Mutants &Dragons

One thing that’s been on my mind for a while is the idea of using the Mutants and Masterminds RPG in place of the D&D Core Rules for fantasy gaming.

It might sound crazy to switch something that’s purpose-built for the task with a system that’s not designed for the genre at all, but I do have my reasons; M&M is more flexible, more cinematic and more consistent overall. It’s also very GM friendly in that much of the decision making about the games power-level and tone is entrusted to the GM; this is in sharp contrast to D&D’s hand-holding attitude. A big advantage to using M&M is that it’s still (mostly) compatible with D&D itself, so all those lovely monsters and adventures can be used pretty much as-is, converting on the fly.

The biggest change to the system lays in combat; M&M doesn’t use Hit Points at all but instead uses a Toughness save mechanic. If the save fails, the target is Bruised, Stunned, Staggered or worse. Unlike D&D, each successful hit carries a penalty; each Bruised result imposes a cumulative -1 penalty to future Toughness saves. Fantasy games are (much) more lethal that the world of four-colour comics, but M&M handles both lethal and non-lethal damage equally well.

A quick conversion for D&D stats into their M&M equivalent would be:

Toughness save = CON bonus + armour + feats
Attack = Melee/Missile attack bonus
Defense = DEX bonus + shield + feats
Damage as per weapon (+ STR bonus if Melee) or +2 per 1d6

That’s pretty much all you’ll need to know to run a game straight from the pages of Dungeon!

When it comes to character generation the first challenge for the GM is to set a suitable Power Level. It’s most definitely not the same as Class Level in D&D! PL sets the limits for Attack, Defense, Saves, Skill ranks and Ability scores. A good starting point would be to set the Power Level to 4; this should give characters about the same value range as 1st-level D&D characters. This would normally give the players 4*15 = 60 points to spend during generation, and that’s more than enough. I’d consider lowering it to 50 or even 45 otherwise your characters will be over-endowed with skills and feats compared to their D&D counterparts.

For example, here’s a Human Fighter created with just 45 points and PL4. It uses a trade-off of -1 DEF/+1 TOUGH to reflect a Fighter’s higher-than-normal toughness:

Generic Human Fighter

STR16 (+3) DEX14 (+2) CON15 (+2) INT12 (+1) WIS13 (+1) CHA10 (+0)
Attack +4 (Melee +4, Ranged +4) [Longsword (19-20) 5 (Slashing), Longbow 3 (Piercing)], Defense 3 (1 flat-footed), Initiative +2
Toughness +5 (+5 flat-footed), Fortitude +4, Reflex +2, Will +1
Climb 4 (+7), Intimidate 4 (+4), Ride 4 (+6), Swim 4 (+7)
Power Attack, Takedown Attack (1), Equipment (3), Accurate Attack, Assessment
Studded Leather (Protection 3), Metal Shield (1), Longsword (Strike 3, Mighty, Critical 19-20), Longbow (Blast 3, Mighty)
Abilities 20 + Skills 4 (16 ranks) + Feats 7 + Powers 0 + Combat 12 + Saves 2 – Drawbacks 0 = 45 / 45

I’d be inclined to allow an extra 5 points to personalise the character, then increase the PL with every 15 points given in-game.

When it comes to Magic, M&M can re-create pretty much any spell effect using Powers, and there Magic array straight from the Core books works very well indeed, especially with the suggested Power Loss drawback if the Mage/Cleric is unable to speak and gesture.

Here’s an Elven Mage, again built with 45 points/PL4. Add in another 5 points to personalize:

Generic Elven Mage

STR10 (+0) DEX16 (+3) CON10 (+0) INT16 (+3) WIS13 (+1) CHA15 (+2)
Attack +2 (Melee +2, Ranged +2) [Unarmed +0 (Bruise)], Defense +2 (+1 flat-footed), Initiative +3
Toughness +0 (+0 flat-footed), Fortitude +0, Reflex +3, Will +3
Bluff 4 (+6), Concentration 4 (+5), Knowledge -Arcana 4 (+7)
Equipment (1), Minions (Hawk Familiar (15pp), Ritualist
Immunity (Aging, need for sleep), Super-Senses (Low-Light Vision)
Magic Spells:
[a] [4] Mystic Blast (Blast 4)
[a] [4] Light (Dazzle 4)
[a] [4] Mage Armour (Protection 4)
[a] [4] Mystic Binding (Snare 4)
Quarterstaff (Strike 2, Mighty), Shortbow (Blast 2)
Drawback: Can cast a total of 25 spells before resting
Power Loss: Magic loss if unable to speak and gesture [C: DC 10] [Maj: DC 15]
Abilities 20 + Skills 3 (12 ranks) + Feats 2 + Powers 14 + Combat 8 + Saves 2 – Drawbacks -4 = 45 / 45

The big difference between D&D and M&M is that there’s no limit to the number of times a power can be used under M&M. A low level mage could fire Mystic Blasts all day and never run out of spells; that’s game changing, but no more unbalanced than any archer. If it’s an issue in your game, use the Ammo rules from the Masterminds Manual as shown in the example character above.

In short, M&M is more than up to the task. I’m going to be playtesting over the next few weeks. Stay tuned!

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