Mystery Men! Let’s Go!

Perhaps one of the saddest departures from television in the last few years, for me, was the Aquabat Super Show! The Aquabats are not just the greatest band to ever punch a tortilla monster in the face, they’re also bona fide superheroes, clashing with the likes of Cobra Man and Space Monster M.

In addition, they’re the perfect superheroes to stat up for Mystery Men! Second Edition, on sale now as a PDF at both Rpgnow and! The second edition cleans up a few errors in the first edition and streamlines the powers a bit, all while keeping character creation fun and easy, and game play just as fun and easy. It’s an old school take on superhero gaming, with a sample setting – Shore City – a sample adventure – “All Fall Down” – and skads of heroes and villains all ready to be battled. All for $6.99!

And now … the Aquabats!

M.C. Bat Commander (Super Hero)
Christian Jacobs, Lead Singer

The M.C. Bat Commander is the ever-brave, ever-pugnacious leader of the gang. While not the world’s greatest tactician, he is supremely skilled at winging it. His distinctive face decoration is designed to thwart ne’er-do-wells who would vandalize his face on posters.

Like all of the Aquabats, the Bat Commander has the following pieces of gear: An anti-negativity helmet, radioactive rash guards, and a power belt to allow him to enter “stealth mode”.
The ‘bats also have their Battle Tram, a hi-tech RV capable of flight and survival in Outer Space!

STR: 3
DEX: 3
CON: 5/+1
INT: 3
WIS: 2
CHA: 4/+1

LVL: 6
HP: 27
ATK: +5
AC: 12
XP Value: 4,850

Weapon Master (meta-, fists)

Anti-negativity helmet
Radioactive rash guard (resistance to radiation)
Power belt (invisibility, 1/day for 5 minutes)
Battle Tram (RV + rocket launcher, fly, immunity to vacuum)

Crash McLarson (Super Hero)
Chad Larson, Bass Guitar

Crash is a man-child, strong and sensitive and prone to becoming a giant when he becomes emotional. He’s the heart and soul of the Aquabats, and once met a genie that looked surprisingly like Rip Taylor.

STR: 6/+1
DEX: 2
CON: 4/+1
INT: 2
WIS: 2
CHA: 4/+1

LVL: 12
HP: 54
ATK: +9
AC: 12
XP Value: 4,075

Enlarge (cosmic; but only when emotional)
Weapon Master (meta-, fists, vs. sharks only)

Anti-negativity helmet
Radioactive rash guard (resistance to radiation)
Power belt (invisibility, 1/day for 5 minutes)

Jimmy the Robot (Super Hero)
James Briggs, Keyboard and Saxophone

The most logical and mature of the band, Jimmy the Robot was built by a farming scientist to pick apples, but instead went to the big city and joined a superhero band.

STR: 4/+1
DEX: 3
CON: 4/+1
INT: 12/+3
WIS: 4/+1
CHA: 3

LVL: 6
HP: 27
ATK: +5
AC: 14
XP Value: 5,000

Invulnerability (meta-)
Power bolt (lasers)
Sense vibrations
Super science (10,000 XP)
Super intelligence (meta-)

Anti-negativity helmet
Radioactive rash guard (resistance to radiation)
Power belt (invisibility, 1/day for 5 minutes)

Ricky Fitness (Super Hero)
Richard Falomir, Drums

Teenage heart-throb Ricky Fitness loves the ladies, but not as much as he loved fresh veggies!

STR: 3
DEX: 6/+1
CON: 3
INT: 3
WIS: 2
CHA: 5/+1

LVL: 10
HP: 35
ATK: +8
AC: 13
XP Value: 4,250

Super Speed (meta-)

Anti-negativity helmet
Radioactive rash guard (resistance to radiation)
Power belt (invisibility, 1/day for 5 minutes)
Drum-Copter (mini-helicopter with the equivalent of a non-lethal heavy machine gun)

Eagle “Bones” Falconhawk (Super Hero)
Ian Fowles, Guitar

Perhaps the most determined member of the band to right wrongs, Eagle “Bones” Falconhawk has an evil brother called Eagleclaw and enjoys a relationship with the Sun Spirit, Lou Diamond Phillips. His eagle, The Dude, is an invisible spirit eagle. So he has that going for him.

