Technical section for DC Adventures/M&M 3rd edition players
Frequently asked questions about system stuff and usage.
Last modified: 14th of August, 2012.
All items can be clicked to go straight to the corresponding answer.
- 1/ How do I find the M&M stuff on writeups.org?
- 2/ Does writeups.org stat to PL?
- 3/ What is an averaged PL?
- 4/ What is the “uncapped” section in some DCA/M&M3 writeups?
- 5/ How closely do you stick to official Green Ronin stats for benchmarking purposes?
- 6/ Green Ronin benchmarks - World's Finest squish
- 7/ Green Ronin benchmarks - super-normals
- 8/ Can entries with DCH stats but no M&M stats be used by M&M players?
- 9/ Where can I find the non-standard stuff and usage notes?
- 10/ How do you handle Devices with Enhanced Traits?
- 11/ Speaking of which, I see more entries using Enhanced Traits than in Green Ronin profiles
- 12/ What do parenthetical Abilities and italicised Advantages/Skills denote?
- 13/ Special techniques as Powers, gear-based Powers, dual-wielding techniques
- 14/ You use Flaws for Skills and Advantages?
- 15/ Tricked-out costumes - Noticeable or Subtle?
- 16/ Some Skills are present in every writeup, aren‘t they?
All the pages of the site have a search engine box in the upper right corner (“Search for an entry”). Using it, make sure that the “Game System” menu is set to “Dual-stats (M&M/DCH)”.
For expediency‘s sake, this category includes entries that contain only M&M material, such as the OMACS entries noted above or our notes about new Powers, Advantages, etc.
Neither to PL nor to cap.
This is the difference between a writeup and a build. Most people do builds and we do writeups, so explaining the difference is important.
Each score in a writeup is based on observed performance in primary sources (comic book, movie, cartoon, novel, etc.). Once we have written up in game terms everything that the character does, then we compute the points and PLs that these stats mean and write them down.
The stats are not changed to be better balanced for their PL; the points are not changed to match anything (the points per PL, as the rules and Green Ronin insist, are a *suggested* amount). The characters are not optimised in any way — the stats are left raw. This is just a transliteration of the character as they appear in the stories, and the stories are not generally preoccupied with presenting characters who are efficient DC Adventures builds.
With this approach, people who want to feature the character just as they are in the comics can do so, and other folks can adjust the writeup to fit with their preferred level of optimisation for the NPCs in their campaign. Making a character “streamlined” is generally quick (lower the highest attack bonus, raise the lowest defence, etc.) and many readers will probably want to adjust the stats to match the role they want that character to perform in their story anyway.
Since the writeups are not done to PL, we provide some extra information to help readers gauge the character without having to do calculations.
The PL information is thus given for the various trade-off areas: Attack and Effect, Dodge and Toughness, Parry and Toughness, Fortitude and Will. This allows for an immediate view of the offensive and defensive strength of the character - some might be glass cannons, some might be turtles.
A fifth area is the power point total, which is matched against the suggested power points per PL to obtain a PL number.
The averaged PL is simply an average between these five areas.
The actual, strict PL is normally the highest PL among the five areas. There are corner cases, though, such as a character with a very high Rank in a Skill but otherwise modest PLs in the trade-off areas.
The Green Ronin entries use a ’soft cap‘ approach to modelling the key characters, where key abilities exist on a 0-to-20 scale. This results in Superman and Captain Marvel having a 19 STR, the Omega Effect being a 20, etc. This choice is a convenient one, is coherent with the common usage for M&M power scales in the previous edition, and makes it easier to use these characters in the typical PL10 game.
The entries being apparently built with a target PL in mind, this mechanically determines trade-off scores - Superman‘s attack bonus is what‘s left for his target PL after his damage bonus has been written in.
This choice of scale is particularly apparent for those characters (Superman, Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, etc.) for whom some Lifting Strength has been added so they would at once remain within the soft caps, stay within the target PL, and demonstrate a level of strength approximating their published appearances.
Our entries respect those soft caps to remain compatible with the DC Adventures rulesbook — that is we are using the same scale as Green Ronin
However, some entries suggest ’uncapped‘ values in an addendum. ”Uncapped” values do not respect the 1-20 soft cap, and thus better reflect the performance of the characters in the comics. This has a significant impact on the character‘s PL!
’Uncapped‘ is a short-hand, and not technically correct. What it really does is use the 2-25 “soft cap” of DC Heroes.
