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Apex (5E version)
by Cody M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/13/2017 00:21:22

As someone who has been a GM for a variety of genre of role playing groups (primarily 5e) the amount of content outside of swords and scorcery is few and far between. As per request I had looked into "Super Hero DND" concepts and had colaberated with some other homebrew content in attempt to create my own. Upon finding Apex I deleted all of those files. Apex allows for simple, fun and personal RPG experience for both new and experienced players. For newer players it is much easier to remember a list of personally selected abilities and powers vs a large kit of premade class ablities and features. The experienced player will find that very few character ideas are out of reach with the fun list of talents and combinations. If you are fan of Sci Fi or comic books pick this up!



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Apex (5E version)
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Awesome, thanks for the comments!
Ultramodern5 (5th Edition)
by Colin W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/02/2017 09:57:13

This review originally appeared at: https://mephitjamesblog.wordpress.com/2016/08/30/ultramodern5/

He’s done it again.

Chris Dias published a modern-fantasy setting called Amethyst eight years ago and it really impressed me.Growing out of that came the adaptation of the D&D 4e ruleset called Ultramodern4 which offered classes and rules for playing modern and futuristic characters with the Fourth Edition rules. The understanding of the system and the innovation of the rules were awesome and now Chris has repeated this accomplishment with Ultramodern5.

This book is aimed at providing game support for the 5e rules for “pre-modern settings, contemporary settings, and those that are far-flung, fantastic and futuristic.” This is a tall order and other games and settings have tried but they don’t always succeed.

One thing that Chris and his company, Dias Ex Machina, does really well is not to try to fit firearms and cybernetics into the D&D Player’s Handbook. Settings like Dragonstar are awesome for the settings they are written for but they don’t always expand well to new settings for enterprising GMs.

Instead, Dias Ex Machina approaches translations of rules by tearing them down to the studs and starting from there (also their approach to their many, many adaptations of Amethyst). They look at what the core rules from Fifth Edition are and builds out with a modern mind-set. This means the classes, feats, character creation… everything incorporates the book’s purpose fundamentally.

New Rules The list of new rules that Ultramodern5 adds to the D&D 5e core is surprisingly short. There are rules for autofire with automatic weapons, some new skills (Computer Use, Deomlitions, Engineering, and Sciences) and a new type of proficiency (vehicles).

There are also a few new feats: Exo-Armor Proficiency (mecha!), Crossfire (you’ll get caught up in the…), Fidgety Fingers (tech crafting), and Firearm Expertise (better with reloads and damage).

Character Creation One thing that’s pretty nifty is the expanded rules for human characters. I always love to check out the different racial options in an RPG and it can be dull when everyone needs to be the same. Here there’s a d20 table to randomly determine a genetic benefit instead of getting a stat boost or by taking a shortcoming.

There’s also a great lifepath system (I’ve been in love with these ever since I started using the one in Transhuman) that starts with PHB-style backgrounds (tearing down to the studs, right?) and then has a series of tables to work through your background situation. This would be very useful for traditional D&D characters, by the way… In fact expect that in a future post.

Ladders This is a system that is optional (though every character should use it if anyone does) and it showed up in earlier Dias Ex Machina projects. Simply put, you gain a ladder ability at the levels you also get ability score boosts and you get smaller bonuses at 1st, 5th, 11th, and 17th level. These abilities are pretty cool and the system “accounts for the lack of magic in most non-fantasy settings.”

For example, the Born Leader ladder starts off with the ability to sub Intelligence for Wisdom on Perception skills and a bonus to Charisma after a long rest until you attack or cast a spell (that fresh “ready to have you take on the day for me” lok). After that they get abilities that let them issue commands, focus your team, and (my favorite) take a long rest in the span of time you normally take short rests.

By contrast, the Survivor can swap Wisdom for Dex when making ranged attacks and Constitution for Dex when determining AC modifier. Later you can push down exhaustion, gain a benefit for pushing your limits, and gain resistance to damage types.

Classes The big selling point for me, as with Ultramodern4 was the new classes. These work just like the fighter, druid, wizard, etc from the Player’s Handbook, but they are meant to replace them. They could work side-by-side, I guess, if you had some situation with both SWAT teams and faeries (like, say, Amethyst) but these martial classes provide enough variety that I don’t think your players will ever miss the missing classes.

The Face is a great social class with abilities to read NPCs, distract them in combat, improvise a proficiency bonus, and hustle people. I like that the class doesn’t go out of its way to make a social character that “is just as effective in combat” but there are still lots of options for Face characters to fight.

The Grounder (not sure about the name) is the modern tank. They get special-ops-style abilities, “brotherhood abilities” to benefit their party, and up their shots-per-action. These guys are sort of meatheads but some people really want that, and there’s definitely no denying that they do it well.

