Ultramodern5 on Backerkit: An Interview with Chris Dias (Dias Ex Machina)

Ultramodern5 from Dias Ex Machina is coming to Backerkit

Ultramodern5 from Dias Ex Machina is coming to Backerkit. This modern day to near future 5e RPG has gone Mithral on DriveThruRPG twice. Chris Dias answered my questions about the campaign, the other modern day 5e RPGs, if he’ll create his own system, and his thoughts on AI artwork.

UM-Open-6.jpg

EGG EMBRY (EGG): At Backerkit, you’re bringing back your best-seller, Ultramodern5. For those that don’t know it, what does this RPG bring to the gaming table?
CHRIS DIAS (CHRIS)
: Ultramodern5 was the first attempt to bring non-fantasy rules to 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons. It was meant to offer a sandbox for any number of rules for any number of homebrew settings. I wanted people to have the same tools I employ when I make my fusion fantasy/sci-fi settings like Amethyst and Affinity.

EGG: This is the latest version of the book that came out in 2016 and was revised in 2019. What’s updated about this volume?
CHRIS
: This is a reprint of the 2019 version, though we’ll likely update it to the latest errata as we'll have that opportunity. If you have the 2019 book, not much will change. However, there are considerable differences between the 2016 and 2019 versions. The 2016 was 240 pages; the 2019 was 390. The new version is in full color compared to the old, which was limited to black and white. The 2019 edition added races, one new class, more weapons, armor, an entire techno-magic spellcasting system, and a mecha construction system. We added the UltrMax system for added realism. We also replaced the two included modules with new ones, so if you possessed both books, you'd have access to four adventures.

UM-Open-1.jpg

EGG: You’re offering campaigns and adventures with this Backerkit. What can you share about the campaigns?
CHRIS
: There are four adventures and two campaign guides. I'm writing the guides; William Miller is tackling the adventures. For the latter, we have the cyberpunk-styled Clonefall. There is Phantom Stage, which is a weird west adventure with ghosts and magic. Madness At the Megalomart has a group of players trapped in a big-box retailer that is teleported to hell; that'll be fun. Echoes of Noa 94 is a space horror adventure inspired by the film Pandorum. Then we have Threshold, a heavily expanded version of the guide presented in the 2019 Ultramodern5. This new one creates a massive sandbox of spacecraft and planets for players to explore while they attempt to uncover the mystery of what occurred within this apocalyptic region of space they have found themselves in. That one includes a modular spacecraft dungeon map system. That leaves The Retroverse Chronicles, which is set at the brink of the collapse of the United States at the beginning of an alternate 1980s, decades after the arrival of alien devices that can inject the knowledge of black technology into people’s minds. However, I am looking to pursue an experimental format with that book depending on how successful the campaign is—I'd like to create a hybrid adventure/novel that tells a story while revealing a world for the characters to explore. I did similar things with Amethyst and Affinity but not to this extent.

EGG: You’re offering a slipcase and a luxury edition for this campaign, correct? What will come in the slipcase? Will it include the luxury edition?
CHRIS
: There are, count 'em, FOUR different variants of the new Ultramodern5. We have the two regular editions with standard or variant covers. Then there is the deluxe edition, which we unlocked in 2019. That features spot UV, a satin bookmark, and a slipcase. With this 2023 campaign, we are introducing a new leather/cloth edition with metal corners and the highest quality paper. We're also looking into other additions to that as well. One will either be a slipcase or a magnet box, which we did for Affinity.

UM-Open-2.jpg

EGG: Will there be any VTT assets or content specific to Roll20 or another platform?
CHRIS
: We are currently working on a Roll20 package for Ultramodern5 as we speak. There is already one for Fantasy Grounds, which we will offer a coupon for.

EGG: Who is working on this project with you?
CHRIS
: I recently brought on William Miller from BeDumb Games. We've been friends for years, and I realized recently that to produce the amount of content I want, I need help with other aspects of the business. Until now, it's basically been just me, my wife, one artist, one editor, and one cartographer. I was the only one producing written content, and to expand, I needed to have some talent, and William was the first and only name that came to mind. He offers his own great adventures under that label.

