Role-playing Games Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for gamemasters and players of tabletop, paper-and-pencil role-playing games. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I'm considering running a campaign in the Urban Arcana D20 Modern setting. Instead of taking the usual approach by creating new characters for the D20 Modern system, I want to make the "modern" part a surprise for the players. I plan to have them create characters from D&D and then convert the sheets to D20 Modern myself when I throw them into the new setting. For this, I need some guide or resource for converting the characters. The Urban Arcana rulebook had surprisingly little information on that subject, so instead I am asking here.

share|improve this question
@Duffadash I would advise against what your suggesting. I've been reading those rules recently and considering just what you're talking about, and I personally consider it infeasible. It would be an overly big shock to the players, and it could be a significant waste of their time, depending on how many/few sessions you played of D&D. – C. Ross Feb 10 '11 at 13:25
It's one thing to tell people they will be playing pregens; it's another to tell them to build characters and then you rebuild them in another system without them. I wouldn't cotton to it. – mxyzplk Feb 12 '11 at 3:40
You guys aren't really answering the question though. It is not whether it would be a good idea, but rather how to do it. – Duffadash Feb 12 '11 at 12:41
@Duffadash While I do agree with you, I think the prevailing sentiment is that you can't. For instance, there's no way to convert a level 1 wizard because there is no entry level casting class. The class systems are just too different. – Matthew Scharley Feb 15 '11 at 9:25
Despite the mechanical difficulties of converting everyone's stats, I think this is a great concept for an Urban Arcana campaign: a fish out of water tale reminiscent of Enchanted or that movie with Jean Reno (Just Visiting) ... keep in mind the adage that "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" – Azeari Feb 26 '11 at 0:07
up vote 12 down vote accepted

Classically Modern is a homebrew attempt to make d20 Modern and 3.5 D&D compatible. He has conversions for the D&D classes. It's pretty complex, but it might be what you're looking for.

share|improve this answer
that's impressively thorough - like a D20 equivalent of GURPS – Azeari Feb 18 '11 at 22:21

As some here, I am of the opinion that you should not bother converting, as many classes lose too much in the conversion. but if you really must... here are the guidelines to a "naive" approach of the problem.

d20 Modern has its own way of classifying characters you can use for reference when converting, depending on the main stat of your character :

  • Fighters are by far the easiest and translate almost litterally to a Strong Hero.
  • Barbarians somehow correspond more to Tough Hero (if you focus on the d12 vitality), losing their rage in the process.
  • Though Fast Hero seems to fit the Rogue as a Dex-based class, they would lose a great deal of skill points, so I suggest Smart Hero instead (possibly a mix of both ?)
  • Ranger, on the other hand, makes a decent transition to Fast Hero.

As commented in the question, the whole thing starts to fall apart when Magic enters the equation. Monks, Paladins, Bards, Wizards, Clerics and Druids don't have anything close to an equivalent. Magic use is introduced later with prestige classes. As such, your characters must meet the specific conditions of said class. Psions fare just a little bit better, as the Wild Talent required feat finds some use even before the characters actually "classes in".

On a purely roleplay/setting note: if you intend to effectively "throw" them into the setting of Urban Arcana, remember that this makes them Shadowkind, and as such unable to be resurrected past a few brief hours when they're reclaimed by Shadow (and that's because they're heroic characters, Shadowkind "extras" don't even have such luxury).

share|improve this answer

As has been stated there are problems doing a direct port across but with an understanding of what the players are looking to get out of their characters, you could give them interesting "alternates" to play in your D20 Modern game.

I would be porting them this way :

  • Fighters, barbarians: combination of Strong and Tough
  • Rogue, Scout, Swashbuckler: combination of Fast and Smart
  • Cleric, Druid, Favoured Soul: combination of Dedicated and Charismatic
  • Warlock, Sorcerer: Combination of Smart and Charismatic
  • Wizard: Smart
  • Bard: Charismatic
  • Monk: combination of Fast and Dedicated
  • Paladin: combination of Strong and Dedicated
  • Warmage: combination of Fast and Smart (ranged) or Strong and Smart(melee)
  • Hexblade: combination of Fast and Charismatic
  • Marshall: combination of Strong and Charismatic
  • Ranger: combination of Fast and Dedicated(ranged) of Strong and Dedicated(melee)

For characters with spellcasting, look closley at what the Mage and Acolyte Advanced classes require as pre req's and make sure that the characters will qualify as soon as possible. I would delay your move from Fantasy to Modern until around level 5 so that the characters will be able to qualify for the Advanced classes to still be able to cast some spells even if at a diminished power level.

Then it is all about selling the concept to the players. With the right players you will have them really getting into the change. You could also offer them the opportunity to make changes to the characters you give them after a few sessions through an interaction with a "magic pool/item/shadow encounter" that lets them change some things(skills or possibly classes etc) to get the character the way they would have liked to do it if they'd had the chance.

share|improve this answer
We really enjoyed our Urban Arcana campaign. The Stan! modules we used were lots of fun. Hope your campaign goes well! – jsecker Feb 18 '11 at 12:50

If you can find it you want Grim Tales, it was fantasy done using the d20 Modern rules.

share|improve this answer
The gritty, low magic rules of Grim Tales aren't really suited to the gonzo, drow-with-uzis-riding-motorbikes style of Urban Arcana. However, I agree that Grim Tales would be a great alternative for a contemporary fantasy campaign that was more noir than bizarre. – Azeari Feb 25 '11 at 23:49

Well, this is a tall order, but I'll take a stab at it.

In the True20 system there is an 84 page conversion PDF you can download for moving D&D 3.5 to True 20 game system. I know that True20 and D20 are similar enough that you might just get what you need.

Considering what I have read about the two system this may be your best shot.

True20 to D & D

share|improve this answer
True20 is still one of my favorites. – Jeffrywith1e Jul 20 '14 at 6:46

Okay, the big question you need to answer is what do you mean by conversion?

If you mean what needs to be done to a 3.5 character to get them to work in D20 modern, then I think there is virtually nothing needed, but I'd personally hesitate to do this unless you don't mind them wiping the floor with much of the opposition given their greater access to magic.

On the other hand, if you want to try to stat up as similar characters as you can given the D20 modern ruleset, then you should probably just use the advice Nigralbus gave. I might also be tempted to figure out the most important aspects of the 3.5 characters your converting, and then try to build D20 modern characters who have that.

Either way, your going to need to make some decisions about how powerful compared to the locals and compared to the characters they gave you the final characters should be, about how easy access to spell levels should be, and how prevalent magic items are.

share|improve this answer

So, like a 10th Kingdom thing, where fantasy characters are running around a modern setting? Or more of a Top Cow Lady Pendragon thing, where fantasy characters are reincarnated in a modern setting?

Assuming the former, since they're both d20 system, I wouldn't bother with an explicit convert for the PCs. Have the PCs continue playing with standard issue DnD3.5 rules; convert the environment instead. For example, you might want to increase the damage on firearms.

The only thing you may need to convert for the characters themselves is how to give the players a "wealth bonus" since the DnD gold standard doesn't really work in a modern setting.

(Community Wiki as @C.Ross kind of said this first, in comment form)

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.