain.

Want to play adventures involving SWAT? We’ve got you covered there, too. Bomb threats, bank robberies, hostage situations, stand-offs with a lunatic packing more heat than the local chapter of the NRA: these and many other high-tension adventures await your characters should they choose to join this elite branch of law enforcement.

Martial arts adventures are also a fun part of the modern genre. Defend your neighborhood against roving gangs using your mastery of kung fu, or fight against a rival school who seeks to show the dominance of their fighting style. Compete in tournaments to earn fame for your dojo. Take it to the streets, blending genres as you fight against the triad and the yakuza in Hong Kong, Bangkok, Tokyo, Nepal and Shanghai.

Genre Conventions

The modern world is all about realism. Pain is raw and doesn’t simply go away. Wounds take time to heal, and when you die, that’s it—game over. Generally speaking, there are no mystical spells to bring the dead back to life, no powers that spray blasts of flame from your fingers. There are no energy pistols or force fields, no dragons to slay, and no beasties hiding in sewers or under your bed. The real monsters sell drugs to kids, murder people, commit rape, steal babies, rob banks and carry out cowardly acts of terrorism. They are crooked cops, ruthless dictators, rogue spies and serial killers. They are insurgent groups who attack your squad with rocket-propelled grenades and mortars, firing off a few quick rounds to cause chaos before disappearing into the crowds from whence they came. This section takes a look at various aspects of the modern world and how they might affect your game.


The weapons you use are varied, but the vast majority of them were created within the past 50 years, many within the last decade. Hand guns, grenades, shotguns, assault rifles, .50 caliber machine guns, sniper rifles, cemtex, dynamite, satchel charges, knives, aluminum baseball bats: these weapons are the core of a modern game. Some might even use weapons such as a katana, a compound bow or a modernized crossbow. Others might prefer hand to hand combat and invest part of their lives learning martial arts, becoming lethal weapons themselves. The weapons your characters use are a big part of the modern game, but sometimes what you use isn’t as important as how you get it.

Conventional Acquisition

It isn’t difficult for characters to obtain a firearm through conventional channels. Most common firearms (and weapons permits) can be bought at gun or pawn shops. Even large retail outlets sell hunting rifles. A character can get a .357 Magnum or a Glock .9mm hand gun at any sporting goods outlet. It’s not as if buying a gun is illegal.

The problem for characters who choose to buy a gun through conventional means is that they will leave a paper trail for people such as police officers, private detectives etc. to follow. Forms authorizing a background check have to be filled out and processed before a person actually receives the weapon, which can take up to three days in most cases. In addition to leaving a record of the purchase, fingerprints and a photocopy of the character’s ID, the character has to wait for his gun. You might be wondering what the big deal is? There isn’t, really, unless your character happens to be planning to use the weapon in an illegal operation of some sort. For these types of characters, the best option when considering obtaining a weapon is to hit the black market.

The Black Market

The black market is a shadow community existing to provide people with anything and everything they might want, whether it be ripped dvd’s, illegal drugs, guns or suitcase nukes. Much like an onion, there are a number of layers to the black market. Which layer(s) your characters will be exposed to ultimately depends on what your characters are trying to acquire.

The following is an examination of the various levels of the black market. Guidelines are provided for gathering information about the black market. This is particularly important, as the black market doesn’t advertise. Characters are going to need to do some legwork to even find a black market contact and setup a meet. It’s also inherently dangerous. One shouldn’t simply assume a given encounter with people dealing on the black market is going to go smoothly. Also included are suggested modifiers to purchase Difficulties for items at a given level, availability suggestions, and information about hazards characters might encounter when dealing on the black market.

Gather Information Checks

As a general rule of thumb, heroes should not be allowed to take 10 or 20 when making initial Gather Information checks to learn about the black market. As stated before, dealing on the black market is a highly dangerous undertaking. There are a number of variables involved. Will a paranoid gang banger or fence simply decide to shoot the heroes and take their money? Will the police raid a meet? If a Gather Information check fails, the characters might have tipped off an undercover cop instead of a dealer. They might have contacted someone who works for a rival organization rather than the intended organization. The FBI might have the heroes or their contacts under surveillance and record the meet. Many problems can crop up if the heroes aren’t careful.

As the heroes gain more experience dealing with these shady individuals, however, it should naturally become easier, allowing them to take 10 on subsequent checks to deal with organizations with whom they have previous experience. Contacting new people and organizations should be handled as if the heroes have never dealt with the organization before. Above all, it should never be so safe that heroes can take 20 when dealing with people who work in the black market, regardless of who they are dealing with.

Gather Information checks and time

Normally a Gather Information check can take one or even several hours, at the discretion of the Narrator. The Contacts feat can reduce this time to minutes. This is appropriate only if heroes have an existing, ongoing relationship with a criminal organization. If the characters are just beginning to get involved in the black market, the process should take much longer. It is suggested that Narrators increase the base time involved in researching the black market to days rather than hours.

Let’s face it. Criminals are paranoid people, sometimes justifiably so. When a person new to the scene goes snooping around, it raises alarms. People start talking. News spreads around the streets, and suddenly the heroes have a bunch of goons busting through doors with baseball bats and shotguns wanting to know why they’re getting so nosey. While news can spread fast on the streets, there’s no guarantee the characters will get the information they need when they need it.

Wealth Check Difficulties

As previously stated, buying on the black market is illegal. Prices for illicit items such as drugs and weapons are marked up to reflect the risk involved in selling them. Heroes won’t be able to pay by check or credit card when dealing with these people. They either have cash on hand or the deal is off.

On the international black market, increases to Wealth check difficulties reflect not only the dangers involved, which are considerable, but also the processes involved. These types of transactions involve at least upper-end six-figure dollar amounts and can rise into the tens of millions, depending on what is being bought and sold. For the most part, that kind of currency doesn’t simply change hands. It has to be funneled through dummy corporations, smuggled out of the country or be transferred through multiple bank accounts in order to avoid raising the attention of various world governments and agencies like Scotland Yard, INTERPOL, the FBI and the NSA.

Consider that in the United States, customs agents can automatically seize cash in excess of $10,000. Those caught with that much cash are detained and questioned by federal agents. With this in mind, the heroes risk being flagged by INTERPOL, the FBI, NSA and the Department of Homeland Security as possible terrorists. Even if the heroes are released (which, thanks to the Patriot Act, isn’t guaranteed), they will be watched constantly. Aside from the obvious problems this causes, the people who were supposed to get that money in the first place may just decide to kill the heroes rather than risk exposure. Each level of the black market will have suggestions for Wealth Check modifiers. Feel free to adjust them as you see fit.

Street Level

The street level of the black market is pretty much what the name says; Street level activity. At this level the average black market items include small quantities of illegal drugs and stolen electronics such as tv’s, stereos and dvd players. Heroes can also find bootlegged DVDs, snuff films, handguns, rifles, sawed-off shotguns and the occasional assault rifle. Cheap prostitution is a common black market service available on any inner-city street corner. Characters can fence stolen watches, jewelry or guns and other similar items at this level.

Information is usually limited to rumors and news about what’s happening in the city, things that directly relate to neighborhood criminal activity. Local snitches, fences and bartenders who are connected to the underground scene will have general information about specific individuals, recent high-profile jobs, gangs and their territory, etc.

Level of Organization

There isn’t any real organization at this level. Most dealers working at street level are amateurs who have no real sense of purpose, no direction, no goals beyond making enough money to continue their seedy lifestyle. These people have no real head for business, a fact reflected in how they live. Their influence in the underworld is marginal at best. The major players in a typical city give these people an illusion of importance, but the truth of the matter is any one of these street dealers can be easily replaced.

Typical Hazards

The streets are filled with all sorts of dangers. Roving gangs, con artists, petty criminals and the police are always concerns when heroes are involved in illegal activity. Paranoia runs high when meeting with the average street-level dealer. These individuals are always suspicious of newcomers looking to buy items. Heroes will likely need to “prove” they aren’t undercover cops before any business can begin.

Getting Information

Knowledge about the black market at the street level is common. If characters are performing Gather Information checks, it is suggested that the base Difficulty be 5 for general knowledge and 10 for specific knowledge about individuals or groups, such as known drug dealers, fences and notable gangs. The time involved in acquiring this information is standard, with appropriate outcomes for failed Gather Information checks.

Gather Information checks assume characters are paying bribes to their contacts. Characters may also use Knowledge (streetwise) to find black market dealers using the same Difficulty as for Gather Information checks, with the hero relying on her knowledge of the streets to get the informations she needs.

Acquisition Time

Acquiring illicit items and services on the street is almost immediate. In most cases the contraband is readily available and deals are done on the spot. For this reason, Narrators should feel free to ignore the guidelines for purchase times when characters are buying gear on the streets.

Cost Modifiers

The prices of street-level black market items vary greatly depending on what you want, but typically run from $10 (a dime bag of weed or a bootlegged dvd) to $2000 (a pound of cocaine, a stolen car, or guns and ammunition for you and your crew). Street-level black market items have a +3 modifier to the cost, but only if they are considered highly illegal (guns, drugs, etc). Items like bootlegged DVDs and electronics are generally sold at a lower price than the base cost. For these items, apply a -3 modifier to the base cost of the item. The cost of an item may never drop below 1.

Organized Crime

At this level, the black market branches out into areas where serious money is made. Professional hits, drug smuggling, coercion, blackmail, fraud, racketeering, loan sharking, gambling, money laundering and low-to-mid level arms deals are trademarks of organized crime. Everything you find on the streets is put there by crime rings such as the yakuza, mafia, triad and other freelance outfits.

Freelancers are groups of people who run organized operations but are independent of any ethnic affiliations. Many of these are tightly knit crews who have been working together for years. These individuals likely met in prison, making plans to work together after their release. Whatever the case, these criminals are hard core, dangerous people, dedicated to a life of crime. Freelance crews are usually at odds with more traditional criminal organizations, who view them as upstarts looking to muscle in on their action.

Services Any illicit drugs or weapons you find on the streets have been put there by people involved with organized crime. So what’s the point of risking contacting these organizations directly? Criminal organizations have influence and power not measured by the weapons, equipment or drugs they can provide. These groups employ tactics such as bribery, coercion and favors to get what they want. They blackmail people, increasing their power and influence. The lure of these groups lies in what they can do for you.


Otherwise known as “hits” or “contracts,” assassinations are regularly performed by organized crime syndicates. Some targets are eliminated for personal reasons while others are killed because of the threat they pose to the continued existence of the organization. Sometimes highly proficient hit men will be called in to take the target out, but generally speaking, the contract will be handled “in house,” with the organization using their own muscle to get the job done.

The average cost of a contract varies from target to target, depending on the complexity of the hit and how “high profile” the target is. The base cost of an assassination is 25 + half the total level of the target. To find the total cost of the hit, add the reputation score of the target. The Narrator is free to choose the fame or infamy rating of the target as he sees fit.

Example: A contract is put out on a local district attorney. The district attorney is an 8th level expert with a Reputation (fame) score of 3. The total cost of the hit is 32 (25 +4 +3).


Criminal organizations play heavily upon greed as a way of getting people to do what they want. They get people like union officials, cops, lawyers and judges in their pocket and then use these people to make certain that various issues play out in their favor. For instance, a detective on the take might be used to remove certain key pieces of evidence from a crime scene. A judge in the mob’s pocket can be very handy when a high profile trial might send a mob boss to prison.

Heroes rarely have the clout and resources that a criminal organization has. Crime rings can influence people and groups the characters otherwise might not have access to. When some situation absolutely needs to play out in the favor of the heroes, one option will almost always be to go to the mob and get them to pay off the person or persons in question.

The cost of a bribe depends on who is being bribed, the length of time, and how much extra the organization charges. There is no hard, fast way of determining the price of a bribe. The prices can change from person to person. A street cop might only need $1000 a month, while a Judge would require $10,000 on a case-by-case basis. Narrators should factor the above information into the cost and set the cost at what they think is best.


Sometimes bribery won’t work but the problem still needs to be taken care of. In situations like this, blackmail is an effective option.

Blackmail generally takes a while to get the target to “play ball” and can often come to violence. For these reasons costs can be much higher due to the risks involved. Narrators should use the guidelines for bribery when determining how much it will cost the heroes to get the organization to blackmail someone.


Heroes in need of quick cash can always contact a loan shark for help financing a purchase. The danger here is that the money has to be paid back, with interest. If the characters can’t pay back the loan on time, they risk bringing the full weight of the organization down on their heads.

If the characters need a specific item, the base cost of a loan is equal to the cost of whatever it is the heroes need the money for. When using a loan to get a specific item, the Narrator can, at his discretion, choose to forgo any Wealth checks involved in purchasing said item. If the characters just want money to finance a number of unspecified future purchases, find the dollar amount and apply the relevant cost. The interest on any given loan is +3 (weekly) to the base cost of the loan. Successful Diplomacy checks can reduce the interest by 1 for every 5 points by which the character succeeds on the Diplomacy check.

Eventually the heroes are going to need to pay back the loan. Each week that goes by without the loan being paid back increases the total cost by 3. This means that a loan with a total cost of 29 that hasn’t been paid back after 2 weeks jumps to 35! If more than 3 weeks pass without the loan being paid (in part or in full), it is suggested that the Narrator send goons to attack the heroes.

Level of Organization

Unlike the fast-paced chaos of street level black market activity, organized crime is, well, organized. Operations are run much like any business. To acquire an item or service, characters will need to setup a preliminary meeting with representatives of the organization in question. The following guidelines are presented to give Narrators insight into the processess involved in dealing with criminal organizations.

The Preliminary Meet

The preliminary meeting is apart of a process where the organization begins to get an idea of who the characters are, what they want and most importantly, whether or not they can be trusted. Criminal organizations at this level don’t do business with just anyone. The meeting won’t happen anywhere near the mob’s places of business. It might be in a park, along the waterfront, or in some other place not affiliated with the organization.

