SACRED BAND CHARACTER SHEETS: Deosil

Sacred Band 2nd edtionAs we announced yesterday, to celebrate the release of Sacred Band’s Nisaba edition, we are giving you the Mutants & Masterminds stats for the five members of the team, one per day. Today’s instalment is the elementalist Deosil!

Here’s the introduction to this series from yesterday, just in case this is the first blog post you’ve found:

“My writing compatriots often joke with me that I write novels like a game designer: eighty thousand words into world building before I realize that I need a plot and some characters. In the case of Sacred Band, the joke is literal truth, though.

As part of my character design, I decided to turn to a familiar “language” for my development of Gauss, Deosil, Sentinel, Optic, and Llorona – the language of game mechanics. Specifically, the Mutants & Masterminds rule set. Building my protagonists in that system allowed me to make decisions on things like abilities and limitations as a structured undertaking.

Of course, when the story needed something that the rules didn’t or couldn’t account for, the story won out, but having that starting line to apply my creativity to in the first place made the process much easier than just writing into a blank space entirely.”

Today, we’re looking at Deosil, the team’s elementalist witch. Best friends with Gauss, Deosil (or “Jesh,” to her friends) is a neopagan social media maven and often the voice of reason. That said, she knows she has some fears to conquer – but look out once she does!

You can download the Character Sheet for Deosil right here! 

Sacred Band is now on sale in the Green Ronin Online Store (in print or in ebook) and on Amazon (in print or for Kindle). It’s even available in ebook on DrivethruRPG. Look for it at your local retailer as well!

Yesterday’s Sacred Band character sheet for Gauss is still available for download as well!

SACRED BAND CHARACTER SHEETS: Gauss!

Sacred Band character sheetsMy writing compatriots often joke with me that I write novels like a game designer: eighty thousand words into world building before I realize that I need a plot and some characters. In the case of Sacred Band, the joke is literal truth, though.

As part of my character design, I decided to turn to a familiar “language” for my development of Gauss, Deosil, Sentinel, Optic, and Llorona – the language of game mechanics. Specifically, the Mutants & Masterminds rule set. Building my protagonists in that system allowed me to make decisions on things like abilities and limitations as a structured undertaking.

Of course, when the story needed something that the rules didn’t or couldn’t account for, the story won out, but having that starting line to apply my creativity to in the first place made the process much easier than just writing into a blank space entirely.

So, to celebrate the release of Sacred Band’s Nisaba edition, we are giving you the Mutants & Masterminds stats for the five members of the team, one per day.

First out the gate, we look at Gauss, the young magnetic college kid who is the catalyst for the formation of Sacred Band! He’s a mag-leving daredevil who prefers to work his powers through a cloud of ball bearings he keeps with him. Though he’s new to the superhero business, he’s all in.

You can download the Character Sheet for Gauss right here! 

Sacred Band is now on sale in the Green Ronin Online Store (in print or in ebook) and on Amazon (in print or for Kindle). It’s even available in ebook on DrivethruRPG. Look for it at your local retailer as well!

School’s Haunted! Expanding Bite Club for your Halloween campaign!

Bite Club a Halloween Astonishing Adventure!

 

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: Halloween! And once again, we here in the Mutants & Masterminds office are offering a thematically appropriate adventure for the holiday season! Following on the tail of Monster Mash-Up, we offer the newest Astonishing Adventure: Bite Club! Unlike previous Halloween adventures, this installment is specifically a hero high caper, intended for PL 8 heroes who attend the prestigious superhero school known as the Claremont Academy!

Over the course of Bite Club, the heroes discover a coven of vampires threatening their school, but who are they and why threaten a school full of super-powered kids? Bite Club takes place over just a few days and focuses on the growing drama and lurking threat posed by children of the night. But if you want to expand Bite Club for free, you can cannibalize our previous adventures to flesh out the perfect adventure for the spooky season.

Using Monster Mash-Up

You can use Monster Mash-Up as written as an opening scene for Bite Club. Several Claremont students attend the Laugh at the Dead show, including the heroes and the supporting cast. The hallway confrontations from Scene 1 of Bite Club can either happen before the show begins or take place in the stress and chaos after the heroes battle Scream Queen and Madame Macabre.

