Design Diary III- M&M Skills:
Well, there's not a WHOLE bunch of unique stuff to say about Skills in M&M- it's pretty much laid out (1-4 is beginner, 5-8 is skilled/professional, 9-12 is expert, and 13+ is supreme mastery) for ya right in the book. However, I have noticed I do a few different things than many other statters.
As a general rule, Skills can define what a character is LIKE alot more than their powers or even sometimes their Advantages. It shows a mindful, plotting personality, or someone who's depicted as 'on the ball' and capable of figuring people out. Many other ATT statters tend to give people REALLY HIGH bonuses to a select few Skills, making them very focused, but limited in other areas, whereas I'm much more likely to dole out 1-4 points here and there to various 'minor' Skills, providing less overall huge boosts, but making them more generally capable.
Since "Skills" are the second thing I fill out after the Ability Scores, I put in just about anything I see the character doing, and then once I add up all the totals, I might decide to shave off points (not so much in 3e anymore, since I care less about points totals these days). Since a single rank in a Skill has the least effect on gameplay of the things you have to buy in this system, they're the easiest to 'drop' if you go over-cost.
Now... the thing about 3e is that Skill-based guys are way more expensive. Since many of the Skills doubled in price without going up in usefulness across the board (and others- like Deception, is made up of Bluff and the mostly-unused Disguise). Overall, characters tend to be more expensive than they were in 2e, usually by 5-10 points or so. While this is controversial, and I STILL think it was mostly unnecessary (a more complicated "fix" would be to have two tiers of Skills, each costing different amounts, but that may've just caused further problems with complexity- people seem to like this system because it's NOT Champions), but I have no problem making do with what we have.Guys who use lots of Skills:
Skillmonkey-archetypes are fairly common in comics, usually being the less-powered people on the team (or Badass Normal types in general). They can break into places, sneak about, disable things, jury-rig something together, spy, sense the motives of others, etc. VERY useful stuff, but it's expensive to get that many Skills together (just look at anyone's Batman build- God Forbid the official one), so be prepared to spend 20-40 pp (what you would on a VERY decent Power) to get all those points together. In general, the team's Smart Guy is this (focusing more on Science & Technology than the sneaky-bits like a detective would- though this is actually pretty cheap in 3rd Edition), as well as the Spy (the reverse of Smart Guy's focus). Team Leaders tend to have a bit more Skills as well, being generally more "together" and in-the-know about stuff. Team Powerhouses are usually the dumbest, as well as Scrapper types (unless they're survivalist freaks like Wolverine).Note:
Expertise needs a bit of GM oversight. I would normally allow various Skills to be included in that, as well as certain languages or other traits. Since Skills are rather pricey in 3e (in a system known more for fisticuffs), I think that's fair. Skill-By-Skill Breakdown:Acrobatics-
Any Dexmonkey's dream. For jumping through laser-grids, jumping over stuff, etc. A very handy Skill to have. Most X-Men types (or any heroes who train obstacle-course-like) should be expected to have at least 4 ranks in this.Athletics
Athletics is now much more useful than it's old "Climb, Swim, Ride, etc." set-up in 2e- it contains a lot of things, and most animals and people that are very fast can move a lot quicker with a good Skill Check. Thank God for consolidation in this case.Deception-
Anyone with a Secret Identity to uphold should at least have a few ranks of this. Otherwise, it's the Spymaster/Detective skill of choice.Insight-
Again, really common. Wolverine or Captain America are REALLY good at reading people, and calling bluffs. Most reasonably-wise heroes should have this. But then, A LOT of heroes just tend to fall behind, get caught by surprise, and (notably) have their best friends betray them, turning into super-villains. So you can give or take this.Intimidation-
