A Beginners Guide to Superhero Gaming, Part Three
A while ago (ok, a long while ago; I am a terrible blogger) I began a short web series about how to get into the wonderful world of superhero role-playing. The goal was to write about how to create a character, what makes it different to other more traditional role-playing genres, and basically tempt the ass off you with the lure of being able to fly around in spandex and punch out Batman’s evil brother.
Let’s take a look at a blank Mutants & Masterminds character sheet.
Terrifying, isn’t it?
This is the first foe your prospective superhero alter-ego has to vanquish, and (at the risk of mixing superhero metaphors too much) don’t let it be your kryptonite. Creating a character for Mutants & Masterminds isn’t that hard, especially now that the Deluxe Heroes Handbook includes a Quickstart Character Generator right in the core rules. This offers an alternative to choosing and tweaking a pre-built Archetype or starting completely from scratch; it’s an ideal starting point if you want to get to grips with how the M&M points-based generation works without feeling like you’re going to drown in detail.
The Quickstart Character Generator can be used randomly by rolling a d20 a few times and seeing where the bones fall. That’s a great way to create a character if you’re short on inspiration (and just what I did when I reviewed the GM’s Kit) but you can also build a character by picking the options that suit your concept, rolling the dice or tweaking to fit if required. This brings M&M more in line with more traditional rpgs (read: D&D) where you choose a race, class, skills, etc from a pre-configured set of options. It’s a far less intimidating option for new players to take, so let’s see how it works in practise.
I quite fancy generating a character who is a cross between Iron Man and Batman (Iron Bat? Man Man?) who fights crime from inside a matt black stealth battlesuit. Hey, who doesn’t?
The Quickstart Generator offers 20 archetypes that are roughly analogous to Character Classes (Battlesuit, Construct, Crime Fighter, Elemental, Energy Controller, Gadgeteer, Martial Artist, Mimic, Mystic, Powerhouse, Psychic, Shapeshifter, Speedstar, Summoner, Supernatural Creature, Totem, Warrior, Weapon Master and Weather Controller – phew!). Two of those – the Battlesuit and the Crime Fighter – are good possible jumping off points for my proto-PC, and which one we choose depends on whether the emphasis is on the suit, or the man. I choose the suit.
Checking the Battlesuit section, the next choice is our hero’s background and starting abilities. The options are Genius, Military or Accidental. I quite like the idea of this dude being ex-Special Forces to pick Military.
STR 3, STA 3, AGI 1, DEX 2
FIGHT 3, INT 2, AWA 2, PRE 2
Next up his the character’s Advantages. These are pre-built clusters of Feats that say something more about the PC’s backstory. I get to pick two, and choose Combatant and Wealthy.
Combatant (Accurate Attack, All-out Attack, Improved Initiative, Interpose, Move-by Action)
Wealthy (Attractive, Benefit 4: Multi-Millionaire)
He’s shaping up rather well. I’m already envisioning him as an ex-SAS Special Forces vet who made his money after leaving the military through writing a series of bestselling novels that turned into blockbuster movies. Take Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne, then add Andy McNab to the mix as well. Love it.
And that’s before we even get to the battlesuit.
On to his Skills. Tony McNab-Wayne is a household name, well used to interviews and dealing with the press, so I take the People Person skill set, along with the Sciences skill set so he can maintain and work on his Battlesuit. He’s no Tony Stark level mechanical genius, but has the grit and determination to learn whatever he needed to get the job done. Both People Person and Sciences give a +4 bonus to Perception; normally they stack to make Perception 8 but as I envisage him as a talented author I replace one of those with Expertise: Novel Writing 4 instead.
People Person (Expertise:Business 4, Insight 4, Perception 4, Persuasion 4)
Sciences (Expertise:Science 4, Expertise: Novel Writing 4, Technology 4)
On to his Battlesuit’s offensive powers. I want this to be a black Batman-like stealth suit, but that doesn’t mean it should be lacking in Tony Stark style heavy weaponry. The great thing about M&M is that the Powers are all effect-based meaning that you can change how things look and provided the effect stays the same, it’s all good. The Quickstart Generator offers up a Weapon Array will one main power (a Plasma Blast) and four alternate Powers in an array (which just means you can only use one of the Powers at a time). Tweaking the descriptions, I come up with:
Weapon Array (Removable)
– Nullshade Blast (Ranged Damage 10, Accurate 4)
– Null Shards (Ranged Multiattack 6, Accurate 6)
– Strength and Accuracy Booster (Enhanced Strength 8, Enhanced Trait (Close Attack 6)
– Nullshade Tentrils (Ranged Affliction 10, Resisted by Dodge and Overcome by Damage, Hindered and Vulnerable, Defenseless and Immobile), Extra Condition, Accurate 4)
This is a power suit that taps into the Nullshade, a quantum force that binds the shadows between the atoms in ways even its creator (Professor Darke, friend and mentor to Tony McNab-Wayne) barely understands. This force can be used to fire a powerful blast of pure shadow at single or multiple foes, give the wearer great strength (he can lift about 50 tons) or unleash nigh-unbreakable tendrils to ensnare opponents. Nice.
When it comes to Defenses the Battlesuit provides an Ability Amplifier and an Armored Shell. The other Defensive feature – Sealed Systems – doesn’t feel like a good fit so I switch it out for the Stealth Suit from the Crime Fighter archetype and +4 to the Stealth skill for the same points cost.
Ability Amplifier (Enhanced Defenses 16, Removable)
Armored Shell (Impervious Protection 8, Removable)
Stealth Suit (Concealment 4 (All Visual), Ranged Affliction 6 (5 shot), Movement 1 (Wall Crawling 1), Removable)
Almost done. The Stealth Suit feature provides one movement power – Wall Crawling – but I like the idea of his hero being able to Teleport by drawing shadows to himself, like a reverse Nightcrawler. So that’s his movement power.
Nullshade Teleport (Teleport 3 (250′), Easy, Extended Range (8 miles), Change Direction, Change Velocity, Turnabout, Removable)
Batman eat your heart out.
Add in the suit’s Utility powers – a Communication System and Sensors – then we’re on to the final, and arguably the most interesting stage of character generation: the Complications. These are what makes your hero tick and bring them to life. It’s what motivates them and drives them to put on the spandex every day. Complications are also, as the name suggests, the flaws, weaknesses and inner conflicts that your hero may face. They are tools for the GM to use as plot devices, and whenever they come up in game, your hero gains Hero Points to spend in game. We’ll be talking about those next time.
Back to our hero. I name him Nullshade (you guess that already, right?) and give him the following complications:
Secret Identity (World famous author Tony McNab-Wayne)
Motivation – Continue the War (ex-SAS who doesn’t know how to stop)
Relationships (Professor Darke and current PR-approved “girlfriend”)
Weakness (Quantum Light)
One character, done. He’s got elements of both Batman and Iron Man (with a nod to Nightcrawler as well), and he’s no slouch both in and out of the ‘suit. This is a dude in a powersuit who can unleash merry hell from the shadows before vanishing into the night.
That’s how to do it, drawing inspiration and ideas from the Quickstart Generator as you go.
A blank character sheet doesn’t seem so scary now, does it?
Till next time!