Category Archives: The Modern Man

d20 Modern, a (sadly) short lived game, from 2002-2006, has always had a special place in the hearts of the writers. Here, in The Modern Man, you can find all sorts of cool stuff for use especially (but not exclusively) for this underrated game.

Traiter In Our Midst: Descriptors- 141 Through 160

Hello, all you fine readers great and small! You saw the headline, so I’m pretty sure you know what to expect- so let’s get right to it!!!

  1. Old Lady Wearing  A Wig
  2. Classy
  3. Time Machine
  4. Scorekeeper Of A Chess Match
  5. Vineyard Owner
  6. Gangsta
  7. Hand Model
  8. Attracted To Katey Sagal
  9. Terrible Shoegaze/Ambient Band With Pretentious Name
  10. Clothespin
  11. Hero Of Time
  12. Garbageman
  13. Mulder
  14. Guy Who Invented The “Om Nom Nom” Sound Effect
  15. Oprah
  16. Cancer Patient
  17. Train Conductor
  18. Xenophiliac
  19. Cowboy
  20. Guy On Bus That’s Obviously Listening To Ozzy

Haha, excellent! Hope you guys enjoy these! They are quite the… diverse choices!

The Chief (wondering whether he should spend all his money buying a Scrooge McDuck style vault for all his millions. On one hand, it would be great. On the other, it would probably cost so much he would have no money left to actually put IN the vault. Decisions)

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Plots For Sale Or Rent

Well, hello and greetings, fair humanoids! And unfair, I’m not one to judge. It is your enlightening host, The Mysterious Dr. X, here to regale you with stories from the sci-fi side of the table!

You know, a lot of people here on Earth come up to me, and they’ll be like “Oh, Dr. X, I’m starting a new game tonight with my group, and I don’t know what the plot should be about, please help me!!”. After brandishing my Mysterious X-Ray at them for saying my name wrong, I usually manage to squeak out a few sentences before they disappear completely through the portal into The Mysterious Dimension X. And here they are!

  • Post-apocalypse
    • A few generations earlier, Odin had returned to Midgard (Earth) and sterilized it. However, some humans still survive in what has become the playground of the Old Gods.
    • A comet crash lands in the ocean, and upon breaking open, is revealed to be filled with a caustic black jelly. It swiftly spreads and kills all the sea creatures, then dissolves away, leaving no trace.
    • Robots! After they become self-aware and start building themselves, they- surprisingly enough- do not rebel, instead pampering us and taking care of our every whim. However, our eventual acceptance of the situation turns the entire culture into a completely sedentary lifestyle, and human production shuts down completely- food doesn’t get harvested, homes no longer get built, et cetera. After a while, the planet is devastated.
  • Star Wars
    • Old Republic: Czerka is up to their old tricks. This time, it’s believed they’re actually selling slaves on the black market. They’re weird slaves, though, unlike anything anyone has seen. They resemble wookiees, except they’re short- like two or three feet tall.
    • Rebellion: You uncover documentation that seems to imply Mon Mothma herself has been supplying information to Vader and his men.
    • Legacy: Krayt has initiated the next stage of his plan of utter domination, and all signs point to that plan being the complete destruction of the Mon Calamari race. It’s time to set up a raiding party and break into some Sith concentration camps.
  • Future
    • Animorphs, but with Dralasites and N’sss instead of andalites and yeerks. Oh, and it takes place like a thousand years in the future.
    • A sesheyan has been elected Prime Minister of the US. Immediately afterwards, he starts a war with the home planet of the Vrusk. No one has any idea why.
    • A yazirian has announced he has selected the entire ruling class of weren as his life enemy, attempting (and failing) an assassination attempt on one of them a few days later. Apparently, though, word has been made that he was forced to make that selection, but by who, no one knows.

Well, folks, I hope that was worth the time and effort! Make sure to mention my name to get 15% off your next order (not actually true- you’ll probably get banned)! I am your host, The Mysterious Dr. X, saying “every suggestion is an Officially Certified Mysterious Dr. X Stone Cold Classic©“!

