Green Ronin’s Mutants & Masterminds is a popular RPG and the perfect subject for some Superhero Week attention.
As luck would have it Jon Leitheusser, the M&M Line Developer, very kindly agreed to give us a look at some of the art from inside the forthcoming Emerald City slipcase and talk about the setting with us.
It’s Superhero Week here at Geek Native so could you tell us about Emerald City and how it fits into the Mutants and Masterminds Universe?
First off, thanks for asking Green Ronin and Mutants & Masterminds to participate. Now, as for Emerald City, it’s in the Northwest of the U.S. whereas Freedom City is on the East Coast. So while it’s a newer city, it has a very different feel. The weather is different, there’s a bigger concentration of tech firms, the city’s surrounded by oceans, rivers, forests, and mountains, and most importantly, until recently there was almost no super-powered activity in the city. Classically there hasn’t been a lot of supervillains in town, so that’s kept superheroes away as well. The Silver Storm changed all that when it struck in the middle of a busy downtown shopping district and transformed dozens (hundreds?) of people, giving them powers of all sorts.
Now heroes and villains seem to be crawling out of the woodwork and it’s obvious there’s been a lot more going on in the city – for decades – than anyone every suspected. It’s the perfect setup for a new series featuring a new group of heroes.
We designed it that way from the start because we wanted to make the players’ characters the main focus. So there’s no big super-hero team around. If the players want their characters to fill that role, it’s open to them. On the other hand, if they want to explore another aspect of the city, such as the Undercity or taking on gang activity, then the Gamemaster can use some of the Sentinels, a team of up to ten heroes who are included in the book, to act as the “big name heroes” of the city.
Lastly, while it was conceived of as being part of the Freedom City universe, it can definitely be dropped into any setting and customized however the GM might like.
There’s a slipcase on the way and we can see examples of the fantastic artwork in this post. What does the slipcase contain? What’s new? What’s getting upgraded to print?
There are three books and a poster map in the slipcase. The poster map is an image of Emerald City and its immediate surroundings. Anyone who picks up the PDF of the new Deluxe Hero’s Handbook (released next week!) can see a much smaller version of the map at the start of the Ghost Town adventure near the back of the book.
The books include, the Player’s Guide to Emerald City, Secrets of Emerald City, both of which contain all-new material, and the third book is a printed version of the Emerald City Knights adventure, previously only available in PDF.
As you might imagine, the Player’s Guide is filled with information for the player. It includes an introduction to the city so players can get a sense of what it’s like and, hopefully, help them come up with ideas for how to integrate their hero into it in both secret and heroic identities. There’s also information on the different origins available to characters, some of which are unique to the setting, including the Silver Storm, the mysterious viridian stones, and the Cryptid Clans. Plus all the standard origins from superhero comics. The book also includes the Sentinels characters, all ten of which are power level 10 starting characters, so if someone wants to grab one and start playing, they can. Otherwise the GM can use them as heroes or villains as he or she sees fit.
The Secrets of Emerald City book, is for the Gamemaster. It features all the details GMs can use to flesh out the setting. That includes information about the city, its neighborhoods, the history of the area (going far back before the city was founded), its politicians, public servants, movers and shakers, prisons, and organizations like A.E.G.I.S. (American Elite Government Intervention Service). On the other side of things, it also includes organizations the heroes are likely to come into conflict with, such as Brande Management, Majestic-20, the Ghostworks, the Malikov Mafiya and its leader Koschei the Deathless, the Takazumi-gumi (yakuza), the Chessmen, the Fraternal Order of Evil (F.O.E.), and many more. The Secrets book gives GMs all the resources they need to populate the city, develop plot lines, and keep stories interesting, while also keeping some of the information out of the players’ hands.
In a world of superheroes how important is the city setting? Does the location actually matter or is one city the same as another? Have you tried to make Emerald City feel different from Freedom City?
I think the city is very important. It’s the setting that creates the mood and tone for a series. Metropolis is very different than Gotham City, Eberron is different than Greyhawk, New York City is different than London, each of them has their own unique “feel” and that feeling informs the sorts of heroes, villains, and stories that populate them. So, no, I don’t think one city is the same as any other. They all have their own individual flavor and players (and GMs) that work to make their characters and plots fit with that flavor usually end up with much more rewarding gaming experiences.
