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D&D 5e Playtest: Modern Magic

It's a new month, so there's a new Unearthed Arcana. This time out, they're revisiting the idea of 5e set in a modern world, which came up some months ago in another post. Specifically, they're dealing with spellcasting classes reworked for the modern world. Now, I don't have a whole ton of interest in running a 5e-Modern game, but I'm always on the lookout for new ideas. The document offers a new Cleric domain, a new Warlock Patron, a new Wizard tradition, a small pile of new spells, and a few other things.
If I did run a 5e-Modern game, it would look a whole lot like Shadowrun, but less fiddly. It's like you heard about 5th edition Shadowrun and just got a little confused, right? Though... huh. 5e-Modern with the whole gamut of options turned on is a pretty close Final Fantasy aesthetic, especially FFVII.

City Domain

This domain covers gods who are about cities, and if your whole campaign is going to be set in cities, you probably want this. Many of your abilities don't work outside of cities, though. That's certainly tough if the DM decides to define "city" narrowly, as opposed to a metro area, a town, and so on.

Ghost in the Machine Patron

Pact with a rogue AI? That's pretty crazy, and I would totally play that. Then it mentions having a pact with a deceased hacker in the system, and I imagine GNU John Dearheart as my patron, and... well, we miss you, Terry. Anyway, this Patron is all about being a magical hacker.
On the whole, it's stylish, but I worry that it might be a little underpowered. On the other hand, it's great at avoiding combat, which just gives it more chances to take a short rest and keep avoiding combat. Wire Walk and Technovirus have some definite Matrix overtones, as well.

There's also a new invocation, letting you expand your Blade Pact to also be a Gun Pact (sidearm or longarm). Making someone spend one of their eight invocation slots on this isn't great, though having a gun you can summon and dismiss is a huge deal in urban fantasy or magical cyberpunk.

Technomancy Tradition

(I can hear the Mage: the Ascension fans either puckering or getting uncomfortably aroused, depending on their perspective...) Okay, but really, they're not the Technocracy, they're Virtual Adepts. Still cool. But... damn, these guys get to do some crazy shit, in light of the Wizard's inherent limitations.

Hacking Tools

As with all skill and tool applications, there's very little textual guidance on how hacking ought to work, relative difficulties, and the like. I respect that they want to keep it system-light, but... this is the beginning, middle, and end of the character concept for a lot of cyberpunk and urban fantasy. There have to be limits and guidelines to make this uber-skill leave room for other party members.

New Spells

There are fourteen new spells in this document. They embrace the Matrix-ness of the whole concept with things like infallible relay and synchronicity. They do a good job of covering the core utility effects that a techno-mage expects to toss out, including magical hacking abilities that intensify the need for an elegant hacking ruleset. They even remembered the need for an awesome set of wheels - find vehicle is not the "dude, where's my car?" that it sounds like, but a vehicular find familiar, all the way down to the vehicle being celestial, fey, or fiendish (!). Haywire is like confusion for machines (not confusion from machines), but with a 16% chance per device of dealing a pile of damage in an area. It's a randomized EMP.


There are some small areas of concern that I see here, but all in all this is 5e-Modern through the lens of 90's action films and Neuromancer. Hell yes, I would play this. I am terrified of running it, because smart players (or those invested in the supporting fiction) could run circles around my best tricks. 

I think the hard part is keeping the other character classes up to par on the darkly stylish power of the Ghost in the Machine and the Technomancer. I'd be curious to see a Paladin or Ranger subclass purpose-built for 5e-Modern.

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