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I'm considering building a psionic hero for use in your game (possibly even the next reincarnation of The Scarab, if that wouldn't disrupt any existing plans or stories). I began considering this option before I took a closer look at the descriptions of the key "Mental" powers in Mutants & Masterminds and realized what a mess they are. :shock:

I was hoping you could help me understand/clarify the mechanics. I want to make sure I know what I'm doing before I submit this character, so there are no unpleasant surprises (for me or the GM) during play.

And before anyone asks, NO, I am not planning to build a "Bathroom Mentalist." I will probably include either ESP or Telelocation in the build, but the only power that I'm even considering being able to use remotely is Mind Reading (and even that is unlikely for any purpose beyond telepathic communication). Even if (despite my best efforts) I wind up with a character technically capable of Bathroom Mentalism, I have no intention of using their powers in such a disruptive and anticlimactic manner.

1) Lasting Durations. Concentration and Sustained Lasting effects appear to work differently between the core rulebook and Ultimate Power (the descriptions of Instant and Continuous effects remain constant).

Concentration

Core: A Standard action is required every round to maintain the effect. You can take the Standard action to maintain the ongoing effect even if you switch to an Alternate Power. The subject gains a new saving throw to shake off the effect for every step on the Time Table, starting at 1 minute (10 rounds) after the initial save (with a cumulative +1 bonus). If you stop Concentrating, the effect ends immediately.

(The only way this seems to differ from a non-Lasting Concentration effect is that the subject gains new saves at a different frequency, and they get bonuses to those new saves. It actually seems worse than a non-Lasting effect. I'm not sure what the point is to having Concentration/Lasting effects in the core rules at all.)

UP: If you take a Standard action every round to maintain the effect, the subject gains a new saving throw to shake off the effect for every step on the Time Table, starting at 1 minute (10 rounds) after the initial save (with a cumulative +1 bonus). If you stop Concentrating, the effect reverts to Instant (Lasting) duration - the subject gains a new save every round (with the aforementioned cumulative +1 bonus), and you lose control over the effect. You cannot begin maintaining it again - you must re-create the effect entirely.

Sustained

Core: A Free action is required every round to maintain the effect. You can take the Free action to maintain the ongoing effect even if you switch to an Alternate Power. The subject gains a new saving throw to shake off the effect for every step on the Time Table, starting at 1 minute (10 rounds) after the initial save (with a cumulative +1 bonus). You can take a Standard action every round to Concentrate on maintaining the effect, in which case the subject does not gain the aforementioned cumulative save bonus. If you stop Sustaining the effect, the subject still gains new saves at the same frequency, but you lose control over the effect. You cannot begin maintaining it again - you must re-create the effect entirely.

UP: No action is required to maintain the effect. The effect persists until the subject makes a saving throw to shake it off, even if you switch to an Alternate Power. The subject gains a new saving throw to shake off the effect for every step on the Time Table, starting at 1 minute (10 rounds) after the initial save (with a cumulative +1 bonus). You can take a Standard action every round to Concentrate on maintaining the effect, in which case the subject does not gain the aforementioned cumulative save bonus.

Are my interpretations correct? Which versions is this game using?

2) Mind Reading. This one confuses me most of all. The default configuration for this power doesn't appear to be able to function at all. It takes a Standard or Full action to read a subject's mind (depending on whether you're scanning surface thoughts or conducting a deeper probe). But the duration is "Concentration (Lasting)." Since you are already using up your Standard action to read the subject's mind, you can't Concentrate on maintaining the effect.

Under UP, this means that the subject gains a new saving throw every round (with a cumulative +1 bonus) to kick you out of his mind. Assuming the subject hasn't made his save yet, could you keep taking the Standard/Full action to read his mind each round, even though you are "no longer maintaining the effect?"

Under the core rules, this means that the effect ends on your Initiative count the following round (since you choose not to take a Standard action to maintain it). So you would have to make a new Mind Reading check to re-start the effect every round.

The text seems to imply that the Standard or Full action to read the subject's mind includes maintenance of the effect, but it is far from clear on the matter.

How exactly is this power supposed to work?

3) Telepathy. The power presented in both core rules and UP as the standard for...well, "Telepathy," is Communication linked with Mind Reading. But Communication requires a Free action to initiate and maintain, while Mind Reading requires a Standard action to initiate and maintain. Is two-way mental communication really intended to be so taxing on a psionic character's resources, or is GM hand-waving running rampant?