I don’t think anyone will be surprised that the Gunslinger is all about firearms. They get “kata” abilities to make them outrageously good shots and take impressive numbers of shots with each action. Like the Face, you get a few chances as a Gunslinger to shine outside of your purview but the focus is on making you awesome at what you do best.

The Heavy fills some of the same role as the Grounder but is like a thundering bastion in the firefight. There’s no special-ops training with these guys, only barroom brawls and obsessively watching Mr. T’s scenes in the A-Team. They carry the biggest guns and they use them to shoot the biggest number of bullets.

Infiltrators are the sneaky spies of this line-up. They don’t get sneak attack like rogues, but they do have lots of abilities to increase their critical range and double-up on their attack’s effectiveness.

For the leaders of the group there is the Marshal which is like the marshal class from the 3e Heroes of Battle book or the 4e warlord. They boost their troops (or parties) and they lay down suppressive fire to cover their brilliant maneuvers. They’re a great half-martial, half-social choice for people into that.

If you don’t like guns, try the Martial Artist. You probably don’t need a review of what this is all about but I will say that you get both a series of Combo Chain and a Martial Exploit abilities to custom-make your own martial arts style. For a class that seems like it would be the most uniform in the book, it’s actually probably the most adaptable.

The Medic is the party healer, and I have to say I didn’t expect to like it. Lots of games have “non-magical healers” that end up just having reskinned cleric abilities (I’m looking at you, warlord) but these guys aren’t that. Their “medical applications” are actually mostly about buffs to saving throws and stabilizing dying creatures with only a few giving actual hit points (and even then on the order of 1d4). Kudos on this class, but the bottom line is you should really try to avoid getting shot at in Ultramodern5… And also real life, I guess.

The Sniper actually reminds me a lot of Iron Heroes classes. All the Ultramodern5 classes have pools of points to manage their abilities but the sniper is one who has abilities that can be stacked on a successful attack. When you hit someone you deal out “marksman points” to boost the damage or make it a crit or shock the creatures around your target.

Lastly, the Techie is just what is says on the tin: a class completely devoted to modding and boosting equipment. Interestingly, their biggest abilities are for their own equipment so they can make cool things for the party but mostly they create explosive rounds and pop-up eyepieces and rapid reloaders for themselves.

Archetypes Sharp-eyed readers will note that I didn’t mention anything about the archetypes for these classes. There’s a simple reason for this: they don’t have them.

In keeping with the create-exactly-what-you-want philosophy of Ultramodern5, there is one set of archetypes and they are shared by all the different classes. This reminds me of the Flavors in Cypher System Rulebook to create a particular genre’s feel.

  • Anti-Heroes are badass, stone-cold jerks.
  • Authorities are knowledgeable experts.
  • Banner Heads are career soldiers.
  • Brawlers are… well folks who like brawling.
  • Brothers of Blood are platoon veterans (requires at least one other Brother of Blood in the party).
  • Cleaners are calculating assassins.
  • Country Gunmen are quick-draw cowboys.
  • Diplomats are skilled negotiators.
  • Drivers are… well folks who like driving.
  • Field Machinists are tech troubleshooters.
  • Field Medics are combat docs.
  • Grandmasters are expert martial artists.
  • Gun Dancers fill the air with bullets.
  • Infantry Support Specialists are basically Starcraft marines.
  • Machines of War are what Starcraft marines would be like if they were Hunter S. Thompson.
  • Men-at-Arms are professional, trained soldiers.
  • Militarists are expert generals.
  • Pathfinders are trackers and guides.
  • Pistoleros are keen shots.
  • Recon Intelligences are shadowy spies.
  • Ring Fighters are untrained pit fighters.
  • Sappers are combat demolitionists.
  • Selfless Protectors are peerless bodyguards.
  • Skirmishers are fast and deadly.
  • and Suaves are cunning charmers.

The Rest With all of this, we’re only halfway through the book. There are chapters of Equipment at various tech levels, a great smattering of Antagonists & Enemies, some sample Adventuring locales, and two adventures: the classic Biohazard and the creepy Invasion Proxy. The whole book ends up with a great collection of ready-to-run player characters.

Conclusion Get this book.

If you want to play D&D with an emphasis on guns and tech, drop the fighter and use these classes. If you want a great and familiar system for your sci-fi campaign idea, hand out this book and get started right off the bat.

Even if you don’t particularly want to change things up and have modern guns in your D&D campaign, this book has so many new ideas and mechanics that are just awesome so cut and paste at will to add whatever new mechanics you want to your game.