Using Nothing to Fear

Nothing to Fear ends up being a more useful collection of scenes to supplement Bite Club than an adventure you can drop into the middle.

Fearmaster makes a useful tool for the adventure’s mastermind, who sics him on the school once anyone begins investigating the vampire attacks. The emotion-manipulating supervillain plants his gas dispensers across the campus to cause widespread chaos. The mastermind hopes the young heroes will assume the vampire attacks were yet another fear-induced hallucination, and it also allows him to study the young heroes’ emotional reactions.

Doc Holiday may be a young student at the academy or serving as an intern, only to have his magical powers triggered by Fearmaster’s gas. But he might instead appear later, emerging on Halloween to try and usurp the growing vampire clan to serve him, using their stolen bio-energy to fuel his empowered state rather than the fear and panic of the parade crowd.

However you choose to run Bite Club, have fun and enjoy your Halloween!

Bite Club – When High School Really Sucks

Astonishing Adventures: Bite ClubAstonishing Adventures: Bite Club, is available now!

High school – so many of us couldn’t wait to escape it, and yet, it’s one of the most popular settings for superhero adventures. Perhaps because the alienation and angst felt by a lot of teenagers matches up so well with the secret identities and soap-opera melodrama of comic books, or because the teens who were “art nerds” and “theater kids” in high school later go into creating comic books…and, ahem, roleplaying games.

Whatever the case, maybe the only thing better than the genre blend of high school and heroes is to add a dark touch of horror to the mix! Bite Club, the newest release for the Astonishing Adventures series, does just that, offering a perfect Mutants & Masterminds adventure for your Halloween happenings! The adventure is designed for a group of teen heroes attending the Claremont Academy, a secret school for the super-powered in Freedom City, but you can run Bite Club with other types of heroes as well, perhaps visitors to the campus, concerned mentors, or guest-teachers.

If you don’t have a regular Hero High game featuring teen heroes, it also makes for a fun change-of-pace adventure for your Halloween holiday: Have your players put together a group of power level 8 heroes, or grab the Next-Gen characters from the Hero High sourcebook, and they can play a session where they see the challenges faced by the teen set, where the stakes aren’t as high as saving the world, but may involve mending a broken heart or two—and speaking of stakes and hearts, we don’t want to give away too much about the adventure itself, but you can probably guess…

Bite Club is available in the Green Ronin Online Store, and on DrivethruRPG!

Amusement Park for Danger Zones – Available Now!

Danger Zone Amusement ParkAs previously mentioned on the Mutants & Masterminds Monday Livestream. This week we are proud to release the Amusement Park for our ongoing Danger Zones series for Third Edition!

Atop a rushing subway car, trapped in a raging apartment fire, crushed beneath the animated oaks of a possessed parkland, superheroes face as much danger from the world around them as they do from their most nefarious villains.

“Buckle up, gentlebeings! This ride’s about to get bumpy!

The smell of cotton candy and screams of delight can’t keep evil at bay, and the hall of horrors makes a delightful hunting ground for things that feed on fear. Welcome to Danger Zones: Amusement Park, home of the wildest rides, the biggest shows, and the greatest thrills on Earth!

Danger Zones helps you bring your world alive by describing 30 different urban backdrops for superheroic action, from the classic warehouse to the neighborhood coffee shop to the hospital they’ll need to recover when the adventure is done. Every location includes a map, as well as useful information on how to use that setting’s unique features in a cunning plot or superhero slugfest.

To help populate your urban jungle, Danger Zones also provides a catalog of colorful characters, ready to come alive in your Mutants & Masterminds, Third Edition campaign!

Danger Zones: Amusement Park is available for purchase now in the Green Ronin Online Store, and on DrivethruRPG.

Check out the previous Danger Zones Here!

You can also find all of the earlier Danger Zones settings on DrivethruRPG!

Three Made One – BROKEN TOYS

Three Made One Toy Boy

When children are playing alone on the green,
In comes the playmate that never was seen.
When children are happy and lonely and good,
The Friend of the Children comes out of the wood.

Nobody heard him, and nobody saw,
His is a picture you never could draw,
But he’s sure to be present, abroad or at home,
When children are happy and playing alone.

