Thanks to the Deck of Villainy (2017), I have a lot of examples on how to write moves for my villains, but I haven't found any example of moves for allied heroes.

What guides or examples of NPC hero moves have been published?

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    \$\begingroup\$ As is the question seem to be a bit open-ended and therefore unsuited for the site. You could however change it a bit to make it better answerable. Asking what official guidance there is for creating moves seems like a good question for example. \$\endgroup\$
    – Anagkai
    Mar 27, 2023 at 6:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ 3rd party content is not a limiter at all, as nobody could know all of it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Mar 27, 2023 at 12:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ Shopping questions are off topic, unfortunately. I think "How do I create good moves for allied NPC heroes?" would be an answerable good subjective question which drives at what you're trying to ask here. Is that what you meant? \$\endgroup\$
    – Tim C
    Mar 27, 2023 at 17:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ Heya. Thanks for updating this, and for the vote of confidence. I actually found my Deck of Villainy while I was doing some spring cleaning and felt like the answer needed an update in light of that and some other research I did. Let me know if I broke something that made the answer work for you? \$\endgroup\$
    – Glazius
    Mar 31, 2023 at 8:25

3 Answers 3


What are you talking about? Brass Brilliant's always been a hero.

You weren't around for the 80s, things were wild back then after the Avatars escaped. Some vigilante named Oculus just started kidnapping powered people off the streets left and right, didn't matter what they were doing. All "off to the Panopticon with you", but nobody even knew where that was until one day when it showed up in the bay for a couple hours and vanished, with its former inmates showing up on the streets or in police custody depending on where they really belonged. My old man was one of 'em, and he saw Brass Brilliant in there fighting to break everybody out. You bring up the Panopticon these days, everybody says "oh, it was the Exemplars, oh, it was the Amazing Eight" but they were all running around clueless. Brass Brilliant saved everybody.

AEGIS wants him for questioning? Like that means anything. AEGIS wants everybody for questioning! Everything you've seen, do you really think Uncle Sam cares about you and me? It's because of people like them that Brass Brilliant had to go into hiding in the first place. But when we really need him again, he'll be there for us.

I made the viewpoint up, but the story's in Secrets of AEGIS if you want to go looking.

This isn't to say that everybody in the Deck of Villainy has this heroic potential to them. Vanquish and Dominus have been riding high on millennia of their own power trips. Photovore and Viral aren't really in position to take much constructive action, by the nature of the events that changed them. The Blue Hydra is a literal curse.

But a lot of them are just powered individuals who made a choice, when they could have made a different one. So, fundamentally, NPC hero moves ARE NPC villain moves; they're both lists of cool things that a powered individual can do.

And in play, you use them just the same way: to inform the GM moves you make in response to a relevant situation.

Make a Move that Follows: Hidden Secrets of Villain Moves

So Hidden Secret #1 is that GM moves are not fundamentally about "creating problems". GM moves are fundamentally about giving the players something interesting to respond to. Are problems interesting to respond to? Most of the time, yes! But opportunities are also interesting to respond to.

You're not some Infinite Jester, there to dump a chaotic mess into a previously settled situation. You're there to portray the world honestly, and that means being honest about the problems that have always been there, but it also means being honest about their solutions. Why does Photovore have a move dedicated to revealing a small flash of the diligent scientist he used to be? Just to make the heroes feel worse at the end of a horrible trail of destruction and compromises? Or to give them the hope that maybe there's something to do to stop the trail in the first place?

Hidden Secret #2 is that playbook moves and villain moves aren't special ways to do things that the normal GM moves don't allow for. Rather, they're inspirations for ways to flavor the GM moves you already have. They're essentially expressions of your prep, or the original authors' prep. Many of the playbook moves are just ways to activate the downside of their abilities and relationships, following the common assumptions of the playbook.

And the villain moves? Same deal: prep to flavor your other GM moves. Would you write a villain move that said "destroy the universe"? Would that make it okay for you to destroy the universe if you did? Of course not. When the universe is gone there's nothing interesting to react to at all. Doing prep doesn't give you special permission to run a different game.

Nothing's different about writing down hero moves. Or, y'know, cool things a powered individual can do. It's just going to take a bit of effort to turn them into interesting things for the players to respond to when they're pointed somewhere else.