Thank you, Chris Dias, and keep ’em coming!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ultramodern5 (5th Edition)
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I endeavor to try.
Ultramodern5 (5th Edition)
by andrew g. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/25/2017 14:03:46

Ultramodern5 is a toolkit. It is not complete by no means. So why five stars? Because it does what it does so well. it allows You to play and run almost any type of modern or future game. It is missing rules for supers cyberpunk and starships. However we are assured they will appear in an expansion at a later date. The rules blend seamlessly with the 5th edition ruleset and there are some great additions in there. Everything seems well balanced. This product replaces d20 modern with a slicker faster ruleset. Go buy it! Edit: I have been comparing this heavily with d20 modern /future to see how it holds up against some of the older classes. With neurospasta and apex adding to the rules I really cannot fault this product. It is every bit as versatile as 5e core books which it should be. Bear in mind there is no setting for these rules nor for apex. But there is for neurospasta. Unless you count amethyst which does not require this book anyway. This book easily replaces the d20 modern ruleset. So those old darkmatter books may get another airing yet.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Publisher Reply:
Thanks for the comments!
NeuroSpasta (5E)
by Aurican's L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/21/2017 08:20:48

I captured a full review of this awesome product on my blog. If you want to check it out here is the link. I will post some of it below as well: https://auricanslair.wordpress.com/2017/03/28/cyberpunk-your-dd5e-neurospasta-for-ultramodern-5-overview/

Overview

What is up with the goofy name that sounds like Mind Spaghetti? It is actually a Greek word for “Drawn by Strings” or aka a “Puppet”. This fits in with the Dystopian Future setting of most Cyberpunk adventures. Puppets are referred to in regards to the people being oppressed by corporations (or government) or also by cyborgs or robots being controlled or also oppressed.

Neurospasta Rule Variants (in conjunction with UltraModern 5, which again is necessary)

New Races: Races in NeuroSpasta represent the general phenotypes available to a transhuman future. They do not represent distinct ethnicities, which are better represented non-mechanically or by the life-path rules presented in Ultramodern5. These new races are:

Nugenic: These are genetically altered humans that have had their code tinkered in utero by their parents. Nugenics are still very much human, but many, including themselves, believe them to be of superior stock. Prosthetic: They are individuals who, through accident or choice, have lost most of all of their organic bodies save their brain. The flesh is replaced by advanced cybernetics, in this case a total body prosthesis. This is the path one must pick if they plan on heavy cyberization later. True-born: The vast majority of the planet are still home-grown organic human beings born in the traditional way and not tinkered with by science. Someone rolled the dice and what emerged has all the normal virtues and flaws of anyone else born in the previous few million years of human evolution. Virtuant: The rarest of individuals, virtuants have no organic components at all, and are entirely digital personalities. Their minds reside on remote servers, and they interact with the physical realm through prosthetic bodies or robots.

One New Class: The Freediver –“You are a soldier of the new age, a disciple of data. You refuse to associate yourself with the tired cliché of hacker cowboys and the prophetic but technologically improbable visions of 80’s cyberpunk writers. There are no jacks. There is no “virtual realm” of cyberspace. You are only aware of a different layer of reality that cannot by articulated by sight or sound. That is the true internet. A space without space, where time and distance are the same. You are a master of a kingdom larger than any nation, yet could fit onto a needle’s point. Although many outsiders still persist in calling you a hacker, you prefer something more graceful and elegant. You are simply an apostle of chaos. Nothing is fixed, no rule unbreakable. You can alter perception, memory, and even someone’s personality. You are a simple freediver. You may not be an anarchist, but you do endorse the freedom of information and consider yourself a vigilante for the flow of knowledge. The more control they enforce, the more encouraged you feel to prove how futile such control is.”

New Equipment: Armor and weapons abound in NeuroSpasta. Cybernetics and new gear offer additional enhancements although most cybernetics are only available to those with full body prosthesis. There are also an assortment of Mechanized units or Robots to use.

New Updated Skills and Proficiences:

Intelligence (Computer Use) – Computer Use specifically covers more advanced concepts like hardware modification, upgrade, and maintenance. This can be used for Investigation Checks (by way of searching the internet, web, matrix etc). It can also be used when create viruses or programs (which are like spells in a cyberpunk setting). You can also use this skill when “Diving” into an opponent or target system to try and implant a piece of information, alter a file, or simply download a document. Computer Use can also be employed to take over a system if the target is a server. Intelligence (Engineering) – This is the broad skill dealing with all applications of technology, allowing you to craft (reverse engineer), modify (disabling), and repair devices. These include electronics, general machines, exo-armor, modern armor, modern weapons, prosthetics, and vehicles.

