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d20 Dark Matter (d20M)
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d20 Dark Matter (d20M)

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Welcome to the GM's Day sale! From now through March 14th, this title has been marked down by up to 40%! For more values, visit our GM's Day sale page.

All you see is not all there is.

Devious organisations scheme for world domination, otherworldly forces infiltrate our power structures, and creatures from our nightmares lurk in the shadows. Working for a clandestine organisation called the Hoffman Institute, heroes explore hidden mysteries while eluding forces both human and alien that conspire to control the truth.

d20 Dark•Matter is a 160-page d20 Modern® supplement that updates the original Dark•Matter Campaign Setting (created for the Alternity® Science Fiction Roleplaying Game), making it fully compatible with the d20 Modern rules.

Product History

d20 Dark•Matter (2006), by Wolfgang Baur and Monte Cook, is the last setting book for the d20 Modern line. It was published in September 2006.

Continuing d20 Modern. The d20 Modern line (2002-2006) was looking strong in 2006. The year had already seen two publications, d20 Future Tech (2006) and d20 Critical Locations (2006). With d20 Dark•Matter (2006) making three, d20 Modern equalled its best year of publication ever.

However, there was also disturbing foreshadowing all year. It began in May 2006 when "d20 Spectaculars", a superhero genre book for d20 Modern, was abruptly cancelled, just two months before it was scheduled to show up in stores. Inside sources later suggested that the product was lost when the development team was moved over to work on the Star Wars Saga Edition (2007). Then in June, the free Project Javelin online campaign (2005-2006) was cancelled too. It had been scheduled to run eight adventures long, but had barely gotten started. One of the campaign's writers later said that the problem was Wizards of the Coast resources. Finally, Gen Con Indy 2006 seemed to affirm what Modern fans sale fearing by that point: Wizards of the Coast had no d20 Modern books for sail, and the staff wasn't able to talk about the future of the line. Given all that, it's somewhat miraculous that d20 Dark•Matter appeared a month later — but it was probably easier to produce than the material that had been cancelled.

Unfortunately, d20 Dark•Matter was the last hoorah for d20 Modern. There was never an official statement about the line's demise, but after Wizards announced D&D 4e at Gen Con Indy 2007, it was obvious they wouldn't be supporting the old 3e-based line any more. There was some hope that d20 Modern might return in a new form following the publication of D&D 4e (2008), as Wizards was at one time planning for a non-fantasy third-party 4e license called the "d20 Game System License (d20 GSL)" … but it never appeared.

Wizards did eventually return to the future with Gamma World 7th Edition (2010), but by that time d20 Modern was long gone, and the new game was based more directly on the then-current D&D system.

So why was d20 Modern cancelled? We don't really know. It might have been hard to support because of its wide scope, but the biggest problem was probably that it just wasn't popular enough.

It was certainly never as popular with third-party publishers as d20 itself. There'd been some hope early on that it might become the gaming system for the entire industry, but that hope was never fulfilled. Meanwhile, by 2006 d20 itself had faded too, and Wizards was looking to what was next.

Perhaps more importantly, d20 Modern wasn't as successful as other Wizards roleplaying lines like D&D and Star Wars Saga. In the end, resources were pulled to work on those other lines, sidelining d20 Modern products that had been in process. This sort of Darwinian survival of the fittest is a hard rule of publishing — and the reason why TSR and Wizards have never had a tremendously long-lived alternate roleplaying line, except perhaps for Marvel Super Heroes (1984—1992), which had a strong license to keep it going.

Continuing the Dark•Matter Line. Ironically, d20 Dark•Matter marked a return to one of Wizards' older alternate roleplaying lines. The Alternity RPG (1997, 1998) was a science-fiction gaming system created by TSR, then published by Wizards of the Coast. Its two main settings were the space opera Star*Drive (1998) and the modern conspiracy Dark•Matter (1999). The original Dark•Matter setting had three supplements: Arms and Equipment Guide (2000), Xenoforms (2000), and The Killing Jar (2000). Wizards also published a "Fast-Play" version of the game in Dragon Annual #4 (1999), then reprinted it in the rulebook.