I'm not sure I understand the power design philosophy here.

4) Communication. I've heard that at one point Steve Kenson suggested a +1 extra for Mental Communication called "Two-Way" (or something to that effect) as an alternative to linked (Communication + Mind Reading) or (Communication + ESP) for telepaths. It sounds similar to the Affects Others extra, only uniquely suited for an Extended-Range effect, and would allow recipients without the same type of Communication power to respond to you.

Is the "Two-Way Communication" extra allowed in this game?

If the "Two-Way" and "Area" extras are applied to a Communication effect, does this mean that A) the original user can relay information to everyone within range simultaneously, and they can all respond to the original user individually, but not to each other, or B) the original user, as well as everyone within range, can communicate freely with each other? Exactly what kind of network can this effect build?

5) Telelocation (UP). It isn't clear in the text. Is this power considered an "Accurate" sense (or an extension of one), allowing the user to target remote subjects with Perception-range effects?

6) MInd Control. If I'm reading this right, since it has a Lasting duration, you can maintain Mind Control over a subject (including issuing them new commands) even if you switch to an Alternate Power. But what happens if you stop maintaining the effect?

At its default configuration, under the core rules, they are freed immediately (Concentration duration).

Under UP, they would start gaining new saves to break out every round. Could you then still issue new commands? If not, would they continue to carry out previous commands until they broke free?

Assuming an upgrade to Sustained duration, if you stop taking the Free action to maintain your Control, under core rules the same questions apply as above. Under UP, since there is no action to maintain the hold, do you just get to keep giving orders until they finally make a save, with no effort expended on your part (aside from the Move action to give commands)? Even if you switch to an Alternate Power?

7) Mental Transform. The base cost listed ranges from 2-4pp/Rank. Am I correct in assuming that the Mental Transform powers share the same default configuration as the physical Transform effects (Type: Alteration, Action: Standard, Range: Ranged, Duration: Sustained [Lasting], Saving Throw: Fortitude)? The text isn't clear on whether that is the case or if Mental Transform is a Sensory (Mental)-Type Perception-Range Will-Save "Mental" effect by default, or only when certain Extras are applied (Range to Perception, Alternate Save to Will, and "Mental [+0]").

8) Mental Transform 2: Electric Boogaloo. According to the Game Rules, Continuous (Lasting) effects are generally not allowed, as to avoid "save-or-die" situations. Could an exception be made for the lowest level of Mental Transform, which alters memories? Being able to alter a subject's memory isn't very useful if they'll just get their old memories back in a few minutes/hours/days when he makes his save).

9) Uncontrolled Powers. I am aware that this game generally avoids the "Uncontrolled" flaw, since GMs are not always present to use/enforce it. Could an exception be made for Uncontrolled Postcognition and Precognition? I planned on taking these powers both for thematic reasons and as plot-moving tools. I don't imagine they would see use in a GM-free thread, and in a GM-run thread, I would rather they be in the GM's hands, to be used (and abused) as s/he sees fit, rather than being left to my own devices and risk a situation where I cause the GM unnecessary headaches.

10) Variable Powers. I am also aware that the mods here are (justifiably) wary of player-constructed Variable effects.

I have an idea for an alternative mechanic to simulate "past-life memory" like that of The Scarab:

Variable Power:

Multiple traits of a particular type (Skills) = 6pp/Rank

6 Power Points = 1 Rank = 5 Power Points of traits = 20 Ranks of Skills

Default Variable Configuration: Standard action to re-assign Skill Ranks, Sustained duration to maintain them.

Action and Duration can be bought up/down as Extras/Flaws.

I would be open to the possibility of applying either the Uncontrolled or Unreliable flaws to this power. It would be fitting that access the correct (or any) knowledge would not be guaranteed.

My general philosophy on Variable Powers is that they should not be used to overshadow other PCs, but rather, to fill niches other PCs have left empty. If I had a power like the one outlined above, I would only use it as a last resort, either to gain skills no other PCs had access to, or as a back-up in case the "primary" skill-monkey failed his/her roll.

Would something like this be allowed, or should I scrap it and just use the "Beginners Luck" and "Jack of All Trades" feats?