The Mysterious Dr. X (seriously, don’t tell them I sent you. Bad things will happen)

I’ve Been Debating When To Talk About This. The Debate Is Apparently Over.

Back a while ago- like, twelve or thirteen years ago- I happened to get in on the ground floor of something that only in retrospect did I realize would change my life. An acquaintance of mine from high school was putting together a Modern game, since Modern had come out the summer before, and Urban Arcana was about a month from release. A mutual friend knew that I played D&D, and so suggested me to him, if he was looking for more players. Luckily for me, he was, so I was asked to show up.

When I arrived, there was my school acquaintance, our mutual friend, and a few people I didn’t know. At that point, the team consisted of:

  • El, Mexican gunslinger
  • Hugo, underworld pit fighter
  • Hanis, expert hacker
  • Snake, military sniper
  • Vlad, federal agent
  • Jezebel, unregistered nurse

We played a session or two, then the DM bought a copy of Urban Arcana. The method with which the contents of the book became available to us ingame are too ridiculous to recount here, but suffice to say it was ludicrous. Literally the next session, we had a new player. Hilariously enough, the new person turned out to be Pain. That’s actually how, when, and where the two of us met. But that’s beside the point for this particular story. The team at that point consisted of:

  • El, lycanthrope gunslinger
  • Hugo, drow swordsman
  • Hanis, half-dragon hacker
  • Snake, half-fraal sniper
  • Vlad, revenant
  • Jezzebelle, half-celestial divine mage
  • Stone, grimlock boxer

Over the next three or four levels, we would switch DMs twice, lose Vlad, and see him replaced by:

  • Alec, catfolk drug dealer

And right around that point was when things started… happening. The player of Alec (who also played Vlad until he died) left the game after just a couple sessions, then Jezzebelle’s player quit maybe a month later. Her boyfriend, Hanis’s player, quit almost immediately after that. Then, due to unrelated matters, we took a break from playing for a month or two. When we returned to the game, El’s player was not invited to rejoin. By that point, however, we had found a new player to take over Jezzebelle. So by then (we were around level ten or so by this point, and it’s probably 2005 by then), the team was Hugo, Snake, Stone, and Jezzebelle, with the other four (Alec, Vlad, Hanis, and El) all relegated to occasional NPC appearances.

Over the next couple years, the sessions would happen more and more infrequently, until it was sometimes months between sessions. Eventually, they would stop altogether in approximately 2009, with the party at about level 17. Since then, we’ve played one session- in 2011, I believe- that was left unfinished. All evidence suggests it will remain that way permanently.

Looking back over what I wrote so far, I realize that I probably sounded a bit overly melodramatic at the beginning, talking about how it changed my life and such. But the thing is, it did. If I had never joined that game, I would have never met the people in it (including Pain), I never would have had a chance to play Modern (which, in case I haven’t mentioned, is my favorite RPG). Plus, this happened right after I had started playing D&D. I’d been playing for maybe two months when this Modern game started. I honestly can’t tell you how my life would be different if I hadn’t joined that game, because it’s affected my life in so many ways I can’t even imagine myself without it.

I spent six years with these characters, you know? I saw everything that happened to them. The clones. The aliens. The dragons. The kids. The castle. The mountains. The displacer beasts. (I understand those sentence fragments don’t actually mean anything to you, but rest assured there’s a story behind each one of those phrases that’s long enough to get a whole column out of. Each.)

In about 2010, we created a spinoff campaign that took place in the same canon as this Modern game. As such, it was retroactively dubbed “Alpha” to the spinoff’s “Beta”. The concept was that it would follow an unrelated group of characters while they visited the locations of the major events in Alpha, and saw how things had changed due to whatever had happened there. Unfortunately, in practice, the only connection between Alpha and Beta was that Beta was stated to take place three years afterwards. It turned into a weird amalgamation of Animorphs and Silent Hill. You see, that characters were children- well, teenagers- and they fought monsters like you would expect to see in something like Resident Evil. The characters never visited any of Alpha’s locations, or got involved in any of their old operations, or anything.