My Thoughts

For starts, I love Cyberpunk things and have tried to play things in the form of Cyberpunk with a Tabletop RPG, mainly Shadowrun. I know most might hate to hear this, and I’m sorry, but I am not a fan of Shadowrun’s rules , nor am I a fan of rolling a ton of D6’s (blasphemy I know, but hear me out!). Don’t get me wrong, the Shadowrun theme is great, but I could just as easily now convert a Dungeon’s and Dragons game into that same theme, roll only a D20 for simplicity, and be able to pull Races or Monsters from D&D if needed to give it that same feel. I like this as I (being a Game Master) could easily convince my players to play their beloved D&D but using a fresh theme without having to teach an entirely new ruleset.

As for my thoughts on the rules and the Neurospasta module itself. I really like the way that everything is laid out for you. The new races, class, NPC’s, cybernetics, weapons, and equipment, totally FEEL cyberpunk with the rules. I will say that for the provided “Setting”, even though it is very detailed and seems cool, I would more likely just do my own thing in creating a dystopian future or running it just like a “Shadowrun-esque” themed campaign (see I do like Shadowrun afterall guys! lol) I would love to see this step out of the niche group that it seems to have following it because I really think people would have a lot of fun getting their D&D groups into these settings. So what are the Pro’s and Con’s?

Pro’s Creating Characters is as simple as it is in D&D. More expansive Backgrounds for your characters Easy to find and interpret rules for “Free Diving or Hacking” Rolling D20’s in a Cyberpunk Game An Extensive Pre-Built Setting to fully immerse your players into It is very affordable (UM5 has a FREE OGL ruleset, and this module is only $12.99 PDF and printer friendly)

Con’s It’s not Shadowrun (for you die hards) It is not available in Print on Demand (YET, that is coming soon) Black and White artwork (some artwork may not be up to standard for many)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
NeuroSpasta (5E)
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Thorough and fantastic as always. Thanks!
Ultramodern5 (5th Edition)
by GamingRonin @. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/11/2017 18:36:22

From the launch of 5th I hoped a modern version of the rules would be released. What ultramodern5 offers is so much more than just converted and reskined
D&D races, classes, and backgrounds.

The meat and potatoes of this product is the character build options, so I'll mostly be focused on that. I think anyone looking for a review will be wanting more details on those options.

There is a section for equipment, adventuring, and antagonists. There is also adventures included at the end of the product and even sample chapters.

Characters in Ultramodern5 are comprised of Race, Lifepath, Ladders, and Classes. This is why I find Ultramodern5 so special, it's sheer number of character options.

While everyone is assumed human there is still a system for benefits and shortcomings to add some diversity from character to character. Lifepaths are a reworking of backgrounds, to include a way of life and social standings. There are 11 backgrounds to choose from.

Ladders are how a character lives it's life. They are optional abilities characters can gain in the place of magic or other powers for non- fantasy settings. Any ladder can be mixed with any class. There are 7 total ladders. The ladders are born leader, juggernaut, runner, savant, survivor, veteran, and warrior.

Classes are about what you would expect, there are 10 classes. They are Face, Grounder, Gunslinger, Heavy, Infiltrator, Marshal, Martial artist, Medic, Sniper, and Techi.

Classes are then again defined further with 24 archetypes. Archetypes are not tied to specific class, if a character meets all the requirements they can take the archetype. The archetypes are anti-hero, authority, banner head, brawler, brother of blood, cleaner, country gunman, diplomat, driver, field machinist, field medic, grandmaster, gun dancer, infantry support specialist, machine of war, man at arms, militarist, pathfinder, pistolero, recon intelligence, ring fighter, sapper, selfless protector, skirmisher, and suave.

The sheer number of combinations is brilliant. For two players to end up with exactly the same character it has to be on purpose.

While I'm at it I would like to address a criticism I've seen for UM5. That some weapons, specifically guns don't do enough damage. I want to chime in here.

How UM5 handles guns is that training is what makes guns dangerous. Anyone can fire a sniper rifle, a trained sniper is always deadly with a good rifle. Not just do I appreciate this and find it to my taste I feel it's right for a class based system. Also it's right for a game based on D&D, anyone can use a dagger, but a rogue with a dagger is deadly. Class abilities build on core damage.

http://gamingronin.blogspot.com/2016/09/ultramodern5-review.html?m=1



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ultramodern5 (5th Edition)
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Apex (5E version)
by andrew g. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/11/2017 16:15:50

I was of two minds on this one. You see I don't really do super powers rpgs. But having loved Ultramodern 5 I thought let's see what it has to offer and I'm really glad I did. There are loads of options here when you look beyond the supers idea. You could easily create a mutant or alien species with weird abilities. It really adds to Ultramodern 5 in terms of what else can you create with the toolbox .which is what it boils down to .more tools to play with .more creations to build world's with . No regrets in purchasing this one. Now we just need to hope for those space opera tools..... World building. Ship construction etc. Then the toolbox will be complete. Thanks Chris Dias. Another corker.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Apex (5E version)
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Ultramodern5 (5th Edition)
by Aurican's L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/27/2017 10:01:28

I know that some below have complained about the product having gramatical and formatting issues or the Errata. But I give the developer of this product Five Stars just in regards to actually taking the time to fix the issues and fully update the product. Also, they even pulled the Print On Demand option so that they could go back and update the whole product before allowing it to be Printed again. (Unfortunately for me, my print copy is the old one, but thats ok as I still love my copy and can work around the updates and errata just like I do with any other RPG)

But I will say, you won't see Wizards of the Coast updating their PHB and re-releasing one that has the Errata pulled into it. So Kudos.

