Many gamers out there have the desire and passion to make the leap from playing a typical medieval fantasy Dungeons & Dragons game to that of a Modern-era RPG, but hesitate to do so for lack of available adventures and lack of good direction on how a Modern game should be designed. I'm here to lend a hand with those two unmet needs, drawing on my previous experiences with d20 Modern and my ongoing experiences with 4E Modern.
If you haven't done so already, make sure to check out the articles on WotC's official d20 Modern site here; including short adventures, plot hooks, and helpful tips from the creators.
My first adventure (called Assignments in the Modern parlance) will be an easy conversion of a well put together two-page delve done by Benoit at Roving Band of Misfits. Go look at it here!
Benoit has done several of these delves, and his growing experience is paying off in some spot-on design. I chose a simple delve to illustrate how a few superficial changes to descriptions can take any D&D Adventure and turn it into a Modern Assignment, provided that the original material is of decent quality. Also, this small delve format allows me to make my point with only a few tricks and without being too large of a time investment.
Gamma World Skills
Since 4E Modern is using Gamma World as a base system instead of D&D, I'm going to make a few very simple conversions of the identified skill checks in the delve.
Replace all instances of 'Religion' with 'Conspiracy'.
Replace all instances of 'Arcana' with 'Science'.
Reading through the background, I can easily see how this basic story can be applied to almost any setting. One sign of a good story is its ability to transcend its superficial trappings and become a 'timeless classic'; a story with meaning beyond the nitty gritty details. Workshop of the Mad Alchemist is certainly not the next great American novel, but it does a decent job at telling a compelling story and entertaining a table full of friends for a few hours.
Replace 'lord' with 'wealthy tycoon' or perhaps 'retired CEO'. The idea of the former lord of the manor was that there was someone in the past who owned the place and was high up on the economic ladder of the time. That translates pretty well into modern times into some sort of head of a major business.
Replace 'king of the land' with 'local law enforcement'. Instead of being executed, the 'lord' has now been 'imprisoned for life'. Kings and quick capital punishment don't really jive with our modern, western sensibilities. Instead, if someone gets out of hand, they are arrested and jailed. Making the manor's original owner still be alive in jail can make for some interesting plot hooks as well. Keep in mind the idea that the wealthy tycoon was arrested in the 1960's. He's either really old right now or has used some dark secret to stay relatively young.
Replace 'sword' with 'prototype golden beretta 92FS handgun'. This is up for debate, since magic swords are part and parcel of my own 4E Modern campaign, but I thought a piece of Spec Op Tech would be a welcome symbol of the times. In narrative terms, they both represent uniquely powerful versions of one of the era's most commonplace weapons.
Since Gamma World has no feats, any Agent with a skill bonus to Science can recognize the alchemical potions. The Golden Key can grant one Wealth Roll if donated to a museum or hawked on the black market.
Remove mention of elves' skulls. Replace 'Abyssal' with 'Sanskrit' or another esoteric language relevant to your campaign.
I hate posting a blog entry without at least some form of actual content, so here is my interpretation of the two treasures in the adventure. The Cost of the Omega Tech items would be available for purchase to any Level 2 Agent (assuming they roll well for Wealth), so that information will feed back into the Assignment itself and determine the Level of the Encounters and Creatures when I run this.
Holy Symbol of the Dark One (Occult)
This golden pendant hangs upon a thin chain. You can feel your heart grow cold from it's soul-draining presence.
Neck Slot Item
Property: Gain resist 5 necrotic.
Encounter * Necrotic
Trigger: An enemy hits you with a melee attack.
Effect (Free Action): The triggering enemy takes 1d10 + Charisma modifier necrotic damage.
Prototype Golden Beretta 92FS (Spec Op)
An expertly crafted pistol, hand-made and custom-designed by one of the best arms makers in the world.
Weapon: light 1-handed ranged 10
Dex/Int; +3 accuracy; 1d8 damage; you may reroll a single damage die showing a 1.
Encounter * physical
Target: One creature
Attack: + 8 + your Level vs. AC; Roll two attack rolls and take the higher result.
Hit: 2d6 + Dexterity modifier + your Level physical damage.