Cerebus (sorceror) wrote in roleplayers,

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I've been meaning to post this for a while now...

A few weekends ago I dropped in at the local big gaming store, and went browsing through the secondhand section (something I do every time I go there). Among the items there, I found a copy of d20 Modern at a reasonable price, so I grabbed it. I've been curious about it for a while. When I first started playing RPGs (back in nineteen mumbleteepeg), Top Secret was the second game I got after D&D, and I thought d20 Modern would mostly follow that model. I knew there were chapters dealing with magic in a modern setting, but I thought that the main focus of the book would be on running a campaign where magic, psionics, and other supernatural powers simply don't exist.

As it turns out, you can indeed use it to run such a game. However... the three suggested campaign scenarios all involve magic or psychic powers. And when I picked up the official setting a week later, I saw that it includes various non-human races from D&D, magic items, new spells and magic feats, and so on. It's clearly set up to be D&D in the modern world, or WotC's answer to Shadowrun. And a quick look at the supplements available for the game line indicates that this is a recurring theme: while there is non-supernatural material, each supplement seems to include at least one chapter addressing supernatural monsters and/or powers. It's clearly a major element of the game as written.

I find this disappointing. It's fine if that's what you want to play, but I was really hoping for a game set in the modern world, without any supernatural elements - none whatsoever. No vampires, trolls, psychics, superpowers, mutants, or other supernatural weirdness.

I understand that part of the appeal of gaming is having a chance to experience a world different from our own, and playing a character with unusual abilities and powers is fun. Recently, though, I've been feeling more and more that it's too easy for such things to get in the way of a good game rather than support it - it's too easy to use these gimmicks as a substitute for creating settings and plots that are interesting in their own right.

I can think of an awful lot of popular action/adventure shows on TV that didn't have even a hint of supernatural elements (or at least not until the fourth or fifth season, when the writers had clearly run out of decent ideas). Sure, they often still stretched credibility by introducing non-existent organizations, implausible situations and plots, and/or questionable science/technology: but they basically obeyed the laws of the universe as we know it. So it seems to me that there's no reason why you can't run a good campaign on such a premise.

And yet it seems to me that there are very few games out there that do (I've heard that Spycraft may be a good fit for this, but that has yet to show up on the secondhand shelf...). Why aren't there more games that use a non-supernatural modern setting?

Has anybody out there run or played in a completely non-supernatural game? How did it go?
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