—From A Child’s garden of Verse, by Robert Lewis Stevenson

This week’s release of Astonishing Adventures: Three Made One concludes the NetherWar adventure series with a bang and brings back plenty of old friends and enemies the heroes have encountered over the last five adventures, including Sandstone, Medea, the Factor Four, Sallah, Seven, and more side characters than you can shake your character notes at. There are moving parts galore and possibly one of the toughest villain fights yet printed for Mutants & Masterminds, Third Edition!

But one recurring face doesn’t make an appearance in Three Made One. The phantom toy elemental, Toy Boy, sits this one out. This isn’t incredibly unexpected—the heroes defeated Desmond Lettam pretty thoroughly at the climax of Broken Strings, potentially trapping the spirit villain in a legendary Orb of Ghormmuz where he can no longer hurt others. But Toy Boy was a fairly major element for three installments of NetherWar and depending on your group’s interactions with the villain, his absence in this adventure may feel like a glaring omission.

Una—the fawning Desmond’s “Dark Lady”—immediately turns her back on her failed agent upon his defeat. While he was eager and could communicate with Una directly, his work was complete and his usefulness drew to a close during the events of Broken Strings. Una has other agents she can turn toward destroying the last Eldritch Talisman, the Golden mask of Malador, and so Toy Boy’s absence means nothing to the ambitious would-be god. But Desmond Lettam has never taken rejection well.

Here are a few options for featuring Toy Boy in Three Made One:

The Boy in the Orb

If the heroes capture Toy Boy in the Orb of Ghormmuz, he remains their prisoner as the adventure opens and is drawn into Elysium with them, though the dimension’s magic shifts him from the heroes’ immediate possession to their headquarters’ trophy room (assuming he wasn’t there already). Desmond rails against the heroes, hurling insults and accusations, but doubt has begun creeping into the back of his mind. A part of him knows he’s been forgotten by the only person he cared about, and if the heroes play to that they can turn the villainous ghost into an information source.

You may decide that releasing Toy Boy from the orb is one way the heroes can escape Elysium. His powerful emotional ties to Una allows him return to Earth-Prime like Malador’s Mask once did, bringing the heroes along for the ride. Once back on Earth-Prime, however, he only remains with the heroes if they’ve treated him well during his imprisonment; Desmond hasn’t turned over a new leaf, he’s just angrier at Una for rigging the game, than he is at the meddling heroes who spoiled his fun.

Toy Boy knows only bits and pieces of magic lore, but he knows a lot about Una and her ultimate goals and can help the heroes by providing an Aid bonus to their checks to investigate Triune, and if the heroes have been extraordinarily understanding or can provoke Una into confirming Toy Boy’s worst fears about his abandonment, Toy Boy can even join their final showdown with the Dark Lord as an additional magical ally who helps delay Triune’s reunification.

Free Spirits

If the heroes never imprisoned Toy Boy during Broken Strings, the ghostly villain has finally escaped the Dungeon Dimension only to discover his Dark Lady has forgotten him and recruited Medea as her new favored agent. While happy to sulk for a time, Triune’s ascension is enough to snap Toy Boy out of it and either drive him to beg the newborn to accept him as a servant or else his bitterness drives him to seek out the heroes.

If Toy Boy seeks out the heroes to help them, he might be one element to help draw them out of Elysium or clue them in that the world isn’t what it seems. You can present Elysium as far more realistic, with only recurring toy-based elements seeming out-of-place until Toy Boy grows strong enough to approach the heroes on his own. Much like when he is trapped in the Orb, an independent Toy Boy can help the heroes investigate Triune upon their release or act as an incorporeal spy and go-between for the various factions, helping the heroes coordinate with their allies—not that Desmond is a completely trustworthy ally who won’t create new complications for the heroes to resolve. He may likewise serve as a mystic ally in the climax to help delay Triune’s re-assembly or he can play a similar role to Medea as an emergency back-up in case one of the established heroes is incapacitated.

A Toy Boy rejoining Una’s side becomes one of Triune’s dread guard, the Wings of Doom. Use the Terror Teddy statblock from Broken Strings to reflect the new doll body Triune creates for him, or use one of the existing villain archetypes from the Deluxe Gamemaster’s Guide, such as the Brute (an enormous toy dinosaur), the Composite (a toy box), the Hybrid (an Immature Radioactive Samurai Squirrel action figure), or the Robot (a transmorpher). This version of Toy Boy operates as a lone hunter tracking the heroes as they explore the city and investigate Triune.

