Why Green Ronin? Why?

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.

Overview/Initial Thoughts
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.

Attributes
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.

Skills
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.

Advantages
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.”

Powers
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.

Wrapping Up
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.

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11 responses

  1. I agree for the most part. I’ll be sticking with 2E. There are a few things that seemed like good ideas, but they just didn’t warrant a new addition. They probably should have gone with a 2.5E thing rather than a 3E.

  2. I am completely excited for this book now and preordered my hard copy. All of your complaints for 3e are exactly what I was salivating Mutants and Masterminds to become. 2e characters were extremely overpowered and Green Ronin needed to tone it down. They did it and brilliantly stroked the game with comic book genious.

    -Attributes needed to be divided up into more categories. This change is great. I especially like the integration of fighting as it will work towards a Batman like character. I do agree with the complaint about strength being too great so I will tweak that for my campaign.

    -Where attributes needed more content skills did not. The list was too long and nettlesome at best. 2e skills were great for fantasy dungeon crawling but not quite as interchangeable with the superhero world. Let’s simplify here so my role players will engage in using their skills to solve mysteries.

    -Advantages/feats is a wash and I am okay with that.

    -Hero Points from drawbacks/complications is brilliant. A role player typically wants to have the most powerful character, however I know they will be more entertained from their failures then their successes. It gives the characters a story and a hurdle to climb. The brave ones should be rewarded.

    -Short of going into too much depth I have to say the powers change is great. Players can now construct their powers in a more logical manner. I feel as though this critic did not fairly assess the superpowers especially.As Ethan Parker stated “You build powers by buying certain effects, and combine those effects to make powers like Super Strength, Super Speed, Mind Blast, and Teleportation.” Much more streamlined towards true character creation. I can see Magneto now bleeding through the text and into the DCU.

    Overall: I am sold. The books are preordered and I am not looking back. I feel as though somebody at Green Ronin was listening to my thoughts when I was running my 2e campaigns. You can either have an unbalanced system where Galactus could qualify as a PL 10 (I know it is a little of an exaggeration) or you can get something that feels like an actual comic in the role play.

    Do you want to be all powerful (2e) or have an organic true to form comic experience that is both provoking and engaging in nature?

    Whatever you decide both books are well worth the price of admission and 2e is great albeit for a comic fan 3e is superior.

  3. I can’t see how you arrive at the idea that 3E is superior for a comic fan… 2E was probably the most flexible and interesting superhero system I’d ever seen, and 3E restricts that flexibility in odd and deformed ways.

    Also 3E is not going to make any character less OP. 3E with its weird choices for where to place restrictions and its floating/useless stats (like Fighting) is going to create more “mechanical” less “interesting” builds. Players will have to work harder to build for efficiency which means more shortcuts and weirdness.

    Like, say, Summon. With the way it works now — and that idiotic all summoned creatures are dazed bit — the very first thing my “number crunching GM” brain hit me with was, now I expect a character to show up at my table with a guy who summons fifty-bajillion (yes, I’m exaggerating) minions who all do nothing but stand there and shoot their “lazer-beam” once a round.

    2E is no less a comic book experience than 3E. Third ed feels like someone at GR got Hero System envy and just fell on their head…

    I hope you have a lot of fun with 3E, but it’s pretty awful.

  4. LOL, “its a trap”

  5. Honestly, in 2e there were issues like Boost or Mimic’s 3 pp/rank and above levels, so that you could mimic/boost ‘all powers’ at 5 pp/rank. The fix would have simply been to make what was listed for that level a higher cost per rank ie like 7pp/rank and fill in 3 to 5 pp/rank that granted something else. The climb for cost vs gain was too steep then for those and yet the switch from 2e to 3e didn’t seem to change when it came to that 1 to 5 pp mentality that seems evident. Yet, many great changes were made, generalized combat maneuvers anyone can do like Power Attack. Eliminating feats like Master Plan that give this general bonus. In 3e you still have it but its in the form of a circumstance bonus the GM agrees too, not simply your spending a power point to have it. Sneak Attack also can be added as an Enhanced trait, a damage bonus with a limit (only surprise attacks). As far as powers go they are largely the same but pre-built powers like Friction Control aren’t there since you can simply build the effects you want and slap on that name. True we don’t see Dazzle/Snare (yet I think they are actually listed but as examples of how you can pre-build an Afflliction and call it something like Web Snare for example. Regeneration, healing and general recovery are different. If I were going to port back into 3e something from 2e that seemed to change it might be this. Yes it is more complex and I would drop the fact you could spend 1 pp to buy a rank in Regeneration (Unconscious) and pop back up constantly in battle. I would make that particular effect from Regenerate cost a lot more, as it generally making your character KO-proof. I did not care for that. Plus 2e wasn’t so perfect until the Ultimate Powers book came and out fixed things like Energy Aura which should cost 4pp/rank and originally cost only 2 pp/rank or at least it wasn’t clearly stated that you needed to buy up Sustained first.