UM-Open-3.jpg

EGG: In the years since you brought a modern setting and options to 5e, there have been a number of other offerings that bring now and the near future to 5e: Evil Genius Games’ Everyday Heroes, CRISPR Monkey Studios’ GeneFunk 2090 Core Rulebook, Dragon Turtle Games’ Carbon 2185 | A Cyberpunk RPG Core Rulebook, Nightpath Publishing’s Entromancy: A Cyberpunk Fantasy RPG, and Feral Gamers Inc’s Ghost Ops Second Strike - 5th ed, to name a few. What makes Ultramodern5 stand out from the pack?
CHRIS
: Well, obviously, right out of the bag, we were the first. We established that it WAS possible to make non-fantasy rules for 5E, as so many people said it couldn't work. I like to think we provided a lot of inspiration for the rest. The other big difference is that, unlike at least a few of the titles you mentioned, Ultramodern5 is wholly compatible with 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons. You don't need to alter our rules if you want to insert them into a traditional 5E D&D adventure or setting. You can include only certain aspects and leave others out, and it will still work. My original dream was for someone to replicate the classic adventure, Expedition to Barrier Peaks, a famous title where an alien spacecraft crashes in Greyhawk. We also wanted to provide a sandbox of universal rules people could use to create their own settings, so our book is not confined by any one world or idea. That's why we added mecha and technomagic with the last book. I have heard amazing stories from fans that have created the most insane original worlds. They have also adapted IPs into their own homebrew games. I have seen Mass Effect, Ghost in the Shell, Dead Space, Destiny, and a few others made based on Ultramodern5. These are strengths I like to think is unique to our book.

EGG: In light of the OGL crisis, are you thinking of crafting a future edition to be non-OGL like Advanced Fifth Edition, Tales of the Valiant, or C7d20?
CHRIS
: We have considered that, but I don't want to create a 5E variant for no reason. I have been running a series of design streams where I open live feedback to the community on what I would do if I could design my own variant system. Some elegant ideas came through these, and I hope to return to them soon. Will a publication come out of that? Potentially. I just finished the mechanics for our latest Amethyst book, where we created five new classes inspired by classic ideas. So, it would be neat to create an alternative ruleset with these in an original setting, something we'll likely have out by next year. Unlike some of the variant 5E rules, ours take some interesting detours, but nothing I think will confuse or freak out the audience. That being said, it has been my company’s stance in saying that D&D generally and 5E specifically doesn’t belong to any one person or company, and I won’t let temporary legal issues or social outrage tell me otherwise.

UM-Open-4.jpg

EGG: This crowdfunding campaign is on Backerkit instead of Kickstarter or another platform. Why did you choose Backerkit for this campaign?
CHRIS
: Kickstarter can become rather crowded. Backerkit is just getting into the crowdfunding scene, and I like their presentation and format. Plus, getting in on the ground floor with them is exciting. Also, with controversies surrounding Kickstarter, I thought giving an alternate a try was worth it. We'll see if this works out.

