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8 TIPS TO DESIGNING M&M 3E ADVENTURES

1. EVENT BASED OVER LOCATION BASED STORYTELLING
Many role-players come from a D&D background, myself included, but one of the big differences between
D&D & pretty much any super hero game is that super hero games by and large are mostly event based
story telling over location based story telling.
The difference being that a D&D monster is always in his dungeon, awaiting wandering heroes… Heck if 4E
is to be believed, not only are monsters always in there dungeon, they also stand around 24 hours a day, 7
days a week, in exactly optimum position to jump out & attack a pack of 4-5 wandering heroes the second
they come through the door… Which must be tiring work.
Superhero games are the exact opposite. If you aren’t at the bank at the same time as the villain plans on
robbing it, you cannot stop to the villain from robbing it. This is the difference between location based &
event based story telling.
2. ALWAYS HAVE A SCENE TRANSITION
An tip 1 leads into tip 2: Always have a scene transition… Always have a way to get from one scene to the
next scene. The heroes should not for instance keep on showing up somewhere by accident. There are only
so many times in which you can have players show up at a random location in there secret identity only to
have it being attacked by a random super villain.
In fact our R&D department has been collating the numbers, on how often you can have PC’s randomly
stumble over: Take the number of times you think it should happen, add in the amount of alternate realities
DC currently has, divide by the amount of characters Morrison has butchered this year, subtract by the
amount of times Stan Lee has tried to pimp out his own name recognition factor in an attempt to publish
some subpar comics, multiple that by the business acumen of Dan Didio & add 1.
Now, this formula looks complicated, because it uses comic book maths & much like comic book science,
comic book maths doesn’t actually make sense. But I’ve been assured by my R&D departments, that this
galactic constant equals “once per adventure story, is probably 50% to much.” An they are all wearing lab
coats, so who am I to argue. (See tip 3 for the work around clause to this constant)
Similar numbers hold true for “the heroes see the trouble on the news.” This one should also be used
sparingly, but not quite to the level of “oh this location I am at as [insert name of secret identity] is being
attacked by Super Villains.”
I keep it in reserve for when things have gone wrong, or when I honestly cannot think of a better transition:
But having said that, try to design a better transition. On just so people know what constitutes a better scene
transition, a better scene transition is one where players discover it one there own, rather then have to be
dragged along (see tip 5 for further details).
In D&D your scene transition is “the iron bound door,” usually the one you walk through after killing
everything in this particular dungeon room. In an event based game the Iron Door is whatever story element
you are using to get from one scene & the next… Be it a mysterious clue, information from an NPC, or even
something as simple as the villain threatening to blow up Campaign City if you do not get to the Giant sport
Stadium ion the next 2 minutes.
3. ADVENTURE HOOKS NEED DEPTH
Much like scene transitions, adventure hooks are also places where GM’s fall down a lot. It is also one of the
few clauses to tip 2. As a GM you need to have a way to get your players into your story, in a way that they
will care about the story: This is the goal of the adventure hook.
Objectives also fall into this category as well: To often “fight the super villain” gets used as an objective… Its
no more an objective then “fight monsters in dungeon” is an objective…. That’s a means to achieve the
actual objective: Rescue the dragon from the princess, defeat the slave lord, or stop the villain from releasing
his doomsday weapon.
4. VILLIANS DO NOT STAND AROUND WAITING FOR A FIST FIGHT
This goes back to tip 1: Villains do not stand around waiting to get into a fist fight. Okay, yes, some villains
do in fact stand around waiting for a fist fight, usually those villains are the “personal vendetta” villains,

