Fantasy Archetypes for M&M: Part three, The Wizard

We’ve had the Rogue and the Fighter; this time it’s the turn of the magic-user. Your typical D&D spell-slinger is highly intelligent, reasonably dexterous and very lightly armoured. He’s adept with the dagger or quarterstaff, but more likely to toss spells into combat and provide knowledge and sagacious advice out of combat. As we presented a Dwarven Fighter last time, let’s make this archetype an Elven Wizard. Again, with customization, we can remove the elven features to switch races or add other interesting goodies to the mix.

As with the Dwarf, I’m going to use my 4e Racial abilities converted to Mutants & Masterminds for the Elven template, but going to drop the group bonus to Perception checks for three reasons. Firstly, at a cost of 3 points, it’s pretty expensive when you’ve only 60 points to play with. Secondly, it’s a silly Power – what possible reason does having an Elf in a party help everyone’s eyesight? What are you? Contact Lens Guy? Thirdly, I’m removing it Because I Can. M&M character generation is all about tailoring the character you want, and that includes having the freedom (if you’ve the points and GM permission) to create exactly what you want, how you want it.

So, the group Perception bonus goes.

Here’s the statblock:

Elven Wizard Archetype, PL4, 60 points

STR 10, DEX 14, CON 11, INT 15, WIS 15, CHA 14
Tough +1, Fort +1, Ref +3, Will +4
Attack +2, Grapple +2, Defense +2, Init +2

Concentration +6, Diplomacy +4, Gather Information +6, KS: Arcane Lore +8, KS:History +4, KS:Tactics +6, Notice +4, Ride +4, Survival +4
Contacts, Defensive Attack, Eidetic Memory, Master Plan, Ritualist, Equipment 1

Enhanced Trait 1 (Second Chance 1; reroll attack once per encounter), Enhanced Trait 4 (+2 attack bonus with Shortbows & Longbows), Super-Movement 1 (Sure-footed), Super-Senses 1 (Low-light Vision)

Magic 4  (All Limited 2;must be able to speak & move)
– Mystic Blast, 40′, DC 14
– AP: Shield 6
– AP: Summon Hellhounds 3 (Progression – 2 x 45 point Minions)
– AP: Teleport 2 (200′, Affects Others)

Quarterstaff (+2, DC 17) & Leather Jacket (Tough +1)

Here’s a Wizard who’s a boon to any party both in and out of combat. With his Contacts (the arcane literati has it’s uses!) and healthy ranks in Gather Information and various Knowledge skills, this is a Wizard well accustomed to researching obscure details – perfect for preparing for the next dungeon crawl. The Master Plan feat is ideal for the intelligent Wizard – make a DC10 check and all the allies gain a bonus to all attack and skill rolls for 1-3 rounds. It’s a perfect-but-simple mechanic to reflect the thinking man’s class of choice.

In combat, this is a Wizard who can throw a Mystic Blast (call it Fireball, Magic Missile, Ice Shards, or whatever you want), call up a darned good Shield, summon a couple of Hellhounds to do his bidding or teleport himself + one other 200′. As this is supposed to be a low-powered Wizard he’s going to have to choose between hurling a Mystic Blast or having a Shield in place each round; he’s not experienced enough to be able to control two spells at the same time. That will come with time, and when there’s more points to spend. I feel that makes the Wizard closer to traditional Fantasy Novel tropes and encourages more tactical play. If you want to change that, just take the Shield out of being a part of the Alternate Powers array – but that’ll cost more points. Which leads us to……..

Customization: The obvious route to customization is to change the spells. Each Alternate Power costs only 1 point, but is limited by the limitations and number of points allocated to Magic. In other words, no more than 9 points in a single Power, and every “Spell” can only be cast if your character can speak & move. If you want spells to work differently – for example, an Illusion spell which can be cast silently – that’ll have to be bought outside the Magic array. Overall though, spells are Dirt Cheap, and as the character will earn 1-3 points per session, it’s possible to pick up a new spell every single adventure and still have points to spare to round the character out further.

