>Mutants and Masterminds Design Journal: High Fantasy Characters part 1

>Alright, so you’re thinking of playing – or running – a fantasy game.

You have the choice of using D&D 4e, Pathfinder, or another system entirely.

My suggestion? Mutants and Masterminds again (can you tell I like this system?). In this entry, I’ll be breaking down a few of the things you’ll need to know if you want to run a fantasy M&M game.
For starters, you need to choose an edition. Either 2nd or 3rd edition will serve your needs very well, and personally I recommend the 3rd edition of the game. It’s newer, it actually DOES have a lot of improvements over the 2nd edition (which is hard; 2e was almost perfect!), and most of the stuff that was made for 2e will still work with a few changes.

Regardless of which edition you’re running or playing in, you’ll need the appropriate core rulebook: the 3rd edition core book is the DC Adventures Hero’s Handbook. Yes, it’s for DC; but M&M does much, much more than what it says on the cover. Other recommended reading is the excellent 2nd edition book Warriors and Warlocks, which contains a number of optional rules for the genre, most of which can be applied to 3e with a little common sense. Your GM will be doing most of this part for you, though; as a player, you only need the core book and whatever optional rules your GM has decided to use.

Step 2: choose your Power Level.

This is really the job of the GM, again, but you’ll need to know it if you’re the player, too. First, a brief primer on how PL works.

Power Level is, as you might guess, a measure of a character’s power. Unlike Class Level or Character Level in D&D or a similar game, it doesn’t change often once the game starts, unless something really important occurs. Basically, PL forms an upper limit on a number of your abilities and traits, and provides a quick way of setting the overall feel of the game.

For classic, low level adventurer style gameplay, set PL to 4. This also happens to be the PL of modern SWAT officers. Expect to face similarly powered humans and lower level monsters, like goblins and such. Also to return villager’s kittens (I’m kidding. Unless that’s how your GM rolls).

For a slightly more epic starting level similar to D&D 4th Edition, set PL to 6 – the level of “street level superheroes.” At this level, you can expect to be taking on greater threats, like dark elves in a high fantasy setting, or evil sorcerers and their cultists. Or saving a tavern from being burned down by Hobgoblins and Ogres. 

If you want something a bit more “Conan” ish, try PL 8 – “Cinematic Action.” This is where most movie action heroes fall in, and Conan the Barbarian probably fits in here somewhere as well. You might wind up with your own kingdom to defend at this level, and the players will take a major role in the world. If you want a mythological comparison, think “Odysseus.”

PL 10? The heroes are demigods, powerful wizards, warriors of legendary cunning and skill. This is also the default PL for superheroes in a modern setting. Expect to save the world before afternoon tea, fight demons summoned by evil mages, and so on. Think “Hercules/Heracles.”

As you can imagine, one PL makes a LOT of difference. Even a single Power Point can make a big difference. But that’s a digression for another time – what matters right now is picking the PL that grants the feel you want for your game.

For my fantasy game, I’m going to pick PL 6 – I already have some character ideas I like, and that level seems like the best for reproducing them well.

Step 3: Optional Rules

In a fantasy game, we don’t charge PP for equipment unless it’s unusual to the setting or particularly rare. Characters are assumed to possess appropriate equipment to round out their abilities. This is the sort of rule that favors martial or highly skilled characters, like warriors, or rogues over spellcasting characters like wizards; then again, a fighter will need his weapon, and a wizard won’t. It’s a fair tradeoff.

Come back next time for Step 4: Create your character! – in which I’ll be creating a sample Fantasy character and explaining the process step by step.

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2 responses to “>Mutants and Masterminds Design Journal: High Fantasy Characters part 1

  • Jillian Spencer

    >You don't explain what PP is under optional rules, or why it matters. Please do.

  • Xarathos

    >Ah, of course! PP is shorthand for Power Points, which are the basic building blocks of characters in M&M/DCA. They're also the game's way of handling experience; you earn more of them at a slow rate as the game progresses, usually around one per session – sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on your GM's goals for the game.

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