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  • Session Design and Flow

    I am in the midst of preparing my first session for a new 3e campaign I am running. I am setting the game in an alternate X-Men universe (i.e., PCs are original mutants but will interact extensively with famous X-Men and Brotherhood characters). PL is set at 10. I have a good grasp on the story and how to set pacing for good narrative development. I am familiar with the M&M rules, have developed some house rules that fit my GM style, and my players' characters are mostly done at this point. However, I am a relatively inexperienced GM, even though I have played a wide range of tabletop games across the past decade.

    Our group is going to be playing for about 4 hours every week (or every other week, depending on our schedules) via Google Hangouts. With the exception of a new player, our play group has a lot of experience together. They all bring something different to the gaming experience, but generally they are motivated, enthusiastic about roleplay, and creative at gaining the upper hand in combat scenarios. However, none of them have really played M&M before. There are 5 PCs.

    Here are my specific questions:
    1. What strategies do you have for making an individual session run smoothly?
    2. What kind of things should I really prep ahead of time, and which things should I try to improvise?
    3. How many action sequences (combat-oriented, or otherwise) should I aim to include in a typical session?
    4. What kinds of GM habits or styles should I avoid? What traits have you seen in GMs that take the fun out of the game?
    5. What common mistakes have you seen in new GMs (either specific to M&M or general), and how can I avoid them?
    6. What are some examples of encounters (i.e., how many minions and/or villains) that would be challenging for a group of 5 players? I am particularly unsure about how to design appropriate encounters, even after reading the general guidelines originally posted by Jackelope King on these forums.


    Sorry if some of these questions are very broad or confusing! And thanks in advance for the help. I just want to be the best GM I can be.
    Elliot McGuire/Levitron - Super Framily Apprenticeship Plan (IC)
    John Olson/Spark - Superhuman Defense Organization - America (IC)

  • #2
    Re: Session Design and Flow

    Let me preface these remarks by saying I haven't Gmed in a nonPBP game before, so I will try to keep it relevant. I am sure someone who has GMed over skype or in person will counter some of my remarks.

    What strategies do you have for making an individual session run smoothly?
    Your players seem creative based on your description, so give them that creative outlet. Provide the canvas and let them figure it out. I like to give an obvious way to do something if the players are uninspired for whatever reason, but still allow them to express their creativity by rewarding them with hero points. For example, in one of my current games here the players were fighting a villain who could wipe the floor with them and make a normal fight difficult for them. So, they decided to use a hero point to have a cell in the room(it fit the scene) that they trapped him in. You also have to spread the challenges around so all of the players stay interested. If there is a super genius give a super genius type challenge like hacking a door lock or disabling the master sentinel with a virus. If there is a flying brick give chances for them to use their strength.

    What kind of things should I really prep ahead of time, and which things should I try to improvise?
    Every GM has their own style. My prep usually involves coming up with the bad guys(rough stats or stats taken from another build), giving them a motivation/personality and a plan, and having the bad guys do the plan. I also like to have the setting worked out in my head so i can fill it in as I go sort of like how video games work. The setting renders based on the general area with a few areas like a safe already worked out. For example, I would start with a high tech lab that has a lot of gadgets and a main console that takes DC35 to hack in to. If areas of the lab are explored, I fill it in with notes for consistency sake.

    How many action sequences (combat-oriented, or otherwise) should I aim to include in a typical session?
    I tend to not like forced action sequences. It feels to railroad like to me. Instead I let the action scenes flow naturally as part of the story. If the PCs are raiding a government base to free other mutants their is going to be more action(combat) than if they are trying to track down who took Professor X. In the end, it is the story that dictates the amount of action not some prerequisite number. Although, if the game is slowing an action sequence tends to spice it back up if used well.

    What kinds of GM habits or styles should I avoid? What traits have you seen in GMs that take the fun out of the game?
    Railroading players tends to make it unfun and constrain them. Forcing A, B, C, and then D when the players naturally go A, B, E, F, D where E and F are ideas you hadn't even considered to get to D makes it feel more like DnD than MnM. Also, if Gms are stingy with HP's players tend to store them for when they really need them instead of letting their minds go crazy with cool power stunts or scene edits. That tends to devolve in to more of a dungeon crawl than RP which isn't that fun for me personally.

