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What could modern-era role-playing games be about, and would you play them?

ExileInParadise

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Looking at my bookshelf, I realized that most of my games are sci-fi, then fantasy games ... and that I had to look VERY hard to see anything I'd call a "modern era" RPG ... and I wondered why.

What would modern era RPGs be about?

When I thought about it - all that came to mind was D20 Modern (urban paranormal), Spycraft (and all spy games), and Mutants and Masterminds (and all superhero games which always seemed more like sci-fi to me).

Surely there's more, right?

I went digging on IMDB for a list of modern era TV series which could be used for inspiration of many "episodes" worth of actions, encounters, adventures, or campaigns in a modern era RPG setting and story.

Here's what I found ... and I wonder ... would you play any of these as an RPG? If so... which?

The four "meta-categories" seemed to be centered on Family, Professions, Criminals, or the Paranormal (the normal world meets something weird)

Family: Dallas, Bob Newhart, Mary Tyler Moore, All In The Family, Seinfeld, Friends, etc etc - the biggest category

Specific Jobs: Bartending (Cheers), Teaching (Community), Coaching (The Coach), Firefighters (Rescue Me), Undertakers (Six Feet Under), Taxi Drivers (Taxi)

Politicians: Veep, Parks & Recreation, West Wing, Spin City

Private Detectives: Veronica Mars, Rockford Files, Magnum P.I., Murder She Wrote, Moonlighting, Monk, Bones

Media: 30 Rock, Larry Sanders, Murphy Brown, Madmen

Medical: Greys Anatomy, Nurse Jackie, MASH, ER, St. Elsewhere, Chicago Hope, House, Northern Exposure, China Beach, Scrubs

Office/Corporate: Silicon Valley, The Office, Mr. Robot

Legal: How to Get Away with Murder, The Practice, LA Law, The Good Wife, Ally McBeal, Damages

Law Enforcement: Homeland, 24, Law & Order, Hill St. Blues, Miami Vice, NYPD Blue, Barney Miller, Cagney & Lacey, Homicied, Kojak, The Closer, Picket Fences, NCIS, CSI: Whatever

Criminals: The Sopranos, The Wire, Breaking Bad, Dexter, Boardwalk Empire, The Shield, Weeds

Spies: The Americans, Alias

Paranormal: The X-Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Lost, 3rd Rock from the Sun
 
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JochenL

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Speaking films/serials, I would play: Supernatural, Stargate, Indiana Jones, James Bond, Lucy, Army of Darkness, Nephelim?, Etc.

So this is in effect Modern + Fantasy or Modern + Sci-fi or Spies/Action.
 

Stephan Hornick

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Interesting question. I would probably be resistant to play anything too mundane. For me, one part of the fun is to escape the everday life.

YES
Private Detectives | Seems interesting as I am an (Bartle Test) Explorer foremost and like investigation & roleplaying.
Criminals & Law Enforcement | Likewise, I would probably play this. It sounds like investigation, roleplaying and action.
Supernatural | Anything combined with fantasy is ok for me. Although I don't like a world of supernaturals (as it can become just too much for me), I like a mundane world with some supernatural elements or even a world of supernaturals where everybody is limited to one specific power. In addition, vampires, werewolves, fey, mages, etc. etc. in the modern world are also nice for me.
Paranormal | Again, as it probably includes fantasy and investigation, puzzles that is, I would play paranormal roleplaying games.

NO
Family | I would not play anything in the "Family" category for above reason. There is no thrill at all for me. And I really don't like 99% of the slapstick or comedy series.
Legal, Media, Medical, Corporate | Although I am interested in law etc. in general, anything too specialist and I feel that it is rather learning the trade than do interesting fun stuff. If you instead combine it with fantasy or investigation (murder etc.), I am up for it.
Spies | This is too political for me, too slow in action.
Political | Again, too political.
 

Gedece

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You have variations on a theme, also. For example, Monster of the week is great, as it can be played Buffy or Grimm style if anybody picks The Chosen playbook, but if nobody picks it up, you can have a roaming band of monster hunters that feels quite different.

Also in the paranormal genre you have Monsterhearts, when you are a high schooler member of a paranormal clan, but the center isn't on hunting, it's on pretending and DRAMA, lots and lots of Interpersonal drama, cliques, love triangles.

You could go another route and play World Wide Wrestling, which is about wrestling, finisher moves and keeping the ratings of the show up.

You could also try Cartel, where you are all members of a drug dealing cartel full of treacherous persons. If you ever played Fiasco, it doesn't feel the same, but stories usually end as badly.

There is also the mexican game Nahual, about playing spirit oriented witches or half breeds with the power of shifting into animal like combat forms.

There's Masks, where you play superhero teenagers, where being teenager is just as problematic as being a hero as everybody seems to know what's best for you.
 

knoppi

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From your list, I would surely play the Criminals section. I like the spies section but don't see a tabletop rpg there or maybe something sneaky?

