August 6, 2013
A Look At The Crunch Of Mutants & Masterminds
Mutants & Masterminds, M&M for short, is a game by Green Ronin Publishing that uses the d20 system for an incredibly fun superhero table-top game. The game focuses on the fun, fast-paced action of comic books and superhero action movies, putting a lot of emphasis on quick resolution to actions and fluid mechanics. As such, although they use the d20 system as their base, and still use many of the familiar rules, they have altered the system to suit their own purposes. For starters, they have turned the game from a level-up system into a point-buy character design, which allows for a great deal of flexibility in building your ideal hero. They have also gotten rid of the normal “hit point” system and replaced it with a wound system that penalized characters’ actions the more hits they have taken, to the point where they will eventually be taken out of the fight. What this does for the game is reduce the lethality of the game, allowing for more comic-book style fights where characters will get beaten up, battered, and broken, but only rarely is there ever a case of character death, even in the case of villains.
Much like the Marvel Universe Role-Playing Game, M&M allows for a variety of character types, most of them variants on what sort of super-hero you are trying to emulate. Are you a fan of the X-Men, people born with unusual powers that mark them as beyond human, often resulting in being branded as freaks and monsters by normal people? Maybe you are an alien from another world who possesses wondrous powers and has decided to protect mankind and your new home planet like Superman. Maybe you are a masked crime fighter like Batman or Spider-man, or have access to a suit of high tech powered armor like Iron Man. You are not limited to what has come before, of course. Players are encouraged to fully design their own heroes. The options are limited only by your own imagination.
In order to balance characters, since the game does not use the more traditional leveling system, M&M uses a set of benchmarks for the maximums your character is allowed to have in various abilities and skills based on how powerful your Gamemaster wants the story to be. This helps all characters have some basis for equality, meaning that you do not typically risk a powerhouse character destroying all foes with a single mighty blow nor having a psychic who can simply pacify all of their enemies with a thought. While occasionally this leaves players feeling as though their characters are lacking in power, this is done for balance purposes. No character should have an instant “I win” ability that no one else can complete with. The game offers a slew of powers, as well as various options for customizing them to fit the feel of the character you are trying to create. In addition, once you know the system, character creation is very fluid and allows for quick character creation.
Super-hero games are not a favorite of mine, but I still enjoy them from time to time. Mutants & Masterminds is the leader in super-hero role-playing games and there are many good reasons for that. The game is incredibly fun, uses mechanics that are both easy to understand and complex enough to allow for a great deal of fine-tuning, and captures the feel of all that is glorious about comic books and super-hero movies. So, if you are in the mood, grab your cape, don your mask, and go and save the world with the help of your fellow Mutants & Masterminds.
Image Credit: Green Ronin Publishing