I’m a Real Boy!

Among the rewards that you can hand out at the adventure’s climax might be a second chance at life for the troubled Desmond Lettam, whose disability and the sheltered life his parents forced on him only fueled his emotional problems. If the heroes go above and beyond to bond with an imprisoned or allied Toy Boy, Desmond might sacrifice himself to save a hero from an especially vicious critical hit from Una the Evolved during the final confrontation. Una’s magic allows her to shred spirits as easily as flesh and Toy Boy—with his innate +0 Toughness bonus—has little chance to resist the overwhelming force she can apply. Depending on the tone of your campaign, this might be a bittersweet end for a troubled soul, or the mystic shock and the transformative magic following Triune’s defeat might restore Toy Boy to life, either as his old self or as a young child with a second shot at life. Heroes might return him to his aging parents or turn him over to the state, or adopt the reborn villain as their own and hopefully give him a healthier environment in which to grow up as second time.

Astonishing Adventures: Netherwar part 5 Three Made One is on sale now, and also available on DrivethruRPG

Possession is Nine-Tenths of the Law

Mind Control and Psychic Combat!

With last week’s release of Bound by Gold, Malador the Mystic once again seizes a mortal body with which to threaten the world. But this newest Astonishing Adventure adds a rub: The heroes are brought into the investigation to help rescue the young man Malador is currently inhabiting. Bodily possession and mind control are common elements in superhero media; they make for emotionally wrenching resolutions as the hero overcomes the domination or tearful reunions as the hero draws out the original host’s spirit to help fight the possessing villain through heartfelt pleas.

Mutants & Masterminds, 3rd Edition uses the same rules for mind control and possession, revolving mostly around the Compelled and Controlled conditions applied via the Affliction power. A Compelled character’s Standard Action and Free Actions each round are determined by someone else, with their Move Action lost to the struggle for dominance. A Gamemaster might allow them to shout out warnings to those around them, but otherwise their only role in the action is to slow the force controlling them. Controlled overrides a character’s free will entirely, leaving all their actions each round up to the controlling force with the original mind a helpless passenger. Because Compelled is a 2nd degree condition, a hero overcome by it can attempt a new resistance check at the end of each round to shake the effect and regain full control of themselves, but Controlled—being a 3rd degree condition—can only be resisted once every minute.

While mechanically appropriate, the Compelled and Controlled conditions sidestep the narrative drama that mind control and possession can offer, so let’s look at some other ways to handle these effects in ways at the table to get everything you want from this classic trope.

Narrative Mind Control

Not all mind control needs to be equal. As an alternative to short-term “combat” mind control, narrative mind control make influence over a character as total and long-lasting as you need, particularly with villains like Malador or Knightfire who take mortal bodies as hosts. In these cases, it’s assumed the host’s mind is overwhelmed either by one of the most powerful wills in the cosmos or by an evil they invited in willingly. But beyond even these exceptional cases, narrative mind control means that villains with a focus on mental domination can keep a cadre of loyally brainwashed agents around without re-applying their Affliction power every ten rounds.

While the example of Malador is very overt, narrative mind control may be subtle instead, barely changing a character’s behavior or only causing them to act strangely when no one might notice. In this situation, a controlled character may only act in the middle of the night—sleepwalking for all they or anyone else knows—or they might think they’re going through their daily work tasks while unwittingly funneling information, security codes, or resources to the villain. The controlled character doesn’t fight the unnatural control because they aren’t aware of any unnatural control; everything seems perfectly normal from their point of view.

Narrative mind control is effectively permanent until deliberately ended by an outside force: a mystic dispels the control spell, the heroes defeat the psychic villain, or a hacker purges the corrupted software from the android’s brain. In some cases, a character under subtle narrative mind control might be able to fight the effects once they’re aware of it, transitioning from this model to the traditional Compelled and Controlled conditions once a character is presented with obvious proof or the villain makes their control overt and clearly opposed to the character’s morals. Especially subtle mind control may even linger after the obvious “fix” as psychics leave post-hypnotic suggestions that won’t trigger for weeks or a possessing spirit leaves just enough of their essence behind to reach out to the victim in their dreams.