As for the product itself. I love the new rules and ideas of mixing and matching classes and archetypes. I also love the in depth character background creation. I myself have no complaints so far, and have had my copy since it came out. Again, the publisher has been great in listening to customers requests and updating the product as necessary. So I highly recommend picking up the PDF version, and possibly after it comes back to Print on Demand, grabbing the fully updated version and have a blast!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ultramodern5 (5th Edition)
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Publisher Reply:
Aww, thanks! The revised print edition should be back up soon. At which point, anyone that purchased it this far will be able to acquire the revision at cost.
NeuroSpasta (5E)
by Jozsef K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/17/2017 22:50:17

I like it. It is full of good ideas and for example the freediver class is very exciting.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
NeuroSpasta (5E)
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Ultramodern5 (5th Edition)
by Andrew L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/11/2017 21:47:57

I've started in on building some characters, and overall I am enjoying the time and effort that went into the mechanics.

The largest complaint I have is that the text itself is filled with gramatical errors and formatting issues. Some text blocks are cut off mid-sentence and although an educated guess can be made how they were going to end, the rules are

There is also a bit of sillyness that comes with parts of it, or at least that's how I felt when reading the Martial Artist class. Abilities with names like Spirit Bomb, Falcon Punch, and Limit Break just feel a bit out-of-place. Some ability names do not correspond to what is listed on the tables.

I look forward to running a game with this, and I anticipate that it will balance well with 5E monsters and classes.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Ultramodern5 (5th Edition)
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Ultramodern5 (5th Edition)
by Gregory B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/04/2017 22:50:48

My GM is planning to run Ultramodern5 after we finish our current D&D 5e campaign, so I purchased the PDF version of the book, read through it and then sat down to create a character. The review is therefore based upon significant consideration of the game, but I have not yet played it. I’m not going to go into detail on layout and editing (there are some issues) or artwork (it’s generally not very good by pro standards); I’m going to focus on the substance.

Ultramodern5 is designed to support games using the D&D 5e rules in settings ranging from the 18th or 19th century to the far future. After an introduction to a couple of the company’s own settings (purchased separately), the book offers two pages of “new rules.” This section covers rules for autofire, new skills (computers, engineering, sciences, etc.) and four new feats. You might think it incredible that Ultramodern is porting 5e to modern and futuristic settings with only two pages of rules, and you would be right. There are a lot of “new rules” scattered throughout the book, from character creation to vehicles. I’m not sure why the company chose to begin the book with a section on “new rules” that describes only a fraction of the new rules.

Anyway, let’s get into character creation. First up is your race. You’re assumed to be (non-variant) human, but you can forego one or more of your +1 ability score increases for a choice or roll on the “Genetic Benefit Table.” You can get things like an extra skill or tool proficiency, darkvision (“Night Eyes”) or the hill dwarf bonus to maximum hit points (“Extreme Fortitude”). They’re not at all balanced, and presumably aren’t trying to be. Light Sleeper, for example, says you “…cannot be surprised by sleeping.” I presume it means “while sleeping,” but even so, it probably isn’t as good as darkvision.

Next up is Lifepath: You pick a background; note that backgrounds offer one choice from two different skills, rather than the two skills in 5e, and you won’t get a special ability. Then you choose or roll on tables to fill out the details of your life. You have to roll Life Episodes -- you can’t choose them. You could get a tragedy (lose an eye, alcoholic, chronic and debilitating disease) or a windfall (favors, wealth, extra proficiencies or feats). Luck (good or bad) is limited by rule -- if you get a tragedy, you can’t get another one until you get a windfall, and vice versa. You can roll for the number of Life Episodes, or choose a number between 5 and 10.

I’m not going to say a lot about this. I don’t think 5e holds up very well to randomness in character creation, and there is opportunity here for a PC to start with multiple extra feats (though he’ll also be a broke, one-eyed cancer patient on the run from the mob). The Lifepath system also forces me to develop a fairly in-depth character backstory from the start, while I might prefer to develop this stuff in play, and it slows down character creation. Necessarily, because the tables are more limited and less complex than real human lives, the output is too. But it’s solid enough and will please those who like this kind of thing.

