Character Attributes and PowerMM&M uses seven attributes (here called Characteristics) for character generation: Strength, Speed, Skill, Endurance, Intelligence, Courage and Power. Most are common FRPG attributes that need no explanation. Each Characteristic (except Power) is rolled up on a d100 (confusingly called 2d20% in this game, using two 20-sided percentile dice). This gives a broad range of 1-100 with no weighting toward the middle of the range, though 50 is considered average. The abilities are modified depending on the character's Nationality and Class.
Skill is the character's aptitude with their class's Prime Ability (combat for warriors, magic for magicians, healing for healers, potion manufacture for apothecaries, wealth increase for merchants (?!), bribery for senators (!!), psychic abilities for other characters, etc.).
A player adds together the first six Characteristics (all except Power) to calculate the starting character's Life Points, averaging about 300 LP. That's enough to take quite a few sword blows.
"In MM&M, the purpose of life is the pursuit of POWER."Power always starts at zero for a new character and increases by accumulating wealth (every 1,000 gold libra you own increases Power by 1) and through experience (players usually add d100 Power at the end of a scenario). Magicians and Psychics temporarily tap into their Power reserves to use their supernatural abilities. Characters may permanently sacrifice 250 points of Power to raise another stat by 1 (this is not a good trade). For every 30 points of Power over 100, a character reduces their failure rate by 1% (see The MM&M Paradox, below). Accumulated Power also affects a character's Reincarnations (more on this later).
Note that since a starting magician or psychic has no Power, they cannot cast any spells until they survive their first adventure!
Action Resolution System (The MM&M Paradox)
Where most game systems work on a character's chance to succeed at a certain action (skill check, cast a magic spell, make an attack, etc.), MM&M instead focuses on the chance to fail at such actions. This ties into the game's sense of impending doom for your character and if things go bad, maybe your next reincarnation will be better. It boils down to this: a character has about a base 50% chance to fail at anything they attempt to do. I'll let the game speak for itself:
|You are going to fail|
Using failure percentages does have some advantages. To determine success, the player rolls d100 and attempts to roll high, over the failure rate for the skill tested. The desire to "roll high" feels intuitive and is not often seen in percentage-based games. The failure rate is modified by appropriate Characteristics, but not by much. For every 10 points over 50, the failure rate is reduced by 1%. Conversely, every 10 points under 50 increases the failure rate by 1%. This modification range of +5% to -4% is downright negligible statistically insignificant; I feel that 2% for every 5 points over/under 50 would make more sense.
All of this gets thrown out the window when using the rules for Optional Characteristics (more on this in another post).
Rolling the THN exactly means a hit is scored with no damage. Every point scored over the THN counts as damage from the strike (rolling 70 with a THN of 50 means a hit for 20 points of base damage). Melee hits are increased or decreased by 1 point of damage for every 10 points of Strength above/below 50. Damage is further increased by the type of weapon used (+20 for a club, +30 for a sword) and decreased by the armor on the hit location (-5 for a leather gauntlet, -25 for a metal breastplate). It is not clear if rolling the THN exactly counts only as a glancing blow or as a hit for a base of 0 damage that may be modified by the attacker's Strength and weapon type.
An unmodified attack roll of 100 results in an instant kill.
Attacks are presumed to target the torso and damage is depleted from the defender's Life Points. An attacker may optionally target a specific body part, such as head, arm, foot or finger. Each body part increases the attacker's failure rate to hit but only has a certain number of life points (75 for an arm or leg, 25 for a finger or toe, 100 for the head). Damage is taken from the defender's Life Point total and the body part's life points. When reduced to zero, the body part is destroyed. As the game suggests, it may be easier to lop off an opponent's leg rather than wear down his life point total. This works well with the game's piecemeal armor system.
The "subtract failure rate from roll to determine base damage" is simple and intuitive and reduces to hit and damage determination to only one roll. However, there is an extra step of subtracting the failure rate that could be eliminated with a standard percentage success system. Say, a player had a to hit rate of 55% and rolled d100 to score 55 or less (as opposed to a 45% failure rate as used in MM&M's system). As long as the hit succeeds, the roll is equal to the base damage. Rolling an 01 could count as an instant kill instead of 100. This gives almost exactly the same result with less math, plus the intuitiveness that high Characteristics give a plus to hit rates rather than a minus to failure rates.
Click here for part III of this review. We get to Optional Characteristics (and a whole new action resolution system!) and Reincarnations.