They’ll contact the people they have in their pocket in at the police station to find out if the heroes have a criminal record. They’ll send out goons to hit up their contacts on the streets to see if the characters have a reputation. In short; the bosses will look for anything out of the ordinary. Afterwards, they’ll think about it for a few days before deciding whether or not to setup a second meeting.

The Secondary Meet

This meeting is traditionally more formal, taking place in one of the organization’s fronts such as a bar, a casino, a restaurant, or a warehouse: somewhere the two parties can discuss business without worrying about police or federal agents listening in.At least one mid- level boss will be at this meeting, accompanied by no less than four body guards of an appropriate level. At this time the characters will be expected to discuss exactly what it is they want and why they want it. Depending on how negotiations go, the bosses will either refuse to deal with the characters or they will agree to a final meet. Characters will be sent away with instructions to wait until they are contacted.

The Final Meet

Heroes will be contacted by representatives of the organization and told the location and time of the next meeting. This is generally a highly tense situation; the culmination of days (sometimes weeks) of negotiations and information gathering. One boss and at least four bodyguards will be at the point of contact, with more mooks within a block’s distance from the meet. The characters will be searched for bugs and weapons. Once everything checks out, the meet will begin. Barring any unforeseen events (double-crosses, police raids, assassination attempts by rival organizations), the characters will obtain what they want.

Typical Hazards

At this level, the dangers of dealing with criminal organizations depend largely on how the characters are perceived by the organization in question. If the characters have developed a good reputation with the people they are dealing with, they might be brought into the organization, consequently inheriting the enemies of said organization. This can include rival groups and even government agencies, such as the FBI.

Should the heroes cross an organization, things become much more dangerous. Contracts will be taken out on the characters, leading to encounters with various henchmen including mooks and professional hit men. Gangs and other seedy groups looking to up their street rep might also get involved in the hunt for the heroes.

Getting Information

Criminal organizations don’t exactly advertise their operations, but they don’t try and hide their presence either. In many cases, criminal organizations tend to flaunt their ability to operate with relative impunity. The reason is because people don’t talk about the organization, period. Whether this is out of fear of reprisal, blackmail or bribes, it’s very difficult to obtain anything more than general information about criminal organizations.

It is suggested that the base difficulty for Gather Information and Knowledge (streetwise) checks pertaining to general information about these organizations is 10. Specific details, such as names of bosses, bases of operation and such for Gather Information and Knowledge (streetwise) checks are more difficult to obtain. The base difficulty for checks to acquire specific knowledge be 15–20, at the Narrator’s discretion. Gather Information checks assume bribes are employed in the process of obtaining information, and Knowledge (streetwise) checks assume the characters have been around the block enough times to know who’s who.

Acquisition Time

The availability of black market items and services at this level can vary greatly depending what the heroes want and how long it takes to earn enough trust with an organization. Newcomers are going wait longer than people who dealt with the organization before. It is suggested that initial acquisition times start ata minimum of 1 week and scale down as the heroes build a reputation with the organization in question. This process can go as slow or as fast as the Narrator feels is appropriate for the series.

Cost Modifiers

Black market items and services acquired through a criminal organization vary greatly depending on what the heroes want. Gangsters and their ilk don’t deal in small-time operations. That’s what the street gangs and common thugs are for. Heroes looking to deal with the mob or some other crime ring should expect to spend at least ten grand for a particular service. Cost modifiers are typically +5 and higher at the Narrator’s discretion. Alternatively, the criminal organization might forgo costs in favor of having the characters perform favors.


Favors are the quickest way for criminal organizations to get someone “in their pocket.” This is how it works. Oftentimes, a person such as a small business owner or someone with a gambling problem will come to a criminal organization such as the local mafia looking for help. Maybe the business owner is having trouble with local gangs breaking into his store and vandalizing the place. Maybe the gambler is into the mob for 50 grand and can’t pay the money back.

In either case, crime bosses sometimes choose to assist these people with their problems. The gambler might be offered a chance to work off his debt by performing various jobs, like breaking legs, dumping bodies, or giving them something that is of value, such as the security codes to his workplace or company secrets. The business owner can get the issue with the gangs taken care of and have continued protection, provided he kicks back a hefty percentage of his profits for the rest of his career. The mob owns these people from that point on. This is what can happen to heroes who deal with organized crime and don’t pay their debts.

International Organized Crime

International organized crime is a world apart. It’s filled with terrorist groups, international drug cartels and multi-national arms dealers. It’s a vast array of informant networks who deal in information-brokering and blackmail. International organized crime involves governments and shadow organizations who launder money through countless shell companies, selling weapons to third-world countries and terrorist groups

Such groups buy and sell secrets, cutting-edge technology and dangerous biological, chemical and even nuclear weapons. International criminal organizations also deal in human trafficking. They smuggle people into countries such as the United States with the promise of a better life, only to sell them to corrupt individuals who keep them as slaves—or worse.

Level of Organization

International organized crime is incredibly sophisticated. The men and women who run the various facets of the underworld have operations that span the globe, thanks to the Internet and global telecommunications. The world has grown smaller, enabling criminal organizations to communicate with each other over long distances in minutes rather than weeks or months.

An opium dealer in Turkey can contact his partners in Europe and arrange for them to setup shipments with dealers in New York City in a day’s time. A week later (depending on how the shipment is being transported) the product has been distributed to dealers and is being sold on the streets. Fifty years ago this level of organization and the speed at which plans are implemented would have been very difficult to achieve.

Unlike legitimate governments, international criminal organizations have no red-tape to deal with, making the process that much easier. Indeed, trade agreements with nations such as Mexico work in the favor of smugglers who operate under the guise of legitimate companies. They simply transport their product right through ports of entry, with little or no worry about being hassled by border patrols or DEA agents.


The vastness of the international black market is such that heroes can conceivably get anything they can think of, if they can afford it. The items and services at this level of the black market can easily cost millions of dollars. This is the deep end of the pool, so to speak. For the most part, heroes won’t have access to that kind of capital. They’ll likely need to be affiliated with these organizations in some fashion. This effectively negates any need for Wealth Checks, unless you happen to be narrating a high-level series of adventures where the characters are running their own black market organization. If this is the case, feel free to apply whatever modifiers to the cost you feel are appropriate for the following types of services:


These contracts are carried out by highly proficient individuals: professional assassins, military special forces or government black-ops teams—people who, for all intents and purposes, don’t even exist. The targets are high profile men and women: oil barons, senators, congressmen and other elected officials. They are leaders of terrorist organizations, arms brokers and drug kingpins. These targets must go down and stay down.


Kidnappings happen all the time. Many companies insure their workers against the possibility of an organization snatching them off the streets and holding the victim ransom until the companies pay up. Other groups don’t want money; they want information, technology, weapons or the release of a political prisoner. Kidnapping someone’s spouse or child is an effective way to get people to play ball.

Smuggling Operations

Smuggling operations are commonplace among the various organizations that comprise the international black market. To say that selling weapons in the international arms bazaar is lucrative would be a gross understatement. Billions of dollars are spent on weapons each year. After all, wars cost money. It’s not just about war and weapons, however—drugs and people are also smuggled across the borders of every country in the world. So long as human beings have a desire to get high or force others into servitude, there will be people who are willing to hazard the risks involved in getting them what they want.

Typical Hazards

One of the most important functions of federal and international agencies such as INTERPOL and the FBI is hunting down anyone involved with illegal activities such as those mentioned above. Beyond that, however, simply dealing with terrorist organizations, drug smugglers and arms dealers carries an inherent risk of death. These people will shoot you, chop you up and feed you to a pack of pigs if you so much as look at them sideways. They may be planning to kill you even if you do everything right. Money is, after all, money.

Of course, things can get much worse than taking a bullet in the head. These rpeople may decide you know more than you’re telling them. They might suspect you are double-crossing them or working for a rival organization. If this is the case, you are probably going to be interrogated—the hard way. Torture is a brutal yet effective way of getting information, and these criminal organizations have no qualms about doing it.

Getting Information

The international black market is interesting in that it has a place in popular culture. We see movies and television shows that deal with this subject matter all the time. We are bombarded with news broadcasts about global instances of terrorist activity, drug seizures, kidnappings, murder, and war. It isn’t hard to formulate some basic ideas about the international black market because we see evidence that it exists every day.

It certainly isn’t far-fetched to assume that the heroes are exposed to the same media that we are. With this in mind, it is suggested that Gather Information checks to obtain general information on the international black market have a Difficulty between 10 and 15, depending on what information the characters are attempting to uncover. This modification to standard rules on Gather Information checks reflects the inherent dangers involved in researching these groups.

Specific knowledge is an entirely different matter. Though heroes may have ideas about what the international black market is, they are going to be hard-pressed to get actual names and places without appropriate contacts. In many cases, the heroes will need to be affiliated with an organization such as INTERPOL, the FBI, CIA or NSA to be able to obtain credible information about the international black market. For these reasons, it is suggested that specific information be treated as either restricted or protected information with Difficulties ranging between 20 and 25.


A modern adventure isn’t just about what you know—it’s also who you know. Whether you’re a detective putting the squeeze on a local snitch, an up-and-coming player in the mob, a professional thief looking to fence his loot or a spy working deep cover in Berlin, you need to have contacts. Let’s say you are preparing to extract a nuclear physicist from a research facility. Five hours before the extraction, you find out the intel you have on the security systems is false. What do you do? Is there an asset close enough to get you the tech you need? Do you have a local black market contact? It’s the little things that sometimes get you killed. Having the right contacts can often mean the difference between life and death.

Contacts immediately inject flavor into the game. They are the Narrator characters we interact with when investigating a crime or tracking down a wanted felon. A contact can help you find a place to lay low if all your normal safe houses have been compromised, or they can get you out of town when all hell breaks loose. Of course, they can also drop you flat if things get too hot, but everybody needs a little dramatic challenge now and then.

Maintaining Contacts

Contacts are more than just a feat; they are Narrator characters that have their own agendas, their own sets of problems and personalities which must be taken into consideration when the heroes need to use them. Heroes who have established a network of contacts such as fences, suppliers, informants etc. need to maintain a positive relationship with these individuals to keep using them. The heroes must be willing to expend time and resources to keep those relationships strong, or they may find themselves without help at a critical juncture.

While the Connected and Contacts feats listed in Chapter Three are fairly general, it can add a lot to the game to give those bonuses specific faces, names, and areas of expertise. In a modern setting, dealing with such capable and illicit organizations means that information is at a premium. You can capitalize on this aspect of the game by requiring that time the Contacts feat is taken, it refers to a specific location, group, or level of criminal activity, possibly personified by a specific individual. This will give the Narrator additional dramatic license, adding considerably to the realistic feel of the gritty modern setting. It is suggested that you have the players write out basic information on contacts so that they will have a solid idea of what contacts they are dealing with.

If you use this method, remember that not every contact is relevant to a particular series. For instance, contacts with fences and street level informants in Los Angeles will do the characters no good when trying to obtain information about a criminal organization in London or a terrorist cell operating out of Lebanon.

If a character loses her contacts through the course of the game, the Narrator must deside whether or not that Contact can be salvaged. At the Narrator’s discretion, the player may be able to build a new relationship with an individual who had the type of information her former associate provided, thus preserving that instance of the feat. If the focus of the game shifts and her existing contacts are no longer relevant, however, she will need to pick the Contacts feat up again, building a new network to call upon that provides the needed information. Narrators should use their best judgment in determining whether or not the player’s existing Contact and Connected feats are still relevant to the task at hand.

How Many Contacts?

The Contacts, Connected and Well-Informed feats grant heroes access to an informant network which can be quite useful in investigation- oriented adventures. With a potential wealth of information only a phone call away, however, the temptation is to abuse the feat can be powerful. Remember, contacts aren’t simply tools a character can use but living, breathing Narrator characters with whom heroes interact. Narrators might want to consider allowing only a small number of contacts at the beginning of an adventure series and players to role-play aquiring new contacts as the game progresses.

While the number of contacts a hero should have access to is entirely up to the Narrator, the number shouldn’t exceed the character’s reputation score, modified by her Charisma bonus.

Modern Heroes

Your characters have families. They grew up, went to high school (or may still be in high school) and went out into the world. How did they become heroes, though? What life choices did they make to get where they are now? This section takes a look at individual roles and how they manifest in context with your characters’ modern-day lives.


What does it mean to be a warrior in the modern world? We’re not talking about hulking, axe wielding barbarians in full plate mail, after all? That said, there is a connection between the modern day warrior and the fantasy warrior. They both share a primal lust for combat, a desire to prove themselves by defeating their foes on the battlefield, in the fighting ring, or simply in some dark alley. For warrior heroes, honor is earned on the battlefield, whether in blood, accomplishments, or attitude.


The warrior thrives on conflict—it’s in his blood. Many people strive to avoid physical conflict in their day to lives, but the warrior is constantly looking for some physical challenge to overcome. The traits of warrior might manifest in athletic activities such as weight lifting, football, gymnastics, basketball, etc. On the other hand, the traits of a warrior might be born out of a desire to emulate role models, such as professional athletes or war heroes.

The average warrior might have joined the military right out of high school. From there, the character could qualify for any number of special operations teams, such as the Green Berets, Navy SEAL training, EOD (explosive ordinance disposal), Army Rangers, Marine Force Recon or sniper training. They might skip the military and go straight into civilian law enforcement, providing their home with its policement, SWAT officers, or firemen. Of course, a warrior could just as easily be a grunt soldier, serving his country on the front lines of conflicts around the world, fighting and dying alongside his brothers-in-arms.

A military career isn’t the only way the warrior role manifests in the modern world. Other would-be warriors turn to violence and crime as a way gaining acceptance and establishing a some measure of control over their environment. These characters often resort to physical, often lethal force to make their place in the world. Criminal warriors often join gangs or get involved with organized crime, seeking a social support system more in line with their own ideas on what it means to be a man. Some join the military, but their reasons for becoming soldiers are less noble than the average man or woman who joins up. They learn to kill because the act of doing so gives them a rush or reinforces their need to control situations. These warriors are the most dangerous, often becoming mercenaries, hit men and hired muscle when their terms of service end.

