Mutants & Masterminds

Goal Setting 2013: Games I’ll Run

Hey everyone, since it’s the new year, the latest trend is not to come up with a list of resolutions, but to approach the year with a list of goals. So in the spirit of the new year, I figure I might as well put up a list of my own goals as well as far as running games is concerned:

Legend of the Five Rings – Inflated with the triumph of “Never a Dull Blade”, I’m hoping that my upcoming campaign, “Hearts and Souls” will be met with similar success.

Mummy: the Curse – It’s shiny and new and I’ve pledged for it in Kickstarter. Mummy promises to shake up how things are done for nWoD and I’m hoping that the book inspires me to run an interesting campaign that my players will like.

Exalted, 3rd Edition – Time to put my money where my mouth is… again. I’ve tried running 2e Exalted, only to quickly switch to the Qwixalted Hack because my brain died from the complexity. I’m still remarkably optimistic about this and I’m hoping that I’ll be able to make it work.

Something from Cubicle 7 – Qin: the Warring States, Kuro or Yggdrasill are all fine games and I’m curious about how they run. It’s a great time to actually break out of the usual stable of games I run and try stuff from other companies.

A Supers Game – Surprise, surprise! (Okay, not really.) Every year I keep hoping that I’ll be able to run a Supers game, but somehow it never really materializes. Whether it’ll be HERO, M&M, MHR or some other supers ruleset, I’ll make something happen this year.

[Review] The WatchGuard Sourcebook for M&M 3e from Xion Studios


The WatchGuard Sourcebook is first product in a line of supplements centered around the WatchGuard universe, updated to be usable with the Mutants & Masterminds 3rd Edition ruleset.

The sourcebook is well laid out, matching the visual aesthetic that people have come to expect from M&M products, with vibrant colors and professional-grade character artwork.  My only gripe would be the font choice for the body text as the letters feel crammed to tightly together, making it difficult to read for very long.

That said, the book goes into the Summit City setting, with a map, an at-a-glance section, and a fully detailed history.  The history is pretty well thought out, taking time to introduce the various names and events that matter to the setting.

The real meat of this sourcebook however, comes from the character bios.  Heroes and villains alike are statted out, with each one being given a full treatment discussing their History & Origins and Powers, and a full M&M 3e character sheet to go with it.  The character vary in power level, but the average is about PL 10, which is reasonable for many M&M games.

Even if you’re not entirely sold on the WatchGuard setting, each of these characters can be pretty easily lifted and dropped into your own M&M Supers Campaign with very little need to change anything save maybe a few references to the WatchGuard setting in their Bios.

There’s a decent spread of character types, from Powered Armor to Metahumans, from magic to martial artists.  There’s bound to be something here for anyone, and I feel that GMs who are looking for extra NPCs will get their money’s worth.

The last section of the book has several scenarios that GMs can run which are all set in the WatchGuard universe.  These range from starter scenarios to ones intended for later in a campaign.  The scenarios take place in the WatchGuard setting, but some creative substitution should be able to mangle them to suit any M&M campaign.

Overall the WatchGuard Sourcebook is a decent addition to an M&M 3e Gm’s arsenal.  The character bios alone are helpful in populating a supers campaign, and the scenarios can also be useful for those days when you encounter GM writer’s block.

New GMs or GMs who don’t have the time to put together their own setting may find this product more useful, as it does a lot of world-building from the start, while leaving enough for new additions to be painless.

The WatchGuard Sourcebook 3e is available from RPGnow for $24.99 or roughly PHP 1,100.00

[Review] Mutants & Masterminds Gamemaster’s Guide, 3rd Edition

Sometimes life works in interesting ways.  Just earlier today, I was talking with a friend and fellow GM about running a game of Mutants & Masterminds, 3rd Edition.  This evening, I check my email, and lo and behold, a review copy of the new M&M Gamemaster’s Guide!

So, rather than let this interesting turn of events just end there.  I figured I might as well put up a review of the book as soon as I could.

The Gamemaster’s guide is a book clearly marketed to assist GMs in running M&M.  Given that it runs on the same ruleset, I’m pretty sure that the guide is also of value to those who are playing the DC Adventures RPG as well.

After a brief introduction, the guide goes straight to the meat, going into a discussion of settings in Chapter 1.

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This chapter goes into a comprehensive look at each of the popular (and even obscure) sub-genres of each of the major comic book genres.  Broken down from Age (as in Golden, Silver, Bronze and Iron Ages of comic book history), to Genre to sub-genre.