Now we’ll get into the crunch of character creation. I went into this attempting to create Jason Bourne -- a former soldier trained in covert ops and assassination. Bourne is really well-rounded: He can handle himself in unarmed combat, melee combat, with handguns, submachine guns, assault rifles and sniper rifles. He knows a ton of tradecraft and is an expert driver. We’ll see how that worked out.

You’ll construct your character by choosing three mechanical frames: a ladder, a class and an archetype. The ladder is basically an ASI/feat chain. You get something at 1st level (this usually includes the chance to use a different ability modifier, such as Wisdom or Intelligence, for attacks, AC, etc.), then again at 4th, 8th, 12th, 16th and 19th levels instead of your normal ASI. You don’t have to choose your ladder ability at any of those levels, but when you do choose ladder abilities, you must choose them in order. As an aside, I assume multiclassing isn’t allowed in UM5. While ASIs are normally tied to class level, the ladders link them to character level. Ladders would therefore offset one of the biggest checks or tradeoffs on multiclassing in 5e.

On the subject of classes, there are a lot of them that seem to cover most of the basic roles in a modern-future game. The design aesthetic of 5e is, in my opinion, nowhere to be found. I’m only superficially familiar with 4e, but I believe Ultramodern was originally created for that edition, and I wonder if some of that design approach is still present here, producing a rules set that feels converted rather than built from the ground up with 5e as the foundation. Many of the abilities are complex and fiddly in ways that don’t seem a good fit with 5e.

For example, let’s look at the grounder -- the fighter or soldier class. At 1st level, you get an ability called Fire Support. You have to choose a path -- Assault or Precision -- and there are five tiers in each path. It’s not clear if this is a one-time choice or if you can take a combination of tiers in both paths. Anyway, you get a new tier at 5th, 9th, 13th, and 17th level. The Assault Tier 1 ability is that when you make an autofire attack, you inflict extra damage equal to the amount by which your attack roll beat the target’s AC, to a maximum of 5. Then, at higher tiers, you don’t add to the damage maximum; no, you add to the value of the attack roll, but only for the purposes of calculating the extra damage.

I have two things to say about this. First, as I suggested above, it doesn’t feel like 5e design. It’s complex, fiddly and kludgy in execution. And second, it seems more appropriate for the Precision path: the more accurate your shot, the more damage you do. It seems like the Assault Fire Support path should give you bonuses to hit with autofire, maybe, or special features such as suppressing fire. (The grounder does get a “Covering Fire” ability, but it’s an option in a completely different multiple-option menu ability.)

Okay, so to summarize, the classes don’t feel like 5e design to me. Maybe they would feel like 4e design, or some hybrid of the two, if I was more familiar with 4e. Or maybe the design approach is nothing like 4e, either, and it’s just something else entirely. In fairness, some abilities of some classes feel more 5e. The medic has “exploits” complete with slots that are spells in all but name. The sniper has “marksmanship points” and “talents” that are kind of like sorcery points and metamagic. So, yeah. I report, you decide.

Finally, you choose an archetype. Instead of each class having a number of subclasses, there are a number of subclasses you can combine with any class. This is a really cool and ambitious feature -- cool, because it provides a big boost to customization options, ambitious because the combinatory effects will make it hard to balance.

Archetypes provide benefits at 3rd, 7th, 11th, 15th and 18th level. There is a broad range of archetypes. The anti-hero gets a “dead pool” (yuk yuk) of damage dice he can add to attacks and replenish when he kills folks or there is otherwise mayhem inflicted on or around him. The authority is an expert who gains a lot of abilities to control skill checks -- manipulating dice results, spending Hit Dice for bonuses, etc. The militarist grants bonuses and special abilities to allies using Tactical Points. The pathfinder has a “dust pool” that gives him a limited ability to teleport. The pool starts at 20 feet at 3rd level and increases to 40 feet at 18th level. The pool replenishes 5 feet for every 10 feet you don’t move on your turn.

Okay, so I’m trying to make Jason Bourne. I pick the Drifter background (there’s another pun, if you recall the intro from Bourne Identity), which gets him a skill proficiency and a couple languages. I sacrifice one of my human ability increases for Stealth proficiency. I only figure out later what skill proficiencies I’ll need to fill in, as we’ll see shortly.

At first I think Bourne should take the infiltrator class, though even with this class I note the apparent absence of the kind of tradecraft Bourne knows. The problem, most broadly, is that the infiltrator -- especially considering that it is a class and not a subclass -- is super-specialized.

What do I mean by that? Well, his weapon proficiencies are very limited -- his only firearms proficiency is one-handed small arms. Bourne is an ex-soldier and should be able to use submachine guns, assault rifles and sniper rifles. But that’s not really the problem -- weapon proficiencies are limited for many classes in 5e. The bigger problem is the class abilities: many of them only work with one-handed small arms or melee weapons. If you want Jason Bourne to use his infiltrator abilities with a sniper rifle or unarmed attacks, you’re out of luck. Furthermore, the 5e rogue, in terms of combat, is really built around being sneaky, getting advantage or attacking targets engaged with his allies. The infiltrator is really built around getting advantage and getting in close and attacking with specific weapons.