Narrative mind control works best when applied to NPCs because it takes agency away from a character indefinitely, sometimes overwriting them entirely with a new character in the case of possessing entities. Some players might find the role of double-agent fun, however, so be willing to ask if a perfect story opportunity arises. In this case, the control becomes a temporary Complication, allowing the GM to occasionally dictate or forbid a course of action for the hero in exchange for a Hero Point.

Fighting Mind Control from the Outside

Mind-controlling afflictions come with a built-in mechanical solution: the target gets a new resistance check regularly to throw off the effect. But that solution isn’t necessarily satisfying in an emotional confrontation between a hero and a friend forced to do evil. Here are a few suggestions for ways the heroes can help an ally compelled against their will:

Aid

Heroes’ words of encouragement and love can help the target find their inner strength and throw off outside control. This functions like most Aid actions, with any heroes who help making appropriate PRE-based skill checks against a DC 10. A successful check grants the target a +2 bonus on their next resistance check against the control, while three or more degrees of Success bumps the bonus up to +5. Heroes will generally make Presence checks, but Deception, Expertise, or even Intimidate checks might be appropriate in different situations.

The Psychic Beatdown

Most mind controlling or possessing villains maintain a strong mental link to their target, so a hero with attack effects resisted by Will, such as a Mental Blast, might be able to target the controlling mind rather than the target themselves. At the Gamemaster’s discretion, this might require enough psychic sensitivity to tell the two minds apart (with a Sense like Psychic Awareness or Acute Detect Minds), count of a use of Extra Effort, or be a default ability of a Will-based attack.

An Incapacitated result immediately ends the villain’s mind control. A Dazed or Stunned result doesn’t, but allows the target a resistance check against the control if they haven’t already made one this round (making this tactic more useful against fully-controlled victims).

Challenge Sequence

For groups without a psychic warrior, appealing to the target’s human decency and compassion might help break them free as part of an optional challenge sequence. This option can be satisfying for roleplay-focused players who want evocative or dramatic resolutions to fights rather than just throwing bolts of energy. As with the Aid action, heroes can opt to make a skill check or appropriate power check as a Standard Action toward a challenge sequence to help the victim shake free of their unwanted control. The target DC is either the control effect rank +10 (more appropriate for mind control) or the villain’s Will rank +10 (more appropriate for villains possessing a physical host). The total successes needed varies, with a base of 1, plus 1 for every 5 ranks of the controlling power; shaking the mind control effect imposed by Affliction 10, for example, requires a total of 3 Degrees of Success. Increase the necessary successes by +1 or +2 if mind control is the villain’s primary power or somehow core to their existence (such as Malador’s psychic bonus to a host body), so ejecting Malador the Mystic (Will +14, possessing targets is key to his existence) from a host via a challenge sequence would require 5 Degrees of Success on DC 24 checks.

This avenue is strictly optional and not always appropriate, so check with your Gamemaster if its appropriate to an encounter before you begin investing time into the attempt. Some villains might simply need to be defeated before they can be excised from an someone’s mind. As a compromise, heroes might need to know intimate details about a character to try appealing to them, and may need to reveal personal information about themselves such as their secret identity.

Talking Points

Similar to the challenge sequence, a talking points solution to mind control of possession can be very satisfying and emotional, but turns the encounter into a roleplay scene rather than a challenge sequence. In this case a hero doesn’t need to roll dice at all; they must simply recall enough important details about the character to reach their mind and force out the unnatural control. Make a list of 5–10 important details abut the character and decide how many of them a hero must bring (generally half as many) up before finally breaking through the control to reach the target. This might include their name, their family, beloved pets, ambitions, favorite music, career, or fears—whatever feels relevant to a character and their life. Especially important talking points may even count as two points, creating a few vital elements to a character or a “power of love” moment. This solution obviously works best for freeing NPCs who are already close to the hero rather than strangers or random victims, but it can still work as the climax at the end of a long investigation where the heroes have to learn many details about the victim’s life. Heroes are limited to bringing up one talking point each per turn, but once they bring up enough, the target can automatically shake off the mind control.

Rather than a solution, talking points might instead buy the heroes some breathing room. In this case, each talking point isn’t a step toward freedom, but bringing one up imposes the Dazed condition on the victim for one round. Talking points that would count double instead leave the victim Stunned for one round.

Like the challenge sequence, talking points are strictly options, so consult your Gamemaster if you like the idea.