EGG: AI artwork has become a topic for many publishers. Does Dias Ex Machina have an AI policy?
CHRIS
: This is a big one…Well, outside of human cloning, there's never been a technological advancement that’s been outlawed. This pandora's box has been opened and cannot be closed. We must adapt, understand, and ethically deal with the subject without knee-jerk reactionaries controlling the narrative. I’ve talked with numerous artists whose voices are being muffled by those only looking at this subject in black and white. As a convention organizer, I've banned the use of AI but understand that this may not be enforceable in the future. How is this different from electronic music in the 80s? People got used to Photoshop. Music companies managed to destroy Napster but could not quell digital distribution. AI in certain aspects of our society can be a strength we can utilize, and those who don't may fall behind. I do not subscribe to the idea that AI should replace artists. I don't think a producer should have an AI write a script for a TV show. But if a writer uses ChatGPT to accelerate their work or if a visual artist employs AI as a tool, I don't want to be their judge or executioner. I'm not talking about generating an image and slapping a signature, but people take other works, like music or video, and transform them enough to become original. I take inspiration from other writers. If an artist utilizes AI in some capacity but employs their talents to make something original out of it, who am I to judge? I'll never use AI to replace an artist, but I will never criticize a talented artist for using AI to assist them. And thanks to Adobe's Firefly, which I have access to, we can generate ideas ethically without worrying about stealing other people's work. Once the ethics of the training has been alleviated, what's left to stop an artist from employing generative AI in some capacity? Our official stance is that we won't employ generative AI to replace artists but have not eliminated its application to convey ideas to artists in the development process. We also have no issue with established artists employing AI in some capacity in the process of an original illustration. Right now, it's very political for publishers to decry AI, but I have a funny feeling this policy will shift in the background, and you'll never know it. As you can imagine, I can talk about this for hours.

UM-Open-9.jpg

EGG: Beyond Ultramodern5, what else are you working on?
CHRIS
: I’m finishing up the next book in Amethyst, then likely end of this year, the beginning of next, we'll launch a reboot of our NeuroSpasta and Apex 5E settings and get this in color with expanded content. Then we're hoping on a Ultramodern5 Bestiary with our long-term goal to get our long-gestating Heavenfall off the ground.

EGG: Thanks for talking with me. Where can fans follow your work?
CHRIS
: You can find us at Dias Ex Machina (DiasExMachina) on almost every social media site, from YouTube to TikTok. The Ultramodern5 campaign launches on June 13th.

Ultramodern5, a 5E universal sci-fi sourcebook + Campaigns & Adventures by Dias Ex Machina

Egg Embry participates in the OneBookShelf Affiliate Program, Noble Knight Games’ Affiliate Program, and is an Amazon Associate. These programs provide advertising fees by linking to DriveThruRPG, Noble Knight Games, and Amazon.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Egg Embry

Egg Embry

Bacon Bits

Legend
A friend of mine picked up the Ultramodern5 "Redux" book a few years ago.

There's some really interesting core redesigns built in Ultramodern5. Ladders are basically a second class. Lifepaths offer expanded background design, like Traveller-lite. Archetypes (subclasses) are class-agnostic and chosen independently because all classes have archetype features at the same levels. The artwork is also really beautiful!

We've never played it, unfortunately. Our table really likes Savage Worlds for sci-fi, so we always seem to choose that. But this is some really great stuff.
 


BedumbBusiness

Villager
People are actually able to make settings of these genres and put them in the D&D universe?
You are. Its a giant plug and play toolbox you control. Therebare some inckuded settings and new ones being made.
For example I ran a campaign where my players started off in a classic tavern start up. Then a strange alien like person came into the bar said he needed to hire them for a quest. Everything very tropey except he looked super alien and weird to them.

Midway throughbthe quest in the middle of a dangerous encounter with gnolls a large beep was heard and a voice over an intercom came on and said freeze simulation. And everyone but the alien was frozen as a holodecl was revealed. The party was frozen and the Alien sighed saying "aww man Mom! I wasnt finished playing!" Then proceeded to drag the players back into a holding cell where he was supposed to wipe their memories but forgot as he was busy yelling at his mom.
The players then had to fogure out how to escape. What happened to them. Learn what memories were real or not.
The look of shock and confusion on their face was so great as I pulled out the ultramodern book and said we arent in Kansas anymore.
 

Dias Ex Machina

Publisher / Game Designer
Thanks for the comment. Ladders were inspired by the "heroes" in D20. They give you a basic level 1 ability, most often to change your primary attack attribute. Then as you level, instead of choosing an ability score bonus or feat, you can select your next ladder ability. So it's like this secondary background class you can multiclass into when you want.
 

