Building Better Benefits

Advantages like Benefit are in the Deluxe Hero's Handbook!Hello heroes! I hope you’re having a great day out there in gamer land. Today I want to talk about one of my favorite advantages in Mutants & Masterminds. It’s an advantage that doesn’t immediately pop off the page during character creation, but it is perhaps the most flexible advantage. One that I find offers players a way to give their character that personal flair that separates the PCs from the NPCs. I’m talking about the Benefit advantage as seen on page 134 of the Deluxe Hero’s Handbook.

Benefit is defined as a “significant perquisite or fringe benefit.” We include some sample options such as alternate identities, ambidexterity, status, and wealth, but there is no reason to stick to just those options. I enjoy Benefit so much because it gives you and your players a wide open space to play around with the mechanics. It can also inform you as to what your players are interested in seeing in the campaign.

Character creation in Mutants & Masterminds has always been characterized by its flexibility. We empower you to experiment with the system to create your perfect superhero, but we can’t account for every possibility. Options like the Benefit advantage and the Feature effect can be applied liberally to fill in gaps as needed. I encourage my players to come up with custom Benefits that provide minor mechanical perks. Things such as swapping the primary ability associated with skills—Athletics based on Agility or Intimidation based on Strength for example—allow players to add a dash of personal flavor to their characters. I also use custom advantages to modify how other advantages work. For example, I have a player in my regular games who loves the Assessment advantage. (We have a space on our Untold Stories Project bingo card for when he does it.) However, he wanted to be able to use Assessment on multiple characters in a turn, similar to Multiattack on a Damage effect. We worked together and came up with a Benefit called Battlefield Assessment which allows him to assess the strength and weaknesses of an amount of characters equal to his Awareness, plus one per rank in the advantage, once per scene. It’s not a game breaking addition, and it allows him to play his character as the tactical heart of the team. Look for ways to help your players express their ideas through small tweaks like this.

Benefit also gives you a sneak peak into the interest part of your players’ brains. If they spend the points on something like Status: Star Knight, Wealth, or Alternate Identity you can tell that those ideas are important to your player. They want the opportunity within the story to say something like, “Star Knight business. Go back to your drinks.” The wealthy character wants scenes that can be resolved through ludicrous amounts of money. At the very least, they want conflicts to arise centered around their bank account. Alternate Identity Lass has a reason to hide her original identity. These are plot shout-outs directly from the players. Listen and incorporate them into your story. Your players will feel heard and will engage that much more with your adventure hooks.

Thank you for taking the time to let me ramble about this excellent advantage. I hope it enriches your Mutants & Masterminds campaigns as much as its enriched mine. Have a great day and I’ll see you in the next one, heroes!

The Twilight Accord

Twilight Accord for 5th EditionThe guards shifted nervously, coughing a bit, breath fogging in the chill night air. They were all a bit uneasy, and with good reason. One glanced again at the wood piled and arranged in the courtyard, and thought about the hours until dawn.

“Some of them are little more than children,” he announced aloud to no one in particular.

“Then they can repent their ways,” the other guard replied, “and perhaps His Holiness will see fit to spare them, although if you ask me there’s no hope for their sort. Perverts. Unnatural. We’re well rid of them before they corrupt anyone else.” He spat in the dirt in disgust. The first man sighed and shook his head.

“I don’t expect there will be any mercy for any of them,” he said, “repentant or not…unless.”

“Unless what…?”

“Well…” the guard hesitated to go on. “You know. You’ve heard the stories.” That earned him a dismissive snort.

“Just stories. You don’t believe them, do you?”

“I don’t…” he began.

Then there was a deafening sound like thunder and the heavy wooden gates of the keep exploded inward, fragments raining down over the courtyard. The guards who were not knocked down by the blast stood in shock, mouths agape.

Figures appeared in the clearing smoke, wreathed in flames of seven colors that glimmered from their armor and weapons and in the hard glare of their eyes. They were not “just stories.”

“We are of the Accord and we have come for our people,” one of them announced. “Let none who hope to see the dawn stand in our way.”

