View Full Version : Mutants & Masterminds: What's the Deal?

Zeta Kai
2010-07-25, 01:12 PM
I just got a copy of M&M 2E, & I'm gonna run a game of it for my players in about a month. I'd like to know some of the basics about how the game functions mechanically. I wanna know the games strengths, its weaknesses, what is fun to do, & what isn't.

Is it balanced?
Is chargen quick?
Do the fights run smoothly?
Are adventures easy to design?

I'm aware that it's a superhero game, I know that it's loosely based on D20, & I've heard it called teh best game evar. So what makes it so cool?

2010-07-25, 01:51 PM
As far as balance goes, blasting types pretty much obliterate everything. A punching-styled cape has to work a lot harder (and be incredibly mobile) to stay even. If you don't run a lot of combat, that shouldn't be a big deal, but if you're playing a fists&lasers kind of a game, you might want to keep that in mind.

2010-07-25, 02:11 PM
M&M 2E is a great game, but it is not even a little bit balanced. It absolutely requires an engaged GM to enforce the balance. It is a system which is designed to allow for a street-level hero such as Daredevil or a cosmic hero such like the Green Lantern. And while in theory PL might differentiate between them, its not as strict a restriction as it seems.

For the most part, the point cost of things is only slightly related to how useful or exploitable they are. Certain extras, or combinations of extras, can totally break the game, even at low PLs. As a GM, you have to be prepared to say "no" to perfectly legal combinations. And its also very important to keep players on the same wavelength. If one guy is playing the Punisher (so to speak) and another is playing Superman, well, the system by design allows for both to be built. But they may not adventure well together.

Mobility is something to keep a particular eye on. It is quite easy at any PL to make a character who can can move anywhere in the world (or beyond) in a single turn. This may or may not be bad, depending on your campaign. But when some characters can and others can't, it can cause problems. We've had combats that were so dynamic, that the one character without a movement power basically couldn't get involved. Movement powers also may make any kind of terrain challenges or other mundane obstacles irrelevant (teleport has this problem in particular), so keep that in mind when designing challenges.

Really, combat is the most balanced part of the game, as attack bonuses, damage bonsuse, and save bonuses are pretty strictly capped (although there are a few ways to break the caps). But everything else - mobility, stealth, senses, information gathering, skill checks - can differ by a huge degree from one character to another even at the same PL.

Again, its a great game. My group plays it primarily and I love it. But it requires a shared understanding between the GM and the players an involved GM who knows what the characters are capable of.

2010-07-25, 02:14 PM
It's a very open system and, although designed with superheroes in mind, it can do a solid job of handling just about any story with super-powered characters. It's very breakable in that you can take two characters built to the same power level with the same number of power points and have one able to utterly demolish the other while doing a whole lot more on the side, but the idea is that the players and GM work together to figure out the overall strength the characters should have and ensure no one is grossly overshadowing the others or at least that people's niches are respected.

The system isn't level-based but instead has Power Levels running from 1-20, which cap certain abilities, and characters are then built using a pool of power points which are used to purchase everything - abilities, feats, skills, attack and defense, saves, and powers of all sorts - which means everything is fungible (which can make chargen rather slow as you have so many options to weigh and consider). The idea is that you get a number of power points proportional to your PL to start with - 1:15 is the recommended ratio - but you won't necessarily go up in PL over time; instead you might stay at the same PL but use your power points to buy new abilities so that you become more versatile over time while not becoming too much stronger than when you started out, which can help keep a character concept from becoming obsolete as the overall power level rises.

So, is it balanced? Not really, it's very breakable, but it's also very clear that it's not giving you fixed abilities that you should pick and choose from but tools with which to build characters and it gives you pointers on balance issues so you can take them in to account yourself. Is chargen quick? The basics are once you get used to the system, but generally it's quite frontloaded, as you'll want to go over a lot of options and tweak them carefully to start with but then growth once play starts is relatively sedate. Fights run quite smoothly in my experience, though you'll probably want to be fairly relaxed about positioning and ranges - but almost all attacks are a simple rolled attack vs static defense, rolled save vs static damage, requiring only one d20. I can't speak to adventure design as I've only been a player, but I get the impression it's straightforward though you do have to take the abilities of the PCs in to consideration.

2010-07-25, 02:21 PM
I just got a copy of M&M 2E, & I'm gonna run a game of it for my players in about a month. I'd like to know some of the basics about how the game functions mechanically. I wanna know the games strengths, its weaknesses, what is fun to do, & what isn't.

Disclaimer: I am by no means experienced with M&M. I own the book, have a read a lot about it, but have never actually played a game of it. So all of my knowledge is pretty theoretical. That said, here's what I know.

Is it balanced?

Hahaha, no. If you want to break it, you can break it. Easily. That said, as long as everyone's playing fair, a PL 10 team can consist of both Batman and Superman with everyone being useful and having fun.

Is chargen quick?

Pretty quick, if you know what you're doing.

Do the fights run smoothly?

Again, no experience, but I'm inclined to say yes, once you have the system down.

Are adventures easy to design?

Everything I've seen indicates it's about D&D level. Maybe easier.

I'm aware that it's a superhero game, I know that it's loosely based on D20, & I've heard it called teh best game evar. So what makes it so cool?

To me, the part where you can create anything. Anything.

Ninja'd, no doubt.

2010-07-25, 02:52 PM
The way you have to run an MnM game is with strict conceptual rules upfront. Power level is not enough, you have to give strict bans and/or conceptual idea up front. State that you want street level if you want your scrappy little things, or you will get Dr. Strange running alongside Dare Devil.