While uncapped values are more faithful to the source and offer a greater span of power levels, it is important to note that NPCs with stats expressed on the “uncapped” scale will be markedly more powerful than PCs. In a campaign where Superman has the official Green Ronin stats, he and his opponents are markedly more powerful than PCs. In a campaign where Superman his opponents use uncapped scale stats, they are crushingly more powerful than PCs - at least in their strong suit - unless you are playing at high PLs.
“Benchmarking” is used here in a specific sense, which is worth explaining if you weren‘t a DC Heroes community member in the 1990s - which is presumably the case.
Since the 1980s, there has been a robust control of the coherence of the stats of the different characters in DC Heroes, run by Ray Winninger (who is also an important contributor to the DC Adventures design and licensing). The DC Heroes community has continued this, always benchmarking character stats against the stats of key characters in the DC Universe. Over time certain keystone scores appear, such as the hand-to-hand skills or detective skills of Batman, Nightwing‘s acrobatics, Superman‘s strength, Wonder Woman‘s charisma, etc. around which entire hierarchies and a sense of scale can be organised.
The same approach is used for DC Adventures stats on writeups.org, so we have to be extra-sure that the keystones are set at the appropriate level. *However*, the keystone scores in the rulesbook are not automatically assumed to be correct for our purposes, since Green Ronin apparently has the key characters statted more or less to PL - they‘re builds more than writeups.
This article has extensive notes discussing the GR values and how we use them for our purposes. It‘s probably more detailed than you need to know, but this useful when wondering about a certain discrepancy. The main differences are explained below.
The DC Adventures stats in the three books published as of this writing give a good idea of Green Ronin‘s goals in their stats spread. Playability of the big-name characters seems to have been a concern, and led to squishing the PL range among the JLA major players - with these characters being PL12 to PL15. This narrow spread is presumably meant so they can adventure together, and their less powerful villains can still be fought by PL10-12 adventurers.
However, this means that the two most important benchmarks in the DCU - Batman and Superman - are within 3 PLs of each other, despite their stark difference in power. If one is more interested in documenting the universe, this results in three areas where the documentary approach and the Green Ronin approach noticeably diverge:
- The Batman Gap — most street-level characters are at most PL10 whereas Batman is a near-cap PL12, towering above the rest by a sizable margin. The OMACS II system has extensive notes about that and strives to reduce the Batman Gap by postulating smaller scores for Bruce. Basically it assumes a difference in power between Batman and other street-level characters that is more in-tune with the comics rather than forcing him to PL12.
- The World‘s Finest Squish. The 3 PL difference between Bruce and Clark is a small one indeed, and results in surprising effects. For instance Batman‘s most capable opponents, such as Lady Shiva or Ra‘s al Ghul, end up higher in PL than Superman-like characters such as M‘on-El.
- The Super-Compression. Just like Batman was expanded to fit PL12, Superman was compressed to fit PL15. The resulting trade-offs make it difficult for him to perform some typical Superman feats. This is certainly not absurd — DC‘s powerhouses often use but a small portion of their power for no discernible reason. However, our own numbers for characters of that power level are going to be higher. Strength and durability are only going to be higher if you use our Uncapped scale, but the other half of the tradeoff has no reason to be kept down.
Between these effects, and writeups.org not building to PL, our scores generally have a much wider spread than Green Ronin scores. Both are coherent systems but they're not trying to achieve the same results. The scales are generally comparable as can be seen in OMACS II, but mixing and matching the two can produce some jarring results.
A more minor source of divergence is caused by the curiously high stats of the stock NPCs (“Supporting Characters”, pp266-267 of DC Adventures). For instance the average beat cop is stronger than the Flash (Barry Allen) and almost as athletic as Green Lantern (Hal Jordan). This was presumably inherited from the second edition, where stock NPCs often had higher stats than super-heroes.
In practice this only affects characters with a sub-cinematic power level. For instance a very skilled but not cinematically competent police detective will have stats roughly comparable to a stock cop‘s - because the stock cop in DC Adventures is quite impressive.
Yes. Your friend when it comes to that is called OMACS II, allowing you to derive rough but mostly correct stats for M&M from the DCH stats. OMACS II covers DC Adventures and Mutants & Masterminds 3rd edition. We still have (but no longer maintain) OMACS I which did something similar for Mutants and Masterminds 2nd edition.
We‘re putting everything here. The policy is to use as little new stuff as possible, but sometimes we‘re just stuck. There are also usage notes - that is, explanations as to how exactly we use official rules that are a bit ambiguous, so readers can see exactly what‘s going on.
Numerous characters have Devices with Enhanced Traits; the level of Enhanced Trait is set to bring the character to the demonstrated level. For instance, a Character who has demonstrated a Strength of 2 will have armour with Enhanced Strength 6 is they demonstrated a Strength of 8 whilst wearing their power armour.