STR: 3
DEX: 5/+1
CON: 3
INT: 3
WIS: 4/+1
CHA: 4/+1

LVL: 11
HP: 39
ATK: +9
AC: 12
XP Value: 4,250

Sense Vibrations

Anti-negativity helmet
Radioactive rash guard (resistance to radiation)
Power belt (invisibility, 1/day for 5 minutes)
Electric guitar (power bolt-electricity)

* Falconhawk can summon The Dude, an invisible eagle. The eagle hangs around long enough to perform one task, and he probably can’t do it more than once per game.

Side Note 1: If you have the chance to go to an Aquabats show, do it. Fun shows, chill music, crazy audiences, a fight with a man in a rubber suit on stage … you cannot miss with these guys.

Side Note 2: How many other superhero games are there that have published stats for the Aquabats, Action League Now AND Fonzi? Go buy the game, for crying out loud!

Found HERE


Mystery Men – Out of the Shadows

Two years ago to this day, I announced that Fat Goblin Games was going to produce a revised version of Mystery Men!, with new art, new layout, etc. To that end, I pulled the existing version off the digital shelves.

Well, 730 days later, the revised Mystery Men! did not materialize. I took a stab at a collaboration, and in this case it didn’t work out. Chalk it up to earned experience (without a 10% XP bonus because of my low Wisdom score).

Fortunately, my contract with those folks is over, and Mystery Men! is back. I have re-instated the original MM!, digital and print, to my spotlight on As before, the PDF is free, the print version costs $7.99.

You might want to hold off on buying the print version, though, because the next step is the official, long-awaited revision of the game, which will be released in early 2016. I need to get GRIT & VIGOR on sale first, partially because I just need to get it done, and partially because I want to make sure MM! and G&V are generally compatible. Once it is out, I will tweak the revised text I wrote two years ago, work on the layout, and get that sucker up for sale. I’m hoping for January release.

2016 is going to be my year of revisions. Mystery Men! will probably be first. Blood & Treasure will follow, with new covers I commissioned, as well as Pars Fortuna (I was going to make it Blood & Treasure-compatible, but I might make it Bloody Basic compatible, since those games have a similar vibe) and Space Princess (aiming at G&V compatibility for that one as well). In the meantime, I’ll keep publishing NOD and Quick & Easy games, and I’ll begin working on combining old issues of NOD into full-blown hex crawl adventures in their own right, and pulling those old mags off the market to let them become collectors items. I’m also in talks with a friend to design a nice, new Land of Nod website. Should be fun.

So keep your eyes peeled, folks, the mystery men are on their way!

Weird Beard [Mystery Men!]

Professor Bartholomew Vandyke was working on the regeneration of human tissue when he accidentally created a strange, living filament. While working with a large number of these filaments, he discovered to his chagrin that they had a mind of their own. The parasitic filaments attached themselves to his face, something in the manner of a beard. This intrigued Vandyke, as he found he could communicate with the filaments and control them. They could grow, stretch and manipulate objects.

While pleased with his new-found powers, and convinced he had made an important discovery, Professor Vandyke was annoyed at the new nickname his students at Shore City University gave him: Weird Beard. More distressing was the news that he had been denied tenure and that his funding had been cut off, as the university felt he had made no serious progress in his research. Vowing then and there to continue his research, Vandyke took up the mantle of Weird Beard, criminal scientist, and began staging robberies to fund his research. Ultimately, his schemes were foiled by Captain Triumph.

Weird Beard would go on to plague the heroes of Shore City (and beyond) many more time, his research leading him to cloning experiments, the creation of franken-zombies and his infamous hair-animation ray.

LVL 7 | STR 2 | DEX 2 | CON 2 | INT 6 | WIL 4 | CHA 2 | HP 7d8 | DC 10 | ATK +6 | SPD 2 | XP 8,750 (50,000 XP)

POWERS*: Super Intelligence [6]-Add +6 to all Int feats + logic, make whole, understand language, speak language, discern lie

GEAR: Beard Filaments (Freestyle [5]-elasticity; Invulnerability [3]- Add 3 to DC + endure elements, shield other; Beard is DC 15, HP 15)

* Weird Beard uses the new power pack system published in NOD

Power Packs: Alternative Power System

I like to take walks – usually 2 or 3 miles. Clears the head, good exercise, etc. Also gives my mind time to wander without external influence from radio/tv/internet.