Each age is detailed in terms of the emotional tone of the age, the various important events in real-world history that shaped the stories that took age in these ages, and even the weapons that are likely to show up in a given age.

Origins are also discussed in this chapter, which is always helpful when trying to brainstorm a group of characters.  I’m not sure about everyone else, but whenever I pitch a supers campaign, there’s always that dead moment when people are stumped as to what they’ll play.  Hopefully this should help.

At this point the chapter begins to start laying down the real bits and pieces of a superhero campaign setting. Metaphysics, History, how common or rare superheroic people are, how does society react to the presence of superhumans? These are all given a look at, with options laid out in the open.  As a GM, I’m very glad to see all of these presented.  I’ve run a supers game before, but it really helps to have a reference of this nature.

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Chapter 2 talks about the Antagonists, breaking them down along power levels, their roles in a campaign, their motivations and tactics.

I was pleasantly surprised to see a section dedicated to making In-Depth villains, the ones that are supposed to matter in a campaign.  These tend to happen organically in most campaigns, but the fact that there’s advice here for creating villains that matter to the campaign and the heroes in a manner that isn’t just for a one-shot.

Villain teams are also discussed in thorough detail, with very nice examples of why and how villains end up teaming up, as well as the different “flavors” of villain teams.

The last part of the chapter touches on villian organizations, which go beyond the usual 5-6 members of a villain team to ones with footsoldiers, bases and submarines.  Definitely part of the Superhero mythology and genre, and definitely deserving of an entry.

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Chapter 3 presents a staple of M&M books: Archetypes.  Specifically Archetypes for villains to help save time for the GM.  There’s also a bunch of minions statted out to save time as well.  Given that I’m already that kind of GM that doesn’t always have the kind of time to spend statting out every little thing… this is a godsend

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Chapter 4 goes on to talk about plots, essentially the story of the campaign (or the session) as well as the plans developed by the villains.  Supers campaigns are usually very reactive, the Villain does X so the heroes respond thusly.   As such it’s important for GMs to come up with interesting and imaginative hooks that get the players eager to get to the action.

This chapter is excellent reading for any Supers GM in my opinion.   It goes over everything with a fine toothed comb, and one section, talking about  “Meaningful Challenges” is one that really struck a chord in me.  I’ve always struggled to make sure that my games incorporate such meaningful challenges that are more than just being “bigger guns” so the incorporation of social taboos and normals being influential and powerful in their own right is a good thing.

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Chapter 5 makes good with the discussion for meaningful challenges by discussing and entire gamut of challenges that GMs can conceivably throw at their heroes.  Everything from a volcanic eruption to various traps are discussed here.

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Chapter 6 talks about options.  Of all the chapters, this is the most heavy when it comes to crunch, and offers options for Character creation, Mass combat, fighting styles, wealth, reputation and some resolution systems.  One thing I noted here was that the card-based resolution system from 2nd edition didn’t seem to make it to the 3rd edition.  While I don’t think it was a severe failing, I do kind of miss it.

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Finally, the Appendix tackles Villainous Lairs, something that actually brought a smile to my face, especially since it also features maps for all sorts of lairs, from the abandoned Amusement Park, to the Insane Asylum and the Island Base.  Great stuff!

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While not very crunch-heavy, the Mutants & Masterminds Gamemaster’s guide is a remarkably comprehensive book that touches all of the facets of GMing superhero games in detail.  It’s clear from the writing that the author, loves superhero stories and tries to give every single advantage to his readers in hopes that it will improve their game.

The book goes into remarkable detail about the genre and how to run it, and I can say that even novice GMs will feel much more confident about pitching and running a superhero campaign after reading this book.

I have to say that the book’s usefulness transcends the system, and I would easily recommend this book as additional reading for anyone interested in running a Superhero campaign of their own.

The Mutants & Masterminds Gamemaster’s Guide is available from RPGNow for $17.50 or roughly PHP 752.50

[DC Adventures] Quickstart Available for Download from Green Ronin

If you’re a fan of the DC Universe, and the Mutants & Masterminds ruleset by Green Ronin, you can check out the basics of the new DC Adventures RPG by downloading their Quickstart PDF.