Which was kind of a missed opportunity, I suppose. But I have no one to blame but myself (since I DMed Beta, while I notably did not DM Alpha). Anywho, Beta didn’t last long- I have very little confidence in my DMing ability- and the idea of Alpha was basically done for, never to return.

Until.

Fast forward to about six months ago. During a writing exercise, I craft a story about Alpha. That brief mention I made of “the kids” earlier? Well, while Alpha was still going on, a lot of the characters ended up having children over the course of the game.

  • Hugo married a human and had a daughter, Lily.
  • Stone and Jezzebelle had a son, Jewel.
  • Jezzebelle also had a son with Snake, Evan.

Anyway, about six months ago, I wrote a story about the three of them adventuring together. And it got me thinking. See, since Alpha ended, the person that played Snake stopped coming around. So it was Hugo, Stone, and Jezzebelle, was all that was left. Each one of them, during the run of Alpha, had a child. And I had always wanted to bring back Alpha. But I know it’ll never happen.

So how about the next best thing? How about a campaign about the children of Alpha- Lily, Jewel, and Evan?

The only roadblock- in the intervening five years, I have not gotten any more confident about my DMing capabilities.

The Chief (there’s another game that, in its own way, is just as important as Alpha is. I sometimes refer to it as “D&D’s Alpha”, since it’s a fantasy campaign. Maybe one of these days, someone will tell you the story behind the Sons Of Fate)

Get Yourself Adventure Hooked 10: The One Black Stain

It is January 28, 1596. You ship is anchored just off the shore of Panama, just like it has been for the last five days or so. But today, it’s for a very important occasion. Your captain, one Sir Francis Drake, died during the night from dysentery, and has requested a burial at sea. Dressed in his full armor, inside a lead coffin, his body goes overboard and promptly sinks into the depths. Seemingly forever- even four hundred years later, his body would still not be found.

Anyway, after the requisite time for mourning, the new captain raises anchor and flees, since the spot was the location of a complete rout of Drake’s forces. During the trip, Drake’s assistant comes up to you, telling you that Drake gave him a small chest right before his death. The things in it have writing on it, and unfortunately the assistant can’t read, and so he now requires the help of one of the only people in the crew he can completely trust.

Inside the chest is four things.

  • An object in a strange shape you’ve never seen before. It looks like an oval with a line sticking out of its right side, with another line sticking out down from the midpoint of the first. It looks carved out of stone
  • A small metal cylinder, flat on one end and a rounded point on the other. The flat end has a bit of a lip, and on the underside of the edge, the message “9X19” is stamped into the metal
  • A sealed envelope, inside of which is a vaguely triangular piece of burlap, apparently looking like it was ripped directly from a bag. It has a crudely drawn compass pointing northwest on it and dated two days ago
  • An ornately designed hair comb, inlaid with ivory. Would not at all seem out of place in the personal bedchambers of a queen. When held under the sun, flecks of gold glint and catch the light

Traiter In Our Midst: Descriptors- 121 Through 140

Welcome to this fine Sunday morning, Modernphiles! It’s nice out, and I don’t feel like being cooped up inside all day writing this- so today’s gonna be a quick, easy-to-digest article, so we can all get out there and romp around and goof off! And what fits the bill more than probably my favorite column on this website to write, NPC descriptors! Lots of ingenuity and a wide range of stuff- what’s not to love!?

  1. Bassist Of Molly Hatchet
  2. Helen Keller
  3. Son Of Kong
  4. Mortician
  5. Realtor
  6. The Last Twinkie On Earth
  7. 7 Foot Tall Cockroach
  8. The Winner Of Lot 14-F
  9. Fat-Bottomed Girl
  10. Exhibit A
  11. Mystery Novelist
  12. Redshirt
  13. Flatulent Movie Patron
  14. Man That, From Behind, Was Totally Mistaken For Woman
  15. Barbershop Quartet
  16. Delicious Burrito
  17. Subscriber To Weekly World News
  18. Transformer
  19. E. Honda
  20. Patriotism Personified

Man, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again- this is my favorite column I write! I’m starting to get near the end of the list, but thinking these up is a lot of fun, so I’m definitely gonna keep it going even after I get through the ones I already created. But anyway, that won’t be for a while yet.