Though the Dark•Matter setting was well-received, it couldn't compete with D&D, and it ran smack dab into work on a new edition (3e) — which was pretty much the same story now being told for the d20 Modern line. After the Alternity line was cancelled, a final book, The Final Church (2000), appeared as a PDF.

That was it … until the advent of d20 Modern. Because of the love for Dark•Matter, Wizards had been hinting at the conspiratorial setting in their new modern-day line since day one. The d20 Menace Manual (2003) contained both critters from Dark•Matter and two of its most critical organizations. Andy Collins then wrote a short Dark•Matter ruleset for d20 Modern: "Dark•Matter: Shades of Grey" appeared in Dungeon #108 / Polyhedron #167 (March 2004).

The existence of so much information for Dark•Matter is probably why this final d20 Modern book was published, even while the rest of the line was fading away. Though Dark•Matter creators Wolfgang Baur and Monte Cook didn't write any new material for the d20 Modern book, so much of their Alternity text was used that they're still credited as authors. Meanwhile, much of the d20 Modern conversion was already present in Collins' "Shades of Gray", including all of the advanced and prestige classes. Finally, the adventure in d20 Dark•Matter, "Exit 23", was originally written by Rich Baker for the "Fast-Play", and was now converted to d20 Modern.

Expanding the d20 Modern System. As a relatively brief setting book, d20 Dark•Matter doesn't add a lot to the d20 Modern rule systems. Its main contributions are in the form of character options, including: new occupations, new feats, new (cryptozoologic) races, and the usual set of new classes. The two new advanced classes in d20 Dark•Matter are field antiquarian and field guide. Dark•Matter also uses the even more advanced prestige classes introduced in Urban Arcana (2003) and features three of them: alchemist, diabolist, and visionary. (A fourth prestige class, the xenoengineer, was dropped after its appearance in "Shades of Gray".)

Exploring the World of Dark•Matter. This was Wizards' second major setting for the modern world, following Urban Arcana, but their approaches were very different. Where Urban Arcana had mainly been a rules toolkit that gave no attention to the geography of the modern world, d20 Dark•Matter instead looks at places of mystery across the globe.

Much of the background material in d20 Dark•Matter (including the "true" history of the Earth) is drawn from the original Dark•Matter. The most interesting expansion is probably in the organizations section, which develops the setting's factions using the organizational design of the d20 Modern game.

About the Creators. Baur and Cook created Dark•Matter almost a decade previous, in the late '90s. By the time d20 Dark•Matter was published both of them had left Wizards of the Coast and were running their own publishing companies.

About the Product Historian

The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to shannon.appelcline@gmail.com.


We (Wizards) recognize that some of the legacy content available on this website does not reflect the values of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise today. Some older content may reflect ethnic, racial, and gender prejudice that were commonplace in American society at that time. These depictions were wrong then and are wrong today. This content is presented as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed. Dungeons & Dragons teaches that diversity is a strength, and we strive to make our D&D products as welcoming and inclusive as possible. This part of our work will never end.

 
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Discussions (4)
Customer avatar
neil S June 04, 2019 9:29 am UTC
Any chance of POD
Customer avatar
Bryce G December 05, 2018 7:32 pm UTC
PURCHASER
PDF contains no artwork (downloaded using two browsers and with other PDF downloads from this site just to make sure) . Is this a mistake?
Customer avatar
Marius B March 05, 2018 11:47 am UTC
PURCHASER
I really wish this (and the other d20m books) would become available in POD.
Customer avatar
Neil P July 08, 2016 12:46 am UTC
PURCHASER
Is this just a scan or a PDF with all the text so I can use PDF reflow to read it? I don't want it if it is just a scan.
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This title was added to our catalog on October 27, 2015.