Or so it says on the cover. It put me to sleep in about 5 minutes of reading, a feat previously only accomplished by the 4th edition Champions.
But after a couple hour nap with the beagles, I did go back and read the rest of the game, and managed to keep my eyes open for the remainder. That's one-up on Champions.
Yes, I broke down and bought Green Ronin's Mutants & Masterminds. Well, "broke down" isn't entirely accurate...I've been looking for a used copy of the game for about a week, ever since I saw Iron Man 2. But today I was able to get a copy of the 1st edition rules (suggested by one of my readers) down at Half-Price books...and for the bargain basement price of $8. I may be hard on D20 (that's putting it mildly) but I'm a sucker for a deal. And as I've written many times, I'm also a sucker for most any superhero RPG.
In fact, I almost picked up a copy of Wild Talents: Essential Edition for $10 when I was down at The Dreaming, earlier. However, I'm still holding out for the deluxe version with the Ken Hite essays...and while The Dreaming had one $50 copy on the shelf, a dude bought it about thirty seconds before I could even pick it up (yes, Gary's has a copy as well and I'll probably get it there...I'm still saving my pennies).
Plus, I've only begun to toy with M&M.
I've yet to actually attempt making a character with the game, though my first impressions of the character creation system was "not bad." Which isn't saying a whole lot since D20 has always had fun character creation, and starting as a 10th level character gives you a lot of points with which to play.
Which is interesting...even as a D20 game, chargen is even farther removed from D&D roots than standard D20. No random rolls at all...no hit points, no random ability scores, no starting cash. Everything balanced against each other, designed to work with a single D20...a true "D20" system I guess.
Anyway, I actually like the combo of feats and powers...the use of power points and power levels (or just "levels" to me), is pretty nifty. The thing is, I LIKE levels in superhero RPGs. Villains & Vigilantes, Heroes Unlimited...one of the cool things in these games (& M&M) IS the use of levels.
Why levels? Because for the most part the superhero/comic book genre is one of the few that features protagonists that actually grow and evolve in power over time.
Most comic book supers have to start with an "origin story," after all...an Issue #1 in which the character gains great powers and has to learn how to use 'em. They're nervous and unsure of themselves (or they're cocky and over-confident, needing to be taken down a peg)...but after a couple hundred issues they're confident veterans, looked to by younger heroes as mentors. To me, this is easily modeled by an experience/level system.
Of course, Mutants & Masterminds doesn't start with level 1.
But of course, that's just your average D20 madness...5th level beat cops and 3rd level bystanders, I suppose. No "Normal Human" monsters to be found.
But that's enough whining on that particular issue. There's plenty of other things to complain about.
For example, I was fine with the first three pages of combat. But then the next 15 was more than I could stomach. I skimmed it, mostly for the pretty pictures. But despite a stated desire to "adapt the world's most popular game system to the fast-paced world of superheroics" (page 3 of the introduction) I found it to be fairly tedious and clunky...still.
Then there's this little quote from the Gamemastering chapter. Regarding Altering the Outcome of Dice Rolls, the book says:
Isn't this cheating? Well, yes, in a matter of speaking it is, but it's "cheating" in order to make the game more interesting and fun for everyone involved. So long as you don't alter the outcome of die rolls unfairly or maliciously and you do it to help ensure the game is fun, interesting, and challenging, you shouldn't have a problem. Besides, the players don't have to know that you change the occasional dice roll. That's one of the reasons it's a good idea for Gamemasters to roll their dice out of sight of the players.
That's ugly. I mean, it's not just irritating, but offensive to my sensibilities...in about three or four different, separate ways.
- "in order to make the game more interesting and fun for everyone involved" ...well, actually, it is making the game more interesting and fun for the GM and whatever is the GM's idea of "interesting and fun."
- "so long as you don't alter the outcome of dice rolls unfairly" ...um, isn't a random dice roll kind of the definition of fair and impartial? When you ignore what the Fates have decreed you are ignoring what is (hopefully) a game system designed to be fair and balanced.
- "besides, the players don't have to know you change the occasional dice roll" ...the conspiratorial tone, especially the included emphasis just makes me cringe. Is this us against them? Are the players just a bunch of suckers to be played?
- "it's a good idea for [GMs] to roll their dice out of sight" ...just keeping the trust-building going, huh? 'Cause the players couldn't take it if they saw you fudging the rolls and working off GM fiat of what YOU think is interesting? Or because the players will (rightly) pound your ass for preempting the game with what YOU think is fun?
Just so long as it's not "malicious," I guess. Jeez.
Anyways, there's probably more nit-picking I could do but again, some of these complaints about the attitude of D20 games is nothing new. I knew what I was doing when I bought it...which is why I was un-willing to pay more than I did.
I DID like the random disaster/opponent tables and would totally steal 'em (or make my own knock-off versions) for any superhero RPG I design. That was a good thing. Also, it's a plus for any game to have an introductory adventure included in it, and while I totally hate those over-stuffed stat blocks the NPCs (both the Freedom League heroes and the villains of the "rogue's gallery") are quite good. But then, I'm a fan of supers...
And the artwork is all excellent, too.
All right, that's enough back-n-forth. I'll try crafting a couple characters later to try out the system...maybe even run a couple mock combats to see how workable it is.