Steve Kenson and Green Ronin
Mutants and Masterminds is an award-winning superhero role-playing game created by Steve Kenson. The most popular superhero system now on the market, Mutants & Masterminds is published by Green Ronin and made its debut in 2002. Since then, three new editions have been released. The third and most recent edition hit shelves in 2011.
Using a modified version of the d20 System, M&M allows players to resolve combat and skill checks with a minimum of dice rolling. Character classes have also been eliminated in favor of an open-ended system that instead measures power level (most characters begin at power level 10).
There are no hit points. Instead, players make a toughness save against the amount of damage. A success means no damage is taken, while the results of a failure depend on how badly the roll missed. A narrow miss will result in a minor wound, while a huge miss can result in death.
New products are constantly being released, and these range from multi-part adventures to three-page bios about individual super villains. The diversity of potential settings is impressive, with gamemasters being able to choose from locations such as Freedom City, Bedlam, Autumn Arbor, or the super-prison known as Lockdown.
Mutants and Masterminds Adventures
Every Mutants and Masterminds supplement includes “adventure seeds,” short ideas that can be used to create memorable adventures. If you’re looking for more fleshed-out adventures for your campaigns, consider some of these options:
Emerald City Knights – A complete three-part adventure set in Emerald City. Released for the 3rd edition.
In a Strange Land – A 10-page, one session adventure that requires four to six heroes to journey to South America in search of the missing Air Force One.
Little League – Intended for four to six heroes and set in Freedom City, this adventure revolves around the members of the Freedom League being turned into children by an extradimensional imp.
Paragons: A More Perfect Union – A group of newly powered heroes are drawn to the quiet town of Unity, a place with a secret that could threaten the future of the world.
Time of Crisis – The first Mutants and Masterminds adventure ever released. Set in Freedom City, the 64-page adventure begins with a bank robbery and rapidly escalates until the fate of the planet hangs in the balance.
Time of Vengeance – Freedom City is imperiled when a series of plagues are unleashed by mysterious super villains.
Mutants and Masterminds: Ultimate Power
This award-winning supplement includes the definitive Mutants and Masterminds power list, so there’s little wonder why it sold out and was later re-released in a pocket-sized version. Between the chapters on “Power Creation” and “Powers,” the book provides a complete Mutants and Masterminds list of powers. Feats, modifiers and drawbacks are also included, making this a must-have item for any player searching for new superpower ideas.
Hero archetypes are included in the rulebook to provide players with a quick alternative for creating their characters. The stats, skills, powers and feats are already generated, which means the player only needs to come up with a name, origin and costume. Archetypes are also useful for gamemasters who need to come up with NPCs or villains in a hurry.
The archetypes listed in the 2nd editionare based on a power level of 10, although they can be modified for more epic campaigns. If you’re interested in using an archetype for M&M character creation, here are the heroic options you’ll have to choose from:
Battlesuit – Wears a suit of power armor. Iron Man would be an example of this archetype.
Costumed Adventurer – This hero fights crime with a combination of gadgets and relentless training. Batman is an example of the costumed adventurer.
Energy Controller – Able to generate or control some kind of energy or element. Iceman and Magneto are examples.
Gadgeteer – Experts in the creation and use of technological devices. Examples include Penguin and Green Goblin.
Martial Artist – A master of unarmed combat. Iron Fist and Lady Shiva are examples.
Mimic – Able to duplicate the skills and powers of others. Mimic is an example.
Mystic – A practitioner of the mystic arts. Examples include Dr. Fate, Zatanna, and Dr. Strange.
Paragon – These all-around heroes can fly, perform feats of great strength, and are immune to most forms of damage. Superman is an example of the paragon archetype.
Powerhouse – Blessed with great strength and the ability to soak up damage. Examples include The Hulk and Luke Cage.
Psychic – Able to use telekinesis and/or telepathy. Jean Grey or Emma Frost would be examples.