For those who embrace the need for physical challenge without wanting to be on a first-name basis with death, athletics often proves the key. Warriors could be boxers, cage fighters, professional wrestlers or even stunt men. They might be martial arts masters or play professional sports, using the game as a proxy for combat. Whatever their background, you can count on the warrior having the strength and skill necessary to get the job done.

Warrior Skills

Playing a warrior requires more than muscle, especially in the gritty modern world. This type of hero needs to be intelligent, cunning, and able to adapt to his environment. In social situations, the warrior needs to be intimidating, yet have enough tact to avoide provoking everyone he meets. He doesn’t necessarily need to know how to hack into a computer, encrypt/decipher a message, identify a new disease, or analyze a chemical compound—after all, somebody has to know how to keep those guys alive when the chips are down.

Suggested Skills: Climb, Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate, Gather Information, Knowledge (physical sciences), Knowledge (earth sciences), Knowledge (tactics), Notice, Search, Sense Motive, Stealth, Survival, Swim

The Expert

A modern group needs to fill particular roles to be successful in the same way an adventuring party in a fantasy or science fiction game needs certain roles to be effective. The main difference between role selection for a modern game as opposed to a fantasy game is that the modern expert is likely to need to be able to handle a very broad range of highly technical tasks. A group of heroes in a modern series could be comprised entirely of experts and work out just fine. Indeed, it is suggested that each member of the team have at least one or two levels in the expert role so as to bring the widest possible range of skills to the table.

The expert is the most wide-ranging role in the modern setting. An expert might be someone who is trained in a number of highly technical fields of study, such as computer programming, telecommunications, cryptography, electronics, surveillance techniques and a multitude of other skills. Experts might be CIA analysts, field agents (but not necessarily operatives), or computer hackers. These types of experts achieve their goals through the use of technology, usually playing a backup role in a given adventure. They might handle surveillance, keeping the group informed of any developments in the operation. Known as “operators,” these men and women play a key role in the success of any covert operations.

Experts aren’t necessarily tech-savvy. They might be con-artists, actors, journalists, private investigators, survivalists, hostage negotiation experts, politicians, detectives, undercover narcotics agents, or even old-school spies. These characters achieve their goals through a combination of social interaction and use of technology, depending on the objective. They engage in intelligence and counter-intelligence missions, knowing how to remain inconspicuous in any situation and exploit their environment.

Fixers are another type of expert, specializing in getting a team whatever it needs. They have a thorough knowledge of the black market, often freelancing by fencing stolen goods. Contacts are the name of the game for these individuals. Fixers can get you fake passports, high-tech gear, a stolen car, automatic weapons, cemtex, building plans, dirt on a corrupt politician , or just about anything else you can think of.

For those games where the experts have to take care of themselves in the field, there are commandos. The commando is really a hybrid role, combining elements of both the warrior and expert to provide tactical support for a team using a wide range of military-based skills. The commando knows how to use nearly every type of modern firearm available, has ample experience with a wide range of explosives, and is easily able to create his own homebrew demolitions and improvised traps. Special forces members, hit men and high-threat response teams (SWAT and Delta Force) are examples of commandos.

On the criminal side of things, cat burglars are also another type of expert, relying on a combination of athletic ability, traditional thieving skills and a detailed knowledge of current technologies employed in various types of alarm systems including biometric security, infrared, thermo graphic and ultraviolet motion detection systems. Cat burglars (or professional thieves, if you prefer) know how to hack into security cameras and cut the feed without alerting security guards. They know the best ways to enter a building and can trick an alarm system into shutting down when needed. No vault is safe from these individuals. Professional thieves are a valuable asset in a wide variety of missions, especially those requiring physical penetration of an installation such as a chemical weapons facility, a government office or military compound.


The CIA opens the door for characters to begin a career in the highly dangerous field of espionage. Characters might be field operatives working to bring down the international black market, or they may work in counter-intelligence, laying traps for the spies of other nations. This line of work pits characters against the resources of other intelligence groups, resulting in a game of cat-and-mouse in which one wrong move could bring their careers to a short and tragic end.

For those with more local aspirations, a career in law enforcement might be in order. Characters can begin as beat cops, possibly one day transferring to detective, joining CSI, or switching to the DEA—perhaps even going federal and joining the FBI. A career in the FBI could also lead to a wide range of assignments, including tracking down the country’s most dangerous criminals, apprehending serial killers, and investigating kidnappings or government cover-ups.

A government career could also lead to recruitment by the CIA or NSA, where heroes would likely work to counter domestic terrorist activity by right-wing militia and extremist groups. Alternatively, your characters might choose to fight the war on drugs both at home and abroad, raiding cocaine farms in Columbia and taking out key locations in the Far East opium trade along the Silk Road.

In a gritty modern setting focusing on the characters’ involvement with organized crime, the expert role manifests in the aforementioned hit men, fences, professional thieves, con artists and much more. Criminal organizations employ people who have specific areas of expertise just as other organizations do. A standard “crew” of professional thieves needs to have people who can handle security, operate police scanners, drive, or any other technical proficiency required to get the job done. Weapons experts trained in the use of demolitions play a key role in any job dealing with breaking into vaults, unless of course there is a character capable of using high-tech anti-security devices.

Suggested Skills: Climb, Computer, Bluff, Diplomacy, Disable Device, Gather Information, Knowledge (behavioral sciences), Knowledge (streetwise), Knowledge (physical sciences) Knowledge (earth sciences), Knowledge (life sciences), Knowledge (technology), Knowledge (tactics), Notice, Perform, Search, Sense Motive, Stealth, Survival, Swim

The Adept

At first glance, today’sworld is devoid of the supernatural. Themodern world burned its witches long ago, banishing society’s belief in magic to fairy tales and tabletop games. This setting is all about the material world: real guns, real crime, real action, real consequences. One doesn’t see true psychics reading the deepest thoughts of others, or supreme arcanists tossing fireballs at their foes. Very little scientific evidence of the supernatural exists, making it easy to conclude that there is nothing supernatural in the modern age—or if there is, it is hidden very carefully hidden.

In a realistic modern setting, the supernatural doesn’t seem to belong at all. Narrators might consider eliminating powers and the adept role entirely. There are other options, however, which help the adept can find new significance in a modern setting.

Chapter Four describes powers as supernatural abilities. They do not, however, have to represent anything so spectacular. Some powers are well-suited to representing extraordinary abilities. For example, the Combat Sense power could simply be a well-trained soldier’s ability to assess a combat situation and react to it in a superior manner. The bonus earned from the power is a result of the soldier’s ability to turn assessment into action. The Enhance Ability power could be a martial artist focusing his willpower to increase his physical prowess. Not every power can be treated as extraordinary natural abilities, but a few can. Narrators should feel free to design new powers with this approach in mind.

The adept is not completely forsaken in the Modern world. Warriors and experts can certainly dabble in the role to pick up some of the extraordinary abilities adepts have access to. What about a hero who starts as an adept, however? Luckily, even that approach doesn’t have to make them seem out of place. For one, adepts can be played as “savants”, utilizing extraordinary natural abilities to do incredible things. Powers such as Body Control, Combat Sense, Elemental Resistance, Enhance Ability, Enhance Senses, Nature Reading, and Truth Reading are believable as impressive feats. An adept may simply be an amazingly talented person who naturally excels in certain areas.

There are also a number of societies (public and secret) who claim to understand certain arcane arts. What if they actually do possess practical knowledge of the supernatural? A modern adept might be a member of the Order of the Golden Dawn, the Aetherius Society, the Rosicrucian Order, or any other society of supernatural practitioners. Adepts among such ranks can reasonably possess several powers that they are forbidden from using in the open. Healing powers are especially common among secret societies, as well as psychic abilities and “transmutation” powers that resemble classic alchemy. The various Cure, Psychic, and Shape powers would be appropriate for such modern adepts.

A third option is to treat the adept as the standard fantasy mage, capable of reshaping reality with a flick of the wrist. The modern world is a cruel place to those with such talents, however, so adepts of this style have to keep their abilities well-hidden. The Synchronicity core ability detailed later in this chapter provides a way for adepts to wield their flashier powers without attracting attention.

Suggested Skills: Bluff, Concentration, Disguise, Gather Information, Knowledge, Language, Medicine, Notice, Sleightof Hand, and Stealth. These skills emphasize the adept’s need for discretion and worldly awareness, as well as common areas of focus (such as healing and meditation).


In the previous section we examined what heroes do in the modern game and the ways in which a character’s background facilitates their role in a given series. Some characters might even be antiheroes, choosing a life of crime in order to achieve their base goals. Whether criminal or agent of the law, however, a background that explains how the hero got from point A to point B will add depth and realism to a modern game.

Creating Backgrounds for Modern Adventures

What does it mean to be a warrior or an expert in the modern world? Unlike backgrounds in a fantasy setting, where the roles encapsulate a character’s chosen profession, a background for a modern game provides more specific information. This is largely because all of the heroes in the modern world are human. Lacking other metahuman or monstrous races, we must take our cues from the role selection (adept, expert, warrior), further expanding on those roles by choosing relevant backgrounds that provide focus. Indeed, backgrounds could be better described as jobs or professions, in that they directly relate to the specific functions heroes will perform within the context of a modern adventure.

When creating your own backgrounds, consider the three core roles (and the new ones provided in the next section of this chapter) and how they might be expanded. Are there any professions in the modern world which might make an interesting heroic background? Also, consider the type of series you are involved in and how a hero with this new background will interact with other heroes.

Here are some suggestions for specific aspects of backgrounds for you to consider when creating your own.

Ability Adjustments

Normally, race determines the relevant ability adjustments that come with background selection. In the modern genre, however, human is the only character race. Arguments can be made that certain professions require characters to be physically fit or highly intelligent. While this may or may not be true, the problem with this line of thinking is that we run the risk of stereotyping our heroes. With this in mind, it is suggested that no modern heroic background have any ability modifiers.

Bonus Feats

When determining bonus feats for your backgrounds, choose feats the heroes are likely to take anyway if they are germane to the profession.

For instance, a warrior may want an armor proficiency and firearm training, so feel free to grant those as bonus feats since they are basic building blocks for that role. This frees up future slots for feats that have prerequisites.

Bonus Skills

Modern backgrounds are almost always defined by one or two skills. Make sure those are used as bonus known skills for the background. There are a few instances when no skills are appropriate; in these cases, provide the background with a third bonus feat in lieu of bonus known skills. This also applies to backgrounds representing a highly advanced level of training, as they often warrant an additional feat instead of new known skills.

Favored Feats

With the exception of explicitly supernatural backgrounds, no modern background should have access to powers or adept feats. Nearly all modern backgrounds draw from both warrior and expert feat categories, with expert feats being the more common of the two.

The following categories provide some general guidelines and examples for creating new backgrounds. If you disagree with the choices made for a particular background, feel free to craft your own.

Arcane Backgrounds

The supernatural can manifest in many forms, from occult demonology to psionic powers to reality-bending magic. If your heroes are involved in the supernatural, then they may need a background to represent their familiarity with or access to these strange powers.

Arcane backgrounds can take almost anything for bonus feats, depending on the particular mileu. Knowledge (supernatural) is a universal bonus known skill; if the hero believes he draws power from a divine source, then Knowledge (theology & philosophy) might also be warranted. Arcane backgrounds are the only ones with access to adept feats or powers as their favored feats.

Miracle Worker

Often called faith healers, saints, or angels, these rare few possess inexplicable healing powers. They may be of divine origin or they may stem from a purity of heart; wherever they come from, the results are nothing short of miraculous. These gifted individuals can heal a variety of ailments and conditions with a mere touch. Some work discreetly, helping others in a humble fashion. Others use their abilities to achieve fame or spread the word of a divine power.

Bonus Feats: Lucky, Talented (Knowledge (supernatural) and Knowledge (theology & philosophy))

Bonus Skills: Knowledge (supernatural), Knowledge (theology & philosophy)

Favored Feat (choose one): Cure, Cure Blindness/Deafness, Cure Disease, or Cure Poison


Those who delve into dark, obscure lore such as demonology often discover hidden mysteries and secret powers. Though they have learned powerful secrets, they cannot practice openly,lest they risk exposure and repercussions. Instead they wield their dark arts in the shadows, using their powers to influence world events or serve the agenda of evil, otherworldly forces.

Bonus Feats: Eidetic Memory, Night Vision

Bonus Skills: Knowledge (supernatural) , Language (any ancient)

Favored Feats: Choose any one power.

Shadow Sorcerer

Shadow sorcerers are individuals who can tap into an ancient source of power, the stuff fairy tales are made of. Unable to operate openly, these magi hone their abilities with an eye toward discretion and concealment. They affect the world without making anyone aware of the supernatural forces at work. Some even gather together into secret societies and shape global events as a united cabal. Heroes may adventure with a shadow sorcerer and never discover his true nature.

Bonus Feats: Iron Will, Skill Focus (Knowledge (supernatural))

Bonus Skills: Knowledge (supernatural), Stealth

Favored Feats: Choose either Erase Signature and Subtle Signature, or one power of your choice.



World governments of all types are composed of people doing very specialized jobs. Many of these jobs are of a menial sort, however, some interesting background choices are available. Want an exciting job in espionage, investigations, or diplomatic intrigue? Look no further than your local government.

Government backgrounds typically center around social interaction, so they should receive some as bonus skills; bonus feats focused on boosting those skills are also appropriate. Some of the “agent” backgrounds also warrant Firearms Training. Favored feats are commonly drawn from the expert category, but warrior feats may also be applicable (especially Seize Initiative).

