Friday, December 12, 2008

First M&M game evar!!

First up, sorry for a long post. Kudos for anyone who perseveres and leaves comments at the end ;)


The night before my wedding, I stayed at the hotel where the ceremony was being held, along with my best man and groomsman (and his girlfriend). I took this opportunity to run a game of M&M. I've been itching to play for a long time, and I've been talking it up to these guys for a while, so they were keen. Snacks and drinks were broken out, and d20s were rolled.

My group constituted a fairly hardcore gamer (mostly computer experience, but has run his own fallout campaign, and has plenty of RPG experience), a keen gamer (with little experience, but very clever and strategically minded), and a complete noob. This gave me a chance to see how different people would react to the system, which was pretty cool.


Alex Trebek (a.k.a. Game Breaker)
  • this is my player who just lives to annoy the DM (we all have one; this guy just happens to be entertaining enough to get away with it)
  • having just finished watching those old SNL celebrity jeopardy skits (highly recommeded if you have never seen them; hilarious), his character naming inspiration was obvious...
  • his character concept was a highly skilled ranged blaster with one annoying power, a few cool gadgets, and more skills and feats than you could poke a stick at
    • a skin-tight suit which gives him enhanced Con, Str, and Dex as well as a force-field
    • innate concealment from hearing allowing him to make surprise attacks basically at will (the jerk)
    • 2 plasma pistols (with disintegration for those pesky obstacles)
  • one of his favourite tricks is beating down opponents, then raiding their bodies for anything and everything, then asking me if he can use anything he finds to make jury-rigged explosives of electronic devices *sigh*
  • as background, he was actually the fabled game-show host

Yoo Ping (a.k.a. Master Yoo)
  • based on the martial artist archetype in chapter one, this is your classic no-powers, melee-focused combatant
  • my player chose to pack a light pistol too, for when he was too lazy to get close to his foes
  • as background, he chose to be a small business owner who runs his own car wash ... points for originality

Rebecca (a.k.a. Sanke)
  • this player chose to go with the energy controller archetype from chapter 1, focusing on gravity control
  • she took telekinesis and gravity blast as alternate powers, and she somehow talked me into letting her have teleport (based on the theory that her control of gravity could let her form wormholes allowing her to teleport)

Planned Plot

I didn't have much time to play around with this, so I kept it simple. A robot rampages through the city, heading for the experimental physics building at the university. The robot is going to extract a new technology that has been developed. The heroes will see the robot on the news and intercept it. If they defeat the robot, they find a serial number on the armour casing, and use skills and contacts to trace that to the BBEG (a souped-up gadgeteer). If they lose, the robot will abduct them and take them to the lair of the BBEG under custody, for use in another evil plot.

The BBEG's minions are basically robotic versions of standard monsters from the core rulebook (adding the construct template and some impervious protection), such as the monstrous spider, monstrous wasp, carnivorous plants, and animated trees. As required, I was prepared to add or remove attack, damage, protection and so on, as I discovered the players' capabilities.

Anyway, the plot would involve the players infiltrating the base, getting almost to the inner sanctum, getting captured by some gamemaster fiat, having the BBEG gloat and monologue for a while, then the heroes miraculously escaping, beating the snot out of the BBEG, until he gives up, activates the self-destruct on the base, and teleports away, using his gadgets.

Actual Play

So, I started off getting them to the university. Game breaker decided to try and ask the experimental physics guys for a device to deactivate the robot. I told him this would take several game minutes for them to set up, so he chose to go outside and shoot the robot in the face with plasma. Sanke had some fun throwing the robot up into the air, and having it take falling damage (surprisingly effective). Master Yoo would wait for the robot to fall into a crater at his feet, them pummel him with a power attack.

The robot went down in a pile of burning metal. They extracted the serial number, and game breaker used the university computer network to find the manufacturer and the point of origin of the robot.

After healing up, they headed down to the factory, and had to find a way past the electric fence. After sneaking into the loading dock, Master Yoo set off the alarm, releasing robotic guards. For some reason, this fight took forever. So long, in fact, that I had to cut out a few scenes and fights from the rest of the adventure.

After finding access to the lift down to the next level, they found some robotic spiders in the R+D labs, and dispatched them before the spiders even had a chance to act (a pity, cause I really wanted to poison them and snare them and so on). Ah, well ...

After finding their way to the lowest level, they got caught in the sleeping gas room, and woke up to a monologuing BBEG.

The BBEG explained his evil plan to drain their powers to power his generator for his robot factory, and then turned his back. At this point, Game Breaker succeeded on an escape artist check, and used his concealment to sneak to his weapons. He then shot the BBEG in the back with a sneak attack, getting an awesome roll, and completely knocking him out (a very disappointing ending to an otherwise fun adventure).

I told them the BBEG set off the self-destruct and teleported away, swearing revenge. Sanke teleported to the front of the building to clear innocent bystanders away from the surrounding streets, leaving the other two to a suspenseful lift ride (complete with elevator music) followed by a dive away from billowing flames (I tried to be cinematic here; probably just ended up being cliched).

Then the heroes were debriefed by the police and returned to their daily lives.