Prefer to try before you buy? We’re pleased to present a free DC ADVENTURES Quick Start PDF. The county fair is being held in Smallville this year and Superboy, the town’s famous local hero, is invited as guest of honor. But it’s not all prize pigs and cotton candy, as Knockout has come to the fair, and she’s aiming to make a big impression!

The DC ADVENTURES Quick Start includes an explanation of the rules, full game statistics for Superboy and Knockout, and a short adventure featuring a brawl at the county fair, so you can jump right in to the action.

You can grab the Quickstart over at the Green Ronin Website HERE

[M&M] I Love It When a Plan Comes Together

Sometimes a game session goes right, and everything seems to fall into place.  Last weekend’s M&M game was one such session.  I won’t go into details of the plot, but I will take the time to note that the session was one of the most interesting I’ve run in a while.

Thinking back at it, I’m trying to recount the factors that led to the success of the session:

  • Communication between characters – Not just players, but the player characters were at least inclined to share information.  Not necessarily complete information, but enough to help the other characters do their jobs right.
  • Careful Planning – The players outdid themselves in this department.  Maybe they’re getting used to how I run things, but careful consideration of cause and effect, and potential backlash of actions they take in a situation led to them finding clever solutions to the situations I posed.  Solutions that I didn’t even think of until they mentioned it.
  • Trust – This is somewhat linked to the issue of communication, but the willingness to trust one another meant that the party was able to cover more ground, simultaneously.

As a GM, I can’t say enough how this kind of gameplay works in my style.  Seeing players adapt a methodology, and actually plan out their approach as opposed to just doing a half-assed job is remarkably refreshing.

Let’s hope that the next session will have more of this, as the players get used to each other, and their respective play styles.

[M&M] My Campaign Just Bought the Duplication Power

After some discussion with fellow GM Rick, it looks like the M&M campaign is going to split into two concurrent games.  I’ll be handling Detroit, while Rick goes off to run a game set in New York.  The games will be related somewhat, but they’re mostly independent of each other.  The decision to split a campaign into two comes from the observation that we only usually game for about six hours.  With six players, that’s about an hour per player given how I GM, with long scenes and lots of personal stories.)

Now that Rick’s decided to take on the reins of a new game, I’ve suddenly got half the number of players and twice the time.  Hopefully this will allow me to set up more elaborate games, and give more emphasis on character development than I normally would have with a group of 5 or more players.

I’ve still to speak to some of my other players to get the final roster of people who will stay with me, and those which will move to Rick’s game, but as soon as I get that I’ll start putting up Character Bios for the campaign.

[M&M] First Session System Impressions

Last Saturday was the first session of M&M I’ve ever run.  While the game was rather short due to the amount of time lost to logistics issues, I had a decent snapshot of how the game runs in and out of combat to give me an idea of how the game functions.

The Good:

  • Broad Selection of Powers – Much like in the HERO system, M&M’s power list is big enough to make people without a solid concept feel lost.  This is a GOOD thing, as it encourages people to actually come up with a concept first before putting pen to paper.
  • System Familiarity – Most players are at least passingly familiar with how Skills, Feats and Attributes in D20 work, so there’s very little rules clarifications that need to be done to teach them how these work.
  • Card-based Resolution System option in Mastermind’s Manual is neat – I decided to implement it to reduce the randomness of a single d20 die roll, and grant the players greater creative input.  Players can now influence the narrative by choosing when they do well, and when they fail.   However, I did switch things so that I draw randomly from the deck rather than having my own hand.  I felt that if the GM had his own hand, it would give the impression that I’m being antagonistic or alternately, that I’m favoring certain players.

The Bad:

  • Power Confusion – Certain powers can be downright confusing.  It took me a bit of time and a long rules lookup to figure out what Absorption linked to Healing + Regeneration actually did.
  • Damage System – Toughness Saves with degrees of failure sounds simple enough, but it can get confusing with multiple combatants and multiple levels of status effects flying around.  Also, it’s a little more difficult to get that impression that combat isn’t just a one hit KO deal.  Getting anything but a Bruised result seems pretty punishing.  This might impact my narration a bit.

Overall, M&M is a generally favorable experience for me, with the possible caveat that it might actually be more interesting if people stuck to the idea that very few superheroes can do everything.  Some of the players were having issues with the large selection of powers, leaving them quite lost as to how to actually come up with a concept for it.

Game-wise I think I generally got off on the right foot, there was some feeling around and expectation vs reality dissonance, but I think the game is going to start gaining speed soon.

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