‘Tis the Season … for Heroes!

MnMCoC_200It’s the time of year to remind folks who might not be aware of it that the free Mutants & Masterminds adventure Crisis on Christmas is available for download from Green Ronin Publishing, along with Hero Lab files for the main antagonist and her minions.

Earth’s mysterious Master Mage needs help from your heroes to defeat a threat that has captured the North Pole and wants to erase the idea of the Christmas holiday itself from the world! Just a bit of holiday cheer from Green Ronin to you this season! (There’s also a version for the second edition of M&M for folks who prefer it.)

Re: Animated • Young Justice “Schooled”


This blog takes a look at episodes from the Young Justice animated series from a tabletop roleplaying game perspective, both in terms of game design and game play.

Obligatory Spoiler Warning: I will be discussing the events of the episode in the post. If, for some reason, you’re interested in the show and this blog and have not seen the show, go and do that first. The blog will make much more sense, and you won’t have your enjoyment of the show spoiled. You Have Been Warned.


A traffic accident in Metropolis! A school bus teeters on the edge of a bridge. This looks like a job for Superman … and Superboy, for that matter, as the young hero leaps to the rescue. Although he reaches out to Superman, Superboy finds that the Man of Steel is still uncomfortable with his clone’s existence, something of concern to Batman.

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Marvelous Initiative

So there’s this new superhero RPG on the block called Marvel Heroic Roleplaying. You may have heard of it, created by the licensing mavens at Margaret Weis Productions, led by Cam “Mr. Fantastic” Banks, using the oh-so-hackable Cortex+ (that’s “Cortex-Plus”) system.

Amongst its various game systems twists and turns, Marvel Heroic Roleplaying (MHR for short) features a novel new initiative system: in essence, one of the players gets to go first, based on consensus and description of what’s happening in the scene. The Watcher (that’s the Game Master in MHR) can spend some Doom Pool dice (a GM resource) to have a non-player character go first.

The interesting part is whomever goes first decides who goes next, with the caveat that every character in the scene has to get one turn before the next turn starts, and whoever goes last in the turn gets to decide who goes first in the next turn. So, you can definitely play things so all your friends (and fellow heroes) go first, then all of the GM’s bad guys, but if the bad guys go last, the GM can choose one of them to go first on the next turn and give them all of their actions before the heroes get to go at all. Plus the GM can still spend Doom Pool dice to interrupt the action order any time. So some degree of back-and-forth seems sensible.

One nice thing about this approach to initiative and turn-taking is that it’s eminently easy to borrow to use in other games! So, a few thoughts on Marvel-style initiative in…

Mutants & Masterminds

The standard M&M initiative system is cyclical: at the start of a conflict, roll an initiative check (d20 + initiative modifier) for each character (or group of minions) involved in the conflict. Characters then act in order from highest to lowest each round before starting back at the top of the order. Certain actions, like delaying, may change a character’s place in the initiative order but, otherwise, it’s fairly static.

Applying the MHR approach to initiative essentially removes the need for advantages like Improved Initiative and Seize Initiative, except possibly as fire-breaks against the GM using a complication (the M&M equivalent of spending Doom Pool dice) to interrupt the initiative order or allow the villains to go first. This might cost the GM an additional hero point (awarded to the player of the character with the appropriate advantage).

The MHR approach likely means actions in M&M conflicts would vary more, as each player (and the GM) chooses who goes next in the action order, rather than staying with the same order from round to round. This can be good for variety, difficult if the GM has character sheets or stats arranged in a particular order to keep track of them during the conflict.


Icons has an even simpler initiative system: the heroes go, then the villain(s), and back and forth until the conflict is over.

The MHR approach mixes things up a bit more, allowing for villain actions to be potentially interspersed amongst the heroes’ actions, depending on who is chosen to go after the initial player. All of the “action” (in terms of die rolling) falls to the players, since villain actions are framed more in terms of the heroes reacting to what the villains do: the players roll counter-actions rather than the GM rolling villain actions.

Much like spending Doom Dice in MHR, the Icons GM would award Determination to the players in order to interrupt the action order or to have a villain go first as a challenge in the scene.

Whether you’re looking to play Marvel Heroic Roleplaying or just rifle through its pages for clever ideas you can lift for your own game (or hack its game system into something suitable for, say, Dungeons & Dragons…) check out the latest member of the superheroic RPG team; there’s a lot of power there!

Emerald City Knights: Chapter Three

Warning! The following may contain spoilers for Chapter 3 of the Emerald City Knights Heroes Journey. Those intending to play in the adventure should avoid reading it if they want to avoid any foreknowledge of the adventure’s contents.

This past Sunday, I ran Chapter 3 of the Emerald City Knights adventure series for my gaming group using the Mutants & Masterminds Third Edition rules.

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Emerald City Knights: Chapter Two

Warning! The following may contain spoilers for Chapter 2 of the Emerald City Knights Heroes Journey. Those intending to play in the adventure should avoid reading it if they want to avoid any foreknowledge of the adventure’s contents.

This past Sunday, I ran the next chapter of the Emerald City Knights adventure series for my gaming group using the Mutants & Masterminds Third Edition rules. Continue reading

Emerald City Knights: Chapter One

This blog entry has been waiting for the release of Chapter One of the Emerald City Knights adventure series, since I was able to run it before it saw general release. I’ll likewise limit any other adventure logs to post after the adventure goes on sale so as not to taunt unnecessarily…

Spoiler Warning! The following may contain spoilers for Chapter One of the Emerald City Knights Heroes Journey. Those intending to play in the adventure should avoid reading it if they want to avoid any advance knowledge of the adventure’s contents. Continue reading

Emerald City Knights: Prologue

This past Sunday, I started running the Emerald City Knights adventure series for my gaming group using the Mutants & Masterminds Third Edition rules. It was also a chance to try out some other new stuff like the Quickstart Character Generator from the M&M GM’s Kit.

