Mutants and Masterminds Day 1.5: Origin
I’ve set this post as Day 1.5 because I meant to make yesterday Day Zero and begin proper with this post as Day One. Hence the little numerical tweak to correct. Now, on with the show.
Ah, Mutants & Masterminds, how I love thee. Shall I compare thee to a (Scott) Summers day? Weighing in at 256 pages, M&M is to my mind the single greatest superhero RPG ever made, and one of the best generic systems too. It’s a single-book system where all that’s needed to play the game is contained in just one tome meaning it’s a third the price of Certain Other Games (mentioning no names), yet offers an infinite range of play styles and possibilities. It’s an evolution of the d20/OGL system we know and love from Third Edition D&D and manages to tread a fine line between feeling familiar and excitingly different at the same time. M&M keeps the d20 resolution mechanic (roll d20, add modifiers and reach or exceed a target number) but introduces many new elements to the game. From points-based classless character generation to fast and furious combat without hit points, M&M takes the core D&D concepts, examines them and replaces them with something that works better. It’s d20 as you know it, evolved.
While Mutants & Masterminds is unashamedly a superhero RPG it’s flexible enough to handle pretty much any genre, setting or play style without needed any additional supplements, house rules or ephemera. After all, “superhero” is a notoriously broad church covering everything from the savage tales of Ka-Zar to the Legion of Superheroes in the 31st Century and beyond. This is a system designed to handle heroes (and villains) of all styles, from mystical to cosmic, from gun toting ex-marines to playboys in battlesuits, from mutant to magical. The Superhero genre is generic, by definition.
That said, M&M also has supplements by the bucketload. While none of them are essential whatever your style of gaming, they’re also darned useful. Freedom City provides a complete base of operations for your heroes, and Instant Superheroes offers many more archetypes (more on those another time) for your heroes and villains. Of all the M&M supplements, these are the two I’d place on the “most useful” pile. My copy of Instant Superheroes is certainly the most well-thumbed by my players! Other supplements provide a closer examination of certain sub-genres (Golden Age, Iron Age, Hero High, Paragons), or more pre-built villains and archetypes for your game. The Mastermind’s Manual is M&M’s version of Unearthed Arcana offering a whole raft of optional tweaks and rules options, and Ultimate Power provides an in-depth and thorough look at how Powers are constructed. Neither supplements are for casual M&M gamers, but provide an excellent insight into how the game is put together.
But enough of that. This week we’re going to look at Mutants & Masterminds from the ground up. We’re building a complete campaign setting complete with a handful of archetypes, villains, a Base of Operations and some Kewl Tech thrown in for good measure. Can we create a world in just seven days?
No. We’re going to create a multiverse in seven days!
To do that, we’re going to answer the classic five questions: “Who?”, “What?”, “Where?”, “Why?” and “When?”. Pay attention class. The order is important.
All too often, new campaigns begin with a place. It might be a large-scale overview of the campaign setting such as a hand-drawn fantasy map of a continent, or as small-scale as a dungeon layout or notes about a town that’s going to be the adventurer’s home at the start of their career. This puts the emphasis on the WHERE.
That’s (pardon my forthrightness) the wrong way to do it.
The single most important question to ask when creating any campaign is WHO. And that, dear reader, is what we’ll cover tomorrow.