So, the other day I was walking about and an idea for a new system of buying super powers for Mystery Men! flew in and took roost. It took a couple more walks to get it to a point where it would work using an idea I’m calling Power Packs. I’m going to publish the entire thing in the next issue of NOD, but here’s a sample …


Yeah, I’m a little ashamed. But dang!

Power packs are an alternate way to handle character creation in Mystery Men! Please note that if players and masterminds wish to use this method, the method will need to be adopted by all in the game, as power packs, while blending into the rules as written, can produce more powerful characters than are produced using the normal character creation rules.

With this system, characters purchase power levels in a variety of “power packs”. A power pack is a grouping of powers under a single heading. A character with electricity powers, for example, would now purchase power levels in the Electricity power pack, rather than buying individual powers. Within each power pack, individual powers are given a rank. If a character’s power level in a power pack is equal to or greater than a power’s rank, they can access that power automatically. If the power’s rank is higher than their power level, they can attempt a dice roll to activate that power. This gives heroes and villains a greater variety of powers, often at a lower cost than when using the rules as written.

As with the official MM! rules, the cost of powers can still be halved by introducing limitations on power packs. Powers can also still be invested in items, the equivalent XP cost of the powers depending on the power’s power rank:

1.  1,000 XP
2.  2,000 XP
3.  3,000 XP
4.  4,000 XP
5.  6,000 XP
6.  10,000 XP
7.  15,000 XP
8.  25,000 XP
9.  35,000 XP
10.  50,000 XP

Using this system, characters have ability scores ranked from 1 to 6. Various power packs add their power levels to ability feats and other rolls without actually increasing the ability score. Ability score bonuses with this system are equal to the ability score, thus a score of 6 adds a bonus of +6 to rolls associated with that ability score.

When creating a character, all ability scores start at 3. One ability score can be increased by lowering another ability score by the same amount.

Using this system, all characters can use the same adventurer class. Sorcerers purchase power levels in the Sorcery Power Pack, among others, and Scientists purchase power levels in the Super Intelligence Power Pack.

Powers with a rank (the number in parentheses) equal to or lower than your power level can be activated by you automatically, with no roll of the dice. Powers of a rank higher than your power level can only be activated by a roll of the dice. Subtract your power level from the rank of the power (the number in parentheses after the name of the power). You must roll higher than this number on 1d6 in order to activate the power.


Here are a couple sample power packs …

FORCE FIELDS (6,000 XP/Level)

FORCE MISSILE (1): You fire a single missile of pure force that deals 1d6 points of damage per power level and requires a ranged attack to hit.

SHIELD (1): An invisible disc of force gives you a +4 to DC and completely blocks force and energy missiles. Shield lasts one round per power level.

LEVITATE (3): You levitate up to 100 lb. per power level at rate of ascent or descent of 100 ft. per round.

FORCE SPHERE (5): You create a sphere of force 2 ft. in diameter per power level within a range of 30 ft. The sphere lasts for as long as you concentrate on it. A force sphere is only affected by disintegrate or negate power. A subject inside the sphere can breathe normally, but is otherwise trapped.

FORCE WALL (6): You create an invisible and invulnerable plane of force up to 10 sq. ft. per power level that lasts 1 round per power level. The plane cannot be damaged and it is unaffected by negate power, although it can be destroyed with disintegrate. Dimension hop and teleport can bypass the wall of force, but other powers cannot be used to get through the plane. The plane can be generated as a wall, floor or ceiling, and can be slanted like a ramp.

INVISIBILITY (6): You cannot be seen, but you can be sensed by hearing or scent. Opponents suffer a -5 penalty to hit you in combat. Lasts as long as you concentrate and 1 round per level thereafter.

FORCE CAGE (8): You create a prison cell of force 10 ft x 10 ft x 10 ft that lasts as long as you concentrate on it plus one round per power level thereafter.

FORCE SWORD (8): You create a blade of pure force that appears before you and attacks as monster of your power level. The sword deals 4d6 points of damage per hit and can affect ethereal and incorporeal creatures. The sword lasts as long as you concentrate on it.

