A peek under the hood of M&M

June 12, 2006

Golden Age Feats

The following feats are meant to add a little period flavor to Golden Age characters and help them better cope with the often harsh realities of the World War II era. These feats' utility outside the Golden Age is limited, as the draft and rationing both eventually ended.

Existing feats work in Golden Age campaigns just as described in Mutants & Masterminds. Some are more suitable for some campaign styles than others (such as Rage, which fits better in a postmodern Golden Age campaign than a classic style), but any existing M&M feat is available with the Gamemaster's permission.

Don't You Know There's a War On?

Sacrifice was the word that best describes life during the Second World War, so much so that even complaining about it was frowned upon and dismissed with a curt “Don't you know there's a war on?” Though it varied in degrees from person to person, everyone felt the pinch of global war. Everyone except those with the following Benefit feats, that is. They can make life a lot more comfortable and more closely resemble the carefree civilian existence many heroes in Golden Age comic books enjoyed.

Benefit: Draft Exemption General, Ranked

You are exempt from compulsory military service due to some rarified condition. Whatever the exact reason, you're not classified 1-A (fit for military service), 1-B (fit for limited service), 1-C (already in the active-duty military), 4-C (an alien national who can still be drafted) or 4-D (an ordained minister, eligible to be drafted into the chaplain corps). You are free to pursue your costumed hero career (or anything else, for that matter) as you see fit.

Rank 1 Exemptions: Your exemption is of the sort that carries with it some degree of social stigma for your secret identity. You are classified 4-F (“physically, mentally, or morally unfit for service”), which makes you in the eyes of most people either (respectively) a goldbricker shirking his duty, a dangerous crackpot to be avoided at all costs, or a criminal deviant. Alternately, you are considered 4-E, a conscientious objector, or, as most people call you, a no-good coward.

Whatever the specific insults normally hurled your way, all but the most sympathetic civilian souls are considered to have an Unfriendly attitude towards you on the Interaction table. Servicemen on leave, on the other hand, are going to be downright Hostile to you. In many Golden Age comic books, costumed heroes dutifully tried to join up, but were rejected as medically unfit due to the alterations to their physiology that occurred when they gained superpowers. Characters whose powers derive from the fact that they're an alien, a mutant, or the like can take a rank 1 exemption to represent their unusual 4-F status.

Rank Two Exemptions: Your exemption is one that carries no societal approbation with it, but has some specific conditions that must be met in order to retain it. It's a complication to be sure, but one you get no extra hero points for. For example, your character might be classified 1-D (student, fit for service) or 1-E (student, fit for limited service), with the catch being your character has to stay in school and keep his grades up—something that might not be easy if he's got his hands full battling enemy saboteurs all hours of the night.

A character might be considered 2-A (meaning your job is considered critical to the war effort, like industrial magnate, scientist, cop, engineer, or fireman) or 4-B (meaning you work for the government as a judge or similar high elected official), making it critical for you to hang onto your current employment. As a result, your character may have to suffer the indignities of his jerk boss, or campaign for re-election like his life depended on it in order to keep his cushy draft status.

You may even be classified 3-A because of your many dependents (five or more was typically enough to keep you stateside for the duration). While Uncle Sam likely won't come a-calling on you in this case, a steady stream of concerned principals, teachers, truant officers, neighborhood cops, and all the other assorted problems of child rearing certainly will, only five-fold. You're bound to have your hands full protecting your large brood from neighborhood bullies and the like—not to mention your supervillain archenemies—even without taking into consideration your crime-fighting activities. And what happens when one of the little tykes finds daddy's super-suit?

Depending on your campaign, costumed heroes may qualify for one of the rank 2 benefit statuses simply because of the nature of their work. Patriotic superheroes who work directly for the government may qualify for 4-B status, or Uncle Sam may generously extend 2-A status to select costumed figures for the duration of the war. Here the catch is remaining a good soldier and doing everything the government asks of you, or keeping up your home-front crime fighting activities at all costs.

Rank Three Exemptions: Your character is considered to be 4-A, which indicates past military service. Many discharged personnel were recalled to active duty at the outbreak of war, but your character's service was either so long ago (World War I, or maybe even the Spanish-American War) or so very recent (your character fought earlier in the current war, but was discharged and sent home for some reason) that a recall isn't a concern for you.

In addition to having your autonomy, you are also considered to have “done your part” by the public at large and thus don't suffer any sort of Interaction penalties. If your character has obviously and visibly seen action (you are wearing your medals, or have battle scars you just can't hide), most people will have Friendly or Helpful attitudes towards you because of your war record.

If the idea of playing a recent vet or old geezer doesn't suit your character conception, there are other ways of justifying purchasing the rank 3 exemption. Perhaps your character performed some vital service for his country during the prewar era, one that may have been done unofficially and out of an actual uniform but that your government is nonetheless grateful for. This can be a great way to simulate a character who spent the 1930s hunting down items like the Holy Grail or the Lost Ark of the Covenant as a favor to President Roosevelt, and got a 4-A status (or the like) as a reward. This is a good edge to hang on to even after V-J Day. Even though World War II ended, the draft didn't, save for a brief pause in 1947-48. It otherwise continued well past the end of the Golden Age.

Benefit: Rationing Exemption General, Ranked

You are exempt from some (or all) aspects of wartime rationing. This may be due to your valued status in the government's eyes, like the extra gas ration offered to doctors or the unlimited gasoline to which truckers, firemen, and members of Congress were entitled. Whatever the reason, you receive a +4 bonus per rank when rolling on the Rationing Table.

Keep in mind this benefit can be tenuous. If your worth to the government diminishes or any involvement in the black market on your part is discovered, your character may have to learn to get by on the same meager portions as everyone else. Unlike Benefit: Draft Exemption, this feat loses its value at war's end. When World War II ended, so did rationing.

Benefit: Wealthy General, Ranked

Here are some sample Golden Age jobs and the financial condition they correlate to on the Wealth Bonus chart (see M&M, page 132).

Impoverished (+0): Farmhand, New Deal laborer.

Struggling (+1 to +4): Clerk, beginning factory worker, farmer, manual laborer, waiter.

Middle class (+5 to +10): Average factory worker, bank teller, black marketers, clergyman, foreman, journalist, mechanic, policeman, private investigator, professional entertainer, prostitute, skilled laborer, teacher, telephone operator.

Affluent (+11 to +15): Author, business manager, doctor, engineer, lawyer, mine speculator, university professor.

Wealthy or better (+16 and higher): Atomic scientist, bank president, corporate executive, mob boss, movie actor, politician.