A scan through the Powers list in the M&M Core Book should suggest countless spells, from Flight to Shapechange and Weather Control to Paralyze; every 3e and 4e D&D spell or Power can be translated into M&M game terms should you choose, and many more besides.

Outside his skills, this is a Wizard sadly lacking in combat prowess. I’ve given him a Quarterstaff, but if he wants something more substantial (a Longsword and Longbow, perhaps, for that full-on Elven Warrior Mage effect), then that will mean shaving a few points from someplace else for more Equipment. Consider dropping Eidetic Memory and 4 points from the Knowledge skills if you want him more action-oriented.

If you prefer your Wizard without pointy ears, remove the Elven template elements and get 11 points back to spend on other things. That’ll buy you many more spells and/or combat prowess. Find another point and you’ve enough to be a Dragonborn or Halfling Wizard – or something completely unique.

As ever, the choice is yours.

Next: The Cleric!

8 Comments on “Fantasy Archetypes for M&M: Part three, The Wizard”

  1. OK, here’s my basic problem with really flexible systems like M&M. This is based on about a weeks worth of skimming through M&M, so I may be making some mistakes here.

    Your rogue has a Disable Device skill of +6, which cost him 1.5 Power Points. At power level 4 he could increase his skill to as high as +9, for another 0.75 power points (cost is 1 power point for 4 skill levels, which can be distributed among whatever skills you want). So for easy math, let’s say he increases his Disable device to +8 for a total cost of 2 power points (pp). Now he has a 15% chance to open an average lock (DC25) on the first try. (Of course he could use hero points or extra effort to improve that.)

    The Elven Wizard doesn’t trust the rogue, so he wants to open locks too. He already has the Magic 4, so for 1 more pp he can get AP: Transform 2 (closed lock into open lock). He can only open locks weighing up to . . . (where is that Time and Value Progression table . . .aha!) 2lbs, and he has to chant and gesture to open the lock, but he has a 100% chance of success, no matter how complex the lock is. As he progresses in Power Level (assuming he puts more points in Magic) that 1pp will automatically improve (is that right?) so he can affect larger and larger locks.

    The Wizard had a higher initial cost, but once he’s spent the pp for Magic (and look at all the other things Magic can do), opening locks is cheaper and easier for him then it is for the guy who does it for a living.

    Now, the GM can require flaws to limit Magic. Greywulf already added the flaw Limited 2; must be able to speak and move (Is this limitation really worth 2 points? I would have say just one point for the two together). Other flaws can give magic flavour, and make it less attractive to duplicate skills other PC’s already have. (Action, to make Magic slow, or Tiring to make it, er, tiring, both seem like good options). These make magic less powerful, but they also make it less expensive, so the caster has more pp left over which he can spend on more flexiblity.

    None of this is a problem, except that the GM has to set these limits before the PC’s are designed. In other words, the GM has to be a bit of a game designer and foresee game balance issues before they come up – before the campaign even starts. That’s hard for a GM new to the system, and it’s a major drawback for M&M or any system that gives that much flexibility. A system like D&D (3rd or 4th ed.) or Savage Worlds has done that work for you.

    Sorry to ramble here on your blog. There’s a lot to like about M&M, but I’m trying to work out if it’s the system for me.

  2. @Sean Thanks for your input, much appreciated. When it comes to the Disable Device skill I think that the example given in the tables isn’t a good one; a cheap briefcase lock is listed as DC20, but right over the page “disabling a simple mechanical device” is listed as DC 10. There is a reason for that though: breaking the lock is a lot easier than opening in such a way that leaves it in a working state.

    Let’s check the math again, with this in mind. Your skillful thief could spend 2 points on Disable Device to get +8 – plus any INT bonus. If he’s INT 14, that takes him to +10 in total. At PL 4 his maximum skill Rank is 9, but that’s before any other bonuses due to equipment, attributes, etc.