Fighting Mind Control from the Inside

the Mindscape where psychic battle becomes physical

One of the biggest criticisms against mind control at the game table is that it essentially takes on player out of the game until their character can shake the effect. Many players feel like they might as well run and grab a pizza or boot up a video game because they know it will be a while before they need to pay attention again. Much of the advantage of a mind control power is that it limits the heroes’ action economy—how often they are allowed to act in a round—while usually adding to the villain’s

Giving a mind-controlled player something active to do can help salvage their night and make the encounter more memorable for everyone.

Play Along

Some players relish an excuse to go toe-to-toe with their fellow gamers, pitting their build against their friends’. Others love the dramatic tension of their hero turning on their allies and unleashing both physical and psychological punishment. For these players, simply being told “You’re mind-controlled now. You have to attack you allies, but you can decide how,” is the start of a great scene. Let the player decide how they unleash their abilities against their friends and don’t underestimate the pathos of a player choosing story-based conflicts in this occasion, saying hurtful things or exposing their friends’ secrets rather than attacking physically.

As with all player-versus-player approaches, be careful pitting a mind-controlled hero directly against their friends, as it can lead to hurt feelings away from the table. It might be a better idea to turn a mind-controlled player character loose against the police or military or a rival villain, while the remaining heroes battle the villain while shorthanded.

Ghosted

In some cases, overt mind control or possession may force a character’s mind or soul out of their body while the villain maintains control, leaving the hero a bodiless ghost floating over the battle. The character gains Permanent Insubstantial 4 and Permanent Concealment 10 (All Senses), but may still be able to interact with the physical world using mental effects, abilities with the Affects Substantial extra, or by using Extra Effort. A hero in the midst of an “out of body” experience like this might instead explore nearby rooms to gather information or be ejected close to someone close to them, like a kidnapped lover whom they can comfort or try to learn the whereabouts of.

Mindscape Battle

Many superhero stories handle a psychic battle of wills as literal combat inside a mindscape or the Astral Plane, with the hero’s psyche donning idealized armor and battling the invader’s mind or hallucinations. In this case, a hero being mind controlled doesn’t remove their player from the action, it only relocates the action to the psychic plane. The hero must fight alone against a psychic copy of the villain (replacing their mental powers with more overt Damage or Affliction effects) or face off against hordes of minions that reflect the villain’s psychic control, such as the Tulpa (Deluxe Gamemaster’s Guide, page 149). Alternatively, the villain’s psychic avatar might translate their mental mastery in the real world to be martial mastery in the mental worlds—use the same personality and description, but select a physically-oriented statblock like the Powerhouse or Weapon Master hero archetypes. If the hero succeeds in their struggle, they knock the villain’s control over them down by one stage—Controlled becomes Compelled, Compelled becomes Dazed, and Dazed becomes unaffected.

If you want to add more details to the mindscape battle, check out the War of the Minds sample scene from Chapter 6 of the Deluxe Gamemaster’s Guide.

 

However you choose to apply mind control and possession to your superhero games, the key is to provide fun and options to your players, not take options away. Be creative and willing to adapt, and encourage new ideas or unorthodox strategies. The end result might be different, but it’s likely to be an experience everyone remembers.

Bound By Gold: NetherWar part 4, Available Now!

Bound By GoldIn the latest installment of the NetherWar, Bound By Gold, the heroes efforts to stop Toy Boy’s rampage have inadvertently released the former Master Mage: Malador the Mystic, and now the dread Atlantean intends to bind the spirit of his dead rival, Adrian Eldritch, into an undead servant to aid his conquest of the world! With so much at stake, the heroes find an unlikely ally who has an agenda all her own. But the mysterious Dark Lady still works behind the scenes. It’s a three-way magic free-for-all of diabolical villains, with the heroes—and all of Freedom City—caught in the middle!

He’s Baaaaaaack…

Written by Kate Baker, Bound by Gold is a mystical adventure series for a team of four heroes of PL 10. The adventure continues the NetherWar campaign arc for Mutants & Masterminds, Third Edition.

Astonishing Adventures bring exciting new adventures for Mutants & Masterminds, Third Edition to you every single month, complete with all the action and villains you need to bring the story to life!