Paranormal depends. We're playing a lot of Cthulhu in our current era, so this is definitely a yes, but I dislike vampires.

I'm missing the very specific criminals' category of heists. Technically something like A-Team could also fit in there. This is something I really enjoy to play or rather to dm. Typically, I find it not well-suited for campaigns. You have to improvise a lot. Rules with flashbacks help a lot.

We sometimes play a storytelling game (no RPG in the strict sense) called "Dialect". It has some nice scenarios for modern rea playing.
 

ExileInParadise

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My list was modern era TV series that IMDB had in some ranked list.

Spies or Criminals would definitely include things like Airwolf, A-Team, or Burn Notice, for example.

For Spies tabletop games, I would reach for Top Secret/Top Secret S.I. or D20 Spycraft.

I just got a new one called No Day To Die which is all about James Bond-style spies vs. supervillains.

Many of the super-heroes tabletop games would work too, if you cut back on the "superpowers"

And on a final note - yeah, I am not a huge vampires fan after how weirdly they've been "romanticized" the past couple of decades.

I do have the old Leading Edge Games "Dracula" RPG which all about vampire hunter investigations to stake as many vampires as you can ...
 

PigMonkey

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We need to define what modern era is, I feel it is mid 80's to today's level of technology. I find that most "modern era" games fall into horror or superheroes, and mystery though most incorperate some elements of each other. I like to read systems and do actually enjoy modern era games quite a lot. Here are a few on file that I have checked out

-"Fiasco" is great for a single session game where nearly everyone dies at the end. It is like playing in a Tarantino or Cohen brothers movie.
-"Red Markets" Is a good game about being poor during economic collapse and a zombie plague.
-"Modern Age" is the Dragon Age system updated for modern use, it is generic but can be adapted to any modern genre
-"Gumshoe and Bubble Gumshoe" are great systems for running a mystery game in the modern age
-"Night's Black Agents" builds on the gumshoe system and sets the "00" spies against the vampire threat. Lots of great setting stuff here.
-"Dresden Files" Uses the fate system and builds on the lore from the books of the same name. I enjoy it but I find you need people who are committed to both the Dresden books and the fate system of story telling to get the most out of it.
-"Monster of the week" Probably my favorite modern RPG right now. Simple rules. Every session is a one shot episode and your character is a sushi menu. Focuses on genre emulation rather than environment simulation.
-"Multiverse" Is a new system offering from Marvel. its done with 3d6 and seems solid, though I have not had a chance to play test it yet. The complete game is not out as a full release I got the beta version. I think I still perfer the old "facerip" marvel though.

I would play and have played most of these.
 
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ExileInParadise

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We need to define what modern era is, I feel it is mid 80's to today's level of technology. I find that most "modern era" games fall into horror or superheroes, and mystery though most incorperate some elements of each other. I like to read systems and do actually enjoy modern era games quite a lot. Here are a few on file that I have checked out

-"Fiasco" is great for a single session game where nearly everyone dies at the end. It is like playing in a Tarantino or Cohen brothers movie.

I've heard good things about this and its on the list of "to try"

-"Red Markets" Is a good game about being poor during economic collapse and a zombie plague.

Supernatural modern ...

-"Modern Age" is the Dragon Age system updated for modern use, it is generic but can be adapted to any modern genre
-"Gumshoe and Bubble Gumshoe" are great systems for running a mystery game in the modern age

I am not familiar with Dragon Age or Modern Age ... sigh - can't buy *every* game out there these days.

But here's a sighting of the rare "generic" modern... and of course Gumshoe yeah!

-"Night's Black Agents" builds on the gumshoe system and sets the "00" spies against the vampire threat. Lots of great setting stuff here.

Spies meets vampires ... aka supernatural modern

-"Dresden Files" Uses the fate system and builds on the lore from the books of the same name. I enjoy it but I find you need people who are committed to both the Dresden books and the fate system of story telling to get the most out of it.

Supernatural modern ...

-"Monster of the week" Probably my favorite modern RPG right now. Simple rules. Every session is a one shot episode and your character is a sushi menu. Focuses on genre emulation rather than environment simulation.

Supernatural modern ...

-"Multiverse" Is a new system offering from Marvel. its done with 3d6 and seems solid, though I have not had a chance to play test it yet. The complete game is not out as a full release I got the beta version.

Is it 3d6 roll under?

I think I still perfer the old "facerip" marvel though.

As long as you keep the Hulk and Beyonder from going at each other and inevitably ending up in Dark Phoenix do-over...

There is a nice FACERIP retroclone out there these days - hit me right in the nostalgia it did.

Your list did kind of hit on one half of what I had noticed when I posted this.

Straight up "modern" is rare ... instead its modern + something, either going backwards a bit to drag superstitious / supernatural spooky forward to now... or to take now a slight bit forward in one step or another ... super heroes type stuff.