Hope you had the biggest of blasts with this list- and I even more hope you’ll pop back in next week to see what other Modern shenanigans we’ll be up to next! Only one way to find out! [Twilight Zone music]

The Chief (You start to panic as you hear the mystery closing in on you.  There’s the mystery, right in front of you. You start to run, but the mystery catches up too quickly. You trip and fall into a puddle of mystery. You look up, staring right into the eyes of… The Mystery Show. Hello, I’m Rod Serling)

Modern’s Unsung Hero

Look, I know I’ve touched on this a bit before (in my Crawfordsville Monster articles, those are the first ones that come to mind), but I’m gonna say it again so we’re clear- I love Monster Manuals. Doesn’t matter what theme they might be, what game they’re for, if I even understand what the numbers mean. I just love flipping through Monster Manuals. I even own a copy of the fourth edition MM 1, such is my love of creature stats. And I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess that you probably already pieced this together on your own, but the one they released for Modern- the Menace Manual- is probably my favorite one.

There are some good ones- 3.5’s MM2 had some cool monsters, that book The Encountered for the game Alpha Omega that The Mysterious Dr. X reviewed some time back has some legitimately great artwork in it. 5E’s MM is also really sweet as well. The third edition of Mutants & Masterminds released a book called Threat Report that is an incredibly useful resource for M&M players. And, for my money, I would say that- after the Menace Manual, of course- probably my favorite monster index-style book is called The Book Of Unremitting Horror, released in 2007 by Pelgrane Press. It’s designed for the GUMSHOE system, an investigation-heavy game system created for use for two similar, overlapping games- Fear Itself and The Esoterrorists.

If you haven’t put it together by now, they’re both horror games. I personally got it for use with Fear Itself, but it works equally well with either game. But anyway- this book. Seriously, this damn book. It is legitimately disturbing in a way very few things are. They really, just… they really hit the nail on the head when they decided to make “book with lots of messed up stuff” in it. I highly recommend it if you want to read things that will stay with you for a while. I can’t say for sure I’ve ever gotten all the way through it.

Which, in retrospect, I find to be a very interesting way to phrase that thought, since that’s the reason I like creature stats so much- I can just sit down and read them like novels. Which brings me to my original point- the Menace Manual.

So many cool monsters, dude. I’m tellin’ ya. They cleverly got all the classic monsters- zombies, gnolls, ogres, Meepo- out of the way for the mini-Menace Manual inside the core rulebook itself, which meant they had plenty of room to think up all kinds of crazy new monsters for the Menace Manual that don’t really have any D&D analog. And let me tell you, some of them are pretty great.

The first one that comes to mind is, of course, the Crawfordsville Monster. It is, was, and will be my favorite monster that ever appeared in Modern. It’s great, and I’m not gonna say any more, since I wrote a two-part article all about them. If you wanna now more, go check the articles out. Next up, the rogue tulpa. Now, the thematic style of the monster- rampaging beast created from latent psychic energy- could reasonably appear in any game, but what makes it especially appropriate for Modern is the long-standing real life tradition of natives practicing tulpa creation. It feels like the kind of monster that doesn’t quite belong in fantasy, since it’s too closely tied to real events, people, and places that actually exist- thereby making it perfect for a Modern game.

Another great monster is the sand slave. Like the rogue tulpa, sand slaves don’t have any similar (even superficially) comparison to a creature from fantasy. The closest resemblance I can think of is the umber hulk- not because of any remote similarity between powers, or appearance, or even purpose. But because umber hulks are the slave race of the neogi, and sand slaves are the slave race to the etoile. Etoile are a race of intelligent machines that vaguely resemble ornate Christmas tree ornaments (which is the analogy they use in the book, one I find incredibly apt), and have a special nanite injection ability (they spell it “nannite” in the book, and I just can’t accept that spelling) that turns the infected into cybernetic spies (thew aforementioned sand slaves). Cool, cool stuff.

