Sunday, November 8, 2009

Powers in Mutants & Masterminds

Kind of a cheat blog post today-- a quick overview post on power construction in Mutants and Masterminds I wrote up for Kenny's group this morning. Action Cards revision to be the next post topic.

After last night, I thought I might do a quick run through of how powrs are bought and created-- since there are some interesting things you can do with powers. There are some more complicated bits, but not nearly as bad as Champions.

Let me start with a basic example--

Spade's Gun-- a gun is a basic Blast Power. That means a strike at range-- you can define that however you want: a lighting strike, throwing rocks, gusts of wind, whatever-- in this case he's shooting things.

Powers have a rank-- rank determines effect. Actually rolling to hit is always strictly based on your Attack Bonus (ranged or melee), but the rank of a power determines how much actual effect it has.

So for most standard powers, if you hit the target, they make a Damage/Toughness Save against 15 plus the rank of your power.

So, let's say Spade has Blast 8 (Gun). That will cost him 16 points-- since Blast costs 2 points per rank.

So I usually write that as:

Rank 8-- Blast (16pts) Save: 23+

Now for any powers that you have, you can add two different kinds of bonuses-- which enhance the power. You can add Extras or Feats.

Extras really significantly increase the effect of the power. These include things like Area Effect, Autofire or Increased Range.

Extras generally increase the cost per rank of the power by +1; some cost more, but generally it is a +1.

So let's say that Spade wants to have his Gun always affect an area (which could be dangerous if there are innocents around...but you know, you can't make an omelet without killing a few bystanders.).

This would cost him 3 points per rank, instead of two.

Rank 8--Blast: Area Effect-(24 points) Save 23+

That means whenever he uses it, he can opt to use the Autofire, and the targets he hits have to save against a 23+ for damage.

On the other hand, power feats are small bonuses or add ons you can use to slightly enhance a power. They include things like Accurate, Precise, Indirect and so on-- picture them as character feats applied to a particular power. They cost 1 point.

So again, let's say Spade wants to have his gun have a couple of bonuses.

He wants to be a better shot with it, so he wants the Accurate feat, which gives him a +2 to his to hit rolls. (He's still limited by the Power Level of the game, so the most his to hit roll bonus will ever be is +8 at Power level 8). He also wants the Precise power feat, so he can shoot into combat without hitting his buddies and to get him a bonus if he's trying to do non-combat stunts like shooting a rope or blasting a glass out of someone's hand. Finally, the Indirect feat allows him to use his skill to bounce shots off of things, to hit people behind cover or around corners.

I'd write that like this:

Rank 8--Blast (19pts) Save: 23+
*Feat Accurate
*Feat Precise
*Feat Indirect

So the cost is still 2 points per rank, but he's playing a total of 3 extra points for the three feats. He can choose to use those separately or all at the same time.

Alternate Powers
OK-- here's where it gets funky. Buying powers with lots of Extras can get really pricey. The advantage to buying them as I mentioned above at +1 pp per rank is that you get the full effect of them. The other way to get those extras-- but at a reduced effectiveness is to buy an Alternate Power. Alternate Power is a special kind of feat, so each alternate power costs 1 point.

Let's say that Spade wants to be able to do Area Effect and Autofire for his Gun power, but he doesn't want to pay that many points. He decides to buy Alternate Powers for using those-- they'll be less effective, but it gives him more options. It doesn't necessarily mean he has settings on his gun, but more that he's trained himself to use his guns effectively in different ways.

The important thing about Alternate Powers is that you can only use one at a time. Switching to those powers happens on your turn.

So his basic power right now looks like this.

Rank 8-- Blast (16pts) Save: 23+

To buy the Area Effect Alternate Power feat, we spend 1 point

*Alt Power: Blast, Area Effect

To figure out what Rank that Alt Power will be, we look at the cost. Normally Blast costs 2 pp for each rank, Area Effect is an extra which costs +1 per rank-- so the cost is 3 pp per rank.

We take that cost per rank (3) and look at how much he spent on the original power (not counting feats)-- that's 16 points.

16 points divided by 3 points per rank= 5 ranks, because we round down.

So now I'd write that power as:
Rank 8-- Blast (17pts) Save: 23+
*Alt Power: Blast, Area Effect- Rank 5 Save: 20+

So, when Spade chooses to do an Area Effect attack, instead of his normal attack, his potential damage is reduced.

So if we look at the two versions:

Rank 8-- Blast- Area Effect (24 points) Save 23+
Rank 8-- Blast (17pts) Save: 23+
*Alt Power: Blast, Area Effect- Rank 5 Save: 20+

We can see that he saves seven points, but at the cost of that Area Effect being weaker. Let's say he wanted both Area Effect and Autofire on his power. Look at the difference in the costs and effects of the two versions:

Rank 8-- Blast- Area Effect, Autofire (36 points) Save 23+
Rank 8-- Blast (18pts) Save: 23+
*Alt Power: Blast, Area Effect- Rank 4 Save: 19+

The first version is pretty nasty-- but the second version is probably most effective against Agents and Mooks, but not against other supers.


  1. Nice overview of the Powers/Extras/Feats structure. Alternate Powers is way too cheap. But as long as there's good GM oversight, that's not a problem. Jeebus, 1 pt.

    If you want a quickie subject for when you can't write a thoughtful gaming post, I'd love to hear what music you're listening to. I haven't tracked down a new CD in months.

    And if you (and anyone else ya bring from SB) can ever make it to Chicago, I'll show you the highlights from the Pork Crawl. It was so wonderful....and cheap!

  2. I'll want the Pork Crawl details, of course.

    Alt Powers are a tricky beast. I think it is a good structure generally. They only potetnial change I could imagine would be to have something like 1 point AP gets you an alt power at half the ranks of the original and 2 points gets you it at full. That wouldn't do too much to break the symmetry.

    The problem, as you suggest is that unless properly watched, there's a risk for players to buy a swiss army set of powers under a group. The limitation of only using one at a time doesn't really restrict people from buying a lot of different attacks of different kinds. of course some powers can't go in those frameworks. And I also made sure I hit PCs who did have all their eggs in one basket with nullify and drain, taking all of their associated powers out at once.

    The real problem is the Alt Power structures when it comes to Alt Form stuff. Where people can cheaply have many different complete sets of powers.

  3. Quickie pork crawl summary:

    Marion St. Cheese Market offers cheese and/or ham samplers. They're called flights, a term I'd never heard and I had them spell it for me on the phone. It's the place I usually bring cheese and ham from. Found out too late about their cheese puffs to order them.

    Every other place is BYOB.

    Freddy's pizza, deli style. The Berwyn cured ham, along with lots of side dishes and Chicago magazine's best gelato winner. Donn liked it better than Marion St. The sides are soooo cheap.

    Honey 1 BBQ vs newcomer Smoque. Smoque won hands down: complex dry rub, tender but not mushy, more interesting sauce, better sides. Don't get Honey 1's fried gizzards, tough as glove leather. Gives a bit, but you have to keep chewing.

    No one had room for more pork, but a few did get frozen custard!

  4. The Crawl is learning to walk. Folks are talking up a Soup Crawl now: chowder, pho, borscht, udon, tortilla....

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