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Urban Arcana (d20M)

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Welcome to Christmas in July! In celebration, this digital title has been marked down by up to 40%! For more of Santa's savings, visit our Christmas in July sale page.

Explosive action and epic adventure fill the modern world when fantasy and reality collide. In Urban Arcana, heroes armed with swords, spells, shotguns, and cell phones dive headlong into trouble with monsters, mobsters, cabals, and corporations. Take a deep breath, and discover the realms of fantasy within the gritty shadows of the modern world.

To use this product, you also need the d20 Modern Roleplaying Game rulebook. For players and Gamemasters, this product is compatible with other d20 System roleplaying games.

Product History

Urban Arcana (2003), by Eric Cagle, Jeff Grubb, David Noonan, and Stan!, is the first setting book for the d20 Modern line. It was published in May 2003.

Continuing d20 Modern. The d20 Modern line got its start in November 2002 with the d20 Modern Roleplaying Game (2002). Somewhat surprisingly, the second book for the line wasn't a monster manual (which would come next), but instead a campaign setting: Urban Arcana.

As it turns out, there was a good reason that Urban Arcana was given such prominence: before there was d20 Modern, Wizards of the Coast was playing with the Urban Arcana setting as a way to create a "D&D in the modern world" game. Playtests were being run by Bill Slavicsek, Jeff Grubb, Stan!, and others. This led to the question, "How does d20 work generally in the modern world?" The result of that was d20 Modern, which Wizards decided to publish first … but modern D&D wasn't far beyond.

When it was finally produced, Urban Arcana was a massive 320-page hardcover (which was still shorter than the dense 384-page core rulebook for the line). The ties between d20 Modern and "D&D in the modern world" also remained strong, making d20 Modern and Urban Arcana a tightly connected pair of books. This had started with d20 Modern, which focused on magic and the supernatural. Now, Urban Arcana contained material that could be fundamental to any Modern game, including lots of modern equipment and some new rules systems.

Wizards marked the importance of Urban Arcana by adding much of its content to the d20 Modern SRD, including the new races, occupations, classes, feats, equipment, spells, and other rules systems.

Sources. Urban Arcana is simply "D&D in the modern world", however there were certainly other influences from pop culture. For example, Slavicsek was a big Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003) fan, while Grubb had enjoyed Kolchak the Night Stalker (1974-1975).

The Other TV Connection. Urban Arcana almost became its own pop culture phenomenon. In April 2005, the Sci-Fi channel published a list of over half-a-dozen projects that were being considered for the 2006-2007 season. One of them was Urban Arcana, "an action series inspired by the Hasbro/Worlds of Wonder role-playing game which follows an undercover detective who must protect the human population from the influx of chameleon-like, mythological creatures from a parallel world". Unfortunately, the show was one of many casualties from that proposed 2006-2007 schedule, including "Barbarian Chronicles", "Heroes Anonymous", "Time Tunnel", and others.

Expanding the d20 Modern System. As you'd expect, Urban Arcana is full of the advanced classes that made d20 Modern so versatile. They included: the arcane arranger, the archaic weaponsmaster, the glamourist, the mystic, the shadow hunter, the shadowjack, the speed demon, the street warrior, the swashbuckler, the techno mage, the thrasher, and the wildlord.

More surprisingly, Urban Arcana introduced a third sort of class for d20 Modern: the prestige class. Where advanced classes had originally seemed to entirely replace prestige classes, d20 Modern's own prestige classes revealed that they were just a step in a ladder. These new prestige classes were even "more restrictive" and so allowed "deeper specialization". Urban Arcana's prestige classes included: the archmage, the artificer, the ecclesiarch, and the holy/unholy knight.

Races were similarly expanded. The classic D&D races, and a few others were readily available, including: dwarfs, elfs, gnomes, goblins, half-elfs, half-orcs, halflings, orcs, shadowkind humans, and snakeblooded (yuan-ti) humans. More outré races were also available, using the ever-popular 3e "level adjustments". They included: aasimar, bugbears, dragonblooded humans, drow, gnolls, half-dragons, half-ogres, ogres, and tieflings.

There was of course new equipment and new spells too. However, the biggest new rule mechanic was the "incantation". Incantations replaced many of the higher level spells with lengthy rituals; more importantly, they didn't require the character using them to be a spellcaster! They allowed for the use of Lovecraftian ritualists, fooling with powers that they didn't understand — a popular trope in modern supernatural stories.

Expanding the Modern World. In d20 Modern, the Urban Arcana world was presented as a "campaign model" that gave an overview of the setting, but then focused on rules. Despite calling itself a "Campaign Setting", the Urban Arcana book is more of the same. The world is primarily defined through its races, its monsters, and its organizations.

Those organizations are probably the densest setting material in the book and include references to some classic elements of D&D lore in organizations like the Heirs of Kyuss and St. Cuthbert's House. The idea of using organizations to define settings (and create plot hooks) was generally well-used in the d20 Modern line,

However, if you wanted a gazetteer of the world … you won't get it. Because it's the world outside your door, Urban Arcana doesn't detail its background, instead suggesting that GMs lay their own campaign in their own home towns. In other words, Urban Arcana wasn't as much a modern fantasy setting as a modern fantasy ruleset — cranking the ideas in d20 Modern up to the next level.

About the Creators. Slavicsek ran the earliest "D&D in the modern day" campaigns, then Grubb wrote the outline for the Urban Arcana book. The large design and development team met a lot in early days, then broke up in subgroups to work on their individual sections. Grubb describes the book as "a real juggling act", thanks to the many people simultaneously working on it.

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

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.

 Customers Who Bought this Title also Purchased
Reviews (1)
Discussions (2)
Customer avatar
George F September 21, 2021 11:30 am UTC
So, the Core Rulebook is $45 for a 386 page hard cover.
And this is $65 for a 324 page softcover?

Whoever prices these things has his head up his rear end.
Customer avatar
Jeff S September 23, 2021 2:55 am UTC
The issue is that the D20 Modern Core and Dark Matter are available in standard color, while Urban Arcana is only available in premium color. It's probably a listing error, not a conscious pricing decision by WotC.
Customer avatar
Peter S March 11, 2020 3:30 am UTC
Do you need d20 Modern Core Rulebook to use Urban Arcana? And do you need The 3.5 PHB and DMG to use the Modern Core Rulebook?
Customer avatar
Mattia N April 18, 2020 8:51 pm UTC
Only the D20 Modern Rulebook
Customer avatar
Peter S April 28, 2020 11:30 pm UTC
Thank you!
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File Last Updated:
February 17, 2021
This title was added to our catalog on October 27, 2015.