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 Post Posted: Tue Jan 04, 2011 7:26 pm 
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So, I was about to start an M&M campaign using the established second edition content, when all of a sudden third edition gets released. Turns out that there's not much difference between the two, and the third edition handbook is superior in general quality — it's clearer, cleaner, and preferable overall. However, the only major difference between 2e and 3e — the fact that attacks and defense have been split in two for ranged and melee — annoys me intensely and I want to change it back to the 2e version.

Only I can't make the math work. (I'm going to use my own terms here to make things clearer, so if you're familiar with M&M don't let that throw you.)

2e works basically like D&D 3.0 or 3.5. Your total attack roll is d20 + base attack bonus (unlike D&D, no bonuses for str or dex) targeting an enemy's defense, which is 10 + base defense bonus (again, no dex bonus).

3e changes things up. First of all, it separates both attack and defense into melee and ranged. Second of all, it makes attacking a skill, modified by unique stats. So in addition to the standard six stats, you have a Melee stat and a Ranged stat. To make an attack you make a Melee Combat skill check (d20 + ranks in Melee Combat + Melee modifier) for melee or a Ranged Combat skill check (d20 + ranks in Ranged Combat + Ranged modifier). These are opposed by Melee Defense and Ranged Defense checks, which act like saves (a la fort, ref, and will). Normal attacks assume you take 10 on the appropriate defense check, but for special effects you roll them like normal. For example, if someone throws a net at you, they'd roll against 10 + Ranged Defense to see if they hit, and if they do then you'd roll a d20 + Ranged Defense to see if you're entangled in the net. Melee/Ranged defense rolls effectively replace reflex saves in this usage.

Alright, here's the part I'm having trouble with. In 2e, base attack and base defense bonuses cost 2 character points per +1 bonus and are capped at the campaign power level (so at PL 10, you could spend 20 points to get a +10 base attack bonus, but no more), and skills cost 1 point for 4 ranks (and are capped at PL+5, but that doesn't affect much for my purposes). In 3e, abilities cost 2 points per +1 bonus, saves cost 1 point per +1 bonus, and skills cost 1 point for 2 ranks. For 3e, total skill modifier (ability + ranks) is capped at PL+10 (this includes attacks, remember!), while defense is capped at PL.

Defenses are effectively the same (2e costs 2 points per +1, but it affects both melee and ranged — 3e costs 1 point per +1, but it affects only one or the other), but attacks are all messed up. It's twice as expensive for the ability (2 points only gets you +1 to either ranged or melee attacks, not both), but half as expensive for skill ranks (1 point gets you 2 skill ranks, or +1 to both ranged and melee) — this can be mixed-and-matched however you like, as long as you stay within the cap (ability + ranks <= PL+10).

So how the hell does this math work? To hit the attack and defense cap in a PL 10 campaign, it would take a 2e character 40 points (+10 attack at 2 per +1 and +10 defense at 2 per +1), but it would take a 3e character anywhere between 80 points (+20 Melee and +20 Ranged at 2 per +1) and 20 points (+20 Melee Combat and +20 Ranged Combat at 1 point for 2 ranks). Now, the skill ranks only apply to specific weapons, so there's a motivation to choose the more expensive abilities over the cheaper skill ranks (so you can use multiple different kinds of weapons), but that doesn't change the fact that you can reach the cap for ridiculously cheap under proper circumstances.

There's also the fact that the cap is a lot higher. Unless I'm seriously misinterpreting things, if both attack and defense are at cap in 2e, then you have a 50% chance to hit (1d20 + PL vs. 10 + PL), but in 3e you have a 100% chance to hit (1d20 + PL+10 vs. 10 + PL). Technically, the defense cap in 3e is that neither Melee Defense + Toughness nor Ranged Defense + Toughness can exceed double the PL. However, since Toughness determines how well you take hits (if you botch a toughness save, you can go down in one hit!), making yourself hard to hit means you have to take hits like a little girl — and even if you maximize defense at the expense of toughness, prior to PL 11, a max-attack vs max-defense will still have 100% chance to hit. It's only at PL 15 (the top of the scale is PL 20, equivalent to 3e D&D's level 20, for the record) that a max-attack vs max-defense ends up at 50% chance to hit — and that's only if you maximize defense at the cost of toughness.

Given that you get the same amount of character points at the same power levels in both 2e and 3e, can anyone else make any damn sense out of this? What I'm trying to use the 2e attack/defense scheme in the 3e system, but to do so I need to make sure it costs the same amount of points to avoid screwing up the balance. The more I look at it, the more convinced I am that it's not even possible due to how screwed up 3e's combat is.


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