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My, that's a lot of questions.... ;)

I'm considering building a psionic hero for use in your game (possibly even the next reincarnation of The Scarab, if that wouldn't disrupt any existing plans or stories). I began considering this option before I took a closer look at the descriptions of the key "Mental" powers in Mutants & Masterminds and realized what a mess they are. :shock:

I was hoping you could help me understand/clarify the mechanics. I want to make sure I know what I'm doing before I submit this character, so there are no unpleasant surprises (for me or the GM) during play.

There will always be unpleasant surprises. Nature of the beast ;)

AFAIK there are no current plans or stories involving the Scarab or his successor, so that part's good. However, if you are going to play a reincarnation of the Scarab, you should keep his powers and abilities very close to what the Scarab has, even if they are "messed up". Otherwise, you're not really playing a new Scarab, you're playing something that just calls itself the Scarab.

And before anyone asks, NO, I am not planning to build a "Bathroom Mentalist." I will probably include either ESP or Telelocation in the build, but the only power that I'm even considering being able to use remotely is Mind Reading (and even that is unlikely for any purpose beyond telepathic communication). Even if (despite my best efforts) I wind up with a character technically capable of Bathroom Mentalism, I have no intention of using their powers in such a disruptive and anticlimactic manner.

That's very good to hear :)

1) Lasting Durations. Concentration and Sustained Lasting effects appear to work differently between the core rulebook and Ultimate Power (the descriptions of Instant and Continuous effects remain constant).

[snip]

Are my interpretations correct? Which versions is this game using?

We're using the UP version.

2) Mind Reading. This one confuses me most of all. The default configuration for this power doesn't appear to be able to function at all. It takes a Standard or Full action to read a subject's mind (depending on whether you're scanning surface thoughts or conducting a deeper probe). But the duration is "Concentration (Lasting)." Since you are already using up your Standard action to read the subject's mind, you can't Concentrate on maintaining the effect.

[snip]

How exactly is this power supposed to work?

It works the way UP says it works: Standard action for surface thoughts, Full action to probe deeper. They get saves for each interval that passes on the time table, with a cumulative +1 bonus per save, like a Concentration (Lasting) power.

99% of the time, if the description of a power says something that seems to conflict with the categories & descriptions given at the beginning of the book, go by what the power's description says.

3) Telepathy. The power presented in both core rules and UP as the standard for...well, "Telepathy," is Communication linked with Mind Reading. But Communication requires a Free action to initiate and maintain, while Mind Reading requires a Standard action to initiate and maintain. Is two-way mental communication really intended to be so taxing on a psionic character's resources, or is GM hand-waving running rampant?

I'm not sure I understand the power design philosophy here.

The design philosophy would seem to be to keep the effect the same as speaking (i.e, an ability to exchange information), just changing the way it's done. Thus, it's as taxing as speaking: you still need to wait for the person you're talking to to form a reply, even if it is thought rather than spoken back.

If you want near-instantaneous mental communication, a possible way might be Super-Senses (communication link), along with a similar power Useable By Others so that you & they can both have a communication link with each other.

4) Communication. I've heard that at one point Steve Kenson suggested a +1 extra for Mental Communication called "Two-Way" (or something to that effect) as an alternative to linked (Communication + Mind Reading) or (Communication + ESP) for telepaths. It sounds similar to the Affects Others extra, only uniquely suited for an Extended-Range effect, and would allow recipients without the same type of Communication power to respond to you.

Is the "Two-Way Communication" extra allowed in this game?

That's something all the Refs would need to decide.

If the "Two-Way" and "Area" extras are applied to a Communication effect, does this mean that A) the original user can relay information to everyone within range simultaneously, and they can all respond to the original user individually, but not to each other, or B) the original user, as well as everyone within range, can communicate freely with each other? Exactly what kind of network can this effect build?

See above ;)

5) Telelocation (UP). It isn't clear in the text. Is this power considered an "Accurate" sense (or an extension of one), allowing the user to target remote subjects with Perception-range effects?

Telelocation, like ESP, is not a sense itself, it's just allows you to use your existing senses further. If you don't have any Accurate mental senses, then Telelocation won't be, either.

6) MInd Control. If I'm reading this right, since it has a Lasting duration, you can maintain Mind Control over a subject (including issuing them new commands) even if you switch to an Alternate Power. But what happens if you stop maintaining the effect?

Actually, no. If you switch to a different AP, you're no longer maintaining the Mind Control, so you cannot issue new commands. They'll keep doing what you last ordered them to do.

