One of the key differences between Mutants & Masterminds and most other d20-based systems is it’s lack of character classes. Character generation is a wide-open affair where players can create any character conceivable, the only limits being your imagination, the Power Level of the campaign and the number of points you’ve got to spend. It’s a liberating game experience to generate your first M&M character, but it can also be pretty intimidating.
M&M helps alleviate that by including the concept of Archetypes. These are pre-generated characters which fit a commonly recognised niche in the genre. Instead of starting with a blank character sheet, a player can simply pick one of these and play as-is, or juggle the points around to personalize the character further. Archetypes also serve double duty – they help to reinforce the genre and expectations of the GM, and acts as a ready pile of game stats for passing NPCs and villains.
I’m going to spend a few posts suggesting Fantasy themed Archetypes that would fit right into a D&D influenced game, as well as look at ways they can be customized. As a minimum, we’ll be looking at the classic four – Fighter, Rogue, Cleric and Wizard – though more might be forthcoming if this works out. As I’m aiming for a more Old School feel than the Action Heroic style of 4e D&D, these Archetypes will be more in line with Third Edition expectations, though I’m sure some 4e fixtures and fittings will creep in somewhere. Each Archetype will be built to Power Level 4 with 60 points; if you prefer a more 4e style game, up this to Power Level 6 and allow a further 30 points to spend on simulating Powers, etc.
Let’s start the ball rolling with the shadowy guy at the back – The Rogue.
Classically, Rogues are good at three things; sneaking about, finding and removing traps and killing people quickly with short pointy things. Here’s an achetypal Rogue who ticks all the boxes. Maybe it’s a charmingly debonaire thief, a beautiful seductress assassin or brutal thug – the choice is yours. Either way, the key to the Rogue’s abilities is in his (or her) choice of Feats. This Rogue is a Dagger fighter first and foremost, with Feats such as Assessment, Accurate Attack and Improved Initiative meaning that he can strike first, and strike hard. If he really needs to make the first move, Seize Initiative means he can spend a Hero Point to do just that, guaranteed, and the Set Up Feat means that your Rogue can use his Distract(Bluff) ability to line the poor mook up for the Fighter to smack-down with a surprise attack. Lovely stuff.
Out of combat, this character’s Disable Device, Stealth, Search and Notice skills will make him an invaluable spotter and fixer for the party, and the high Charisma (beauty, force of personality or raw charm – you choose) plus talent at Gather Information could mean he/she’s either good at finding the right skulls to crack, or simply has a way with words. The addition of the Connected Feat means there’s a chance that this is a Rogue with friends in high (or, more likely, low) places.
DAZ Studio, no postwork. Click to enlarge
Human Rogue Archetype, PL 4, 60pp
STR 10, DEX 16, CON 12, INT 14, WIS 13, CHA 15
Tough +1/+5, Fort +2, Ref +5, Will +2
Attack +3, Grapple +3, Defense +3, Init +7
Bluff +6, Diplomacy +5, Disable Device +6, Gather Information +5, Notice +4, Search +5, Sense Motive +3, Stealth +5
Accurate Attack, Assessment, Attack Specialization 2 (Dagger), Connected, Defensive Roll 3, Distract (Bluff), Evasion 1, Improved Initiative 1, Seize Initiative, Set Up, Sneak Attack 1, Uncanny Dodge 1, Equipment 3
Standard Adventuring Kit, Thieves Tools, Leather Armour (Tough +1)
Dagger (10′, +7, 19-20, DC 16)
Crossbow (40′, +3, 19-20, DC 18)
Customization: Tailoring a character in M&M is a matter of trading out the things you don’t want in return for the things you do. That either means boosting the things you like or adding new goodies to the mix. So far, so obvious. The fine art comes in being happy with the end result; it is, after all, your character first and foremost. Here’s a few ideas to get started.
- Want a character more focused on social skills? Drop Seize Initiative and Accurate Attack to gain another point of CHA and buy 4 ranks of Diplomacy
- Want to totally own the battlefield? Drop Connected and gain the Move By Action Feat
- Prefer a sniping Rogue who attacks from a range? Switch the Attack Specialization over to the Crossbow, drop Set Up and gain Precise Shot
- Want to juggle some skill points around? Go right ahead. Shuffle 4 points from Bluff over to Disable Device to make a trap expert, or lose 2 from Disable Device and add 2 to Stealth. Your call, shuffle at will
- Smooth charmer? Drop Accurate Attack and Improved Initiative and replace with +1 CHA and the Attractive Feat.
- There’s 3 points allocated to equipment, which buys 15ep’s worth of goodies (Standard Adventuring Kit costs 2, and, Thieves Tools 1). Prefer something different? Spend the 15 Equipment Points however you want. If you need more, trade something out to get another 5eps for every one character point saved
In other words, the Archetype is just the starting point – a good, solid and fully playable starting point, but there’s plenty of scope to fine-tune the details. And it sure beats staring at a blank sheet!
Next: The Fighter.