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Author Topic: [Mutants and Masterminds 1e] Super-hero Battles Similar to Comics  (Read 1277 times)
darthfodder
Member

Posts: 6


« on: April 14, 2010, 11:36:28 PM »

For those who aren't familiar with it, Mutants and Masterminds is a super-hero rpg published by Green Ronin with modified d20 mechanics. If you aren't familiar with Dungeons and Dragons 3/3.5; some of this post may be confusing.

I recently GMed a session of this game. I ran it with three players. One player made a hero called The Alchemist, with transmutation powers. Another made The Medic; who could alternate between maintaining a field that damaged those around him and maintaining a field that healed those around him. The third player made a hero called The Ghost, who could turn incorporeal and fly when he did so.

When I first started running the game, I expected it to go a lot like D&D 3/3.5. The rules are clearly derived from that system, but with a few changes that have a great impact on the flow of the game. The game only uses a 1d20 roll. There are no hit points or damage rolls, instead damage is figured out with a Constitution based damage save. For heroes and villains, a failed damage save can lead to a cumulative damage save penalty, being stunned for a round, being knocked out, or becoming "disabled"(meaning that any exhertion will lead the hero to go unconscious and start dying); depending on whether the attack was lethal or stunning damage and also depending on how badly the save was failed. When a villain's minion fails a damage save, the minion either automatically goes unconscious or dies; depending on whether damage is lethal or stunning. There are also no attacks of opportunity. The rulebook also doesn't really have rules for grid based combat, it suggests not doing it to keep a comic-book-like flow. In fact,the book states that all of the differences between D&D and Mutants and Masterminds are meant to make Mutants and Masterminds feel more like comic books. I had no idea just how successful these modifications to the system would be in accomplishing that goal.

We played through a few encounters. It was quickly apparent that this wasn't just D&D with a pair of tights and laser vision. The rules for super hero powers are sometimes vague. I think this was intentional to allow for player resourcefulness. The game isn't all that well balanced, the hero with incorporeal powers was kind of broken in a good way for the players. But given what the system was supposed to be, this didn't really seem like a flaw.

The first encounter involved a super villain with ice powers and another with a steel skeleton and super stength(Icebox and Tin Jaw) trying to steal some steel from the city steel mill. I gave the villains many henchmen and a large getaway truck; the villains were meant to get away with the steel. The players obviously and rightly had other plans, and you know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and GMs. The Alchemist asked if there was anything lying around that he could transmute into a makeshift sword. I told him to roll a search check, he rolled good; so I decided that the answer was yes. The Medic and the Alchemist managed to dispatch a lot of the henchmen while surviving Tin Jaw and Icebox. The Ghost went incorporeal and got inside of the truck. He had given himself decent combat stats, so he was easily able to take out the two minions actually inside of the truck. He hijacked the truck. Meanwhile, The Medic had gotten ahold of a gun from one of the dead henchmen and he and The Alchemist were roughing up Icebox pretty bad. There were a few natural 20s involved in that one(rolling a 20 before any modifiers, if anyone doesn't know). The Ghost managed to run over and thus finish off Icebox while avoiding his allies. Tin Jaw punched the truck, which sent it sailing. The Ghost made his save(natural 20) and so didn't take any damage from this. At this point I had to basically invent things to make sure the villains got some steel(it was an important plot device), so I had Tin Jaw call for back up in the form of two gunships. The lucky,powerful, but cowardly heroes decided to retreat at this point, which didn't make sense from a roleplaying stand point(they were part of a super police force) but it worked well enough in the end.

Some other stuff happened that I'll skip, and then a second encounter. This encounter involved the result of the villains managing to get some steel. A crippled, dimunitive, but highly intelligent villain used this steel and other things stolen beforehand to create a mechanical suit for himself, which was present at this encounter. The heroes were trapped into coming to a dark warehouse. Here, I had a villain who was blind but had echolocation and flight;called Blindeyes, battle them along with the mech. The heroes did much better than I expected. They managed to subdue Blindeyes quickly due to the fact that they made sure to bring guns with them and lucky rolls. The mech had a very high damage save. However, its weakness was that if they heroes figured out it was a mechanical suit and not a robot, they could get inside and deal with the pilot. Well, they guessed at this quickly and The Ghost managed to get inside and start beating up the cripple in the mech. I had the mech reach inside the cockpit and pull out The Ghost. This resulted in its pilot being exposed and, needless to say, the battle was over more quickly than I possibly could have anticipated. But I liked that.

