Mandelbrot Heroes

One of the (many) things I like about Mutants & Masterminds is that it’s possible to generate characters with whatever level of complexity you desire. Just like a fractal you can view your character from 10,000 feet up or zoom in, adding details as you further explore the possibilities. It’s entirely up to you, the GM and the style of play whether your superhero is a broad sweep of the brush or a finely nuanced creation.

The rules don’t dictate how many Powers or Feats you must have at any given Power Level. There’s no concept of Class Skills – you just choose your Skills and pay your points. I’ve known grown Third Edition D&D gamers weep at the liberating effect. Ok, that’s a slight exaggeration but one of them definitely had something in his eye.

What’s more, you can mix-and-match heroes right at the game table. Your minimalist brick superhero with STR 40, Impervious Toughness 10 and not much else can sit right next to the uber-specialist with three page character sheet, a multitude of Feats and Powers detailed (and costed out) with excruciating accuracy. There aren’t many other systems around where the minimalist gamer and simulationist gamer can sit at the same table and play the same game.

Most folks sit somewhere in the middle with one or two Power Options and a comfortable number of Skills and Feats to help flesh out more about the character’s personality, abilities and combat style.

Even so, I find that the character they first generate is rarely exactly the character they want. I always let my players fine-tune their characters and juggle their points around (within reason!) between sessions if it means they’re having fun and getting to known their character better. Even that STR 40 brick superhero might want to turn down the Strength a touch to increase their combat accuracy and buy some Super-Strength instead to boost their out-of-combat lifting ability (this is not a hint to one of my players. Nope. Not at all…..).

That’s the fractal zoom effect I’m talking about – you can generate a character at 10,000 feet and add & refine the details where they’re needed as you futher explore your character in-game. And just like a fractal, the potential for customization is infinite.

In short, it’s up to you. Mutants & Masterminds is as finely-grained and complex as you want it to be. Play it four-colour simple (though not quite as simple as ICONS), or play it with the simulationist complexity turned right up. It’s up to you.

And that’s a good thing, right?

Incidentally, Mutants & Masterminds Second Edition is currently just $9.99 at RPGNow. Even with Third Edition scheduled for release later this year, that’s an absolute bargain, especially if you prefer a rule set closer in style to the D&D norm. What are you waiting for?

11 Comments on “Mandelbrot Heroes”

  1. I’ve been playing M&M for the last few months and you are spot on about character complexity. It is possible to create any sort of character you want but they need fine tuning.

  2. It’s that exact fractal graininess that scares me away from M&M each time I open the book. I know I should focus on high level stuff, play with archetypes and leave it at that but my crunch guts look at the depth of the game and is scared stiff by it all… it’s like I have to understand it all to play it.

    1. Have you snarfed the Beginner’s Guide? That’s a free download now, and well worth the price :D

      It does a good job of explaining the mechanics of the game (especially with with Danger Room playthrough) without being too intimidating.

      If you want to try out character generation, download the demo of Hero Lab and all should (hopefully!) become clear.

  3. Fiddling is important in M&M. I’ve adopted a standing house rule that in any M&M game I run, the players get 3 sessions to tweak their character as needed so that it does what they want it to do. I like the idea of starting with the archetype at the first session and working down to a more tweaked version of the character over the next couple of sessions. I’ll have to bring that up next time I start a game.

  4. Heh. I DM chris’s game. ‘Fine-tuing’ is a nice way to put it. Pretty much every big chapter end the characters undergo some kind of rehaul. It’s based in the golden age so we just blame it on a different writer and move on.

  5. I played Heroes Unlimited and old-school Super World for years, without ever opening up an M&M book. Maybe it’s about time…


  6. That sounds interesting. Of the games I know, only Spirit of the Century comes close to that. I don’t much go in for supers games (though I’m playing ICONS this weekend) but I’d be interested in experiencing how this works. It would be cool if D&D did something like this. I guess Essentials sort of did, but no one can seem to agree whether those classes are equal to, better than, or less than the original classes.

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