The battle, if it can be called that, was brief, and so we were freed, and walked the Night Road to Gloamingate, to the promise of hope, freedom, and a home to call our own, if we can claim it—and we will.Twilight Accord On Patreon!

TWILIGHT ACCORD: THE FALLEN CITY: A Queer-focused #5e #TTRPG Fantasy Setting and Campaign, now on Patreon for Development.

Not “gay as in happy” but “queer as in ‘roll for initiative.’”

Do You Hear the Call…?

Secrets of Lemuria

Secrets of Lemuria for the Expanse RPG!

Available NOW!

<incoming transmission>

 

<handshake accepted… decryption protocol required>

 

<decryption completed>

 

“It’s been a long journey to the Ring gate and your final destination: Medina Station. Some weeks ago, you were all hired by an independent journalist, Sangra Velazquez, to escort him to a meeting on Medina with explorer/scientist Dr. Carly Toor. Sangra has been cagey about the exact details of this meeting, but has hinted that Dr. Toor has made an important discovery on one of the worlds beyond the Rings. Fearing that other parties and possibly even governments might be interested in this discovery, Sangra chose a private means of transportation–your ship.”

 

Mysteries aplenty lie beyond the Ring Gates. Secrets of Lemuria is the first adventure for The Expanse RPG that begins to explore those mysteries. The adventure is intended for a crew of 4 to 6 1st to 3rd level Expanse characters (although it would be easy enough to increase the danger for higher-level characters.) The story begins with a simple passenger transport and escort job. Independent reporter, Sanga Velazquez, has a meeting on Medina station with a scientist who claims to have made an incredible discovery on Lemuria, one of the many planets beyond the ring. Of course, things don’t go exactly as planned, and the PCs find themselves in a cross-fire between an OPA gang and another mysterious (and violent) group…. I don’t want to spoil the story here since some of you, undoubtedly, may end up playing the adventure. Suffice it to say there’s plenty of action and intrigue and stakes that could change the course of human history.

Oh, and did I mention that it comes with a preview of Beyond the Ring? If you haven’t yet ordered a copy,  Lemuria gives you a sneak peak at Medina station —a pressure cooker of merchants, explorers, colonists, businesspeople, gangsters, smugglers, and spies from Earth, Mars, and the Belt. You could easily run an entire campaign on Medina alone, and of course, you have the mysteries of Ring space, the hub, and gateways to 1300 worlds right on its doorstep.

Secrets of Lemuria is the first in an upcoming series of PDF-only releases for The Expanse RPG. We have lots of plans, including new adventures and even a new series we may be announcing soon. Stand by for more information about that!

So, keep your eyes open, and your sensors active. Secrets of Lemuria is available now as a PDF in the Green Ronin Online Store and on DrivethruRPG!

<end transmission>

Neon Shadows

Modern AGE Cyberpunk Slice

Available NOW!

TL;DR – So can I use Cyberpunk Slice with Modern AGE to (ahem) run an urban fantasy cyberpunk game? YES! Grab both books (and maybe Modern AGE Companion while you’re at it) and you’ll rock it!

With the release of Cyberpunk Slice for Modern AGE, AGE System players have a new resource for creating campaigns and finally have an answer to that oft-asked question: “Can I run a cyberpunk urban fantasy campaign using AGE?” To which the answer is very much “Yes! I’m glad you asked.”

Having had some experience with the notion of cyberpunk urban fantasy myself, I’ve given the notion some thought and wanted to share with you the key elements for your Modern AGE cyber-fantasy campaign, what I refer to here as Neon Shadows:

Backgrounds

You’re probably going to want to grab the optional backgrounds from Chapter 1 of the Modern AGE Companion, particularly the Dwarf, Elf, Human, and Orc, if your setting includes various fantasy heritages, or people manifesting the traits of fantasy beings. Feel free to add-on to this as you see fit for your setting: Shapeshifters, Spirit-Bloods…more? Why not? Take particular note of the sidebar in the book about adapting Fantasy AGE backgrounds to Modern AGE before you yank them wholesale out of your Fantasy AGE books, as there are some differences.

