Shared World Rules

These rules describe how to create heroes and run Mutants & Masterminds games within the shared-world. The abbreviations M&M refers to the Mutants & Masterminds, 2nd Edition rules and UP refers to Ultimate Power.

See the Superhuman World for a description of the game-world itself.

Characters

Create new character as PL 10 superheroes using the standard Mutants & Masterminds character creation rules. Powers from Ultimate Powers are allowed as well.

Power-level limits apply, as do the Attack/Defense Trade-Offs rules on M&M, p. 24. Even with tradeoffs, characters traits cannot be more than 5 ranks above the base power level.

Character drawbacks must use the Drawbacks as Complications rules on M&M, p. 125. Powers may have normal drawbacks that reduce their Power Point cost. See the section on Subplots for a discussion on character drawbacks as complications.

If you've never built a M&M character before, the Hero Archetypes in the M&M rulebook are a good place to start. You can get help from a more experienced player or GM.

Players should show a character to a GM before using the character in play. During a game, the player must provide the GM with a copy of his character sheet (photocopy or printed copy). This should include a copy of your character creation spreadsheet showing all trait costs. Players are encouraged to add their characters to the Internet Superhuman Database, but this is not required.

Character Guidelines

Just because a character is rules-legal doesn't make it a good character. Some guidelines:

Do build heroes. This is isn't a game about villains and mercenaries. Make a character who is motivated to do good.

Don't make characters whose powers are bizarre and game-breaking. For example, a hero whose primary attack is to teleport bad guys to the center of the sun will be hard to handle. If your character's powers are too weird, the GM can remove them during play with Power Fiats. A balanced, focused character is better than I-Can-Do-Everything-Man or Captain-Unbeatable.

Do make characters with some quirky powers. A bunch of identical Powerhouses and Energy Blasters won't make for an interesting game. Give your character some individual flavor. Given the variety of powers and feats in M&M, this shouldn't be hard.

Don't make characters who are anti-social loners that always go their own way. Your character will have to function in a group. If you insist on always going off on your own, ignoring the group and derailing the story, the GM may end up ignoring you.

Do make characters with strong personalities and passions. Just because you are in a group doesn't mean you have to agree on everything. Character-to-character arguments are OK so long as they don't lead to player-to-player or player-to-GM arguments.

Don't make characters that are too limited or focused on one aspect of heroism. If your hero only hunts demons, you are going to have a hard time if the adventure focuses on mutant bank robbers or alien invaders. If your heroine is a wanted murderer, it will be hard for other randomly-encountered heroes to work with her (unless it is well known in the hero community that she was framed).

Do make characters with rich backgrounds. Your character background provides potential hooks for integrating your character into an adventure. The richer your background is, the easier this is to do. See the section on Story Roles for a more detailed discussion.

Character Advancement

Characters receive 1 Power Point for every game session they participate in. If your character has played in 10 games, your PP total will be 150 + 10 = 160.

Between game sessions, you can adjust your character as you see fit, rearranging points and tweaking powers that didn't work well. This rule is to make game more interesting for players and to avoid the need for "official" copies of characters. Please don't abuse it by constantly rewriting your character to be optimized for specific adventures.

You can raise your PL by 1 every 20 session. This permanently costs 5 PP. So, if you play 20 adventures and your PP total reaches 170, you can spend 5 PP to raise your PL to 11. This also lowers your PP total to 165 (the number of PP you would have if you started at PL 11). This means that higher PL characters sacrifice flexibility for power. You may adjust your powers after a PL increase, as noted above.

Players should have the GM sign their game roster to record how many games they have played in. The roster can be used to determine how many PP a character should have. In the unlikely event that your character plays in more than one session per week, only the first session counts for character advancement.

Characters advancement is deliberately slow. Starting characters are already powerful enough to deal with most problems. If you start as uber-man, you don't need to advance to uber-duber-man. This lets older characters and newbies play in the same adventure without the new characters being overshadowed.

Game Mastering

Game Masters should prepare adventures that work for a variety of characters. Game Masters should review the players' heroes before the game to learn their powers and to figure out how to integrate them into the story. As is the case in most role-playing games, the GM has ultimate authority in any game.

The Game Master is the sole arbiter of rules disputes. Any rule judgment by the GM is final, even if it contradicts the published rules. If a player disagrees with a GM's ruling, it should be discussed after the game. Please keep in-game rules arguments to a minimum.

Player Slots and Priority

The GM should announce how many slots are available in a game. Slots for 6 players is preferred but not required.

Players are allowed into games in a first-come, first-serve basis. GMs may allow email signup in advance of a game, provided that the signup is publicly posted. If the GM is using email signup, the number of slots remaining should also be posted (ideally including who got into the game). Players who signup via email lose their slot if they do not show by the starting time for the game.