DEA Agent

Members of the Drug Enforcement Agency forward America’s “war on drugs” agenda. Their job is to stem the flow of narcotics into the US and arrest those involved in drug trafficking. This is a complicated job; their assignments take them from suburban neighborhoods to foreign countries and everywhere in between. DEA Agents have strong knowledge of the criminal underground, often working alongside small- time crooks to take down more important ones. Because they operate so close to (and sometimes with) illegal groups, they are well-trained in self-defense.

Bonus Feats: Firearms Training, Skill Training

Bonus Skills: Knowledge (streetwise), Search

Favored Feats (choose two): Sneak Attack, Stunning Attack, Weapon Bind


Governments around the world need people to handle international relations—or to smile politely while waiting to stab one another in the back. Such a person needs to have impeccable social skills to forward his nation’s agenda. Many diplomats are neutral representatives of their nation’s interests, but some may be ordered to forward those interests through more covert channels. Regardless of their official duties, diplomats enjoy the full benefits of immunity to legal ramification on foreign soil; a convenience to some, an essential tool to others.

Bonus Feats: Benefit (diplomatic immunity), Skill Focus (Diplomacy)

Bonus Skills: Bluff, Diplomacy

Favored Feats: Fascinate, Suggestion, Well-Informed

FBI Agent

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is the national investigation agency of the United States. It is concerned with crimes spreading across the nation, and thus deals with very prolific, dangerous criminals. The FBI deals with several threats to America, such as terrorism, espionage, cyber-crime, corruption, and white-collar crime. Agents are trained to be proficient in a variety of areas, since they have to deal with situations as varied as the criminal mind.

Bonus Feats: Eidetic Memory, Firearms Training, Skill Training

Favored Feats (choose two): Elusive Target, Skill Mastery, Stunning Attack

Secret Agent

World governments employ spies for a variety of missions. Intelligence- gathering, assassinations, embarrassing enemy nations, sabotage… there are as many missions for a secret agent as there are ways to die horribly in the clutches of a ruthless foreign power. Secret agents lead dangerous lives and are typically disavowed by their nations if discovered. Masters of stealth, they are assigned a variety of missions from simple intelligence gathering to complicated sabotage and assassination assignments.

Bonus Feats: Benefit (alternate identity), Benefit (security clearance), Contacts

Favored Feats (choose two): Hide in Plain Sight, Master Plan, Seize




There are quite a few independent types of snoops, from private eyes, to journalists, to bounty hunters and more. While all these folks have diverse purposes, they each share an inquisitive, questing method which they use to achieve their goals. Whether documenting a husband’s infidelity for a wealthy client, grabbing the biggest scoop of the century, or tracking a bail runner across state lines, the investigative field is full of adventurous opportunities.

Investigative types vary, but all fundamentally deal with people on some level. Diplomacy and Gather Information are common bonus skills, and most bonus feats will boost these skills. Favored feats such as Fascinate and others of the expert category are popular.

Bounty Hunter

So long as governments can put a price on a criminal’s head, there will always be someone willing to hunt him down and collect the reward. Bounty hunters are legally entitled to work in the United States as bail bondsman, tracking down folks who skip their court dates. Other bounty hunters track down anyone who’s worth something to someone, whether sanctioned by law or not. They need to be able to apprehend their target and keep them secured until delivery is arranged.

Bonus Feats: Improved Grab, Track

Bonus Skills: Notice, Survival

Favored Feats (choose two): Chokehold, Grappling Finesse, Weapon Bind


The private investigator is a detective for hire. Fond of trenchcoats, fedorahs, and large amounts of bourbon, gumshoes are finders and getters. They work for themselves or an independent agency, relying on their contacts and their deductive skills to solve whatever quandary is put in their path. Unlike police detectives, who are hindered by official procedures, gumshoes go about their investigations however they see fit, bending or breaking the law to suit their needs.

Bonus Feats: Contacts, Skill Focus (Knowledge (streetwise))

Bonus Skills: Gather Information, Knowledge (streetwise)

Favored Feats (choose two): Elusive Target, Redirect, Well-Informed

Law Enforcement


Laws keep society stable, but only if they are enforced. The men and women who take it upon themselves to enforce those laws have dedicated themselves to upholding the legal infrastructures of their communities, regions, and nations. They each do whatever they can to help make their world a better place. Of course, there is a certain prestige that comes from carrying a badge that one cannot help but enjoy on occasion; it can often allow a hero access to areas and information from which he would otherwise be barred.

Law Enforcement backgrounds often receive Firearms Training as a bonus feat, but not always. Gather Information, Knowledge (civics), and Notice are common bonus known skills. Weapon Bind is a ubiquitous favored feat, as are Stunning Attack and Seize Initiative.

Beat Cop

These are the grunts of the law world, the uniform-wearing police officer who patrols the streets. They deal with crime right at the street level, responding first to emergency calls and putting themselves directly in the line of fire. They take this risk willingly as part of their job to uphold the law and protect the innocent. They are also called upon to be role models in the community, and may spend as much time delivering speeches to the young as they do patrolling their beats.

Bonus Feats: Endurance, Firearms Training

Bonus Skills: Drive, Knowledge (civics)

Favored Feats (choose two): Defensive Roll, Stunning Attack, Weapon Bind

Bomb Squad Officer

These specialized officers are explosives experts. Their job is to disable any explosive devices found at a crime scene or investigate suspicious packages in public places. They require steady hands and strong knowledge of explosive technology. Bomb scenarios are equal parts waiting game and white-knuckle adventure, with life and death riding on a single split-second decision. Those who take up this job do so at great risk, but with the knowledge that their skills (and sometimes sacrifice) helps protect countless people.

Bonus Feats: Armor Training, Talented (Craft (demolitions), Disable Device)

Bonus Skills: Craft (demolitions), Disable Device

Favored Feats (choose two): Diehard, Master Plan, Skill Mastery


The investigative branch of law enforcement, these men and women pick up the clues left after the crime to ascertain who, what, where, when, why, and how. Detectives don’t wear a uniform but still carry a badge, granting them access to many places with a simple flash. Still, they must know the legal limits to their investigative access in order to ensure the evidence they collect is admissible in court. Their job is essential to solving crimes where the culprit is not readily apparent, making sure no one is able to break the law without facing justice.

Bonus Feats: Contacts, Skill Focus (Gather Information)

Bonus Skills: Gather Information, Notice

Favored Feats (choose two): Skill Mastery, Stunning Attack, Well- Informed

S.W.A.T. Officer

Special Weapons And Tactics personnel are the elite of law enforcement. They perform highly dangerous jobs serving high-risk warrants, rescuing hostages, preventing terrorist attacks, and engaging heavily-armed criminals. SWAT training focuses on close-quarters battle (CQB) tactics and equipment, specifically for urban environments. They generally receive the best equipment available to law enforcement, including full body armor, riot shields, automatic rifles, shotguns, tear gas, and more.

Bonus Feats: Armor Training, Attack Focus (firearms), Firearms Training

Favored Feats (choose two): Attack Specialization (firearms), Greater

Attack Focus (firearms), Seize Initiative

Military Backgrounds

Heroes from military backgrounds are combat-focused characters who hold (or have held) an allegiance to a nation or cause. In exchange for years of service, they receive weapons training and access to military- level equipment. Military heroes are the ones you want on your side in a firefight. They are not typically suited for civilian work, and don’t often possess strong social skills.

Military backgrounds should always get Firearms Training as a bonus feat and should be considered for Armor Training as well. Knowledge (tactics), Notice, Stealth, and Survival are common military skills. Favored feats can be drawn from both the warrior and expert feat groups; important ones are Favored Opponents, the Attack Focus / Attack Specialization trees, and Sneak Attack.

Ground Pounder

Trained combatants are the heart of nearly every military force in the modern world. This background represents grunts from organized national armies or similar forces. Common training includes the proper use of firearms and armor, as well as specialized ordinance like grenades. Unit organization and teamwork are key skills crucial to the success of a ground pounder. Working together, units of ground pounders have the equipment and skills necessary to overcome any foe.

Bonus Feats: Armor Training, Firearms Training

Bonus Skills: Knowledge (tactics), Survival

Favored Feats: Attack Specialization (firearms), Favored Opponent, Tough

Guerrilla Fighter

Masters of uncommon tactics, guerrillas fight fervently for a cause, using whatever methods they can to achieve victory. They became increasingly more common during the last half of the 20th century, and are the predominant type of soldier in modern conflicts. Guerrillas are not often above methods deemed uncivilized, such as suicide bombing, biological or chemical warfare, or using weapons of mass destruction. Many others do uphold a certain code of honor, however, fighting under self-imposed constraints to harm their enemy without hurting innocents. Whether called “terrorist” or “freedom fighter,” these loosely- organized soldiers uphold their cause above all else.

Bonus Feats: Devotion, Firearms Training

Bonus Skills: Craft (traps), Stealth

Favored Feats (choose two): Favored Opponent, Hide in Plain Sight, Sneak Attack


These hired guns are increasingly common in the modern age; as in the corporate world, employing independent contractors can often be cheaper than maintaining a standing military. Mercenaries work for the highest bidder and fetter themselves with ideals in only the rarest of examples. They gain combat experience all over the world, traveling wherever the fighting (and, therefore, the work) may be.

Bonus Feats: Armor Training, Firearms Training, Quick Draw

Favored Feats (choose two): Favored Opponent, Sneak Attack, Tough


Special operatives fill unconventional combat roles. They are masters of situational awareness, often scouting locations before larger military assaults or providing valuable intelligence from behind enemy lines. They may also be the ones called upon to eliminate high profile targets. They are peacekeepers, scouts, assassins, or whatever other role is called for by their mission objectives.

Bonus Feats: Armor Training, Assessment, Firearms Training

Favored Feats (choose two): Attack Specialization (firearms), Favored Opponent, Sneak Attack



The city streets are home to numerous slums, ghettos, and underworlds. The best and the worst of humanity live in these areas. Poverty and violence are common. Gangs and organized crime battle against the police and each other for dominance. The urban-punk scene is a world unto itself, fraught with danger.

Bonus feats for urban-punk backgrounds ocus on improving combat abilities (such as Accurate Attack) or developing proficiency in key skills (such as Skill Focus). Bluff, Disguise, and Knowledge (streetwise) are popular bonus known skills. Warrior-category favored feats are the most common.

Cat Burglar

Cat burglars are modern swindlers with the agility and know-how to defeat most locks, alarms, and other forms of security. They are able to consistently outwit law enforcement, and their keen reflexes help them get out of tight binds. No house, bank, or vault is safe from these able thieves.

Bonus Feats: Improved Speed, Uncanny Dodge

Bonus Skills: Acrobatics, Climb

Favored Feats (choose two): Acrobactic Bluff, Evasion, Master Plan


Grifters practice the time-honored art of the con, making a living by depriving fools of their money. They spin lies like a turntable and have hands so fast they make professional magicians jealous. They always run the risk of conning someone smart enough to see through their game, but that doesn’t deter many.

Bonus Feats: Skill Focus (Bluff), Skill Focus (Sleight of Hand)

Bonus Skills: Bluff, Sleight of Hand

Favored Feats (choose two): Fascinate, Jack-Of-All-Trades, Suggestion


Need some cutting-edge gear for an upcoming mission? How about dirt on a politician or the location of a safe house? A fixer can get what you need, when you need it. With an array of contacts and informants rivaling the intelligence-gathering capabilities of the CIA, fixers have their fingers on the pulse of the city. They can get anything—for a price.

Bonus Feats: Skill Focus (Gather Information), Master Plan

Bonus Skills: Diplomacy, Knowledge (streetwise)

Favored Feats (choose two): Well-Informed, Sieze Initiative, Suggestion


Computers are the key that makes the modern information age possible. Hackers are the savants of that digital environment, able to seamlessly create, modify, and destroy software. They often do little else besides operate a computer, leading them to have trouble in social situations. They almost always lack martial ability. Their ability to do nearly anything in the digital environment, however, more than makes up for their deficiencies.

Bonus Feats: Skill Focus (Computers), Tireless

Bonus Skills: Computers, Knowledge (technology)

Favored Feats (choose two): Improvised Tools, Master Plan, Skill Mastery

Hit Man

Anything can be bought for a price, including death. Like bounty hunters, hit men (who can be male or female) hunt down others for the price on their heads. Unlike bounty hunters, however, their targets have an alarming tendency to end up dead. Hired by criminal organizations, government officials, jealous spouses, or anyone else with enough money, these people conduct themselves as professionals; others often mistake them for businessmen or white-collar workers.

Bonus Feats: Accurate Attack, Firearms Training, Weapons Training.

Favored Feats: Chokehold, Crippling Strike, Sneak Attack


These tough guys are the muscle and enforcers of mobs, gangs, or other organizations. Relying on intimidating presence and strength, these men and women get things done in the underworld. Most make a good living working for crime bosses and drug dealers. They collect extortion money, put the squeeze on rivals, even carry out hits or “disappear” inconvenient obstacles. Not all mooks are bad people, but their line of work is certainly of questionable legality.

Bonus Feats: All-Out Attack, Improved Initiative, Improved Strike

Favored Feats (choose two): Crippling Strike, Chokehold, Rage

The Vanished

Some people choose to live “off the grid,” leaving no paper or electronic evidence of their existence. They have no bank accounts, no medical records, no permanent address, take all payments in cash… everything they can to avoid detection through modern means. They learn to be quite skilled at avoiding surveillance cameras and disappearing from plain sight. Whether motivated by paranoia or simply sick of an information-deluded culture, the vanished may be many or few; without any records of their existence, one may never know.

Bonus Feats: Jack-of-All-Trades, Low Profile

Bonus Skills: Disguise, Stealth

Favored Feats (choose two): Elusive Target, Evasion, Sneak Attack


The roles we choose in the modern game all have their basis in the world around us. The ways in which roles manifest in the game are numerous. A modern game allows for many variations on existing roles. This section takes a look at the core roles in True20 Adventure Roleplaying, discussing each role and how it manifests in the game. Background suggestions are included in this section, along with new roles and new core abilities for you to choose from.