    What common mistakes have you seen in new GMs (either specific to M&M or general), and how can I avoid them?
    The biggest mistake I noticed is lack of consistency. Bad guys don't have major changes of heart without a good reason. Little details changing like everyone all of a sudden being able to breathe in space when they couldn't before pick at me. The best way to avoid all that is to either keep notes or remember it in some fashion. A few slip ups happen due to the human condition, but if it happens all the time it gets annoying. Another common mistake I see is that Gm's sometimes make encounters too hard or too easy. If the big bad goes down with a punch it is very anti climatic. The trick here is to figure out how strong your players are and in what areas to tailor foes to them.

    What are some examples of encounters (i.e., how many minions and/or villains) that would be challenging for a group of 5 players? I am particularly unsure about how to design appropriate encounters, even after reading the general guidelines originally posted by Jackelope King on these forums.
    What are the PC's powers/strengths? A group of monks will have a hard time with flying monkeys dropping bombs on them, but a flying angel can wipe out the monkeys with ease. I like to go with at most four non minions with more minions of varying strength depending on how hard the encounter is. As an example going off the PC's being PL10 and without knowing the PC's, in a raid on the brotherhood to free civilians I would go with a PL 13 energy controller, a PL 10 blaster, and PL 10 speedster, 4 PL 8 powerhouse minions, and 4 PL 8 weapon masters. Of course, if the PC's don't have take down or area affects I would tone down the number. Minions give the players a sense of immediate accomplishment while nonminions give them a greater sense of achievement. Like in anything, there is a balance somewhere. When possible, it is also good to give PC's other things to do them bash the bad guys like a roof about to collapse or a civilian trapped while trying to get away.
    Last edited by mrdent12; 09-22-2014, 10:28 PM.
    [url=http://roninarmy.com/threads/46-mrdents-menagerie-of-characters]My characters past and present[/url]

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    • #3
      Re: Session Design and Flow

      Thank you so much for such a helpful and thorough reply! That is incredibly enlightening.

      For what it's worth, here are the powers from my PCs:

      (1) Plant controller, with powers to Create plants, heal allies, thick skin and "photosynthesis" (sun-based Regen). Also has strong melee attacks that can damage, stun, or mind control.
      (2) Electric controller, with a variety of individual and area attacks, moderate non-super hacking skills, a "living electricity" insubstantial form, and short-distance teleporting.
      (3) Sonic controller. Think Banshee mixed with Avalanche: he has several Dazzle, shock wave, and area blasts and some neat super hearing powers.
      (4) Standard telepath, with an array of mind blast and mind control powers.
      (5) Powerhouse/brick, with an emphasis on heavy lifting and throwing.

      Notably, with the exception of the electric controller, no one has any movement powers except Swinging (plant controller). I am thinking of using a number of sentinels as major villains, with a healthy mix of standard robots (easy for electric controller, hard for psychic) and "bionic" sentinels (targetable by mind control).
      Elliot McGuire/Levitron - Super Framily Apprenticeship Plan (IC)
      John Olson/Spark - Superhuman Defense Organization - America (IC)

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Session Design and Flow

        Originally posted by rwknoll View Post
        What strategies do you have for making an individual session run smoothly?
        My suggestion is make sure everyone is on the same page & sometimes this means literally having a physical page, a player manifesto spelling out the parameters of the game & the concept behind the game. After all saying its an x-men game doesn't really say anything, after all the classic x-men & the Cyclopse endorsed murder squad X-force, are just as much x men books as the solo x-men book x-man & the teen x-men book Academy X, or Age of Apocalypse.

        So spell out exactly what your game is early, before play commences, before characters are generated.... Because I've seen a game collapse under similar circumstances when someone said "lets run a justice league game." At which point the players all took off, and all but one generated Batman.... When told they were playing original characters, one created a Justice League ELITE character, one generated a GRANT MORISON era JLA character, two created Justice League Unlimited characters, and the last generated a Justice League International/Europe style character.

