Mutants and Dragons

It’s a funny thing, but when we’re playing Mutants & Masterminds I don’t bat an eyelid that we have a character who can teleport anywhere in the known universe, another who can control an entire freakin’ city and other, similarly powerful demi-gods. But when it’s Dungeons & Dragons I’m the one ranting about how over-powered Fey Step is.

It all comes down to a difference in genre. M&M is a game of SUPER-heroics where the characters are larger than life beings with Powers far beyond those of mere mortals. On the other hand, D&D is a game of HEROICS. While the characters might have spell-casting ability or magic items, it’s at a much lower comparable level to the super-heroics of M&M. Even your 20th Level 3rd Edition Wizard is limited to casting his most powerful spells at most 4 times per day; at Power Level 10 (the starting point for most M&M games), any of these effects could be reproduced and cast an unlimited number of times per day. I’ll save the mechanics of that for another time though :D .

Then we come to 4th Edition D&D. It’s a game much closer to super-heroics than the traditional heroics of D&D with characters affecting multiple foes and using showy-blasty effects right from the start. Even at first level the characters are considered to be far ahead of the common man (or elf, or dwarf). Compare them to Classic D&D’s starting heroes with single-figure Hit Points and their father’s rusty sword to their name. As I’ve said before, 1st level in 4e is comparable to 4th level in 3e; they’ve stolen our first three levels to get to that much-vaunted “sweet spot” right from the start. I loved the low-magic low-level street-level feel of the first three levels, and much as I like 4e, that’s one thing I really miss.

So what we have is a different D&D; a “Super D&D” that’s got elements of World of Warcraft, manga and flash-bang movie effects all mixed in to create something that’s an inheritor of the D&D title. It’s D&D where the characters are quasi-medieval superheroes.

I’m not going to say whether that’s a good or bad thing. That’s up to you, and what you want out of the game. Instead, I’ll think some more and suggest ways that you can bring superhero tropes into your D&D sessions, and make them even better.

Stay tuned!

9 Comments on “Mutants and Dragons”

  1. I’ve noticed that too. D&D4E is more like a “comic book” version of D&D. But that’s a welcome change in my book. As I’ve written in my blog already I enjoy the new edition greatly. When playing D&D 3.0 or 3.5 we often started at level 3 just to get over that first two levels.

  2. The most obvious way to do this would be to import the superhero tropes straight into your fantasy world. Start with a large city; Lankhmar would be ideal, Waterdeep or Ptolus would work as well. Modify NPC’s slightly so that everyone is ‘normal’. No wizards or clerics, The Lord Mayor is an Aristocrat with administrative skills, the Captain of the Royal Guard is a low level Warrior/Expert with no special feats (I don’t have 4e so I’m using 3e terms) and so on.

    Now, let a 10th, 15th level High Priest of Set and his gang of evil adventurers (lots of henchmen of various classes levels) loose on the city. They’ve just achieved incredible power (levels) through some dark quest, and now they plan to use their skills to take over your cities criminal underworld. The Royal Guard is helpless against the Cult of Set! Eventually, they will take over the World!!

    Fortunately a lieutenant in the Royal Guard happens to know a Priestess of Osiris and her friends who might be able to help . . .

    Roll up your PC’s and go.

  3. @Sean Exactly. It’s even easier in 4e because the players are expected to be so far ahead of everyone else.

    In 3e I’d go in the same direction as you suggest – de-power everyone else, make a handful of mega-villains in an urban environment and let the mayhem begin!

  4. Well, back in the days of second edition, we used to start our games at third level, and we did it once or twice in the 3.5 era.

    We have only played three sessions of 4th edition so far, but me and my players are already in love.

    Now, about “super-powered eladrin”, I don’t find them to be a problem, but someone in EnWorld suggested a the following replacement for Fey Step:

    Fey Step Eladrin Racial Power
    With a step, you vanish from one place and appear in another.
    Encounter ? Teleportation
    Move Action Personal
    Effect: Teleport up to 5 squares (see “Teleportation,” page 286).
    You cannot use this power if you are immobilized or restrained

    Amphimir the Bards last blog post..He encontrado el setting para mi juego!

  5. @Amphimir I like that change; not being able to teleport when restrained sounds great to me, and reinforces that it’s a “step”, a physical movement. We’ve nerfed Fey Step to being usable per Day instead of per Encounter, and that’s working well – not more Eladrins using Fey Step every single time there’s a trap, impassable door or hole in the floor :)

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