Worked Examples: Brass Brilliant, The Hero

I've discussed this issue previously in this question here, but since we've got Brass Brilliant in front of us, here's how the moves on his villain card would turn into things a hero could do that still give the players something to react to.

So let's assume that Halcyon City is being besieged by comet-borne frost lizards from space, apparently commanded by truly massive specimens of their own type protected by big ol' stellated polygonal force fields, and Brass Brilliant's shown up and taken charge of one of the big pockets of hero resistance.

Reveal secret machinations already in motion -> Announce between-panel threats

He outlines the basic strike plan, grouping heroes together to retake key points around Halcyon Plaza. Then he turns to you, Skysong. "And she'll be providing support from elsewhere," he says, and that last word resounds as reality comes apart in multicolored echoes and you plummet through the blackness between for a timeless interval...

...until your butt lands someplace you thought your butt would never land again: the pilot's seat of the Gadabout. You... you crashed her during your first attempt at leaving the homeworld, right? You left her for space junk? But here she is all the same, spic and span, engines humming, a couple hundred light-years out of position if you're reading the stars right...

Oh, hey, there's coordinates in the nav already. ...oh, ick, Royalist space? And there's all these angry red dots milling around the radar, too.

"By the time you've run the blockade," says a brass-helmeted bobblehead under the viewscreen that you definitely don't remember putting there, "we should have made enough progress down here that I can spare you another hand or two. Start thinking about who that's gonna be. You've got this."

You have, indeed, got the Gadabout, and aside from that little bonus comm relay she seems exactly as she's ever been. You're back in space, the controls aren't locked or anything - you can do what you want. So what do you want to do?

Strike or evade a blow with perfect precision -> Make a playbook move (Nova): introduce threats only they can tackle

That does take you to a 7 on protect someone, Fission, which is a hit. The shockwave pushes Grasshopper and the convoy out of reach for now. They'll be fine.

You, meanwhile, get borne down on by the full mass of the commander, the forcefield covering its front claws trapping you against the asphalt in a tiny, tiny, dome. You can see the frost churning through the force screen, but you can't feel its cold. You can't feel anything at all - the screens deflect your powers just as easily as they deflect the chill.

The street starts to buckle underneath you. It all feels so... hopeless. Mark that, by the way.

Suddenly, the commander recoils up and away from you, flailing its forelimbs like it's trying to grab onto gravity. Brass Brilliant lowers his fist from the uppercut - his clothes are hanging in shreds but the brass harness is still shining bright. He's been busy. One of the nodes in the force field around the commander's underbelly is pulsating erratically, and as if to confirm it Brass Brilliant leaps up and drops a two-fisted hammerblow on another one, just as the malfunction pulse reaches it.

Well, that did something. The force polygons all along the commander's underside splay outward as the shockwave plays along the outside of the field. Cold, deep cold, the cold of space, pours from the opening, fogging the air near the street. It feels like something again. It feels... bracing.

"All you, fireman," says Brass, waving you toward the breach he just made as he turns to leap away toward some other crisis. You're definitely clear to directly engage this thing, or maybe you just want to pour your power into it and see what happens? What are you doing, Fission?

Provide validation to a potential ally -> bro do you even tell them who they are or who they should be?

What's in the greatest danger here, Sureshot? Well, good on you for checking, but you're clear for the moment. The streets are calm, you can't hear chaos in the distance, and there's nothing more in or falling from the sky. Tell you what, until you know any different, not having to worry about the invasion is going to give you +1 to what you do while you're cooling down in the bolthole.

Brass Brilliant notices you scanning the sky. Someone brought him... an Exemplars support uniform? The way he's carrying himself in it you barely recognized. "I saw what you were doing out there," he says. "Not a lot of people appreciate a sniper in action, especially when they're just doing support fire and not looking for kill count. You've got good tactical instincts, kid.

"But you need to speak up about them," he says, turning to face you directly. "Sometimes you need to be the guy giving orders, and some people resent that even when everything works out. But ultimately, there's only so happy people can be if they aren't also safe."

He's trying to shift your Superior up and your Mundane down, Sureshot. What are you doing?

But the big established heroes aren't the only heroes in the city. What if you've got something different in mind?

