Making Captain Crunch – Review of the M&M3 Dataset for Hero Lab

You guys might remember seeing Buddy’s review of Hero Lab from back in January. If not, here it is, and you should read it. I’ve been using Hero Lab for a while, now, and I recently got my hands on the full dataset for Mutants & Masterminds 3rd Edition. Let me tell you, using Hero Lab for this game makes things a whoooooole lot easier.

For those of you who might not be familiar, Mutants & Masterminds is a super hero game whose third edition came out right around GenCon time last year. Ben did a write-up of the initial release, which partnered with DC Comics to make official M&M3 versions of iconic DC Universe characters. Additionally, Buddy is using Mutants & Masterminds for his Parahuman campaign setting, which he has been writing about here on TitC for a while, now. The point is, up to a certain level of super hero, this game system can make just about any kind of Super that you can think of. And that’s part of the problem with trying to learn it.

Enter: Hero Lab.

Mutants & Masterminds, at the default Power Level of 10, gives you 150 points to allocate between your hero’s Abilities, Powers, Advantages, Skills and Equipment. With the right combinations, you can really make whatever you want to, but to get a good combination of powers that really work well together and make your hero effective, you have to work and tweak and re-tweak and re-work your allocations of your points. This kind of system practically begs for an electronic way to track everything and to total up all of your bonuses, making sure that you’re not exceeding the limitations that the Lower Level places on you.

Hero Lab does that perfectly. Every single thing that you could choose for your character is available, and there are even open slots for custom powers and abilities. Having that is a nice touch since trying to add custom content to Hero Lab can be, well, a bit confusing and time consuming.

The Hero Lab Custom Content Window

I can’t stress this enough: the biggest advantage of using Hero Lab for M&M3 is having the ability to re-work your character as much as you want to without having to have eraser dust and holes all over your character sheet. No matter how much you work over and tweak a character, you could always re-allocate points from one thing to another in you attempts to create your perfect hero. Hero Lab lets you do that easily.

Another great thing about the Hero Lab dataset for M&M3 is being able to actually use it in combat. M&M3 uses a set of Bruised Hits and other status effects to represent the damage that your hero takes in combat. When playing without using the combat features of Hero Lab, I was horrible about remembering what penalties affected what defenses, or how long I was going to be stunned, etc. Using those parts of Hero Lab really helped me when it came to combat.

Now, is everything perfect? No. If you don’t own the M&M3 books, you’re not going to be able to just open the dataset in Hero Lab and suddenly have a good idea of how every power and ability works. Hero Lab provides a lot of information along those lines, but you definitely need to have the books handy for clarification. As well, without having the books as a resource, you might not understand why Hero Lab is telling you that you can’t have 30 ranks in a given power or why you need to lower your Toughness by dropping one of your Ability scores, etc. The point is, Hero Lab is a tool, not the entire resource. It might be nice if it were the whole resource, but then we’d have no reason to buy the books and support our favorite game companies.

The bottom line is, for a system that can be as complex at Mutants & Masterminds, Hero Lab having the ability to create characters is a gods-send. I know that I love the M&M3 system. I also know that, without Hero Lab, I would have absolutely zero desire to build a character, let alone consider GMing a session with a bunch of NPCs.

Final Verdict: 4.5 out of 5 stars. If you play M&M3, you owe it to yourself to get this dataset for Hero Lab.

[tags] reviews, rpg, rpgs, role playing games, hero lab, mutants and masterminds[/tags]

5 thoughts on “Making Captain Crunch – Review of the M&M3 Dataset for Hero Lab

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  1. Good review. I can’t imagine making characters without using Hero Labs now. Character Gen looks fairly simple, but as you comment, there are some interesting little tweaks here and there that can easily get lost when you’re erasing on a PnP character sheet — but the Hero Labs tracks it all for you.

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  2. It’s hard for me to profess how much I love Hero Lab. It’s been incredibly useful in the high-crunch games I’ve been running, namely Mutants & Masterminds and Pathfinder.

    It’s what I use to check the math of my players as well as my own when I’m making NPCs.

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  3. I cannot imagine going back to paper and pen for mnm3e character gen. I’m addicted to making charas now, a lot like I was when the character builder app appeared for dnd4e, not the current horrible web based one mind you.

    I’m about to purchase the dnd4e data set as well!

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