Note: I am not entirely sure about Priority Points. They may be excessively complex. I am leaving them in for now for comments.

If a player shows up and cannot get into any games, the GM should sign the player's game roster to give the player a Priority Point. A player only gets a Priority Point if he cannot get into any games at all. If the player has the opportunity to get into another GM's game for the same session and refuses, the player does not get a Priority Point.

If a player shows up and a game is full, the player can spend a Priority Point to bump the last player who got into to the game. If the bumped player herself has a Priority Point, she can spend this point to stay in the game and let the next player up the list be bumped. Any player bumped out of the game always gets a Priority Point, even if she gets into another game.

If a player signed up in advance by email, that player gets priority over drop-in players, even if the drop-in player has Priority Points to spend. This keeps players who made a special trip for a game from being bumped. A player who signs up by email and spends a Priority Point take priority over other players who sign up by email.

The order of priority is:

  1. Players who email and spend a Priority Point.
  2. Players who email, in order of email receipt.
  3. Drop-in players who spend a Priority Point.
  4. Drop-in players, in order of arrival.

If "email" is replaced by any other online signup system, the same priority rules apply as if it were email. If the signup system applies to multiple games and you sign up for more than one, you may be dropped from one of the games if one of them overfills. Generally this means you will be dropped from whichever game is more popular. It's better if you only sign up for one game.

Players may always voluntarily give up their slot in a game in exchange for a Priority Point. Game Masters earn one Priority Point for every 3 games they run, for GM's who both run and play. Hopefully there will be enough pickup games available that players will always be able to get into games. If not, we need to recruit more GMs.

House Rules

The base rules for the game are the non-optional rules from the Mutants & Mastermind and Ultimate Power manual, plus the following optional rules:

  • Attack/Defense Tradeoffs: As on M&M p. 24, but a trait cannot be more than 5 ranks about the Power Level limits.
  • Strength and Strike: Use Strength bonus as power points as described in the "Under the Hood" box on M&M, p. 100.
  • Temporary Drawbacks as Complications: On M&M p. 125, this applies to all non-power Drawbacks. See Subplots below.
  • Fade Duration: As suggested in UP, p. 104, Slow Fade is an Extra instead of a Power Feat.
  • The GM may use additional House Rules, with some limitations.

GMs cannot use house rules that modify character creation. The cost of character traits cannot be changed, Power Level limit rules cannot be altered and powers cannot be removed from the game (but see Power Fiats, below). This way, legal characters can move from one adventure to the next.

The GM may have house rules that affect game play during an adventure. These may be rules from the Mastermind Manual and elsewhere, including home-brew rules. This includes rules that change how powers behave in play, as long as the cost of the power is not altered. If a player feels that a house rule excessively hinders his character, he may ask for Hero Points to compensate.

The GM should explain any house rules at the beginning of the game, ideally in printed form. GMs are encouraged to experiment with house rules to make the game more interesting the same way players are encouraged to tweak their character designs to make better characters.

Power Fiats

If hero has a power that would ruin a GM's adventure, the GM may use a Power Fiat to keep the power from working. This is a special form of the GM Fiat and the GM should give the player a Hero Point in exchange. Once a Power Fiat has been used against a power, the GM can disable that power later in the adventure without further cost, including any other power in the same power structure (such as Alternate Powers).

The intent of this rule is to let characters have potentially game-breaking powers like Telepathy but for the GM to remove them if they would interfere with adventure. This happens all the time in the comics, when authors conveniently "forget" that heroes have certain powers. If possible, the GM should offer an in-game justification for why the power won't work. For example, "The villains anticipated that Mind-Master would show up, so they blanketed the area with telepathic static".

This rule also applies to characters with abusive powers. The GM can remove any power he feels is abusive, giving the player a Hero Point in exchange. If a player finds his hero's powers are regularly removed by Power Fiat, he should considered redesigning his character to remove or alter those powers.

Conversely, the GM should use Power Fiats sparingly, otherwise her absolute power may corrupt her absolutely. If the GM can think of a way to change the story to fit a hero's powers, that is better than changing the hero's powers to fit the story. Negotiate with the player to find some middle ground, provided that this doesn't take up too much game time.

Shared Resources

GMs are encouraged to share any background information they create with other GMs. Villains can be added to the ISDb. Locations and otherworlds can be added as articles. Shared characters can be used freely by other GMs, but only the creator can permanently destroy the character. Other GMs may have a villain "die", but only in a way that leaves open the possibility that that the death is mistaken and the villain will return.