        Originally posted by rwknoll View Post
        What kind of things should I really prep ahead of time, and which things should I try to improvise?
        At the very least a well designed villain, with a solid motivation, a caper or crime of some kind & an opening scene transition that will let your players in on the caper or crime.

        Originally posted by rwknoll View Post
        How many action sequences (combat-oriented, or otherwise) should I aim to include in a typical session?
        As many as time & appropriate story telling allow. Unlike D&D, M&M characters regenerate health swiftly between scenes, so there is no mathematical reason why they can't fight all day long.... There are many story reasons however.

        Originally posted by rwknoll View Post
        What kinds of GM habits or styles should I avoid? What traits have you seen in GMs that take the fun out of the game?
        Using a 10 million dollar battle suit to steal a $100,000 from a bank is a big one for me. It always annoys me when the villains motivations don't make sense.

        Originally posted by rwknoll View Post
        What common mistakes have you seen in new GMs (either specific to M&M or general), and how can I avoid them?
        I wrote an article on that topic last year, here's a x-posted version. Its simply a guide, not a rule book, use what you like, and jettison what doesn't work for you.

        8 TIPS FOR NEW MUTANTS AND MASTERMINDS GM
        ________________________________________

        1. SET YOUR PARADIGM EARLY
        When I first started GMing M&M, the year 1st ed. came out I made a whole heap of mistakes: The biggest of which was thinking that everyone was on the same page when I said “super hero game.”

        Super-heroes as a genre as so diverse that as a GM you have to make sure everyone is on the same page & the only way to do that is to set your paradigm early. Set your tone of your campaign: I like to consider this to be the “Moore Scale”, ranging from silver age sillyness with Supreme, through Grimdark Watchmen, hitting every point in between the two extremes.

        Set the expectations for you campaign at this point to, including the range of your game (city based, continent based, intergalactic based), the

        One can even go so far as to supply players with a potential “suggested reading list” of comics.

        2. SYSTEM MASTERY DOES NOT EQUAL GAME MASTERY
        So you’ve sat up nights, straining your eyes under the flickering candles as you read through the rule book… You are using candles because they cut off your power, because you stopped going to work, so you could master this systems completely.

        Chances are good, that at some point, even having mastered every nuance of the rules, you are eventually going to run up against something that doesn’t work as well in game as it does in a comic book.

        I like to refer to these as “lost in translation” moments.

        Fight the urge to try and make them work. The issue invariably isn’t that it doesn’t work mechanically; the issue is usually that it doesn’t work in practice. Something that seems really cool in a comic book just becomes a drag when you try to use it in an actual game.

        This happens a lot when players break rule 1, usually with the excuse of “well I saw it in a comic book.”

        Say for example that one of your players creates “Fred: Slayer of Chipmunks”. Freds powers work only on chipmunks. Mechanically this works, in terms of game play, it does not… Unless your game is about killing chipmunks (an having heard them sing, I wouldn’t blame you if it was).

        Be strong, learn to say no. This task is made easier if you’ve followed “Rule 7”.

        3. DON’T CREATE MORE THEN YOU NEED
        This is one of the biggest stressors with Super Hero games in general. GM’s freak out over the idea of having to build a huge amount of canon, but luckily I’m here to tell you “it aint so, Joe.”

        Early on I tried to detail every nuance of my campaign world, but quickly became overwhelmed by its size & had huge continuity errors. But I’m here to tell you, that there is a better way. After my first campaign fizzled, I took it as a learning experience and decided to pitch something new.

        This something new was eventually called “Tower City.” The idea was to take everything I learnt from the previous game & to build a new campaign setting for future games. An so I did: An I did it by NOT building.

        I knew exactly what kind of universe I wanted & as it turned out, that was enough. I wanted a universe that had an age of secret masked mystery men in the age of pulp, heroes coming out of hiding in the golden age to fight the Nazis, those heroes retiring after the war & before Mac Carthisism (who really did become the Judas of his generation, even though historically it turns out he was right), started to come back in the 1970’s for the bronze age, were less common during the iron age as things got more serious & then bounced back in a new era a handful of years ago.