A resolute Skill I give to almost anybody who shows talent at threatening people. Wolverine types have this in spades, and relatively-Unskilled Brick/Powerhouse types often have this as their maxed-out one. This is actually fairly useful, almost to the point of being broken if you take too much of it- a game in which I was involved (dig that grammar, yo) on the forums had one guy scare off TWENTY Ninjas, all with a good Intimidate Roll. I see no reason to give most people INSANE ranks of it- heroes & villains are honestly not scared off all that often. The DCA Batman build make almost ANY villain flee, and most villains just don't do that.Investigation-
Alot of Silver Age heroes have this in high amounts- in modern times, much less so. Detective stories are usually the sole purview of Batman types nowadays, and even they're more likely to fly into thugs and beat the information out of them (since, as John Byrne notes- Detective stories are REALLY frickin' hard to write). Solo heroes by definition have some a bit of this, especially if they work the streets like Daredevil does (though again, his "Investigate" consists of "Beat on Turk for a while"). One day, I might just put this in with "Expertise (Detective)" or something, but not today.Perception-
Arguably my most common Skill- most heroes should have a bit of this to be less vulnerable to sneak attacks. But then- you DO see a ton of Sneak Attacks in the funny books. I usually just throw a couple ranks on most people as a default, with only REALLY savvy people getting more.Persuasion-
Most comics people fail at this (especially at Marvel, where misunderstandings fall to fisticuffs ALL THE TIME). People like Batman and stuff can still talk people off of ledges, though.Sleight of Hand-
More of a D&D thing unless you're Gambit or a pickpocket. This is part of why DEX isn't that useful of an Ability.Stealth-
REALLY useful, but alot of heroes aren't that good at it. Maybe 1-4 ranks for most guys, with Dexmonkeys and spies going higher.Technology-
Cybernetics, mechanics, and generally any technically-savvy person should have this as a default.Treatment/Medicine-
Thankfully, this is now Int-based, and not Wis/Awareness based. So yeah, doctors, nurses, and the team's field-medic are all good guys for this, but it's relatively uncommon in superhero books, as people tend to just "Get better" on their own. Nobody scars in that world. I leave Medicine & Treatment as one Skill for the most part- in comics and most media, everyone with one can do the other.Vehicles-
I often put a "Limited to Ground or Air" on this, just to signify that Hal Jordan can't race cars as well as fighter jets, and that Johnny Storm is a better driver than the team pilot, Ben Grimm. The book says you need Training to use it, but the description notes that regular old cars as A-OK, as Murkglow noted to me.Expertise- Some of the more useful stuff:Expertise (Arcane Lore)-
Mages and the like. Very few others would have or use this. It can often be made a "Check Required" Flaw on Magic-based powers as well, though that can be a broken points-cheat if you're not careful.Expertise (Art)-
Not entirely useful, more of a character thing. I mean, Colossus obviously has this, but it seems almost mean to "charge" a player for something that would never come up.Expertise (Behavioral Sciences)-
Alot of Telepaths might have this (even though they really don't need to, being able to read people's reactions). Less useful than many of the others, but I would allow it to be used as a kind of an "Insight" in crowd situations.Expertise (Business)-
Most rich people or business owners should at least have this.Expertise (Civics)-
Lawyers & Politicians. Heroes searching for evidence might need it.
---Expertise (Current Events)-
A Skill for people who are generally aware of stuff. Finding out what country is what, which superheroes are which, etc. (ie. "Hey, it's a new Jack O'Lantern! I know this since the old ones either died or are Hobgoblin now!") Either could be it's own skill (Hero Lore or Geography), but this is often more of a handy catch-all, since Geography isn't likely to come in super-handy as it's own Skill. Honestly, though, I can't see it coming up THAT often.Expertise (History)-
Don't laugh- it's helped Batman out a few times. Immortals & Gods often have a lot of it also.Expertise (Tactics)-
Uncommon and kinda hard to use in a super-hero situation- I'd allow players to roll to "ask the GM" for the best advice in combat if necessary. Most others would just have Soldier/Mercenary. I generally allow any "Soldier" Skill to include this by default- they would normally know how to flank others.Expertise (Theology & Philosophy)-
A character-based Skill, but again, can be useful. Most any God or religious character would be expected to have a bit of it (though stereotypical depictions of Republicans likely have no knowledge of religion).
