In 2005 I worked on translating the Japanese on a map from the Area 88 manga and OVA into English with one of my gamer friends. In 2007 he began running an Area 88 game in D20 Modern with some add-ons from Blood and Guts.
Our party had a crop of 70s mach 2 capable fighters, the conceit of the game is that everyone had a fighter from somewhere in their career and came to Area 88 to fight as mercenaries.
Races: Everyone in the setting is a human.
Classes: The Jet Pilot classes of D20 Modern were all Advanced Classes and that normally meant a 4th level character for many classes or a 3rd level Fast Hero, but the game if you wanted to play fighter pilots and have cool abilities you needed 3th level starting characters to get at the abilities kept behind the Advanced Class (tax?). Enemy pilots were NPC classes that don’t get Feats in D20 Modern.
Skills: All normal skills, computers existed in the 1970s but they were huge.
Feats: While there is no escaping the cannons of an enemy fighter, all of the missiles we used in the game had a Reflex save, this really reinforced the Fast Hero as the only real choice for your base class and Evasion if the GM allowed it to apply to your fighter was a mandatory feat or class ability. It’s worth noting that D20 Star Wars had Starship Evasion as a separate ability in a Class all its own. However D20 Star Wars also assumed starship combat was part of the game and that people might base their character concept around it. There was no such assumption in D20 Modern that Aerial Combat and Dogfighting would be someone’s entire character concept much less the whole party’s squadron concept and the entire point of the campaign.
So the GM said Evasion the feat taken by the pilot applied to his aircraft, which radically changed how survivable your plane was to incoming missile attacks and the Reflex saves they required. Now, recall that NPC classes in D20 Modern do not get feats despite Evasion being a mandatory feat for this character concept. You shoot a missile at the bad guys and they go boom, every time. For a campaign based on an Anime this worked pretty well that the nameless bad guys were popcorn and blew up easily. Within a few sessions we had aces with 5 kills and were really feeling the Top Gun vibe.
Equipment: We had very normal D20 Modern guns and armor, since we were playing in the 1970s the dated equipment section didn’t inconvenience us in the least. The GM had to make up the Jet Fighters, Cannons and Rockets/Missiles that we carried but that was pretty much extrapolated from weapons and vehicles already in the game.
Game Mastery: Our GM had to collect a lot of Aerial Combat maneuvers, you know barrel rolls, Immelmans, Outside loops and Split S things with names like that you hear at air shows. I don’t know what sources they all came from and don’t remember if they were overpowered or underwhelming, but we had them and we tried a lot of them. Unfortunately I think a lot of it came down to “I swing my sword” except with missiles and cannons, there was a missile some Sidewinder variant that was clearly the best missile in the game and we didn’t much bother with anything else.
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