I’ve also always been a fan of Montauk Monsters as well (apparently, I’m just a big fan of creatures with the word “monster” in their name). Basically, imagine really big, all-blue humans with no head and super long arms. Oh, and they’re invisible. Oh, and they’re basically made of electricity. And bringing them up reminds me of something else that I’ve always liked so much about Modern- they really went out of there way to make even the monsters feel like they belong. And I don’t mean like how they depicted Meepo as a soldier, or the gnoll as a pimp. I mean that they really turned to creatures that are uniquely recognizable to current players. Monsters like the rogue tulpa, whose existence is tied to the worshipping practices of natives. Chemical golems, litter brutes, and toxic sludge, which are monsters that could only exist in a situation like ours, the question of what to do with all this trash and toxic waste still lingering.

But then, they bust out my favorite category of monster- of which my favorite monster is a part- the urban legend. Crawfordsville Monsters. Montauk Monsters. Mothfolk. Mongolian Death Worms. Sasquatches. Fraal (which is what they call grey aliens). Yetis (which are NOT sasquatches). Man-o’-wars. All of these (and I’m sure there are more I didn’t immediately recognize) are monsters we’re familiar with, since they actually exist in real life as urban legends. An all that does is make it more exciting, since in almost every case, the monster has been changed or otherwise modified a meaningful way that will make us unsure of its capabilities, even if we’re familiar with the story it’s originally from.

And on top of all that, here come some more classics, right out of the Monster Manual. As if the ones from the core book just weren’t enough, they toss out neothelids. Hags. Intellect devourers. Harpies. Grimlocks. Ghouls. All these and more are iconic monsters from D&D that have successfully been transplanted into Modern. Some of them are basically identical (megalodon), while others (looking at you, bodak) took the name and the look and completely overhauled them. Then there’s the ones in between- fiends, for instance. They were definitely around before, but the ones in Modern are a mix of transplants from fantasy and brand-new creations. All cool ways of doing it, and it just plain works.

Make sure to come back, ladypeople and gentlefolks, for more quality material, only available here on The Doderman Defense!

The Chief (and I never even got into things like the madman, or revenants, or bogeymen. Wizards’ template game really stepped it up a notch with Modern)

Get Yourself Adventure Hooked 9: A Whole Bunch

1. A traveling magician is dogged by mysterious disappearances that seem to match up with stops in his tour.

2. Various media outlets claim subliminal messages in the new Corpsetec album is the cause of a recent rash of suicides.

3. Word starts filtering in of several homeless people reporting sightings of “some sort of demon” coming out of, or going into, the sewers.

4. A bank robber becomes the subject of intense public speculation when he is shown on camera not taking any money, instead seeming to meditate for approximately 45 seconds before leaving.

5. A wall underground collapses during a subway expansion, revealing a perfectly preserved, fully furnished house in an otherwise unused empty space.

6. Supposedly, someone is actually working on a real-life Jurassic Park.

7. An unusually large number of people were brought to the hospital with injuries consistent with massive electrical shock, and it is later discovered they were all present during an explosion at a bus station.

8. Someone makes grandiose claims about being able to perform apparently inhuman feats of strength, yet is able to follow through on their statements.

9. A gigantic dog is seen downtown literally appearing out of nowhere, running across the street, and immediately disappearing into thin air.

10.  Dozens of photographs surface seeming to depict modern-day people present during historical events.

11. Thirty two tourists all see the Lincoln Memorial move its head and start talking, but no one knows what it said.

12. A farmer in Germany claims that a hill near the edge of her farm split open and a giant stone person came out.

13. An underground comic made by someone known only as “Sketch” has gained a reputation for depicting events that, some time later, actually happen.

