NOTICE: All art on this page is from Wizards of the Coast, and is thus copyright of its appropriate authors. It is shown here via the d20 Future Art Gallery as reference only.
We Dig Giant Robots
The mecha chapter is probably one of the most divisive chapters of d20 Future. The big problem is that the mecha shown in d20 Future have a very specific layout. Sure, they have armor and custom slots and everything, but in the end they are more or less all enlarge spells with items added on. Indeed, the mecha in d20 Future are of the “power suit” theme of design, boosting HP, size, and Strength of the character that wears/pilots it. This means that in the end you are having combat with giant-sized characters more than vehicles. This is either a plus or a major minus depending on your opinion of this system of mecha, although personally I don’t think it’s hugely bad, and there are ways of patching the system up, both floating around the internet and in the official supplement d20 Future Tech‘s “mecha as walking tanks” rules…but that’s a story for another review. Also worthy of note are that there are feats such for fighting with mecha and a mecha-specific advanced class, the Mecha Jockey, in this chapter.
The Robot Revolution
Chapter 10 deals with robots. Robots are, to be blunt, just another type of Construct, a more modern equivalent of golems. Is that bad, though? Certainly not! This chapter is essentially the Build-a-Bear of designing Constructs, as well as equipping them with various bits and pieces. Indeed, I imagine you could even make custom golems by altering the guidelines a bit. But I digress… As stated before, all robots are of the Construct type, but they have specific special qualities, costs of creation, base ability scores, and restriction of ownership depending on “frame” (which is more or less a creature subtype by another name). There are five frames in d20 Future proper: armature (what most robots we have today are), the vaguely animal-shaped Biomorphs, the vaguely humanoid Biodroids, the synthetic flesh-clad Bioreplicas, and the fluid and futuristic Liquid-States. Robots can have various sources of locomotion, manipulators, armors, and gadgets installed that affect their stats as opposed to the generic Constructs as well. Interestingly enough, I’d like to note that while there is an example robot given for the Biomorph, Biodroid, and Bioreplica frames, there are no sample Armature or Liquid-State robot stats given. Hm.
“We can rebuild him. We have the technology.”
Cybernetics under d20 Future‘s system are fairly simple; they’re essentially objects that you can’t remove. The number of cybernetics a character can have installed is based upon their Constitution score, and trying to “overtech” can result in negative levels from the strain. That isn’t the only drawback to cybernetics, though; external pieces of cybertech can be targeted and sundered just as easily as objects, and a character with cybernetics of any sort takes 50% more damage from attacks that deal electricity damage unless they expend the cybernetics slot and cash for a specific implant to nullify shocks. The actual cybernetics themselves range from the modern (such as prosthetic limbs) to the futuristic but useful (like armor installed beneath the skin and cloaking devices) to the downright strange (LED skin and cyber-eyes that shoot lasers…no, seriously, laser eye implants). All in all, it’s a good chapter with a good system for cybernetics.
Where’s Xavier When you Need Him?
Well, folks, we’re nearly there. Chapter 12 deals with mutants and mutations. Mutations are special qualities that can be added to a baseline creature under a simple system. You can get drawbacks to earn “points” to cash in for beneficial mutations. Yep, it’s that simple. The chapter starts off with a look at what you can use to induce mutations, which is obviously a good place to start, after all. The options given range from magic and comic book-style radiation to genetic engineering and good ol’ natural selection. There is also a discussion of just how prevalent mutants are, and how your campaign deals with them. Are mutants a common part of everyday life? Are they rare individuals lying at the uncharted pieces of the star map? Are they something isolated on Earth or a far-off planet, or are they ingrained into humanoid culture enough to be a minority “race” of their own? Those questions are ones only you can answer for your campaign, and the text sections are rather brief, but there is at least a good pool of basic ideas for you to use.
As for the mutations themselves, they are split up into drawbacks (the ones that give you points), cosmetics (these have no cost and have no game effect; they’re just for show, really), minor mutations (which cost 1 to 3 points to buy), and major mutations (which cost 4 to 6 points to buy). There are a total of 10 cosmetic mutations, 18 minor mutations, 20 major mutations, and 20 drawbacks. All in all, for an introduction to a new system, that’s a damn good amount of mutations for you to play around with, and they even give you random d% rolls for the GM if you want to pull up some random mutants! The mutations themselves are pretty varied too, including gills, horns, echolocation, gigantism, tentacles, venom, and psionic abilities. All in all, a very good chapter, and what is definitely my favorite of the book.
Aliens and Monsters
Last but not least is the chapter on those things you’ll meet in the depths of space. Right out of the gate, the book gives you a list of creatures from the D&D Monster Manual and the three previous d20 Modern books that had been written (the core rulebook, Urban Arcana, and Menace Manual). Some of these suggestions, such as the illithid, do make sense, while others (I’m looking at you, dryad) are…not. But that is neither here nor there, so let’s move on! The only Open Game Content in this chapter are two hazards (a mold and a slime; oh yes, classic D&D hazard logic there) and two templates. The first and more useful of the two is Extraterrestrial Creature, which grants a creature lots of new options such as exchanging one movement type for another, new special qualities from breath weapons and psionics to fast healing and armor. This isn’t necessarily really just a space-based template, as I can imagine it being used to create unique monsters as well. The second template, however, is definitely space-based; hell, it’s even named Space Creature, after all! A creature with the Space Creature template gains a fly speed that can only be used in space, cold and fire resistance 20, darkvision, radiation resistance, some minor ability score changes, Zero-G Training as a bonus feat, and the ability to survive without oxygen, either through self-sustaining oxygen supplies or just a general lack of needing oxygen. That makes it a template that is good for vacuum-based campaigns, but not quite as much for others. If you’re really curious, the sample creatures for the two templates are a monstrous spider and a troll, respectively. Yes, a troll with the Space Creature template, which means that its fire weakness is nullified. Nasty.
Finally, we reach the alien species. None of the aliens given stats here are open game content, as they are all from older intellectual property. Returning from Alternity’s Star*Drive are the computer-savvy Aleerin, the smart, small,, and psychic Fraal/Grays, the technophobic and gargoylesque Seshyeans, the small, clever, and fleet-of-foot reptilian T’sa, and the brutish, Bigfoot-like Weren. The other three aliens presented as the elastic and jelly-like Dralasites (which are LA +0 Aberrations, I’ll note, which is certianly a novelty), the hive-minded mantoid Vrusk, and the gliding monkey-men known as Yazirians, which are from Star Frontiers. All in all, these are good if you want to play either of those campaigns using d20 Modern rules, but I would have preferred some generic aliens pulled from UFOlogy as well for those who like making their own campaigns or using Open Game Content items; of course, that’s just me.
D20 Future is a mixture of good, decent, and somewhat disappointing features, with the disappointing features thankfully being next-to-non existent quibbles from me. Of course, that’s to be expected. This is a toolkit book, not a campaign setting or a sourcebook for one specific thing. With all this in mind, I give d20 Future a 7/10; not the best d20 Modern supplement ever, but certainly above-average.
See you later, Space Cowboy…