Monday, April 01, 2019

Mutants and Masterminds releases "Powered by Champions" Rulebook

[Edited Shortly After Posting -- This is an April Fool's Joke. I fell for it.]

When the Mutants & Masterminds role playing game was published in 2002, it accomplished something that many thought impossible. It created a workable and balanced superhero game that used the d20 system of the 3rd Edition of Dungeons & Dragons (link is to 3.5 edition) as its foundation and played like comic books read. Now Mutants & Masterminds is taking another wonderful step and releasing a "powered by Champions" version that will highlight one of the game's inspirations.

When Wizards of the Coast released the 3rd Edition rules set, they had created an Open Gaming License that allowed others to make role playing games and products using the mechanics of 3rd Edition without the need of additional licensing. The Open Gaming License contained all the permissions and restrictions that would apply to the new game. When Wizards of the Coast released this license, there were a number of super hero games that were quickly published by a number of independent designers. These games included, but was not limited to, The Foundation by Team Frog, Blood and Vigilance by RPG Objects, Comic Book Super Heroes RPG by Black Drink Creations, and a d20 version of Silver Age Sentinels by Guardians of Order.

These games varied in quality. All of the games were playable, but some were better simulations of comic books than others. The quality of simulation seemed to be linked with how closely the rules tried to keep to the 3rd Edition rules. The closer the system played to D&D, with classes and levels, the less the game felt like comic book gaming at the table top. In the case of a game like Silver Age Sentinels, which had an excellent system of its own in its non-d20 version, some where surprised that they would attempt a d20 version. Such was the nature of the early d20 boom that even successful games like Deadlands and Traveller, released d20 versions as ways to increase brand recognition and gain exposure to more players.

Mutants & Masterminds displaced or reimagined many of the core concepts of 3rd Edition, like class and levels, and added elements from the classic DC Heroes Game by Mayfair Games. Those elements become even more evident in the 3rd edition of Mutants & Masterminds. The influence of DC Heroes is most visible in the freeform and narrative nature of the combat mechanics. Many D&D mechanics, like flanking, are legacy "Zone of Control" mechanics from both miniature and chit-n-hex wargames. These legacy mechanics are wonderful for the use of miniatures and ensure that certain combat situations are clearly visible on the table, but they are harder to implement without miniatures. My own 3rd edition group began using miniatures (though they were Steve Jackson Games' Cardboard Heroes minis due to the low cost) because we all got tired of asking "is this creature flanking?" Mutants & Masterminds streamlined the combat system toward narrative play and modified the character creation system to be an abstract point buy system similar to DC Heroes and Champions. It was a marvelous combination that resulted in that impossible achievement noted above. It was a super hero role playing game, using a d20 based system, that played like the comic books read. Since its publication it has become one of the best selling super hero games of all time.

The super hero role playing game community is an interesting group though. They tend to collect as many games within the genre as they can and like to borrow ideas from one game and put them in another. A trend in the early super hero rpg scene was for publishers to include rules to port characters from one system to another. That is not a trend that one sees often today, but it is one that Green Ronin appears to be embracing with their latest announcement. Not only will they be providing a version of the Mutants & Masterminds game powered by the Champions RPG engine. They will be releasing a host of products using their IP and other super hero game mechanics. They announced this move today with the creation of the  System Upkeep, Collaboration, & Knowledge Exchange Roundtable.

Here is a copy of that announcement:

For far too long, we here at Green Ronin have stuck our head in the sand and focused entirely on the Mutants & Masterminds game engine, ignoring the many other superhero game systems that came before. And ultimately, that kind of myopia doesn’t benefit anyone but ourselves. Our fans deserve better. We’ve long partnered with Steve Kenson’s Adamant Entertainment to bring you Icons Superpowered Roleplaying, and so we have reached out to the creators of other amazing superhero game engines, both active and defunct, to begin the new Mutants & Masterminds System Upkeep, Collaboration, & Knowledge Exchange Roundtable. Our goal is to bring you the great Mutants & Masterminds products you love, for the systems you play! Releasing at the end of this month is the new Mutants & Masterminds: Deluxe Champions Handbook, powered by classic Champions 3rd edition! Everything you need to play a Champions-powered Mutants & Masterminds campaign, complete with extensive point-buy systems our fans already love, plus tracking END to pay for your powers, sorting your attacks in Killing and Non-Killing, and many other elements that add a much-needed authenticity M&M has always lacked. A lot of you will ask “why not use Hero System, Sixth Edition or Champions Complete?” And that is an excellent question. One which I have no answer to. Licensing is a strange mistress and the rites must be observed. 

We’ve been hard at work to fill out the System Upkeep, Collaboration, & Knowledge Exchange Roundtable line, and you’ll be seeing monthly releases to support it for the next year. After the release of the Mutants & Masterminds: Deluxe Champions Handbook this month, expect soon-to-be fan favorites like Freedom City powered by Villain & Vigilantes, Emerald City powered by Heroes Unlimited, and Rogues Gallery powered by Street Fighter the Storytelling Game!

It's great news for the Mutants & Masterminds brand and it's great news for super hero gamers.

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