Hackers are all over the place in comics, and many characters (especially younger ones) have at least a rank or two in this. I prefer to give this a separate skill than JUST Technology, as it involves a know-how of notable hackers, computer systems, the internet, etc.Expertise (Criminal)-
You know the local gangs, symbols, slang, and the various bosses, and possibly ones in other cities (it wouldn't take you too long to find out). You know where drugs are made, distributed and sold. You know how to disable an alarm system, break into a car, hotwire something (normally a Tech-skill), and probably how to recognize the signs of an easy "mark". Most super-villains with this Skill are the thuggish types who know where the money is in the bank, and knows how to safe-crack a little bit.Expertise (Streetwise)-
You know crime from an outsider's point of view, which lets you step back and view things as a whole better than someone "in the mix". You know most of the above stuff, or at least the signs of it. Criminologists and the like are up here.
You speak Japanese, and are familiar with Japanese culture, customs and morals. You know the history of the ninja clans, who the masters are and were, and you know how to break and enter places. Many other Skills are associated.Expertise (Samurai)-
You speak Japanese, and are familiar with Japanese culture, customs and morals. You have a basic understanding of the arts, calligraphy, horseback riding, and military tactics. You know the code of Bushi-Do (whether or not you actually subscribe to it is a matter of personal preference), and you can immediately recognize someone's place in Japanese society by their body language and how they speak (normally an Insight Check).Expertise (Knight)-
You speak one or more European languages, and are familiar with various tribes, clans, kingdoms and the morals of each one. You know the movers and shakers of the political world, how to make armour and weaponry (or at least who makes the best ones), how to ride horses, and you know a lot about religion (you may not subscribe to all of it, however). You also have tactical know-how.
You know a great deal about the wilderness, from the environment, the seasons, how to survive and eat in the outdoors, and a large number of things about animals. You'd still need to buy Animal Empathy, but you gain bonuses to Insight checks against wild beasts (even some not familiar to you- like aliens). You can survive in almost any hostile environment. You also know a good bit about geography. Alot of X-Men types have this, as they're expected to survive in odd places. Quite good, as long as the GM puts you in those situations. Most anybody only needs a few ranks, though.Expertise (Soldier)-
Unlike the G.I. Joe-verse, where you buy "Soldier" and "Military Specialty" separately, in the comics, you basically know all Soldier-based stuff. You have moderate Survival capabilities, and you know how to use nearly all ballistics weapons. You have tactical skill, knowing how to plan assaults, lay traps, ambushes, etc. You know something about geography, politics and current events, usually revolving around your last conflict (ie. Iraq war veterans know more about Middle Eastern politics, the who's who of the local warlords, and which groups are friendly, and which are dangerous).Expertise (Actor)-
You know how to act in plays, films, etc., in order to draw reactions from people. You know the who's who of celebrities, and have a good knowledge of pop culture in general. You know which magazines and reporters are worth talking to, which ones to avoid, and which clubs are the most popular.
---Expertise (Animal Handling)-
I would argue that this fits a Biology/Handling/Care/Empathy heading, and would take the place of the Animal Empathy Advantage- it allows people who aren't charismatic a good bonus when dealing with animals (fits those "kooky forest-living" stereotypes). Not that common, or especially useful, since relatively few in-comic guys use Animal Sidekicks. Almost more of a character descriptor thing. It's a general zoologist/Animal Persuasion/Animal Insight thing, with a smattering of Caretaking knowledge. I often just leave off Animal Empathy and use this one- it scales up, and you don't need high Presence or Persuasion to utilize it effectively.Expertise (Pop Culture)-
You know everything there is to know about celebrities, movies, TV shows, video games, etc. Mostly teenagers, and a few adults have this. It CAN come in handy (in Batman: The Animated Series, Dick Grayson was better at this than Bruce was), but is more of a character/personality thing.Expertise (Acting/Dancing)-
Again, more character-themed stuff. Unless you wanna use "Distract (Dancing)" as an Advantage.Close Combat/Ranged Combat
(These are great. They're full of character, they easily define many characters- someone who's best with their Katana or other chosen weapon, for example. When you think about it, these are more "weaknesses" than "bonuses", since you're limited by PL caps, these make you only meet them in certain circumstances. Nothing wrong with that. It's actually a rare character that DOESN'T have some of these- nearly anyone has a favoured attack or melee/range focus. Specialization is more cost-effective- +2 or more to attack, but it's a lot more limiting if you get disarmed or de-powered)