Get Astonishing Adventures, NetherWar part 4: Bound by Gold at theGreen Ronin Online Store or DriveThruRPG 

Be sure to check out the rest of the NetherWar series, including the free Series Guide!

And finally, tune in to our Facebook Page each week for Mutants & Masterminds Monday! LIVE. Videos will also be made available after they air on our Youtube channel.

(Not So) Secret Identities

I don’t know exactly when or how I became an introvert—we don’t have the kind of space in this column necessary to go into that—but, sufficient to say, I am what many might refer to as “a private person.” I often feel like I missed the era of the “reclusive writer” who nobody ever saw and who interacted with the world through their agent. What do they even look like? Do they even really exist? In this interconnected age of social media streaming, where everyone carries a camera, that kind of anonymity is increasingly no longer an option.

That’s especially true for those of us who: 1) Have some sort of marginalized identity and feel it is important that we be visible for the benefit of those who might see us, and; 2) Are creatives who need to promote our work by connecting with our audience as directly as possible (which is the say, most of us who don’t have a corporate marketing department behind us). All of which is a long lead-up to the moment that I kind of knew was coming, but dreaded anyway, that moment when Green Ronin’s Community Manager Troy Hewitt said “We’re all stuck in isolation! We’re going to start streaming on Monday!”Crystal and Steve streaming on Facebook live

Extraordinary times, right? You see, Green Ronin is a great company for many reasons, but one of them (for me) is that there are a lot of reclusive introverts on-staff. Many of us are perfectly happy working in our own corners of the world, communicating via text, and making the experience of seeing each other in person special by only doing it a few times a year. Fortunately, the (roughly two-thirds introverted) ownership recognized that was not the best way for us to work with our wonderful community of players of our games, however. So they made sure to include some ambiverts and extroverts, who have done things like drag the rest of us into the digital streaming world. Here’s what I have learned thus far from the experience:

Perfect is the enemy of ever doing anything. “We’ll figure it out as we go! We start in three days!” Three days! But…but, the research! The preparation! Nope. We had been stalling doing videos and streams for a long time and were getting no closer to starting. What we really needed to do was start. So we did. Waiting around until you’re “ready” can often mean you never will be.

Creativity is spontaneous. I like to plan and outline with the best of ‘em, but some of the best parts of the Mutants & Masterminds Monday streams have been spontaneous, off-the-cuff things from just interacting, which remind me of the best parts of my tabletop game-play experiences; not written into the adventure per se, but appearing out of the interaction.

It’s okay to be seen. By that I mean it’s not necessarily self-indulgent to want to be in front of the camera, and it’s all right to promote, not just your work, but yourself as a creator and as a person. It’s okay to be seen for you and not just as a representative of something else. I’m still working on this one, to be honest, as I’ve never been a particularly good self-promoter, but I think I’m learning.

Striking sparks ignites flames. I often feel social situations are draining, but at the same time, it’s a helpful reminder that certain social interactions, especially with my peers and co-workers, can really help to get us all excited about the things we’re doing and working on. Our interaction creates “good energy.” I find I really enjoy that handful of aforementioned yearly in-person get-togethers, and our online meet-ups—whether streaming or just having a company-wide meeting—can do the same. I feel more recharged and ready to do more work for the rest of the week.

It’s okay to fail. Mind you, it’s not fun, but messing up, having things go wrong, technical difficulties and all of that is a part of life and how we learn. Doing live video streams offers plenty of “learning opportunities.” Good friends and colleagues help us get back up and get back in the game, and we do better the next time. This reminds me a lot of my reckless courage as a young Game Master: I was so excited by the prospect of running each new game I got that I rushed right in. I definitely had some Game Master-disasters (again, we don’t have that kind of space) but I survived, learned from them, and kept on going.M&M Monday streaming every week!So, if you feel you’re too shy, too introverted, not enough (or too much), or just not ready to do something like streaming, online gaming, Game Mastering, or the like, take a risk in the company of friends, and you can start by joining us. We’re learning in real time, and the people who watch are active participants in what we’re creating. Joining in means you get to have some low-risk fun while seeing how we do it, and figuring out how you might when the time comes for you to step into the spotlight.

I hope you’ll join us for an episode of Mutants & Masterminds Monday sometime!

Green Ronin Publishing’s videos can also be found on our YouTube channel.

