Hot on the heels of Carsten’s solo rules for D&D 4E comes yesterday’s newest release from Dias Ex Machina Games that seems ready-made for use with Carsten’s techniques! It’s Ultramodern4, a comprehensive set of non-fantasy rules that allow players to use the 4E system for technologically-advanced adventures of espionage, modern warfare, cyberpunk, and super sci-fi.
Ultramodern4 comes from Chris Dias and his staff of designers and artists at DEM, the same folks who created the campaign setting of Amethyst a few years back. Everyone knows I was a huge fan of that setting, and I still consider it one of the most profoundly compelling campaign worlds published in the last 20 years. Amethyst combined fantasy with high-tech brilliantly, so I was concerned that Ultramodern4 – a work that appears on the surface to be all tech – would simply be a retread of that material. Furthermore, when I read that the new DEM campaign world Neurospasta was being separated from the core “modern” rules in favor of getting its own individual volume, I was even more worried that Ultramodern4 would be a dry stat-fest suitable more for accountants than for players who craved richly detailed and thematically inviting gaming fare.
Fortunately, DEM came through with this product. Depicting the game-based dynamics of modern-day weaponry did not take precedence over creating a well-rounded and complete supplement to the 4E system. Foremost, the supplement’s core is defined by the characters players can create rather than the weapons they can wield. PCs are built from classes, which obviously delineate their task-centric roles, and “ladders,” a more distinctive facet of characterization that articulates “what you are and how you live your life.” Ladders, such as the “Born Leader,” the “Survivor,” and the “Savant,” have their own particular level-based abilities, powers, and freaking ingenious stat-swapping abilities that can be combined with any class to make it something special. Ladders can even be applied to classes in other D&D products!
The classes, skills, and feats are what you would hope to get in a modern era product. There’s the Gunslinger, the Sniper, the Mastermind, and their ilk, and they all can be developed into bigger and better bad asses by following Paragon Paths such as the Threat Analyst, the Selfless Protector, the Country Gunman, and even the Cinematic Cliché. Let those titles serve as evidence of the flavor inherent in these rules. Ultramodern4 is not just about guns in D&D; it’s about using the 4E system to breathe life into whatever type of modern combat world you want, from the Old West to Black Ops to Space Opera. In fact, there are as many – if not more – non-combat abilities offered for each class and ladder as combat abilities.
Combat is 4E’s thing, though, and there are plenty of options for fighting in the modern or futuristic world in Ultramodern4. Deadly weaponry, explosives, armor, gear, and vehicles are covered thoroughly in about 40 pages that include such instruments of death as the humble revolver, the submachine gun, the nuclear pulse rifle, and the awfully-uncomfortable-sounding “dense focus plasma cannon.”
There’s a glue gun, too. (I would SO use the glue gun.)
Advice on adventure design in Ultramodern4 is incredibly useful. I won’t reveal too much about what DEM did with their “Set Pieces” concept, but for anyone who has wanted to successfully recreate the feel of an action movie at the gaming table, it’s pretty terrific stuff!
Be warned! Ultramodern4 IS a “crunchy” book, although it is by no means a technical manual. Still, this is a product for those who WANT to take a very radical departure with their 4E game. Do not get this if you’re mildly curious about what a Dwarf Barbarian would be like armed with a rotary cannon. Get this if you truly want to bring modern and futuristic combat to life with the 4E system.
Get the free preview of Ultramodern4 HERE.
Check out more about Ultramodern4 at DEM’s official site HERE.
Great job, Chris!