Several years ago I was looking to pick up a superhero roleplaying game. I had played in a homebrew game called Mutants that a few of my friends came up with using the White Wolf system, though that had a fairly narrow setting that had a kind of dystopian X-men feel to it. I went down to my friendly local gaming store, Quarterstaff Games, and browsed the shelves for a while. I was first drawn to Palladium Games Heroes Unlimited since I was somewhat familiar with their rules, having Ninjas and Superspies and the Palladium Fantasy Roleplaying Game. I then remembered the hours it took to calculate skill percentages and the fact that all Palladium games are class based games, which didn’t really seem to fit the whole superhero genre that well.
I then took one look at the section for the Hero System and almost instantly decided that system was not for me. Not only was the main book huge and expensive, but there seemed to be a ton of additional books. I found the sheer amount of material for that game overwhelming. I asked Jonathan, who was managing Quarterstaff at the time, which superhero game he recommended, and he pointed me towards Mutants and Masterminds.
For those not familiar with M&M Wikipedia has a pretty good article on it, but to sum it up it’s a Superhero game written by Steve Kenson that is based off of a highly modified version of the Open Game License. It uses no character classes and is a total point buy system, in some ways it seems like an amalgam of D20, the Hero System, plus some unique elements. It has a very comic book feel with a huge amount of character customization possible.
So I picked up Mutants and Masterminds and read through it, liking a lot of what I saw, but I never got around to running a game of it for a year or more. Still, during that time I picked up some of the PDFs for the game, such as the Freedom City setting, Archetype Archives, and various other sourcebooks. Only after the folks at Lone Wolf Development came out with a Mutants and Masterminds package for their Hero Lab software did I really get into the game in earnest.
Not too long after this I finally ran my first test session of Mutants and Masterminds for my friend Neil, and it went as well as I could have expected, with me having never run the game, Neil never having played it, and with my GMming skills being rusty at best. Not too long after this I ran a short lived campaign for Neil and a few other friends, which went down pretty well other than its brevity.
I was still a huge fan of the game, making characters and keeping up with the info on new releases when they came out, though at the time I was only playing D&D 4th edition. I lost track of what the Green Ronin folks were doing with M&M for a while, till this spring I heard about the announcement of DC Adventures and a 3rd Edition of Mutants and Masterminds, both using the same system.
My initial reaction was to think it was a terrible idea. Mutants and Masterminds 2nd Edition was a great game, and I had a bunch of money already invested in it. At first there was no information on how things would be changed, so I had nothing to assuage my dread. Finally bits and pieces started leaking out and the feeling that had been dread turned into intrigue and then optimism.
After anxiously waiting through the pre-release buzz and waiting for each new design journal to be posted I was cautiously optimistic about the new edition. All of the changes seemed to be positives, or at least things I didn’t have reservations about. I wasn’t entirely sure about how they would work in games, but as I had run all of about 3 game sessions of M&M 2E and hadn’t actually played it myself I didn’t have too much invested in the old rules.
I finally got the PDF and poured through it, but not until the M&M 3 beta package for Hero Lab came out did I get a chance to make some characters. I decided to convert over some 2E characters from the Instant Superheroes book to see how easy it was and to see how the points and such worked out.
The first thing I noticed was that the consolidated skills list and increased cost didn’t do the characters I was working on any favors, as their old skills didn’t ever seem to combine into the new condensed skills, making the skills effectively twice as expensive to get the same ranks. Also, the splitting of Dexterity and Agility and the addition of the Fighting Ability made me think about how Attack and Defense were going to be converted into Close and Ranged Attack scores, as well as the new Dodge and Parry defenses.
This shows me that a different way of thinking about character creation is required for the new edition, or at least I need to get myself out of thinking of things as they were in M&M 2E. From the way Powers are handled, to the new Complications system, to the condensed skills list it is going to take a bit of time for me to wrap my head around all the changes. Its very familiarity might be making it harder to fully grasp the new system.
All in all I like the new system, minor quibbles like skill cost and a few power costs aside. The new improvements outweigh the things I’m not as fond of, and look forward to having a chance to play the game sometime soon. Now if only my gaming group could get on a consistent schedule…