Since we use UP, they can start breaking out. You cannot issue new commands (since you stopped maintaining), but they will continue doing what you last ordered until they break free.

7) Mental Transform. The base cost listed ranges from 2-4pp/Rank. Am I correct in assuming that the Mental Transform powers share the same default configuration as the physical Transform effects (Type: Alteration, Action: Standard, Range: Ranged, Duration: Sustained [Lasting], Saving Throw: Fortitude)? The text isn't clear on whether that is the case or if Mental Transform is a Sensory (Mental)-Type Perception-Range Will-Save "Mental" effect by default, or only when certain Extras are applied (Range to Perception, Alternate Save to Will, and "Mental [+0]").

Both and neither. Applying Alt Save/Will to Transform makes it a Mental Transform, but the Range is still Ranged, not Perception.

8) Mental Transform 2: Electric Boogaloo. According to the Game Rules, Continuous (Lasting) effects are generally not allowed, as to avoid "save-or-die" situations. Could an exception be made for the lowest level of Mental Transform, which alters memories? Being able to alter a subject's memory isn't very useful if they'll just get their old memories back in a few minutes/hours/days when he makes his save).

Best not to make exceptions. Just keep it at Sustained (Lasting), and at a high rank so that it takes a long time for them to break out.

9) Uncontrolled Powers. I am aware that this game generally avoids the "Uncontrolled" flaw, since GMs are not always present to use/enforce it.

Where do you get that? There's nothing in the Game Rules thread about us not liking Uncontrolled.

And there is always a Ref to make sure things go smoothly and as they should. Refs are always watching. :twisted:

That being said....

Could an exception be made for Uncontrolled Postcognition and Precognition? I planned on taking these powers both for thematic reasons and as plot-moving tools. I don't imagine they would see use in a GM-free thread, and in a GM-run thread, I would rather they be in the GM's hands, to be used (and abused) as s/he sees fit, rather than being left to my own devices and risk a situation where I cause the GM unnecessary headaches.

This sounds like you could just use the Inspiration function of Hero Points to do this.

10) Variable Powers. I am also aware that the mods here are (justifiably) wary of player-constructed Variable effects.

You are right on that ;)

I have an idea for an alternative mechanic to simulate "past-life memory" like that of The Scarab:

[snip]

Would something like this be allowed, or should I scrap it and just use the "Beginners Luck" and "Jack of All Trades" feats?

I'd suggest you just stick with the two feats. ;) Less bookkeeping, less trouble.

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My, that's a lot of questions.... ;)

I do nothing halfway. Anything worth doing is worth doing to excess. ;)

Combining all my questions around a single topic into a single post made more sense to me than starting 10 different threads and clogging up the forum.

There will always be unpleasant surprises. Nature of the beast ;)

I should amend that to say that I want to minimize the unpleasant surprises.

I want to avoid situations where mine and the GM's concepts of "what I can do" differ significantly.

AFAIK there are no current plans or stories involving the Scarab or his successor, so that part's good. However, if you are going to play a reincarnation of the Scarab, you should keep his powers and abilities very close to what the Scarab has, even if they are "messed up". Otherwise, you're not really playing a new Scarab, you're playing something that just calls itself the Scarab.

I'm not sure what prompted this comment.

The template for The Scarab, in Freedom City as well as The Scarab's Lair, is a small one. There is plenty of room for tweaks and expansion. And both sources state very clearly that the presented template is a guideline meant to inspire, and that the player should feel free to customize it as they see fit. Not that I was planning on deviating significantly from said template anyway (with the possible exception of combining Telepathy and Telekinesis into one array rather than two separate ones).

It works the way UP says it works: Standard action for surface thoughts, Full action to probe deeper. They get saves for each interval that passes on the time table, with a cumulative +1 bonus per save, like a Concentration (Lasting) power.

99% of the time, if the description of a power says something that seems to conflict with the categories & descriptions given at the beginning of the book, go by what the power's description says.

So the action taken to read the subject's mind includes maintaining the effect. Which makes Mind Reading an oddball. That explains my confusion.

Say I purchase a Mind Reading effect and buy the Action up from Standard/Full to Free/Move. Now I can read the subject's surface thoughts with a Free action instead of a Standard action. Does that Free action also include "maintaining" the power, so the effect doesn't end and start giving the subject new saves every round?

This sounds like you could just use the Inspiration function of Hero Points to do this.

