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Mini-Review: Mutants & Marvels

I've had Mutants & Marvels(aff) in my collection for a long time now.  I remember picking up the 1.0 version when it was a "New Product" over at drive-thru rpg ... hell, I even had the thing printed at the local Staples and bound for later use.

Then I promptly forgot about it.

This week I picked it up again when a friend stated he wanted to run a one-shot of a Fasrip he found.  Low and behold it was the second edition of Mutants & Marvels!  All I can say is that I wish I had looked this over more when I first picked it up way back when as it would have saved me a lot of trouble with finding a simple and easy to play supers rpg.

Simple and easy is the main draw of Mutants & Marvels(aff).  Since I first started to play rpgs back in the early 2000s, I have searched for a supers game that I could get into.  I have tried Mutants and Masterminds, Icon, Paragons and Prowlers, Champions, Mighty 6, and a host of others.  Hell, I even tried to build my own system when the blog was young(see here) ... that didn't work out well.  In the end, I found that these games had a core problem:  They were too damn complex for my simple mind.  The main reason for this is the need to feel super (as you are super heroes) while at the same time offering some sort of balance.  

Mutants & Marvels basically says screw that (form the 1.0 version pg 2)

What the game is and isn't ...
This game is not meant to be a realistic simulation of super hero combat.  Nor is it meant to be a comprehensive set of rules designed to cover every contingency, and funnel character development and player innovation into a neat and balanced package.

Right away, this singular paragraph had me.  Too often in modern game design we are looking to balance out all the characters, make each of them the equal to the other, so everyone can be cool.  However, like Syndrome said:

By saying screw that, Tom Doolan (the writer and designer of Mutants & Marvels) right away gets to the core of super heroes and super hero worlds: not everyone is super,not everyone is playing on the same field of power.  This is why on the Avengers you can have a god working alongside a soldier who is a perfect example of humanity, but still just a human!

So how does it work?  Pretty simply the Game Master picks a power level for the game: Heroic, Superheroic, and Epic.  Each of the power levels comes with a different amount of Ranks that can be divided up between the different sections on the character sheet.  Heroic has 15 Ranks, Superheroic 25, and Epic has 35.  From here points are divided between the seven attributes (Fighting, Agility, Strength, Endurance, Reason, Intuition, and Psyche), Powers, Trained Skills, and possible secondary things like contacts.  The rest of character creation is the job of the GM who will pick an appropriate resource level (which works like the d20 Modern resource system), reputation, and so on based on the character's back ground.

Combat is also super easy as it is a series of resolution rolls vs either a Target Number set by the GM or a roll from an opposing force.  This roll is 2d10 + Modifiers > the Target Number.  That's it, nice and simple.  

A lot of work rests in the players and the GM being able to balance one another out and talking through things.  As the quote above says, M&M is not meant to be a comprehensive list of powers. This means that if a player wants her character to do something not listed she and the GM need to talk and work that out between the two of them.

I have in the last week managed to play this system twice, once over Roll20 with a few friends for 2 hours, and again yesterday afternoon with my daughter and her friend.  The system is quick to pick up, and fast to run. The main book doesn't have much in the way of antagonists, but those are easy to come up with quickly based on the level of need the characters have.  The one suggestion I would make is that normal human villains, like bank robbers or terrorists, should have a Rank system of 5 with no more than one score ranked at Excellent (+2).


  1. Glad you're enjoying the game! This is what I was hoping to hear. That people enjoy the simplicity and flexibility. As far as NPC's go, I believe you will in the back sections with generic PC builds that can be used to create heroes and villains, as well as stat blocks for various "normals" that can stand in for robbers and terrorists. :)


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