14. Someone bought a hat from the back of a comic book that they say will turn them into other people when they wear it.

15. After getting mugged the other night, a young woman now exhibits the classic, stereotypical signs of vampirism.

16. A recently declassified government document tells of a soldier during Desert Storm finding a strange glowing rock that prevented his gun from ever running out of ammunition when he kept it on his person.

17. A teenage boy in Turkey has been making waves recently, claiming he is the reincarnation of Alexander The Great.

18. A scientist has released a study claiming he has finally discovered rock solid, irrefutable, empirical evidence that ghosts exist.

19. So, uh… turns out Terminator was a documentary.

20. A follilized tyrannosaur egg at a natural history museum in Utah actually hatched- and the creature inside wasn’t a Rex, it was a dragon.

The Chief (I gotta say, these are a lot of fun to make)

Chief, Awesome Ordinary 80

So I’ve been thinking a lot about NPCs as of late. In D&D, the third edition DMG introduced the concept of NPC classes, which are exactly what they sound like- classes intended to only be taken by NPCs that are less capable than the ones offered to PCs.

Okay, great. But we’re here to talk about Modern, not D&D. So what do we do then?

Well, one thing that always struck me as weird (until I learned why) was how in every example stat block they have in the book, characters are always listed as “(class) Hero (level)”. They were always referred to in their level breakdown as “Hero”. For a long time, my response was “well, yeah. Of course they’re heroes. They’re characters in the game”. I was initially unaware that there even was NPC classes in the game, and so didn’t know it was actually a word with a real, defined meaning in game rule terms. And turns out the word “hero” in their stat block is what indicates whether they have NPC classes or not.

Now, as I’m sure you’re all aware, Modern has six base classes, each thematically based around one of the six core ability scores. And the six listed there are the six base classes designed for PCs. So what about the NPC classes?

In D&D, they’re in a separate book- adept, aristocrat, commoner, warrior, and expert are in the Dungeon Master’s Guide, not the Player’s Handbook. But unlike fantasy, the Modern system only requires one book, rather than three. So they must be somewhere in here. And sure enough, we find them under the index header of “ordinaries”. In D&D, they’re referred to as “PC classes” and “NPC classes”, and in Modern, those same two concepts are called “heroic classes” and “ordinary classes”. But what’s so interesting about it, is that ordinary classes are the same as the heroic classes.

Turns out that ordinary classes are also the same six that the Ayers choose from- Strong, Fast, Tough, Smart, Dedicated, and Charismatic. And if you’re an NPC, you’re- going back to the example from earlier- listed as “(class) Ordinary (level)”, not “(class) Hero (level)”. But what does the “Ordinary” label mean?

Basically, it means they’re less capable than heroic characters. Ordinary levels use a lot of the same basic stats as heroic classes do, with a couple key differences. Namely, they don’t get maximum HP at level 1, they aren’t allowed to take advanced classes (but they are free to multiclass between the base classes as much as they like), they don’t get action points, their ability scores use the standard array of 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, and 8 instead of rolling for them like PCs do, and they don’t get any class features- in other words, talents and bonus feats.

Everything else is the same as the heroic version- BAB and F/R/W progression, skills list, Hit Dice, defense and reputation bonus, and Wealth bonus still progress at the same rate as the heroic version.

Personally, I find this setup to be, much like Modern itself, surprisingly elegant. It doesn’t require a different class list- the one at the front of the book that the players are using will still work. Plus, NPCs don’t get different abilities, they just get less. So it’s simply a matter of disregarding some of the things listed in the class writeup.

To me, that’s the key difference that makes the NPC class system in Modern make more sense. It says in the beginning of the book that everyone is one of those six classes. Presumably, they meant “all PCs”, but with the NPC class system working the way it does, they actually mean that literally, whether they intended to or not- everyone, PC or not, is one of these six classes. Since Modern assumes everyone is a human (and therefore of at least vaguely comparative ability to others of the same class), that just plain works.

Kudos, Wizards Of The Coast. Yet again, you’ve provided another reason for me to believe Modern is the best RPG system.

