Can Mutants & Masterminds replace d20 Modern?

In an earlier post I’ve written about the dead or undead status of d20 Modern. And so I was looking for an alternative. And at once Mutants & Masterminds comes to mind. But isn’t it a superhero game? Yes, it is, but it’s far more versatile than that.

If you plan to run a modern day campaign with no magic, superpowers, whatever, just reduce the power level to suit your campaign style and disallow all powers that would not fit into your setting. A character like the costumed adventurer archetype would probably fit into any spy campaign, when you replace the silly bat costume with some special ops clothing. A martial artist is the easist to fit into the game and even a gadgeteer may be shoehorned into your campaign world (especially if you play in the near future or the campaign features gadgets like from a James Bond movie). 

When you add some magic or psionics to the mix (like in the original Agents of PSI or Urban Arcana settings from the d20 Modern corebook), you can easily bring more M&M archetypes into the mix without even change that much.

The implied setting of M&M is a modern world (as the one we live in) with superheroes being a reality. The rule book also provides you with stats for modern and archaic weapons, armor and even vehicles. So that’s another issue you don’t have to worry about.

So, if you’re looking for a great roleplaying game for your modern campaign, check out Mutants & Masterminds.

Niente mantelli!!!

Danilo Moretti, a fellow RPG blogger from Italy has asked my permission to translate some of my posts into Italian and post them onto his blogs. I accepted his request, of course, and you can now read the italian translation of my “No capes!” post at his blog, a blog dedicated to the italian version of the BASH! superheroes RPG.

His other blog, is a blog discussing pen and paper RPG game design (dissertations, reviews of indie games etc.) and is focussed on an RPG (Fenomena) that he’ll tentatively publish via Inspired Device in 2009.

So, if you speak Italian (or are not afraid of using Google translation), please check his blogs out.

Fluff and crunch

A lot of posts on the network are about fluff vs. crunch or at least use those words a lot. Even I have used both fluff and crunch several times in this blog. There are people out there who think fluff is less important than crunch and when they buy a book that contains way more fluff than crunch they feel ripped off.

So, what are fluff and crunch anyway?
According to the Merriam-Webster dictonary, fluff is one of the following:

  1. down (soft feathers)
  2. something fluffy
  3. something inconsequential
  4. blunder; especially: an actor’s lapse of memory
So, what does has the dictonary to say about crunch?
  1. an act of crunching
  2. a sound made by crunching
  3. a tight or critical situation: as a: a critical point in the buildup of pressure between opposing elements : showdown b: a severe economic squeeze (as on credit) c: shortage <an energy crunch>
  4. a conditioning exercise performed from a supine position by raising and lowering the upper torso without reaching a sitting position
Ok, that doesn’t really help us how both words are used in the roleplaying games context. Fluff usually means, the background, setting, flavor texts. Crunch are the rules, tables, that stuff. And usually people tend to think that fluff is just something you can more easily live without. Sorry, but I have to tell you that these people are wrong.
Why can’t we do away with fluff?
Because fluff is what makes the game. Roleplaying games are games of storytelling and make-believe. In a perfect world we wouldn’t need any rules, our imagination alone would be sufficient. BUT there need to be some rules to make the game more interesting and reduce arguments to the minimum. When children play “indians and cowboys” or something like that they run around shooting each other with their toy guns or their fingers and you often can listen to dialogs like that:
Kid #1: “Bam! Bam! You’re dead! I shot you!”
Kid #2: “No, I am not, you missed me”
Kid #1: “No, I shot you, so you have to lie down and stop moving!”
Kid #2: “I won’t!”
Kid #1: “You will!”
This can go on for a long time and usually it ends in a more physical confrontation that leads to crying and an abrupt end of the game. Ok, I never have witnessed DM and players starting a fist fight over a situation in a gaming session, but given that example you probably know what rules are for. It limits the players and the DM but helps to run the game and dice rolls for example add additional suspense. You never know if you succeed in your actions. But is this why rules (aka crunch) are more important? No, they are necessary but without the fluff it’s all meaningless.
Without the fluff all that remains are the rules. And the rules are in most games 80% combat-related. So you turn roleplaying into wargaming. In my opinion fluff is what makes the game interesting.  

For a long time I couldn’t think of anything that could make someone think fluff is a waste of paper. But if you made your first steps into roleplaying from wargaming or you started with older edition of D&D this probably makes some sense. D&D core books are usually almost fully devoid of fluff and the rules were cleary evolved from wargaming. Early players and DMs were probably to create the fluffy part of gaming themselves.

More modern roleplaying games tend to be more light on the rules (less crunch) and there’s a lot of background and flavor texts (aka fluff). Just look at the White Wolf games. So it’s probably more a question of how you were introduced into the hobby when the like or dislike of fluff is concerned. What do you guys think? Am I completely off track? Is fluff something inconsequential after all? Please leave your comments below.

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