M&M Damage Roll
Toughness saves in M&M may seem too passive to some. The Guardian swoops down, punches the giant robot, and then waits to see what happens when the robot rolls its save. He can use a Hero Point to re-roll an attack roll, but nothing to make sure the blow actually does any good (Extra Effort to increase the DC by 2 for blasts etc will rarely seem like a good bet). The problem is also psychological: it “feels” like you aren't affecting the outcome because someone else is rolling the die and you're just waiting for the result of your own action.
The alternative is to flip things around and have the attacker make a Damage roll instead. The odds of getting Stunned, Staggered etc. are all the same, just a different person is rolling the die. M&M 1st Edition had optional rules for this, which we basically ignored and used a house-ruled version instead. We later updated the numbers for M&M 2nd Edition, which are shown here. Mastermind's Manual also has a damage roll system which is a bit different.
We've used this damage rule a bunch and found it to put some serious “umph” back in the fights (i.e. the players loved it). If your M&M fights are feeling a little passive, give it a try.
When an attacker hits, they roll a d20 and add the damage of their attack (e.g. for a Blast 10 roll a d20 + 10). Compare the result to the target's Toughness:
Toughness +7 = bruise
Toughness +11 = stunned + bruised
Toughness +16 = staggered + stunned
Toughness +21 = unconscious
[these categories are the same as the normal system, so I'm just paraphrasing them here – substitute the lethal categories if it's a lethal attack]
The attacker is rolling, so of course the attacker can use a Hero Point to re-roll damage.
The defender isn't rolling, so can't spend a Hero Point to re-roll anything. Instead the defender can spend a Hero Point to reduce the result one category (after the attacker has finished re-rolling, etc). So if the attacker gets a Staggered result, the defender can spend a Hero Point and move that up one bracket to Stunned instead.
The rules is the same for PCs, NPCs, everybody. The GM can use GM's Fiat/Villain Points for the NPCs to re-roll damage or reduce damage results as above.
For fast play just write your damage brackets on your character sheet. So a Toughness 10 character would write 17/21/26/31. If you want to spell out “bruise 17/stun 21/stagger 26/unc 31”, that's fine too.
When you get hit, the attacker rolls the die, adds the damage rank and says “23 damage.” You look at your brackets and see that falls above stunned (second result), but below staggered (the third result), so you're stunned. If you've already taken bruises, just add them to the damage before you look at the numbers. Very easy, very fast.
Mechanically there are differences because the attacker can choose to spend hero points to inflict more damage, but the primary change is attitude. Punching someone feels more like it's in the attacker's control, because the attacker gets to roll the die and control his destiny. Sometimes it “feels” wrong for the target to decide how much damage you do. It can be frustrating to make easy attack rolls round after round, but then just wait and see if the GM says the attack worked. How can the hero end the big climactic fight if he has no control over the damage he does?
It may seem inconsistent that other saves (Will, Reflex, Fort) don't change, but it feels fine in play, possibly because other saves are usually things that are conceptually in the hands of the defender. You resist the mind control, you dodge the explosion, you fight off the effects of the poison.
If the progression seems strange to you, it's because it mirrors the original Toughness save range exactly. Assuming the attack's damage is the same as your Toughness, you normally need to roll a 15 or higher to suffer no effect. That 15-16-17-18-19-20 on a Toughness save (6 results), so 1-6 on the Damage roll. So you need to roll at least a 7 to inflict a bruise (the same as rolling a 14 in the original system).
To be Stunned you need to fail a save by “5 or more” (not more than 5), which by default means rolling a 10 or lower. So on a Toughness save 14-13-12-11 is a bruise (only 4 results) and 10-9-8-7-6 is a stun (5 results). That's why on the Damage Roll the Bruised category is 7-10 (4 results) and Stunned is 11-15 (5 results). And so on.
It also highlights the fact that you cannot be one-punched if your Toughness is the same or higher than the Damage of the attack. With the normal Toughness roll you would have to fail by 15 or more on a DC 15, which isn't possible since rolling a 1 fails by only 14. On the Damage roll you would need to roll a 21, which is likewise impossible.