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    Default Mutants and Masterminds 3e Character Guide

    The Goals of this Guide

    The goal here is not to build the most effective character on the lowest budget possible. It is to define a character as precisely as one can while ensuring that all characters made using the same design principles are tightly balanced with each other. This means one has to avoid options that are unbalanced with the rest of the game. This can mean too good for their cost (or, and especially, just too good in general), or it can mean too expensive when compared to another option that does the same exact thing in a more balanced manner. Waste not, want not. Admittedly, not everyone will agree with where I set the "balanced" bar in all cases. We each have our own optimization standards, and I am cognizant of the fact that mine is on the higher end of the bell curve. Regardless, most of this information should be fairly accurate even in lower-optimization games, and I try to clarify where my own preferences might be assigning higher values than some groups would want to use.

    As a note, this guide is primarily written to assist players in building characters, but it can also be used by GMs both for help with creating balanced but challenging enemies, or identifying mechanics that could be improved upon or nerfed with house rules (or just banned outright).

    This guide will use the following color codes when judging mechanics:

    Broken: This mechanic is underpriced, overpowered, and complicated enough that I don't even have ideas for self-nerfing it into a more balanced format. It can be nerfed or restricted, sure, but there's actually a pretty fine line where it falls into balance with comparative options; it's easy to make it useless or pointless by going to far, or leave it overpowered by not going far enough. These are options that I literally don't trust myself in use on PCs in games. Avoid them wherever possible; if you must use them, do so sparingly and work closely with your GM to establish some guidelines and limits that will keep you in line with other players. If nerfing with customizable Flaws like Quirks and Limits, judge them more harshly than normal and keep the point discounts low.

    Overpowered: This mechanic isn't just too good for its price - it's just too good in general. These options can be damaging to a game. Fortunately, there are often ways to nerf or restrict them to allow them to fit in in a more balanced manner, which I will include where I have them.

    Strong: This mechanic is stronger than its cost warrants, but probably not so strong that it has to be nerfed. Use sparingly, and if you can balance out their use with less raw power elsewhere, do so, but snagging one or two of these for special "big gun" moves and such is fine. In lower-optimization games, you may want to avoid these options entirely, or nerf them significantly.

    Balanced: This mechanic is solidly balanced and priced accordingly to its power. These are the sort of options you want to focus on most.

    Niche: This mechanic isn't bad, quite, but it probably has some flaw that makes it hard to use effectively, easy to get around, or only useful to certain characters. Niche options may still have great flavor though, so don't be afraid to take them where your budget can spare, but if the choice is between a niche option and a balanced option that both provide equally good definition to the character, go for a latter. Niche powers are usually more palatable in arrays.

    Weak: This mechanic is strictly weaker than others that can do effectively the same thing in a more balanced manner. So use those instead!

    Useless: This mechanic is counter-productive. It may leave you worse off than you already were, cause you to burn points on literally nothing, or cost more to use than you would gain from a successful use. These mechanics have no real redeeming qualities. Pretend they don't exist.

    Mechanics with a by them come highly recommended for any appropriate character.

    Finally, minor note, but when mentioning specific mechanics I'm generally using the baseline of a PL 10 character. So ranks will generally be 10 and so on. Just for consistency.

    Core Principles

    This is something I want to take a moment to discuss, because it informs a lot of this guide. M&M has made a strong effort to divorce flavor from mechanics. In my opinion, many of the issues in the system actually stem from the fact that they didn't go far enough with that. Nonetheless, I take it as a given that the core principle of M&M character design is that you pay for the mechanical capabilities you want, and describe them how you like.

    What this means is, no specific mechanic inherently deserves higher status than another that serves the same purpose. Now, some mechanics are going to provide simpler, more intuitive, possibly even more elegant access to the fluff you want. And that's fair enough. But it's not what this guide is about. You could say that the core principle of this guide is for finding the most balanced and precise mechanics to use to get the fluff that you want.

    So, for example. Say you want a power that will gradually slow down and eventually paralyze an enemy. The simple, intuitive way to build that is Affliction 10 (Hindered/Immobilized/Paralyzed). First application halves their speed, second stops them from moving from their current position, third paralyzes them entirely. Straightforward.

    But here's the thing. Hindered is a laughable condition. Speeds in M&M can get ludicrously high, and halving them is very often not going to do much. Compared to other first-tier conditions it's strictly and massively less debilitating. Immobilized would have made sense as a tier 1 condition; it's about balanced with Dazed, but compares poorly to things like Defenseless and Disabled, let alone Stunned.

    And it's also not especially precise. They're slower and hampered, but they can still defend themselves just fine? Sure, that's possible I suppose, but it's a little weird, isn't it?

    I'd build that power as Affliction 10 (Dazed+Vulnerable/Stunned+Defenseless/Incapacitated; Extra Condition, Limited [First conditions apply to physical activities only, second conditions are limited to two degrees]).

    That power is more complex, undeniably. It involves adding an Extra and a Flaw, and the Limit has this weird split function. You could also argue it's min-maxing. Hindered, Immobilized, and Paralyzed are meant to provide the fluff of slowing someone down and eventually stopping them. I'm ignoring the options that are there for that and instead using stronger, broader options that I then restrict down to do what I want, using the points saved from the restriction to add more conditions.

    But here's the thing. Dazed/Stunned, Vulnerable/Defenseless, and Impaired/Disabled are all very strongly balanced with each other. Dazed/Stunned denies actions. Vulnerable/Defenseless cripples your defense. Impaired/Disabled has a less profound effect than either, but weakens you both offensively (attack rolls) and defensively (resistance checks), while also making the Affliction harder to recover from and hindering skill checks and other utility. And between them, they cover a lot of design space. There are fairly few maladies that can't be represented by some combination of restricted action, curtailed defense, and check penalty. Hindered and Fatigued, Immobilized, Exhausted, and Prone, are vastly weaker than the conditions they're competing with. So the question becomes, why should say a 10-point Affliction with the fluff of "slows you down" be so much worse than a 10-point Affliction with the fluff of "knocks you out" (Dazed/Stunned/Incapacitated) or the fluff of "balefully transforms you" (Impaired/Disabled/Transformed) or "completely disorients you" (Impaired+Vulnerable/Disabled+Defenseless)? You're paying the same price, and trying to do the same basic thing (hamper the opponent), just in a slightly different way. That shouldn't lead to that level of reduction in effectiveness.

    Balance concerns aside, I'd also argue that the more complex version is more precise. Generally speaking, having your movements restricted is going to make it harder to defend yourself and make other things that involve moving more time-consuming. Being unable to move is going to leave you, well, unable to move. Maybe that's not always the case - if it's like just a sticky substance that traps their foot to the ground or something. Even then, you could just do Affliction 10 (Dazed/Stunned; Limited [Two Degrees], Limited [Physical actions only], Limited [Movement only]). That's basically equivalent to Hindered/Immobilized, but at a much lower price, which is appropriate since it's a much weaker effect.

    This all comes back to that core design principle. Hindered and Immobilized are definitely an option for achieving the fluff of "an attack that slows a target down or stops it". They are probably the simplest, most intuitive option - it's what they do and it's all they do. But they are not the only way to achieve that fluff, and my standpoint is being simpler and more intuitive is not a point inherently in their favor. All else being equal, sure, go for simple and intuitive. But all else isn't equal here; there are other options that are more balanced and more precise, and those are the ones that this guide will be giving preference to.

    But I do want to make clear, this is about balance and precision, not power. Yes, in many cases, the simpler and more intuitive options are less powerful than the broader and better-balanced options. It's an unfortunate flaw in the system's design. But that doesn't mean we always want to use the best and the broadest option. You see, there is technically another way to design that power:

    Affliction 10 (Entranced/Compelled/Controlled; Limited [Physical activities only], Limited [Compelled/Controlled can only prevent actions, including actively defending, cannot actually compel actions; Entranced only prevents targets from using their standard action on physical activities, doesn't otherwise restrict action]).

    Look at that monster. It has all the function of the balanced version, but at a third of the cost! See, Compelled and Controlled (and to a somewhat lesser degree Entranced) are strictly better than any other conditions of their tiers. Entranced shouldn't have been moved down a tier, it should just be Stunned with a Limit. Compelled is still probably stronger than the rest of the tier three conditions. Controlled is the most powerful condition in the game, easily. Now, I'm not going to say you should avoid these conditions entirely - they're stronger than they should be given the costs and difficulties of inflicting them, but they do have their uses. But using the same strategy of starting from them and downgrading to get what you want when one of the more balanced conditions will work will give you overpowered Afflictions rather than balanced ones.

    This is what this guide is here to do. To show you how different mechanics compare to each other; which are balanced, which are strong, which are weak, and what you can do to use the strong ones without being overpowered, or replace the weak ones with better options. Characters using these design principles will be more complex and less intuitive. But you'll be able to trust them to all work together without anyone being accidentally overshadowed, or feeling unable to contribute. And as a bonus, they'll probably be more fully realized characters, since they won't be wasting points on inefficient options and so will be able to spend those points really fine-tuning their desired capabilities. It's my experience that as long as you're not wasting points, you can flesh out a very well-defined, detailed character on a PL 10/150 PP budget. And isn't that the goal?

    Abilities

    Strength: Actually gives you a little more than it costs, so worth it if you want it. High Strength opens up Grab (and its related Advantages) as a viable combat option, which can be quite powerful. You do have to be somewhat careful if using Strength to make sure you're not paying twice for your attack options - see the Paying Once For Attacks section. If buying Strength tricks you into paying twice for your attacks, it becomes Useless.

    Stamina : Worth every point you put in it, guaranteed. The Gold Standard of Abilities. Also generally the most advantageous way to buy Toughness (Defensive Roll is easy to negate, even Permanent powers can be Nullified unless you pay a surcharge for Innate, but straight Stamina does its job every time), and since Debilitated Stamina is one of the few things in the game that can knock you straight to Dying status, it's a solid investment.

    Agility: Counting initiative, worth slightly more than it costs. Everything it gives you is solid if you plan to use it. If you want to make a ninja/thief type character, it's a solid Ability. If you don't plan to take full advantage of Stealth and Acrobatics, it becomes Weak and you're better off leaving it 0 and buying the aspects you want a la carte.

    Dexterity: Competes with Presence for worst Ability in the game. Makes you overpay for attack bonus (see the Paying Once For Attacks section below), and boosts two of the game's least-useful skills. Pretend it doesn't exist.

    Fighting: Makes you overpay for attack bonus (see the Paying Once For Attacks section below) and doesn't even have interesting fluff of its own. When would you ever roll a Fighting check rather than just an attack roll or Parry check? Why does this even exist?

    Intellect: Actually has a special effect of its own - Intellect, in conjunction with Jack of All Trades or Eidetic Memory, is basically Expertise (All). If you want to be a know it all, get it and either make sure you have Jack of All Trades (since Int skills are all Trained Only), or apply Reduced Trait to the skills you don't use (Intellect with Limited 2 [Expertise Only] also work, they're basically the same). Be warned though, all Int skills are Trained Only, so if you don't want all of them, and especially if you aren't trained in all of them, it becomes Useless.

    Awareness: Perfectly solid. Will and Perception are always good, and Insight usually is (although Deception can be used as a poor-man's Insight in some cases). You generally won't regret points placed here.

    Presence: Probably the worst Ability in the game. It is the only Ability that outright gives you less benefit than it costs (Fighting and Dexterity do as well, but they at least pretend not to). Only made worse by the fact that you're generally better off with one high social skill than three mediocre ones. Avoid like the plague, just buy the social skills you want.

    Skills

    Acrobatics: Strictly inferior to actual movement powers, though it has some merit with regards to certain combat maneuvers and looking cool, and it's certainly not impossible that you might want to make an Acrobatics check to like pull off some crazy flying stunt of something. Picking up Agile Feint and/or applying a bit of Check Required to a mobility power easily solves its problems. All in all, it takes more effort to make it work, but it can be solid if used well.

    Athletics: More-or-less fulfills the same role as Acrobatics but not as well, and if anything is even more likely to be invalidated by movement powers. Flight 1 renders the whole thing almost irrelevant. It overlaps so heavily with Acrobatics that buying both is probably Useless (if you're that worried about Improved Trip pick up Prone Fighting), and given the choice I'd rather take the former.

    Close Combat: Solid way to purchase attack bonus if you only use a single type of close attack. If you're just a brawler or unarmed fighter, you're fine. Otherwise, you'll be overpaying for attack bonus and it becomes Useless.

    Deception: Very good skill with social, tactical, and even defensive options. While not vastly beyond the others or anything, I'd be willing to call this the single most broadly useful skill in the game.

    Expertise : Expertise is amazing fluff for just about any character and highly recommended. But, and this is important, you need multiple Expertise skills for the price of one for it to be good. Buying Expertise individually is way too niche and becomes Weak. Now, if you want to play a know-it-all, you just do Intellect, Reduce any Int skills you don't want, pick of Jack of All Trades and/or Eidetic Memory, and go on your merry way.

    But say you want to not just be a generic know-it-all. You want a character who is skilled at certain things, but not everything. I've worked out a few mechanics to do this in the past, and the one I like most is: Enhanced Intellect X (Limited 2 [Expertise Only]), Enhanced Advantages 1 (Jack of All Trades), Feature/Quirk (Jack of All Trades only applies to Expertise skills, but guarantees use of Int for Expertise skills), Quirk (Int bonus only applies to one Expertise skill per rank). If one Expertise skill per rank is more than you need, use Quirk 2 (Int bonus only applies to one Expertise skill per two ranks) instead.

    Insight: Solid defensive/information gathering skill. Has some overlap with Deception though.

    Intimidation.

    Investigation.

    Perception : Because noticing things is good and noticing dangers is better.

    Persuasion.

    Ranged Combat: Like Close Combat, solid way to purchase attack bonus if you only use a single type of ranged attack. Want to play a pure archer, gunslinger, or energy blaster, this is your skill. Otherwise, you'll be overpaying for attack bonus and it becomes Useless.