    At +10 he can break simple locks (DC 10) all day with little chance of failure. Even a more complex (DC 15) lock won’t last long, but it’ll be unusable as a lock in future. If he wants to bypass it without breaking it, that’s tougher. A DC 25 check means only a 25% chance of success, but that’s assuming he just spends one full-round action to bypass it. Spend more time and the bonuses rise. I suggest spending 2 rounds grants a +2, 10 rounds (ie, 1 minute) gives a +4. Beyond that you’re Taking 20, meaning even a DC 30 won’t last more than 2 minutes against a determined thief if he’s willing to break it. And that’s for any mechanical device.

    Not bad for 2 points (plus INT costs).

    Now for the Transform. “Lock to Open Lock” costs 3PP/rank, so as an Alternate Power to Magic 4 you’d only be able to buy just a single rank. Transform 1 will only affect 1 pound of material (a small lock, perhaps), and the duration is Sustained, meaning the lock would stay open only as long as you concentrate.

    Also, the lock gets a Fort save against the effect, and it’s only against DC 11. I’d give an old lock Fort +0, and a newer one Fort +2 in this case; either way, it’s only going to work half the time. Those 2 points the Rogue spent are much better value for money, I reckon :D

    I set Limited 2 for “must be able to speak and move” because either one would qualify as Limited 1, and it would be a well known limitation. Gag a Wizard or bind his hands, and he’s (literally) powerless.

    Me, I love M&M’s flexibility. I can say How Magic (etc) Works in my game – and yes, I like the Tiring limitation too. It’s just got the balance between “just working” right off the page, and giving the GM enough control to fine-tune as needed. Sure beats systems like FUDGE which (while conceptually brilliant) put a lot of work onto the GM’s shoulders right from the beginning.

  3. I forgot about the INT bonus, and taking extra time does make this skill more useful. I also like the comment about breaking the lock instead of picking it. That would be easier and faster, and most rogues would just break a lock.

    By my reading of Magic and Alternate powers, Magic 4 allows you any AP with a total cost of 8pp or less – Thus Transform 2 for 6pp

    The description of Transform says inanimate objects transform automatically, except when worn or held by a character.

    Finally, I suppose the effect of limited is up to the GM. One of the examples given in the text is Only Usable While Singing Loudly, so I might give 1 Limited for incanting complex phrases loudly, and another for big sweeping gestures, but only 1 if spells can be cast with a few words spoken at normal volume and hand gestures. But that’s just me.

    I do like the combination of flexibility and simplicity that M&M strives for. I used to love the HERO system (back when the 4th edition of that rulebook was only 220 pages – now the 5th ed is 592 pages). But that flexibility does require more of both GM and player. I can’t just hand someone the book and say create a PL 10 character. Most people want to play first, crack the rulebook later. So I have work with them, or create some PC templates (or steal yours). I also have to create magic system templates and a few spells. Not a big deal, but I wonder if something I put in a template is going to come back a glaring problem once we all know how the game works. I guess that can happen with any game. The W&W book should help.

    Anyway, I’ll probably give M&M a spin in the new year (it’s just too busy now). I’ll use my wife as a guinea pig, as I often do. She’s incurably lawful good, so I’m thinking of blending a few of the concepts you’ve brought up in the past: Swordmage genasi, and Fantasy superheroes. So she’ll be a djinn (or a jedi, or a djedi – something like that) far from her home plane/time, released in the city of Freeport (I’ll tone down the magic and the fantasy races a bit, but not totally, and play up the corruption and throw in a few honest guardsmen and politicians). With her personality it’ll be a cross between the Dark Knight and Life on Mars in no time.

  4. @Sean Heh. I brainfarted and thought Magic had a cost of just 1/rank. That’s what I get for being too tired when posting. Ah, well.

    I agree about HERO, 100%. That was our superhero system for choice for years before M&M supplanted it wholesale. While I still have fond memories of our massive 4th edition HERO campaign, I wouldn’t go back to it. Sometimes the math for the powers could get nasty!

    Love the idea of Dark Knight meets Life on Mars – I’ll love to hear how that one turns out :D

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