M&M: Cinematic House Rules

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DonAdam
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M&M: Cinematic House Rules

Post by DonAdam » Wed Jun 20, 2018 2:31 am

Howdy all. Longtime lurker from the official GR boards.

For the past couple years I've been--extremely intermittently--tinkering with the M&M rules as a tool for playing games set in the MCU and other cinematic (vs. 4-color) superhero settings. This is a thread all about that. I figured this is as good a place as any to start laying out the ideas in more systematic form. Hopefully this will be of interest to others. I'm going to try to post 3-4 times a week, including some character builds, rather than dumping all of this here at once.

These are very much in flux and I love tinkering, so any and all feedback would be appreciated. You all seem like thoughtful folk.

My basic design goals were:
  • Rationalize power point costs. 3e made skill-based characters very expensive.
  • Integrate good design ideas from D&D 4e, 5e, etc.
  • Streamline character creation, at least somewhat.
  • Make play feel more cinematic and less 4-color.
  • Make character stats close enough to M&M 3e that existing stat blocks can be used with minimal on-the-fly conversion.
This last goal means that, even though I change a lot--especially in character creation--the outputs of the process have to be the same outputs that you get from the standard rules (defenses, toughness, etc.). This saves me from having to reinvent standard NPC's such as cops, vehicles, etc.

One example of the second goal is to incorporate the Advantage and Disadvantage mechanic from D&D 5e as a replacement for large (+4 or +5) circumstance modifiers. Players, in my experience, find this rule very fun, and it has the added benefit of 'respecting' PL limits more than circumstance modifiers do. That seems appropriate for a cinematic superhero universe, where powers more frequently act as trumps.

Obviously this raises the question of how Advantage and Disadvantage relate to Hero Points. Here's how I phrased it on a player handout for a one-shot:
Rolls
All rolls use a d20. Rolls can be at several levels, from lowest to highest:
  • At a Disadvantage: Roll 2 dice, take lowest.
  • Normal: Roll 1 die.
  • At an Advantage: Roll 2 dice, take highest.
  • Heroic: Roll 2 dice. Any number ≤ 10 is treated as if the die showed 10 higher (e.g., 8 becomes 18). Take the highest.
Advantage and Disadvantage cancel, no matter how many sources of Advantage or Disadvantage.

‘Improve one step’ means go to the next best level.

Spending a Hero Point improves your roll by two steps. You can always spend a Hero Point after the initial roll. If you had Disadvantage, you keep the same two die rolls but pick the higher rather than the lower result.
My next post will be about the biggest change, which is to attributes and skills.

Nunya B
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Re: M&M: Cinematic House Rules

Post by Nunya B » Wed Jun 20, 2018 3:05 am

DonAdam wrote:
Wed Jun 20, 2018 2:31 am
Obviously this raises the question of how Advantage and Disadvantage relate to Hero Points. Here's how I phrased it on a player handout for a one-shot:
How do you handle Luck Control's offensive rerolls?

MacynSnow
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Re: M&M: Cinematic House Rules

Post by MacynSnow » Wed Jun 20, 2018 3:28 am

Nunya B wrote:
Wed Jun 20, 2018 3:05 am
DonAdam wrote:
Wed Jun 20, 2018 2:31 am
Obviously this raises the question of how Advantage and Disadvantage relate to Hero Points. Here's how I phrased it on a player handout for a one-shot:
How do you handle Luck Control's offensive rerolls?
You could always just add to the advantage by rolling an additional D20s.Just divide the plus from Luck Control by....let's say 3 for examples sake.If you have a Luck control of 5,you'd get to roll 1 extra D20( 5/3=1.6,so rounding down you get 1).Believe you-me,an extra D20 to roll in D&D 5e is a major advantage in the system...

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L-Space
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Re: M&M: Cinematic House Rules

Post by L-Space » Wed Jun 20, 2018 8:06 pm

Nunya B wrote:
Wed Jun 20, 2018 3:05 am
DonAdam wrote:
Wed Jun 20, 2018 2:31 am
Obviously this raises the question of how Advantage and Disadvantage relate to Hero Points. Here's how I phrased it on a player handout for a one-shot:
How do you handle Luck Control's offensive rerolls?
I'm assuming it would work like normal. Though I guess I would want clarification about when you can use your luck points. Can use it after they roll and the result is shown (like it works now)? Or would you have to use it when the attack is declared, but before it's actually rolled?