    Sleight of Hand: The best use for this skill takes way too long to use in all but niche circumstances. Most of the other uses are stupidly specific. Should have been divided into Acrobatics and Stealth. Honestly I'd see about using some custom Benefits to allow you to swap certain specific functions to other skills. Failing that...I'd probably replace it with powers. Immunity to Entrapment Effects costs 5 points, less with something like Limited (Doesn't prevent entrapment, but allows immediate escape as a move action). Move Object 1 (Subtle, Insidious, Precise, Reduced Range [Close], Quirk 2 [Reduce mass to 12 pounds]) costs 2 PP. This is not a good skill, is what I'm saying.

    Stealth.

    Technology.

    Treatment: Weirdly though, Treatment's ability to Revive, if one assumes it can remove Stunned from complex conditions like Incapacitated, may actually be Overpowered. General sense though, it's a pretty niche skill because of how low-lethality M&M is and how fast damage heals.

    Vehicles: Okay sure if you actually use vehicles this is merely Niche, but for superheroes who can fly at Mach 3 or whatever, this skill offers very little.

    Advantages

    Accurate Attack.

    All Out Attack : Yes, I know, I rate this as Strong and still give it a recommendation. What can I say, it's a really good advantage. You do have to be careful with it, but lower defense doesn't matter if your enemy is too unconscious to fight back, and smart use of All Out Attack can really let a character punch outside its weight class.

    Chokehold: ...You expect to be able to maintain a Grab for more than 10 rounds just to start them rolling resistance checks? You do realize you can deal damage while grabbing every round just baseline, right? If that's not enough choking for you, you can build a Grab-based Affliction or something that's way better. Although it can be fair to say that this advantage prevents anyone you Grab from vocalizing. If the GM deems that reasonable this becomes merely Weak.

    Close Attack: Overpaying for attack bonus.

    Defensive Attack.

    Defensive Roll: Defensive Roll gives your Toughness a crippling weakness and offers no discount for it. For the same fluff and a better price point, use Protection with either Quirk (Benefits lost if both Stunned and Defenseless), or Easily Removable (Benefits can be taken away if Vulnerable or Defenseless rather than by removing an item).

    Evasion.

    Fast Grab: Count Fast Grab as a Linked effect for purposes of balancing Linked attack powers.

    Favored Environment: Okay, one little note, though, Favored Environment (Aerial) should not apply just any time you're flying. It should need either wide-open sky, or for your opponent to also be flying, or the like. I'd also say that Favored Environment (That Exact Environment Power I Have) isn't kosher. It should be a natural environment. Tricks like that make this advantage Overpowered. Players shouldn't do it, GMs shouldn't allow it.

    Grabbing Finesse: As things to make Dexterity more useful go it's decent enough. It in no way is worth actually buying Dexterity.

    Improved Aim.

    Improved Critical.

    Improved Defense.

    Improved Disarm: Disarm only works on a specific subset of enemies, but it's great when it does.

    Improved Grab: Pretty much a necessity for Grab-heavy characters, although you can get it free with Extra Limbs.

    Improved Hold: A staple for Grab-heavy characters.

    Improved Initiative.

    Improved Smash: Same as with Disarm.

    Improved Trip: Buy two underpowered skills with a lot of overlap between them or be completely unable to defend against my trips. Only reason this isn't Overpowered is that Trip isn't all that amazing a condition. Can still be a pain though. I have seen characters I otherwise would have deemed underpowered contribute extremely effectively alongside more-optimized characters based primarily on the strength of this Advantage.

    Improvised Weapon.

    Move-by Action : Why is this not just how movement works?

    Power Attack : Because sometimes you just have to hit them really hard. Excellent synergy with All Out Attack.

    Precise Attack.

    Prone Fighting: Somewhat better than Instant Up against Trips. Instant Up won't save you from being attacked at +5 by any allies they have that act before you. If you exploit this for a virtually-free +5 Defense against ranged attacks, it might even be a bit too Strong.

    Quick Draw: I sincerely believe this advantage only applies to Equipment. Devices include easy means of carrying and equipping and arrays are swappable as a free action. If you use Equipment as weapons or your GM disagrees with me and forces you to eat an unpaid Activation 1 flaw on your weapons, then it's fine I guess.

    Ranged Attack: Forces you to overpay on attack bonus.

    Redirect: Kinda hard to get it to work, because it doesn't draw aggro. Admittedly, can be fun when it does.

    Set-up.

    Takedown.

    Throwing Mastery: Interestingly, one of the best ways to buy ranged attacks.

    Uncanny Dodge: This gets a recommendation for any Defense-shifted character. Also highly worth considering if PL 12+. Vulnerable gets more severe the higher your defense is. Most GMs I've played with have ruled this doesn't apply to Feints. I rule it does and those other GMs baffle me. It says it protects against being surprised or caught off-guard. That is literally all that a Feint does!

    Weapon Bind.

    Weapon Break.

    Beginner's Luck: Spend a Hero Point to roll at +5 rather than +0? Nowhere even close to worth it. If you're that desperate to pass a mediocre skill check you can probably figure out a power stunt to do the job.

    Inspire: Originally I deemed this Balanced and said it was expensive, but worth the price, though hard to justify not maxing it. Having seen it in action a bit more since then, both using it as a player and having it used against me as a GM, I've revised my opinion. It's expensive, its usage is limited, but used intelligently Inspire can turn a challenging encounter into a cakewalk. Honestly it's probably borderline overpowered depending on the size of your group.

    Leadership: If this only cost the Hero Point it'd be reasonable enough, but spending a standard action too...for the same price you can do Luck Control 1 (Grant Effect; Limited [Remove Conditions only], Quirk [Must be able to interact with target]) and do it as a flipping reaction!

    Luck : Okay, honestly, it's too strong. And if I'm being realistic, having a disparity of Luck in the party leads to imbalance. And the game would be better if Luck were removed and everyone started each adventure with like three Hero Points or something. But what can I say this thing is basically hit points only better and we're playing superheroes so I'm good to say we're among the luckiest people on the planet by definition. I unashamedly max this on every character I make. Not appropriate for most NPCs though, since it's balanced around being an adventure-level resource, not an encounter-level one. I do maintain that for certain NPCs it can be appropriate (luck controllers, solo bosses, etc), but even then players tend to find it annoying.

    Seize Initiative: Not sure how often winning initiative is worth a Hero Point, but I guess if you really care that much.

    Ultimate Effort: When you absolutely, positively have to succeed no matter what!

    Assessment: Useful, but I hate the whole "roll secretly, might get false info" bit. If you can't trust your information-gathering capabilities, why have them?

    Benefit.

    Diehard: Dying is the most toothless condition ever. You probably don't need this to stabilize.

    Eidetic Memory: Really nice for know-it-alls. Note that its bonus applies to any checks to recall facts, not just Expertise checks, so it does work with Well Informed. Similarly, note that it only applies to recalling facts, so it won't apply to checks for practical applications of knowledge.

    Equipment: It can have a bit of balance funkiness, but overall I think it prices out okay if the GM is attentive and maybe just a little malicious.

    Extraordinary Effort.

    Fearless: On the one hand, a little annoying that Fear is easier to become immune to than almost any other descriptor in the game (except disease and poison). On the other hand, I think Immunity to Emotion Effects would be a standard descriptor so any specific emotion would probably count as rare anyway, so really it's only like a point cheaper. The fact that it more-or-less invalidates the entire Intimidation skill is more annoying. This isn't to say the advantage itself is overpowered, just pointing out some general flaws in the game.

    Great Endurance: Oh, please.

    Instant Up.

    Interpose : An amazing tactical advantage and a key component of highly-tactical, high-op combat, where it becomes virtually required to make defense shifts worthwhile. In more normal games, still great for protecting vulnerable allies and shielding civilians. Highly recommended to anyone with any sort of defensive shift but especially Toughness-shifted characters and regenerators.

    Minion: I'll get into multiple characters later. Short version, they're broken.

    Second Chance.

    Sidekick: I'll get into multiple characters later. Short version, they're broken.

    Teamwork: M&M Aid/Team Check/Team Attack rules are actually really solid. Teamwork is a great way to ensure you always have something useful to contribute.

    Trance: I honestly don't even know how to react to this. It's so specific and weird.

    Agile Feint: Makes Acrobatics more worthwhile. Remember that Feint is a Deception action, so you can do it as a move action at a -5 penalty. (If the GM rules that doesn't apply when swapping the skill, this becomes Weak and Acrobatics cries itself to sleep at night.

    Animal Empathy.

    Artificer: Okay, Artificer (and Inventor and Ritualist)...vary, wildly. The base time requirements are way to high to do anything useful with them. Really, since power stunting is an option, it becomes hard to justify using these things at all if it'll take more than an hour or so (they do have advantages over stunting, but those only go so far). On the other hand, with enough Quickness, these advantages can easily cross the whole range of ratings. GMs should limit characters to one such temporary power (perhaps per advantage, or at least per skill) per scene. That keeps them from ever becoming outright Broken. At that point, Quickness ~6 brings them into Niche territory, Quickness ~8 should be about Balanced. Quickness > 10 is starting to get probably too Strong, and Quickness 15+ makes them Overpowered.

    Attractive.

    Connected: I find this one hard to judge because it's really kinda vague on what sort of favors are possible, how to measure the DCs, how often you can expect favors, etc. GM-dependent, pretty much.

    Contacts.

    Daze: I've got it! I'll spend my standard action, to have a chance to deny my opponent its move action! Brilliant!

    Fascinate: Requires the right situation, but this can be a great stalling tactic if you have a high enough skill.

    Favored Foe: Pretty niche, but can be interesting fluff. Weirdly, though, I sometimes feel that this advantage works better for groups you have a positive relationship or reputation with. Like, I've given it to politicians with regards to their own political party and such.

    Hide in Plain Sight.

    Improvised Tools.

    Inventor: See Artificer.

    Jack of All Trades: A necessity for characters who just buy Int and are done with it.

    Languages: Great fluff, too expensive. Fine for picking up a language or two; use Comprehend 3 (Speak, Read, and Understand All Languages; Limited [Max one Language per rank of Expertise]) for polyglots.

    Ritualist: See Artificer.

    Skill Mastery.

    Startle: As with Agile Feint, becomes Weak if GM rules that it doesn't keep Deception's move action at -5 rule.

    Taunt: But if we're ruling that it's the skill that matters rather than the action, this one becomes Balanced.

    Tracking.

    Well Informed: I love the concept of this advantage. Nothing so much to say from a balance perspective, I just wanted to note that.
    Last edited by Quellian-dyrae; 2019-02-05 at 05:23 PM.
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    M&M 3e Character Guide

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    Default Re: Mutants and Masterminds 3e Character Guide

    Effects

    Affliction: Affliction overall is solid. Compared to Damage, it causes more severe effects for any given degree of failure, but doesn't stack as well, is easier to resist entirely, isn't penalized by Bruises, and is generally easier to recover from (though not necessarily to heal). Damage for laying the hurt, Afflictions for debuffs, both worth equally well and they work great together when Linked.

    One-degree conditions: Dazed, Entranced, Hindered, Fatigued., Impaired, Vulnerable.

    Two-degree conditions: Compelled, Defenseless, Disabled, Exhausted, Immobilized, Prone, Stunned.

    Three-degree conditions: Asleep, Controlled, Incapacitated, Paralyzed, Transformed, Unaware.

    (For the record, Fatigued and Exhausted become Niche for NPCs if it's ruled that go to the actual fatigue track rather than overlapping. Entranced would be better as a Limit on Stunned rather than a degree reduction. Immobilized and Prone would be Balanced as one-degree conditions. Paralyzed works better as Incapacitated Limited to Physical. Transformed is Balanced if used as pretty much a straight debuff or kinda templated transformation that isn't very powerful, Broken if you try to use it like a Variable Metamorph. Unaware would be Balanced as a two-degree condition.)

    Burrowing: Permeate will often be better, but sometimes leaving a tunnel is good!

    Communication: Communication's a bit overpriced. It does its job fine, it just costs more than it needs to.

    Comprehend: Solid utility.

    Concealment: I'd have preferred for it (and Counters All Concealment senses) to be a bit less all-or-nothing with a tighter integration with the Stealth and Perception rules, but it's not unbalanced, strictly. Just annoyingly binary. As an alternative I like a Feature I call "Master of Stealth" - for each rank of the Feature, you are able to hide from one sense even when you don't have cover or concealment, using normal Stealth checks (note you'll still need Hide in Plain Sight to hide while observed). Two ranks for a sense type, doubled for visual, ten ranks for All Senses. Tactile is allowed in this, though it won't hide you from a purely mundane sense of touch (which is another glitch in Concealment, frankly).

    Create: Create's extremely versatile and can be powerful defensively, especially when Selective. However, inanimate objects are sufficiently easy to destroy or circumvent that it's generally balanced enough unless someone tries something really exploitive.

    Damage.

    Deflect: Okay, this requires some discussion. A basic Deflect power is, outside of certain very specific tactical situations, almost entirely Useless. You spend your action for sure to maybe negate the enemy's action. Since you have to set up Deflect before the enemies attack, enemies know you're doing it (Subtle aside) and can adjust tactics accordingly. And there are a lot of ways to circumvent Deflect. Even ignoring using All Out or Accurate Attack to try to force through it (which at least carry meaningful costs), they can use Area attacks, Perception attacks, or just target someone else. And sometimes they'll just roll really high and ignore it anyway, or roll really low and it wasn't needed. Rendering the Deflecting character Vulnerable or Defenseless can cripple the protection. You can Counter the Deflect and let your allies attack unimpeded. Weirdly, one of the greatest benefits of a basic Deflect is letting your target All Out Attack while you provide the defense!

    Fortunately, there are a lot of good Extras to add to Deflect. Reaction is disallowed for some reason (at its cost it would not have been unbalanced) (EDIT: Actually, I realized what I wasn't considering here; Reaction Deflecting for yourself wouldn't be unbalanced, but a Selective Reaction Deflect letting you defend every teammate in range whenever an enemy attacks, while expensive, is probably an option best nipped in the bud. Touche, M&M, touche.), but Linked lets you attack and defend simultaneously, so if the enemy circumvents it you only lose a portion of your attack rather than the whole thing. Secondary Effect lets you get two rounds of defense. Area and Selective let your protect a group. Reflect can offer further deterrence and turn enemy attacks to your benefit. And Deflect is very good when it works. It just takes some doing to get it to the point where it actually can work. Now, you don't want to add all of that to every Deflect. I'd say any one of them take Deflect up to Niche, and two make it Balanced, although be cautious with Reflect because a Reflect combo can easily pump it to Strong. More than two and you're definitely getting too Strong and are risking it being Overpowered.