When one thinks about the warrior in the modern game, the military soldier is likely the first thing which comes to mind. Soldiers are a key component of every military fighting force on the planet, so it’s only natural that the warrior role be selected for adventures involving the military. A soldier isn’t simply a ground-pounding grunt, however. Consider choosing military-based backgrounds such as SpecOps or even the guerrilla fighter. Other options for the warrior role include bounty hunters, gang bangers, bodyguards, mercenaries, beat cops, members of SWAT teams, security force team members, hit men or even mooks.


The expert role has the widest range of applications in the modern game. Experts are essentially anyone proficient in a certain field of study, whether that be diplomacy, crime scene investigation, profiling, running scams, computer hacking, electronics, telecommunications or any number of other specializations.

Experts might focus on an agent background, choosing to become a data analyst for the CIA or an espionage agent. They might be police detecives or private detectives. Experts might choose work in the FBI or the DEA, or perhaps work the other side of the street and become profesional thieves or computer hackers.


Of all the roles, the adept is perhaps the most difficult to fit into a modern setting. As mentioned before, magic generally doesn’t exist in the modern world. Too many people don’t believe in it. Most gritty modern games deal with police dramas, military adventures, or espionage. When magic is brought into the modern world, the game takes on a supernatural aspect which might be better left in the realm of horror or science fiction.

That said, we have provided three new roles that contain adept powers: the commando, the operator and the brawler. While these hybrid roles aren’t necessarily adepts, they do allow for one adept power each, adding additional flavor to the role.

New Roles

The following roles provide you with additional options when creating heroes for your True20 modern game.


Combat Progression: Slow (2 points)

Skill Progression: 7 + Int (1.75 points)

Save Progression: Medium Fort, Ref, and Will saves (0.25 points) Feat Progression: General, expert, and warrior feats (0.5 points) Feat Progression: Bonus feat every other level (0.5 points)

The agent is the quintessential government operative. Whether she is working in the FBI, NSA, DEA or the CIA, she is a highly trained hero tasked with the protection of the citizens of the United States. She advances a bit slower in combat than a normal warrior would, but she benefits from advanced training, decent saves across the board, access to three feat categories and even an extra feat every other level. Her high level of training ensures that she will prove to be an asset to the group in any situation.


Combat Progression: Very slow (1 point)

Skill Progression: 10 + Int (2.5 points)

Save Progression: Good Will, Normal Fort and Ref saves (0 points)

Power Progression: Fast, Singular power (Information Sense) (0.5 points)

Feat Progression: 2 feats per level. Has access to general and expert feats. (1 point)

Need someone who can crack a heavily encrypted database in her sleep? Need to dig up dirt on a local mafia don? How about someone who can trick out an alarm system, hijack the video monitors and guide you past physical security, all at the same time? If the answer was yes to any of the above questions, then the operator is the chica for you. She may not be able to catch a bullet with her teeth or take down a navy seal with a toothpick, but her brainiac-like intelligence ensures you’ll have someone on your team who can perform all the technical aspects of the job. The operator’s information sense ability makes her the guru of computer gurus; additional feats allow her to branch out into other areas of expertise.


Combat Progression: Fast, Melee (2 points) Combat Progression: Slow, Ranged (1 point) Skill Progression: 4 + Int (1 point)

Save Progression: Good Reflex, Normal Fort and Will saves (0 points)

Power Progression: Fast, singular power (Enhance Ability) (0.5 points)

Feat Progression: General and warrior feats (0 points)

Feat Progression: Bonus feat every other level (0.5 points)

The brawler is an old-fashioned ass-kicker, plain and simple. He doesn’t need any weapons but the two he was born with. He gains a bonus feat every other level, which helps him hone his fighting skills, rounding out average Intelligence and saves. If you want a warrior who can handle himself in a brawl or take out a guard quietly, this is the man for you.


Combat Progression: Medium Ranged (1.5 points)

Combat Progression: Slow Melee (1 point)

Skill Progression: 6 + Int (1.5 points)

Save Progression: Medium Fort and Ref, Normal Will saves (0 points)

Power Progression: Medium, Singular power (Combat Sense) (0.25 points)

Feat Progression: General, warrior, and expert feats (0.5 points)

Feat Progression: Gains a bonus feat every four levels (0.25 points)

The commando has trained for war his entire life. He learned to hunt by the age of eight, became an Eagle Scout in high school and has probably seen Full Metal Jacket a thousand times (not to mention every movie Sylvester Stallone ever made). After high school, he realized his dream and joined the army, where he learned to use any and every weapon he could get his hands on. His medium ranged combat progression and combat sense ability reflects that dedication. Additionally, the commando has access to three feat categories and gains an additional feat every four levels.

New Core Abilities

The following core abilities are provided for you to use when creating new roles for your modern game.

Call Your Bluff

You can spend a Conviction point to treat the roll for any Bluff, Sense Motive and Sleight of Hand check as a 20, although this roll is not considered a “natural” 20. Instead of rolling the die, just add 20 to your skill check modifier.

Check the Sight Lines

You can make a Difficulty 20 check using the highest-ranked skill from the following list: Notice, Sense Motive and Search. If you succeed, treat the result as if you succeeded on a Gather Information check, gaining specific knowledge about your surroundings.

Fearsome Presence

You can spend a point of Conviction to inspire fear in his nearest foe as a standard action. The foe must make a successful Will save (Difficulty = 10 + your level + your Intimidate ranks) or be shaken. This condition lasts for one round, plus an additional round for every 5 points by which the save failed.

Style Adaptation

If you spend one round studying your opponent and make a successful Notice (Difficulty 20) check, you gain a bonus to defense equal to your Wisdom score. This bonus lasts for the entire combat and only affects melee combat with the Narrator character in question. This bonus stacks with Canny Defense.


You can spend a point of Conviction to make an overt Power manifestation appear to be a natural occurrence. For example, you can strike a foe with an energy Elemental Blast and spend Conviction to make it appear to be bolt of lightning from the clouds overhead. In any instance where even synchronicity cannot conceivably make a Power appear natural, witnesses must make a Will save (Difficulty = 10 + the adept’s power rank). On a failed save, the witness’ minds develop their own rationalization for the Power’s occurrence. Success indicates witnesses see the power for what it truly is. Synchronicity does not mask supernatural signatures.


You are trained to coordinate your actions with your team. When working with a group designated as your “team,” you gain a +2 bonus to aid checks. This bonus increases by +1 every four levels. By spending a point of Conviction, you can transfer this bonus to a teammate for one round. You do not benefit from this ability while one of your teammates does.

Trivia Master

You have absorbed so much knowledge that you’ve got a bit of useful information for just about any situation. By making a check (d20 + the Operator’s level) as a full-round action, you may ask the Narrator for any potentially useful information pertinent to the current situation. On a result of 9 or lower, no information is gleaned. On a roll of 10–19, the Narrator imparts only common knowledge about the situation. On a roll of 20–29, the Narrator reveals something uncommon, information known to only a few people. On a roll of 30 or above, the Narrator communicates a very rare fact or a piece of obscure knowledge.


Skills are an important part of the modern game. With few exceptions, an upgrade in computer security. You may add a +5 to the difficulty every skill in the True20 gaming system has relevance in the modern to quickly write a new piece of code on the fly. Success on the write world. What follows is an examination of skills which are especially program check indicates the time to create the program is reduced to relevant to the genre, providing ideas for ways in which you can use them one half hour rather than an hour. Adding +10 to the check further in the game as well as new challenges where appropriate. At the end of reduces the time to write the program to 15 minutes.

the section you will find new skills, such as Profession (cryptography), a must have for any espionage-oriented character. Trace IP Address: Sometimes a hacker will attempt to defeat your computer’s security. You may add a +5 difficulty to your Computers Bluff check when attempting to trace an IP back to its source. Success on Being able to pull off a good con job, or simply needing to lie at an the defend security check grants a +2 bonus to Gather Information appropriate time, can be a necessity in modern adventures. Heroes checks for purposes of finding information about the person or who deal in espionage often need to use subterfuge in order to get the persons who attempted to hack your system.

job done.

Bounce IP: You may add a +5 difficulty to your defend security check to negate an IP trace on your system.

Challenges: You can take the following challenges with Bluff. Logic Bomb: You may add a +10 difficulty to your defeat computer

Distracting Lie: In exchange for a –5 penalty on your check, your bluff security check and drop a logic bomb into the target system. Success sends the target off on a wild goose chase. The target will move 10 on this check provides access to the sysadmin control panel, allowing feet away from you for every 5 points by which you succeed on the you to perform all the functions the system administrator would Bluff check. normally be able to do. You gain + 5 to find file checks and can shut down the system, change passwords and write a back door into the Computers system.

Knowing how to use a computer is almost mandatory in the modern Craft game. The Computers skill allows your heroes to store valuable information such as contact lists, job information and addresses. The Craft skill has less utility in the modern game than, say, a fantasy Accessing the Internet requires a computer and can cut down research setting, but you can still find some interesting uses for it. Military times considerably. heroes have training in the use of explosives and can improvise detonators and craft explosives from seemingly innocuous chemicals.

Challenges: You can take the following challenges with Computers. Professional hit men, mercenaries, insurgents and espionage heroes also use Craft to obtain similar results. Beyond explosives, however, there

Program on the Fly: Sometimes you might need to quickly modify are other applications of the skill you might consider. For instance, a a program to address unforseen developments in a hack, such as hero could use the Craft skill and modify a cell phone and laptop to monitor conversations. Heroes might use Craft to improvise weapons or tools. Being able to repair items in the field is also a useful aspect of the Craft skill.

Cryptography (Int)

Cryptography deals with writing and decrypting messages written in code. Heroes with this skill are able to decipher and write coded messages which incorporate various types of encryption, such as one-time-pads, running key ciphers, null ciphers, polyalphabetic ciphers and polygraphic substitution ciphers. The difficulty and length of time it takes to accurately decipher/write a given piece of code depends on the complexity (length) of the message. See the table below for more information.

Difficulty Message Length Time
10 1 sentence 1 minute
15 Up to one paragraph 10 minutes
20 2 paragraphs or more 30 minutes

Disable Device

The Disable Device skill can be used in a number of ways. You can use it to disable security cameras, cut phone lines and deactivate explosive devices such as bombs or land mines. You can also use Disable Device to manually override security cameras (reroute them to a monitor controlled by another team member) and other electronic alarm systems.

You can also use Disable Device to perform sabotage on various devices. For instance, you might use this skill to rig pressure relief valves on a piece of machinery to fail, causing the device to blow up after a certain amount of time.


Being able to alter one’s appearance can be an invaluable skill in the modern game, especially if heroes are taking part in an espionage series. It’s a big part of trade craft—a set of skills that field agents learn during their training in order to be more effective spies. Looking like you fit into a certain demographic is important when operating undercover in another country.

It’s not always about looking like a specific individual; sometimes it’s more important to simply not stand out in the crowd, to look like you belong. Certainly, needing to look like a certain person can be an issue as well, especially if you have to obtain information that only one person can access. In either case, having ranks in Disguise can be very useful indeed.

Gather Information

Characters often need to make use of contacts to gain leads on important cases or obtain exotic equipment. It’s recommended that all heroes get at least a few ranks in Gather Information in order to make this easier.


With the vast wealth of information available to characters, having a number of Knowledge skills can be quite useful. One subset of Knowledge—Knowledge (supernatural)—isn’t appropriate for the modern game, as the supernatural world takes a back seat to espionage or military games. That said, if you are running a series dealing with these elements, then ranks in that skill will be very helpful.


The True20 rules contain a great selection of feats. It’s difficult to expand upon this list for a modern campaign without becoming redundant, so we have not included any new feats in this chapter. The existing selection is comprehensive enough that you will find many options when choosing feats for your modern heroes.

Which feats are particularly relevant to the modern game? Simple answer: nearly all of them. But before we get into that, let’s look at the shorter list: the feats that aren’t especially useful in the modern day setting.

Shield Training won’t be very useful unless your characters are acting as riot police or taking part in an SCA event or renaissance festival. Adept feats are also not relevant unless you happen to include powers in your game. Ranged Pin is only really useful if your characters are using modern versions of bows, such as a compound bow or crossbow. Bolas or thrown knives also work nicely with the Ranged Pin feat.

Track, Trackless, and Trailblazer may or may not be useful, depending on the campaign. Ground pounders, guerrillas, and SpecOps characters who spend a great deal of time in the wilderness can really benefit from these feats. If you’re running a city-oriented series which involves espionage or organized crime, players should be discouraged from choosing these feats. If you do want Track but aren’t going to be playing in a wilderness environment, you might consider including a version of the Urban Tracking feat found on pages 189 and 218.

The Deflect Arrows and Snatch Arrows feats apply to all thrown weapons. While this is especially handy in a fantasy game, in the modern setting these feats are so limited in scope that you would be better off grabbing the Dodge Focus and Lightning Reflexes feats instead. Spirited Charge is also less useful since ranged weapons tend to take precedence over swords and daggers, as is Rage.

The various melee combat feats only gain relevance in situations where your characters are using hand held weapons like daggers, or machetes, so be sure this is the type of character you are wanting to play before you start picking feats like Cleave, Great Cleave, Weapon Break and Weapon Bind. Remember, your opponents aren’t likely to toss away their guns and pull melee weapons just because you are using one. The phrase “Don’t bring a knife to a gun fight” is especially relevant here. For these types of characters, you might want to choose the brawler optional role. See the Roles section of this chapter for more information.

Okay, so what feats are especially important for the modern game? Firearms training has to be at the top of the list for any warrior wanting to hold her own in a fight, as well as Armor Training. The latter depends largely on the series; Light Armor Training allows for the use of bulletproof vests, which are more easily concealed than, say, riot armor. This is an important consideration if you aren’t playing a military-oriented series. It is highly recommended that characters start play with these two feats; you can always grab Exotic Weapon Training and upgrade Armor Training at higher levels.