        My world has a Justice League of America, it has a Global Guardians, it has an Alpha Flight & during World War 2 it had a Justice Society: Yet none of it has been detailed. My players know all of this & they have been encouraged to fill in some of the blanks with permission in my shared universe.

        So if a player is a legacy of a golden age character, that golden age character may well have been in my version of the Justice Society & if I ever run a game in the golden age, someone may decide to play that character, or I may make him an NPC contact. The fact that my Justice Society has no name & none of my players knows anything about it outside of its existence turns out to not be an issue. So far generalisations & the hand waving of player knowledge versus character knowledge has been sufficient & haven’t affected plot.

        So my advice would be don’t create more then is necessary, otherwise you’ll just trip your self up on continuity, without any of your players caring for it, as it wasn’t “shared continuity,” like actually having gamed through it is.

        Don’t write yourself into a corner before you even start.

        4. PITCH YOUR BEST VILLAINS, NEVER PITCH NARRATIVE JOBBERS
        Nothing kills players interest in villains as much as “narrative jobbers”. But what is a narrative jobber? A narrative jobber is a term that cropped up at my table via some media savvy players, when they noticed that many superhero adventures possessed villains whose only reason to exist in story was to fight the heroes and lose: A trend that extends to officially published works for every super hero game system, without fail.

        A narrative jobber gets nothing out of this except an arse-kicking. An frankly it has a tendency to weaken your games internal verisimilitude.

        As a GM one of your greatest responsibilities is to make your villains interesting: Create a solid villain & the plot will follow. In fact the plots of many adventures should be derived from the motivations of ones villain/s.

        This was something I did poorly when I first started, but over time I developed a litmus test that has held strong through three editions. When you are writing your plot & you get to your villain, ask two questions

        a. What is this villain getting out of this?
        b. If I replaced this villain with another villain, would it impact my plot in any way?

        If your villain is getting nothing out of this course of action, or if you can replace the villain with another villain & not change the plot in any way, chances are good that you need to potentially scrap what you’ve got & go back to the drawing board.

        Sometimes your encounter is recoverable, but it usually includes a pretty extensive villain or encounter overhaul & sometimes sadly the plot is just not recoverable.

        5. TACTICAL MAPS ARE YOUR FRIEND
        Now this one is disputed between two separate parties the pro tac-map crowd & the anti-tac maps crowd: Personally I hold that tactical maps while not essential for Mutants and Masterminds are certainly helpful.

        Now some people state that due to the huge speed variables, tactical maps are not useful: Where as I hold that this argument is moot, as the GM controls the speed of battle. If the villain is standing beside a death trap, with a couple of civilians as hostages, it doesn’t matter that you can break the speed barrier in sneakers, you still have to end up back near the villain to be at all effective.

        The use of a tactical map in MnM isn’t to determine speed, its to determine where you end up in relation to other battlefield features; civilians, villains, walls, buildings, minions, etc.

        Personally I’ve found that map-less games I’ve been in have a tendency to degenerate into Dragonball Z fights, where all the terrain is absent of recognisable features & you fly over the same island, over and over again.

        On reflection, I’ve found including a tactical map encourages players to use terrain in interesting ways & reminds the GM that he can also use the terrain to there advantage.

        6. PLOT BASED VERSUS CHARACTER BASED STORY-TELLING.
        Now as can be expected many of us are comic book fans & many of us even though we are loathe to admit it, love the soap opera drama of comics. For you people I have bad news: Mutants and Masterminds is not made for out the box character based story-telling (it cannot be done in a satisfying way).

        You can do it eventually, but it does require laying the ground work early, by getting your players on board. Get them to develop there background identities beyond “Secret ID: Clark Kent. Has like friends, a family & a job an stuff.”

        As a GM encourage the use of these backgrounds, by adding them to the set up of plot & giving generously with Hero Points when you do. Eventually players will start doing it themselves, at which point continue to give hero points to encourage them.

        Communicate with your players at the character creation level & determine a potential motivation, or drive outside of being a hero & try to integrate it into your plot, dangling like a carrot & potentially allowing some great character moments, when your hero must decide between getting the thing he really wants & saving the day.