That would require me to burn a Hero Point every single time I wanted to receive visions of past and/or future events, basically making it a Power Stunt. That isn't what I had in mind.

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I'm not sure what prompted this comment.

The template for The Scarab, in Freedom City as well as The Scarab's Lair, is a small one. There is plenty of room for tweaks and expansion. And both sources state very clearly that the presented template is a guideline meant to inspire, and that the player should feel free to customize it as they see fit. Not that I was planning on deviating significantly from said template anyway (with the possible exception of combining Telepathy and Telekinesis into one array rather than two separate ones).

Clarification of expectations. If you're thinking of playing the new Scarab, his powers should conform to what past Scarabs have shown. Minor differences are okay, big ones aren't (because then you're not really playing the Scarab).

'Course, this point sorta falls flat since I cannot find stats for any prior Scarab. Basic point remains, though: don't make things overly complicated, because the more complicated something is, the more time it takes for the Refs to judge/approve it. ;)

So the action taken to read the subject's mind includes maintaining the effect. Which makes Mind Reading an oddball. That explains my confusion.

Say I purchase a Mind Reading effect and buy the Action up from Standard/Full to Free/Move. Now I can read the subject's surface thoughts with a Free action instead of a Standard action. Does that Free action also include "maintaining" the power, so the effect doesn't end and start giving the subject new saves every round?

I'd say so, yes (though that would be two instance of the Action extra). Mind Probes as a Move Action seems dicey to me, though, so we'd probably ask you to limit it to one instance of the Action extra (making it Move/Standard).

That would require me to burn a Hero Point every single time I wanted to receive visions of past and/or future events, basically making it a Power Stunt. That isn't what I had in mind.

Would you be using your Precog/Postcog very often? Like, more than twice an adventure? If not, then it effectively would be a Power Stunt. And one you'd have some control over when you can use them, unlike Uncontrolled Precog/Postcog which would be wholly in the Ref's hands.

Also, you should know that what I said on Telelocation may be changing. We'll try and let you know in a reasonable amount of time.

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Yes, I am aware that upgrading Mind Reading from a Standard/Full action to a Free/Move action is two steps, necessitating a +2 extra. I was going light on the details so as to not assault you with a wall of text like my opening post. :D

I would understand (and share) concern with a real attack power like Damage or Stun being upgraded to a Move action. But is being able to ask two questions per round about a subject's mind instead of one really that big of a deal?

Oh, and since you're curious...

From Freedom City, page 233, "Legacies":

"The question of The Scarab's reincarnation is left as a mystery for you to decide in your own Freedom City game. The latent ka of the eternal hero is a ready-made origin for a new superhero with psychic powers.

You can use the following template as a guideline for the new Scarab's traits. Feel free to modify it as desired to match the campaign's power level and guidelines."

The Scarab (Template)

Feats: Beginners Luck, Jack of All Trades

Powers: Flight 3, Super-Senses 1 (Mental Awareness), Telekinesis 10, Telepathy 10

Cost: 49PP

And from Freedom City Atlas #2: The Scarab's Lair, page 7:

"The basic powers given for the template are those The Scarab "reawakens" with, but both the Telekinesis and Telepathy powers have considerable potential for developing power stunts and permanent Alternate Power feats as The Scarab learns (or re-learns, in many cases) the full extent of his potential."

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I would understand (and share) concern with a real attack power like Damage or Stun being upgraded to a Move action. But is being able to ask two questions per round about a subject's mind instead of one really that big of a deal?

I don't like the idea of almost anything being brought down to a Move action, except Movement effects.

Oh, and since you're curious...

Neither of those really satisfy my curiosity re: the full stats of former Scarabs ;) And my point still stands: don't make something overly complicated. Or, to paraphrase numerous supervillains from The Middleman, "their is elegance in simplicity" ;)

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If you're speaking in terms of purely intellectual curiosity, I don't know for sure, but I suspect the 1stEd stats for Alexander Rhodes might be in M&M Annual #1. I seem to remember it containing the stats for several other members of the Silver Age Freedom League.

There are currently no official 2ndEd stats for Alexander Rhodes.

I know for sure that the stats for Marvin Perez, a hypothetical new Scarab incarnation a generation in the future, are contained in Worlds of Freedom, in the "Near Future" chapter.

No other reincarnations of Heru-Ra have even been named in FC canon, let alone statted out.

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