Also does using the Luck advantage just bump it up to Advantage or Heroic? I'm assuming Adv, but could be wrong.
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Ghost of Krypton
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Re: M&M: Cinematic House Rules

Post by Ghost of Krypton » Thu Jun 21, 2018 7:10 pm

I like the Advantage - Disadvantage thing & it got me thinking about Penetrating and Impervious. What if Impervious allowed you to roll a Resistance Check vs any Effect with a lower Rank than your Impervious at Advantage, whereas Penetrating causes you to roll your Resistance check as Disadvantage, unless you have Impervious at or above the Penetrating rank.

Just a thought but it gives Penetrating some teeth outside of just overcoming Impervious.

Nunya B
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Re: M&M: Cinematic House Rules

Post by Nunya B » Thu Jun 21, 2018 7:32 pm

Ghost of Krypton wrote:
Thu Jun 21, 2018 7:10 pm
I like the Advantage - Disadvantage thing & it got me thinking about Penetrating and Impervious. What if Impervious allowed you to roll a Resistance Check vs any Effect with a lower Rank than your Impervious at Advantage, whereas Penetrating causes you to roll your Resistance check as Disadvantage, unless you have Impervious at or above the Penetrating rank.

Just a thought but it gives Penetrating some teeth outside of just overcoming Impervious.
That would make Penetrating on an effect-shifted character hilariously powerful.

MacynSnow
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Re: M&M: Cinematic House Rules

Post by MacynSnow » Thu Jun 21, 2018 9:32 pm

Nunya B wrote:
Thu Jun 21, 2018 7:32 pm
Ghost of Krypton wrote:
Thu Jun 21, 2018 7:10 pm
I like the Advantage - Disadvantage thing & it got me thinking about Penetrating and Impervious. What if Impervious allowed you to roll a Resistance Check vs any Effect with a lower Rank than your Impervious at Advantage, whereas Penetrating causes you to roll your Resistance check as Disadvantage, unless you have Impervious at or above the Penetrating rank.

Just a thought but it gives Penetrating some teeth outside of just overcoming Impervious.
That would make Penetrating on an effect-shifted character hilariously powerful.
But it still comes down to RPG players' greatest Ally/Nemesis: DICE ROLLS... :evil:

DonAdam
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Re: M&M: Cinematic House Rules

Post by DonAdam » Fri Jun 22, 2018 12:43 am

Nunya B wrote:
Wed Jun 20, 2018 3:05 am
How do you handle Luck Control's offensive rerolls?
I haven't looked at Luck control because there are no MCU characters that would obviously have it, but I don't think there's anything to change. The fourth use of Luck Control just becomes "impose Disadvantage." Am I missing something?
L-Space wrote:
Wed Jun 20, 2018 8:06 pm
Though I guess I would want clarification about when you can use your luck points. Can use it after they roll and the result is shown (like it works now)? Or would you have to use it when the attack is declared, but before it's actually rolled?

Also does using the Luck advantage just bump it up to Advantage or Heroic? I'm assuming Adv, but could be wrong.
Great questions. I would probably downgrade Luck to giving Advantage rather than a Heroic roll. The downside to that is that if someone rolls with Disadvantage then uses luck, they'd have to reroll completely. The nice thing about the levels in my first post is that everything can be done after the roll. That said, if you want Luck to do the same thing you could make Luck give you +2 steps.
Ghost of Krypton wrote:
Thu Jun 21, 2018 7:10 pm
I like the Advantage - Disadvantage thing & it got me thinking about Penetrating and Impervious. What if Impervious allowed you to roll a Resistance Check vs any Effect with a lower Rank than your Impervious at Advantage, whereas Penetrating causes you to roll your Resistance check as Disadvantage, unless you have Impervious at or above the Penetrating rank.

Just a thought but it gives Penetrating some teeth outside of just overcoming Impervious.
I don't use Penetrating much for this reason, but as Nunya points out I think that would make penetrating too good for effect-shifted characters. But I've had a similar thought:

I'm inclined to make critical hits impose Disadvantage on resistance rather than gaining a +5 effect bonus. I think this fits an MCU type world better, since a lucky shot with a pistol is unlikely to damage Iron Man or the Hulk. This way they still get the benefits of Impervious, which feels right in trying to nudge the rules from 4-color supers to movie supers.

Thanks to everyone for the thoughtful comments!

