Design Diary #2: Let’s make a Deal, part 1
One of the most intriguing aspects of Mutants and Masterminds is the Tradeoff. In effect they allow you to bypass the firm Power Level cap of 2e by lowering the cap in another place on your character sheet. This time in Design Diary we’ll see how I approach tradeoffs in my character builds.
Trade #1: Max DC / Attack Bonus
Editors Note: I want everyone to be aware that my discussion on tradeoffs operate within a very specific frame of reference. They work best between PL 8 and PL 12. Below that people are less likely to take any tradeoff. Above that people may feel comfortable making more dramatic tradeoffs and skewing the overall sense I’m trying to make below.
In this tradeoff you’re effectively trading stopping power for accuracy. If anyone is going to land a hit it’s going to be you or those like you. However you have to be creative to really effect tougher foes. The most popular way of doing this is with Power Attack. Another good option involves auto-fire. The final way around it is not to focus on damage but to instead use your massive attack bonus for specialty feats, like improved grab, chokehold, Trip, Improved Disarm, and the like. Take a look at how I see some tradeoffs.
-1 Max DC / +1 Attack Bonus: Squeamish
This trade off is generally taken if you’re not comfortable with the idea of taking a lot of feats or fighting very creatively. It makes you just accurate enough to make some of the Toughness Save / Defense Bonus crowd think twice about staying within range of you. Because by hedging your bets you have a slightly better chance to hit and it will hurt when you do hit.
-2 Max DC / +2 Attack Bonus: Precision
The next step up from Squeamish is Precision. You’re a little more comfortable than the above, but at the same time you want the option of damage to be there just in case that’s what your teammates need from you at a given moment.
-3 Max DC / +3 Attack Bonus -4 Max DC / -4 Attack Bonus: Surgeon
Safety be damned. You’re intent on hitting your foe, after that you’ll worry about what it does afterward. This strikes me as a kind of sweet spot, at this level you’ve got a great chance of hitting your foes, and to be effective you have to be really comfortable with your options. Many people who fall into this category load up with Improved Critical hoping to offset their damage production problems.
-5 Max DC / +5 Attack Bonus or More: Dead Eye
When you reach this point you are nearly guaranteed to hit your target. With that taken care of you instead have to worry about what you’re going to do about it. This is where knowledge of the rules come in handy. If you’re comfortable grappling, disarming, throwing, sundering, and using Stunning Attacks you can really do some damage (though not in the strictest sense). You also get the most mileage out of Auto-Fire Extras and the like. Being that focused on hitting a target you may find your best bet are powers that don’t do direct damage but instead provoke different saves. Most of my characters have relatively low saves, and as a result a precisely fired snare, or a chokehold can really work to your advantage. You also want to note that such tradeoffs can become very expensive in combat cost, many such characters keep the cost down by specializing through either the attack focus or attack specialization feats.
Trade #2: Attack Bonus / Max DC
With this trade off you’re giving up accuracy for sheer stopping power. If this works out you can put down your foes with fewer, and more powerful, hits. The downside is that you need a degree of luck to connect in the first place. This is often covered up by feats such as All-out Attack and Accurate attack. Your choice in this regard is often dictated in how willing you are to take a hit.
-1 Attack Bonus / +1 Max DC: A Nasty Left Hook
Again this is the trade off for the man who’s hedging his bets. You’re betting on your slightly enhanced max save DC to royally mess up a foe. It’s a fairly safe bet, but you’re more at the mercy of dice here.
-2 Attack Bonus / +2 Max DC -3 Attack Bonus / +3 Max DC: Ouch in a Can
We reach another sweet spot in my opinion. Here is where you can get the most use out of attack bonus boosting feats to mitigate your low attack bonus. In a PL 10 game you’re either provoking toughness saves of 27, or non-toughness saves of 22! That’s massive. You may have some trouble hitting, but odds are that one hit is enough to stun a foe, and everyone is much easier to hit when they’re stunned.
-4 Attack Bonus / +4 Max DC or More: One Shot, One Kill.
Once you’re at this point you’re pretty much entirely at the whim of dice, and may find yourself All-out Attacking for five with most attacks and powers at your disposal. However at this point you need to be creative with getting hits therefore if you’re a member of a team try to convince your friends to take the Teamwork feat. The sudden introduction of +2 or more bonus to your attack suddenly levels the playing field and puts your foes in a real pinch against you.