MASS INVISIBILITY (8): As Invisibility, but affects you and one other target per power level. Mass Invisibility lasts as long as you concentrate plus 1 round per power level.

FORCE HAND (9): You create a giant hand-shaped force field that can provide a +4 bonus to you DC or can bull rush or grapple as a monster equal to your power level. The hand deals 2d6 points of damage per attacks.


A character with this power pack adds his power level to all Strength feats, melee attack rolls, and adds 1d6 per power level to damage inflicted with a melee attack.

ADRENALINE (6): For 1 round per power level you increase your STR and CON by +2 (and thus gain bonus on melee attacks and damage and hit points), gain a +1 bonus on WILL feats and suffer a -2 penalty to your Defense Class. The Adrenaline power can only be used once per day.

STOMP (10): You stomp your feet to create a shock wave that knocks people within 10 feet per power level prone (STR feat negates) and inflicts 1d6 points of damage per power level on all who fail their STR feat.

When creating a character, especially an established comic book character, the above power packs often do not quite capture the right powers for the hero or villain. Players and Masterminds alike can, therefore, buy freestyle powers (or powers à la carte). The cost per level for a freestyle power depends on the power’s rank.

1.  50 XP/power level
2.  100 XP/power level
3. 150 XP/power level
4. 200 XP/power level
5. 300 XP/power level
6. 500 XP/power level
7. 800 XP/power level
8. 1,000 XP/power level
9. 1,500 XP/power level
10. 2,000 XP/power level

Here’s a quick sample character who uses the Force Fields power pack above. This character is built with 50,000 XP.

LEVEL 9 | HP 58 | DC 15 | SPD 2 | XP 14,000

STR 2 | DEX 5 | CON 2 | INT 3 | WIL 2 | CHA 4

Power Packs: Force Fields [6]

Auto Powers: Force Missile (6d6), Shield (6 rounds), Levitate (600 lbs.), Force Sphere (12-ft. diameter), Force Wall (60 ft.; 6 rounds), Invisibility (6 rounds after concentration)

Activated Powers: Force Cage [3-6], Force Sword [3-6], Mass Invisibility [3-6], Force Hand [4-6]

With her 6 levels in Force Fields, Vectrix can access the following powers automatically: Force missile, shield, levitate, and force sphere. The other powers can be accessed by making an activation check. The numbers needed on a 1d6 roll to activate a power are included above.

Gentleman Dog

Philo was a sophisticated man about town, a bon vivant with a mind like a steel trap. While he spent his days with the smart set, at night he often rubbed shoulders with a rougher element, aiding the New York City police when a crime proved too tough to solve. It was a day trip into Greenwich village, though, that proved his undoing.

A trip to a coffee house in Greenwich led to the discovery of a murder in the backroom, and through his investigations, Philo found himself confronting a rather powerful magician, one Hayden Olivier. Hayden murdered the woman in the coffee house accidentally, but has no intention of serving time in prison. More importantly, he has discovered in murder a powerful new form of magic, and now sets his sights on another, a sorceress of no mean ability named Leah. In the final scene of Philo’s case, he found himself caught between the two sorcerers, and though Olivier was forced to quite this plane, mortally wounded, he left behind a dead rival and a transformed detective. Philo was now a dog – a cunning, dashing little hound, of course, but a dog just the same. With her dying breath, Leah lays down a final, tender curse upon Philo – that he should live until the magic was reversed.

So it was that Philo became known as Gentleman Dog, a surprisingly cunning beast with a strange knack for making himself understood. With top hat and monocle, he lives an almost immortal existence, solving crimes and seeking out practitioners of the occult in hopes of reversing Hayden’s curse.

GENTLEMAN DOG, Adventurer 7 (Dog, Detective)
STR 1 (+0) | DEX 4 (+1) | CON 4 (+1) | INT 9 (+2) | WIL 5 (+1) | CHA 7 (+2)
HP 35 | DC 11 | ATK +6 (+6 melee, +7 ranged) | SPD 3 | XP 8,125 (start with 25,000 XP)

Ability Boosts: Charisma +4, Constitution +1, Dexterity +2, Intelligence +6

Powers: Sending (must make eye contact, humans only, short messages that come to the person as sudden realizations), Super Speed +1

Gear: Top hat, monocle, pipe

Found here … yeah, all this, because I found a picture of a dog in a top hat with a pipe and had to do something with it … I am at least proud that I managed to turn it into a half-assed mash-up of Philo Vance and Aleister Crowley. 

