Attributes and Skills
This is one of the first things I started tinkering with, and gradually got more and more radical. My first thought was to fold Dexterity into Awareness and give Will to Presence. That eliminates some well-known PP issues, such as the fact that you can buy all Presence skills more cheaply than buying Presence.
Remember that I'm happy changing PP costs, but the 'output' stats (damage, lifting, Will, etc.) need to be convertible to M&M. Once I had that down I pushed further.
If anyone has any suggestions for better or more evocative names, please don't hesitate to suggest them.
Building a Character
Once the character concept is determined, characters are built by purchasing Traits, Proficiencies, Advantages, and Powers with a number of Power Points equal to 15 * their Power Level. After that, add Complications, descriptors, and flesh out character details such as backstory.
Traits describe the combination of a character's natural talents and training. They can also be modified by powers, especially the Enhanced Trait power. Traits come in four levels of increasing specificity. Think of each Attribute as the trunk of a tree with bigger and smaller branches.
- Attributes (Might, Dexterity, and Mind) cost 3 power points per rank. Each rank improves all the Abilities governed by that attribute by one rank.
- Abilities (Strength, Agility, Influence, etc.) cost 1 power point per rank, but cannot be improved directly. Abilities can only be improved by Proficiencies and Powers. Each rank improves all of the Skills governed by that attribute by one rank.
- Skills (Acrobatics, Expertise: Science, Technology, etc.) cost 1 power point per 2 ranks. Each rank improves all of the Specialties governed by that attribute by one rank.
- Specialties (Balancing, Inventing, Physics, etc.) cost 1 power point per 4 ranks.
Specialties can be any of the particular uses of a Skill from the M&M Hero's Handbook or something else you suggest.
The Trait Tree
- Close Damage
- Strength: Athletics (Strength also governs Lifting)
- Agility: Acrobatics, Sleight of Hand, Stealth
- Attack: Particular attacks (e.g., Firearms, Unarmed)
- Awareness: Initiative, Vehicles, Perception
- Defense: Block, Dodge, Parry
- Influence: Deception, Intimidation, Persuasion
- Reasoning: Expertise (Science), Technology, Treatment
- Understanding: Expertise (Arts & Humanities), Expertise (Cosmic [Magic]), Expertise (Society), Insight, Investigation
Attributes are basically empty containers that let you buy four related abilities at a discount. The normal human maximum for any attribute is 5. Attributes higher than 5 are the result of superpowers. Mind is the only exception to this. A Mind of 5 represents the pinnacle of real world human achievement. Scores higher than 5 denote the ability to understand and create next-generation or science fiction level technology, or to pioneer magical techniques. Tony Stark, for instance, has a Mind of 8 for his invention of the Arc Reactor. See the [forthcoming] benchmarks entry for examples.
What about characters that are very smart, but have low will? Tony Stark, for instance. Treat this as a complication. Tony has the complication:
When Tony Stark would only pass a Will save because of his ranks in Mind, he fails it instead and receives a Hero Point. If he would pass the Will save without this bonus he does so and this Complication does not trigger. [Note that you can modulate this, effectively giving him any Will bonus at or below 8.]
I didn't realize until after. I had come up with this list that I had recreated the ability scores from the Cypher System.
The basic idea is that heroes are Strong, Quick, or Brainy. Usually strength and toughness move together. I'm happy to treat the exceptions as Complications, like with Stark, or with other tricks.
One of my goals was to make skill-based characters more reasonably priced. One disadvantage of this system is that it might make Powerhouses too cheap. An easy fix is to not allow AE's on Might, Strength, or Close Damage. Make the Hulk pay for his thunderclap as a power. And really, if a car is falling at the Hulk after he thunderclaps you wouldn't say he can't catch it, though RAW that's how AE's would work.
Proficiencies are how you increase Abilities. Not all abilities can be increased with Proficiencies; no matter how hard a normal human trains, he or she will not learn to lift a semi-truck. Proficiencies come in three levels: Novice (+2 ranks), Adept (+4 ranks), and Master (+6 ranks). Captain America, for instance, is a Combat Master (which is just a helpful shorthand for seeing what a character is good at). The proficiencies are:
Analytical: Improves Reasoning by 2, 4, or 6 ranks. Cost: 1 per rank.
Combat: Improves Attack and Defense by 2, 4, or 6 ranks. Cost: 2 per rank.
Coordination: Improves Awareness by 2, 4, or 6 ranks. Cost: 1 per rank.
Discipline: Improves Will by 2, 4, or 6 ranks. Cost: 1 per rank.
Infiltration: Improves Agility by 2, 4, or 6 ranks. Cost: 1 per rank.
Interpretation: Improves Understanding by 2, 4, or 6 ranks. Cost: 1 per rank.
Manipulation: Improves Influence by 2, 4, or 6 ranks. Cost: 1 per rank.
The idea here is to let skill monkeys buy bundles of related skills at a slight discount. This speeds up character creation tremendously.
Would love feedback on the groupings. I just changed the Mind groupings recently. The idea is that Reasoning is analytical and quantitative, while Understanding is interpretive but still abstract knowledge (Verstehen). I know Insight could go under Influence, but I like the idea of one social skill being under a different heading to increase the chances that multiple characters can shine in a talky encounter. The king would have high Influence, while his advisor would have high Understanding.
I limit the ranks because I like the idea that being a generalist can only take you so far, and to not go overboard with things getting cheap.
Two other big changes:
Attack and Defense bonus can be bought at 1 point per rank (up to Dexterity +6 for normal humans). I'm fine with this. I would also eliminate the Close Attack and Ranged Attack Advantages. So everything is either general attack or specific weapons. That way characters will be at their most effective with their signature moves but not if they use an unusual attack. Separating Block and Parry is something I'm toying with: block is when you are unarmed, parry is when you have something to block with. Might help introduce some variety into hand-to-hand combat in Agent or Defenders level games.
Fortitude cannot be bought up except as a power and Will only to a limited degree. I'm of the school of thought that these sorts of powers should typically "just work" like they do in the movies. We'll build some limitations into those powers on the back end to make sure they don't break the game. But lots of builds have lower Will and Fort scores, this is just a bit more codified.
As per the Hero's Handbook. If a player's concept calls for particular Specialties or forms of Expertise they can be supplied.
Nothing big here, except I paired down the Expertise list. The idea is that characters have wide-ranging expertise plus specialties. So Fitz and Simmons on Agents of SHIELD are both great at Science, but Fitz has a Physics (or Engineering) Specialty and Simmons has a Biology Specialty. Society would have lots of specialties including Business, Government, Law, Streetwise, etc. It's about knowing how to get things done. Cosmic is because this is an MCU set of rules, so that's my general header for mystic and other knowledge about the multiverse, cosmic entities, etc.
Specialties are basically Skill [Limited to X use], in pricing and in concept. So Captain America might have Vehicles [Motorcycles]. The intention is no Specialties under Attack or Defend.
I'm open to Athletics getting moved under Agility, partly so that it's governed by a Proficiency. I might move Stealth under Awareness then, because I figure hiding is more about knowing where other people are looking than about bendy bendy poses.
As for what this all looks like, here is Star-Lord
from a GotG one-shot I ran for a friend's bachelor party. It's from an earlier version of the rules, so the Abilities aren't exactly the same (Mind has changed some), but they will give you the idea.
That's more than enough for today. If you're still with me, thanks!