    If I were going to choose anything about 3e I really didn’t care for, it is the Measurement chart. I want to work on one myself but if someone did that or they do an official one that would be great.

  6. Heh. I love me some Admiral Ackbar.

    Seriously, I’m all for loving 3E if it floats your boat – and 2E wasn’t perfect – but the more I built characters and worked with 3E, the more I disliked it. M&M would have been better served by someone taking a critical look at 2E, making some significant (but focused) changes, and otherwise leaving the game essentially intact.

    3E has turned me off of M&M completely. I won’t be going back. I still love GR and I play other games they produce (Dragon Age, for one) but I’m completely out on M&M3E. It’s just not a game that does anything I like.

    One specific comment… about the generalized combat maneuvers (power attack, etc.) that everyone can do vs. the ‘improved’ version gained with feats… actually one of my least favorite changes in the new system. With as cheap as feats are, I would love to have seen a feats be the method one gained the weaker version AND then also a feat for the Improved Version. That would have been great.

  7. I know i’m a little late, but dude this review is whack.

    “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.”

    Mate i’ve converted over 70 villains to 3E & not one of them went over point value… An i was using the 1 point into 4 for skill points from 2E. I don’t know what you are doing wrong, but it’s not a problem i’ve had.

    “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.”

    Actually its the one place where almost no changes were made at all. In fact tis the same system as before except that now we can see how it all fits together, something you could do in 2E, if you had the Ultimate Power book.

    “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.”

    Its not meant to be about continuity, it was meant to be about making the best known version, or “iconic” version of each conemporary hero. Thats kind of exactly what the word iconic means.

    An if you don’t like the way Green Arrow was built thats cool, make the version you want… You are allowed to do that you know.

    “So heroes will have a lot less hero points (overall) in most games, as they now only gain HP from complications.”

    Actually, since the GM controls when complication come into play, & can give HP for good play, GM’s fiat & on the fly complications, there’s actually a much higher amount of Hero Points in any given game then in a 2E game. Its literally designed into the system,

    “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 you require the Luck advantages to give you hero points to make a character, i can assure you, you are making a character wrong. No build requires the use of hero points at all, ever, under any circumstance.

  8. Saint Matthew and Dexter you all hit the nail on the head.

    Congrats to you both my friends I commend you for your awesomeness! 🙂

    I’ve been STing 3rd for a while and find it FAR better than 2nd and thankfully not a single feel of D20 Legacy [save for the actual d20 rolls of course]

    Quite simply put 2nd Edition, while was Good, got me to hate D20 more and more but 3rd fixed my outlook and I’m happy for it.

    3rd FTW!

  9. I bought it, tried it,and ended up shelving it and going back to 2nd edtition for many of the reasons you cite. Plus try to find the page that says what happens if you punch someone. Very hard to locate how to injure someone. Yet there are a million synonymous conditions I’m supposed to remember: stunned, staggered, stumblebum, drunk, dazed, confused,

  10. Just finished reading this. I like both editions, but moved onto 3ed just for the simplifications to the system; grappling is streamlined, and I no longer need two books (the handbook and Ultimate Power) to fashion powers. That’s not to say 2ed wasn’t simpler in *some* respects (one example: there was really no reason to ditch the Obscure effect,) but overall 3ed is more solid, and as long as you just use the 2ed rules for Impervious/Penetrating, it’s great fun.

    All that said, this article is about 6 years old now. I’m curious as to whether the author has touched 3ed since, and if his opinion has changed in any way.

  11. I attempted to run 3e one more time after this. I was still disappointed. I still didn’t enjoy the changes. That said, I actually moved on to ICONS (also by Steve Kenson) and that is my go-to game of choice for superhero RPGs.

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