    Elongation: Elongation gives a bit too much for its cost. If it were purely a reach upgrade it would be Balanced and in fact is more balanced for that purpose than the actual Increased Range Extra. But adding in the grab bonus, plus the utility of actual elongation, takes it a bit too far. I do, however, endorse Elongation with a Feature that it only extends Close range without causing actual elongation or other effects. Yes, that's technically paying extra for a nerf, but it's worth it to get a more balanced version of Increased Range.

    Enhanced Trait.

    Environment: The effects of Environment aren't really that great, its main strength is its area. It's kinda more useful for NPCs to set up city-scale hazards or annoyances. I suggest arraying it and giving it the Continuous Extra so it pops up immediately as soon as you swap to the slot.

    Extra Limbs.

    Feature.

    Flight : Okay, realistically, Flight is overly strong compared to most other movement powers, especially considering it has some extremely low-impact Limits in Platform and, even moreso, Wings. But this is a superhero game, so I'm happy to declare Flight the Gold Standard of mobility, treat everything that can't measure up as too weak, and use restricted Flight to emulate them. Want to be super-fast with wushu levels of agility? Flight with a Quirk (Must end movement solidly supported) or Platform Flight with Quirk (Must begin and end movement solidly supported). Want super-leaping without Leaping's silly restrictions? Flight (Limited [Only to move in a straight arc], Quirk [Must begin and end movement solidly supported]). Flash-style super-speed that lets you run on any sort of surface? Flight (Limited [Must remain in contact with a solid or liquid surface]). And so on.

    Admittedly, this is one of those points where the fact that I favor a somewhat higher balance point shines through; in a mid-optimization game, it might be more sensible to treat Flight as Strong and move most of the other mobility powers up to Balanced. But again, come on, we're playing superheroes!

    Growth: ...Okay, I have a confession to make. Yes, Growth is stronger than its cost warrants. It gives you more benefits than you can get elsewhere for its cost. In a properly balanced game, you should not use Growth. You should just buy the traits you want and get a Feature and a Complication to represent the miscellaneous benefits and hindrances of being whatever Size and Mass rank you want to be. And you definitely shouldn't take Growth and then buy stuff down to get only the portion you want on the cheap. But, with all that said...

    Is it really such a bad thing if the giant monsters and humongous mecha are just a little stronger than they should be?

    I know! That's just fluff, there's no reason a giant monster should be stronger than an equal-level paragon, it's against the very Core Design Principles that M&M is built on and this guide is written around, and I am a total hypocrite! But I don't care giant monsters and humongous mecha are cool!

    Healing: Healing is flat-out overpowered in M&M. An average roll from a Healing 10 power knocks out three Damage conditions. That's enough to take a character who got one-shotted back to full health in a single move. A single basic Healing effect can trivialize damage-dealers, and that's before even getting into cool Extras.

    But Healing is an iconic power, so we don't want to just say don't use it. To balance out Healing, you need to add some high-impact flaws. I've experimented with a few of them, and my current favorite is what I call Limited (Healing Points):

    Spoiler: Limited (Healing Points)
    Show
    This power removes conditions more slowly than normal Healing. It provides a number of "healing points" equal to the Healing check result as long as the check beats DC 10. Each condition removed costs 10 healing points. If insufficient healing points are generated to remove a given condition, they reduce the number of points required to remove that condition. If this power is also Restorative, each point of Weakens removed also costs one healing point. If the target failed at least one resistance check since the end of the healer's last turn, it receives half as many healing points.

    In addition, this power does not heal the target's worst conditions first. Like Regeneration, it has to heal all Bruises before moving on to more serious conditions. It then reduces Staggered to Dazed (with the normal Damage duration of one minute), and then removes Dazed. It then reduces Incapacitated to Staggered, then Staggered to Dazed, then removes Dazed. It doesn't interact with the one-round Daze from failing a resistance check by two degrees or more, but if a target receives such a Daze while still suffering from a lingering Daze from a reduced Stagger, the Dazed condition goes back to Staggered.


    In my own games, I actually house-rule that as simply how Healing works, rather than making it a Limit, although it's slightly less restrictive (there's no losing it for a minute if you fail to beat DC 10, and Healing Points synergize with Regeneration, which itself I increase to 2/rank). But either way, that should make Healing fairly balanced, even when adding extras and such.

    Illusion: Illusion gets my award for Worst Base Effect In The Game. Not because illusions aren't super-fun and potentially tactically useful - in creative hands and with a good GM, they can be great. But Illusion is stupidly overpriced. Should have been 1 PP/rank with a flat +1 PP per sense affected, 2 for sense types, doubled for visual senses, or something. This is exacerbated by the fact that it's fueled by pure GM discretion, and that the entire Effect can be utterly ignored by a 2 PP super-sense.

    What I tend to do for illusions is buy them at rank 1, and add Area to get them to the size I want, with senses and other Extras to taste. That still winds up fairly expensive (Volume areas are extremely small, I'm not entirely convinced the person who wrote the chart realized that "X cubic feet" and "an X-foot cube" are two different things), and anyone who checks to disbelieve it is almost certain to succeed if they have any Insight whatsoever (and has even odds even if they don't), but Illusion does have one advantage here - first they have to check. If they don't interact with the illusion, they don't get the check automatically. So you have to be creative, but it can do the job.

    For more "immersive" illusions that can actually influence people, I like (Entranced or Vulnerable)/Compelled/Controlled Afflictions, usually with a Limit that you can't dictate their actions, just what they perceive, and their actions have to be appropriate to that.

    Immortality: Immortality is pretty expensive for something that comes up so rarely. I...actually don't think I've ever had an M&M PC actually killed before (I did a heroic sacrifice once, but Immortality wouldn't have helped with that anyway the way it worked). Even worse, you kinda need it to be on when you die, so putting it into an array isn't really a valid solution. Limited is explicitly more lax for Immortality though, so that helps. Limited Immortality 5 means you're back in a day, and at 5 PP, it isn't too big a strain. You could also get a basic low-rank Immortality and then array an enhancement to it, although you might have to make that Continuous. Still, can be good for allowing you to do stunts you know will likely kill you and then come back much faster.

    Immunity: You can do a lot of things with Immunity. Well, that's not true. You can do one thing with immunity - outright ignoring certain forms of attack - but you can do that in a lot of ways.

    The most typical forms of immunities I'd rate as Niche overall. Most immunities to specific attack modes only go so far in actual play. It's the classic problem with binary defenses - if they matter, you're invincible, and if they don't, the points are wasted. They're good fluff, though I'd generally rate them as a bit overpriced considering how easy they are to circumvent. The cost is more palatable in an array, but there is a distinct difference in flavor between "I am immune to X" and "I am capable of perfectly protecting myself from X". To be fair though, you don't want immunities to be too inexpensive, or it becomes too easy to acquire immunity to way too many possible forms of attack.

    Of note, Immunities tend to operate on a sort of "bulk discount" system. Immunity to All Heat Effects is 10 PP, but complete immunity to all Energy is only 20. This can create an issue where multiple similar immunities become way overpriced. What if you want to play someone with thermal control powers who is immune to heat and cold, or light control powers who is immune to light and darkness? It's not worth the full price of Immunity to Energy, but it's also not worth a Limited Immunity to Energy, since that's the price of immunity to just one of those things. Generally speaking, I'd say if you want a subset of what would otherwise be a single 20-point immunity, go with the full immunity, and Quirk 8 if limiting it to a subset of two, Quirk 5 if limiting it to three, Quirk 2 if limiting it to four. This is only if all the immunities would be a subset of a single much broader immunity though; you can't use this to grab, say, immunity to Heat effects, Emotion effects, and Ballistic effects though; those are all subsets of different broader immunities entirely (Energy, Mind-Affecting, and the 40-point Physical, respectively).

    Immunity has a weird glitch where it makes Poison and Disease easier to be immune to than literally every other descriptor in the game for some reason. That should have been something like natural or mundane poison and disease, rather than arbitrarily shafting anyone who just happens to want to play a poisoner or disease inducer or something. I suggest operating under the premise that those descriptors mainly apply to mundane and natural poisons and diseases, whereas those devised by super-science or produced by powers use descriptors that require full-priced immunities, such as [Toxin] and [Syndrome]. If doing this though, make sure your players are aware if they are wanting to pick up such immunities (and remember that Life Support only includes poisons and diseases, not toxins and syndromes).

    I'm not sure the "rare descriptor" classification is all that meaningful - it's entirely possible for a "rare" descriptor to show up more often than expected in a specific game, or a "normal" descriptor to just not show up at all. So use that with some caution.

    Fortitude and Will immunities are substantially broader and tend to be more-or-less Balanced, though they may push into Strong in higher-PL games, since you can save a larger portion of the cost by foregoing the resistance entirely. A half immunity to a traded-down resistance can be a potent broad-spectrum defense, though it is expensive. Toughness immunity, common though it is, remains Niche at best because it's just so expensive and targeting other resistances is so easy. Honestly, even combining a half Toughness immunity with Impervious Toughness, which I think the general consensus would call overpowered, I would say is cost-appropriate. However, this does mean sinking a metric boatload of points into a very binary defense, which again puts your GM in the annoying position of having to either circumvent it to challenge you, or target it so a third of your character sheet doesn't go to waste, which isn't exactly healthy for the game.

    In higher-op games where Dodge and Parry resisted attacks become more common, it is good to have a baseline for immunity to those. I do not suggest just using them as Immunity 30 like Fortitude and Will. As noted below in Alternate Resistance, these attacks are more powerful than most, and they should be more rare, which should translate to cheaper immunities. I tend to go with Immunity to Defense-resisted attacks at 15 PP, or immunity to "uncommon resistances" (anything defined as a resistance check that doesn't target Toughness, Fortitude, or Will) at 20 PP. This would mean full immunity to all attacks would technically be 160 PP. Don't do that.

    As an aside, I'd generally rate Immunity to Perception Attacks at 20 PP, Immunity to Area Attacks at 40, Immunity to Targeted Ranged Attacks at 40, and Immunity to Targeted Close Attacks at 60. This would be another route to complete immunity to attacks at 160 PP, which you still shouldn't do.

    Rule of thumb, if you have more than 40 points of immunities, you're probably going to wind up giving your GM trouble trying to balance out your huge investment in binary defenses.

    Insubstantial: Insubstantial is...more-or-less balanced, since its cost isn't just measured in points, but also in how it restricts your own options. It can be tricksy for a GM to work with though, and works better as a utility option than a character constant. If you are able to act reliably while ignoring most forms of attack due to Insubstantial (because of Affects Corporeal or having options that Insubstantial doesn't hinder) that's going to be a real pain for your GM and is generally Overpowered besides.

    Leaping: Not sure why they have it arbitrarily cut off after Speed Rank 7.

    Luck Control: Luck Control...is always going to be at least Balanced, but some uses can be stronger. And some can be really difficult to GM for. See, here's the thing. A good GM will be using Fiat to add to the story. Make sure a villain gets away so it can come back later, reroll a fluke resistance check that cripples a boss too early, etc. Negate Fiat can really be a pain to work with as a result. Force Reroll can also be rough to work with. I'd rate those as Overpowered less because they're actually overpowered - the benefits they give are absolutely commensurate with the cost - and more because they're just more likely than average to give your GM a headache. Bestowing points and granting effects are Balanced generally, but become Strong if given an Area, and Area Bestow Points in particular becomes Overpowered unless given a Quirk that the points have to be spent before the end of the current scene or they expire. I'd also say to keep any Area Luck Control to no more than 1/scene usage, otherwise you're going to throw off HP calculations. And obviously, any attempt to have two characters using Area Luck Control to give others effectively infinite Hero Points is as ludicrously Broken as any infinite loop.

    Mind Reading.

    Morph: Morph's kinda complicated. Baseline, I'd call it Niche mainly because it's a bit overpriced. Morph 1 feels more like a Feature, and the other Morph ranks could probably be reduced by one. But then you get into Metamorph...

    Metamorph is Broken. It is an array on steroids. And arrays do not need steroids. Myself, I'd advise just fluffing different array slots as different forms and being done with it. I have yet to really come up with a proper way to balance Metamorph. The only time I've used it recently was for a character who swapped forms automatically and uncontrollably between night and day, which does work - if the choice of when to swap is out of your hands, Metamorph should come out as Balanced. Or even if you restrict it to, say, only being used between scenes, so you have to make your choice before a scene begins and stick with it.

    In theory, there is some combination of careful selection of traits, limiting each form's arrays, buying things that do similar enough stuff that raw versatility isn't expanded too much, making sure enough traits are shared between forms, and other careful calibration of the two forms which will result in a full-fledged Metamorph character who is balanced with others in terms of versatility. But I sure haven't figured it out yet. And multiple Metamorphs just make it worse.

    Move Object: My go-to way to link combat maneuvers to damage. Also good for knockback. To be fair, yes, technically when doing a Damage Linked Move Object as a damage+maneuver you could reduce the duration to get back more points. But that's not really necessary or in the proper spirit, and probably makes it too Strong.

    Movement: There's a few solid ones, like Safe Fall and Permeate, but for the most part Movement is fairly expensive, a bit too niche, and just has trouble measuring up to Flight.

    Nullify: Nullify is another of those weird ones. As a tool for Counters it's fairly reasonably Balanced, and I'm a fan of Nullify Afflictions (Broad, Limited [Counters Only]) as a healing tool for Afflictions, which the game otherwise...well, treats weirdly, since Healing says it doesn't work on them but Affliction says Healing can. Obviously it depends on how many descriptors you're likely to face; Nullify can be awfully Niche in a kitchen sink style game, though a sharply limited Variable can help with that. As a tool for shutting down enemies, it's Weak on its own - turning off a single power that they can reactivate as a free action on their next turn isn't worth much. Although in a low-to-mid-op game where people regularly buy significant portions of their defenses through powers, it can even be too Strong as it can knock out a whole defensive stat with even a one-degree resistance failure. The fact that it's an opposed check, making it even swingier than normal for M&M and subject to Hero Point rerolls and other tricks, only exacerbates it. Once it becomes Sustained and Simultaneous, yeah it's expensive, but you're shutting an enemy down completely with virtually no recourse on a single resistance failure, which I originally said was borderline Overpowered, but no, no it's straight-up Overpowered and borderline Broken. For my money, I'd use Nullify for Counters, and Affliction (Impaired or Entranced/Stunned/Transformed; Limited [Powers Only]) for shutting down powers (make it Limited 2 if it only applies to one type of power in a kitchen sink setting).

