Users Guide: The Modern Genre

The following article is a continuation of the Genres in Gaming series of articles written to help players and GMs determine which games are available within the genres they want to play. The lists of systems contained throughout or by no means exhaustive. All game systems are listed within the sub-genre as I understand from the knowledge I have. If they are improperly categorized, please post a comment further explaining what the sub-genre should be and why.

The Gamers’ Guide to Tabletop Role-playing Genres is a fully published version of the Genres in Gaming series including all updates and additions and is available for the low price of $1.

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Modern Action / Espionage / Conspiracy

Modern Action is just that, action and adventure systems and settings that take place within modern times and make use of modern technology.  I place Espionage and Conspiracy under Modern Action as themes such as Celtic Mythology is a theme of the Mythology sub-genre and Asian Epic Fantasy is a theme of Epic Fantasy.  The reason for this is because Espionage and Conspiracy are often filled with modern action and adventure that the former two become part of the storyline and not just the main focus of the setting or system.  This doesn’t mean that the system is designed around the action, but that Modern Action is a result of the Espionage or Conspiracy.

Modern Action can easily be found throughout numerous fictional publications and often found throughout the film industry.  This could range from a covert operations team or ring of underground spies, to a series of government secrets or a battle between countries that only occurs in the shadows.  Modern Action could also cover headlines found throughout the modern era consisting of real events and their possible fictional outcomes or the action heroes that run around an encampment taking out the entire opposition all by themselves. But modern action doesn’t have to be confined to military or government activities; it could also represent a recreation of over-the-top action found within modern films.  This form of Modern Action adds another theme I refer to as Cinematic which is much different that the Modern Cinema sub-genre.  Cinematic is meant to recreate the action-packed films while Modern Cinema is more dramatic in nature.

One thing to note is that Modern Action does not have to be high action or high adventure.  It could be filled with lots of dramatic storyline and deadly scenes of action skirmishes as a result of this dramatic storyline.  Thus, the action does not have to be present throughout the entire adventure or campaign, but is a result of everything else that is occurring.

The following systems are representative of Modern Action and may have numerous published supplements. Each one is noted as the game system, game setting (where applicable), and publisher displayed as: System – Setting (Publisher).

Modern Fantasy / Urban Fantasy / Contemporary Fantasy

Modern Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, and Contemporary Fantasy are basically interchangeable terms for the same sub-genre.  It is modern time using modern settings and, possibly, headlines and adding elements of fantasy like magic or possibly fantasy bestiary.

While the term Modern would mostly point to an actual modern setting with incorporated fantasy elements, Urban could signify a modern-themed setting that doesn’t have to be an actual known place, and Contemporary signifying fantasy in the new age; they all still point to fantasy being involved in modern times or places that are modern in their design.

Modern Fantasy often plays on the idea of “What if magic was real” and how it would affect the world around us.  While this statement may not mean much, designers and developers often take that to new levels with taking Epic Fantasy elements and placing them in a modern setting as opposed to simply adding magic to our current world.

Modern Fantasy may have elements of other genres or sub-genres involved as well.  This may include Dark Fantasy or Gothic Horror, but to keep things simple I’m not going to distinguish between these differences.

The following systems are representative of Modern Fantasy and may have numerous published supplements. Each one is noted as the game system, game setting (where applicable), and publisher displayed as: System – Setting (Publisher).

Modern Cinema / Film Noir

Modern Cinema and Film Noir take their influence from the classical films and headlines throughout the modern age.  Most of these are dramatic in nature whether the result is a pleasant ending or a grand disaster.  This could include crime dramas, political corruption, or epic disasters.  The term Film Noir typically refers to cinema from the early decades of movie production, it could refer to more modern productions that are reminiscent of their classical counterparts.

Modern Cinema is a more generic terminology meant to encompass the early ages of cinema along with the more recent ages of cinema.  This includes Film Noir, Melodrama, Neo-noir, Future Noir, or even parodies of these.  The overall effect is that the plot, characters, and setting is derived either directly or indirectly (through heavy influence) from these films. A side note should be made that Modern Cinema does not need to be a film shown in the theaters; it could be a made-for-television movie that exhibits that same nature as those in the theaters.

Another Modern Cinema element is featured headlines of the modern era that may not have a directed film but rather a biographical look that is made for historical fans rather than cinematic fans.

The following systems are representative of Modern Cinema and may have numerous published supplements. Each one is noted as the game system, game setting (where applicable), and publisher displayed as: System – Setting (Publisher).

Modern Psychosis

Psychosis refers to losing touch with reality while ones mental state has become abnormal.  This could be caused by a number of things such as insanity, insomnia, phobias, disorders, diseases, or even drugs.  These games are designed and developed around some type of mental state that places the characters somewhere surreal that exists within modern time and could be considered as an alternate reality of a modern location.

Modern Psychosis games may have bits and pieces of other genres or sub-genres present, but these elements are meant to be residing within the effected persons mind and not something that is actually there.  Some of these systems or settings could have elements of Horror in that seem like the Modern Horror sub-genre, but the underlying theme is that these horrific events or creatures are not actually real and are only there because the character thinks they are there.

The theme of insanity should not be confused by horror systems that have mechanics for measuring sanity.  In those systems, the supernatural beings are causing the loss of sanity and the possible production of a phobia.  In Modern Psychosis, the loss of sanity or prevalent phobia is already there and the characters state of mind is thus creating the supernatural beings.

The following systems are representative of Modern Psychosis and may have numerous published supplements. Each one is noted as the game system, game setting (where applicable), and publisher displayed as: System – Setting (Publisher).

Stay tuned for the continuation of the Genres in Gaming series of articles as I delve into the Cyberpunk genre.

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