Saturday, August 6, 2016
Review: Ultramodern5 Part 1 from Dias Ex Machina
I've been a fan of Dias Ex Machina's work since they supported their Amethyst setting for 13th Age. It's a technology vs. magic setting that they have ported into DnD 4th Edition and 5th Edition, Pathfinder, 13th Age, FATE, and Savage Worlds. They also did DnD 4th Edition Supers rules and setting, called Apex.
When I saw Ultramodern5 release I immediately picked it up (it's only $9.99 and from I understand, when the Print On Demand version is available those that bought the PDF will get their print copies at cost, which I deeply appreciate).
Ultramdoern5 is immediately recognizable to anyone familiar with DnD 5th Edition and I literally skimmed through it, selected one of two adventures in the book, the one for 14th level characters (Pregens are provided for both adventures) and we played it last night. The book covers modern and science fiction settings, with multiple tech levels. Many illustrations also feature characters from the American Wild West, and I see no real problem using that genre either. +Chris Dias, the author mentions Amethyst: Quintessence and the forthcoming cyberpunk setting, Neursposta. I think Apex could be a good possibility, so Supers may be in our future.
My group are mostly very experienced 5E players and marveled at how cool the abilities of their characters were several minutes and hand no trouble picking the rules up. However, my 12 year old daughter was also at the table and she picked things up just as fast as they did.
In the first part of this review I'm going to cover the New Rules of the genres, how Humans are handled, Lifepaths, and Ladders.
New Rules: What we have to digest are rules for autofire (you fire a specific number of rounds and your weapons base damage dice is increased), burstfire (if your weapon is autofire it is also burstfire and it allows you to target a 10' cube and require targets to make a Dexterity saving throw to avoid being hit).
Next we are introduced to the following Skills: Computer Use, Demolitions, Engineering, and Sciences (I could argue that you could also treat them as Tools).
We are given four new Feats that cover using Exo-Armor and three firearm Feats.
That is the extent of the rules upgrades from 5E, and I love that.
Race: Humans (no other races are presented, though any 5th Edition race can be integrated)
I like how the dominant species on our planet is handled, they are very close to how they are presented in the DnD 5th Edition Player's guide, except they a Genetic Benefit, which is a d20 roll on a chart that gives results such as "2 additional hit points at 1st level and 1 additional hit point each additional level" or "You gain a +1 bonus to any Charisma ability check". I really like this solution as it allows a game of only Humans to still feel very diverse.
Lifepath's are also presented which allow you to use table to randomly round out your character's past on a series of tables. They fill the same role as Backgrounds in 5E.
A Ladder gives you the ability to trade in your Ability Score Improvement/Feat for a thematic benefit of equal value. But you can't choose a later Ladder ability, until you have all of the earlier "rungs".
They are all fully compatible with DnD 5th Edition and may be integrated into an existing game, as long as everyone uses them.
If your game doesn't use magic items, there are Ladder Gains you acquire at certain levels to help with the game's math.
The Ladders are: Born Leader, Juggernaut, Runner, Savant, Survivor, Veteran, and Warrior.
Here's an example of how the Veteran Ladder works: It's key abilities are Constitution and Wisdom. When you choose Veteran at level 1, you can use Wis instead of Dex for ranged attack and damage rolls; You can use Con modifier instead of your Dex modifier to determine your AC. You must choose Con or Wis as your Ladder's primary ability.
At 4th level you may take Natural Equilibrium when you would gain an Ability Score Improvement/Feat: you can improve one ability score of your choice by 1, but you can't improve an ability score above 20, UNLESS it's your primary ability score from this Ladder (Con or Wis), which can be improved to 22. Additionally, you can make a Con save to reduce your exhaustion level by 1 and can do this multiple times with he DC increasing each time. Finally, you get to choose a proficiency: Survival or Animal Handling.
At 8th, 12th, 16th, and 19th level you can choose other Ladder abilities as long as you have take the previous one. Here is the 16th level one, Elite: Increase 1 ability score of your choice by 2, again it's normally a max of 20, unless it's your Ladder's primary ability and then it's 22. Additionally, you automatically pass Survial checks with a DC of 20 or less.
Ladder Gains are included if the game doesn't have magic items. A Veteran gets cold resistance at 5th level; +1 to AC at 11th level; and fire resistance at 17th level. If your game features magic items, ignore these gains.