Dias Ex Machina

Publisher / Game Designer
People are actually able to make settings of these genres and put them in the D&D universe?
We done it quite a few times, actually. NeuroSpasta is cyberpunk, Apex offers superheroes. Then we have the Affinity trilogy, which offers sci-fi fantasy, space opera, and steampunk. I imagine we'll cover every genre we think of. This new Kickstarter is going to offer weird west, space horror, and a few others.
 

VGmaster9

Explorer
You are. Its a giant plug and play toolbox you control. Therebare some inckuded settings and new ones being made.
For example I ran a campaign where my players started off in a classic tavern start up. Then a strange alien like person came into the bar said he needed to hire them for a quest. Everything very tropey except he looked super alien and weird to them.

Midway throughbthe quest in the middle of a dangerous encounter with gnolls a large beep was heard and a voice over an intercom came on and said freeze simulation. And everyone but the alien was frozen as a holodecl was revealed. The party was frozen and the Alien sighed saying "aww man Mom! I wasnt finished playing!" Then proceeded to drag the players back into a holding cell where he was supposed to wipe their memories but forgot as he was busy yelling at his mom.
The players then had to fogure out how to escape. What happened to them. Learn what memories were real or not.
The look of shock and confusion on their face was so great as I pulled out the ultramodern book and said we arent in Kansas anymore.
I don't mean stuff from the book sprinkled into a medieval setting, I'm talking about whole worlds that use such tech. Mistborn does something similar. The first series starts out as medieval, but the second has a more late 19th century/early 20th century style setting. The next series will be more reminiscent of the 1980s. There are other fantasy series that use a modern style setting, like City of Stars, Jade City, and The Craft Sequence. They're not set on Earth, but they're constructed worlds that happen to have tech similar to ours.
 

Dias Ex Machina

Publisher / Game Designer
I don't mean stuff from the book sprinkled into a medieval setting, I'm talking about whole worlds that use such tech. Mistborn does something similar. The first series starts out as medieval, but the second has a more late 19th century/early 20th century style setting. The next series will be more reminiscent of the 1980s. There are other fantasy series that use a modern style setting, like City of Stars, Jade City, and The Craft Sequence. They're not set on Earth, but they're constructed worlds that happen to have tech similar to ours.
Oh Yes, the Affinity Books are one--Torus is Steampunk with Weird West elements. Conestoga is entirely sci-fi with aliens, mecha, and the whole package. NeuroSpasta, our cyberpunk setting, and Apex, superheroes, are also entirely non-fantasy.

We use tech levels so you can set the technology of your specific setting, from muskets to plasma guns. Go nuts.

The Curse of Sally Tincakes FNL.jpg
 

Unfortunately Adobe Firefly has been shown to be able to replicate certain specific artists' style - the case of Kelly McKernan in particular is one such artist who was replicated but did not consent to have her artwork scraped by Adobe for AI.

I'd be very suspicious of Firefly's dataset.
 

Vincent55

Adventurer
You are. Its a giant plug and play toolbox you control. Therebare some inckuded settings and new ones being made.
For example I ran a campaign where my players started off in a classic tavern start up. Then a strange alien like person came into the bar said he needed to hire them for a quest. Everything very tropey except he looked super alien and weird to them.

Midway throughbthe quest in the middle of a dangerous encounter with gnolls a large beep was heard and a voice over an intercom came on and said freeze simulation. And everyone but the alien was frozen as a holodecl was revealed. The party was frozen and the Alien sighed saying "aww man Mom! I wasnt finished playing!" Then proceeded to drag the players back into a holding cell where he was supposed to wipe their memories but forgot as he was busy yelling at his mom.
The players then had to fogure out how to escape. What happened to them. Learn what memories were real or not.
The look of shock and confusion on their face was so great as I pulled out the ultramodern book and said we arent in Kansas anymore.
ThAT IS AN AWESOME idea i had a simular one that was like metamorphosis alpha with large habitats and a crazy computer that was insane and decided to play with the people and created different areas. One a fantasy area with all the spells and such simulated by the computers ai and was holographic
 

Voidrunner's Codex

Remove ads

Voidrunner's Codex

Remove ads

Top