Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Game Spotlight: Mutants & Masterminds (M&M)

I'd like to take a break from the normal "Biography" and dabble a bit into a review of one of my favorite Gaming Systems: Mutants and Masterminds.

Ask yourself this: Have you ever wanted to play a character from your favorite Comic, Manga, Cartoon, or Anime Series? Or maybe you've always wanted to play a cinematic game where you can be taking on an entire army of evil monster's one moment and then trying to save the world from a deadly catastrophe the next? If so, Mutants and Masterminds is the game for you!

The system itself was first put together by Steve Kenson back in 2002 after having been contracted with Green Ronin Publishing under the Open Game License. The game was revolutionary in its design due to the fact that you could put together just about any character you could imagine using a collection of basic Power Descriptors and a handful of ways to modify each one, giving it infinite flexibility in how you can make your character. The world of d20 gaming was changed forever and a new franchise was created, a completely unique system that rivaled even the most popular systems of its time (the HERO System for example).

I was first introduced to the system during 2008 when we played our first controversial "You are a mutant, and the government requires you to license your powers!" Ordeal after a series of classic dramatic events, everything from a big explosion leveling most of New York City that changes the world forever to overwhelming alien invasions! All in all, it was a fun introduction of the story and the speed at which combat was made was quick and fluid. We even had a moment where one of the players channeled what was left of the entire electric grid of the demolished city of New York City into a blast that completely leveled most of the alien NPCs (Non-Player-Characters)!

The amount of diversity and choices of powers a character can choose from is just mind boggling, and all of it fits into a single book, a book that includes everything you need to create a character, all the basic rules, and even a section for Dungeon Masters with a pre constructed adventure to boot. Example of monsters and Stereotypical Villain Archtypes for quick referencing is also included. And the simplicity of the system is also one of the easiest to pick up from all the games I've played so far. EVERYTHING is done through the single roll of a d20 (a 20 sided dice). No need for die pools, no need for keeping track of a handful of dice that you have to use for each attack. Everything is done with that one d20 (Percentage rolls included, which normally require two d10).

The game itself is very fast paced and makes for some very cinematic adventures. The only drawback that I've seen so far, is that the game's scaling is a bit obnoxious on some levels, where some players can affect an entire city, or nation, with some of their powers. This can be a hindrance in some cases, but that's to be expected with a game that is designed to emulate heroic adventures on a truly world-wide scale. The other thing is that if your looking for longer, drawn-out combat, you'll find that the game master will have to modify some of the rules to accommodate that style of play.

The Mutants and Mastermind Setting is also tailored to a specific style of play. The game flow starts off with the players suffereing a minor or major setback, at which point the characters are still left alive and must investigate further to figure out how to solve the problem or setback in a different light, earning what are called Hero Points for each setback they are put up against, a mechanic that allows you to push your character above and beyond their limits when spent, giving entirely new options to defeat the challenge set at the climax of each adventure! If you and your fellow players are willing to deal with the initial setback, this style of play can be a lot of fun, especially if you go out of your way to over-dramatize your setback, catchy rhetorics and all!

Now, in case the Super Hero Comic isn't for you, Green Ronin has come up with an entire collection of Mutants and Masterminds books that can suppliment any genre of game play based on the various sorts of comics that are in circulation right now, and they have plenty more to come!

I strongly encourage anyone interested to have a look at some of their previews and product information and try the game out for themselves. The book itself can be purchased for around $40, or one can purchase the game in digital format for half the price (Check your local game store for the Book, or if your more interested in the digital format, the PDF File and any of the other books can be found here), which will give infinite ways to play the game. A great investment for any group looking for a low cost/high use gaming system. I've had the game for a good two years now, and I'm always finding something new to try out.

So for those out there who have also had a chance to try the system, what are your thoughts?