    Protection: It's not that Protection isn't fine, it's that Stamina is strictly better. Protection can be Nullified, Stamina can't, and you don't get a discount for the added vulnerability. If you want your character's toughness to be tied to its powers, you can buy Stamina and take a Complication that if your powers get Nullified your Toughness might be degraded or negated. Reduce your Fortitude if you want Toughness higher. Same fluff, better mechanics.

    This is more of a high-op concern though. In a low- or mid-op game, Protection's perfectly Balanced.

    Quickness.

    Regeneration: Regeneration isn't as bad as Healing (although interestingly, I see GMs trying to nerf or limit Regen but not even mentioning Healing way more often than the opposite), but it's still pretty strong for its cost. Probably should have been like 2 PP/rank. In any case, Regeneration should almost never go higher than rank 10, and even that is probably only needed if your healing factor is a defining and major power. Your average regenerator will be perfectly fine with rank 5. Fortunately, Regeneration already heals Bruises first, so you don't really have to nerf it, just keep it to sane totals and you'll be fine. GMs, just remember that Regen doesn't help against Afflictions or Weakens, and that multiple attackers can deal with it fairly easily, and it won't be a problem.

    Remote Sensing: Overpriced. Does its job fine, but should have been 1 or 2/rank, +1 per sense, +2 per sense type, doubled for visual. If used to expand Perception Range attacks to attack foes when they can't fight back, it becomes Broken.

    Senses: Most of Senses is fine. Only things to really watch out for are heavily Extended senses, Counters All Concealment, and (probably most of all) Penetrates Concealment. My suggestion for the vast majority of cases is, max Extended 3, Extended 2 with Counters All Concealment, or Extended 1 with Penetrates Concealment. Also, be kind to your GM and design your powers so Penetrates Concealment is off by default. Put it in an array, give it a Concentration duration, give it an Activation, whatever. But your GM has enough to worry about without having to tell you what's on the other side of every wall you come across.

    Also, don't combine ludicrous Senses and especially Penetrates Concealment senses with Perception range powers to attack people who can't fight back. I shouldn't have to tell you this.

    Shrinking: You know everything I said about Growth? Invert it, but without small guys being inherently uncool. Seriously, buy the traits you want, take a Feature and a Complication, done.

    Speed: #FlightEnvy.

    Summon: Multiple characters later. But Summon is the worst of the worst and wins Quellian-dyrae's Award for Most Broken Trait In The Entire Game.

    Swimming: Originally, I called this Weak and just pithily pitied Aquaman as an explanation. But really, it's worse than that. Swimming should not exist as an effect. Swimming lets you swim at rank - 2 speed. You know what else lets you swim at rank - 2 speed? Speed! Which costs the exact same and - and I cannot stress this enough - also works on land! And Swimming doesn't let you ignore Athletics checks, it only lets you routine them (which you...probably already can do in most cases? And if you couldn't normally you could with Skill Mastery [Athletics] which costs a single point and also lets you routine it in more situations?)

    No. What you do for a character with actual water speed is buy Movement 1 (Environmental Adaptation [Water]). Now you ignore all mundane movement issues for swimming; no need for Athletics checks except in special circumstances, no speed penalty, no circumstance penalties for fighting, nothing. That's probably what most people think they're getting when they buy Swimming! If you want to swim super-fast but not to run super-fast? Also buy Speed (Limited 2 [Swimming Only]). Yes, Limited 2. One-third the price of Swimming itself, as is appropriate, because let's be honest it will be shocking if you are in the water even one-quarter of the time on adventures.

    Teleport: Teleport can compete with Flight. A bit expensive, but has so many cool little options.

    Transform: You know, I'm rating Transform as Balanced, but let's be clear, that in no way means it isn't an annoyingly vague power that is way to dependent on GM discretion and interpretation, especially considering its high cost. This is a weird power to adjudicate, honestly.

    Variable: Honestly I tend to feel people sometimes overestimate Variable. Don't get me wrong, it's very good and you have to watch it carefully, but it's way more balanced than Metamorph or Summon, and is probably less likely to negatively impact the average game than Healing. The advice M&M gives you regarding it covers it pretty well. I would maybe add that a Variable should be tightly themed both descriptively and mechanically. There should be a very clear subset of game mechanics that a Variable can generally give you. A mimic can only use powers that others have. An augmenter can only use mechanics on the target's sheet. A shapeshifter can only use physical traits, and most of its stuff is probably going to be attacks, movement, and senses. And so on. If the power's descriptive theme doesn't also suggest a subset of mechanics it will draw from, it might not be a very good Variable.

    Expanding on this, in most cases, the way to make Variable work is that it should provide flexibility, not versatility. Variable should allow you to do a few things in lots of different ways, rather than allowing you to do lots of different things. There are some exceptions of course, such as mimicry, but that's generally what you want to aim for.

    A few more specific suggestions:
    -Never use Variable to acquire advantages. Advantages are balanced around being cheap because they're niche, so being able to acquire them on command and swap them for something else when not needed breaks them.
    -Only use Variable to acquire skills when they're especially appropriate to the variable (shapeshifting with physical skills, augmenting with existing skills, etc). Even then, never boost a given skill by more than five with Variable. You don't want to step on the toes of people who invested heavily in the skill, but using the Variable to boost an already-solid skill should be okay if it's appropriate to the Variable.
    -Variable for Immunities is shaky. If you're going to try it, it should be the only thing the Variable can do, and you probably shouldn't take more than two ranks of the Variable.

    Weaken: For my money, Weaken's a bit weaker than Damage and Affliction, but not by enough to be a concern. Now, it does depend on how you use it. Weakening a target's defensive stats (Dodge/Parry/Toughness/Fortitude/Will) is probably the strongest use and comes out as Balanced. Weakening Abilities probably won't cause as significant a penalty since Abilities cost 2/rank, and due to the cap, you can't actually take a character out from Debilitating an Ability unless it has a penalty or your Weaken rank is 11+. So that tends to settle in at Niche. Weakening powers directly will usually cause minor penalties only due to costs/rank; Limited Afflictions are the way to go there, with Weakens being Weak in that field.

    Extras

    Accurate : Because 1 PP/2 ranks is exactly what attack bonus should cost. Always. No matter what. Yes, even then. See Paying Once for Attack Bonus below.

    Affects Corporeal: Insubstantial + Affects Corporeal is a massive hassle to GM for. The GM can get away with it because even if none of the PCs actually have Affects Incorporeal or a Sensory or Mental power, chances are at least one of them can stunt one. But for PCs, it's just a combo best avoided.

    Affects Insubstantial.

    Affects Objects.

    Affects Others: To be fair, some uses can go up to Strong, especially since there's not technically a limit on how many allies can have the effect at once. Do not combine with a Continuous Duration. That's Overpowered at the least, outright Broken at the worst.

    Alternate Effect : This is my favorite mechanic in the game. I will get into more detail here in the On The Care and Feeding of Arrays section.

    Alternate Resistance: The issue with Alternate Resistance is the possibility of Alternate Resistance (Dodge) or (Parry). These things do serve their purpose, but they're way out of balance with the other resistance types, for a couple reasons. First, they're opposed to Toughness, double-dipping against Toughness-shifted characters, who are supposed to be durable. Second, they can be reduced by Vulnerable, Defenseless, and the like, making them much easier to penalize than other resistances.

    Despite this, the default rules essentially suggest that Alternate Resistance (Dodge) should have no cost modifier on an Affliction (per Snare), whereas Alternate Resistance (Will) should be +1/rank if applied to Damage (per Mental Blast). This is ludicrous, although based on the M&M archetypes, there appears to be a strange assumption that Fortitude and Will will in general be a bit below PL, which...makes it only silly rather than ludicrous.

    My suggestion for Alternate Resistance is this. Toughness, Fortitude, and Will should all be +0/rank. Damage, Affliction, and Weaken all have their strengths and weaknesses, and I don't think there's enough of a gap between them to call any of them strictly superior or inferior to the others. Given that between those you can target any of the three main resistances, there's no reason any of those three resistances should cost more. All of these are Balanced. There is one exception; in an on-the-fly power (such as a Power Stunt or Variable configuration) you can choose exactly the resistance the enemy is weak to. To keep them balanced, they should be brought up to +1/rank when applied on the fly.

    But merely saying Alternate Resistance (Dodge or Parry) should cost +1/rank isn't enough. They're Overpowered in themselves. What I use is Alternate Resistance (Defense). This is a self-nerfed version of Alternate Resistance (Dodge), which still costs +1/rank, and doesn't receive any bonus points for the nerfs. In effect, it's Alternate Resistance (Dodge) with Quirk 0. Alternate Resistance (Defense) functions as Alternate Resistance (Dodge) with the following changes: the target may substitute Parry. If the target has Defensive Roll or a similar effect that boosts Toughness with the fluff of "rolling with" a blow or similar, it can be added to Dodge or Parry against the attack, up to a maximum total equal to the character's Toughness. Effects that apply to active defenses specifically (i.e. Vulnerable, Defenseless, All Out Attack, and Defensive Attack) do not apply towards the resistance check. It's a bit less realistic, but at least it's sensible.

    That still makes it very good, because it's a great option to use against Toughness-shifted characters, easily justifying the +1/rank cost. However, it keeps Vulnerable + Alternate Resistance (Dodge) from being an instant death sentence (KO sentence, whatever), and should be more-or-less Balanced.

    Area: More specifically, Burst Area, Cloud Area, Cone Area, Line Area, Shapeable Area (Voluuuuuuume!), Perception Area (for offensive powers), Perception Area (for defensive/supportive powers).

    As a note, Shapeable Area Limited to 6"x6"x120' Lines (possibly with a stipulation that they can change direction each time they reach a target to "chain") is a better way to do a line than Line Area (I personally feel 6" in any dimension is a sensible sanity limit for Volume-based powers).

    Attack.

    Contagious: Hard to make work, actually might be more likely to affect you and your allies, but fun on Move Object powers and potentially terrifying on Mind Control powers.

    Dimensional.

    Extended Range.

    Feature.

    Homing.

    Impervious: Impervious is simply mathematically unlikely to matter often (and it gets less likely the higher level you get), except maybe against area attacks you take half effect from. It's way too expensive for what it does. That said, it can potentially be a life saver in the right situation; if you're facing a horde of weak attackers, numbers do matter in M&M. Of course, even then they can probably ignore it by Team Attacking, or Power Attacking, or just focus on your allies instead, but at least in theory it can do its job. As a standalone power, it's rarely going to matter, but as an array slot it can be nice to have in your pocket.

    Increased Duration.

    Increased Mass.

    Increased Range (Ranged): Okay, here's the deal. Linked powers require the same range, so you basically have to pay for range multiple times on some of the most fun powers in the game. At the speeds that M&M characters can move, Range winds up fairly dinky. Throwing Mastery and Elongation both give a range of a Distance Rank equal to rank, but regular range doesn't. Further, many good options are weaker or unavailable to range. Aid doesn't help ranged attacks (which is nonsense), Finishing Attacks...well it says different things in different places. Aim is weaker at range. ...They get Homing and Ricochet. That's, you know, nice. End of the day, the advantage of range tends to be saving you the -2 penalty for charging.

    Elongation is a weird substitute for range, I'll admit it. I'm a big fan of refluffing, but even by my standards, that's an awkward construct. But seriously, it's so much more balanced considering the costs and the sheer speeds of M&M. The distinction between Close and Ranged attacks (and all that come from it, including the high cost of defense, the multiple types of attack bonus, and so on) is probably one of the most glaring flaws in the M&M mechanics.

    Increased Range (Perception): Perception range is fine though, again unless combined with stupid super-senses or Remote Sensing. Perception Range (Limited to targets in reach) is a nice way to do "perfect attacks" and such. It shafts Defense-shifted characters, but that's a separate issue entirely.

    Incurable.

    Indirect: Kinda weird and...I'm not sure how often it really helps. Although using it to attack past walls can be Overpowered.

    Innate.

    Insidious: Fine for the most part. However, don't do a Subtle 2 attack with a super-sense requiring Insidious (or a super-sense requiring Subtle 1 + Insidious) to allow you to attack enemies without them realizing they're being attacked without a check unless they just happen to have the exact right sensory power. That's Broken at any price, but especially at 2-3 PP.

    Linked : Linked is a staple. I'd call it the second most important modifier after Alternate Effect. Linked opens up a ton of design space by combining multiple effects together with different Extras in unique ways. It's great and I strongly advise making heavy use of it.

    However, it can be problematic if taken too far. You should never link more than three Effects together, and even those should be somewhat rare. It's fine to have a three-effect power or two, but they probably shouldn't be all of your powers. In most cases, even if linking three effects, your powers should force no more than two resistance checks (remember, targets roll only one resistance check against Linked powers that call for the same resistance). Exceptions should probably have some sort of Limit or other restriction on them - true triple-threats should be rare and only usable in specific circumstances. This helps balance them, and also allows them to serve as "big guns" in a system where your attacks will generally all have the same point values and base numbers.

    Fast Grab counts as a Linked effect for this purpose, as does Reflect, or basically anything else that incorporates what would be a separate action into another action.

    Again, I have a somewhat high balance threshold; in mid-op games, keep it to a max of two Linked effects, and don't combined effects of different types (like attack and defense) except for really special moves. In a low-op game, don't combine different types of effects at all, and only force two resistance checks for really heavy-hitters.

    Multiattack.

    Penetrating: Impervious is weak. Penetrating's only purpose is dealing with Impervious. Ergo, Penetrating is worse. Even at standard PL 10, it'd actually be tough to find a situation where the enemy has enough Impervious Toughness to ignore your attack, but not enough to just resist it outright, especially if you can Power Attack. The whole thing is just mathematically unsound. At lower PLs or for attack-shifted characters, Penetrating manages to claw its way up to merely Weak.