Keep a very critical eye on powers. I'll list the ones I've noticed steam roll the campaigns I've been a part of:
Impervious Toughness, usually to 1/2 PL, as this can utterly run over anything but the most powerful encounters. With this maxed out, minions don't matter, period.
Possession: I've seen this out right banned a number of times. BBEG in his fortress? Possess his lietenant, walk right on in.
Teleport: Fun fun fun! Needs to be watched though. Teleporting a person into the stratosphere is just awesome.

All this said, I love the system. You can literally do anything with it. It's as flexible as GURPS, but like GURPS the GM needs to be heavily involved in the creation process.

2010-07-25, 03:18 PM
One problem is their are decent odds of two evenly matched characters getting into a fight and one of them killing the other with a single shot due to a bad roll. I solved the problem by giving players a little bit of ablative toughness.
Boss tended to get a lot so they could survive getting beaten on by the whole party for more then a round. I found that if you just gave bosses high toughness it penalized anyone with out maxed out damage but with the ablative toughness it gave characters less focused on combat an opportunity to help out in the fight.

Watch out for perception based powers particularly if combined with any kind of super senses.

As a point buy system character gen will take longer then a class system in most cases particularly with more complicated characters.

adventure creation can be a lot harder dnd has a lot more pre made monsters than mutants and master minds.
A second thing to remember characters can have a lot of options in mutants and masterminds so you have to watch out for more things because many powers can bypass many kinds of challenges completely.

time travel, precognition, mind control, anything that doesn't allow saves, complete invisibility to all senses the list goes on and on.

2010-07-25, 05:19 PM
In the brief campaign I ran a few years back, chargen for three PCs required four hours and a spreadsheet.

2010-07-25, 05:47 PM
I, earnestly, am a fan of the M&M game, and I admit it can be broken, like a weak, weak twig. Now, it is for a game where the PC's have ideas and want to stick to them, for a game where you can build a good campaign combo of both RP, and Combat, while making a character focused on roleplay that can defeat most foes, like Batman, so it is good for the thespians in the group, and it can be a fun still with power gamers, if you do it comedy style and laugh at the insanity permeating it. I, unfortunately, haven't played it, or ran it but really want to. When it comes to craft adventures, well, I earnestly am not a comic coinessuer(spelling?) so I have trouble coming up with villains and plots, but it can be done well, and combat, well, depending on the party I think that one can abandon any grid and say, "I run 2 miles in 30 seconds and slam into him, fly up 500 feet and throw him down again". But if the characters are batman and robin, a grid is recommended.

2010-07-25, 05:49 PM
It's a fine system.
In its particular niche, as a super hero, super powered game, it works pretty well, outside of it, not so much. For players who have previous experiences with D20, it is also quite accessible, because it uses basically the same game mechanisms. It's not as as flexible as Gurps or Hero, but few systems ever reach that degree of adaptability, and since M&M works very well in its paticular niche, that's no drawback.

On the other hand, it also offers a very high amount of freedoms and choices in the system, some of which may be very powerful. Yes, it is very easy to abuse the system and break it hard, so it requires some kind of player responsibility (which comes with great power, according to a somewhat influential source material for the genre). I think it is a good idea to coordinate the player characters so that they are either en par, or at least the players are aware that the characters are of different strength (which can be awesome if character 1 is the sidekick of character 2, and both players enjoy the mentor - student relation).

The mechanical part of the character creation can take some time, because the power system is basically a big toolset to build your own personal powers, with a wide number of variation and intensities.
However, I would also recommend that the players should also design a fitting costume, have a plausible secret identity and background and all that, which usually takes longer than the mechanical aspect anyway.
To make it simpler and also have a little bit more control about the power level, I would recommend to implement a fixed maximum power points which can be invested in powers, because the rest of the character creation mostly consists of picking skils and feats, and doesn't take much longer than in D&D...

The disadvantages of the system is, that the system and its high number of options can appear a bit overwhelming and it takes time to get into it. To really use it, you have to get familiar with it, so it requires a bit more effort. Personally, I found combats also a bit dull because they are so static and predicatable, but that is probably a question of preferences and perspective.

2010-07-25, 08:10 PM
Is it balanced?

No. See this essay (http://www.atomicthinktank.com/viewtopic.php?t=31064) for more details.

Is chargen quick?

Much like D&D, this will depend in part on the player's familiarity with the system.

For beginners? Probably not. Fortunately, the core rule books come with some premade builds for a quick start one-off (although some are inaccurately statted IIRC).

Do the fights run smoothly?

Reasonably so I would think. Practical combat is less math intensive than D&D, mainly because there are no 10s of d6 damage die that you have to add together. See below for an example of how fights progress.


Are adventures easy to design?

Yes. Mainly because the GM does not have to figure out loot.

I'm aware that it's a superhero game, I know that it's loosely based on D20, & I've heard it called teh best game evar. So what makes it so cool?

Mostly because the system is sufficiently diverse to simulate virtually any setting.

2010-07-26, 07:53 AM
Is it balanced?

No, but it doesn't need to be.

Several powers are complete game-breakers (like being able to create copies of yourself), but that doesn't really matter. If everyone's the same power level and the GM does his job (reads through the handy warnings next to risky powers, works with each player in creating the character, and disallows crazy powers or exploitative arrays), everything works out fine.

Is chargen quick?

Not particularly. It's point-based and modular, so players - especially new ones - will spend a lot of time looking through powers and feats and such trying to pick the right ones.

The most important thing, though, is for everyone to create a concept and think of their characters' powers before they even touch the book.

2010-07-26, 09:05 AM
M&M is best suited to players who are adept at "translating" between fluff and cruch. The group I played with tended to stop being creative or descriptive whenever mechanics came into play, so our combat scenes were very dry and flavorless.