DC Adventures/Mutants and Masterminds 3E
I love Green Ronin, I think they are a great company making great games and when I heard that the creators of Mutants and Masterminds had the DCU license I was pretty stoked. This is a great comic universe and a great superhero game — how could it go wrong? I’m still not sure, but, in my opinion, it did.
For the sake of clarity, I’m going to refer to the game I’m writing about as DCA (DC Adventures) but this game is also the debut of the new Mutants and Masterminds 3rd Edition as well. This is important, because some of what I am writing about covers the changes to the overall Mutants and Masterminds system, some of it will be just about the DCA product line. I will try to be clear when a distinction is necessary. This is not a review by the way. I want to be clear. This is an editorial exploration and comparison of 2E/3E. I wouldn’t claim that this much opinion constitutes a review.
Green Ronin’s announcements about the release of this game talked about some of their design goals. The goals mentioned included streamlining the system, cleaning up some of the system issues (such as grappling), and moving a little farther away from the D20 legacy.
The new game represents a step backwards, design-wise, with many of the greatest strengths of 2E either made more difficult, or just plain missing. It seems to me, that the real goal of the designers was to create a system that protected gamemasters from their players. What I mean by that is that everything in 3E is either more restricted, less freeform, or just plain more complicated as compared to 2E. I find the game even less “newbie” friendly than 2E as well, and that’s saying something.
First of all, looking at attributes, DCA changes the number stats from 6 to 8. The newer stats come from adding a Fighting stat and breaking Dexterity up into two stats – Dexterity and Agility. The game also renames the stats, changing Constitution to Stamina, Intelligence to Intellect, Wisdom to Awareness and Charisma to Presence (and when I saw this I felt like I was playing Champions all the sudden).
The Attack and Defense stats of 2E are gone, replaced by a much more complicated system. Fighting provides your base rating for close combat attacks and Dexterity you base rating for ranged attacks. Fighting also provides your base Defense against Close Attacks (Parry), but Agility provides the defense against ranged (Dodge).
This is further complicated by the fact that in 2E, refining and specializing your combat ability was handled by Attack and two feat choices (focus and specialization). In 3E this is spread out across Fighting/Dexterity, an Advantage (the new name for Feats) and your Skills. Not intuitive at all, not streamlined at all.
Also, those two things I mentioned above, Close attack and Parry, that’s all Fighting does. It doesn’t govern any other skills, it doesn’t do anything else… so why did we need it? I have no idea.
Strength is also more awkward now. Basically, the assumption is that a 7 modifier (they got rid of stat numbers altogether, you just record your modifier now) is the “upper limit” of normal human ability. But if you look at the Measurements table, the sorta, unified numbers for Mass and Distance and everything, as expressions of you ranks in something, then you see that the upper limit of human lifting is 3 tons. That’s right, 6,000 lbs. Holy Benchpress, Batman! That’s a little skewed. Compare that to the same modifier in 2E and you’ll see that the Push/Drag absolute upper limit there was 3500 lbs. That’s far more reasonable, considering that I’ve seen the World’s Strongest Man competitions where they pull fire trucks and stuff. But in 3E, that 6,000 lbs. you can lift at a 7 Strength? You can also throw that weight 30 feet. I know we’re talking about the comics here, but that’s ridiculous.
DCA shortens the skill list from 2E, taking a page from other games where all the abilities such as swimming and climbing and such are just lumped into Athletics. This would have been a fairly welcome change except that skills also got more expensive in this version, jumping to costing 1pp/2skill ranks instead of 1pp/4 skill ranks. It may, in the end turn out to be a wash, but considering that a lot of skills that PCs have still fall under the broad heading of Expertise (something), skills are still going to be a very expensive investment for characters.
Feats in DCA are no longer called feats. Advantages just seemed like a better word to them I guess. Some feats disappeared, like Sneak Attack. Some were changed, like Favored Opponent becoming Favored Foe and no longer providing damage bonuses, only skill bonuses. A lot of advantages were made more compact, such as Attractive only having two levels now, instead of being bought in ranks. Overall, the changes to Feats/Advantages are relatively small, but they do change the way you’ll build your characters.
One major change is Luck. Luck no longer provides extra hero points. Luck only gives you rerolls. So heroes will have a lot less hero points (overall) in most games, as they now only gain HP from complications. I, for one, find this change to be somewhat silly and build limiting. If you truly are setting out, as M&M is, to create an effect-based system, then the Luck feat was a pretty vital component of many builds and did not only represent a character who was “Lucky.”
If I talk about all the things that are wrong with the new power structure, I could fill pages and pages of text. Suffice it to say, this is the area of the game where I feel the majority of changes were made without forethought and without listening to the fan-base at all.
Many power effects have been changed, dropped entirely, or re-written into uselessness. As one example, I’m going to bring up my favorite odd change: Summon. Summoned costs the same in DCA as it did in M&M 2E. Strangely enough though, in DCA, all summoned creatures are dazed. Not dazed the round you summon them either, dazed always. They only get one action per turn. Unless you buy the Active extra, which costs you an extra point per level of the power. Um. Well, that’s awkward.
There are other unpopular changes, like the change to how Impervious protection works. I’m also disappointed with many of the modifiers in the new system as compared to the old.
This is getting wordy and I’ve pretty much said what I had to say. To close out, I want to mention a few additional points of interest.
1. Knockback is no longer a mechanical figure – it is a GM complication. This is the only change in the new edition I’m happy about.
2. PL10/150pp characters are less powerful in the new system because everything is more expensive. The first thing I did after reading the new book was try converting old characters into the new system. I tried about 10 characters ranging in PL from 8 to 12. Not one converted without having to use a LOT more points.
3. The sampling of “official” write-ups of DCU characters in the book is atrocious. I don’t just mean that they “didn’t make Green Arrow the way I wanted.” I mean, it’s pretty clear that the characters weren’t being compared against each other at all for consistency and, it’s pretty clear that they didn’t think through their stance of “iconic” versions of the characters at all – because what that means, translated – is that the characters will be written up from some arbitrary point of view and not even at the same point in their careers/the DCU at large. So, no internal consistency between builds. Quality choice guys, thanks.
Overall, I think this is an awful backslide for the M&M franchise. Second Ed was a pretty solid game that needed a little tweaking and a little GM love. DCA/3E is a clumsy monster that pretty much guarantees that I will not be buying any 3E products or anymore DCA products. It’s a trap.