    Precise: Some fun uses (may be subject to GM discretion): Precise Area to let you shrink the area itself while retaining the same shape (so not fully Selective, but more controlled). A Power Profiles mentioned that Teleport needs to be Precise to do things like escape grabs (basically, Precise lets you choose what you bring along with you, while regular Teleport tries to bring along all mass that's on you).

    Reach: I got through all the issues with range, and then here comes Reach with its mighty 5' per PP. Give me a break.

    Reaction: Oof. Reaction can run the gamut. It's so expensive that it's easy to make Useless, but so flexible that it's just as easy to make Broken. Thing is, there are plenty of perfectly Balanced uses in between, and options on all other levels. All I will say is: handle with care.

    Reversible.

    Ricochet.

    Secondary Effect.

    Selective.

    Sleep: Asleep is strictly worse than Unconscious since it's easier to break. Should have been a Quirk, to be fair, but whatever. It can guarantee nonlethal damage even for like things that may splash over to incapacitated foes, like Secondary Effects or Areas.

    Split: As means of targeting multiple characters go, it weakens things a bit too much.

    Subtle: Rather too good for its price, particularly Subtle 2, which by the RAW is utterly unbeatable. Suffers the same issues as Concealment; too binary. That said, it's pretty much what we've got when it comes to hiding powers. Also see Insidious above.

    Sustained: Sustained is fine in itself, but holy cats don't ever make your defenses sustained if you know what's good for you! Dropping your defense just by being stunned!? With no discount!? And the supposed benefit you get of being able to use Extra Effort with it basically doesn't matter since you defend off-turn and Extra Effort is on turn only!?!?!? No, if you want to lose your defenses from being stunned or whatever, take a Complication.

    I would say this logic holds true even in a mid-op game. It's probably fine for low-op though, if risky.

    Triggered: Like Reaction, but massively cheaper and not endlessly repeatable. Lots of fun things you can do with it. Lots of broken things you can do with it. Handle with care.

    Variable Descriptor.
    Last edited by Quellian-dyrae; 2019-02-05 at 05:55 PM.
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    M&M 3e Character Guide

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    Default Re: Mutants and Masterminds 3e Character Guide

    Flaws

    Strong, Overpowered, and Broken for Flaws mean they give too many points compared to the penalties they assess. Niche, Weak, and Useless mean they cause way too much penalty for the points they give back.

    Activation.

    Check Required: Check Required...honestly, I've found it impractical to use just from a public relations standpoint. There's a strong bias against it in the M&M community. And not entirely without reason. See, the issue with Check Required is that you can precisely set the DC, rank of effect, and check bonus to a point where you can trivially use the power fully, especially if the GM doesn't rule against Routining the checks. This makes it effectively free discount, which is bad.

    I do, however, feel the Check Required does have a valid purpose. Specifically, it's a good way to mitigate the costs of less valuable skills. Acrobatics, Athletics, Expertise (Any One), Sleight of Hand, Treatment, and Vehicles all have their issues. Insight has overlap with Deception. Deception, Intimidation, and Persuasion are all great skills, but have a lot of overlap with each other. Stealth can be trivialized by Concealment. Some super-senses may devalue Perception. Using Check Required to tie a skill that has limited use or that is overshadowed by a power to a related power lets you get a more competitive value out of them, even if the power itself isn't particularly hindered. In essence, the "hindrance" comes from having to invest the saved points in a mediocre or overshadowed skill to be able to use the power (while also making things like Impaired/Disabled more detrimental, since now the power's tied to a skill check). There are some caveats. You don't want to use a skill that's giving you full benefits. You definitely don't want to tie multiple powers to the same skill. And you should even be cautious about using Check Required with multiple skills. And to really make sure it's balanced, you should probably assume Routining Check Required checks is a no-go, even if the GM doesn't explicitly rule as such. But if you keep it to that purpose, Check Required should be solidly Balanced.

    Concentration.

    Diminished Range.

    Distracting: I lean towards Distracting being strong because it's easy to use in ways that are too good for its penalties. To be fair, it can be Weak on low rank powers or Defense-shifted characters. And yes, to be perfectly fair, it is Balanced on a power with a rank equal to one's own Dodge and Parry scores and a 2 PP/rank or higher base cost. But the cost of Distracting just fluctuates too much. Better all around to just use Reduced Dodge and Parry to taste.

    And don't put Distracting on multiple effects that you use at the same time. That's just silly.

    Fades: Fades can be a little weird to use, and it can depend some on making sure the recovery mechanic is fair, but on the average it should be solid.

    Feedback.

    Grab-based: ...Reaction (Upon successfully Grabbing an opponent) for -1 cost/rank . I mean, I'm being a bit hyperbolic. More precisely it's Reaction (Upon initiating a Grab), Limited (Must Hit), Limited (Target must fail to resist). But that still comes out to +1/rank. And Grabs can already be really, really good with enough supplemental options. I mean, look, it's not going to break anything, but it's definitely generous to call it a Flaw.

    Increased Action.

    Limited: Okay, minor rant time. Do not get me wrong; Limited is great. It opens up tons of design space and is something of the foundation for my whole "get the broad and balanced stuff, nerf down to specific" design philosophy. But, a Limit has to be a meaningful hindrance. Roughly 50% reduction in utility. Now, I'm not saying there's not some leeway there. But at the very least, it either has to be something out of your control, or something that reasonable situations in normal play are likely to preclude. Only While Singing Loudly is not a Limit, because unless the GM sets up a specific situation where that's a bad idea or the enemies take specific action to prevent it, you can do that whenever you want.

    Other things that are not Limits: Only With {Insert Some Generic Item Here}, Only While {Using Some Power That Doesn't Itself Have At Least A Limit-Worthy Restriction On Use}, Only While {Doing A Specific Thing That Has No Meaningful Action Cost}, etc. Basically, a Limit should be either under the GM's control, a flat-out reduction in action effectiveness, or if it is under your control, it should carry a significant tactical cost. For example, Limiting a power so that you must first "charge it up" with a move action works - there are plenty of reasons you might want to use your move action on something else, or you might be unable to entirely if Dazed or Staggered. Requiring that you first spend a move action moving also works; it's less restrictive, but also adds being Grabbed or otherwise Immobilized to the list of ways to prevent it.

    Noticeable.

    Permanent.

    Quirk.

    Reduced Range.

    Removable: Honestly Removable should have been a Complication and Easily Removable should have been Removable. But it's fine. A bit too generous, but fine.

    Resistible.

    Sense-dependent: A bit too Strong on beneficial powers though.

    Side Effect: Requires a bit of tuning, but generally decently balanced.

    Tiring: Awfully expensive, a level of Fatigue is a big deal, although it is a one-and-done cost so can be okay for large-scale sustained powers. Hit the fatigue to get it on at the start of the scene, use it freely for the duration. Although if you try to keep it on long enough that you can rest off the fatigue to negate it that's getting rather cheesy.

    Uncontrolled: Has its uses for certain things (great for Precognition/Postcognition and other potential headache powers), but in the general sense the GM having full control over the power is probably worth more than -1/rank. Used to establish an uncontrolled situation where the power is use (such as "used on next turn after being attacked in melee" or the like) is more Balanced if it's something you generally always want to use (being roughly equivalent to Limited), but still rather Niche if you may or may not actually want it to activate in those situations (making it rather worse than a Limit).

    Unreliable: The 5 uses option does require some tuning like Fades, but solid overall.

    On The Care and Feeding of Arrays

    For my money, arrays are the single best idea in M&M.

    That said, they come with certain balance challenges. The game doesn't give much guidance on what makes a reasonable array, in terms of either array value, or number of alternate powers. One of the big problems is that there's no tradeoff between power and versatility. Every point added to the array's value boosts every alternate power (not to mention your power stunt capacity). Alternate powers are cheap and give you the full benefit of your array's value. It becomes especially clear when you start advancing, since you often only gain one or a few PP at a time, and another alternate power is almost always one of the best things you can purchase.

    So, here's my suggestion. A solid "primary" array - that is, an array containing your primary combat powers - should be worth roughly 3ish PP per PL (plus any additional you need for Accurate). A character who is meant to be an offensive specialist might go as high as 4ish PP per PL, plus some for Accurate. A character meant to be more of a backup combatant might aim for only 2ish PP/PL.

    If you want a more flexible group of tactical/utility powers, these should be in a separate array generally. Having multiple arrays is more balanced than a single very large and possibly Dynamic array; the individual powers have a lower ceiling, and you have fewer points available for power stunts. Your utility array should probably be 1-2ish PP/PL, although a backup combatant might go for a larger utility array for its smaller combat array.

    In general, I suggest no more than five applications of Alternate Effect to any given array (i.e. six powers total), with maybe a bit of additional leeway for higher-PL games (an extra one per two PL over 10 is usually fair). Not everyone needs that much tactical flexibility; myself, I find the tactical side of the game especially fun, so I like having a fairly broad set of options. I would say to think hard before you put the full six powers into both arrays, though. Sometimes you just have that many ideas for powers, but that's a lot of versatility, especially in the utility array; if doing that, it's best if at least a couple of the utility powers do effectively the same thing just in a different way or are less useful in general. Also starting off with a few slots unpurchased gives you the opportunity to fill them in as you get PP to establish some quick character growth.

    Now, the three above benchmarks use my typical optimization preferences. It gives you a lot of room to build out a well-defined power set while still leaving plenty of design space for other characters - I've made plenty of groups of characters using these benchmarks and they all had their own niches and specialties. But, it's still fairly high-powered. For a lower-powered game, knocking 1 PP/rank off the suggested combat array size, foregoing utility arrays entirely in favor of standalone powers, and keeping the combat array to a max of 3-4 powers, is probably where you want to shoot for. (I will note though, for argument's sake, that most modern military weapons would rate at 3 PP/rank, so I do question why we'd want our superheroes to have less tactically-interesting powers than the average soldier).

    As far as what powers are fair to include together in an array, my guideline is: A) Powers that are too niche or too expensive to stand on their own can be safely added to any array. If it rates lower than Balanced, I wouldn't worry about it. B) Those aside, all powers in an array should be things you could reasonably expect to be able to use in the same scene, but not necessarily in the same round. In general, it's good to keep combat and utility separate; partially, this is to keep any given array from being too versatile, but also because combat powers usually need more points than utility powers do, though there are some exceptions (Illusion, Teleport, Transform, and Create - though that one can be used for combat at least as much as utility anyway - all come to mind).

    Also, with a few exceptions (usually the ones that have their own version of Extras for weapons) you shouldn't put advantages into arrays. Advantages are cheap because they're niche, so being able to access them on demand overpowers them. Only add skills to arrays when they're subject to a significant limit. Skills are one of the best ways to define who a character is and what they do underneath their powers, and being able to have a high skill and then shift the value over to a power when you need to can be annoying for other players who bought the skill normally, especially if your version ends up higher rank.

    Choosing Your Tradeoffs

    Blasted character limit.

    Playing Multiple Characters

    Multiple characters are the strongest thing in the game. They give you action economy. They give you additional durability. In the case of Summon, they give you expendability. They give you versatility. Summon in paricular can be extremely expensive, but it can also be complete nonsense. Thing is, it can also be useless. Summon a Minion or even a group of Minions, enemies annihilate them before they can act, etc.

    Other forms of multiple characters are almost as bad. Sidekick, Minions...they just give you way more than they're worth and there's so much you can do with them that it's near impossible to balance. Consider for a moment that a noncombatant smart-guy, support, or mission control Minion can effectively get you access to non-combat skills and powers at a rate of 1 PP per 15 points. Keeling over from a single hit doesn't matter much if they're almost never exposed to combat! (Sure, eventually the GM will expose them to combat because of course it will, but the rest of the time). As with Metamorph, there is in theory a way to use below PL stats and careful build construction to balance them, but flame-blast if I have guidance on it. I avoid using all such mechanics entirely because I do not trust myself with them.

    If you need to use them for your concept, I can tell you that two characters with stats equivalent to a given PL minus two should be more-or-less balanced against a single character with at-PL stats, although PL minus 3 may be safer. But that's a rough assessment and may not do enough to fully mitigate the sheer additional versatility, flexibility, and durability that multiple characters offer. It also assumes you're not taking advantage of some of the special options having multiple characters gives you. Two characters meant to work together...yeah, you can probably balance them decently with enough effort. But what about one character meant to support another?

    When I have a concept that calls for multiple characters (which I do tend to like), I build them as a single character and use an Innate Feature that provides one additional body per rank. This Feature uses the following rules, and any other benefits for being multiple characters I build into their base mechanics (i.e. Quickness, attacks that can represent them working together, etc). This isn't appropriate for all concepts though, as to really make sense it requires the characters to share a powerful supernatural bond (my go-to excuse is superpowered twins, but I've also done it with like animal companions and such).

    Spoiler: Additional Bodies
    Show
    This build is used to represent multiple characters with a supernatural bond. Each rank of the Feature provides one additional "character" - that is to say, another person in the game world with its own body, mind, position, personality, goals, etc. This has several ramifications, some positive, some negative, and some neutral.

