Okay, so that is the bare-bones progression, and how all characters are the same. How are they different?
Start simple: let’s reduce some of Nintendo’s stable of heroes to archetypes and include them as “classes.” For example, the sword and board warrior, the mechsuit sniper, the showy bounty hunter (Captain Falcon), the … um … angelic sniper? That is two types of snipers; can they be assembled into a class? They don’t really relate...
More! Keep ‘em coming! The electric rodent – the super powered animal? The speedy karate pilot (how do you make a character like Fox anyway?), the afterschool psychic. I’m pretty sure Mutants and Masterminds can accomplish all of these character archetypes. I notice also, that I’m slowly pushing to include all of the cast from Smash Bros…
…Smash includes at most three “classes” that broadly define how characters relate and differ. The lightweight class is swift and capable of dominating fights, typically by means of cheap shots. The heavy class is better armored, and better equipped to go through attacks; how they should interact is that the heavies should be capable of knocking the lighter characters away. Smash tends to drift a little from that goal, making heavies like Bowser, Dedede, and Gannon into significant challenges to play. But I think we might be able to build around the same concept without problems. That just leaves the medium class, Joe-average, who is light enough to move swiftly, but heavy enough to take the odd punch!
…Hmm, okay, broad rule. Any player can armor his character however much his build points allow. Investing in armor grants damage reduction, which is huge in D20! Trouble is, putting too much into armor pushes the player into heavy territory, and comes with penalties, such as initiative penalties, base land speed penalties, and perhaps even encumbrance (as defined in D20’s skills chapter). If I put numbers to this:
All player characters begin character generation with Armor: 0 and Initiative: +5.
As players add Armor (which is purchased with build points), that number is reduced from total Initiative. Therefore Initiative is Initiative – Armor (for now). This is a one-to-one point relationship.
It means that as players become better armored (ignoring up to 5 points of damage from every hit), they suffer penalties to Initiative (down to 0). Armor does not protect from crushing damage (Bowser is using spikes to protect himself from back-jumping, which doesn’t work on the ventral side). Tripping, disarming, and wrestling is resolved normally.
Now, wait; weight class is figured to have a huge effect on wrestling matches! Should a heavy also be, um, heavy, I mean hard to lift? Seems reasonable. How does the Lightweight also benefit then? They tend to trade on skills dexterity and speed; they already have initiative bonuses, all else I would give them is a base land speed bonus.
Characters with less than 2 points of armor are considered lightweight. They take no penalties on Dex checks. Lightweight characters Base Land Speed: 40
Characters with 4 to 7 points of armor are considered middleweight. They take a -1 penalty on all Dex checks. Middleweight characters Base Land Speed: 30
Characters with more than 8 points of armor are considered heavyweight. They take a -2 penalty on all Dex checks. Heavyweight characters Base Land Speed: 20
I want to keep Dex checks light, as Dexterity (manual, balance) is used for a lot of things, and we must remember the first rule of the dungeon: DON’T split up the party! The penalty should only represent a subtle advantage for Lightweights to go places Heavies rightly fear, but Heavies should still be able to pull it off given plenty of time (taking 10) or with a reasonable margin of success under stress. Of course this needs play testing, and maybe some token Google searching for Wrestling themed game systems.
The last thought to be addressed is the rogue’s backstab ability. It is the wrong tactic. I see what it is supposed to do, as in direct the rogue behind the enemy rather than have him confront the enemy. Backstabbing as a special power that is paid for with Build Points is something that I don’t have a problem with. But I don’t believe every lightweight should be built around it. It is more or less totally off-theme for the Psychic rogue, for instance, who should be sneaking and telepathy-ing his enemies. Everybody gets criticals. You get a natural bonus to pull it off from behind, already in the rules.
Okay, I like some of this right now. Three classes, defined by armor and consequently speed. Right away there is room for some variety, at a very broad conceptual level, and that level is leading directly into Nintendo’s Smash Bros franchise, and is thus directly tied both to Nintendo and Mutants and Masterminds. Good stuff, but it needs more refinement, more variety of builds! More personality! Next time!