Continuing our examination of combat related feats, Point Blank Shot and Far Shot are useful for any marksmen, especially if you are looking to put your skills to use as a sniper or hitman. Attack Focus, Favored Opponent and Critical Strike are also very handy. Using Favored Opponent in the modern game requires your hero to pick professions rather than race or species, so you’ll need to consider what types of antagonists you want your hero to focus on. Examples might include actors, hit men, police officers, politicians, soldiers, or yakuza. Saying “humans” is too broad a category.

The expert role manifests in a wide variety of character concepts. With this in mind, feat selection for this role tends to vary depending on what hero you are creating. A computer hacker will benefit greatly from Eidetic Memory, Talented, Skill Focus, Skill Training and Skill Mastery.

Heroes involved in espionage games do well to take the Benefit feat as well as the aforementioned skill-related feats. Connected, Contacts, and Well-Informed are essential to espionage characters as well as fixers, police officers and detectives. Indeed, it can be argued that any character in the modern game should have these feats. Low Profile is also a good choice for espionage-oriented characters.


At first glance, adepts and magic are more subdued in a world of high- tech gadgets, worldwide telecommunications, the internet, military weapons and equipment. It has been said previously in this chapter that magic isn’t a hallmark of the traditional modern series—for instance, you probably won’t see the adept playing a major role in a classic military-oriented series of adventures.

Does this mean you can’t have adepts in a modern game? Of course not.

Before you disregard the adept role entirely, consider that heroes don’t necessarily have to be gun-toting, gadget-wielding superspies or battle-hardened soldiers. Powers don’t necessarily have to be “supernatural,” either. They might be presented as latent mutations or psychic abilities that manifest in heroes right around the time they start their adventuring careers. The movie Firestarter is a good example of a character born with latent psychic abilities, alnog with nearly any modern superhero series.

Narrators might consider having powers manifest in heroes who have volunteered for government experiments, such as MKULTRA, an alleged mind control program which took place during the Vietnam conflict. What about genetic modifications, innate abilities, or “gifts” from some higher power? You might consider going the traditional route and allowing modern-day witches and warlocks. While the latter suggestion tends to bleed into the realm of horror, there is certainly nothing inherently wrong with a modern game having supernatural elements. Consider watching movies such as The Warlock, Constantine, The Prophecy and Hellboy for inspiration on how you might run a series of adventures with these types of adepts.

Another option is for martial artists who have trained all their lives, learning to control their bodies and harness inner “chi” to perform fantastic feats of physical prowess. Many movies and television shows present these types of characters in very cool and interesting ways. Movies such as Bulletproof Monk, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Rumble in the Bronx, Lethal Weapon 4 and even The Matrix provide great examples of how you might use the adept role to create a martial arts hero.

So what powers are especially well suited for a modern game? For a low- powered adventure series, Narrators might consider allowing powers with no overtly spectacular effects (explosions, etc.). These powers include Bliss, Body Control, Computer Link, a limited form of Cure, Elemental Resistance, Enhance Senses, Harm, Heart Reading, Mind Probe, Mind Reading, Mind Shaping, Object Reading, Psychic Blast, Psychic Shield, Sense Minds, Suggestion and Vision. High-powered games pretty much take the gloves off, shedding commonly accepted paradigms in favor of a setting where anything and everything is possible. In such a series, there really is no restriction to what an adept might achieve.

New Powers


Information Sense

The following power has been provided for the operator role enhancing the heroes’ ability to find information on the Internet. The idea behind this power is there are computer users out there who have a kind of innate understanding of how computers work. They just “get it,” whereas other people need to struggle to hone their computer skills.

You can improve your ability to sense the connections between bits of information or data. An Information Sense check grants you a bonus to your Computers and Knowledge checks (see the accompanying table). Each round you choose which skill to apply it to. You can select a bonus lower than the result you get on the table to reduce fatigue Difficulty, which is 10 + the bonus gained.

Result Bonus
Up to 4 +1
5–14 +2
15–24 +3
25–34 +4
35+ +5

Time: Activating Information Sense is a move action. The bonus lasts for 10 rounds (one minute) per use.


This section introduces new items for use in the modern game. More importantly, it provides the tools you need to create your own customized equipment.

Customizing Gear

The modern game provides many opportunities for adventure. Whether it’s a high-tech game of espionage or a fast-paced game of hard core military conflict, one thing is certain: you need equipment to get the job done. The style of game often dictates the type of gear heroes will need. Military adventures focus on survival gear, high-tech weapons, communications equipment, etc. Espionage adventures use a wide range of neat spy gadgets and equipment.

Now, we could inundate you with a plethora of tables and list after list of specific items, but it’s easier to provide a simple set of guidelines for creating nearly any type of spy-gadget or piece of equipment you can think up.

This system breaks gear down into three basic categories: the core component, add-ons, and the casing. Let’s take a look at each of these categories in turn.

The Core Component

Core components determine the primary function of a piece of equipment. For instance, the core component of a cell phone is a communications system, while an RF (Radio Frequency) scrambler’s primary function would be an ECM (Electronic CounterMeasures) component. Every piece of equipment has a primary function. Any bonuses to relevant skill checks are discussed in the component’s description along with information about damage (if the device has a weapon feature). This component also determines the base cost of a given piece of equipment.


Add-ons are peripheral devices which can be used to further augment a core component. These aren’t mandatory and increase the cost of the piece of gear. An example of a typical add-on would be a satellite uplink. Satellite uplinks allow any core component capable of digitally sending or receiving information the ability to do so via a satellite. Each add-on has its own description that provides details on relevant bonuses to skill checks, as well as any pertinent information about damage (if the add-on has a weapon feature).


This category determines what the end product is going to look like. Generally speaking, the equipment’s casing is determined by the parameters of the mission. In the following mission example, the hero will need an appropriate casing for 4 pieces of gear; a fingerprint scanner, a fingerprint generator, a combination diskdrive/databomb drive and a micro-transceiver.

Example: You are attending a black tie affair at a politician’s mansion in order tobreakintohisprivateofficeanddownloadpersonalfinancialrecords off his computer. You’ll be going in through the front door, which means you won’t beable to carry a backpack with all your gear. You’ll need to have your gear look like something else in order to maintain your cover.

In order to get past the level 1 biometric security, you need use your fingerprint scanner (neatly disguised as a pair of prescription glasses) to obtain a digital scan of the governor’s left index fingerprint so that you can have a latex copy made in the handy-dandy fingerprint generator, which, you’ve decided, looks like an ordinary beeper. Once inside the governor’s office, you need to hack into his computer to retrieve the financial records, not an easy feat considering you don’t have the time to sit down and start throwing code at it yourself. Luckily, your operator wrote some autoexecutable programs and encrypted them onto a mini USB drive that looks like a cigarette lighter. All you need to do is plug the lighter into the computer and it will automatically attempt to defeat the computer security, allowing you to download the information into the free memory on the concealed disk drive.

All the while, you’ll need to maintain comms with your team, a task easily accomplished thanks to the fake rose in your lapel that doubles as a two-way microtransceiver with a 2 mile range.

Each of the casings for the devices in the previous example adds a modifier to the cost of said device. A device’s casing provides a base difficulty for any Notice checks performed by the Narrator, modified (if relevant) by the character’s Sleight of Hand check. Casings also determine the final size of the device. No device can have more than one casing.

Gear Creation Process

Creating a piece of gear is simple. Just follow these steps:

  1. Choose your core component.
  2. Choose any relevant add-ons.
  3. Choose a casing.
  4. Add base cost and all cost modifiers.
  5. Make aWealth check to purchase the device.

Core Components

The following section lists components that are used as a base to create specific types of gear. Many of these devices can be used as-is, or you can modify them with add-ons and casings. Components that cannot be modified with add-ons or casings will show it in their descriptions.

Anti-Security Components

Anti-security components are devices used to bypass various locking mechanisms and other elements found in most commercial and privately owned security systems. This category also includes clothing worn in operations involving heists or infiltration missions.

Climbing Suit

A climbing suit consists of a pair of shoes, gloves and a black spandex body suit with a hood. The gloves and shoes are lined with a special adhesive which bonds with concrete, steel and other materials used in the construction of buildings. The suit will hold up to 300 lbs. without losing any of its adhesive properties, providing a +5 bonus to Climb checks.

Size: Medium

Available Add-ons: None

Casing: No

Base Cost: 11

Contact Lens Generator

The contact lens generator creates a set of lenses which can be used to fool a retinal scan. When the hero uses contact lenses created by the generator, the Narrator makes a Notice check for the biometric security system at a base difficulty of 10 + the score of the optical scanner’s Gather Information check to create the scan used by the contact lens generator. If the security system succeeds on the Notice check, the system refuses to accept the retinal information. If the Notice Check fails, the system accepts the fake retina as valid.

Size: Tiny

Available Add-ons: Decrease Size, Data Transfer Capabilities, Performance Enhancement, Intuitive, Additional Storage, Wireless

Casing: Yes

Base Cost: 25

Data Card

Data cards are used to gain access to various parts of a building, such as restricted areas of a research facility or even a room in a hotel. The level of access granted to the owner of a data card depends on the security clearance of the owner. Heroes can access any locked room in a building allowed by the data card without needing to make any Disable Device checks.

Size: Diminutive Available Add-ons: None Casing: No

Base Cost: 10

Data Card Readers/Writers

These devices will scan a working data card, copy the security information it contains to a storage drive, attempt to decrypt the security clearances, and download the information to a blank data card with the needed authorizations approved. To determine whether or not a data card reader/writer successfully obtains the required information, make a Gather Information check. The base difficulty to analyze and decrypt the information on a data card is a base 10. Consult the table below for additional modifiers.

Security Clea

Desired Security Clearance



General access 5
Administrative access 10
Total access 15

Size: Tiny

Available Add-ons: Decrease Size, Performance Enhancement, Additional Storage, Satellite Uplink

Casing: Yes

Base Cost: 12

Glass Cutter (laser)

Much like a manual glass cutter, a laser glass cutter is used to cut quickly and effectively through regular glass, storm windows, and security-grade glass (bulletproof glass). Typical use of a laser glass cutter involves a hero attaching the glass cutter to the window, programming the diameter of the intended hole into the device and then activating it. The laser makes the cut. All that is left is for the hero to remove the glass. The device takes one round to cut a hole large enough for a Medium-size person to fit through.

Size: Tiny

Available Add-ons: Muffled, Ranged Use, Masterwork

Casing: Yes

Base Cost: 20

Glass Cutter (manual)

A manual glass cutter is a circular hand-held device used to cut through regular glass found on the outside of most homes and businesses. If used in combat, the device is considered a one-handed improvised melee weapon and does +1 slashing damage due to the sharpness of the blade. The device takes 2 rounds to cut a hole large enough for a Medium-sized person to fit through.

Size: Diminutive

Available Add-ons: Muffled, Masterwork

Casing: Yes

Base Cost: 5

Grappler Gun

A grappler gun fires a grappling hook and an attached cable up to 150 ft. away. Alternately, the grappling hook can be swapped out with a dense magnet which will hold up to 300 lbs. without slipping. To use a grappler gun, make a Ranged touch attack (Difficulty 10). Success indicates you have affixed the grappling hook or magnet to its intended position.

Size: Small

Available Add-ons: Decrease Size, Masterwork, Muffled

Casing: Yes

Base Cost: 10

Gravity Harness

A gravity harness allows a character to hang from two thick nylon cords (one on either side of the torso) while keeping their hands free to perform necessary tasks. The harness is powered by a small motor which allows the character to lower herself up to 100 ft without making a climb check. The cords can be retracted by remote control. When using a gravity harness, the character must make an Acrobatics check (Difficulty 10) to remain in the desired position.

Size: Medium

Available Add-ons: Decrease Size, Masterwork, Muffled

Casing: Yes

Base Cost: 15

Fingerprint Scanner

The fingerprint scanner is used to digitally scan fingerprints into a storage media where they are then trasferred to a fingerprint generator and prepared for output in latex form. The effectiveness of a fingerprint scanner is determined by the quantity of the print obtained. To determine if the device functioned properly, make a Gather Information check. Use the following chart to determine the difficulty of the fingerprint scanner’s Gather Information check.

Fingerprint Information Fingerprint Difficulty
Full 5
Partial 10
Negligible 15

Size: Diminutive

Available Add-ons: Decrease Size, Data Transfer Capabilities, Performance Enhancement, Additional Storage, Wireless Access.

Casing: Yes

Base Cost: 25

Fingerprint Generator

The fingerprint generator creates a clear latex fingerprint which can be used to access rooms, vaults, safes and even various types of technology protected by biometric security systems which require a fingerprint identity scan. When the hero uses the latex print, the Narrator makes a Notice check for the biometric security system at a base difficulty of 10 + the score of the Fingerprint scanner’s Gather Information check to create the scan used by the fingerprint generator. If the security system succeeds on the Notice check, the system refuses to accept the fingerprint. If the Notice Check fails, the system accepts the fingerprint as valid.

Size: Tiny

Available Add-ons: Decrease Size, Data Transfer Capabilities, Performance Enhancement, Intuitive, Additional Storage, Wireless Access

Casing: Yes

Base Cost: 25

Lock Pick

Lock picks are used to open common locks such as pin tumbler locks, tubular pin tumbler locks, lever locks and wafer locks. They are comprised of a number of picks and tension wrenches. Disable Device checks used to open these types of locks require that heroes have lock picks. Manually picking a lock takes one round to accomplish.

Size: Diminutive

Available Add-ons: Masterwork, Decrease Size

Casing: Yes

Base Cost: 5

Optical Scanner

The optical scanner is used to digitally record a target’s retinal information into a storage media for use in a contact lense generator. The effectiveness of an optical scanner is determined by the amount of retinal data obtained by the device. To determine if the device functioned properly, make a Gather Information check. Use the following chart to determine the difficulty of the optical scanner’s Gather Information check.