    [ ] The characters receive only one set of actions in combat, just like a single character. Their ability to coordinate with each other is mechanically represented by their powers. They don't receive any other bonuses for focus-firing, can't Aid each other or perform a Team Attack together, and so on.
    [ ] The characters receive only one set of build resources. They have one pool of PP and possess identical traits, although some of their traits may be available only to certain ones (this cannot be used to Limit powers, although in some cases the GM may deem it a Complication). If any of them use Extra Effort, they all are Fatigued. They may Recover once per encounter between them. They have one pool of Hero Points and Luck Rerolls.
    [ ] The characters roll once to resolve actions. If they make a Linked attack that requires an attack roll, they make a single roll as normal (if they affect different targets, the same roll applies to each defense individually, as normal). They would roll Stealth once to avoid detection, only get one Perception roll to notice something, only get one chance to recall something with Expertise, etc.
    [ ] The characters are no more or less resistant to damage or effects than a single character. If any of them fails a Resistance check, the penalties apply to all of them (due to their supernatural bond). If one is incapacitated, all of them are. Likewise, if any of them Recovers, receives Healing, or makes a save to throw off an Affliction, the conditions are removed from all of them. If one is killed, however, the others do remain alive, though this may result in loss of some of their powers for some period of time.
    [ ] Except where decided by their player (to represent them keeping things from each other or simply not paying attention to what the others are experiencing), the characters can share all knowledge and perceptions between them. They have not purchased Communication Link or Sensory Link powers to represent this, because mechanically they are not separate characters (your right eye does not require a power for you to know what your left eye sees).
    [+] The characters occupy separate positions - each one has its own physical body. Each one is capable of independently perceiving and interacting with their environment, and each one may be used as the emanation point for actions. An enemy with cover from one character but not another could be targeted by the character with a clear shot, for example (and conversely, if one character has cover from an enemy and another does not, the enemy can target the uncovered character). They could simultaneously stand guard on opposite sides of a roof, one could talk to someone while another reports what is being said to the party, and they could theoretically fight in separate combats if they can manage coordinating their actions properly (since they still only receive one pool of actions between them) and don't wind up getting killed by being exposed multiple combats worth of attacks at once.
    [+] When the characters spend an action to perform some sort of physical movement, they may all do so. If they spend an action to move, they may all move their full speed. If they spend an action to stand up, all of them may stand. If they spend an action to Escape a Grab, they may all attempt to do so. If they spend a move action to manipulate an object, one could open a door while another picks up a weapon, etc. However, they do only have one move action between them, so if one wishes to move and another wishes to stand up, they have to decide which to do. When outside of action time, they may all perform things that would normally be move actions individually as long as they don't involve any significant mechanical resolution.
    [+] Effects that physically move, reposition, or restrict their bodies apply individually unlike most forms of attack. If one character is Grabbed or Tripped, the others are not arbitrarily rendered Bound or Prone. If one is sent flying by a Move Object effect or Telported elsewhere, the others don't randomly launch through the air or vanish. However, if more than one of them are in range of the attack, the attacker may choose to apply it to any or all of them with no additional rolls or difficulty. Note also that while this benefit can mitigate offensive penalties (since the free character can be the one that directs the attack), it only provides limited benefit against defensive penalties (since attackers can choose to strike at the more vulnerable character).
    [-] This build represents all of the characters working together. Traits that represent their coordination will be lost or reduced in effectiveness if they are unable to do so.
    [-] The characters are vulnerable to area attacks that catch them all. If at least two, but not less than half, of them are in the area, they take a -2 penalty to the Dodge check to halve the effect. If more than two and more than half of them are, they take a -5 penalty. Similarly, certain defensive area effects that only cover some of them could leave the other(s) still vulnerable to attack.


    Pedantic Rules Analysis

    There are a few areas of the M&M rules where I regularly see people considering basic balanced character design to be "high-optimization" or "min-maxing" at the expense of character concept. So I'm going to dedicate a bit of this guide to explaining why they're totally not.

    Spoiler: Abilities, And Why They Don't Work
    Show
    Probably the single biggest point-sink I see on M&M characters is Abilities. I'm not saying that (some) Abilities don't have their place, but if you're going to use them, you want to make sure you're getting what you want out of them - because very often, you aren't.

    See, in most RPGs, your ability scores, attributes, whatever you call them, occupy a fairly prestigious spot in the game mechanics. Most of the time, you either generate them independently of other build resources (meaning that they're all bonus, and generally, a bonus you can't just get elsewhere), as in D&D, or they determine a major portion of your check bonuses. In GURPS, for example, checks are all ability checks with other modifiers. In White Wolf games, half of your base dice pools come from your attributes. And so on. Plenty of computer and console games have you primarily improve your character's raw numbers through ability scores and equipment. It's pretty well ingrained, I think, in gamer culture that your ability scores are your defining physical and mental attributes.

    It isn't like that in M&M. In M&M, your Abilities are nothing more than prepackaged sets of points. Almost anything you can get from your Abilities, you can purchase a la carte just as easily. Your Abilities don't provide bonuses you can't get elsewhere, the way they do in many other games.

    This means Abilities are not inherently desirable. For most of them, there is no package deal discount (and for some of them, you actually pay more to get the Ability than you would to buy everything it gives you a la carte). So, from a pure build-efficiency standpoint, you only want to buy Abilities when you expect to use everything the Ability gives you. Anything you don't really care about is just points you're wasting on something you don't want. Worse still, when you toss a point or two here, a few points there, to create a "well-rounded" character, you wind up getting a scattershot of small bonuses that won't actually help you accomplish any meaningful tasks in play. If it were just spending a few points on niche but flavorful stuff, that would be fine. But if you have +3 in Stealth, at best you just never use it because it's too low to trust, and at worst you actually use it because you have it, fail, and get caught by some chump security guard with its dinky (but professionally-competent) +5 Perception skill. This doesn't make you feel like your character has "Gifted" Agility. It makes you feel like your character is a noisy, clumsy buffoon.

    But what about the fluff? If you set most or all of your Abilities to 0, doesn't that make your character a completely average person before getting into skills and powers? Isn't that lame?

    I would argue no. Remember the Core Design Principle, M&M divorces flavor from mechanics. The Abilities are one way to get the fluff you want, but they aren't the only way or the best way (I would, in fact, argue that they tend to do a pretty poor job of it, as with the "Giftedly" agile example above). I've seen the argument that it's weird for, for example, someone with an Ability of 0 to have a really high corresponding skill. How is somebody of completely average Agility a world-class acrobat, or someone with utterly average charisma extremely persuasive?

    The answer is, they're not. M&M says outright that skill ranks can come from both natural talent and from training. They don't say that bonuses from Ability ranks are considered to be from talent, and those from skill ranks are from training. If you have Persuasion 20, Presence 0, you are (or can be, if that is your desired fluff) extremely charismatic, you just express that entirely through getting people to like and agree with you. You can be charismatic while being unimposing and a bad liar (or while being extremely unlikable, for that matter).

    And then of course, the salient question - isn't this just prioritizing optimization, cold numbers and character power, over concept? My answer, not at all. It's building to your character's concept by buying only the traits you actually intend for the character to have, and spending your limited points on the traits that best express your character's nature. If I want my character to be giftedly agile, I'm not buying Agility 3. I'm buying Acrobatics 12. If I want my character to be stealthy too, I'll buy Stealth. And you know, if I want Agility and Stealth (and Dodge but that's pretty much a given, and Initiative but that's essentially free), sure, maybe I'll grab some of the points of all that from Agility and then buy up any excess I want, because why not?

    But having Agility 0 and Acrobatics 12 doesn't mean my character has completely average natural agility but is somehow an expert acrobat despite that. It means my character has significant natural agility as well as acrobatic training, to whichever degree I choose to define them. You buy the mechanics. You describe them how you want.

    Spoiler: Custom Option - Inverse Ability Calculation
    Show
    Now, to be fair, raw Ability checks do occasionally happen. And I won't deny that from a psychological standpoint it's kinda nicer to see actual numbers in your Abilities section. Again, Abilities = Good is pretty ingrained in gamer culture. I can admit that these things do have a certain amount of intrinsic value on top of the base functions of the stats. I wouldn't call it more than 1 PP of value per Ability, but that much would be fair enough.

    So, if you want to "have Abilities" but you don't want to waste points on stuff you don't want, see if your GM will allow this custom Benefit:

    Natural Aptitude: For each rank in this Benefit, choose one Ability. For purposes of raw Ability checks (other than those with a concrete combat function, like Agility checks for initiative or Strength checks to make or resist certain maneuvers) and just the general narrative measure of your Abilities, that Ability is treated as equal to the average of all traits the Ability provides, halved, and rounded down. This replaces the existing Ability for these purposes if better, rather than adding to it, and does not apply for purposes of actually calculating traits affected by the Ability. Note the effective Ability on your character sheet in brackets to indicate it is a derived value, not a purchased value.

    So in effect, that reverses how Abilities work - rather than buying the Ability and getting certain traits, you buy the traits and for the cost of a Benefit per Ability, can calculate the raw Ability based on those traits. So if you have Dodge 10, Acrobatics 8, Stealth 0, and Natural Aptitude (Agility), your effective Agility would be 18 / 3 = 6 / 2 = [3]. Descriptively, your character has the grace and physical control of a character with Agility 3. If called upon to roll a straight Agility check (other than Initiative), you'd roll 1d20+3. Your Agility otherwise counts as 0, so you don't get further bonuses to Dodge, Acrobatics, or Stealth.

    As an aside, it would also be a totally valid house rule for a GM to simply say that Abilities automatically get this effect applied without costing points.


    Spoiler: Paying Once For Attack Bonus
    Show
    The second-biggest point-sink I tend to see is attacks and attack bonuses. See, there's lots of different ways to purchase attack bonus, ranging in cost from 1 PP/2 ranks to 2 PP/rank. You never want to be paying more than one actual PP per two points of your highest attack bonus regardless of how many different attack bonuses you have. Likewise, M&M makes it very easy and intuitive to pay multiple times for the same benefit by purchasing multiple attack effects individually, which is just a great way to burn a ton of points for multiple mediocre attacks.

    Attack Bonus

    Attack bonus is appropriately priced at 1 PP per 2 ranks. Attack bonus is, in general, less valuable than effect DC. Defense is easier to circumvent than resistance checks. There are ways to avoid needing attack rolls entirely, although they come with some costs (a lot of really good options are only available when you make an attack roll). Even so, if you were paying 2 PP/rank for attack bonus, you could just as easily get Perception Range and auto-hit any target you can see, or Selective Area and hit multiple guys without any fear of collateral damage. All told, attack bonus costing 1 PP/2 ranks makes sense from a game balance perspective.

    But there are multiple ways to purchase it. It's a design flaw in the game, simple as that. The reason being, there is no practical benefit to the "broader" types of attack bonus. You control what you attack with most of the time. In fact, it is only by choice that you might ever not control what you attack with. A character who fights unarmed and uses Close Combat (Unarmed) for attack bonus is always in possession of its weapon of choice. So if you play a character who even has the option of losing its primary means of making attack rolls, that is a conscious decision on your part. This means that the descriptive nature of what you are using to attack is pure fluff. And fluff should not cost additional points.

    Look at it from the inverse direction too. If the idea is that general attack bonus is worth 2 PP/rank (again, this is the same cost for ignoring attack rolls entirely and also being able to target anything you can perceive), and then it can be Limited to Close or Ranged attacks and further Limited to One Specific Type of Attack...well, that's like the Only While Singing Loudly limit. The vast majority of the time, you control what you attack with, so why is it getting such a big discount?

    This goes back to why Fighting and Dexterity are actually worth less than they cost. The attack bonus portion equates to the same as buying attack bonus through the Close Attack and Ranged Attack Advantages - 1 PP/rank if you're cool with making only melee or only ranged attacks, 2 PP/rank if you want both.

    Attack Effects

    Mechanically, probably the main point of arrays is letting a character have multiple special attacks without purchasing each one individually. They can be used for other things, but this is probably their central purpose. However, because arrays do have some restrictions, there can be certain types of characters who can't really fit all of their attacks into one cohesive array.

    First and most obvious is, what if you want a backup attack? Arrays can be Nullified, weapons can be Removed, and maybe you want a basic attack that you can still use when your big guns are unavailable. But to be able to use it when you can't use your array, you pretty much have to buy it separately.

    Second is, characters with Strength but also things like guns or powers. Your typical action hero has its guns, but can also beat people down with its fists quite effectively. But guns aren't Strength-based, so if you're buying Strength and an array for guns, you're paying twice.

    There's also the weapon and powers combo. Removable can't be applied to only some effects of a power. If you want a cool special weapon and cool powers, like an RPG hero with its Infinity+1 Sword and a selection of magical attacks, you're going to have to shell out a lot of points for two independent powers or arrays that do effectively the same thing, just in different ways.

    ...Or, you know, not.

    Paying Once Regardless Of Fluff

    The Single Attack Mode: If you rely on a single means of attack for all of your combat needs, you can keep it simple and just buy the skill relevant to that attack mode. This means restricting yourself to either melee or ranged attacks for targeted attack purposes (although restricting yourself to Close attacks isn't as big a deal as it may sound - range has its uses, but given the speeds M&M characters can reach, it's fairly overpriced for its benefit). This is a simple and straightforward option. But be warned - don't do this if you ever want to use any other mode of attack. Don't buy Close Combat (Unarmed) and Ranged Combat (Guns) - because then you're paying twice.

    Mixed Tactics - an Accurate Array: If you want both melee and ranged capability, you just add a few more points to your array and use them to add Accurate to each power individually. This means you're no good with anything but your powers, and Nullifies can ruin your day, but Nullifies can probably ruin your day anyway, so whatever. This also has the advantage that those points invested in your attack bonus are part of the array, so for the powers that don't need attack rolls, you can reinvest them elsewhere (I like adding an Enhanced Extra with a Limit of some kind; the Limit applies to the Enhanced Trait rather than the whole power, so it lowers the cost to 1 PP/2 ranks rather than negating the cost of the Extra entirely).

    Playing a Weapons Master: But say you want your character to be skilled with any weapon it gets its hands on. Do you have to burn two or four times as many points on attack bonus for what amounts to pure fluff? No. Give your powers Variable Descriptor (Physical), and you can fluff them as being used with any weapon you get your hands on. Simple.

    A Backup Attack: There are two options here. First, buy a basic, standalone attack power. I like something like Weapons Master: Enhanced Strength 10 (Accurate 5, Limited [Combat Purposes]), but go with whatever suits your character. If there's synergy between that power and your array, you then make the array Enhance that power with various cool stuff. "Weapons Master gains Multiattack", "Weapons Master gains Linked Affliction 10", etc. If your array goes down, you lose the cool enhancements, but still have the base attack. If there isn't much synergy (your backup is a physical attack but your array is straight powers, for example), you apply Reduced Trait to your backup attack in the array. So while the array's active, the backup is down. When not using the array or when it's down, the backup is up.

    Note, however, you cannot (and shouldn't be trying to even if you could, because arrays are balanced as it is and this would be super-cheesy) use this tactic to circumvent array restrictions by, say, buying a base power, and then buying a selection of other powers that include Reduced Trait on the base one paying the 1 PP minimum for new powers. Because at that point you're trying to reduce the same trait multiple times; you've already reduced it, so you can't reduce it again. At best, you could use this to get two mutually-exclusive but not technically arrayed powers (which is equivalent to getting an array that's mutually exclusive with the base power).