Part Final (For Now)

People that can’t stand The X-Files- you’re in luck! Today is going to be my last entry into this miniature ongoing series for the time being, and I’ll be getting back to other topics starting next week. So, uh, congratulations- you only need to skip one more article til you’re in the clear!

Unfortunately for you, however, that still means there’s the aforementioned “one last article” to get through- and here it is! So far, in this little miniseries, I’ve shined the spotlight on Assistant Director Walter S. Skinner, Doctor Dana Scully, and alien super soldiers, as well as positing an X-Files/Fringe crossover. Today, however, I’m gonna rein it in a little.

There were 202 episodes of The X-Files, spread out among nine seasons of television. There were also two movies- one that took place (and was released) between seasons five and six, and one that took place (and, again, was released) six years after the show ended. I’ve seen them all. All 202 episodes and both movies. I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself an “expert”, however, since a majority of them- probably about 120 of them, or thereabouts- I’ve only seen once. I wouldn’t be able to give you a plot (or probably even a season, to be honest) if you gave me a title, with a few exceptions, and I don’t own any of the seasons or movies. I’ve seen them all through a combination of watching it when it was on TV, going to the movie theater, and borrowing DVD sets from people I know that own them.

That being said, I’ve seen it enough to feel confident in my ability to nail the tone for a d20 Modern game (lest we forget why we’re all here), and I think it is summed up by a combination of a handful of episodes, each offering a different important style that can be used (or, if necessary, emulated) to get the tone of the game right.

For straight, outright terror and fear, Home is a good place to look. It came right at the height of the show’s popularity and critical success- beginning of season four- and it holds a special distinction in the series as being the only episode of the entire run rated TV-MA, as well as one of only two episodes given a viewer discretion warning (in case you’re wondering, the other was season eight’s Via Negativa). Further, Home was also the only episode that FOX refused to rerun after its initial airing.

I remember watching the episode in 1997 when it was first on, and I remember thinking it was, while not outright scary per se, deeply unsettling in a way I couldn’t quite articulate. It definitely stayed with me and haunted my thoughts for a while. If you’re looking to make your X-Files game a scary one (a good guess, since that was kinda the show’s M.O.), Home is a good place to start. Depending on what kind of things you and your players find creepy, I would also suggest Irresistible (serial killer with a death fetish), Badlaa (dude that climbs into people to control them), or The Host (one word- Flukeman) as other places to start.

On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, The X-Files was also a show known for, oddly enough, its humor. Episodes like Humbug, or the Dreamland two-parter, or- most famously- Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space’ contain many moments that are flat-out hilarious, especially to longtime fans of the show, since most of the comedy relies on the character interactions. The comedy well was one the producers would frequently and increasingly go back to as the show went on, coming to a head with season six, generally considered the most comedic season of the show. The show proved time and again that it can do horror as well as it can do jokes, and consequently, you can’t do an X-FIles game without some comedy.

Come back next week as we talk about… some other thing. Not The X-Files, though.

The Chief (let’s be honest- with over 200 episodes, there’s a canon precedent for any style of game. No matter what you’re going for, there’s probably an episode that’s done it)

Assistant Director Walter S. Skinner, Meet Colonel Phillip Broyles

So here we are, writing/reading (respectively) an article about d20 Modern. Regular readers (or, hell, people that bothered to look at previously posted content on this website before reading this) (or, hell, people that didn’t even bother to do that, and instead went and looked at previous posts after they were done with this post) (I’m not judging) will know that I’ve spent the last few updates of this column talking about The X-Files. It was and still is, one of my favorite shows ever made. Back a few weeks ago, they announced they were making a revival of it, which directly spawned the current glut of articles. Believe me, I’m still got things I can say about that dang show. But I want to spend today talking about something a little bit different.

Fringe was a television show on FOX (same channel The X-Files ran on, if you recall) that ran for five seasons, from 2008-2013. It starred John Noble, Joshua Jackson, and Anna Torv as (respectively) eccentric, drug-addled scientist Walter Bishop, con man/estranged son Peter Bishop, and Special Agent/test subject Olivia Dunham. Agent Dunham is an FBI agent and a member of a subdivision of Homeland Security called the “Fringe Division”, a department where they studied and investigated unexplainable or otherwise strange phenomena. Fringe science, in other words. Walter works with her as the scientist brought in to help her understand it, and Peter is there to basically serve as a wrangler for his father.

