Green Ronin & DC Comics
DC Adventures is designed by Green Ronin games to be compatible with the Mutants & Masterminds 3rd Edition. In fact, Green Ronin probably rushed out the third edition of M&M once they signed a deal with DC Comics to publish four role-playing books for DC Adventures. Mutants and Masterminds 2nd Edition is a perfectly good game without much need for updating, but the new edition is something role-players simply have to put up with these days, it seems. The good news is third edition M&M isn’t a huge departure from second edition, except for a few key factors. Let’s discuss whether those factors are good or bad.
The game system used to run DC Adventures is thus a modified d20 system. You roll a 20-sided die, add that to your ability modifier or power level, and compare that against a target number. Some ability checks are graded, which is a new addition. With a graded check, for every 5 points over the target number, you gain additional benefits.
Ability Modifier Changes
You’ll notice that the DC Adventures character sheet looks pretty different from the Mutants and Masterminds 2nd edition character sheet. Gone are the traditional default “10″ ability scores you would see in most d20 games. Now the attributes start at 0 and are bought up or bought down from there, ranging from -5 to +20. You buy ability modifiers, not ability score increases, so your Strength stat would be +5 instead of 20, for instance. Each level of ability modifier costs 2 points, which is the same point system. Notation is different.
Also, the 6 attributes of Intelligence, Willpower, Charisma, Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution are replaced with 8 ability scores, which are Intellect, Awareness, Presence, Strength, Dexterity, Agility, Fighting, and Stamina. Some of the changes are cosmetic, changing Willpower to Presence and Constitution to Stamina. The breaking up of Dexterity and Attack/Defense into Dexterity, Agility, and Fighting is a little more profound and seems influenced by the Prowess and Coordination stats from Steve Kensons’s Icons system.
DC Team Checks
To simulate the team mechanic so vital to many comic books (and most RPG groups), M&M 3rd Edition offers the team check. Before, a standard +2 was given when one character helped another. Now, all members of the team roll against a DC 10 to see if their assistance helps or hurts. Add up the successes and failures and if you get 2 failures, this takes off -2 from the team leaders’ roll. If you get two cumulative successes, it equals +2 to the leader’s old Aid Other ability. If you get 3 or more, that bonus goes to +5. The team leader doesn’t make this roll, but instead rolls as normal.
DC Adventures Skills
Skills in DC Adventures are bought at a rate of 2 skill ranks per point spent. In 2nd edition, the rate was 4 skill ranks per 1 character point (1-to-1 in 1st edition). Steve Kenson continues to tweak to get the skill mechanics right and I think this is the closest to success yet. One point was too costly and four points was too cheap. I still blame the 2nd Edition rules for a lousy series of subplots involving one of the player characters suddenly building up their Perform skill and becoming a rock star in their secret identity (because they kept getting 30+ on all their rolls). No big deal, but their original character concept was an ex-Special Forces officer who was attending a prestigious university for robotics–argh. While I applaud the skill rules change, I’ll predict the 4th Edition of Mutants & Masterminds will set skill costs at 3 ranks per point spent.
Only 16 skills now apply, so the skill list has been nearly halved from second edition. The skills are Acrobatics, Athletics, Close Combat, Deception, Expertise, Insight, Intimidation, Investigation, Persuasion, Ranged Combat, Sleight of Hand, Stealth, Technology, Treatment, and Vehicles. In many ways, the limit to 16 is illusory. I liked the knowledge rolls in 2nd edition, so I like it’s 3rd edition counterpart: Expertise. You’ll find 24 suggested expertises in the book, though the author mentions others are possible, too.
I used Knowledge rolls in the second edition to spread information around to players and those skills reward players willing to put points into something like arcane lore, for instance. I’m certain many people would find these improvements, especially those who assume a GM is going to introduce the information they want introduced anyway. There’s some truth in that case, but skill successes are ways to gives players a minor sense of accomplishment and competence. In truth, Expertise combines at least three different second edition skills: Knowledge, Profession, and Perform.
DC Adventures Powers
One reason I hate having a third edition is we go back to a more basic set of powers. The print book is 281 pages, so you can’t say the publishers skimped on the powers section. It’s just that the Ultimate Powers book really filled out the power possibilities (and won so many awards for Green Ronin). Now we’ll have to buy an all-new Ultimate Powers Book “3rd edition” at some point. I don’t like being gouged, especially when the old game was just fine, and powers is where I feel like I’m being gouged the most. That being said, the powers list should cover most builds for characters from the mainstream DC Universe.
Hero points are acquired when complications come into play. Every character must have at least two complications. One of these complications must be a motivation. This might sound like it’s shoehorning characters into certain behavior, but hero points are important enough that you’ll probably want to have a healthy number of complications–hero points let you be as heroic as possible.
DC Universe Setting Information
The setting information in the DC Adventures book includes 14 of the most famous DC Universe heroes and 14 DC Universe villains, though Batwoman is one of the rogues. That’s about all you’d expect in a basic book, but this leaves a lot of room for the DC Adventures Heroes & Villains, Vol. 1 and DC Adventures: Heroes & Villains Vol. 2.
Notables cities include Metropolis, Gotham City, Star City, Central City/Keystone City, Opal City, Fawcett City, and Gateway City. Nations featured include Qurac, Kahndaq, Bialya, Markovia, Zandia, Nanda Parbat, Gorilla City, Themiscyra, and Atlantis. Off-planet places which get a mention include Oa and its Green Lantern Corps, The Dominion, The Vegans, The Polaris System (Rann, Thanagar), and The Vega System. Even other dimensions get a mention, including Earth-0, Earth-2, Earth-3, Earth-10, Earth-11, Earth-17, Earth-26, The Dreaming, Skartaris, Heaven, and Hell.
DC Adventures Review
I’m not sure a new version of Mutants & Masterminds is needed, but I understand when big, bad DC Comics wants you to write books for their universe, you rewrite your game to accommodate their characters. The artwork in this book is as good as it gets, since this is a licensed book using real art from DC Comics. Some of the pull-back on character powers, such as strength and lifting bonuses, was needed, but that makes life for a GM in an ongoing campaign hard. It’s difficult to tell your players they need to scale back characters for the 3rd edition, but these are minor quibbles. I imagine most people wanting to play in the DC Universe want to either play the JLA or create all-new variants to join that illustrious team. Steve Kenson is a good game designer, so this is a well-designed game, but I’m not sure it was needed so much at this time.