My only major purchase at Gen Con was the DC Adventures: Hero’s Handbook RPG, which is an updated version of Mutants and Masterminds. After playing in a demo run by (I believe) game designer Steven Kenson, I was certain it was just the superhero flavor I had been looking for many moons. I haven’t run my own adventure yet, but I did play a demo. Here are my thoughts:
- Emphasizing Style Over Crunch: Make no mistake, this system is EXTREMELY crunchy. There are rules for the entire gamut of comic books, but the game does a great job emphasizing the difference between mechanics and the in-game explanation of powers. If you shoot a bolt of energy, it doesn’t matter if its fire, lightning, awesomeness, or willpower, it all has the same basic framework with tons of modifiers to suit your fancy.
- Less to Track: There are no hit points, just conditions. As much as conditions piss me off in D&D 4e, they make a lot of sense in this setting. Heroes constantly get their bell rung, and the lack of tracking damage helps rationalize fights where Superman punches poor Ambush Bug in the face.
- Active Combats: Saving throws act as a defense against all attacks. By eliminating the damage roll this simultaneously involves the defender without slowing the game down.
- Passion and Understanding of the Genre: The book’s sidebars and major comments show the game designers both know comic books and know RPGs.
- Archetypal Characters and Your Favorite DC Heroes: The book provides templates for a number of common character types, and some of the most famous DC heroes. Further supplements will feature practically the whole DCU. There’s something extremely cool about reading about Batman and Superman, realizing they both are done justice, and that they both fit together in the same universe. The Professor X paradox is solved!
- Typos. Too often I buy RPG products these days and they have simple spacing and spelling errors.
Results May Vary
- Character Creation Learning Curve: Between knowing powers, remembering the restrictions different power levels put on characters, and figuring out how the heck to best translate an idea, there is A LOT to learn. This is the sort of system where the GM has to sit down with a character and really translate their stated goals into characters. That being said, it’s so versatile and elegant in its actual play that I can easily see using this system for virtually anything.
- Complex Characters = Complex Play: While the core mechanic is refreshing streamlined players with viable character concepts involving certain powers will inevitably find themselves having a lot to manage. Shape changers, power mimickers, on the fly summoners, and whatnot may be overwhelmed by the scope of the superpowers they chose. To be perfectly fair, this is a problem inherit to the genre less so than the system, but the system does suffer from this.
Final Verdict: A. There’s very little this system can’t do. That makes it have a steeper learning curve than some other products, but as near as I can tell this system is capable of handling anything (and not just in the superhero genre). Action is fast, furious, and cinematic in a way that D&D and hit point based systems always seem to struggle with.
Available now in PDF or soon in print.