PS – Anyone out there want to do a comic book set in the “Mystery Men! Universe” – or maybe more properly the Shore City Universe? If so, let me know. I’d love to publish some 1 or 2 page quickie stories in Land of Nod.

Comic Mockery – Cave Girl

Honestly, this is probably the last jungle comic I can handle. Great art by Bob Powell, written by Gardner Fox … but the comic book jungles are thick with the danger of unkind stereotypes. Still, we’ll press on through this one and see if there’s anything worth while.

As always, this one was found at the Comic Book Catacombs!

I dig the term “morass country” – I’ll have to steal that one for the Pwenet/Kush hexcrawl (coming soon!). That bit at the end is what a saving throw looks like – or maybe just a missed attack roll. The art is by Bob Powell, who was known for his “good girl” art. Good indeed. Nice action shots as well – he could draw more than just a pretty face.

“Fat One” – nice. I suppose the elephant was trying to kill them, but is it really necessary to hurt the beast’s self esteem. We’ve gone a couple pages so far and no unkind stereotypes yet, so it’s looking pretty good.

Ah, spoke too soon. Well, if Eisner’s Spirit can be forgiven, maybe Cave Girl can as well. Impressive display of super powers from the kid though (invulnerability III, perhaps).

Wild time in the old town tonight, though, isn’t it. First an explosion, then a crazy guy with a knife. One question, though – is that guy rabid, or did he just go berserk while he was shaving. Or, in the words of a half-dozen Marvel comic book covers … “Is he both?”

Wonderful stroke of luck, those two shriners with outrageous English accents showing up to help. Still, this does diffuse the stereotype problem a little.

Here, Cave Girl makes a case for being a druid (or my beastlord variation thereof) – speak with animals, calm animals, etc. The chick in the last panel looks like she’s trying to pass a brick.

Nice action here – knee to the chin ranks right up there with face kicking. And a real waaa-waaa-waaaaaaa moment at the end. The woman who brought Cave Girl into town looks like an oompa loompa at the end.

I dig the art in this one, and the story isn’t any worse than was typical for the genre/time period. Cave Girl almost made the cut into the Mystery Men! rulebook, but I decided to stick with the more classic concept of superheroes. Here are some stats, though, for those who want to do a little knee-to-the-chin action themselves …

CAVE GIRL, Adventurer 14 (Jungle Girl)
STR 7 (+2) | DEX 7 (+2) | CON 7 (+2) | INT 3 (+0) | WIL 7 (+2) | CHA 7 (+2)
HP 88 | DC 16 | ATK +11 (+13 melee, +13 ranged) | SPD 2 | XP 29,500

Ability Boosts: Str +1, Dex +5, Con +5, Int +2, Wil +2, Cha +3

Powers: Calm Emotions (Animals Only), Catfall, Invulnerability I, Jump, Speak With Animals

Gear: Leopard skin, flower in hair

Crystar for Mystery Men! Swords & Sorcery

We’ve done the granddaddy of Swords and Sorcery – that Cimmerian guy – and his female counterpart – the red head. I delved into cartoons with She-Ra. Now to go into another character that mixes Swords, Sorcery and Superheroes … Crystar.

Crystar was born when somebody got the idea to use see-through plastic to make toys. In the Saga of Crystar his origin involved demon lords, magic crystals and such. Ultimately, Crystar became a living, fighting gemstone with a sword. Really, the Sage has everything you need for a good S&S game – demon lords, Chaos War, a guy named Feldspar.

CRYSTAR, Adventurer 7 (Prince of Crystallium)
STR 16 (+8) | DEX 4 (+2) | CON 8 (+4) | INT 2 (+1) | WIL 5 (+2) | CHA 8 (+4)
HP 58 | DC 16 | ATK +6 (+14 melee, +8 ranged) | SPD 2 | XP 9,700

Ability Boosts: Str +10, Con +3, Cha +4

Powers: Adapt Body (Fire/Lava), Invulnerability II, Weapon Master (Longsword)

Gear: Longsword (Potent Attack; 1d8+11, can hit ethereal and incorporeal creatures), Shield (Shield)

Since I’ve got Crystar up there, I might as well stat up a couple similarly themed monsters.

