Before I get to the review, here's a short description of my previous Pencil and Paper RPG experiences: I started out in 2001 with Dungeons and Dragons third edition, as well as RIFTS. I eventually continued onto Dungeons and Dragons edition 3.5 and Shadowrun.
Now, onto d20 Modern itself:
I had first learned of the book in late 2003, but I only glanced at it briefly and brushed it off as "inferior" to D&D.
How wrong I was.
After seeing the d20 Modern website in early 2005, and actually taking the time to examine what the system could handle and replicate, I re-read the Core Rulebook and was thoroughly pleased.
For starters, Modern differs from it's predecessor enough that even veterans of D&D will have some new rules to learn.
Character classes (a representation of experience in a variety of life paths) are not narrowly defined terms such as "Fighter" or "Rogue", but rather, they are based off of the six main attributes all characters have - Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma.
The Strong Hero class represents physical training to exert more damage in melee combat, as well as training in athletic pursuits (climbing, jumping, swimming)
The Fast Hero class represents physical training to become more agile and capable of avoiding incoming danger, as well as training in ranged combat and stealthy pursuits (hiding, moving silently, sleight of hand)
The Tough Hero class represents physical training to withstand more punishment from the environment and recovering from injury quickly, as well as training to resist poisons, disease and keeping one's body focused (concentrating)
The Smart Hero class represents mental training to pick up on a wide variety of academic and technical skills to be prepared for any situation that calls for book smarts, as well as training to outsmart one's enemy in combat (crafting, knowledge)
The Dedicated Hero class represents mental training to be in tune with one's surroundings, aware of danger, able to ferret out deception, as well as training to be well versed in a wide variety of pursuits (listening, sensing motive, treating injuries)
The Charismatic Hero class represents mental training to become likeable or frightening to others, and one that movies through social circles with ease, as well as training to command others in conflict (diplomacy, intimidation, gathering information, inspiration)
In addition to the six basic classes above, there are twelve "Advanced Classes" that focus more on one aspect of a character, such as the Soldier class for general combat excellence, or the Field Medic, for the ability to work miracles and heal the mortally wounded.
Each class has ten levels of progression, and each character can achieve up to twenty levels through their journey. Therefore, you will inevitably come to a point where you must take one or more levels in a variety of classes.
For example, a boxer would typically be a Strong Hero / Tough Hero. Or, for one that is speedy and dodges well, they may be a Fast Hero / Strong Hero instead.
Want a scout? A Fast Hero / Dedicated Hero is ideal.
Or are you more of a highly intelligent smooth talker? Smart Hero / Charismatic Hero.
Did your character serve in the Marines, but is now a Detective? Tough Hero / Dedicated Hero / Investigator.
Asides from the classes, there are Occupations such as Academic, Law Enforcement and Technician - sets of permanent skills and a wealth increase, Feats - special abilities any character can eventually learn, and Skills - training anyone can pick up on. Most any character concept you can imagine, you can create.
Equipment - Outfit your character with everything from Desert Eagles, to PSG-1 sniper rifles, to mesh vests, to electrical tool kits and even a BMW M3 to carry all that gear around.
Admittedly there are some problem areas: non-lethal damage (knocking out opponents) is horribly ineffective and not worth it as-is. But with a house-rule (change to the rules as is) or two, you won't have any problems.
Finally, the book itself is well made. The binding is solid, the cover is durable and the pages are of a high quality stock.
All in all, d20 Modern is an extensive and engaging game sure to bring many hours worth of cinematic fun to you and your friends.