M-Force Specialties for Cinemechanix

Category: Cussin' In Tongues
Created on Friday, 15 December 2017 Written by Steve

The first edition had something called a “Specialty Skill,” which was basically just a free skill in something related to monster hunting. Since it was just an extra skill point, it didn’t feel particularly special. When I was still working on Second Edition as a QAGS game, I tried to make it seem like more than just a freebie skill point, but it was basically still just an expanded version of a skill. Somewhere along the way I realized that QAGS 2E didn’t really work for the M-Force game we’ve always dreamed of releasing and started working on a 3rd Edition, which eventually became Cinemechanix. I included specialties in the Elevator Pitch I wrote for the first version of the Cinemechanix Rules, but it still just felt like a fancy skill. 

[Side Note: If you’re one of the five people who have been patiently waiting for a new edition of M-Force since I first mentioned the idea a decade or more ago, I just want to once again assure you that M-Force 2E will happen. After all, I wrote a whole new game system just so we could release the M-Force we’ve always wanted. Also, a huge chunk of the new edition has been written for several years now; we just need to convert the QAGS rules to Cinemechanix and finish a few sections.]

One problem with Specializations is that it needs to fit two different types of abilities. The first, and most common, are the core M-Force skills (things like combat, monster lore, and basic investigation) that the character is really good at. These work reasonably well as extra skill points, since everyone learns them in basic training. The tricky ones are things like “medic” and “combat pilot” that cover abilities outside of the core M-Forcer skill set, in part because from an in-world perspective, it doesn’t really make much sense for M-Force to offer advanced training for specialties like “combat pilot” or “medic” because it would be cost prohibitive. These kinds of specializations would therefore only be available to characters who already have some training (because they’re pilots or first responders when they’re not fighting monsters, for example), in which case they kind of already have the specialty by virtue of their day job. 

That brings us to another recurring delima with M-Force: What do we do about characters with day jobs that includes skills that are particularly relevant for fighting monsters? In QAGS, the problem is deciding which Job Number to use. In Cinemechanix, the mechanical benefit for job skills is the Concept Bump, so the player doesn’t get any mechanical boost for the overlap; An M-Forcer who’s a police sniper gets the same bonus for shooting rolls as one who’s a librarian. Giving an across-the-board bonus for overlapping skills (like a Boost for skills that are relevant to both M-Force training and the character’s Day Job) doesn’t work because it incentivizes players to choose “adventurer” type jobs with lots of overlap, and these types of jobs are actively and explicitly discouraged in the M-Force rules. M-Force is supposed to be about regular people doing heroic things, not action heroes fighting monsters.You could probably argue that there shouldn’t be an overlap bonus because training only goes so far and characters get most of their practical experience (especially as it relates to M-Force field work) from M-Force--the cop spends more time at the shooting range, but the librarian has been in just as many real firefights), but that breaks down for some skill sets (a bouncer gets into a lot more real fistfights than a typical M-Forcer, especially if he works in a rough bar). Also, some players are going to want to get some benefit for choosing a Day Job that dovetails nicely into monster hunting. So maybe the solution here is to give players the option of getting a mechanical perk for overlap, but make it an active choice that comes at a cost. 

The Cinemechanix system has undergone a lot of changes since the first Elevator Pitch, and not just mechanically. The newest version of the system has a much more coherent goal and a greatly expanded set of tools for adapting the core rules to the game you want to play. As a result, I think I’ve finally figured out how to make M-Force Specialties actually work and eliminate some of the issues with overlap between M-Force training and the character’s day job.

Oddly enough (given what I said about “super-skills” earlier), fixing Specialties starts with tying them explicitly to Trademarks. The main difference is that where earlier versions of Specialties basically gave the character a bigger bonus, the new version gives them a Special Effect, which should be something the character couldn’t duplicate by simply buying Trademarks. This should make Specialties feel more special mechanically. 

Characters obtain Specialties by putting Boosts into Trademarks that are relevant to the Specialty. For example, a character becomes a Vehicle Specialist by putting Boosts into skills like “Combat Driving” and “Mechanic.” The number of Boosts the character has in relevant Trademarks determines whether the character is a Specialist, Expert, or Master, with each additional level of specialty giving the character more perks. Characters with relevant Day Jobs require fewer Boosts to obtain Specialize. This gives them a slight edge for skill overlap, but not an automatic one. The player still has to choose to spend his Boosts on appropriate Trademarks (just not as many as an “untrained” character). The pizza guy who’s gone through M-Force’s emergency driving course (or done actual combat driving during field missions) and become a Vehicle Specialist by Boosting appropriate Trademarks gets perks that the M-Forcer with a Day Job of “pizza guy” doesn’t, even though both get a Concept Bump for the Day Job. 


Specialties are areas of expertise in which the character is especially competent or has specialized training. They can represent useful abilities developed outside of M-Force, field experience, specialized training, or natural talent. Specialties have 3 proficiency levels: Specialist, Expert, and Master (though some Specialties use alternate titles), and each level gives the character special abilities, bonuses, or perks in addition to the standard Boosts the player puts into the Trademark.