LVL 2 | PH 4 | MN 3 | DC 17 | SPD 2 | XP 3300

Attacks: Burning fist (1d6 + 1d6 fire + save or catch fire)

Powers: Fiery Aura (30 ft. radius; save or 1d6 heat damage), Melt Metal Weapons (save to negate), Immune to Fire

LVL 6 | PH 5 | MN 3 | DC 21 | SPD 2 (Burrow) | XP 3700

Attacks: Sting (1d6)

Powers: Immune to Fire and Cold, Resistance to Electricity (50%), Animate Object (1 at a time, stone or crystal only), Energy Cone (Psionic Energy), Dimension Hop)

She-Ra and Fantasy Archetypes for Mystery Men!

Illustration by FeiLong EX at DeviantArt

So I was watching She-Ra this morning …

No, I don’t really know why. It was on Me! TV this morning, and I was eating my breakfast, and … anyhow, when He-Man and all that jazz hit the scene, I was just about too old for it. A friend of mine got all the original He-Man stuff for Hanukkah one year, but I’ll admit it didn’t do much for me. I was never into fantasy stuff as a kid – I was a Star Wars and G.I. Joe man myself. About the only times I ever handled a He-Man figure was when I was playing with my cousins, who were younger. Now that I’m an adult, though, and a fan of gonzo fantasy/sci-fi, I have to admit you can’t go wrong with something as bonkers as He-Man. As I was designing Mystery Men!, I always thought it would be an excellent system for running something like He-Man.

Which brings me back to She-Ra. They were showing what I gathered to be the second episode, since it was the second part of a two-parter and appeared to be introducing the characters. A couple things came to mind.

First, She-Ra was a mega-babe. Yeah, I know, immature. But there it is.

Second, she was a paladin … or at least I saw her “lay on hands” in the episode.

This got me thinking about some of the archetypes in fantasy games other than the fighter, magic-user and thief, and how they might be done in Mystery Men!

First and foremost, you have the cleric. The cleric could be a sorcerer who devotes more XP to his level (thus getting more hit points and a higher attack bonus) and less to his sorcery pool than your typical sorcerer, or he could be an adventurer who takes a few powers related to healing – maybe embedding them in a holy symbol to cut down on the cost. There is no “turn undead” power per se’, but one could use the Fear power and tie is solely to the undead, thus cutting the cost from 10,000 XP to 5,000 XP. If you also embedded it in a holy symbol, you could cut the cost down to 2,500 XP.

That covers the main classes pretty well, which leaves us with the sub-classes.

The assassin could be a thief with the Inflict Wounds power.

Barbarians are just adventurers with the Rage power and maybe Catfall – just look at my previous post on Conan to get the idea.

The bard is probably a sorcerer with a small sorcery pool and the Enthrall and Suggestion powers.

The druid is probably a sorcerer who maybe goes to the trouble of taking Polymorph (self, one animal only) as a power. By and large, you can just use a sorcerer who focuses on druid-y kinds of spells.

The illusionist, and other specialist mages like necromancer, enchanter, etc. is just a sorcerer who picks and chooses his or her spells. No need for special rules.

The monk is really just an adventurer with a few powers – Catfall, Inflict Wounds, etc. – who doesn’t wear armor.

The paladin is an adventurer with the Heal Wounds power, probably embedded in a holy symbol or the paladin’s sword, along with Remove Impairment.

The ranger is actually a tough one. Tracking is just a task check – no need for anything special there. The extra damage against “giant-class humanoids” or the 3rd edition “favored enemy” could be a limited Inflict Wounds, and thus bought at half price. Maybe throw in things like Weapon Master (longbow), Catfall and Speak With Animals, and you’re probably in the right neighborhood.

