>Choosing a system part 2: Mutants and Masterminds

>I promised in my previous post that I’d be talking about my personal favorite today. Mutants and Masterminds, though a bit more youthful than many other systems out there, has a lot going for it. It’s published by Green Ronin, and it’s hard to find a more amazing bunch of people in the world of roleplaying than the guys at GR. Green Ronin recently won a licensing agreement with DC Comics, resulting in the DC Adventures Hero’s Handbook, pictured to the left, and the 3rd Edition of this remarkable game.

Now, what makes this game so amazing, you might ask?

It’s elegant. It’s powerful. It’s crunchy, yet simple all at once. And it’s capable of just about anything.

Granted, Risus is, too, but in a very different way. Risus is great for being fast-and-loose, easy to grasp, and lighthearted. M&M (and DCA, by extension) is playing in the big leagues. It’s one of the few systems I’ve ever seen that simultaneously can realistically compare Superman and Batman, but is also capable of modeling the abilities of, say, the cop on the street, Gandalf, or your mom.

Mutants & Masterminds is explicitly intended and marketed towards comic book roleplaying, but as anyone who reads comic books knows, that’s an extremely wide territory. There are comic books about EVERYTHING, from vampires to cyberpunk, gritty anti-heroes to science fiction (Star Trek, Star Wars, Stargate…), Superman to Spider-man to Batman to Blade, Green Arrow to Black Cat to Wonder Woman… to say nothing of Manga. Yes, you can do Mecha with this game.

If you can think of it, chances are there’s been a comic about it, and chances are equally good that M&M can do it. It works equally well for characters in movies, novels, or videogames, though this fact is not advertised in the book itself. James Bond style super-spies are equally at home, here, as are students with all of their drama.

A “Race/Class” combination like you find in Dungeons & Dragons just won’t cut it here, nor does it really work all that well for the characters you find in books. So how do you manage it?

Simple. And, yes, a little tricky, because this is where the numbers come in. Numbers are what say how much you can lift, how far your teleport effect will take you, how fast you can run (Flash), and how much your optic blasts will hurt compared to, say, a knife or shotgun. But once you’ve figured that stuff out, the core mechanic is simple. Every single problem you can encounter in the game is handled one way.

Roll a d20, add appropriate modifiers, and compare the result to the difficulty.

M&M is a descendant of Dungeons and Dragons, the game that pioneered what is now broadly known as the “d20 System,” but it’s come a long way since then. It uses only the one die, for instance. Unlike D&D, it has no ‘hit-points’ that have no place in the real world. It plays equally well at the cosmic levels of power and at the grim and gritty level of the cop on the beat – or Aragorn and Gimli, for that matter.

Best of all, it’s one of the single best supported roleplaying games on the market. There’s a great community of gamers on the Atomic Think Tank who are not only knowledgeable in the system but are also extremely friendly. Odds are, most of your favorite characters have stats there already, and the builders on the Roll Call forum are generally happy to help you figure out how things work. Steve Kenson is also an active presence on the forum, dropping in occasionally to settle disputes and answer questions about the rules personally.

Me, I liked the idea of D&D, but I could never get behind the ‘class’ system, because it felt too much like someone was telling me what I couldn’t do, not so much what I could. In Mutants and Masterminds, that isn’t an issue. Characters are built using points that pay for the effects, skills, and so on, that you want. Build something that matches your concept, and you’re golden – it’s a lot easier to model characters like those in literature that way, and since gameplay is structured around the literary model, you’re more likely to feel like part of a movie (or comic book) when playing M&M.

I’ll go into some more reasons why Mutants and Masterminds is awesome (and a bit more about how to play it) another time. If you’re interested, the quickstart guide for DC Adventures can be found here – and it’s a free download.

We still have more systems though (the honorable mentions list, and some other categories), so tune in next time.

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