Nunya B
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Re: M&M: Cinematic House Rules

Post by Nunya B » Fri Jun 22, 2018 1:13 am

DonAdam wrote:
Fri Jun 22, 2018 12:43 am
I haven't looked at Luck control because there are no MCU characters that would obviously have it, but I don't think there's anything to change. The fourth use of Luck Control just becomes "impose Disadvantage." Am I missing something?

The downside to that is that if someone rolls with Disadvantage then uses luck, they'd have to reroll completely.
Was wondering how you handled the edge case of a HP reroll intersecting a LC forced reroll.
I've been playing Honor+Intrigue lately and it has a mechanic I feel could do well under your variant. H+I is a 2d6 system where favorable circumstances have you roll an additional die and drop the worst result while unfavorable circumstances have you roll an additional die and drop the best result. The beauty of the system is that any number of additional dice can be added this way as players spend metacurrency, the effects of prior actions kick in, or character traits provide their bonuses and penalties. This would remove the need to ever reroll a d20.
DonAdam wrote:
Fri Jun 22, 2018 12:43 am
I'm inclined to make critical hits impose Disadvantage on resistance rather than gaining a +5 effect bonus.
I'd suggest mathing that out, the results of disadvantage on saves might surprise you if you haven't analyzed it already.

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Ghost of Krypton
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Re: M&M: Cinematic House Rules

Post by Ghost of Krypton » Fri Jun 22, 2018 2:09 am

DonAdam wrote:
Fri Jun 22, 2018 12:43 am
I don't use Penetrating much for this reason, but as Nunya points out I think that would make penetrating too good for effect-shifted characters.
Perhaps I went too far in the other direction, my issue with Penetrating & Impervious stems back to my origins in Champions where Armor Piercing was a (+1/2) Advantage, which halved your Physical or Energy Defense [ie. your resistance check], whereas Hardened Defense was cheaper than Armor Piercing and only prevented the Defense it was applied to from being penetrated by an Armor Piercing attack.

I always felt that Impervious as in 3E, at 1/2 Ranks, is primarily there to prevent having to roll vs Minions with guns, it shouldn't be rendering you immune to equal PL attacks, at least in my opinions. However, Penetrating has no teeth, and I kind of like the Armor Piercing dynamic from Champions where the advantage could be more offensive in nature.

Not disagreeing with the assessment I may suggestion over powered it, just sharing my intention anyways. Always fun to theory-craft.

DonAdam
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Re: M&M: Cinematic House Rules

Post by DonAdam » Fri Jun 22, 2018 2:14 am

Attributes and Skills

Preliminaries:

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

Might
  • Close Damage
  • Fortitude
  • Strength: Athletics (Strength also governs Lifting)
  • Toughness
Dexterity
  • Agility: Acrobatics, Sleight of Hand, Stealth
  • Attack: Particular attacks (e.g., Firearms, Unarmed)
  • Awareness: Initiative, Vehicles, Perception
  • Defense: Block, Dodge, Parry
Mind
  • Influence: Deception, Intimidation, Persuasion
  • Reasoning: Expertise (Science), Technology, Treatment
  • Understanding: Expertise (Arts & Humanities), Expertise (Cosmic [Magic]), Expertise (Society), Insight, Investigation
  • Will
Attributes

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:

Weak-Willed: 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.]
Design Notes:

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

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.
Design Notes:

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.
Skills

As per the Hero's Handbook. If a player's concept calls for particular Specialties or forms of Expertise they can be supplied.
Design Notes:

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!

Nunya B
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Re: M&M: Cinematic House Rules

Post by Nunya B » Fri Jun 22, 2018 10:13 pm

My thoughts on this boil down to "aggregations have been made too cheap" and "complexity is added for its own sake".

Attributes are 3 pp for "4" pp of value. Many Abilities are 1 pp for more than 1 pp of value (except Attack and Awareness, which are below 1 pp of value). Proficiencies are just 2 pp of Abilities for 1 pp.
A character can buy themselves to PL cap in attack and defense under this system for 9pp/pl, and get +pl to every skill in the process. In fact, a PL 10 hero who doesn't mind not having powers can hit PL caps in all skills as well at standard budget.

The "take a complication to lower [trait] below [attribute]" suggestion is horribly ungainly to me.

Separating Block and Parry is unnecessary complexity. If somebody wants better Parry while holding a weapon they should buy Parry with a Quirk/Limit or buy Parry as part of their Removable power.

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