I’ve been lucky enough to experience four different superhero role-playing games; two editions of Green Ronin’s Mutant and Masterminds, the original Marvel Superheroes FASERIP system by TSR, Mayfair’s DC Heroes, and Heroes Unlimited by Palladium, but Mutants and Masterminds has been my favorite by far. It was actually during a Heroes Unlimited RPG session that I was inspired to seek out a different superhero role-playing game.
How I discovered my favorite superhero role-playing game.
Although I enjoyed the game our Game Master was running, I just felt like there something missing. Character generation was random, which can be fun, but it also creates vastly different power ranges within the group. This caused me to start doing a little research into superhero role-playing games. I was even considering breaking out the original Marvel Superhero role-playing game.
Man, I loved that game! It was my first exposure to the superhero genre- it actually was how I started reading comic books. We were about to start our very first game with that system and the other guys had already picked Thor, The Silver Surfer, and The Incredible Hulk. Well I wanted to have an equally mighty character of my own. I found three candidates: The Thing, Sasquatch, and Box.
Now keep in mind at the time I was in my early teens and wasn’t a comic book fan yet. So I think I picked Box from Alpha Flight. With my discovery of Box and Alpha Flight I was driven to know more about these Canadian super heroes.
I made my first pilgrimage to the local comic book store where my exploration of and love for all things superheroes truly began.
Oops, sorry I got little bit of topic there. Any who my research lead me to two different candidates for a better superhero gaming experience RPG Champions and Mutants and Masterminds.
After reading a few reviews I decided to go with Green Ronin’s Mutants and Masterminds. The main reason being that it is a D20 role-playing game. At the time our whole gaming group was primarily Dungeons & Dragons players so a D20 system felt comfortable and familiar.
Mutants and Masterminds, my first completely classless role-playing game.
Mutants and Masterminds (or M&M for short, you can get here on Amazon) is a point buy system without any classes. You develop your character based on a couple of factors; how many points you have to spend is decided by the power level for the game chosen by your Game Master and your imagination. Characters advance much differently in Mutants and Masterminds than in a level/class based system.
Instead of gaining X.P. or advancing in levels you earn power points usually one or two per session. You can then spend these power points to build on to your character. You have the choice of adding new abilities or increasing existing ones.
Another important thing to note about this system is that the powers are all effect based. Meaning you pick the mechanical effect it has in the game and then add descriptors to it. These descriptors are only really limited by your imagination and the Game Masters willingness to let you go with your bad self.
Example: You build a character with a flight power. The effect is flight and how strong the power is and how fast you can fly is determined by the power rank of the effect. How you actually fly is completely up to you. Your flight power might come from having wings, an anti-gravity belt, rocket boots, or by telekinesis where you use your mind to move yourself through the air. The how is far less important than the what in a role-playing game like M&M.
You can then customize these effects creating the power you want through a system of extras and flaws. For instance having wings or rocket boots are flaws that would give you a discount on the cost of the effect or power you are building. In the case of the wings if they are hampered in some way it could restrict or prevent your ability to fly. Or rocket boots would be vulnerable to effects that work on technology and since they are a piece of equipment they could be taken off of you. An extra for wings might be there permanent and innate meaning a power that turns off technology or super powers wouldn’t effect your wings because they are part of your physiology.
It’s also very non-tactical compared to role-playing games like D&D or PathFinder. For both of those games we’ve always used minis and a grid to play. In M&M that would be very impractical because of all of the movement powers superheroes and villains have- how do you map a combat for someone that can go across a city, world or even a galaxy? Which was fine for me because my first decade of gaming or so we never used grids or minis. Yup we rolled old school.
M&M only relies on one die, that being a D20. The random mechanic of the game operates in degrees of success and failure, making M&M fairly easy to pick up on. Even easier if you are familiar with PathFinder or any of the Dungeons and Dragons editions 3.x and up.
If there is any downside to this role-playing game it’s the combat. The mechanic is based around degrees of success or failure like everything else in Mutants and Masterminds. There is no health or hit points per say, instead you have a toughness stat that is based of your characters stamina and defensive prowess. Whenever you would take damage you make a toughness check. If you succeed, you resist the damage and if you fail the consequences are determined by how bad you failed the roll. You could take a bruise, become dazed, get stunned, or KO’d in one shot. Every time you take a bruise your toughness score goes down by one making it harder and harder to pass subsequent checks. I’m not going to lie, there is something satisfying about rolling damage dice. Now that being said there seems to be infinite possibilities during combat limited only by your power selection and your imagination.
I highly recommend Mutants and Masterminds for a superhero role-playing game.
Green Ronin released the third edition of Mutants and Masterminds in conjunction with releasing DC Adventures May of 2010. DC Adventures is Mutants and Masterminds based in the DC universe. I highly recommend everything in the M&M line. I’ve been running games in this system for the past 4-5 years. Feel free click image below and begin having your own super heroic adventures.
My name is Dave Friant I’ve been gaming off and on for over 27 years. But here is the thing it’s always been a part of my life I’ve kept secret and hidden away. I’ve always been ashamed of the stigma that gaming and my other nerdy and geeky pursuits summon forth.
Recently I decided screw it! This is who I am the world be damned. From now on I’m gonna be a geek, nerd, or however folks want to judge me and just enjoy life.
Currently one of my greatest joys is introducing my 13 yr old son to table top RPG’s.