So, for a first try at M&M, this was an awesome ride. There are probably a few comments I can make about it, off the top of my head, in no particular order:
  • the one of my players who worked to create an original character (Game Breaker) ahead of time told me that character creation was a harrowing experience he will relive in his nightmares (probably a little melodramatic, but an understandable sentiment); in trying (and succeeding) to be customisable, M&M character creation is also not noob-friendly and ends up being a complex and lengthy affair. For this reason I'm glad they included the archetypes in chapter 1. I could tell the others to just pick one, maybe customising it a little, and it did not take long, with some encouragement and guidance.
  • I had major difficulty in estimating what my players would be able to handle. There are 0 (zero) guidelines in the core rulebook regarding this. I suppose on one hand, due to the wide range of possible characters, something that might severely challenge or kill one character might be a mere speed-bump in the path of another character. On the other hand, it means that you have to have a few options prepared, and be able to modify things on the fly, fake a few rolls/modifiers, and just generally use description and fluff to awesome things up, if they don't cut it.
  • the actual combat system takes a lot of getting used to, having been raised on a diet of D&D and star wars; the attacker makes an attack roll against a fixed defense, then the defender makes a toughness save against a fixed damage? on one hand, it's awesome that both parties get to participate in the process (D&D is very one-sided; if you're the defender, you just get to suck it up and lose hit points without feeling like you're doing anything). on the other hand, it's different and a little maths intensive. I have a feeling that we'll get used to it soon enough, and it'll seem as natural as hit points.
  • speaking of toughness saves, the rules on taking damage are also a little odd (the rules for non-lethal damage):
    • If you miss by less than 5, you take a -1 on further toughness saves
    • If you miss by less than 10, you miss a turn, and take a -1 on further saves (so far so good)
    • If you miss by less than 15, you miss a turn, and only get one action per round
      • this is where it gets annoying. repeated failures of less than 10 reduce your defenses, meaning that a critical failure will statistically occur more often
      • however, when you reach the point where you are missing by between 10-15, you just keep missing turns. There doesn't seem to be any additional penalty re: toughness, and if you're staggered already, you just stay staggered. It means that at this point, you just need a really poor roll to be knocked out ... There's no suspense. It just seems weird
    • If you miss by more than 15, you are unconscious (fair enough)
  • the sheer number of combat options and powers meant that as a relatively new GM, I spent a lot of time looking up rules for various powers, feats, skills, etc etc; also, when the players wanted to do something I had no immediately obvious rules for, I was a bit at a loss as to what to let them do. I have a feeling this will improve with time and experience. I will get better at saying yes to my players (letting them use hero points, power stunts, extra effort, making up skill DCs and things like that on the spot), but it's really hard at first. Luckily my players were very understanding about this, and had fun anyway, but players like Game Breaker make this quite painful, wanting to use every skill and feat and just making shit up as they went ;)
  • I think I needed to make more use to minions coupled with one or two strong enemies, to give the feeling I wanted where they beat through the guards at the door without breaking a sweat, but had to work to defeat the squad leader. This is really my fault, and I'm sure will improve with time.
  • The disappointing end to my BBEG was ... well, disappointing. I suppose with time and experience, I will learn what constitutes a good fight for the players. Maybe more minions around, not letting the player sneak up on him, traps, etc might have made a difference... The next fight with this guy will be very different *evil laugh*


In general, I think M&M is a great game, and an extremely promising platform for further gaming with my group. It doesn't need miniatures and battlemaps, only uses one dice (d20), is hideously customisable (and will only get more so with experience with the rules, and further supplements), and is just pure fun. Starting the game with a powerful hero and blowing away evil dudes is just plain fun. There's no other word for it. I felt like I did fairly poorly all up, but my group gave me really good feedback. So, sounds like I will be running another game hopefully soon (maybe after Christmas).

Anyway, thanks for putting up with probably my longest post ever. I felt like after the game, I had so many thoughts buzzing through my head, I wanted to share them. Any advice, comments, feedback or even stories of your first M&M experience would be massively appreciated.


greywulf said...

Sounds like you had a good time :D

M&M can be intimidating when it comes to both character generation and actual play because of the sheer number of options, so I think you all did pretty well.

Unless you want a completely original character that you just have to build from the ground up, I recommend using the archetypes and modifying, at least until you've got the hang of the system. If you can, get the Instant Superheroes too and you'll have more than enough archetypes to cover 90% of your hero (and villain) needs.

Good call on using the creatures in the book as robots. I like that.

When it comes to combat remind the players about using Extra Effort and Hero Points to shake off those nasty stun effects and come back fighting. As you say, combat is more involved than D&D where you just take it in turn hitting each other, and there's a wealth of options. After a while the players (and the GM) will find ones that they use the most, and it settles down to being a very speedy system indeed.

Don't forget that if Bad Things Happen to the players (like being knocked out and captured) they gain a Hero Point to restore the karmic balance at a later date. When you give 'em out, players will use them and the game shifts to another level with players burning their Hero Points to do all sorts of cool stuff.

Phew. Ok, I'll shut up now :D

Well done you!

Albrek said...

I do not make shit up!!

I merely utilise shit that is readily available for my own purposes.

Maestro said...

@albrek: haha. did you write that on the PDA you jury-rigged out of shattered circuit boards harvested from defeated robot hordes?

Albrek said...

quiet you :P

Anonymous said...

If a character suffers an already checked off condition, move the damage up to the next highest condition. pg 164 Tracking Damage. I just got this game and ran my first session last friday. Im really impessed. great options and so much room to customize and tweak. I was so happy to find a d20 super hero system =D

Maestro said...

Thanks Anonymous. I went back and read that section, and it seems I did miss that important aspect. It would have made the fights a lot shorter. Not sure whether it would have been easier or harder for the characters .... Ah well. Next time.

Good to hear you're enjoying the game. Thanks for visiting the blog :)