The ancestries from Threefold (Arvu, Dreygur, Huldra, and Jana) might be useful inspiration, but keep in mind that ancestries supplement backgrounds rather than replacing them per se: You can mix-and-match ancestry and background traits, and might want to allow the same for backgrounds in your Neon Shadows campaign, allowing for Bohemian Elves, Dwarf Laborers, or Urban Orcs, to name just a few examples.

Neon Shadows as Cyber Urban Fantasy

Professions

You are going to want to augment the options from Modern AGE with the professions in Cyberpunk Slice, particularly Hacker, Operator, Assassin, and Personality for your Neon Shadows game. Ditto the various cyberpunk-specific Drives and ability focuses, depending on the availability of tech in your game. Intelligence (Streetwise) is pretty much a must.

Talents

Cybercombat talent? (That’s combat using various cybernetic augmentations.) Virtual Combat talent? (That’s combat inside of a digital virtual reality.) Yes, please! You’re going to want some (if not all) of the talents in Cyberpunk Slice to go with the Modern AGE Basic Rulebook. There are many of them devoted to making your character badass. In particular, don’t overlook the Kinetic talent, what sometimes gets called a “street soldier” or “street samurai,” just in case you were wondering where that was under Professions previously.

Equipment

Ah, the gear. There’s plenty of stuff in Cyberpunk Slice before you even get to the implants and augmentations: guns (smart and otherwise), ammo, armor, drones, vehicles, grenades, and more. Everything you need to kit-out your characters. Monofilament whips? Of course! Are they dangerous to use? Of course!

Then (of course) there are the actual augmentations. Modern AGE players who have read Threefold have an inkling of what awaits in Chapter 3 of Cyberpunk Slice, but with quite a bit more. A medium augmentation campaign (with a starting capacity of 2) suits Neon Shadows pretty well, as most characters are going to have augmentations of some sort. Breakdown or some type of Complications tend to suit those who go over their capacity for augmentation.

There’s no strict rule in Modern AGE that says tech and magic don’t mix, so you can make the cyber-arcanist of your dreams, if you want. If, on the other hand, you’d prefer that augmentations weaken arcane power, pick one of the following options:

  • Arcanists add their total slots in augmentations to the Target Numbers of their arcana, to their cost, or both.
  • Arcanists subtract their total slots in augmentations from their Magic Points, and from the MP they gain each level, with a minimum of 1 or even 0 MP gained!
  • Augmented arcanists lose 1d6 MP per slot of augmentations per day and have to recover those lost MP normally, in addition to any they expend on their arcana.

Powers

Naturally, it’s not a cyber-fantasy campaign without some magic, so you can include any or all of the various arcana from the Modern AGE Basic Rulebook as well as Modern AGE Companion and Threefold as well, if you’d like. Decide how prevalent you want arcana to be in your campaign: Do lots of people sling spells or is it just a select few? How is the world dealing with these arcanists?

What’s more, decide if there are any other extraordinary powers available in your Neon Shadows campaign. Are there psychic adepts? If not, you can just ignore psychic powers, or else turn them into arcana also available to spell-casters. Perhaps psychics are occultists as described in Threefold, giving them a different flavor of magical power, rather than science-fiction psionics as such.

You can even use the enhancements from Modern AGE Companion, Threefold, and Cyberpunk Slice for more than just technological augmentations: Some people might be exceptionals with supernatural powers, essentially fantasy or mythic abilities. They might be “advancements” of their ancestry or magical birthrights or blessings or some kind. Perhaps there are “paragons” who focus their magical potential inward and develop the kinds of enhancements otherwise granted by implants and modifications, making them the fantasy equivalents of cybernetic street samurai and biotech stealth assassins, to name a few. There may even be a magical equivalent to capacity—and penalties for exceeding it—in the setting, distinct from the effects of augmentations. Just turn some of the augmentations in Cyberpunnk Slice into magical equivalents, either from focusing inherent magic inwards or even weirder implants using magically-animated materials or grafts of body parts or organs from fantasy creatures.

Modern AGE Cyberpunk Slice is also available on DrivethruRPG!