Data Leech

When placed in close proximity to a computer hard drive, a data leech is a piece of hardware that will attempt to syphon all the computer files and programs from the computer and place them into an onbard storage drive. The device has an effective Computers bonus of +10. The Narrator rolls the data leech’s Computers check against a Difficulty 20 plus any relevant bonuses provided by the target system’s security. Success indicates the data leech has copied the hard drive’s information. Each

Retinal Information Retinal Data Difficulty
Full 5
Partial 10
Negligible 15

upgrade adds a +5 bonus to the data leech’s Computers check.

Size: Tiny

Available Add-ons: Decreased size, Intuitive, Upgrade, Performance Enhancement, Satellite Uplink

Casing: Yes

Base Cost: 30

Size: Diminutive

Available Add-ons: Decrease Size, Data Transfer Capabilities, Performance Enhancement, Additional Storage, Wireless Access

Casing: Yes

Base Cost: 30

Portable Cutting Torch

A portable cutting torch is used to burn through various materials such as concrete, iron, and steel. If used in combat, the device is considered a one-handed improvised melee weapon and does +2 fire damage due to intense heat.

Size: Small

Available Add-ons: Decrease Size, Additional Storage, Submersible

Casing: Yes

Base Cost: 10

Computer Components

Computer hardware components modify or otherwise affect a given computer system. The system in question might be a desktop computer, a laptop, or even a server. The following are just a few examples of the possible types of components you can create for your computer systems.

Databomb Drive

This special USB flash drive is the hottest thing on the streets for the modern hacker. It contains a plethora of premade hacking programs, from Trojan horses to logic bombs to password sniffers. They run automatically upon insertion into a USB slot, requiring no input to go about their programmed tasks. With one of these in hand, even relatively inexperienced computer user becomes a hacker to reckoned with.

The databomb drive has an effective Computers bonus of +20; the Narrator rolls the databomb drive’s Computers check as soon as it is connected to a system. Each upgrade increases the effectiveness of the program, adding +1 to Computers checks.

  • Skeleton Key: The databomb drive attempts to open up full system access, including any networks the computer may be connected to. This is a defeat computer security task.
  • Annihilation: The databomb drive attempts to eliminate all data on the system. This is a degrade rogramming task.

Databomb drives require at least a full-round action to work, and may take longer depending on how well-defended the system is. Each upgrade increases the effectiveness of the installed programs, adding a +2 bonus to the relevant Computers check.

Size: Tiny

Available Add-ons: Decreased size, Intuitive, Upgrade, Satellite Uplink

Casing: Yes

Base Cost: 30


A firewall is the main line of defense against attempts to hack into a computer. Firewalls grant the user a +5 bonus to defend security checks. Each upgrade grants another +2 bonus to defend security Checks.

Size: Small

Available Add-ons: Upgrade

Casing: No

Base Cost: 10

Random Access Memory

Random access memory (otherwise known as RAM) increases the computer system’s speed for loading, displaying and allowing manipulation of applications (computer programs) and data. Every stick of RAM increases the speed at which a user can perform Computers checks. Each upgrade reduces the time required to write programs by 5 minutes for every additional stick of RAM added to the system.

Size: Fine

Available Add-ons: Upgrade

Casing: No

Base Cost: 11

Communications Components

Core communications components are devices which facilitate communication between one or more individuals.

Cell Phone

A cell phone is a small handheld device used for communication.

Size: Diminutive

Available Add-ons: Additional Storage, Data Transfer Capabilities, Interface Capabilities, Programmable, Secure Line

Casing: Yes

Base Cost: 9


A microtransceiver is a miniature microphone that allows the wearer to communicate with another person or persons.

Size: Fine

Available Add-ons: Data Transfer Capabilities, Satellite Uplink

Casing: Yes

Base Cost: 15

ECM (Electronic CounterMeasure) Components

Electronic CounterMeasure (ECM) components are used to affect the functionality of other electronic devices, such as radio transmitters, security cameras, and listening devices.

Digital Signal Scrambler

A digital signal scrambler is a device which scrambles digital signals, blacking out security cameras and monitors in a three block radius. A digital signal scrambler initiates an opposed test between the operator of the device and the operator or the targeted piece of equipment. Both the hero and the Narrator make a die roll, adding the technology rating (cost) of their respective pieces of equipment to the result. The highest result wins the test. Each upgrade increases the power of the digital signal scrambler’s signal, adding a +1 bonus to any opposed tests.

Size: Small

Available Add-ons: Decreased Size, Upgrade

Casing: Yes

Base Cost: 25

RF Scrambler

An RF scrambler is a device that scrambles radio signals, preventing the targets from sending or receiving information through radio transmissions. An RF scrambler will attempt to jam any transmissions within a 500 yard radius, intiating an opposed test between the operator of the RF scrambler and the person sending the message being jammed. Both the hero and the Narrator roll a d20, adding the technology rating (cost) of their respective pieces of equipment to the result. Whoever rolls the highest wins the test.

Each upgrade increases the power of the RF scrambler’s signal, adding a +1 bonus to any opposed tests.

Size: Small

Available Add-ons: Decreased size, Upgrade

Casing: Yes

Base Cost: 25

Pharmaceutical Components

Pharmaceutical components are drugs ommonly used to incapacitate the target or lower his ability to resist interrogation.

Sodium Pentothal

Sodium pentothal, more commonly known as “truth serum,” is used byspies and other federal agents during interrogations. It is a powerful tranquilizer, capable of quickly rendering a target unconcious. A barbiturate, sodium pentathol works by decreasing the subject’s ability for higher cortical brain function, consequently making it more difficult to tell a lie.

People who have been injected with a standard dose of sodium pentothal must make a Fortitude save (Difficulty 20) or lose initial and secondary damage of 2 Charisma. The duration of a typical injection is one hour. Highly concentrated dosages of sodium pentothal will knock a character out, while overdosing can cause coma and death. Targets must make a Fortitude save (Difficulty 25) or be rendered unconcious for 10 minutes.

Size: Fine

Available Add-ons: Concentrated Dosage, Multiple Delivery Systems

Casing: Yes

Base Cost: 17


Add-ons are additional modifications you can make to core components in order to increase the performance of your equipment. Once you have chosen a core component, add the cost modifier of the add-on(s) you wish to purchase to the base cost of the core component. The number of add-ons you may purchase for your device is limited only by the cost and what is available for a given core component. The following are just a few possibilities of add-ons that can be created for core components:

Additional Storage

This add-on increases the data storage component by an amount equal to its original storage capacity. For example, a fingerprint scanner with additional storage can store data for two fingerprints. The same component with two additional storage add-ons can store three fingerprints.

Cost Modifier: +2

Concentrated Dosage

Certain drugs can be concentrated for increased effect, as listed in their descriptions.

Cost Modifier: +3

Data Transfer Capabilities

This core component is able to transfer its data to another device using a common data format. It requires a physical connection to do so unless the components both have the wireless access or satellite uplink add-ons.

Cost Modifier: +1

Decreased Size

Advances in miniaturization allow complex devices to be offered in smaller package. Each time this add-on is applied to a core component, it becomes the next smaller size (a Small object becomes Tiny, etc).

Cost Modifier: +4

Interface Capabilities

A component with this add-on can interface with other devices for added functionality. For example, a laptop computer and cell phone with interface capabilities can allow the computer to connect to a cellular network. Interfacing requires a physical connection unless both components also have the wireless access or satellite uplink add-ons.

Cost Modifier: +1


The more advanced the technology, the more complicated it is to use… unless it is designed to be intuitive. By simplifying as much of the operation as possible, the core component can be activated and used as a free action.

Cost Modifier: +1


This core component is finely made, providing a +1 bonus on rolls made to use it.

Cost Modifier: +5


This component works more quietly than normal, requiring a Notice check (Difficulty 10) to hear. Each time this add-on is applied beyond the first, the Notice Difficulty is increased by 5 (to a maximum of 30)

Cost Modifier: +2

Multiple Delivery Systems

In the field, not every drug can be injected into its desired target. A multiple delivery system drug is available in a form that can be quickly converted into any mode of delivery: inhaled, ingested, contact, or injected. The drug must be converted to one of these forms to be usable; doing so is a full-round action. Once converted, the drug is stuck in that delivery form. This add-on can also be used in chemical components to create weaponized versions.

Cost Modifier: +2

Performance Enhancement

Thecorecomponenthasbeenimprovedtoworkfaster. Thedevice’soperation takes less time, going from a full-round action to a move action.

Cost Modifier: +5


A programmable component has a wealth of additional functionality. The user is able to preset a number of automatic conditions for the device’s operation. For example, the user can set the device to activate after a time delay, activate automatically under certain conditions, deactivate under certain conditions, or anything else the device is able to do within the limits of its design.

Cost Modifier: +4

Ranged Use

This component can now be used up to 5 ft. away from the objects it affects.

Cost Modifier: +2

Satellite Uplink

Hundreds of satellites orbit the Earth, making satellite connections one of the most reliable forms of uplink . Items with a satellite uplink are able to connect to the Internet or communicate with other connected systems regardless of their location, without the need for a hardwired connection or a wireless area network.

Cost Modifier: +3

Secure Line

This component’s connection is hardened against interception and tapping. The difficulty of cracking a secure line is increased by +5 each time this add-on is applied

Cost Modifier: +2


The core component can function even if submersed in water or other liquids.

Cost Modifier: +1


Core components are improved by a generic upgrade to performance and design as listed in their descriptions.

Cost Modifier: +1

Wireless Access

The component can access wireless networks, allowing it to connect to other systems or the Internet without a physical connection. A wireless network must be present, however, for a component with wireless access to be able to connect to anything.

Cost Modifier: +2


A casing is a cover for a device that makes it look like something it’s not. Being able to sneak equipment into a research facility is often critical to a mission. Walking through the door with a bunch of high-tech gadgets in plain sight just isn’t going to cut it.

The types of casings you can use for your gear are endless. You might modify a data leech to look like a pack of gum or a compact. A microtransciever might be fashioned to look like earrings, a cufflink or a watch. Apply a couple of decrease size add-ons to your RF scrambler and make it look like an MP3 player. With this system, you’re only limited by your imagination.

The size of the casing you choose determines the final cost of your piece of gear. Consult the following table to find cost modifiers based on size.

Casing Sizes Size Cost Modifier
Medium +1
Small +2
Tiny +3
Diminutive +4
Fine +5

Sample Casings

The following examples of potential casings are by no means exhaustive. We encourage you to get with your Narrator and develop new and interesting casings for your gear.

  • Large: Vending machine, refrigerator, desk, box, washing machine, dryer, stereo components, speakers, suitcase, television
  • Medium: Briefcase, clothing, laptop, backpack, pants, shirt, shorts
  • Small: Video camera, paperback book, toolbox, pencil sharpener, tie, shoes
  • Tiny: Camera, can of shaving cream, thermos
  • Diminutive: Dental floss, beeper, cell phone, lipstick, breath spray
  • Fine: jewelry, business card, coin

Optional Rules

The following are optional rules provided for you to use in your series.

Armor Degradation

In a modern game, your characters have access to various types of armor. While the armor protects us, though, it takes a beating. In an average gun battle, it is likely that heroes are going to get shot at least once or twice. After all, that’s why we wear armor in the first place! How long can our armor take that kind of abuse? The answer: Not long. What follows is a simple way of handling armor degradation.

On a failed Toughness save, the Toughness bonus of your armor will degrade by 1 point for a number of points below the difficulty in the same way that you take damage. Light Armor degrades 1 point for every 5 points below the difficulty of the Toughness save. Medium armor degrades 1 point for every 10 points below the difficulty of the Toughness save, and heavy armor degrades 1 point for every 15 points below the difficulty of the Toughness save.

The rate at which your armor degrades is dependant upon the type of armor you wear. A light vest certainly isn’t designed to take as much punishment as a tactical vest and this system reflects that by scaling the Toughness saves based on the type of armor you wear. So, a character wearing a tactical vest who fails his Toughness save by 15 points will see the Toughness bonus of his vest degrade by 1 point, whereas a character wearing a leather jacket who fails his Toughness save by the same amount will lose what little protection the jacket offered altogether!

Opposed Technology Checks

When playing a modern adventure (especially one centered on espionage) your characters will have access to cutting-edge technology: image recognition software, parabolic microphones, burst transmitters, computer programs, sound filters, voice modulation devices, tracking devices, electronic lock picks, miniature cameras and a host of other intelligence gathering devices. Normally, using a device would give your character a bonus to a certain skill such as Computers, Disable Device, Gather Information or Notice (just to name a few). When we apply a bonus to a skill check, however, we assume that the piece of equipment automatically works. This minimizes the role of anti-security devices that may be employed by your adversaries.

A simple skill check, however, doesn’t add drama to the scene in the same way that it would if there was a measure of uncertainty with regards to how well your gear will actually function in the field. So what to do? You can opt to use opposed technology tests.

Opposed technology tests pit one device against another in an opposed check. The goal of the opposed check is to determine whether or not a device the character is using can defeat various countermeasures employed by your adversaries. Here’s how it works.

Every device has a technology rating. This rating reflects the complexity of the device and how well it performs its intended function. The technology rating is equal to the purchase Difficulty for a given device. For example, a slim jim has a technology rating of 1, while a lap top with a connection to a satellite in geo-synchronous orbit, EMP protection on the hard drive and installed XLS decryption software would have a technology rating of 34. When your character is using this technology on another device, an opposed check is performed.

The player rolls a d20 and adds the technology rating of the device she is using. The narrator also rolls a d20, adding the technology rating of the device which is considered to be under attack. Whoever rolls highest wins the test. If the character’s device wins the opposed technology test, she gains a bonus to the relevant skill check equal to the difference between the results of the opposed test.

If the Narrator wins, the Difficulty of the character’s skill check is raised by a number equal to the difference of the results . The time it takes for the test is 1 round plus a number of rounds equal to the difference between the pieces of technology. An opposed technology test always takes a minimum of one round to resolve.