"You Again": Peer-to-Teen Choice Behaviors

Another common fixture of this genre is the occasionally-encountered team of similarly new heroes who may individually be friends, rivals, or friendly rivals to the main heroes, often finding themselves pursuing similar heroic goals but without mutual hostility.

The scene doesn't pivot around them the way it would around a big-name hero, and in fact since they're much more minor players they can just show up without a prelude scene where the big-name hero would, say, tentatively agree to give these unproven rookies a chance. Actually getting them on-side can be its own challenge - but since the scene opposition is meant to be in striking distance of the PCs in the first place, the resolution doesn't really have to revolve around your friendly rivals either.

So while you can certainly write down some more cool things an up-and-coming hero can do, that by itself might not really help you make too many GM moves. How about adding a little flavor to those social interactions, then? Your PCs have access to provoke someone and that's probably it in terms of meaningful social interaction moves (unless they've grown up a whole lot when I wasn't looking), but if you're standing up these people as recurring characters you might consider a little creative license to express their personalities.

I Double Dog Dare You. When you provoke Grym to take a perilous course of heroic action, you can roll +Danger instead of +Superior. If you do, on a 7-9 instead of letting Grym choose, you can raise the stakes of the dare: he will do what you wanted, but both you and he will cause collateral damage as a result.

Doesn't have to be more complicated than that. Set the plot hook, optionally shift the stat, introduce a little more flavor with a choice on a 7-9. You probably shouldn't get too complicated with it anyway because your players will have to remember what this guy's deal is when your friendly rivals show up again. Maybe if the 7-9 choice has its own mechanical teeth you spell those out too, but that's as far as you should go with it.

Don't beg like that. Beg like this! When you provoke Flambeaux into action by appealing to her ego, you can roll +Mundane instead of +Superior. If you do, on a 7-9, instead of letting Flambeaux choose, you can beg (sincerely or not): she'll do what you want, but gain influence over you.

If Flambeaux already has influence over you she'll shift your Mundane up and your highest other stat down. If the shift fails (because you reject her influence or for other reasons) take -1 ongoing to provoke Flambeaux until the crisis has passed, the articles have been written, and you're back to being beneath her notice.

But hey, even friendly rivals don't just cameo in each others' fight scenes forever. Maybe things go well and your PCs find themselves wanting to work with their counterparts going forward.

Maybe they actually do make themselves some heroic allies. What do you do then?

Actual Allied Heroes: A Highly Authoritative Series Of Friendly Requests

Allied heroes in this sense, peer heroes the PCs have interacted before and developed enough trust to team up of their own volition, aren't something you force on the PCs. They're something that might or might not happen in the course of play; you should always playing to find out what changes and letting your PCs make the decisions they want and live with the consequences they get.

They don't discard their NPC nature either. They're not just suddenly agreeing with the PCs on everything and ignoring their own interests and past. And, as prominent NPCs in the game that are receiving a decent amount of PC focus, you should always keep them in mind when you're looking to create NPC hooks to pull one or more PCs toward one or more traits.

So you've got conflicting goals here - you want these NPCs to occasionally assert themselves as oppositional or at least destructively tangent to the PCs, but you also want your PCs to get the actual support they hoped for based on the successes they'd previously racked up, and you also also want the PCs to not resent you asserting the NPCs' self-interest in ways you've already established. Dice have worked out pretty well for you so far, haven't they? So here's a skeleton of a custom move you should make visible to your players in its entirety:

When you [plan with an allied NPC with time and safety in a story-appropriate way], lose all hold you have from this move; you cannot make this move while the GM still has hold from it. Then roll +[the label they embody]. On a 10+, hold 3 and the GM holds 1. On a 7-9, hold 2 and the GM holds 1. On a 6-, hold 1 and the GM holds 2. You can spend your hold to [list some ally benefits, at least 3]; take +1 when following up on an ally's assistance. The GM can spend their hold to [list some ally drawbacks, at least 3].