looking for revenge on some hero or another. Same holds true for the “engine of destruction” villain, whose
only objective is to cause wide spread destruction.
However by and a large, villains do not stand around awaiting heroes to come and beat them up. They have
a specific objective in mind, such as stealing something they need for a larger plan, or attacking a particular
plot important person.
There should be a point in most villain fights, where the fight is not worth the expense. After all, why single
handily throw wave after wave of minions at 5 super heroes, when you already have the science McGuffin in
your hand already? You’ve got what you came for, so blow up your hero enticement explosive devices (or
threaten to) & escape into the sunset, as the heroes yell “you won’t get away with this!”
Leave the “going down with the ship” to Captains on the Enterprise & final boss battles: If your villain has no
reason to stand and fight, logic dictates that he shouldn’t.
An for the love of god: If you find yourself with a villain using a million dollar battle suit to steal a $100,000
worth of anything, rethink your villains motivation.
5. PLAYERS SHOULD NOT BE ABLE TO FAIL THEIR WAY THROUGH THE ENTIRE ADVENTURE
Players should not ever be able to fail through a game, nor fail there way to success. Unfortunately the
recent Emerald City Knights is a prime example of the no fault module, in which it is possible to fail almost
every mission objective & still end up at the last scene of the series.
Now some of you will be thinking “but what if you win those fights” & again I’d like to remind my oh so gentle
readers that the fighting is a means to an end, it is not the end; its not the objective.
Its one thing to put in “in case of player failure, break glass” moments, much like the talented Chris
McGlothlin did in Time of Vengeance & Time of Crisis: Its another thing entirely to have the module just hand
wave away the chance of failure & drag players from one scene to another with no consequence for failure.
6. EVENTUALLY YOUR PLAYERS WILL FAIL AN OBJECTIVE: BE PREPARED FOR IT
Eventually however players will fail to reach an objective & when they do you have to be prepared for it.
Fight your urge to just give them the next clue. Instead make it obvious that they really screwed the pooch on
this one.
This forces players in to an active stance, rather than the normal reactive stance, players are used to. This is
not necessarily a failure on your behalf as a GM: In fact as a GM you should consider it an opportunity. It’s
an opportunity for the players & the GM to swap roles to a degree. The players now have to actively take
what they know & try and determine how they can catch up with the villain.
This is the perfect time for usage of those investigation & expertise skills, players have been looking to use
for some time. Maybe the costumed avenger needs to gather evidence & analyse it at his secret base,
maybe the power house or paragon needs to interrogate a captured villain, the sky really is the limit with
ideas that players may have.
Heck players may actually have to taunt the villain out of hiding with some bait they just can’t pass up: Much
like the Red Panda tricking the Poet out of hiding by putting a first edition copy of Shakespeare folio on
display at the local library.
Just be prepared for player zaniness when it is forthcoming.
7. A LIVING SETTING IS ITS OWN REWARD, or DEAR GOD STOP USING POINTLESS SKILL
CHALLENGES
A living setting is one in which players are rewarded for doing the right thing, by the setting. If you find
yourself forcing players to go through mindless skill challenges, with no consequence for failing, or for
success, you may want to reconsider your GM-ing style.
A living setting, a world that can change dramatically based on player interaction, rather than empty dice
rolling exercises. Allow those changes to reward your players in small yet meaningful ways. I’m not going to
put in any spoilers here, but a great example is the 2E module “Time of Vengeance.” I’m not ashamed to say
that Time of Vengeance was the only module to make me cry. The end of it is exactly this paradigm in
action: the players actions have actual long standing ramifications, more that just “you earn 3 build points &
you all go up a level.”

Of course its hard to do that in a vacuum, bordering on impossible: Yet your greatest resource is the players
themselves. Look at there complications & use them. Let them have some spotlight time for these
complications… If they have the complication ID, use it… Give your PC a potential love interest, one he or
she has to duck out on during a date to fight crime (or not).
8. HAVE FUN
This is meant to be fun, let it be. Do the funny voices, the robot arm movements & the evil super villain laugh;
because the evil laugh is all about standards. :)
Much like any game, after a while all these things become second nature & if anyone of these tips doesn’t
work for you, ditch it. If you aren’t having fun, your players can’t have fun: An that way lays madness.
Article by: Matthew R Lane