For example, your group might need to hack into a server to obtain intelligence about an upcoming meeting between two individuals, but the server can’t be accessed through regular channels. A team needs to break into the building containing the server and place a miniature wireless modem with a satellite uplink onto the server. The modem will automatically attempt to breach the firewall of the server and connect with the host, allowing a hacker to access the server remotely.

The server has a technology rating of 36. Your wireless modem has a technology rating of 34. The opposed check is performed with both the player and the narrator rolling a d20, adding the technology rating of their respective devices to the check. The Narrator scores a 46, while the character scores a 48. Success! After 3 rounds, the wireless modem has successfully negotiated with the host, allowing the hacker to attempt to locate the proper file, defeat the encryption and gain the required information. The hacker gains a +2 bonus to his Computers check to defeat the security of the server and any other relevant Computers checks, such as finding a file or attempting to erase information on the system.


Combat: Attack +1, Defense +1, Initiative +7

Saves: Toughness +2, Fortitude +4, Reflex +3, Will +0

Conviction: 3, Wealth: +5, Reputation: +0, Virtue: Determined, Vice: Insensitive

Weapons: Heavy pistol (+4 damage), baseball bat (+1 damage)

Equipment: Cell phone, car, suits, spare ammunition, extra guns

The following are just a few examples of the types of organizations and adversaries you might encounter in a typical modern adventure.


Type: 1st-level Warrior

Abilities: Strength +2, Dexterity +3, Constitution +2, Intelligence –1, Wisdom +0, Charisma +0

Skills: Intimidate 4 (+4), Knowledge (streetwise) 4 (+4), Sense Motive 4 (+4)

Feats: All-Out Attack, Chokehold, Firearms Training, Improved Initiative, Improved Strike, Rage, Startle

Core Ability: Fearsome Presence

Arm-breakers, gorillas, mooks, gombahs: they have a dozen different names but they’re all the same— hired muscle. Goons are there to make sure you don’t cross the line when you’re dealing with their boss. If you do, they’ll come after you with baseball bats, looking to make your fingers and kneecaps bend the wrong way—if you’re lucky.

Mob Boss Skills: Acrobatics 12 (+15), Bluff 12 (+14), Disable Device 12 (+13), Disguise 12 (+14), Gather Information 12 (+14), Notice 12 (+16), Type: 4th-level Expert, 2nd-level Warrior Sleight of Hand 12 (+15), Stealth 12 (+18)

Abilities: Strength +1, Dexterity +0, Constitution +1, Intelligence Feats: Benefit (alternate identity), Benefit (security clearance), +2, Wisdom +1, Charisma +2 Contacts, Evasion, Firearms Training, Improved Evasion, Master Skills: Bluff 9 (+11), Diplomacy 9 (+11), Drive 7 (+7), Gather Plan, Move-By Action, Quick Draw, Point Blank Shot, Ranged Pin, Information 7 (+9), Intimidate 9 (+11), Knowledge (civics) 9 (+11), Redirect, Seize Initiative, Skill Focus (Notice), Skill Focus (Stealth), Knowledge (streetwise) 9 (+11), Notice 7 (+9), Search 7 (+9), Sense Sneak Attack, Stunning Attack, Uncanny Dodge, Well-Informed

Motive 9 (+11) Core Ability: Check the Sight Lines

Feats: All-Out Attack, Chokehold, Diehard, Firearms Training, Combat: Attack +4, Defense +4, Initiative +3 Improved Initiative, Improved Strike, Influential, Point-Blank Saves: Toughness +0, Fortitude +4, Reflex +7, Will +5

Shot, Rage, Renown, Startle, Wealthy Conviction: 7, Wealth: +7, Reputation: +2, Virtue: Courageous, Core Ability: Call Your Bluff Vice: Impulsive

Combat: Attack +5, Defense +5, Initiative +4 Weapons: Masterwork heavy pistol ( +1 attack bonus, +4 damage), Saves: Toughness +1, Fortitude +6, Reflex +1, Will +2 assault rifle ( +5 damage) masterwork knife (+1 attack bonus, +1

Conviction: 5, Wealth: +11, Reputation: +5, Virtue: Industrious, damage)

Vice: Miserly Equipment: Mutiple fake passports, fine clothing, formal clothing, Weapons: Hold-out pistol (+2 damage) cell phone with secure line, satellite uplink and data transfer

Equipment: Cell phone, PDA with various contact information, capabilities, PDA, EMP-hardened laptop, luxury sports car, lock luxury cars, expensive suits, nickel-plated hold out pistol, extra picks, ammunition, flashy jewelry The super-spy is a master of deception, a highly trained ghost capable

The mob boss is a dangerous man who worked his way up to the top of penetrating the most heavily protected complexes on the planet. No by being more cunning, more ruthless and more intelligent than his secret is safe from the super-spy; her contacts are far-reaching and the fellow mooks. He’s got everyone who matters in his hip pocket. Cops, organizations she works for are wealthy, capable of providing her with laywers, politicians, judges; they all want a piece of what the mob boss anything she might require to perform her mission.

is selling and they don’t care if a few innocent people suffer because of it. The city is his playground; if you cross him, he’ll make sure the last hing you see is his smiling face. Crooked Cop

Type: 1st-level Ordinary Super-Spy Abilities: Strength +1, Dexterity +2, Constitution +2, Intelligence +0, Wisdom +1, Charisma +0

Type: 9th-level Federal Agent Skills: Bluff 4 (+7), Gather Information 4 (+4), Medicine 4 (+5), Abilities: Strength +0, Dexterity +3, Constitution +0, Intelligence Notice 4 (+5), Sleight of Hand 0 (+5) +1, Wisdom +1, Charisma +2

Feats: Skill Focus (Bluff), Skill Focus (Sleight of Hand)

Combat: Attack +0, Defense +0, Initiative +2

Saves: Toughness +2, Fortitude +2, Reflex +2, Will +1

Conviction: 0, Wealth: +5, Reputation: +0, Virtue: Generous, Vice: Cowardly

Weapons: Masterwork heavy pistol (+1 attack bonus, +4 damage), stun gun (Stun), tonfa (+1 damage)

Equipment: Badge, extra ammunition, police cruiser, walkie talkie

Type: 1st-level Ordinary

Abilities: Strength +3, Dexterity +0, Constitution +3, Intelligence +0, Wisdom –1, Charisma +1

Skills: Drive 4 (+4), Intimidate 4 (+5), Knowledge (streetwise) 4 (+4), Search 4 (+4)

Feats: None

Combat: Attack +0, Defense +0, Initiative +0

Saves: Toughness +3, Fortitude +3, Reflex +0, Will –1

Conviction: 0, Wealth: +6, Reputation: +0, Virtue: Bold, Vice: Arrogant

Weapons: Heavy pistol (2) (+4 damage)

Equipment: Extra ammunition for pistols, drugs, a tricked-out car, street clothes


This is the guy who makes all the other cops look bad. He takes bribes from the mob in return for looking the other way when they shake down a small business owner. He takes drugs from street gangs and uses it as collateral when dealing with his snitches. He removes evidence from crime scenes and murders people who cross him.

The gang banger is an urban warrior who goes to war with those who cross him and his set every night. His territory is marked by gang symbols; the colors he wears are a badge of honor. If you don’t respect this man, he’ll pull out his ‘nines, smoke you and leave you bleeding in the streets.


The following organizations are provided for you to use in your modern adventure series.


Professional international espionage became something of a “boom industry” during the Cold War. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, several ex-KGB members and others in the intelligence community formed an organization that could spy on any nation while holding allegiance to none: X-con, a group of black ops and wetwork experts who sell their expertise to the highest bidder. X-con gathers intelligence, plants moles and sleepers, performs complex sabotage, and even carries out assassinations, all for the right price. Members of X-con are the best spies in the world, period; running afoul of them is a death sentence, though working for them can be equally dangerous.

  • Agenda: To earn lucrative amounts of money performing espionage services for the international community; to destabilize key nations and foster a global environment where their services are needed.
  • Membership: No more than 150 agents and affiliates (non-agent personnel). Five figures make up X-con’s “Upper Management.” Their identities are unknown to other X-con personnel, perhaps even to each other.
  • Resources: Billions of dollars in slush funds and secret accounts. X-con agents have access to the latest in high-tech gadgetry but are assigned only what is necessary on a per mission basis. Agents also have all travel arrangements taken care of, and my receive backup from other agents if requested.

Palladino Investigations

This small family firm operates out of Seattle, Washington. Joseph Palladino, a discharged police detective, was determined to clear his name following his dismissal from the force. With the help of his sister Elizabeth, the pair discovered who had framed Joseph for the brutal beating and eventual death of a police informant. After his name was cleared, Joseph decided he enjoyed the life of a private eye more than that of a police detective.

Palladino Investigations takes cases of any kind, from suspicious wives wanting proof of a husband’s infidelity to high-profile kidnappings that need to stay out of the headlines. Elizabeth, her husband Frank, and their child Julie all work at the firm under the mentorship of “Uncle Jo.”

  • Agenda: To solve any crime; no mystery is too tough, no bill is too big.
  • Membership: Four, the Palladino family.
  • Resources: An office, a computer that works most of the time, Elizabeth’s camera, and Julie’s moped. They also maintain various contacts among Seattle’s police force and the criminal underworld.


“The Law of Silence” is a vast criminal organization with worldwide connections. Originating in Italy, Omerta has gone beyond any nationality, becoming a nation unto itself where crime is the currency. The mafia is the backbone behind much of the world’s drug trade and has a hand in illegal weapon smuggling as well. Its members pledge their honor and loyalty to the group, becoming one of an enormous gang-family. Despite the occasional feud and outside rivalry, Omerta has managed to thrive for the past thirty years, becoming a vast criminal empire.

  • Agenda: To protect Omerta and its members; to uphold the “family” honor; to profit from activities both legal and illegal.
  • Membership: Several thousand, perhaps over one million; it is impossible to determine or even estimate.
  • Resources: An undefinable amount of wealth and influence, including power over law enforcement, the judicial branch and high- ranking politicians.


The possibilities for adventures in the modern genre are nearly endless. Pick up an newspaper and you’ll find a wealth of plot hooks which, with a little work, can be used to spark an adventure or series of adventures. What follows is a series of plot hooks based on the different modern games represented in this book. These should get you started and hopefully provide fuel for future adventures.

Lady Liberty

The characters gain information indicating a terrorist cell may have been activated in New York City. A Mossad agent contacts the characters’ boss with information suggesting a shipment of weaponized sarin gas has made it into the country via a cargo vessel which left Athens three weeks ago.

A contact at the New York Port Authority was murdered two nights ago. The man had a note in his personal possessions. On it, was a name— Harik Mosanni—and the following message: 5947833, Alpha protocol enacted. What does the message mean? Who was Harik Mosanni? Where is the sarin gas now, and can the characters find it before more innocent lives are lost?

One Night in Brussels

One of the heroes’ contacts in Brussels has obtained information indicating an emergency meeting between at least two high-level members of X-con will be taking place within the next 24 hours. The team needs to fly to Brussels, meet with the contact and obtain intelligence on the X-con members. Their objective is to get photos of each member and obtain audio of the meeting without being detected by security.

Deep Cover (Series Hook)

In this adventure, heroes are tasked with infiltrating an arms-smuggling organization based in Chechnya. They are to gather intel on the major players in the organization, the types of weapons that are being bought and sold, as well as information on who the buyers are. This should be a long-term series, filled with suspense and ever-increasing danger as the characters become immersed in the world of the smugglers.

The Vigilante

Someone is hunting down and killing street crooks and low-level members of various crime syndicates in the city. Your team of detectives has been tasked with bringing this vigilante to justice. This type of adventure is a morality tale. The vigilante is technically doing the city a favor by killing these seedy individuals, but at what at what point does justice become revenge? Do evil people have the same rights as law-abiding citizens?

Who is this person and what is his (or her) background? The vigilante appears to be highly proficient, indicating he might have some formal training with weapons and explosives, as some criminals have been victims of car bombings. Can your team stop the vigilante before more people die? Will his actions cause further violence as the criminal world takes the matter into its own hands?


A SpecOps unit has gone missing somewhere in the infamous “Triangle of Death” sector of Northern Iraq. The heroes have been tasked with finding these soldiers and bringing them back to base. As the search progresses however, the team of heroes begin to find clues indicating that the unit they are searching for has gone rogue.

What is their mission? Are they turncoats? Do they answer to some other branch of the military? These and more questions plague the squad as the heroes move through this district, risking attacks from insurgents as they struggle to find the missing team.

Mob War (Series Hook)

A high level Mafia boss was killed by a Triad assassin. Now the streets run red with blood as the two organizations have gone to war. Your heroes are involved with one of the factions and are tasked with performing various jobs. They might be bodyguards, charged with protecting a high level boss, of they may be assassins, tasked with finding and killing high-ranking members of the rival organization.

While this series hook can directly involve organized crime, Narrators can easily tweak it to involve rival spy organizations or street gangs, depending on what roles your players have chosen.


Someone is hunting one of the heroes, playing a game of cat-and-mouse as he seeks to cause as much trouble for the character as possible before finally killing him. Can the hero find out who the person is and why they are seeking revenge? This type of adventure carries many assumptions. It assumes the heroes have a history in which they made enemies. It assumes that family members might be hurt as the antagonist looks for ways to make the character suffer. Be creative when thinking up ways to motivate your heroes to bring this nasty business to an end.

Project Doppleganger

The heroes are tasked with the recovery of an X-con program; a worm designed to sniff multiple government databases and download personal information of various under cover agents and government officials. The program retrieves specific information; addresses, photographs, copies of finger prints, etc. The agency the characters work for believes that this program will be used by criminal organizations to facilitate a massive attack on the intelligence capabilities of the U.S and British governments.

This information could be used to assassinate individuals or even replace them with moles. The most recent intelligence places the program in the vault of a casino in Monte Carlo. Heroes will have to break in, recover the disk containing the program, and replace it with a modified copy that will give X-con false information leading to dead ends.