Needless to say, this is where your lists of cool and/or risky things a hero could do get their day in the sunshine. And here's a couple sample ways to put meat on it, both a more standard uneasy alliance:

Mission Report. When you have time and safety to run through a briefing with Twinshot, roll +Superior to talk tactics with the AEGIS junior agent. You get:

  • Twinshot takes aim and lands a precision shot packed with an approved AEGIS payload: flame, cryo, shock, a neutronium tip - big variety over there.
  • Twinshot tells you how an enemy is vulnerable to you, though it may require that you put yourself in danger to produce some field data first.
  • Twinshot pulls up a map from the AEGIS tactical archives, suitable for assessing a situation even if you're not physically present there.

The GM gets:

  • Twinshot reports something you overlooked to AEGIS, surreptitiously, whether that's an element of the scene or a pattern in your own behavior.
  • Twinshot deliberately lets a situation escalate to gather further data.
  • Twinshot reveals an AEGIS objective she must complete that runs up against your current goals.

And someone who bears no ill will but nonetheless has their own complicated situation:

Exchanging Air-Wobbles. When you have time and safety to patiently talk Dillo over the plan and the gaps in your shared vocabulary, roll +Freak to vibe with his alien weirdness. You get:

  • Dillo lashes out with prodigious, desperate strength.
  • Dillo manipulates his suit and form to make any sound you can imagine. He can't reproduce speech well so this is most useful as a distraction or to meddle with sound-operated technology.
  • Dillo gives you a weird space nomad's perspective on a weird thing from space you've found that suggests a particular interesting action.

The GM gets:

  • Dillo's civilian-grade containment suit malfunctions or is breached, leaving him vulnerable.
  • Dillo is still adapting to Earth and the local metahuman potential and celebrates something trivial you did, or trivializes something important you did. Either way you lose influence over someone who was watching.
  • A piece of the Galactic Storm Emperor's technology recognizes Dillo as a galatic fugitive and acts accordingly. You'd be surprised who actually uses repurposed Galactic Storm Emperor technology and how hard it is to get it let go of the really embedded directives.

Hope this helps!


This answer is written assuming that you meant to ask for advice about how to write such moves. If you really were just looking for published examples, Jadasc's answer covers that.

GM and NPC Moves Only Create Problems

GM moves (of which NPC moves are a subset) create problems for the PC team to solve. If the GM solved their own problems, there'd be less for the PCs to do. Yes, Halcyon City has lots of heroes, and yes, those heroes are solving problems, but that's set dressing. If you want to show that, set up and solve the problem in the same breath - don't set up a problem, let the PCs react to it, and then solve to for them.

Make a GM move using the hero

So, what's a GM to do when there's a problem, and an allied hero who should want to solve the problem, and the spotlight is on that allied hero? Cause more problems!

If an NPC hero takes the lead and shouts, "You two, with me. The rest of you help with the search and rescue!" to the party, and takes off after a retreating villain, that's the GM move Separate Them.

NPC heroes are also great leverage for Put Someone in a Spot - maybe they take a rash action and get themselves in trouble, and the PCs have to choose between saving a hero (who can help them later, but who really should have known better than to get themselves in trouble) or helping some civilians who were caught up in the crisis.

Adult heroes can also inflict conditions on the players - maybe they show up when the PCs have just screwed up and shout "Get out of the way!" and clean up the mess, leaving an Insecure PC hero in their wake. This should be done sparingly, though, because it's a hard cut (inflicting a condition without any chance to react) and because it solves a problem - only do it if you've already got material ready to move on to.

If you do write NPC hero moves, write them to cause problems

How is this NPC going to cause problems for the team? Are they a gloryhound who's going to try to steal the spotlight instead of doing what's right? Are they going to take command and start giving orders that go against what the team wants to do? Even a flawless hero can still cause problems for the team with moves like "point out their flaws" or "refuse to work with them."

Never write an NPC co-star

But what if you have an NPC hero who's more helpful than not, and who wants to do their best to work with the team, so moves like refuse to work with them don't make sense? My answer is to get rid of that NPC as soon as possible. Characters like that are the domain of the players, not the GM. The team are the stars of the show, which means that every member of the team needs a whole person behind them in order to do it right.



NPCs in Masks are detailed on pages 153-154 of the main M:ANG rulebook. They don't get moves, even when superhuman, just a Drive or maybe abilities. Instead, you as MC utilize them as vehicles for your Moves, or perhaps the PCs exert Influence on them to execute theirs. In either case, they don't have moves as the Villains do.


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