This can create problems if another Character uses the Device - the old “would Superman really benefit from wearing a flak jacket?” issues. Our stance is that the PL limits will handle this - most Player Characters will be at or near cap for their flagship traits, making the Enhanced Traits unusable. This is not a strong approach, but it‘s the least problematic one.
The most common philosophy when doing DC Adventures profiles is a “show how it works” one. This is based on the DCA approach of having Powers that are a collection of Effects - we push that a bit further than usual by having Enhanced Traits, certain Advantages, etc. listed within the Power they belong to.
Thus, if a Character has some sort of super-speed power that augment their Dexterity and Agility and give them the Evasion Advantage, they will not be written with a good Dexterity and Agility and with Evasion among their Advantages - they will have Enhanced Dexterity, Enhanced Agility and the Evasion Advantage amongst the Effects of their super-speed Power.
This way the reader can see how it works, and how the super-speed contributes to each facet of the character‘s performance. It can also come in handy when a Character is depowered for some reason, or has their powers doubled, or somesuch - and it avoids having a secondary set of stats for the depowered state.
Parenthetical Abilities are the score as modified by Permanent Enhanced Traits - as noted in the previous section we use those often. Thus, Strength 02 (05) is somebody with a Strength of 02 but with a Power including a Permanent Enhanced Strength 3, giving them a Strength of 05. You normally use the Strength of 05, but if the Character is depowered, switch their Power off, etc. you know what score to use. Namely, 02.
Green Ronin‘s Heroes & Villains supplements used slashes for the same type of notation.
Italicised Advantages and Skills are Advantages and Skills that are derived from a Power. If a Character has a super-speed Power whose Effects include the Evasion Advantage, the Evasion Advantage will be listed as an Effect of the Power, then listed a second time in italics among the Advantages. This way the reader doesn‘t have to hunt for Advantages across the whole character sheet - they‘re all neatly re-listed in the Advantages section. Ditto for Skills.
When a character uses techniques that allow them to perform distinctive actions - often a specific fighting style - we will often highlight this as a Power. This Power will describe what those special techniques do in game terms, and will normally have a “Skill” Descriptor. With the “Skill” Descriptor, we have a Power that will not be affected by Effects that target superhuman abilities, but can be targetted by Effects that normally affect Skills - for instance characters who can duplicate Skills or make people forget their Skills.
Again, this is the “show how it works” approach, with a dash of showcasing what is unique about this character and why.
A variant over this is characters who can pick a given kind of equipment (say, a shield or a gun) and extract extraordinary performance from it — a Power with a Skill descriptor, but with a Flaw that it requires an appropriate item.
How exactly we use this approaches is discussed here, along with examples.
Indeed - with the effect-based, modular design of the game there‘s no reason not to, really. The technical aspects for Skills are discussed here, though it‘s mostly examples since the application is straightforward - you apply a Limited Flaw to a Skill and that‘s it.
When we use Flaws for Advantages - which is rarer - we usually used a Limited Flaw on an even number of Advantages, since it looks cleaner in terms of cost. This is chiefly aesthetic, however - applying a Limited Flaw to an odd number of Advantages (say, one) and rounding cost up to the nearest whole point is straightforward.
This additional level of detail is here to prevent some absurdities, such as having every good driver also knowing the basics of piloting an Apache helicopter gunship, or having characters trained in basic first aid having a decent chance of diagnosing lupus. Such effects are not usually considered invalidating — but we spend a fair bit of time determining what the characters can do, exactly. So ending this research with a DC Adventures entry where the characters can do all sorts of weird things they don‘t do in the material would be illogical.
Costumes are by definition Noticeable, especially in such cases as power armour. Some ambiguity appears when a costume has some discreet functionalities built in - for instance it looks like Spandex but there are actually layers of Kevlar hidden underneath.
The policy is to use the Subtle Extra - while the equipment itself is visible its edges are hidden. In the example of the discreetly armoured costumes, opponents will likely take centre-of-mass shots that will be met by the costume‘s protective properties — whereas they might have used alternate tactics if the character had been wearing visible body armour.
The M&M entries on writeups.org are done following a procedure, based on the OMACS II system. Basically all the data in the DC Heroes is unpacked and turned into DC Adventures data, then the entry is polished and adjusted to be a good DC Adventures entry.
Part of the procedure includes “everyman skills” (Perception, Insight, Athletics and possibly Deception and Persuasion). Almost every characters will have at least a few ranks in those, since otherwise they would be oddly incompetent at basic tasks - which would not reflect the material.