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So, I've got a few game ideas I may try running here in the future.  I've had some experience in the past, but never with M&M.  I've read the Gamemastering chapter in the core book, and it's fairly helpful.  Even so, I wonder how experienced GMs here craft their adventures, in particular encounters, with respect to the rules and enemies. 


Does anybody have any rules of thumb they follow (for example, the 50/50 rule suggested in the core book, which I think is good advice)?  Do you just try to match up modifiers for the villains to the heroes?  What about when you've got a whole team of players; how much stronger do you typically make a solo villain?  What about a villain with minions, versus one or multiple heroes?  And so on.


Of course, there's the tradition of just faking it if things go bad.  You can always come up with a way to let the heroes bounce back, especially since the forums is nonlethal in general.  No matter how well you plan, the dice can always betray you anyway.  Even so, I'd ideally like to learn how to craft encounters and challenges well enough that they should probably unfold in a cool way that leaves everybody satisfied, instead of feeling like they only came through it by GM Fiat. 


What kinds of things do you wish someone had told you, instead of learning the hard way?

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My plans tend to vary alot on the thread in question.  Generally I try to tune up my NPCs (Minions or villains) to the group I'm running for.  For instance with one or two characters with take-down attack or AOEs you can up the number of minions substantially(and probably should).  Likewise look at the trade-offs the characters are bringing and try to create some parity, it's not much fun for big damage shifted bruisers to spend the thread hoping a lucky roll gets them a hit, likewise if that lucky roll comes early in the fight it can be a let down all around.  Then you want to make sure nothing the characters have is going to trivialize the match up (grabbing the mcGuffin with accurate teleport is far simpler than fighting through the maze of goon ridden tunnels, Nor do you want an insurmountable block, like if no one has computers don't make them hack the mainframe to shut down the self destruct.


For less personalized adventures my go to is 2-3 characters of a given PL will generally be challenged by 1 enemy 2 PLs higher.  If you have a group larger than 2-3 and don't want them to fight a team of similar level enemies then I generally split PLs making them offensively around maybe +2 PLs over the group and defensively more like +4 or +5 PLs.  That way they won't go down just being mobbed but won't just finish off each PC in turn.  


For minions I usually keep them in the lower PL range, take advantage of combined attack and aid actions to have groups of 5-9 minions effectively be one higher threat entity.  This of course depends alot on what the specifics are, mercenaries or criminal henchmen ala bond or batman are good at PL 4-6 (6 being maybe officers/leaders) Dread cultists usually range in the Pl 1-3 spread and any leader types much over htat might be better built as low PL villians themselves.  Summoned demons or alien invaders of course can span much higher into the 10+ range even.  


Lastly don't be afraid to both give out and give reason to spend Hero points.  They let PCs do the cool stuff that makes the stories rock and adds alot of drama to a story.  HP does not have to be just a combat thing, if one PC is super strong and you need them distracted while hte nimble villain duels a more athletic teammate give them some bystanders to save from falling statuary or buildings or careening vehicles.  And don't be afraid to let the bad guys win.  Remember this isn't some dark and dank Iron Age setting, most villains want to get away more than they want to beat the heroes (unless the point of the thread is a nemesis showdown) If hte heroes intrupt the robbery or kidnapping and the villains manage to fight off hte heroes to escape thats fine.  It sets up a good build up for a future thread where the more experienced or prepared heroes take it to the villains.  Similarly don't worry about villains failing, in many cases all the heroes really need to do is disrupt the lunar annihilator beam not pummel doctor destructo to a pulp, that can be a win even if the villain escapes to fight another day.

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Nice thinking!  I agree on hero points; I was already planning to make sure to give them out for setbacks and cool stunts, and to try using Complications. 


I hadn't thought about giving villains more pressing business than finishing off heroes, in case of their victory; that's a good idea too.  I usually expect the villains to capture anyone they beat (which is an option sometimes, surely), but perhaps they just want to get away.


And especially thanks for the advice on PL matching.  That's the main thing I'm worried about.  I hadn't considered setting up different levels of offense and defense, but it makes sense for villains, and removes the problem of wanting them to be strong enough to survive long enough for a decent fight, but not so strong that they crush the heroes. 

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I do a lot of what duft mentions to one degree or another, it is certainly good advice.  One initial thing I would suggest is that for your first thread or two, perhaps limit it to no more than 2 PCs, that way you can get the hang of running combat and those rules and see how your planning of encounters worked (or did not work). 

As durf said about not being afraid to give out Hero Points, remember that includes GM fiat, such as you rerolling for the villains.  I do not think I have ever given a villain a reroll on an attack roll, but I have rather often on toughness saves, particularly really, really bad ones very early in a fight.  I also regularly use GM fiat to shake off a daze result on a villain if I let them take a bruised and dazed result from a toughness save. 

One thing I tend to do in regard to my villains (and sometimes henchmen) is shift them more toward toughness than defense, which often allows them be able to take some hits and keep going a bit longer in a fight than if they were balanced (or shifted more towards defense). 

As duft stated, if you can figure out ways to handicap the heroes, it can make a thread more interesting or allow even lower powered henchmen provide more of a challenge than they might otherwise be.  One particular example of a thread I ran, I had some mercenary henchmen (PL 5 minons) attacking the Freedom City aquarium while to PL 10 heroes (Claremont students) were there.  Normally, those two heroes could have plowed through the bad guys with ease and caught up with the main villain quickly.  But, because of the situation, one of them (a teleporter) had to open a portal out of the building for some bystanders (school kids) to escape through, while the other (a water controller) had to use her Create Object power in her array to stop the giant water tank in the center of the building from rupturing and flooding everything.  This prevented them both from using their main power arrays for several rounds, which slowed them down and slowed down (slightly) how quickly they dealt with the minions. 

I often use minion henchmen (when appropriate) to provide small speed bumps for the PCs.  As durf said, how you use them will depend on who/what they are.  For street gang members (or just general thugs), they might be low PL and not use much teamwork.  Other minions can easily have feats/abilities that allow them to use teamwork more effectively.  (One thread I once ran had the PCs fighting a mob of martial arts minions and two main bad guys that were about their PL, the minions attacked in pairs, one using aid other (with the Teamwork feat) to give the second a bonus to hit, they had move-by action so they could attack and then move a little distance away, so they could stay spaced out so Takedown Attack was ineffective against them). 

One thing I have done (and am doing a bit more in space based threads) is to create a mix of minion/lower PL opponents in fights.  For example, if I have some mobsters, most will be PL 3-4 minions and I will include a enhanced bruiser (say PL 7-8 heroic thug that is a Power-House enhanced thug).  For a lot of the space pirates I have had in some space threads, I use a group of PL 5 minions, a PL 7 heroic team leader and a PL 8 (tough/damage shifted) bruiser alien.

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Oooh.  I didn't think about using GM Fiat to let villains reroll; the core rulebook suggests downgrading their injuries if an attack would end the encounter too soon, but I like your way better, since it's something that the PCs can do as well with a hero point. 


Keeping groups small at first is a good idea too.  I hear that most games around here have 3-4 characters, and one idea I have is a solo mission with potential NPC backup if things go bad.  That sort of thing would let me have fewer plates spinning at once until I got used to it.


Thanks very much!

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