Spies and Cops seemed far, far distant laggards.

It's almost as if people are trying not to play fantasy or sci-fi - but can't help themselves.

Or... reality is just too painful and boring and we're missing some "wonder" elements that could make a modern-era game attractive to play.

Not sure what the answer is - but it is interesting how "now" is the bottom of the valley of "choice" for make believe ... and its literally the era we have the most "game content" to import from.
 

PigMonkey

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I am not familiar with Dragon Age or Modern Age ... sigh - can't buy *every* game out there these days.
But here's a sighting of the rare "generic" modern... and of course Gumshoe yeah!

If you are looking for generic modern I have a list for that too. Most of these you can get as PDF on Drive through RPG for cheap.

-Modern age (as mentioned)- its 3d6 roll under but if you roll doubles (say 2x5 and a 3) you would get 5 points to purchase special maneuvers.
-Genesys- the generic system for the new star wars system which in turn is based of 3rd ed Warhammer fantasy. I like this system, it is one of the few where you can succeed and bad stuff still happens and vice versa.
-Cypher - Used for The Strange which is a modern I did not mention. Good system, puts the weight on the players for rolls and the DM just sets difficulties, and "the strange" setting is about incursions of Fictional worlds on our own. Still supernatural, but pretty unique supernatural.
-Fate- Great modern system and fun with players adding influence to the story. Can be challenging to DM but being able to bribe players with fate points smooths out the storytelling.
-Gumshoe- as previously mentioned, this is a weird one it is specific but generic too, one that does not necessarily lend its self to modern supernatural
-Savage worlds- Uses a deck of cards for initiative which is neat, and uses varying die sizes to hit target numbers
-Gurps (Grand daddy)-Generic is right in the name. Still hanging around. I think they are on edition 4 or 5. Hard to mess with near perfection. though with the vast customization making a character is still its own special hell.
-but if I am going to play modern I am going to use the 25 year old generic D6 Adventures system from the WestEnd Starwars. Its on drive through RPG. I know it really well the game is pretty simple to run and teach. Very customizable right down to attributes. I have run starwars to avatar the last airbender to Battletech to Weird wild west on this system

Straight up "modern" is rare ... instead its modern + something, either going backwards a bit to drag superstitious / supernatural spooky forward to now... or to take now a slight bit forward in one step or another ... super heroes type stuff.

Spies and Cops seemed far, far distant laggards.

It's almost as if people are trying not to play fantasy or sci-fi - but can't help themselves.

Or... reality is just too painful and boring and we're missing some "wonder" elements that could make a modern-era game attractive to play.

Not sure what the answer is - but it is interesting how "now" is the bottom of the valley of "choice" for make believe ... and its literally the era we have the most "game content" to import from.

I feel you are looking at it in the wrong direction. Modern is the modifier, not fantasy or scifi.

Supernatural is more of a modern overlay on the fantasy genre, much like high tech (spies and gadgets and to a lesser degree superheroes) is a modern overlay on the SciFi genre.

The "modern" modifier is there to tone down the epic elements and ground the game more in what we experience daily. I don't know a modern game that seeks to remove fantastical flavor entirely. That tends more to be the realm of board games when it happens.

The whole point of an rpg setting is to play a character with abilities that normal people don't have. No one wants to play an rpg where they balance their check book. Well, some people might, I don't. Otherwise there would be 30 years of the Law and Order RPG and to my knowledge that doesn't exist cause its too close to real life and it is essentially the same game over and over.

I suppose you could run a bunch of serial killer hunters in a modern but game wise I have a feeling that premise would run dry pretty fast.
Even super toned down modern shows has one character that has an ability beyond normal people. Most cop proceedural usually has one person who is hyper-skilled, but its not fun for players to have one PC overly-effective and a bunch of side kicks.

Is it 3d6 roll under?

No it is its own system it is called 616system It is 3d6 add attribute, roll over, with circumstances giving highest/lowest die rerolls. Nothing particularly innovative as far as systems go in fact it feels like a bit of a throw back to the 90's.
 

ExileInParadise

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I feel you are looking at it in the wrong direction. Modern is the modifier, not fantasy or scifi.

Supernatural is more of a modern overlay on the fantasy genre, much like high tech (spies and gadgets and to a lesser degree superheroes) is a modern overlay on the SciFi genre.

The "modern" modifier is there to tone down the epic elements and ground the game more in what we experience daily. I don't know a modern game that seeks to remove fantastical flavor entirely. That tends more to be the realm of board games when it happens.

You may be right on the nose with that -- will have to give that a rethink myself and see -- but it seems plausible on first glance.

Great stuff! Always a great day when you can cross your eyes a bit and suddenly see the 3D picture ...

I appreciate sharing the perspective and a good list of modern for folks to look into.
 
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