        Eventually you’ll end up with a level of character based story telling, but even then the lions share will likely still be plot based.

        7. WRITE UP A PLAYER / GM MANIFESTO
        To make sure that everyone is on the same page & there can be no lapses in memory, everything we’ve discussed should be typed up & made available to players before you even start.

        As time goes on, you may develop all sorts of things specific to your players or experiences that make it to your list, that I would never think of. Heck you may eventually have a player section in your manifesto like I did… For a while I had a section marked “THINGS MY PLAYERS ARE NO LONGER ALLOWED TO DO,” as I noticed common design patterns. I’m sure we’ve all seen this in other games: There is always that one guy in D&D that always players fighters, or elven maidens.

        For a while there, my manifesto had “[Female player name redacted]: You can’t play anymore buxom alien princess, with no understanding of human nudity taboo’s.”

        I know what you are thinking; “Oh Matthew, why would you ban such a thing. Said buxom alien princess are obviously well rounded characters, whose unique view on life brings a breath of fresh air to our stagnate puritanical culture… Also: boobies.”

        However after the third such character, I needed to knock players out of there rut.

        Of course your Manifesto will be different. Add what you personally find necessary. The only things to keep in mind are “what do I as the GM want out of this game & what information do I need to give to my players to achieve it.

        8. HAVE FUN

        Most of all have fun. It’s a game, once all the serious design work is done, its time to get down and have fun playing the game. Ham it up a little, laugh manically, let your villains monologue, speak in the third person, or even speak in rhyming Iambic Pentameter.
        Originally posted by rwknoll View Post
        What are some examples of encounters (i.e., how many minions and/or villains) that would be challenging for a group of 5 players? I am particularly unsure about how to design appropriate encounters, even after reading the general guidelines originally posted by Jackelope King on these forums.
        Group PL plus 3 or minus 1 is the general rule of thumb for opposing PL's: So a PL 10 group can be challenged by a pl 9 (sometimes 8), through PL 13 (13 its going to start to get quite challenging). It really depends on what is fighting who.... A PL 5 character can take out a PL 12 character if the PL 5 character has something that the PL 12 character is weak against & many of us have seen this happen... But you quickly learn to gauge it on feel.

        An if worse comes to worse and players quickly defeat your first set of villains to quickly, then you simply replace them with someone else, or better yet have the villains decide they need a power boost & do something reckless, like taking the power limitors off there equipment, or looking for a more powerful but unstable source of power: Some of the greatest characters in my setting came from early power level mess ups

        Originally posted by rwknoll View Post
        Sorry if some of these questions are very broad or confusing! And thanks in advance for the help. I just want to be the best GM I can be.
        No problems, that's what we are here for.
        “The very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. Instead of altering their views to fit the facts, they alter the facts to fit their views...which can be very uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that needs altering.”

        -Doctor Who

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Session Design and Flow

          What strategies do you have for making an individual session run smoothly?
          Very subjective. Here are some ideas:
          • For Variable powers, make sure your player has at least a few power sets ready to go, e.g. a Shapeshifter has already pre-built several forms so that doesn't bog the game down in the middle of the player's turn.
          • I like to use physical objects for Hero and Luck Points (different colored poker chips).
          • I use Hero Lab to keep track of combat order and track damage conditions. I used to try to keep track of conditions on the battlemap, but it just cluttered things up.
          • Speaking of maps, use one. Even something scratched out on a piece of paper is better than nothing.


          What kind of things should I really prep ahead of time, and which things should I try to improvise?
          No GM plan survives contact with the players. What's the other line? If you want to make God laugh, make plans. That being said, plot your story out, but make space for player improv. The GM pretty much always has to improv, but like any good improv, you have to know the end point, or you'll just get lost in the weeds. And everyone goes into the weeds.

          If you set up clues, give your players multiple chances to learn them. We're telling stories, not trying to win. You could make it impossible for them, or the dice could fail them. Either way, you bring it to a halt. Don't spoon feed them--there's no drama in that--but make sure in another scene (logically, consistently) that they have another shot at earning it.