I suppose this provides niche protection -- you don’t want the infiltrator stepping on the toes of the sniper and/or the martial artist. But it speaks to how the infiltrator is super-specialized. He’s not really a good fit for even a fledgling Jason Bourne. I looked at different combinations with ladders and archetypes, but couldn’t make it work to my satisfaction.

To make a long story slightly shorter, I ended up choosing the Juggernaut ladder, the Grounder class and the Grandmaster archetype for Jason Bourne. Sounds just like him, right? Okay, not. But it was the best combination I found to create a character with Bourne’s well-rounded combat skills. (He’s never going to get the well-rounded tradecraft skills.) Juggernaut makes him harder to kill, which is helpful in pretty much any combat situation. It also makes him less Multiple Ability Dependent (MAD), since he can use his Strength modifier for all ranged attacks. The Runner ladder would have been a better thematic fit for Bourne. It allows him to use his Dexterity modifier on Athletics checks and attack and damage rolls with melee weapons. Problem is, per the 5e errata, unarmed strikes are melee weapon attacks but not melee weapons, so Bourne would still need Strength for unarmed combat if he chose this ladder.

Moving on, the grounder class gives Bourne weapon proficiencies, vehicle proficiencies (though he’s not an expert driver and never will be), as well as firearms and tactical combat abilities. Grandmaster gives him Karate at 3rd level -- though he can only use it once per day for 5 minutes. Must make it hard to train. As he goes up in level, he’ll learn to use his karate more often and can even learn to use other martial arts for five minutes once per day. Anyway, Karate is good because it gives Bourne an unarmed strike that’s better than the default 1+Str modifier damage. Specifically, he can use his action to make a kick attack that does 1d10+Str modifier damage, +7 damage for each additional attack he could normally make. The grounder class effectively gets Extra Attack (up to 4 attacks at 14th level), so this seemed like a good choice. At 14th level, he could use his karate kick to attack with advantage for 1d10+26 damage.

In summary, there are a ton of customization options, but the design doesn’t really feel like 5e, and the options are so specialized that the net result feels unexpectedly limiting.

After character creation, you get a lot of gear, from modern stuff to science fiction. And this brings me to the element I dislike the most about Ultramoder5. Warning: This is entirely subjective preference. A large-caliber semiautomatic handgun deals 1d6 piercing damage. Keep in mind, you’re supposed to be able to combine UM5 with D&D 5e, so the Desert Eagle does hand crossbow damage. A direct hit from a rocket launcher appears to do 2d6+1 bludgeoning damage.

Now, the different classes and archetypes do have ways to increase damage, but in general, they seem more limited and super-specialized than those in the 5e core rules. For example, my grounder basically gets Brutal Critical (which isn’t great in D&D, either) when he gains the second tier in the Precision path of the Fire Control ability at 9th level, but it only applies to “a non-autofire attack.” Given that it’s “Fire Control,” I assume this means “a non-autofire attack with a firearm,” but who knows. Maybe this Fire Control ability also works with melee and unarmed attacks, which would make it less limited. It’s still Brutal Critical, and that’s still not great, but whatever.

Regardless, the bottom line is this: ACs generally aren’t very high, so targets are going to get “hit” a lot, and when they get hit by modern civilian and military weapons, they’re not going to take all that much damage. This will have a dramatic effect on the feel of the game. In my preferred style of modern combat, training, surprise, maneuver, position, cover, tactics -- these things determine the results of a firefight. They determine who gets shot, and who doesn’t, and that’s it. If you get shot with a modern firearm (or rocket launcher), you’re probably down, and often dead or dying. At 1st level, my grounder can take three average hits from a large-caliber handgun and keep coming. He can shrug off a direct hit from a rocket launcher and keep fighting. Of course, the GM can narrate the action such that those “hits” aren’t really hits -- and then he or she just has to explain why the Medic is restoring those hit points with his medkit.

Now there are a lot of first-person shooter video games that play this way, and maybe that’s the design goal. This is a game that has a medium human enemy NPC called the Big Boss with 207 hit points. He has a regeneration ability called “Health Bar.” He has a reaction called “Second Phase” that he can use once: When he’s reduced to 0 hit points, he regains 190 hit points and more legendary actions. Obviously, the influence here is not modern combat, or even Hollywood -- it’s video games.