Shapeshifter – Able to take on various animal forms and gain their abilities. Beast Boy is an example of the shapeshifter archetype.
Speedster – Has the ability to run at great speeds, as well as a number of other related talents. The Flash and Quicksilver are examples.
Weapon Master – An individual who’s mastered the use of a specific weapon. Hawkeye, Taskmaster, and Green Arrow are examples.
What’s a hero without diabolical villains to fight? Thanks to their endless stream of supplements, Green Ronin has created a wide array of mooks, masterminds and psychos to test the limits of your campaign’s heroes. There are even villain archetypes to allow quick generation of foes, and these include the following (taken from Mutants and Masterminds 2nd edition):
- The Armored Megalomaniac
- The Brain in a Jar
- Corrupt Sorcerer
- Evil Robot
- Hulking Brute
- Kung Fu Killer
- Mad Scientist
- Master of Disguise
- Master of Energy
- Savage Man-Beast
- Sinister Simian
- Ultimate Mimic
- Vampire Lord
While the Mutants and Masterminds rulebook offers little in the way of original villains, later releases like Crooks! and Foes of Freedom fill in the gaps. Within the pages of these books, you’ll get profiles for bad guys such as the Atomic Brain, Other Woman, Silver Scream, and Jack-a-Knives.
The third edition also offers PDF releases known as Threat Reports for only $0.99 each. These 3-page documents provide a character sheet for a villain, plus tips on how to incorporate them into your campaign. Over 50 M&M Threat Reports have been released so far, and the bad guys include such names as Dollface, The Hand of Sin, Death Magnetic, and Fallout.
In addition to skills and superpowers, the rules allows characters to choose feats. These are special abilities that help players customize their heroes, and additional options are offered in various M&M supplements. Feats are grouped into the following four categories:
Combat Feats – Help modify combat maneuvers. Examples include Chokehold, Improved Grapple, Power Attack and Sneak Attack.
Skill Feats – These enhance skill use through modifiers. Examples include Ritualist, Taunt, Attractive and Contacts.
Fortune Feats – Require the expenditure of a hero point. Examples include Leadership, Beginner’s Luck, Seize Initiative and Ultimate Effort.
General Feats – A catch-all for any feat that doesn’t fall under the other categories. Examples include Diehard, Sidekick, Master Plan and Fearless.
Mutants and Masterminds 3rd Edition PDF
Just like previous versions of the game, the Mutants and Masterminds 3rd edition can be purchased online in PDF form. You can get the M&M Hero’s Handbook at the Green Ronin website for $17.50, which offers a large discount over the $32.95 hardcover edition. The Hero’s Handbook and Gamemaster’s Guide can also be purchased from DriveThru RPG in PDF form for $17.50 each. And thanks to the licensing agreement that allows other publishers to create material for the Mutants and Masterminds universe, you can always find additional items to add spice to your campaign.
Thanks to the DC Adventures release, gamers can now enjoy the exploits of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman while using Mutants and Masterminds rules system. DC Adventures Hero’s Handbook and DC Adventures Heroes & Villains contain the information needed to run a campaign in the universe of DC Comics. Characters can be built from scratch, or you can choose from a number of crime fighting archetypes. Write-ups are included for all the major heroes and villains of the DC Universe, and much of the interior art is provided by well-known DC illustrators.
Mutants and Masterminds Character Generators
A number of M&M character generators are available on the Internet. These downloadable (and usually free) programs display a Mutants and Masterminds character sheet, and any changes are immediately reflected throughout.
There’s a Yahoo group for Simpson’s M&M Excel Amazing Character Builder, and it features options for both Excel and OpenOffice. In addition, The Mutants and Masterminds Character Builder is available from WestGuard.org, and it runs a LibreOffice spreadsheet.
Reviews for Mutants and Masterminds have been positive, with particular praise given to the easy-to-learn system, the high production values, and the timely release of new products. While it may not have an MMORPG like Champions, M&M has positioned itself as the bestselling superhero role-playing game on the market.