Anyhow, as I finished my eggs this morning, I decided I should throw together some stats for She-Ra, who is a good example of a character that straddles the “swords & sorcery” and “superhero” genres. Enjoy the Princess of Power, and if you’re in the middle of a game, why not let her show up and kick Wolverine’s ass or something, just for fun …

SHE-RA, Adventurer 9 (Captain of the Guard, Princess of Power)
STR 13 (+6) | DEX 5 (+2) | CON 5 (+2) | INT 3 (+1) | WIL 3 (+1) | CHA 8 (+4)
HP 63 | DC 16 | ATK +7 (+13 melee, +9 ranged) | SPD 2 | XP 13,900

Ability Boosts: Str +10, Dex +2, Con +2, Cha +5

Powers: Heal Wounds (others), Invulnerability I, Speak with Animals, Strike True

Gear: Longsword (Potent Attack, Shield; 1d8+8, can hit ethereal and incorporeal creatures)

Thieves, Giants and She-Devils

In the last article in this series, I laid out the basics of using Mystery Men! for a Swords and Sorcery-style campaign, the likes of which you’ve probably read in Conan or Red Sonja comics.

This article continues this with some thoughts on the idea of thieves.

MM! uses three classes. The adventurer is your standard super hero type, with a set array of powers. The sorcerer can have some set powers, but also devotes their XP into a sorcery pool that allows them to use ad hoc powers during a game (i.e. cast spells). The third class, the scientist, puts XP into a science pool that allows them to invent devices (i.e. powers) at the beginning of a game session, making them more flexible than the adventurer, but less flexible than the sorcerer.

By all rights, sneaky thieves should be portrayed as adventurers in an MM!SS game. They probably won’t spend as many XP on boosting their ability scores as the typical barbarian, and therein lies the problem. Since barbarians and thieves are both adventurers, and thieves will probably be higher in level, it is likely that they’ll end up as better warriors than the barbarians. What to do?

How about we introduce a new class called … The Thief!

The thief (or reaver, pirate, tomb robber, assassin … whatever you like) uses the scientist’s hit dice and attack progression, and can put XP in a “thievery pool”. The thievery pool allows them to apply a +1 bonus to any of the traditional thief tasks (pick pockets, open locks, find/remove traps, climb walls, hear noises, move silently, hide in shadows) by spending 500 XP of their thief pool on the roll. Spend 1,000 XP, get a +2 bonus. Spend 3,000 XP, get a +6 bonus.

In addition, thieves can backstab (after successfully hiding in shadows), adding 1d6 to their damage for every 1,000 XP of their thief pool they spend (up to an extra 10d6, or 6d6 if they’re throwing the dagger into someone’s back). Finally, thieves can spend 5,000 XP to avoid certain death (i.e. no save required, automatically avoid a death trap or a killing blow).

It’s easy to forget that Red Sonja as we know her was an invention of Roy Thomas and, to a lesser extent, Esteban Maroto, rather than one of REH’s creations. With her chainmail (it always looked like scale mail to me) bikini and powers imbued on her by the goddess Scathach, she was a far cry from the 16th century pistol-packin’ mama REH called Red Sonya of Rogatino. It’s almost like the difference between an old school D&D character and a Mystery Men! Sword and Sorcery character. Thus …

RED SONJA, Adventurer 10 (She-Devil, Swordswoman)
STR 7 (+3) | DEX 11 (+5) | CON 5 (+2) | INT 3 (+1) | WIL 7 (+3) | CHA 12 (+6)
HP 73 | DC 23 | ATK +8 (+11 melee, +13 ranged) | SPD 2 | XP 16,330

Ability Boosts: Str +4, Dex +8, Con +2, Will +4, Cha +9

Powers: Catfall, Invulnerability I, Weapon Master (Longsword)

Gear: Longsword (Potent Attack; 1d8+5, can hit ethereal and incorporeal creatures), chainmail bikini, dagger (1d4 +4)

I’ve decided to send a few of my regular players “Against the Giants” (i.e. through the classic series of AD&D modules of the same name) on Google+ to test out this little experiment in MM! fantasy gaming. Naturally, that means I need to apply some statistics to those giants.