          In a street level game I ran, I set up a clue in room to be searched. They didn't find it. So I had some bad guys attack. There had been a lull in the action, they were stumped, and after the room had been trashed by the fight, they had another shot at finding the clue.

          How many action sequences (combat-oriented, or otherwise) should I aim to include in a typical session?
          That very much depends on the genre. And your players. Some players are just not good at interaction stuff; they don't know what to say, are shy about acting it out, etc. Sometimes players want much more roleplaying than action. It's great when everyone's on the same page, but often it doesn't work out that way. You can split the group and give some players what they want, e.g. the detective of the group goes off the run down leads while the heavy hitters have a massive fight. Your mook sweeper gets to have some fights too, but more minion-y and in a dark alley, rather than the bring-Metropolis-to-its-knees brawl.

          What kinds of GM habits or styles should I avoid? What traits have you seen in GMs that take the fun out of the game?
          Don't be a dick. That's always good. The GM who won't say no to his/her players and allow them to be disruptive is bad.

          What common mistakes have you seen in new GMs (either specific to M&M or general), and how can I avoid them?
          Thinking you can make the story up as you go along. GMing requires work. Do not underestimate this. Starting with an opening scenario that took you a few seconds to come up with while having nowhere to go is downright toxic to a game. Once that action scene is over, and you don't know where to go, you're dead, dead, dead. Sending your players down a dead end once might be survivable, but if you really don't know how to tell a good story, you'll keep half-assing it and your players will quit (or take you into a dark room and cosh you about the head and shoulders).

          What are some examples of encounters (i.e., how many minions and/or villains) that would be challenging for a group of 5 players? I am particularly unsure about how to design appropriate encounters, even after reading the general guidelines originally posted by Jackelope King on these forums.
          I'm not a fan of the X-Men, so I don't know what genre conventions there are. Minions get taken out pretty quickly, so you always have to balance them being no threat, to being so many that even if bunches of them are being swept per round, when they get to return fire, that's a lot of resistance checks to make. Being taken out randomly by mooks is unsatisfying.

          Make sure your bad guys want something. If it's tangible, all the better (because then you can play with the tension of not getting it, it being destroyed/lost; they have it, we have it; keep away, etc. Just concentrating on whittling the bad guy down gets tedious. Environmental issues make fights interesting, too. On top of a speeding train, over a pit of [bad stuff], etc. They might seem like empty tropes, but so is the massive street battle with no consequences. Crank up the stakes no matter what kind of fight it is.

          And most importantly, make your players earn their victories. Whether it's finding the clue, or beating the bad guy in combat, just rolling the dice should never be sufficient. Put civilians in jeopardy (or have them interfere), even if it's an investigation scene. Have a lone face appear in an office window if you are having a massive street battle. Expand on a fight from just trading blows (borrring) to a rescue in the middle of the fight, or throw a curve ball and have the bad guy do a rescue in the middle of the fight, the hero joins in, and when the civilian is safe have to decide what to do next!

          Often the first thing you think of is the most hackneyed. Play with the idea and think how you can turn it on its head.
          Penny's Build Party - Playable builds - M&M 2.5 featuring Damage Roll combat

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          • #6
            Re: Session Design and Flow

            These are all great ideas, and are giving me a lot to think about. Thanks! You guys rock.
            Elliot McGuire/Levitron - Super Framily Apprenticeship Plan (IC)
            John Olson/Spark - Superhuman Defense Organization - America (IC)

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Session Design and Flow

              I have another related question. Should all of my major villains be capped at PL for offenses and defenses? All of my players have their offenses and defenses capped, but I'm planning on using Jab's builds for a lot of the X-Men and Brotherhood characters and many of them do not reach PL caps. Should I tweak those so they will stand up better to my players, or should I not be too worried about that?
              Elliot McGuire/Levitron - Super Framily Apprenticeship Plan (IC)
              John Olson/Spark - Superhuman Defense Organization - America (IC)

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Session Design and Flow

                Points don't matter to the GM's characters, but PL often does. It's not always the best indication of what a fair match might be, because certain powers (especially in combination) can be more effective than others. Typically the higher the cost per rank a power is, the more effective it's going to be. So even a PL 8 character against a PL 10 character might have the edge if s/he had a 5pp/rank power to throw around.