    You also don't want to go too far with this. If you make a full-strength power that you then reduce for another power at equal value, it's just circumventing the array restrictions. Your backup should be strictly weaker than your actual array powers, and should be essentially something they can all do (maybe your base power is Damage and the array has some straight Afflictions and Weakens, that's fine, but like if your base power is a Multiattack Damage all your array powers should include some form of Multiattack attack). In this way, it's equivalent to the "base power, enhanced by array" tactic, rather than scooping up a bonus alternate power that doesn't have to worry about the limits on arrays. This is relaxed some if the backup is to a Removable power, because there you're paying the cost in not getting the full Removable discount (because your reduced trait lowers the total cost of the power).

    Totally Independent Power Sets: Okay, so what if you want two (or more!) totally different power sets? Like a mage knight who has cool melee special moves and potent battle-magic?

    There, yes, you're probably looking at two arrays, but you can still avoid double-paying. Option one is to go with the "base attack, enhanced by arrays" move above, with each array enhancing the base. So the mage knight might have a basic damage power, which can be buffed by both its special attacks array and its spells array. This results in a flexible hybrid combatant that uses both powers synergistically.

    The other option is to give both arrays some passive combat powers as well as straight attack powers. Maybe your special attacks power has like a "fake regen" power (Regeneration with Quirk [Does not actually heal damage, all "regenerated" damage from the scene returns if this effect is Nullified]) to represent catching your breath while casting spells, while your spells array includes a Flight power for mobility. Or other things along those lines. Now you have two arrays with independent attacks, but you are still able to get some combat use out of them when using the other. The price you pay for this flexibility and versatility is that your attacks are likely to be individually weaker than those of a character who focuses on a single combat array.


    Spoiler: Defenses, PL Limits, and You
    Show
    I sometimes see PCs whose defenses don't reach their PL limits. Or don't come close to their PL limits. I also sometimes see GMs who say not to worry about hitting your PL limits, or that if you're going to hit your PL limits you should have a good explanation for it. And none of that is...wrong, or bad, or anything, really. But PL caps are an extremely helpful tool for both players and GMs. So my advice is, unless there's a good reason not to, hit your caps. And even if there is a good reason not to...at least come close.

    In my experience, a defensive PL of game PL minus two is a "squishy" character. In a PL 10 game, that might mean straight 8s, or something like Dodge/Parry 6, Toughness 10, Fortitude 7, Will 9, or whatever. M&M characters are hilariously resilient in general, but even a two PL reduction across all defenses makes you noticeably vulnerable to attack - against a "normal" at PL attack, it creates the possibility of being one-shotted where that does not usually exist (barring a crit or some sort of damage shift). It's not a huge possibility, sure, but it's there, and it gets bigger with each effective PL reduced. If your effective defensive PL is four or more below the game's actual PL...expect to go down often. And be very careful of tradeoffs when operating at a low defensive PL, or just leaving one stat low. I always cringe when I see people with Will stats in the 0-3 range, or who have level-appropriate Dodge or Parry but completely neglect the other one (Parry in particular - at the speeds an M&M character can reach, just because you're a ranged attacker does not mean you should have any confidence at being able to stay out of melee).

    On the GM side, the biggest thing about PL is that it gets the numbers all roughly together. It's one less issue to worry about when coming up with challenges. And the defensive numbers are the biggest area where PL plays a role. There are other powers and options out there for characters who want to specialize in defense, but having everyone at or around PL means you know how the basic math of combat is going to play out. If you tell your players not to worry about hitting caps, you are only making your own job harder, because now instead of balancing encounters for a group of four PL 10s, you're balancing encounters for a PL 10, a PL 8.5, a PL 7, and some guy who only took Toughness and some human-scale Abilities and came out as PL 3ish.

    Again, I also can't say it's at all correct to call this "min-maxing" or "optimization". It's like, if you're playing a level 10 D&D game, you wouldn't make a Fighter 5/Barbarian 1. Or a fighter with Base Attack Bonus +8, 6d10 hit points, Fortitude +5, Reflex +3, Will +2, 16 skill points. Tradeoffs give you plenty of room to work with for defining your strengths and weaknesses precisely. And if you really want to be squishy, by all means, be squishy! But let's call it like it is, and not delude ourselves into thinking that we need to have below-PL stats for our characters to make sense, and hitting our caps is just power-gaming.

    In short, don't look at PL caps as your "maximum" defensive numbers. Look at them as level-appropriate defenses. If you are below them, you are especially vulnerable for your level. If you're fine with that, cool, but be aware that that's what it means. If you want to specialize in defense, consider powers like Concealment, Regeneration, Deflect, Create, Healing, Immunity, and Probably Not Impervious.


    A Template For a Well Rounded Hero

    Finally, this is...not strictly the template I use when creating characters, quite, but more-or-less where my usual character design process averages around. It's a template for a well-rounded, versatile, well-balanced character. You could make a team of eight of these guys and as long as the power sets were sufficiently distinct they'd all have their own niches and specialties. You probably don't want to follow it exactly. You'll shift some things around to suit, some characters will have more or less skills, advantages, powers, etc. But it should make a good starting point to work from.

    Spoiler: Mechanics
    Show

    Abilities

    STR: 0. STA: 10. AGI: 0. DEX: 0.
    FGT: 0. INT: 0. AWE: 0. PRE: 0.

    Attacks

    Initiative: +4.
    Attack: +10 (DC 25 Damage, DC 20 Effect).

    Defenses

    Dodge (10): +10. Parry (10): +10. Toughness: +10. Fortitude: +10. Will (10): +10.
    Tradeoff as desired.

    Skills

    A Social Skill (Deception, Insight, Intimidation, or Persuasion) 10 (+10), An Information-gathering Skill (Expertise, Insight, Investigation, Perception, or Technology) 10 (+10), A Defensive Skill (Acrobatics, Athletics, Insight, or Perception) 10 (+10), Any Other Skill 10 (+10).

    Advantages

    All Out Attack, Equipment 1, Improved Initiative 1, Move-by Action, Power Attack, 10 more to taste.

    Equipment

    Modern Smart Phone: Cell Phone, Computer, GPS {3+1}.
    Alternate Applications: Camera, Audio/Video Recorder.

    Commlink {1}.

    Powers

    Standalone: 12 PP in powers you're going to want always on/available or that just don't fit the themes of your arrays (alternately, bring the Utility Array up by 10 PP and have 2 PP in standalones or for more utility alternates, or drop this and instead grab 20 more skill ranks and two more advantages) {12}.

    Utility Array: 10-point Array {10+3}.

    Mobility Power: A rank-10 1/rank movement power for level-appropriate speed. Speed, Winged Flight, Platform Flight, Leaping, etc.

    Special Defense: Some sort of passive defense. Regeneration, Concealment, a decent Immunity, Impervious, Insubstantial, etc.

    Tactical Power: Something that gives you a supplemental tactical option. Elongation, a low-rank Teleport with tactical Extras, an alternative movement mode, etc.

    Utility Power: A basic utility power. Senses, Communication, Morph, Concealment, Insubstantial, etc.

    Combat Array: 35-point Array {35+5}.

    Basic Attack: Your "default" attack mode. Something that expresses the character's preferred combat style and offensive focus. You may want this to draw from one of the below styles to emphasize that style for your character - a more guardian or leader type character might use a different form of Supportive Attack for its basic, more a debuffer would use a Tactical Attack, etc.

    Tactical Attack: Generally Damage linked to some sort of debuff, giving you more options for hampering your foes.

    Specialized Attack: An attack designed to fill a specialized role. Maybe this is a ranged attack for an otherwise melee-focused character, maybe it's an Area attack for dealing with multiple foes, a Perception attack for hard-to-hit enemies, etc.

    Supportive Attack: Generally an attack Linked to some defense, support, or tactical power. Alternately, a straight-up defense/support power. Deflect, Healing, and Create are all good options here.

    Heavy Hitter: A big gun. This could be a triple-threat attack, and usually has some sort of Flaw restricting its usage, so you can't pull it out just all the time but it's explicitly stronger than your normal attacks when you do. A good option is to make it Limited to enemies who do a certain thing that you don't want your enemies doing, such as targeting your weak resistance or attacking your allies or something.

    Supplemental Attack: Another of the above to further define and flesh out your character's style and focus.

    Calculations

    PL: 10. PP: 0/150.
    Abilities: 20. Stats: 30. Skills: 20. Advantages: 15. Powers: 65.
    Last edited by Quellian-dyrae; 2018-01-20 at 05:04 PM.
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    M&M 3e Character Guide

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    Default Re: Mutants and Masterminds 3e Character Guide

    Thank you for this. You've put a lot of work into it. It's really helpful to know how other people see the game and what they use to try to balance it (like setting a limit on arrays for example). I don't necessarily agree with all your points, but I liked seeing your proposed fixes.

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    Default Re: Mutants and Masterminds 3e Character Guide

    Are you missing Insubstantial?

    Communication is not a bit overpriced, I'd argue-- it's hilariously overpowered. 16 points for a slightly more reliable cellphone is a joke, especially when things like Senses 1 (Comn link) exist. Like, if it cost 1pp/rank, I'd call it a decent fluff-power like some of the Comprehend stuff, but as is... I'd honestly go so far as to say that it's never worth putting down on your sheet, because the situations where you need it are so rare that you're much, much better off power-stunting.

    Nothing about Perception range/Remote Sensing madness? I also don't see anything about Ranged Touch (Acute Optional), which defeats pretty much any Concealment or Illusion for a paltry 1-2 points.

    I agree with you pretty much entirely on arrays, though. My main suggestion there would be to add a note about trying to mix offensive and utility arrays-- doing so, I find, ends in tears, because offensive powers cost so much more you either wind up "wasting" points, which feels bad, or you try to build 30-point utility powers, which tend to wind up off-the-wall insane.
    Last edited by Grod_The_Giant; 2017-12-26 at 04:20 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JustIgnoreMe View Post
    Thank you for this. You've put a lot of work into it. It's really helpful to know how other people see the game and what they use to try to balance it (like setting a limit on arrays for example). I don't necessarily agree with all your points, but I liked seeing your proposed fixes.


    Quote Originally Posted by Grod_The_Giant View Post
    Are you missing Insubstantial?
    ...Huh, I am missing Insubstantial. Will have to fix that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Grod_The_Giant View Post
    Communication is not a bit overpriced, I'd argue-- it's hilariously overpowered. 16 points for a slightly more reliable cellphone is a joke, especially when things like Senses 1 (Comn link) exist. Like, if it cost 1pp/rank, I'd call it a decent fluff-power like some of the Comprehend stuff, but as is... I'd honestly go so far as to say that it's never worth putting down on your sheet, because the situations where you need it are so rare that you're much, much better off power-stunting.
    I don't know I'd go quite that far. Communication (Mental Communication in particular) has a lot of advantages over a cell phone. Connection is instant, they don't need to have a phone on them, you don't need to know their "number" (so you can send telepathic messages to hostages, people in a crowd, etc), other people nearby can't overhear you without appropriate powers (or at all, with sufficient Subtle), and Communication includes the option for Rapid, which gives you incredible tactical ability to pass information quickly or have an extended conversation in the midst of a fast-paced situation. I wouldn't buy it standalone, because it is just too expensive for that, especially when cell phones exist. But as a slot in a utility array it's gold.

    Quote Originally Posted by Grod_The_Giant View Post
    Nothing about Perception range/Remote Sensing madness? I also don't see anything about Ranged Touch (Acute Optional), which defeats pretty much any Concealment or Illusion for a paltry 1-2 points.
    Yeah I guess I did the Perception Range + ludicrous Senses and didn't also mention Remote Sensing, will add that. I suppose Ranged Touch sense is worth a mention for being underpriced at least.

    Quote Originally Posted by Grod_The_Giant View Post
    I agree with you pretty much entirely on arrays, though. My main suggestion there would be to add a note about trying to mix offensive and utility arrays-- doing so, I find, ends in tears, because offensive powers cost so much more you either wind up "wasting" points, which feels bad, or you try to build 30-point utility powers, which tend to wind up off-the-wall insane.
    That's fair, yeah. There are a few utility powers that are expensive enough that you can work them into an otherwise more combat-focused array - Transform, Create, Teleport, and Illusion all come to mind - but for the most part it definitely makes sense to keep them separate.
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    Default Re: Mutants and Masterminds 3e Character Guide

    This is a good guide that answered some questions before I managed to write them down, but one slips through the cracks:

    The assumption here is that players have access to Flight and other, less effective movement powers. For running M&M as intended, as a superhero game, it's a fair assumption to make - but many of us use the system for other setups than just that, setups where powers including flight are restricted for various reasons.

    What happens then? What happens if we have a M&M battleground where suddenly distances between characters matter because they can't cross hundreds of feet in a single move action? Does it significantly improve options such as actually using ranged attacks or movement-inhibiting afflictions?

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    Default Re: Mutants and Masterminds 3e Character Guide

    This is written fairly generically, so yeah, things can change based on different settings, house rules, and so on. It would be perfectly fair to view Flight as Strong and most other forms of movement as more-or-less Balanced (Swimming probably still comes out Weak, since I think a character's base swim speed depends on their land speed, so Swimming really should have been like a Movement option negating the penalty or something; Speed Limited to Swimming would be more reasonable).

    If movement is heavily curtailed, range does become comparatively better. I don't know that it quite makes it fully worth the combination of cost and other supplemental weaknesses it entails. From a game design standpoint, I feel like it would have worked better if it worked like Elongation does mechanically. But at least at that point it gives you a solid tactical advantage.

    Hindered/Immobilized never become better, just because of comparisons to the more balanced options.

    Say your base Speed is 0. Normally, you can move 30' and take an action, double-move 60', move+charge 60' and attack at -2, or take a standard action and do something else with your move action.

    If Hindered, you can move 15' and take an action, double-move 30', move+charge 30' and attack at -2, or take a standard action and do something else with your move action.

    If Dazed, you can move 30', charge 30' and attack at -2, or just take a standard action. You're way more restricted for an equal level condition, and the relative restriction doesn't change regardless of how high your speed is.

    Immobilized, on the other hand, still lets you take both a move and standard action, but you can't move at all. It doesn't restrict you in quite as many ways as Dazed does, but in the main area, blocking movement, it's strictly better. Immobilized would be balanced with Dazed.