But here’s the thing: I don’t get immersed in my character in a FPS the way I want to get immersed in my character in an RPG. In an RPG, I don’t want to be jumping around and circle-strafing through the streets of an urban combat zone, blazing away and taking hit after hit until I die and respawn. I want my character to be thinking about avoiding combat, because it’s lethal, and if forced to fight, I want him to be thinking about how to make it as unfair as possible. I don’t see how these rules are going to support that style of play, and I suspect they aren’t meant to.

My other big gripe, and its entirely unfair, is that I just don’t care for class and level systems in modern and future RPGs. I think “zero to hero” works fine in traditional fantasy (and the D&D genre, in particular), but I don’t think it transfers well to most other genres. I also believe these games need either a robust skill system or a very freeform and flexible one -- “I’m an ex-soldier trained in covert ops, so I know spook tradecraft, dammit.” The 5e system works fine for D&D, I think, but it’s neither robust nor flexible.

So, for me, UM5 is a decidedly mixed bag. I love the idea, the ambition and the effort. But ultimately, the design doesn’t feel like 5e, the abundant customization options are super-specialized and therefore unexpectedly inflexible and the rules support a style of play that is very much not my preference in this genre. If your preferences are different, you may find it’s the perfect way to bring 5e into the modern age and beyond.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Ultramodern5 (5th Edition)
by Daniel E. T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/16/2016 08:57:21

Pretty disappointed. Feels like the POD was rushed out. Updates coming out right after to the point that the Errata is pretty huge. It feels like that all should have been tighten up before the POD was offered. It feels like my physical book has so many changes that I wont even really have a book I will actually use at the table. I don't think I will be giving this very good reviews around the internets. A half done product is okay for PDFs but a killer on people who buy a physical copy. I wish I had of waited till it was done and being stuck in this position makes me leary of spending money on any Dias Ex Machina Games products in the future. And I am a huge collector of physical books. I have a massive 5e collection. Perhaps I will give a different review if I ever get a more finished physical copy. But at this point, meh.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Publisher Reply:
If you count up the number of changes made, Ultramodern's errata is smaller than 5th Edition's Players Handbook. But I understand your concern.
Amethyst: Quintessence (5E)
by Rowan G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/13/2016 17:18:59

This gets a 4/5 because although the presentation and stats are great, the lore is only good. In order to use this product as a place for fantasy adventurers from Dungeons and Dragons to end up in (which is the best use of this product) the book does not setup any continuation with the world the fantasy characters are from. Instead they are thrust into an ongoing storyline between the fantasy and futuristic populations. Although the writers do not know the setting you have been using, they could at least allow for some ideas on how the players ended up in this world that is spelled out rather than a muddle of lore that is not well explained. After reading the lore, I was still unsure of where the fantasy characters were from. Yes there are good and evil portals, but only intense rereading and rewriting could make this a digestable world for a dungeon master. A competant dungeon master could mould this setting into something useful. And it gets a 4 and not a 3 because it is undeniably the best I have seen of future melded with fantasy in the roleplay universe. We need this in order to give variety to our sessions and to explore new frontiers, although my advice to other dungeon masters is that fantasy should still be on the tables.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Amethyst: Quintessence (5E)
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Amethyst: Renaissance 2.0 (Color)
by Todd S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/09/2016 18:01:48

I only recently came upon this setting, but I like it quite a bit having now read through the (lengthy) book. I got this version because I'm most familiar with the Pathfinder system, but I may pick up the Savage Worlds book(s) as well since I think a setting like this might do better with a less-well defined class sytem.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Amethyst: Renaissance 2.0 (Color)
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Ultramodern5 (5th Edition)
by Patrick E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/14/2016 17:37:45

This is nicely done and I really like the ladder and general archetype system - it provides a nice framework, and is an enjoyable read, with the supplied scenarios being an added bonus. I fully intend to run an Ultramodern 5/Stars Without Number campaign - the two should mesh together pretty nicely.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Ultramodern5 (5th Edition)
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Ultramodern5 (5th Edition)
by Jonathan J. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/27/2016 19:42:00

Pros: Human Diversity, Life Paths, Backgrounds, Ladders, Classes, and Archetypes are all outstanding. I will be integrating them into all future 5e games, modern or traditional fantasy. The two adventures featured in the book are top notch. The art is good quality, and doesn't take up too much of the book. The layout and formatting is pretty good.

Cons: Weapon, Armor, and Vehicles lists are too elaborate, and redundant. While cybernetics, robotics, and biotech equipment are omitted. Likewise there is nothing for physic powers, aliens, or pseudo-science.

Minor gripes: The auto fire rules aren't the best. I like how the adversary list is kind of generic, but it needs more templates and options.

Summery: Worth the money for the character creation section, the rest is just a nice bonus. I have heard that a cybernetics, and a super heroes books are in the works, I'll probably pick them up, but I'm a little disappointed that that content isn't included.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
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