Playing the Hero with Mutants & Masterminds
It’s a summer of hero movies, which seems a good time to pick up the old pencil and paper and join in the fun in that theater of imagination, the role playing game.
Mutants & Masterminds, 2nd Edition
Green Ronin Publishing
As much as I like super-hero role playing games, they sometimes run the risk of being unbalanced, rigid, or complicated. Some would manage two or even all three at the same time. However, Mutants & Masterminds is a clean, flexible, and pretty fun system for creating your favorite heroes (or villains).
It’s based on the True 20 system, a d20 game that takes Open Gaming License material and adds on a sensible, flexible, and pretty powerful point system for buying characteristics. Tacking on a small feature only costs a point or two, like adding new forms onto a shape-changing power. However, adding a more dramatic feature like area-effect explosions to an attack will have a cost that scales up with the level of the power. The system makes it easy for players to add interesting flavor to their characters and has several example hero archetypes if they need a starting place for their build.
The powers themselves are nicely varied, from staples like “Blast” and “Force Field” to more exotic options like “Anatomic Separation” and “Friction Control”. Again, all of it can be customized, enhanced, reduced, or repackaged. Want a mad scientist’s shrink ray pistol? Piece of cake:
Device: Reduce-o-Ray Gun (easy to lose)
Power: Shrinking 8 (makes Medium sized targets Tiny)
Power feats: Progression x2 (affects up to a 500kg target)
Power modifier: Attack (stopped by force fields), Range
That’ll be 6 power points. Cash or charge?
Combat and skill resolution is usually managed with one d20 roll against a target number and possibly a second die roll to save against the effect or damage. The power level of the campaign sets limits on the characters’ offensive and defensive bonuses, which makes it easier for game masters to balance the opposition.
For game masters looking for source material, there are several expansions and supplements including a Hero High campaign setting, but the core book is enough to get started with.