LVL 12 (42 hp) | PH 8 (+4) | MN 3 (+2) | DC 20 | SPD 2 | XP 1200
ATK Club (3d8) or fists (2d4) or rock (3d6)

LVL 15 (53 hp) | PH 9 (+5) | MN 4 (+2) | DC 23 | SPD 2 | XP 1800
ATK Greatsword (4d6) or fists (2d4) or flaming rock (3d6 + 2d6 fire)
POW Darkvision, immune to fire, vulnerable to cold

LVL 14 (49 hp) | PH 8 (+4) | MN 4 (+2) | DC 21 | SPD 2 | XP 1700
ATK Greataxe (4d6) or fists (2d4) or rock (3d6)
POW Darkvision, immune to cold, vulnerable to fire

LVL 4 (14 hp) | PH 5 (+3) | MN 2 (+1) | DC 16 | SPD 2 | XP 700
ATK Club (2d8) or javelin (1d8)
POW Darkvision

LVL 6 (21 hp) | PH 7 (+4) | MN 2 (+1) | DC 16 | SPD 2 | XP 1500
ATK Claws (2d6) and bite (1d6)
POW Darkvision, regenerate


Swords, Sorcery & Mystery Men!

Come on, we all know Thor would have kicked his ass

Although I wrote Mystery Men! as a superhero game, there’s no reason it can’t be used to emulate other genres, so long as they are a bit over the top in terms of power. For the next few weeks, I’m going to delve into the fantasy genre to see how well MM! can emulate swords & sorcery.

Weapons & Equipment
In MM!, all hand weapons are created equally, at least in terms of damage. For a game of MM! Swords & Sorcery, it might be a good idea to substitute the damage ratings from traditional fantasy games – i.e. fists do 1d3, daggers and other small weapons 1d4, and so on, up to two-handed swords and axes doing 1d12 or 2d6 (or whatever).

I would also use the traditional armor values from the SRD.

You might also want to use a traditional approach to buying equipment, allowing to buy 1 gold piece per 10 XP spent to purchase equipment.

Exploration vs. Quests
A game of MM! Swords & Sorcery can be based around site exploration (sandboxes and dungeons) or quests, and will probably be a bit of both. Any storyline or plot you’ve seen in the pulp fantasy that spawned most swords & sorcery comics. The possible advantage of MM! for pulp fantasy is the ability to go solo, since the characters are usually a bit more powerful and their abilities and powers a bit more fluid.

MM! bases one’s skills one their occupation, and MM! Swords & Sorcery is no different. To keep things easy, think in terms of classic pulp fantasy tropes: Barbarian, captain of the guard, desert raider, sorcerer, witch, holy man, etc.

MM! has a host of monsters already, but naturally a few more won’t hurt. I’ll try to stat one or two with each of these posts.

Heroes and Heroines
The focus of swords & sorcery comics is the heroes, of course, so let’s start with the Granddaddy of them all … that grim fellow who goes about trampling thrones and reluctantly rescuing maidens. In all of these cases, I’m going to go for a 50,000 XP build to keep them awesome. Most of these heroes are low on genuine super powers, so most of the points will go to buying impressive ability scores and a few other little boons, the rest going to a high level and lots of hit points. If you’re going solo into Hyboria, you’ll want those hit points. If you want to start from the beginning of a barbarian’s career, I suggest starting with 10,000 XP and one non-adventuring occupation. For higher amounts of XP, think in terms of one occupation per 10,000 XP to simulate a life’s worth of experiences.

In MM!, an ability score of 1 to 6 represents the human norm. While fantasy characters are always a bit more than human, you might want to limit ability scores to a maximum of 12. You might also want to increase the ability bonuses from +1 per 3 points to +1 per 2 points.

CONAN THE CIMMERIAN, Adventurer Level 14 (Thief, Reaver, Slayer)
STR 8 (+4) | DEX 6 (+3) | CON 6 (+3) | INT 3 (+1) | WIL 4 (+2) | CHA 3 (+1)
HP 110 | DC 17 | ATK +11 (+15 melee, +14 ranged) | SPD 2 | XP 29,330

Ability Boosts: Str +4, Dex +3, Con +5, Int +1, Will +1

Powers: Catfall, Iron Grip, Jump, Weapon Master (Fists, Bastard Sword)

Gear: Atlantean Bastard Sword (1d10+4), chainmail shirt, dagger (1d4 +4), shortbow (1d6+3)

LVL 11 (83 hp) | PH 8 (+4) | MN 0 (+0) | DC 18 | SPD 2 | XP 1100

ATK Bite (1d10), Constrict (1d10)

LVL 5 (38 hp) | PH 7 (+4) | MN 0 (+0) | DC 18 | SPD 2 | XP 500

ATK Claws (1d8), Bite (1d8)