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The Tech Deck

Uncommon Modern RPGs

Today is pretty crazy too, if you think about it. (Jon & Janelle Roster / Andrew Smith)
Today is pretty crazy too, if you think about it. (Jon & Janelle Roster / Andrew Smith)

While the Modern RPG is less common than other genres, I find that it is still relatively common and unique enough to warrant its own post. I define a Modern RPG as any RPG that takes place on Earth (or is Earth-like) and is as about as technologically advanced as we. A good test would be to ask, could you, as you currently are, be in this setting? If so, than you’re likely in a Modern RPG.

What better place to start, than “The End of the World,” a roleplaying game focusing on -- you guessed it -- end of the world scenarios. This unique game also takes a different approach to player characters than most, were players play themselves. On top of that, games generally assume to begin with the PC’s sitting down to play an RPG and their equipment is what is currently on or around them.

When we played we used the “Wrath of the Gods” book. It includes various different apocalyptic adventures that focus on Theological destruction rather than man-made. This includes scenarios such as, The Rapture, Cthulhu’s Awakening, the revenge of Gaia, etc… Being unable to hold back the inevitable is horrifying and quite the ordeal.

I imagine all of the “End of the World” scenarios would be difficult if not impossible to survive, that seems to be the point. Still it’s a good experiment to see how truly prepared your group of friends and you are for the apocalypse.


 *BLAM* oh don’t worry about that. I’d like to place an order for carryout.
 *BLAM* oh don’t worry about that.
I’d like to order a large pizza with extra...

If playing as YOU, during the end of the world doesn’t sound all that exciting there is also D20 Modern. It uses the open source 3.5 Edition Dungeons and Dragons SRD rules. The setting of the game is pretty open, though it usually takes place on an alternate reality Earth.

On this Earth there could be magic, better technology, an altered history (like the Germans winning WW1) or whatever your heart desires. The flexibility of the setting, rules and character creation makes it easy to make almost any kind of character you can think of.

There are only 6 classes -- one for each stat. From there you slowly increase stats, gain abilities and flesh out your character. In the game we played, the zombie apocalypse had arrived. My paramedic, “borrowed” an ambulance collected the group (a police officer, an engineer and one other character) and raced out of town to his cabin.

If you like a 3rd or 3.5 edition D&D, than you’ll be comfortable with d20 Modern. The rule set is also a great starting point for new players as well. As an added bonus, it’s FREE!


Bill and me, just hanging out
“Monsters are real. You know because you have one.
He’s more fun and way tougher than all the other kids’ monsters.
Try not to let him eat your friends.” - tag line

Did you ever have an imaginary friend growing up? Did they by chance happen to be a monster that cares about you more than anything else? Good news you can bring that friend back or make a brand new one in an amazing RPG called “Monsters and Other Childish Things.”

In this game you take on the role of a kid, who has befriended a monster of your own imagination. You go on adventures and have fights with other monsters, all while trying to keep him/her/it a secret from your parents and teachers.

The rules run off of a “single roll” system. No more rolling to hit, then damage, then dodge, etc… Each player dictates their actions for the round and then rolls the appropriate number of 10 sided dice. Depending upon the number of matching numbers, the number that was rolled and the special abilities the monster is using determines initiative, hit location, etc… It’s fast and simple.

Before you can make your new buddy, you must first get an idea of your Monster looks like. It often helps to draw he/she/it out, some GM’s will require this anyway. Don’t worry about your art skills; Remember you’re playing as a kid. Crayons are suggested!

Now that you know what your best friend will look like, you make use of the simple and creative monster creation system. Which allows you to describe your monster and apply basic rules and stats to its various different attributes.

Bill is the monster in the picture above. Bill could, for example, have the following aspects: 1-2 Giant Claws with extra damage, 3-4 Massive Wing for flying, 5-7 Tough Skin & Armor protection, 8 Scary mask for being scary, 9-10 Big Horns for knocking monsters about and protection. There’s a bit more to it than that, but it’s open and straight forward for you to build whatever buddy you want.

Monsters also have a way to hide. This is unique to each monster. Maybe they turn into a small version of themselves, into a statue, or burrow underground. The key is not being spotted by an adult. A full-grown monster can tear through a whole squad of well-trained well-equipped SWAT members. A word of advice: Don’t threaten a monster’s best friend if you like to keep your face where it is.


Before I go, here are some other games set in modern times.

Vampire the Masquerade - A roleplaying game, where players take on the roles of Vampires. This makes for a great game to LARP. Do you try to retain your humanity or dive into the baser depravities of unlife? I personally have not played this, but I’ve heard nothing but good things about this game.


Ninja Burger - Always sounded fun to me, but never got around to playing. The idea is that you are a ninja employee working at a burger delivery place. The delivery location can be anywhere under any amount of surveillance. Are you ninja enough? “Guaranteed delivery in 30 minutes or less, or we commit Seppuku!” - Ninja Delivery Guarantee.


Fiasco - Do you enjoy the Coen Brothers Films (e.g. Fargo, “O Brother, Where art Thou?” and “The Big Lebowski”)? Then Fiasco might just be up your alley. There’s no GM and no prep work, required. The player-generated story progressively gets more disastrous with each passing round. It’s a game of quick thinking and roleplaying. Can you outwit the others and survive?


Everyone is John - I rant and rave about this game a lot, but that’s because it’s super fun, super crazy and (generally) super dark. If you want a better explanation of the insanity that is “Everyone is John,” check out my review of it here. Adventure seed: “You wake up to the roaring sound of a rocket motor and hurricane force wind as the pilot in front of you ejects.”


If you’ve other suggestions for games in this genre, please leave a comment below or on my Facebook page! See you for the next blog. In the meantime, have fun adventuring!


Thank you Jon & Janelle Roster for helping me with the photography


Rebelling against the tide of monotony, Bill decides to get the ham and cheese sandwich instead for lunch today.” 

Andrew Smith is one of The Spokesman-Review's IT gurus and resident dungeon master.