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!