                Players tend to cover a lot of bases and want to be good at all kinds of things, because, frankly, unlike plotted characters, they never know what they're going to be thrown into. Baddies, entirely plotted by you, can specialize.
                Penny's Build Party - Playable builds - M&M 2.5 featuring Damage Roll combat

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                • #9
                  Re: Session Design and Flow

                  Originally posted by rwknoll View Post
                  I have another related question. Should all of my major villains be capped at PL for offenses and defenses? All of my players have their offenses and defenses capped, but I'm planning on using Jab's builds for a lot of the X-Men and Brotherhood characters and many of them do not reach PL caps.
                  As long as they are in spitting distance of the caps they should be alright, if not jus be aware they will have giant weak spots that players will attempt to exploit & plan accordingly.
                  “The very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. Instead of altering their views to fit the facts, they alter the facts to fit their views...which can be very uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that needs altering.”

                  -Doctor Who

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Session Design and Flow

                    Depending on the situation, having bad guys with a weak spot is useful so long as that weak spot is not a common thing like super low toughness and medium defense. The blob for instance has insane fortitude and toughness, but horrible will. The weakspot can give a chance for a particular player to be the star for a moment.
                    [url=http://roninarmy.com/threads/46-mrdents-menagerie-of-characters]My characters past and present[/url]

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Session Design and Flow

                      Originally posted by rwknoll View Post
                      [*]What kinds of GM habits or styles should I avoid? What traits have you seen in GMs that take the fun out of the game?
                      Not being fair.
                      The game master who denies the fact that all players must be treated equally and all player characters must be equally capable is negligent at best and biased at worst.


                      Too strict.
                      This doesn't mean you shouldn't put your foot down if unfair play surfaces -- you should. But game masters who are too draconian, pre-emptively banning all sorts of traits on the assumption that they will inevitably be abused, betray a deep mistrust of their players which makes it impossible for anyone to be enthusiastic about the game. If you trust your players so little, why are you spending time and effort to run a game for them?


                      Not firm enough.
                      Few things hurt enjoyment as much as a GM who doesn't rein in abusive behavior: character optimization, hogging the spotlight, rules lawyering, disregard for fairness and refusal to suffer defeat. As a GM you want your players to have fun and sometimes this makes it hard to say no. Make sure to say no and better yet, don't allow people prone to such behavior anywhere near your game.


                      [*]What common mistakes have you seen in new GMs (either specific to M&M or general), and how can I avoid them?
                      Running boring combats.
                      Combat is the boringest part of M&M. Lots of GMs let their combat devolve into both sides standing around and tossing their best attacks at each other every round. Make combat engaging by giving characters a personal stake in the outcome, by offering players lots of tactical options, and by building foes with weaknesses (especially ones that take teamwork to exploit).

                      Use the terrain to provide an element of tactics. A major combat scene should have hazards like falling rocks or satellite beams that encourage movement. It should also have advantages like a hackable computer terminal or a force field that provides cover which give the players benefits. Use minions who are not dangerous on their own but can make bosses stronger (for example with aid actions or combined attack, or other boosting powers). Instead of one high PL boss, consider bosses which are made of multiple lower-PL parts, each with its own character sheet.

                      Use GM fiat sparingly to reroll resistance checks for enemies because 1) it can result in frustration if players feel they are not making progress and 2) it rewards those who maximize combat ability at the expense of all else. Instead I choose not to fiat and to always provide the players with hostages, bystanders, property etc. to save. This way players get to act like heroes, the villains are not all dead by round 2 and they still get their HP.


                      Not using complications.
                      I can count literally on the fingers of one hand the number of times my complications have been used in a game. While most game masters will claim that character and backstory are important to them, their actions speak otherwise. It may not be easy to do, but one complication per player per adventure is a good guide.