The battles felt a lot like comic book sequences. Not only were the battles fast paced and not firmly grounded in reality, the heroes' use of their powers seemed much like the comic books. The Alchemist turned some debris into a sword. The Ghost used his powers to overcome otherwise formidable barriers. There was a part of me that wanted to fight what seemed like the players thoroughly abusing the mechanics, but I realized that this is what super-heroes and comic books alike do. Super-heroes use their powers in creative and strange ways, while comic books tend to ignore the laws of science. I think this kind of gameplay is what the designer of the game envisioned, which makes me very happy. The players honestly seemed like they were having more fun than I've ever seen in a D&D campaign, and it was also a lot of fun to GM. Its very interesting to see how well the mechanics support the theme, and vice-versa.
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Callan S.
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Posts: 3588


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« Reply #1 on: April 15, 2010, 05:01:42 PM »

Hi,

Do you think for yourself there'd be any shift in your approach to the activity, if you were a player? If you were playing do you think you might abuse the mechanics, as you put it, to some degree? Perhaps not as much as them, but if you were playing rather than GMing, you might?

I mean, you note a kind of distinction there between how they were approaching the activity and how you were approaching it. So I thought a question asking about whether your approach would shift if you were just a player seems on topic?
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Philosopher Gamer
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Mackie
Member

Posts: 23


« Reply #2 on: April 16, 2010, 02:32:18 PM »

That's an interesting read and demonstrates to me precisely what I would view as an Ideal "combat" in terms of fun. Its kinetic, exciting, violent, dangerous, and tactical - but completely avoids the slug of "I hit you, you hit me" that can be so common in RPG ing.

Iv'e just come out of a Cthullu M&M [2e] campaign that has been aborted for reasons I wont expand on. However, I will comment that the combat system and colour seems perfectly attuned to me. What you describe is how I envisage a fun combat.

Rolling for hit and damage, to me, is not particularly, in itself, exciting. However, the ghost jumping into a truck, beating up a driver and then using the truck to run over another villain is. Superhero flavours, and M&M seem to handle this type of cinematic, variable, and (dare I say it) creative violence extremely well.

I would be interested in how your players found it.

In "you hit me hit" systems like D&D, which I can find a slugfest (not totally unengaging but often a bit drab) players can start caring about if they hit, how much damage they do, etc.

In the fight you describe, I would imagine players are thinking "wow this is cool - I jumped inside the robot and beat up the driver" or "Hey how awesome, I turned this carrot into a sword!"... I dont think they would particularly mind if they missed or the dice landed badly - they came up with a slick fun plan, you said yes, and it just plain looked cool!

I, for one, am impressed with the balance M & M has found between simulating what can be quite complex things, resolving them quickly and logically, and throwing in the simple and elegant system of hero points to make it all a bit more dramatic (? narrativist).

As for power - gaming, there is an interesting "article" in the supplement "Ultimate Power" at the end that discusses this, one which I think is well thought out. M & M does a respectable job at balancing the unbalancable; a superhero RPG. And it does own up to this and reinforces the fact that these things must be negotiated between player and GM.

The premise of the "article", which I will no doubt distort, but one that I agree with, is this: You can't power game M & M. It's just not possible.

Why?

Because ultimately, its for the GM / Player (onus may vary according to social contract) to create a fun, dramatic story. If you go off creating a warped, skewed character - go ahead. All that means is that the GM is going to have a harder time judging enemies or challenges that are appropriately dramatic. You can't "beat" the GM.

You can possibly "Power game" something like D&D, where there are mechanical rewards based on the difficulty or toughness of the enemy. In M & M, however, you get 1 "XP" at the end of the game (maybe 0, maybe 2) irrespective of what you faced, or how you faced it down.

I apologise if this is derailing the thread - I don't mean it too. I just wanted to make the point, which I think you yourself make, that so what if its not perfectly balanced - dont fret, have fun.

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Nocker
Member

Posts: 24

Newbie in Indie scene


« Reply #3 on: April 18, 2010, 05:30:10 AM »

The premise of the "article", which I will no doubt distort, but one that I agree with, is this: You can't power game M & M. It's just not possible.

Why?

Because ultimately, its for the GM / Player (onus may vary according to social contract) to create a fun, dramatic story. If you go off creating a warped, skewed character - go ahead. All that means is that the GM is going to have a harder time judging enemies or challenges that are appropriately dramatic. You can't "beat" the GM.

You can possibly "Power game" something like D&D, where there are mechanical rewards based on the difficulty or toughness of the enemy. In M & M, however, you get 1 "XP" at the end of the game (maybe 0, maybe 2) irrespective of what you faced, or how you faced it down.

I apologise if this is derailing the thread - I don't mean it too. I just wanted to make the point, which I think you yourself make, that so what if its not perfectly balanced - dont fret, have fun.
I'm not the greatest of the Forge theoricians, but I'm quite sure that the lack of mechanical reward don't prevent Ludist dynamics to emerge. If the GM makes situations by thinking about the challenge he puts in front of the players (without any mathematical evaluation, just feeling) and on the other side, the players try their best to overcome it (without any mechanical reward, just victory contentment), I think it's Ludism.

The rules don't enforce this, though (apart from few layers and the very simple mathematical system, which enable easy probabilities evaluations). Because of this, if the GM isn't trying to challenge honestly the players (no cheating, and a difficulty about their level), for example trying to get a dramatic comics story, it's pretty sure that "Power gaming" isn't possible, or at least useless. I think it's what you meant, Mackie.
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