Sunday, August 29, 2010

Truth, Justice, and all That Other (Gaming) Stuff

This weekend I picked up Green Ronin’s DC Adventures: Hero’s Handbook, which is the main book of their new DC Comics rpg. It utilizes the the latest iteration of Mutants & Masterminds' take on the d20 system--the version that’s going to be in Mutants & Masterminds 3e, which is suppose to be coming this fall.

My history with role-playing in the DC universe goes back to 1985 and Mayfair’s DC Heroes. That was the third superhero rpg we played--after Villains and Vigilantes, and the first edition of Marvel Super-Heroes. Mayfair’s system (later to be dubbed the Mayfair Exponential Game System and be acronymized as MEGS), was a little unusual and abstract, but it did allow a world to exist that went pretty seamlessly from street level to cosmic, and it used kind of cool, balanced “parallel mechanic” for physical, mental, and spiritual activities.

My group played a lot of DC Heroes in its second edition incarnation from 1989. Unlike, interestingly, our long-term Marvel game, we didn’t use “real” DC characters, but made up our own instead. In fact, I don’t know that those characters actually inhabited the DCU because I can’t recall if we ever interacted with any of the “big names.” I think we found it had a better character generation system that Marvel which, even in the advanced game, always seemed like it was an afterthought to the designers.

Anyway, back in the present day, I haven’t given DC Adventures a thorough reading, but right off the bat I notice a few changes. The ability scores have expanded beyond the D&D standards. There’s “stamina,” which is probable renamed “constitution,” but there’s also an agility in addition to “dexterity,” and “charisma” is missing, but “presence” appears. They don’t run the usual 3-18, but instead the score now seems to be the old bonus/penalty that was related to the score. This caused a moment of confusion when I paged through the book and saw Batman with a Dexterity of “7”--which is actually pretty high once I figured out what they were doing.

Some other changes seem inspired by other superhero rpgs. Powers seem a little more “effects based” than previously a la Champions, but I may be overstating this, because there doesn’t seem to be a huge change, here--maybe just in how they present it. “Fighting” is now an ability score--shades of Marvel Super-Heroes. In another MSHRPG call-back that made me smile, the determining of the damage condition from an attack is now decided by referencing a table which has color-coded columns of green, yellow, and red (and also blue) like the much-beloved Universal Table.

I haven’t reviewed the book enough to start the inevitable quibbling about the stats of famous characters, but overall it looks pretty good if you like Mutants & Masterminds, and makes me interested in seeing the third edition/


netherwerks said...

Sounds interesting. So, they lifted/borrowed/were inspired by some of the very good bits included in similar games within the genre? Nice. About time. Why keep re-inventing the wheel when it isn't broken? I'm going to have to give this rules-set a look. Ouch. An excuse ot go wandering aimfully along the local gamestore aisles...

Trey said...

I think it's worth taking a look at. M&M in all its iteration has some good stuff in it.