But anyway, the show was a hit. It was very popular, is was well-liked (especially after it started getting good during season two), and a lot of people claimed it was a ripoff of The X-Files. Having watched all nine seasons and both movies of The X-Files, and all five seasons of Fringe, I have to say I disagree. I will admit, there are a lot of similarities- main characters work for the FBI, they investigate seemingly unnatural occurrences that can be explained with some veneer of scientificness, the two leads fall in love, they’re basically police procedurals that feature crazy monsters. I’m not saying The X-Files wasn’t an influence. Not even that it wasn’t a strong influence. I just don’t feel the shows are as similar as people claim they are.

To be completely honest, I personally found that the first season of Supernatural felt far more like The X-Files than Fringe ever did. Ironically enough, the end of season one was when both Fringe and Supernatural tweaked the styles and themes of their shows- Fringe stopped being as much of an episodic procedural and started having more of an ongoing storyline, and Supernatural stopped being about two brothers investigating urban legends and became two brothers fighting demons- and with those tweaks came them no longer feeling even remotely like The X-Files ever did. But I digress.

Fringe was a great show. Anyone with Netflix or the spare money to buy it on DVD definitely should. But I didn’t just write this article to be a shill for FOX memorabilia, as lucrative as that may have been for me. I wrote this article to tell anyone out there using my previous articles about The X-Files that you should totally have Fringe Division and the characters therein be canon parts of the X-Files universe.

They mesh together really well, the cases they investigate would totally jive with an X-files unit, and I think the characters get along great. Plus, there’s a secret, hidden reason why. Now, this next part is pure conjecture, and it’s something that you can decide to pluck the thread of- or not. Up to you. But try this on for size.

In the Fringe second season premiere, A New Day In The Old Town, aired September 17, 2009, the head of Fringe Division, Phillip Broyles, is in a meeting with a group of senators who are chewing him out for his department’s lack of results. Specifically, they mention that “…your ‘Fringe’ investigations have been indulgences in the federal budget for over half a century”. Okay, cool. Apparently, Fringe Division has been around for at least 50 years, but okay. But that’s not the whole quote.

The senator actually says “the old ‘X’ designation and your ‘Fringe’ investigations…” At first, this just seems like a confident little reference at the show that inspired it- and it most likely is, since scenes from the show have been seen in the backgrounds of various Fringe episodes. But, think back to the canon of The X-Files. Remembering this episode came out in 2009, what was at least 50 years ago to then? The assigning of Arthur Dales, the first X-files agent, happened in 1952. The FBI considered investigation of unexplained phenomena a waste of time then, and apparently still does, over 50 years later.

Like I said, I’m fairly certain that one line wasn’t intended to be an indication they take place in the same universe. I’d bet money on that it was just supposed to be an amusing little aside, and didn’t mean anything in any kind of lager context. But this is our d20 Modern game. Who’s to say that can’t take place in the same universe for the purposes of our game?

Maybe after the X-files unit got shut down (for the third time, no less) in 2002, they later on realized they actually DID have a meaningful need for a department like that, and so formed the Fringe Division to handle what the former X-files unit would have otherwise. Maybe they decided to rebrand and refocus it in an effort to make it more “legitimate” in the eyes of the department, actually making it THE SAME department it formerly was- just with a different name- than a separate, unrelated unit that just so happens to investigate the same stuff.

Man, I dunno. It’s your game. I’m just informing you of the options. Personally though, I think it would be sweet to have The X-Files and Fringe take place in the same universe. Aliens and parallel universes! Excellent.

This has been yet another Quality Article© by your pal The Chief! Enjoy those dice, you!

The Chief (p.s., if you want to see the scene between Broyles and the senator yourself, feast your eyes on this)