If a GM uses a shared character, he may add up to three Feats and Alternate Powers to the character to keep the villain's abilities unpredictable. The GM can add these new abilities to the character's permanent description. This is a form of experience for bad guys. The GM should also add notes about when and where a villain appears, to develop the character's history. Links to the Adventure Recap is generally sufficient.

A GM can designate some villains as exclusive, for use only in his own games. Although sharing is encouraged, it is acceptable if a GM wants a "signature villain" or two that only appear in his games. A GM can mark some villains as exclusive temporarily if he plans a longer story for the villain spanning several adventures. GMs can mark villains created by other GMs as exclusive with the permission of the creator.

Player Mulligans

If a player has an especially bad experience in a game, she may choose to "mulligan" that game and act as if it didn't happen to her hero. The character loses the Power Point earned in the game, but the events of the game are erased from the character's history. In the story, the hero is replaced with a remarkably similar but otherwise minor superhero who never shows up again.

This includes heroic deaths as well, so that the permanent loss of a hero is always in the hands of the player. A hero can negotiate with a GM if she wishes to "mulligan" away some but not all of a game's events. If the GM agrees, some of the game's events can be altered as the player desires. Depending on the degree of change, the GM can decide whether the character gets to keep her Power Point.

Other than a mulligan, the only other reason a player should not get a Power Point for the game is leaving early or excessive rudeness.

Story Integration

One of the biggest missing elements from pickup and one-shot games is lack of character integration with the story. The following rules attempt to address that. All of these rules are optional, and may be used as the GM see fit.

Story Roles

When the Game Master creates an adventure, he can define certain generic roles for heroes in the story. These roles should be described in a short phrase or sentence, such as "hero with a nosy girlfriend" or "hero with mystic powers that are not completely reliable". The role's description should give enough information so the player can decide whether the role is appropriate to his hero, but should not give away any real secrets.

At the beginning of the game, the GM should describe the story roles available for the adventure. The players can offer to let their heroes fill that role, based on each character's background. The richer your hero's background is, the easier and more interesting your opportunity for story roles will be. A character does not have to be a perfect fit for a role, if the GM can adjust the role to fit the hero. The GM has final say on what story roles a hero can play. The player is awarded a Hero Point for accepting a role.

When a player accepts a role for her hero, she gives up some freedom for the character. If the GM asks her to get into a fight with her husband in order to move the story forward, the player must do as the GM asks. The GM should be careful not to abuse this by running roughshod over a hero's personality and background. Players must also be willing to bend a little in order to play out their role in the story.

The intent of story roles is to allow players to use their own characters but still have them be involved in the background of the story. To make this possible, the GM should define roles that are generic enough that many heroes could fit them. The GM should also be prepared for no one to take on a particular role and be ready to run the adventure without it.

Subplots

At the beginning of the game, each player can ask the GM to introduce one subplot for his hero. The subplot is a Complication that the hero must overcome. Possible Complications are listed on p. 122-123 of the M&M rulebook. You may also use the non-power Drawbacks listed on p. 126-127 using the "Drawbacks as Complications" rule.

Because the player is more familiar with his hero than the GM, the player should suggest an appropriate Complication for the subplot. For example, the player could suggest that the hero's tendency to transform accidentally gets him into trouble. If the GM thinks it is appropriate, he can use the Complication as part of the adventure. The player is awarded a Hero Point for the Complication as usual.

The GM does not have to suggest a hero's subplot if he thinks it will interfere with the adventure. When choosing player-suggested complications and subplots, the GM should give preference to players who do not have story roles in the adventure. The GM should make an effort to distribute the story roles and subplots among the players so that each hero has something personal at stake during the adventure.

Unlike story roles, subplots do not have to tie directly to an adventure, so long as the GM spends some game time exploring the subplot. If the GM feels that it is appropriate, though, she may use elements of that subplot in the adventure. If the player wants a subplot exploring the hero's relationship with her estranged father, the GM can involve the father in the main plotline as a hostage or stooge of the villain.

Some subplots may be too complex to resolve in a single adventure. If a subplot focuses on an ongoing problem or relationship for the hero, the player should provide a brief written summary of the subplot's history. This allows the GM to incorporate the background of the subplot into the current adventure.

If a player signs up via email, she may suggest subplots in advance of a game so that GM has more time to think about them.

Adventure Recaps

Once an adventure is complete, the GM is encouraged to post an adventure summary for the adventure. The summary should link to all the heroes that participated in the adventure, all the villains that appeared and should have a brief summary of the events. Adventure recaps provide a growing description of the world's history.

Players are also encourage to write their own recaps of the adventure, highlighting any special role their hero played in the story and an subplots that got developed during the game. Recaps for the hero are a good source for ideas for subplots in future adventures.

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