Review: Modiphius Entertainment – John Carter of Mars

John Carter of Mars
John Carter of Mars is a pulp sci-fi fantasy role-playing game, written by Richard August, Jennifer Baughman, Jason Brick, Darren Bulmer, Mark Carrol, Chris Lites, Bryan C.P. Steele, Jonathan M. Thompson, and Peter Wright and published by Modiphius Entertainment.
By Aaron T. Huss

Learn more about John Carter of Mars here
Purchase John Carter of Mars here
Find other John Carter of Mars posts here

John Carter of Mars is a pulp science fantasy role-playing game placed in the John Carter universe as written by Edgar Rice Burroughs. It is powered by Modiphius Entertainment’s 2d20 system with some slight modifications to accommodate the pulp aspects of the setting – more on that later. It is literally an all-encompassing core rulebook and includes everything you need to play game after game and full campaigns set on Barsoom, the setting’s name for Mars, and all the representation of the fictional series that bleeds throughout the pages. In other words, it does a great job of presenting the fiction in tabletop role-playing format so that you can really dive into this well-established setting.

John Carter of Mars is a very complete book containing the core rules, setting guide, and Gamemaster’s guide. You get characters, all the different character races, weapons, history of the setting, detailed overview of the setting, bestiary, and some other bits and pieces for the GM to play around with. All of this is squeezed into a landscape-oriented book of 288 pages that is an easy read and very familiar for those who know 2d20. However, it’s not the same 2d20 you’ve seen elsewhere; it is modified slightly for the pulp-style of gameplay.

John Carter of Mars takes a much more simplistic approach to the core mechanics of 2d20 to recreate the pulp-heroic style. The basics are that your character is clearly already capable of doing what he or she needs to do, thus there is no need for all those fiddly bits. Instead, characters are comprised of solely Attributes and Talents from a mechanical standpoint. All other character aspects serve as either a modifier of those two or as fictional hooks for heroic storytelling. There are no skills and all rolls only utilize your Attributes; instead the game uses Descriptors which are modifiers to your certain Attributes based on how they apply. While you may think these are nothing more than a new name for Skills, they are completely different in that they are actually adjectives that describe your character in a storytelling-flavor. Even weapons are simplified to prevent from having to deal with more fiddly bits and stick to your heroic, pulp storytelling! From the standpoint of the 2d20 system, this is quite a unique approach that replaces mechanics with generalizations to keep the action and adventure moving. I personally find it an excellent fit for the setting and really pulp-style gameplay in general.

I mentioned above that this core rulebook is enough to run a full campaign or at least many adventures and hours of fun. I say that because it contains a very good overview of the setting with just enough detail, including some maps, to keep you moving along. However, the setting information is also just enough that sourcebooks can be developed to really delve into specific locales to get the full effect of the setting. For those who are fans of the fiction, you will definitely be able to fill in many blanks and create your own take on the John Carter universe. Those who are not as familiar can scoop-up additional supplements and expand on what’s presented in the core rulebook.

This is not the first 2d20 RPG I’ve reviewed and each instance of the game system makes me admire its flexibility more and more. It is clearly modular enough that you can add and remove things, but its not quite flexible enough that you can remove them without making further changes. It’s basically a balancing effort. For John Carter of Mars, the mechanical changes marry quite well with the setting and really bring out the pulp aspects of the game. I also like how Modiphius continues to step out into unique settings to bring games that are so different than what’s already out there. I can’t wait to see what they send me next!

Share this post:

Related Posts

Leave a Comment