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d20 Future (d20M)

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High Tech Meets High Adventure

The future is what you make of it. With access to space travel, cybernetics, mutations, mecha, and more in d20 Future, heroes may battle across alien worlds, survive on postapocalyptic Earth, voyage to distant galaxies, and explore alternate dimensions. Charge your weapons and embark on never-ending adventure within the infinite possibilities of the near and distant future.

Product History

d20 Future (2004), by Christopher Perkins, Rodney Thompson, and JD Wiker, is a setting supplement for the d20 Modern roleplaying game. It was published in August 2004.

About the Cover. d20 Modern (2002) set the style for the Modern releases with a brushed titanium book cover. d20 Future modified that ever-so-slightly by changing over to a cleaner white coloring.

Continuing d20 Modern. After publishing d20 Modern, Wizards of the Coast supplemented it with a pretty safe trilogy of releases: a setting, Urban Arcana (2003); a monster book, d20 Menace Manual (2003); and an equipment book, d20 Weapons Locker (2004). Six months later, d20 Future took the line in a dramatically different direction by expanding the d20 Modern rules into a new setting: the world of the future. It would be the first of four such setting books, the next of which would be d20 Past (2005).

d20 Future was supported by another SRD, showing Wizards' continued desire to create the standard game mechanics that could be used by the whole industry.

D&D and the Future World. Science fantasy has been part of D&D's DNA from the start, as seen in products like Supplement II: Blackmoor (1975) and Spelljammer (1989); its roleplaying history has been written elsewhere. However, TSR was simultaneously releasing a variety of roleplaying games other than D&D that featured science-fantasy and science-fiction themes. Metamorphosis Alpha (1976) and Gamma World (1978) were both pretty similar to D&D in their earliest editions, but as TSR moved into purer science-fiction, it also moved further from the D&D mechanics.

Star Frontiers (1982) is usually considered TSR's science-fiction masterpiece, but we shouldn't forget about Buck Rogers XXVc (1990), which appeared several years laters. Then in the later '90s, TSR produced two universal gaming systems that were notable for the breadth of future worlds they covered.

Amazing Engine (1993) included the alien-fighting AM3: Bughunters (1993), the space-operatic AM5: The Galactos Barrier (1993), the science-fantasy AM6: Once and Future King (1994), the classic AM7: Metamorphosis Alpha to Omega (1994), and the biopunk Kromosome (1994).

Wizards then dove whole-heartedly into future RPGs with Alternity (1997, 1998), a game that influenced the development of D&D 3e (2000) and thus d20 Modern (2002). Its popular settings included a new Gamma World (2000), the space opera Star*Drive (1998), and the licensed StarCraft (2000).

The Road to Future. Much as with d20 Modern, Wizards of the Coast was directly influenced in the design of d20 Future by some of their recent games. Most importantly, several sections of d20 Future feel like conversations with Wizards' d20-based Star Wars RPG (2000, 2002).

The starship rules in d20 Future actually started off very similar to the Star Wars rules, but the designers decided they were too complex; instead the Future designers created new mechanics that were more like character combat and the D&D Miniatures (2003) system, with some influences from the older warships rules in Alternity (1997, 1998). Meanwhile, designer Wiker said that one of the reasons he enjoyed writing the Future rules for robotics was that they would give Star Wars players a more complete droid system!

Star Wars wasn't the only futuristic d20 material that predated d20 Future. Ever since the release of d20 Modern, creators had been trying to use the new rules for futuristic settings, the most notable of which was Dave Nooan's "Mecha Crusade", which appeared in Dungeon #95 / Polyhedron #154 (November/December 2002). Its mech combat was brought straight into d20 Future (though some readers didn't like the fact that this resulted in mecha and starships having very different combat systems).

Expanding d20 Modern. Overall, d20 Future adds many new mechanics to the d20 Modern game. Its most notable new conceit is probably its "Progress Levels", used to define different levels of technology — an idea that dates back to the Tech Levels of Traveller (1977).

There are also plenty of additions to character creations, including rules for robot characters and tons of new equipment, from cybernetics to starships. Mutations even gets a few pages, in a nod to Gamma World, which was even then receiving the d20 treatment from White Wolf. Finally, there are new starting occupations, new skills, new feats, and many new advanced classes, including: ambassador, dogfighter, dreadnought, engineer, explorer, field officer, helix warrior, space monkey, technosavant, tracer, and xenophile; yet more are scattered across specific campaigns.

Expanding the Future World. d20 Future contains short notes on eight different settings, most of which refer to older publications from TSR and Wizards of the Coast:

  • Bughunters refers back to the alien-warfare Amazing Engine (1993) setting, AM3: Bughunters (1993).
  • Dimension Xis a brand-new take on dimension-hopping SF, like Sliders (1995-1999).
  • From The Dark Heart of Space is a new setting with a Lovecraftian vibe.
  • Genetech is a biopunk setting originally planned for d20 Modern (2002), then published in Dungeon #96 / Polyhedron #155 (January / February 2003).
  • Mecha Crusade is a mech SF game that previously appeared in Dungeon #95 / Polyhedron #154 (November/December 2002).
  • Star Law is a new take on the classic space-opera game, Star Frontiers (1982).
  • Star*Drive revives the more-recent space-opera game, Star*Drive (1998) for Alternity (1997, 1998).
  • The Wasteland is a post-apocalyptic setting that's not the wackier Gamma World (1978).

Fans of TSR's classic games will also recognize many of the aliens in this book. The Aleerin, Fraal, Sesheyan, T'sa, and Weren are from Star*Drive, while the Dralasite, Vrusk, and Yazirian originated in Star Frontiers.

Future History. d20 Future came very late in the d20 life cycle, when retailers had already grown wary of d20 products published by companies other than Wizards of the Coast. It was also troubled by the fact that it was a supplement, rather than its own core rule book.

These factors probably made third-party publishers less likely to produce their own products for the system — often instead using plain d20 or even d20 Modern for their SF offerings. Nonetheless, a few third-party d20 Future products appeared, including Fourth Millennium (2004) from Ronin Arts and Dawning Star (2005, 2006) from Blue Devil Games. Wizards themselves supported d20 Future with a few web enhancements and two later books: d20 Cyberscape (2005) and d20 Future Tech (2006).

About the Creators. d20 Future was overseen by Christopher Perkins, who was design manager and who also wrote chapters on characters and xenobiology, as well as the Star Law setting. JD Wiker wrote traveler science, starships, vehicle, mecha, robotics, and cybernetics, as well as the Bughunters, Dimension X, and Star*Drive settings. Finally, Rodney Thompson rounded out the book with gear, mutations, and the other half of the settings.

About the Product Historian

The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to shannon.appelcline@gmail.com.

 
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September 18th, 2015
Overall, I like it. It gave insight into areas I had yet to figure out within the D20 system, like mutations, cybernetics and hostile environments. I'd recommend it. [...]
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Pages
224
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0-7869-3423-9
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File Last Updated:
September 07, 2015
This title was added to our catalog on September 08, 2015.