I’LL TAKE YOU RIGHT INTO THE DANGER ZONES

If you’ve been following Mutants & Masterminds news the last few months, you’ve probably heard me talk way too much about Danger Zones. I refuse to apologize for my weird love of maps, but this time around, as the products finally take their first steps into the world, I’m not just going to blather on yet again about how much fun it can be to add set piece elements to your superhero fights based on where they happen and how they can really mix up and add interest to your adventures.

Instead, let’s talk about how you can mine cool maps for adventure ideas.

Danger Zones: Bank Map!

So here’s our Danger Zones: Bank map, a pretty standard savings & loan based loosely on a few real locations. Like any good comic book bank, you’ve got a large lobby full of pillars for a superhero fight, some safety deposit boxes for secret documents, and a comedically oversized vault in the basement, no doubt leftover from a bygone era when banks were required to keep more cash and valuables on-hand. Villains could be after valuables, but we also have elements like a large bookkeeping office, so maybe your villain isn’t attacking the bank itself but some hapless accountant. Like a lot of sturdily built old buildings, it also has a forgotten fallout shelter in the basement, which could serve as a villains lair or the hiding place or some clue lost in 1952. I, like most people, hear “supervillains attacking a bank” and immediately think “oh, they’re after the cash,” but with something physical to work with, you can start thinking about what else goes on at a bank and how to subvert people’s expectations.

Danger Zones: BankEach Danger Zone entry comes with a few suggested Capers set in that location (in this case, provided by the creative Katherine Schuttler), but here are some of my own ideas that come just from checking out the map:

Assault on the Credit Union

The heroes are caught inside the bank just as a major criminal organization begins an all-out assault. One of the bank employees has been feeding the FBI information on a major player’s white collar crime, and now all the syndicates resources—including several villains—are coming down hard hoping to wipe out the witness, the evidence, and maybe the entire building in one bloody night. The heroes can use the map and a list of the personnel and equipment in the building to come up with defense strategies and fallback locations and keep patrolling the building to make sure no one’s coming in through the windows or the loading ramp in the basement (if one of the hired villains is has stretchy powers, shrinking, or can turn into fluid, they might also have to deal with a nightmarish night deposit to kick things off). How do a band of superheroes keep a small army at bay and keep everyone trapped inside alive long enough for help to arrive?

With a map, I can track where the heroes are, where the NPCs are, and where the crooks are and decide how well each entryway is holding up to the siege, and the players can decide where they fall back to as the enemies progress.

Banking and Entry

A legendary mystical archaeologist has passed away after an improbably long life, leaving many of his greatest discoveries concealed in forgotten safe deposit boxes across the United States. The heroes need one to solve a crisis, or need to keep one out of the hands of a diabolical cult, who have already begun infiltrating the bank’s management. The heroes might stage the bank robbery themselves under temporary “villain” identities and have a confrontation with the local police or local heroes, or they might stage a quiet break-in after hours. Either way, with a detailed map, I can play up their B&E more strategically and add some drama, like a regular guard patrol or figure out where the lines of sight for police snipers might be. This could be the start to, or culmination of, a “hunted by the authorities” plotline!

A solo break-in might be better for a one-on-one session with the team’s sneakiest member, but also lets you break out all the rules for security systems in the Danger Zones text itself.

Gilded Cage

The fallout shelter in the basement looks like a great place for a villain’s lair, especially if some trash-tier bad guys move in and retreat here every time the cops or heroes start to get involved, lying low until the authorities get bored. Pack Rat and Junkpile from Threat Report are the obvious candidates, but it would be a lot more fun if there was a second layer of villainy obfuscating them. Maybe Dollface (again, see Threat Report) has an identity working in the bank and is deliberately hiding the villains’ trail and keeping them safe in exchange for retrieving parts she needs, or the Grandmaster (see Emerald City) has been manipulating the duo as unwitting knights in one of his obtuse schemes, placing obsessions into the impressionable villains then hiding them behind a respectable facade. Once the heroes discover WHO is performing these robberies, they must still track them back to their lair and decide how to approach the bank—a business unwilling to simply grant free access to strange people in masks.

There are several Danger Zones releasing this week. You can find them all in our Green Ronin Online Store RIGHT HERE, as well as on DrivethruRPG. Check back later this week and in the coming weeks, for additional Zones!