                      Using a setting with tons and tons of superheroes.
                      Part of the appeal of playing a superhero comes from the sensation of playing someone with extraordinary abilities far above the mundane. Settings where there are tons and tons of superheroes, where every city has a super team and metahumans are so common that people can even sort them into categories and power levels -- like the DC, Marvel and Freedomverse settings -- dilute this. This makes superpowers seem mundane and ordinary, and means players cannot be the best in a particular field, destroying this appeal.

                      Don't make a setting with tons of heroes. Comic books do it because it allows lucrative characters to star in multiple works, and for huge team-ups of numerous popular heroes, not because it results in good stories. If you must do it, de-emphasize NPC heroes, show your players besting threats that more respected heroes can't handle, and avoid introducing non-villain NPCs that beat your players in areas of their expertise.
                      Last edited by Ysariel; 10-01-2014, 08:45 AM.

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                      • #12
                        Re: Session Design and Flow

                        Originally posted by Ysariel View Post
                        Using a setting with tons and tons of superheroes.
                        Part of the appeal of playing a superhero comes from the sensation of playing someone with extraordinary abilities far above the mundane. Settings where there are tons and tons of superheroes, where every city has a super team and metahumans are so common that people can even sort them into categories and power levels -- like the DC, Marvel and Freedomverse settings -- dilute this. This makes superpowers seem mundane and ordinary, and means players cannot be the best in a particular field, destroying this appeal.

                        Don't make a setting with tons of heroes. Comic books do it because it allows lucrative characters to star in multiple works, and for huge team-ups of numerous popular heroes, not because it results in good stories. If you must do it, de-emphasize NPC heroes, show your players besting threats that more respected heroes can't handle, and avoid introducing non-villain NPCs that beat your players in areas of their expertise.
                        Yes & No: The issue isn't having to many heroes in your setting, the issue is having to many heroes in your setting that out do the players, who every villain is one of there rogues gallery & who all reside in campaign city, leaving no room for player characters. The problem arises when you as a GM write yourself into a corner because you've written to much stuff that you'll never use, using all your best material on non-adventures, as background setting material.

                        I have a whole ship load of heroes and villains, over 70 fully stated villains (of which I've used just over half in the last 7ish years) & so many NPC heroes. But I always build for player stories, such as team ups & event games (think of them like one-off 4-hour convention games, but all in different parts of the same setting & without the convention going on around you).

                        So most of the NPC heroes are from around the world, most are PL10 so they don't overshadow the heroes, were once played by actual players even though they were pregens & they all have there own mission or goal away from the PC's are of influence.

                        An none of this was built all at once, it was built over time, by simply deciding that I was going to set out a rough idea of what my universe is like & allow it grow naturally over time. So for instance, my JLA style team "The Earth Guard" only have 2 named & stated characters because I've only ever needed to use 2 for a specific story, but all the players are aware of the existence of the team & there accidental HQ's currently in Earth orbit (Horizon Plaza, having been teleported there on new years eve 1999, by an alien invasion force).

                        However to this very day my players have no idea who the founding members of the Earth Guard were, even though internal to the narrative the characters do know.... An to be honest I do not know who they are either: Because at some point I may go back and let players PLAY as the founding team (established in 1991) & leaving it open means I don't write myself into a corner.

                        So only create what you are going to need.... For the rest, simply stating that a concept exists is sufficient. for the longest time my JSA style Golden Age team was nothing more than a place-holder till eventually I named the team the Midnight Society. Then I ran an adventure with pre-gens & mentioned the secret HQ in New York City & the next thing you know my players in my regular game are asking what happened to the team & if the HQ still exists. So from there I stole directly from JSA history & had the entire team vanish while on a government mission never to be seen again & the HQ has been sitting there, but no one can get in or remember it, because some force has frozen time inside the building & a perception filter that makes you forget you were looking inside its windows the second you stop looking at it.

                        So not only didn't I write myself into a corner, I also left myself two mysteries I may use as plot hooks at a later date.

                        So I suppose what I'm saying in my long winded way is to only make what you need as you need it. Let the setting grow over time, but until then all you need is the broad ideas.
                        “The very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. Instead of altering their views to fit the facts, they alter the facts to fit their views...which can be very uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that needs altering.”

                        -Doctor Who

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