As for Emerald City versus Freedom City, I covered some of that above, but the two cities are designed to be very different from one another. Freedom City is an established stomping ground for heroes and a target for villains; like New York City in the Marvel Universe. Whereas Emerald City is, in a lot of ways, sort of like the Wild West; it’s mostly unclaimed territory with more bad guys than good guys and a populace looking for someone to help them out. In a lot of ways, the heroes of an Emerald City game get to set the tone for how the city will treat heroes in the future.
Geek Native got a hold of survey results from 1,000 “non-geek” people and it revealed these folk far preferred learning about superheroes from movies than comic book and rated Marvel much higher than DC Comics. Does any of this surprise you? Do the superhero blockbuster movies, their success and failures, influence you at all as a game designer?
No, none of that surprises me at all. Comics involve actively reading, movies are passively observed, and most non-geeks don’t spend a lot of time reading anything, let alone a niche product like a comic book.
Marvel beating DC doesn’t really surprise me either, especially when talking about movies which is what these 1,000 non-geeks based their opinions on. Marvel has been far more successful with their movies than DC and there are have more of them, so it only makes sense they’d prefer Marvel. Also, Marvel’s tone appeals to a modern audience more. Their heroes are more “realistic” in terms of motivation. They often don’t get along or have conflicting agendas whereas DC heroes tend to be do-gooders because they’re do-gooders. It’s not shocking Batman is the most successful DC movie franchise, he’s easily the most complex of the big-name DC heroes.
The success or failure of a single movie doesn’t affect our design of M&M, but we give a lot of thought to the fact that there are a lot more people out there who have been exposed to comic book heroes through movies and television. Hopefully that also means they have an interest in exploring other geeky pursuits. For M&M’s development, we realized we needed to make it easy for them to get started playing without reading the rules. To that end we created the free, downloadable Sentinels heroes new players can choose from and start playing – and we created the Quickstart Character Generator included in the M&M GM’s Kit and now also included in the Deluxe Hero’s Handbook to quickly and easily allow players to randomly create playable characters in just a few minutes. Things like that can really help “new” geeks become familiar with our games.
What tips would you give to a GM when they’re just about to start running their first superhero campaign in response to movie fuelled requests from their gaming group?
Definitely to talk things over with their friends to get a sense of the sort of game they want to play. What movies did they particularly like and what aspects of them really stood out? Did they like the crazy, high-powered battle scenes? Did they like the sneaky, espionage stuff? Did they like the magic, high tech, Nazis, space battles, love stories, beating up thugs, saving innocents, time travel, or some combination of those things? With superhero games more than a lot of others, it’s important to understand the expectations of the players and then meet them in surprising ways.
Would Emerald City be a good location for a gaming group just getting started with superhero powered gaming? Or should they start elsewhere in the Mutants and Masterminds world?
Emerald City would be a very good place for a new group just starting out for all the reasons I’ve given above. Plus, the setting was designed to flexible enough to accommodate games featuring glitzy, four-color heroes facing off against world destroyers as well as darker, more down-to-earth heroes who patrol the streets or work for a spy agency. You can choose to concentrate on a single aspect of the setting or embrace all its strange corners depending on what you and your players want.
Are there any future plans for Mutants and Masterminds or Emerald City that you can share with Geek Native’s readers?
In the next couple of months we’re really firing on all cylinders. We just released Universe, the final book in the DC ADVENTURES game line; next week we’re releasing the Deluxe Hero’s Handbook (as a PDF and for pre-order as a hardcover); after that is Power Profiles, which is a 200+ page hardcover that gives worked examples of various powers using the M&M rules along with other tips; and finally, later this year is the Cosmic Handbook, featuring all sorts of information for running a super-powerful cosmic series like Marvel’s Annihilation storyline or DC’s Green Lantern series. In addition to those we release a new PDF every week, either a SCARE Sheet featuring a character from George R.R. Martin’s Wild Cards series or a Gadget Guide in which M&M designer Steve Kenson takes a closer look at the various devices, equipment, vehicles, and gadgets one can create using Mutants & Masterminds.
Thanks again for inviting us to be involved with Superhero Week!