    But Immobilized isn't competing with Dazed. Immobilized is competing with Stunned. Immobilized: Can't move, but can do anything else you want. Stunned: Can't do anything at all, including moving. There's no comparison.
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    Default Re: Mutants and Masterminds 3e Character Guide

    Quote Originally Posted by Quellian-dyrae View Post
    But Immobilized isn't competing with Dazed. Immobilized is competing with Stunned. Immobilized: Can't move, but can do anything else you want. Stunned: Can't do anything at all, including moving. There's no comparison.
    Yeah, the quality of Affliction-conditions is all over the place. (I note you have Entranced as gold, while I've always seen it as pretty low-quality-- it's pretty subjective based on how your GM interprets "obvious threat," methinks, and whether that means "someone attacks specifically you" or if "you're in the middle of a fight" will break it)
    Last edited by Grod_The_Giant; 2017-12-27 at 08:04 PM.

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    Yeah Entranced can vary some by interpretation based on how easily it breaks. I tend to run it as, "If they're in a really serious fight with lots of flashy powers and area effects and such flying or really obvious salient threats, they'll break it at the end of their next turn even if they fail to recover. Otherwise, it breaks the moment someone targets them with an attack they can perceive." If judged more restrictively it could go down to Niche or even Useless.
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    Did you forget immunity or did I just miss it?
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    Default Re: Mutants and Masterminds 3e Character Guide

    Yeah I missed it. Updated with Immunity, Insubstantial, and those suggestions Grod made.
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    Default Re: Mutants and Masterminds 3e Character Guide

    I know you touch upon it, but could you suggest some guidelines with tradeoffs between toughness /active, accuracy damage, etc?

    I tend to go ridiculous skews like 14/6, but I've seen 20/0s before, etc.

    Also great guide!
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    Default Re: Mutants and Masterminds 3e Character Guide

    Quote Originally Posted by EugeneVoid View Post
    I know you touch upon it, but could you suggest some guidelines with tradeoffs between toughness /active, accuracy damage, etc?

    I tend to go ridiculous skews like 14/6, but I've seen 20/0s before, etc.
    Well I tried to but the character limit blocked me. Copying it here.

    Choosing Your Tradeoffs

    The tradeoff system in M&M works, although the balance could be better.

    If we ignore differing stats for a moment and just drill it down to Attack, Effect, Defense, and Resistance, here's how it looks. Statistically, assuming equal PL, the attacker favors balance. The attacker needs to beat both defenses to cause an effect; having a high chance in one area and a low chance in the other favors the defender, compared to having decent chances in both.

    Resistance, however, is more important than Defense. If you get hit, you just get hit. Multiattack might convert some overflow to the damage (at a less favorable rate than just Power Attacking), but for the most part, multiple degrees of success on the attack roll don't make things worse for you. But each point of Resistance not only increases your chances of resisting the attack entirely, but also of avoiding higher degrees of failure, which are what can actually take you out.

    So, the defender is generally best with high Resistance, then high Defense, then balance. The attacker is best off with balance, then high rank, then high accuracy.

    However, since accuracy is the weaker option, it has lower cost - 1 PP per two points assuming you're not tricked into multi-paying for it. Effect costs 1 PP/rank baseline, but all Extras applied to an attack increase the effect cost, but not the accuracy cost. So attack shifting, while less efficient broadly, has the advantage of giving you much cheaper attacks.

    There are two Defense stats (which can occasionally be used as resistances as well, although to be precise the game only actually specifies Dodge as being a valid resistance) and three Resistance stats (of which Will is specified as occasionally being a valid defense, but there are not listed mechanics for doing so - I tend to allow it as a +1/rank Alternate Resistance, or +0/rank if nerfed to allow active defense bonuses and Deflect to apply against it). Baseline, that looks balanced since Defense is a bit weaker than Resistance, but the reality is more complex.

    Because Fortitude and Will are pit against each other, not against Dodge, Parry, and Toughness, in terms of tradeoffs they're not really factors to consider - they're just additional defenses you need to purchase, traded off how you like. Dodge and Parry are competing directly with Toughness, and your basic "attack roll to hit, Toughness to resist" attacks are pretty much the standard. This is especially harsh because at that point, they're more expensive for a less effective defense. More significantly, Dodge and Parry are really easy to circumvent. Vulnerable tanks them, Defenseless wrecks them. Area lets a half effect punch through, which hurts Defense-shifted characters at normal PLs; if you have +5 Dodge/-5 Toughness and get hit by a PL 10 Area attack, you're taking the equivalent of a balance character's full effect even if you pass the Dodge check. If you get really unlucky and fail the Dodge check, you're even worse off. And Perception range ignores Defense entirely.

    So in a low-op game, you're generally best off shifting Toughness. Shifting Defense is still second best since defender favors imbalance (a Defense shift is swingy and easy to circumvent, but can offer good protection with a bit of luck). Balance is the weakest.

    But nowhere else in the rules does the metagame have more of an impact than when it comes to defense shifts.

    In a mid-op game where you're probably facing more complex attacks, but weaknesses aren't being directly targeted, it becomes a bit more complicated. While Defense remains inferior to Resistance, high Defense makes you strong against targeted Fortitude and Will attacks. You're probably more likely to encounter Damage Linked to some Fortitude or Will resisted Affliction or Weaken. Having high Defense and low Toughness means you'll feel some hard hits when a Toughness-resisted attacks beats your Defense, but you're more likely to avoid targeted attacks entirely, so you don't have to roll multiple saves. Likewise, high Toughness will protect you from raw damage well, but you'll still have to deal with debuffs. Area attacks will remain a problem for Defense-shifters, but the most iconic Perception attacks are usually Fortitude or Will resisted, so that's not as bad. In a mid-op game, shifting is probably more-or-less balanced; it'll help you sometimes, it'll hinder you sometimes, and it's tough to predict when and where.

    In a high-op game, though, the situation changes dramatically. Targeting an enemy's weakness is a huge advantage, and alternate attack forms are cheap because of arrays. Defense-resisted attacks become more common - a Toughness shift may just mean an enemy can double-dip your weakness, and don't forget that they can Power Attack to make sure it hits really hard. Of course, if you shift for Defense, you'll be facing Perception-range Toughness-resisted attacks, or whatever tricks are available to boost attack rolls or hit you with Vulnerable. However, all that tactical focus on hitting weaknesses isn't limited to attackers - Interpose becomes critical as it allows defenders to take attacks to their strengths. I strongly advise allowing Benefits to expand the usage of Interpose in such games; Area Interpose, Perception Interpose, and Double Interpose capability allows shifting to matter in a game where characters will be seeking each other's weaknesses and actively targeting them regularly. Unless the group has good Interpose capability to cover one another, though, almost any shift is risky. You're often better relying on defensive powers such as Regeneration, Half Immunity, Deflect, and Concealment to specialize your defenses, although these are, of course, more expensive. Shifting and then using half immunities to cover weaknesses is also a solid option.

    Regardless, I tend to find that a +/-2 shift gets a point across nicely, and +/-4 is a serious specialty. I advise capping shifts at +/-5. Anything beyond that is starting to get too binary, putting the GM in a position of being unable to challenge you without targeting your weaknesses.

    Be warned that no matter what the optimization level of a game is, it's never impossible that you'll encounter an attack that is strong against a given weakness. This is another reason why it's good to avoid excessive (>5) shifts in general.

    Quote Originally Posted by EugeneVoid View Post
    Also great guide!
    Thanks!
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    Default Re: Mutants and Masterminds 3e Character Guide

    On the note with multiple characters one of the few instances I've found it even remotely balanced is when reigning it in via pulling a Drizzt. You have on alternate character/creature that you always have with you.

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    Default Re: Mutants and Masterminds 3e Character Guide

    I don't really play 3e, I'm more of a 2nd ed person. But I just wanted to say this guide was brilliant and is helping me trim the fat from a lot of my sheets, making characters that play much smoother. With some modifications for different edition of course

    Nothing constructive to add, sorry. But thank you and if I do think of things I'll mention them.
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    Default Re: Mutants and Masterminds 3e Character Guide

    Well. Sometimes over on the M&M Forums I'm considered a powergamer for how big my Arrays are and so on ... but most of my characters are hideously unoptimal when judged by your cutthroat standards; I buy a lot of stuff just for flavor. Makes me feel a little bit better.

    ... Then again, I also use stuff that you state is overpowered (sometimes I agree, sometimes I don't), so I'm not sure what that says.
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    Default Re: Mutants and Masterminds 3e Character Guide

    Just to make sure I'm being clear here, I don't argue you shouldn't buy stuff for flavor. Heck, pretty much everything you buy should be for flavor. If it doesn't add to your vision of the character, there's no point in getting it! I'm mainly trying to advise people on how to get the flavor they want without either overpaying for it, or accidentally breaking the game by doing it.
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    Default Re: Mutants and Masterminds 3e Character Guide

    Quote Originally Posted by Quellian-dyrae View Post
    Just to make sure I'm being clear here, I don't argue you shouldn't buy stuff for flavor. Heck, pretty much everything you buy should be for flavor. If it doesn't add to your vision of the character, there's no point in getting it! I'm mainly trying to advise people on how to get the flavor they want without either overpaying for it, or accidentally breaking the game by doing it.
    I may have overexaggerated, but I did think you were saying that Abilities, at least, shouldn't be purchased for flavor. Did I misunderstand?
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    Default Re: Mutants and Masterminds 3e Character Guide

    I was saying the Abilities don't have any particular advantages over other ways of getting the exact same flavor elsewhere, and in general are less precise and more expensive ways of getting it. So unless you actually plan to make use of everything a given Ability offers you in play, you may as well just buy the stuff you actually want to use and leave the Ability itself at 0.

    Now, I think a lot of times when people say they "buy it for flavor" the main point is "I bought it knowing it was not likely to make a difference in play, but even so it's something I envision my character being able to do." Which is absolutely a good thing to do. But you want to be careful with that. Is it not likely to come up in play because it's actually not likely to come up, or because your bonus is so low that even if an opportunity to use it does come up you're probably going to leave it to somebody else or try to find an alternative that's more likely to succeed? Something like the Fascinate advantage, or using that multiple-Expertise construct I mentioned in the guide and spending a couple of slots on things like Cooking or Philosophy or Video Games, or a couple array slots with really niche powers, are examples of the former. You may never have any real opportunity to use them in play, but if you ever do it'll matter that you had it. Abilities tend to be the latter. There are plenty of opportunities to use the capabilities they give you in play, but unless you invest in them further, you're probably going to shy away from them because you're likely to fail. In this way, they actually kinda fake giving you the flavor, because if you ever try to actually make use of it in play, it's pretty likely it won't work out like you'd hope. It's kind of a "show, don't tell" thing.
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    Default Re: Mutants and Masterminds 3e Character Guide

    Question: Does this apply to and include Strength? Because that does serve as a free thing to use to upgrade damage powers, and the lifting mechanic is sort of Iconic of the genera.
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    Default Re: Mutants and Masterminds 3e Character Guide

    Strength is fairly unique among Abilities in that it serves actual purposes other than just boosting stats and skills. Operating under the premise that lifting rank and miscellaneous Strength functions work out to about 1 PP/rank in value, it's also actually technically advantageous point-wise (1 PP/rank for Damage, 1 PP/rank for lifting and misc stuff, 0.5 PP/rank for Athletics). That said, the same premise does apply; if you want lifting rank, and you want Strength-based Damage, it's perfectly solid and you even get some Athletics for free. But if you're using Strength, you want to either use only attacks that are Strength-based, or to make sure you use things like Reduced Strength Damage to offset it for your non-Strength-based attacks (or your GM can just make it easy on everyone and say the Strength bonus applies to any type of attack, though only one at a time, regardless of if it technically has the fluff of being propelled by muscles). Otherwise you're just paying twice for your damage.
    Last edited by Quellian-dyrae; 2018-02-20 at 01:34 AM.
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    Default Re: Mutants and Masterminds 3e Character Guide

    Quote Originally Posted by Metahuman1 View Post
    Question: Does this apply to and include Strength? Because that does serve as a free thing to use to upgrade damage powers, and the lifting mechanic is sort of Iconic of the genera.
    As I see it, Abilities in M&M sort of have two levels, from an optimization standpoint: either you don't particularly care about all the things the Ability affects and leave it around zero, or you do care about all the things and pump it up to superhuman levels. Strength gives you some really nice things you probably care about (combat power and a surprising amount of utility), so it absolutely makes sense to invest in it if it matches your concept.

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    Default Re: Mutants and Masterminds 3e Character Guide

    Seriously man this was so helpful. Thank you.

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    Default Re: Mutants and Masterminds 3e Character Guide

    Would a Reaction, Continuous, Selective Insubstantial 2 be acceptable? It seems awfully good for 15 points. (If not, I'm going to do it without the reaction, since it seems like a good fit for the character)
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    Default Re: Mutants and Masterminds 3e Character Guide

    It would depend on the GM. I don't think I'd allow Selective Insubstantial to say get around the need for Affects Corporeal, but for the most part that's an Insubstantial 4 issue anyway. I've done a Reaction Insubstantial once but it was for a video game themed character so it triggered only after he failed a save against Damage. Good for avoiding multiple attacks, but not an auto-nope. It had various other restrictions too. Did it's job and didn't seem broken, but again I'd be leery about letting Reaction Insubstantial 4 work as a substitute for Affects Corporeal. At the Reaction 2 level it's probably fine though. At that point it's more-or-less equivalent to Subtle.
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    Default Re: Mutants and Masterminds 3e Character Guide

    Ironically, this was not the thread I meant to post that in, but I appreciate the answer (and the guide)!
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    Default Re: Mutants and Masterminds 3e Character Guide

    So I just wanted to say much thanks to this guide. I'm learning m& m now. Do you have any sample build you've done? I have a few complicated builds and I'm a little lost as the builds I think are close when compared to this guide show they are a bit full of holes.

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    Default Re: Mutants and Masterminds 3e Character Guide

    I have a bunch of archetypes in the World of Aranth. There are a couple house rules in play so they're not a perfect fit for normal games, and there are probably a couple things in there that were more experimental or that over time I've moved away from, and I think some of them (particularly at the lower PLs) do intentionally go a bit lower-op (overpaying for attack bonus a bit or whatever). But overall they should be a pretty decent source of ideas.
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    Default Re: Mutants and Masterminds 3e Character Guide

    I'll certainly look it over. Are the house rules clearly marked or what should I look out for?

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