My five players (Sean, Lyle, Michael, Meghan, and Andy) quickly rolled up the archetypes for their characters: Paragon, Weather Controller, Psychic, Summoner, and Elemental. Then it was off to the particular sub-tables to generate the characters’ abilities, advantages, skills, and powers. Finally, we wrapped up by assigning the listed defense modifiers and giving the players some time to choose suitable complications and come up with some background.

The players all liked that the various trait packages were “tagged” with descriptive terms like Imposing, Unobtrusive, Man of Action, and so forth, because it gave them quick “handles” on the characters beyond just their traits. Only a minimum of “massaging” of final game traits was necessary: Andy’s Elemental came up rather short in the ranged combat department (in spite of having a primary Ranged Damage attack), but swapping some skill and ability ranks took care of that. Overall, everyone was pleased with how their heroes came out with just a few random die rolls.

Seans, Lyle, and Andy, after talking it over, agreed that it worked for their heroes to gain their powers during the initial adventure. Meghan and Michael’s character concepts fit better with pre-existing origins, so they started out with full-fledged characters.

After about an hour and a half’s work, here’s the group we ended up with:

  • Action-Man (Paragon): Pinnacle of human perfection, with enhanced combat skills, sufficient accuracy to delivery devastating blows (Strength-based Damage bonus), immunity to many mortal concerns, and amazing leaping, swinging, and climbing abilities.
  • Stratos (Weather Controller): Focused primarily on wind and ice effects, but with a dazzling burst of thunder and lightning able to deafen and blind foes. His powers suggested a Russian heritage to Lyle, which worked well in that Emerald City has a fair Russian community.
  • Arcane (Psychic): Psychic warrior with a “psychic blade” able to shift from telepathic to telekinetic effects, mind reading, a psychokinetic shield, and his namesake psychic invisibility, able to fade from others’ perceptions. Michael decided Arcane was a historian who gained his powers from a cursed magical ring that sought to bring out all the dark impulses in his soul, something he struggles against constantly.
  • Tesla (Summoner): Daughter of dimensional explorers, raised by an extradimensional intelligence after her parents were lost in an accident. Although an adult, Tesla still looks like a child. She commands a group of robots she can summon from dimensional folds in spacetime, each robot equipped with an array of weapons and strong enough to lift a car.
  • Fire Chief (Elemental): Emerald City firefighter with the power to transform into fire, fly and shoot fiery bolts and blasts.

Warning! The following may contain spoilers for the Prologue to the Emerald City Knights Heroes Journey. Those intended to play in the adventure should avoid reading it if they want to avoid any advance knowledge of the adventure’s contents.

The series kicked off as detailed in The Silver Storm prologue for the most part. We established that Andy’s character was a fire chief, Sean’s was a police officer, and Lyle’s was a college intern at a local television station (studying meteorology at school). Arcane and Telsa were both novice heroes looking for opportunities to do good with their abilities for different reasons.

Thus, when the explosion occurred on Yellow Brick Row, Pavel (Lyle’s character) was already there reporting with a news team about the unusually pleasant early Spring thaw that brought out crowds to the open-air mall. Officer Hall and Chief Kane were among the first-responders, and Arcane and Tesla were both nearby and took the opportunity to act.

Tesla immediately set her robots to work rescuing people and gathering information. It happened to work out that each of the other four heroes encountered one of the stormers from the Prologue: Hank Hall and his police partner ran up against Death Magnetic, Chief Daniel Kane was grabbed by Octaman, Pavel and his reporter girlfriend Amy were attacked by Mongoose, and Arcane ran afoul of a sneering Lord Etheric, drawn to the “dark power” he possessed. I decided not to use Lightshow, as all of the heroes were pretty busy as it was and I didn’t want it to turn into solely a one-on-one fight.

The adrenaline surge of encountering their respective foes and the effects of the Silver Storm triggered Action-Man, Stratos, and Fire Chief’s powers. Death Magnetic initially got the drop on Action-Man (literally – she dropped a minivan on him) but Tesla helped even the odds. Then Action-Man hit upon switching foes with Fire Chief; the heat of his flame powers was able to interfere with Death Magnetic’s magnetism, and he burned up sufficient oxygen to send her down for the count while Action-Man took down Octaman with a few well-placed hits.

Lord Etheric got about one good hit in before Arcane knocked him into a window display. Stratos (arc-leaping away from Mongoose) hit the goth bad guy with a dazzling burst that allowed Arcane to finish him off.

The new heroes decided not to do anything to conceal their identities, for the most part, although Fire Chief proved the one with the best press (not surprising given his prior experience and leadership abilities). The heroes quickly agreed to work with the local police to track down and contain other stormers, and decided they were none too fond of the heavy-handed local AEGIS commander and his approach to “bagging and tagging” those afflicted by the Silver Storm. They also agreed to work together to investigate the explosion that led to the Storm in hopes of finding out what caused it and who was behind it.

All-in-all it was about an hour and a half for character creation (including sketchy backgrounds, names, complications, etc.) and a couple of hours of game play, including the roleplaying and character introductions afterwards. Emerald City’s new heroes are off to an interesting start and are going to discover they have their work cut out for them…