The Mastermind?s Manual is a book of optional, variant, and expanded rules for the Mutants & Masterminds game written by M&M creator Steve Kenson. The book is geared toward game masters, and it contains plenty of advice on creating and successfully running Mutants & Masterminds adventures and campaigns.
Each chapter is devoted to a different aspect of the game, and each correlates with the chapters in the M&M rulebook. There are a lot of options here, running the gamut from simple rules additions like new skills and powers to entirely new methods of running the game like card-based task resolution. Some of these rules are pulled from other open-source d20 products, taking the best of the d20 market and applying it to M&M.
If you like Mutants & Masterminds overall, but are bothered by some individual aspect of the game, chances are the Masterminds Manual has a variant that you?ll like. The aforementioned card-based task resolution system uses playing cards instead of dice for determining the outcome of character actions. This system reminded me of the old Marvel Super Heroes SAGA rules, and fans of that game will probably like these mechanics. There are also different methods of ability score generation, a hit point system, alternate saving throws?the list goes on.
Of the rules that I recognized from other open source products, I like the skill challenge system the best. Skill challenges allow a player to accept a voluntary penalty on a skill check in order to perform the skill with some added benefit, such as a reduced action time. These rules reward characters for putting high ranks in their skills, something that the core M&M rules overlook. In addition to skill challenges, I also noticed wound points/vitality points and extended skill checks. These rules aren?t just SRD reprints, but are tailored to fit the M&M game. I was also happy to see the quick and easy crime and punishment rules from the 1E Annual.
There are some good new rules in the Mastermind?s Manual as well. I thought the rules for hacking (an expanded use of the Computers skill) were simple and elegant. The rules for power creation were also a welcome addition. As a matter of fact, the sample powers are so good that they?ll definitely find their way into my campaigns. Probability Control is my favorite, but the martial arts themed Dim Mak and Chi abilities are very cool as well.
Finally, I welcomed the gamemastering advice spread throughout the book. Many game-book authors are skilled GMs, but the advice of the original designer of the rules system is especially valuable. Steve Kenson really knows his stuff; not only comic books but super hero games in general. While the information on running games doesn?t go too deep, it?s well-written and informative. I particularly appreciated the way the Mastermind?s Manual calls out potentially troublesome powers and gives advice for dealing with them. M&M, due to its versatility, is a game that requires a great deal of GM oversight to run. It?s nice that Kenson has already done the legwork in helping you deal with potential issues before they come up.<br><br>
<b>LIKED</b>: I?ve tried to express the sheer volume of optional and variant rules that appear in the Mastermind?s Manual. There are easily hundreds of rules here. Of course, you won?t want or need to use them all, but chances are you?ll find at least a couple dozen ideas to expand and improve your game.
The biggest strength of this book is its author. Steve Kenson knows Mutants & Masterminds inside and out, and his love and understanding of superhero comics and RPGs really comes across in the text. Fans of older supers RPGs will appreciate some of the variant rules systems, and rulers tinkerers will find plenty to keep them going over the course of many campaigns.
If you GM Mutants & Masterminds, the Mastermind?s Manual is really an essential rulebook.<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: This book features the stunning art and professional layout we?ve come to expect from Green Ronin?s M&M books. That?s a positive thing, of course, but your printer ink supply may disagree with me. The price on this PDF is perfect for those looking to download this onto a gaming table laptop, but those wanting a more tangible copy may want to skip the PDF and just buy the hardcover.
That?s really my only complaint with this book and, since I intend to use it on my laptop, it?s not really a complaint at all.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Excellent<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br>
[5 of 5 Stars!]