As author Fraser Ronald points out in his introduction, there's a bit of a gap between the quasi-mediaeval D20 fantasy rules as presented in Dungeons & Dragons and the contemporary ones of D20 Modern. Here is an attempt to address this gap by providing rules that can be used to represent historical or semi-historical settings in renaissance, pre-industrial eras... more technologically advanced than your average fantasy world but not the modern machine-age - in 'real world' terms about 1400 - 1850 or so.
The work starts by looking at skills. In general, the fantasy skillset is more appropriate than a modern one (Computer Use doesn't kick in until a game set in the 1960s for example), but as society becomes more technologically advanced, some modifications in character skills become necessary to reflect this within your game. The first one examined is the Craft skill, with some detailed notes on the process of manufacturing whatever item it is that you want to make... and even introducing some interesting variant crafts such as composing music, writing poetry or prose and making medicines. Gambling - an essential skill if you are swashing your buckle, and generally popular throughout history - is also covered, as is Disable Device, Knowledge, Navigate, Research and Treat Injury. Navigate is particularly useful if sea voyages feature in your adventures, but it can be used on land as well. Crafting medicine and treating injury will vary depending on the precise state of medical knowledge in your chosen setting.
Next, feats get the same treatment. Rather than reviewing existing ones, this is a collection of new feats from which suitable ones can be selected depending on the era and style of game you intend to run. Examples include Leech - the character has studied medicine to an appropriate level for the setting - and Agile Reposte, essential to all you Three Musketeers style duellists. Those taking the Leech feat may also be interested in another feat, Sawbones (surgery training), and in purchasing themselves a Surgeon's Kit of essentials for those wishing to follow the medical profession.
While the above skills and feats can be used to modify D20 Modern or Dungeons & Dragons characters, depending on where you start out from; the final section looks at possible modifications to the D20 Modern ruleset to suit the precise era and style of your game. An interesting area is that of fame and infamy, and the use of Reputation - often very important in the sort of period we are looking at here.
Overall, a very useful and thought-provoking discussion on how to modify a ruleset to suit an historical game - something like The Three Musketeers or the period of the English Civil War (1640s) would work extremely well, but perhaps you may wish to stray earlier to the Renaissance or even later to the 18th and early 19th centuries.
Return to Modern Principles page.
Reviewed: 26 July 2006