For every two Boosts the character has in relevant Trademarks, he gets one rank of Specialization, so it takes 2 Boosts to become a Specialist, 4 to become an Expert, and 6 to become a Master. If the character has a relevant Day Job, the number of Boosts required is reduced by 1: 1 Boost for Specialist rank, 3 for Expert, and 5 for Master. The character gets the benefits of Specialization, Expertise, or Mastery as soon as he obtains the appropriate number of Boosts in relevant Trademarks. If the number of relevant Trademarks drops below the minimum required (for example, if the player lowers a relevant Trademark when leveling up without increasing a different relevant Trademark), the player’s rank in the Specialty drops appropriately and he loses the special benefits because he’s out of practice. Characters with Specialties bases on their Day Job may also fall in rank by losing their “freebie” Trademark if their Day Job changes significantly (for example, if the pizza delivery guy gets promoted to store manager he loses some of his driving mojo). 

Here are a couple of sample Specializations to give you an idea of how they work (there will be at least a few more in the revised Elevator Pitch for M-Force and a lot more in M-Force 2E). The format for the entries is: 

Specialty Name


Prerequisites: Some Specialties require the character to meet certain game-world requirements (in addition to completing M-Force’s training program; Others require specific kinds of Trademarks to advance to higher ranks. These are noted here.  

Relevant Trademarks: A list of common Trademarks that count toward specialization. This is not a complete list and the GM should decide whether not on the list are considered relevant.

Relevant Day Jobs: A list of Day Jobs that allow the character to specialize with a lower number of Boosts. As with Trademarks, the GM decides what other Day Jobs are relevant. 

Specialization: The benefits of being a Specialist. 

Expertise: The perks of being an Expert. 

Mastery: The benefits of achieving Mastery. 

Additional Notes: Anything else we need to mention. 

Close Combat 

While M-Force training focuses on taking monsters down from a distance, there are are times when agents have to get up-close and personal to get the job done. While all M-Forcers are trained in basic self-defense and close combat tactics, a character with this Specialty is familiar with a wide range of melee weapons and fighting styles. 

Prerequisites: None.  

Relevant Trademarks: Any melee weapon or unarmed fighting style 

Relevant Day Jobs: Bodyguard, Bouncer, Boxer, Cop, Fencing Instructor, Kickboxer, Martial Arts Instructor, MMA Fighter, Monk, Prison Guard, Professional Wrestler, Soldier, Stunt Person 


  • The character gets a Damage Bonus equal to his Hero Factor on attacks with his weapon of choice. The weapon of choice must be a specific type of weapon (baseball bat, hatchet, machete, tire iron, etc) or unarmed attack (bite, body slam, kick, punch, etc). 


  • The Expert gets a Damage Bonus equal to his Hero Factor for all weapons in the same general category as his weapon of choice (clubs, swords, knives, unarmed attacks). This bonus is not cumulative with the bonus for Specialization (so the Hero Factor 5 character whose weapon of choice is a chainsaw still only gets a +5 Damage Bonus with a chainsaw, but now also gets the bonus when he attacks with and electric hedge trimmer or a circular saw). 
  • The character adds his Hero Factor to all Defense rolls against melee attacks. 


  • The character’s Damage Bonus applies to all melee attacks (again, this is non-cumulative with the bonus from lower specialty ranks). 
  • The character causes damage equal to his Effect (rather than half Effect) when he counterattacks. 
  • The character can defend against a number of attackers per round equal to twice his Hero Factor before he begins to suffer drops. 
  • The character gets an addition free Recover Round per combat scene (so he doesn’t have to start spending Acclaim until he takes his third Recover Round) 

Notes: Never piss off a Close Combat Master. 


A character with this Specialization knows how to handle a vehicle under stressful and dangerous conditions. He also knows how to fix common mechanical problems, keep cars in good running order, and quickly analyze the pros and cons of ramming the car he's driving into the 40-foot tall badger that's attacking Cleveland. 

Prerequisites: A valid driver’s license and some experience and interest in working on cars. This usually means a mechanical Trademark or Day Job, but can also come from Backstory or other character information with GM approval. For example, maybe the character learned to work on cars from driving beaters that he couldn’t afford to pay a real mechanic to fix.  

Relevant Trademarks: 30 Minutes or Less, Combat Driving, Demolition Derby, Gearhead, Good With Tools, Hot Pursuit, Knows A Shortcut, Shade Tree Mechanic, Traffic Karma, Zen Navigation 

Relevant Day Jobs: Ambulance Driver, Automotive Engineer, Cab Driver, Cop, Heavy Equipment Operator, Mechanic, Trucker, NASCAR Driver, Pizza Dude, Stunt Driver


  • The character gets to add his Hero Factor to all car-related rolls. 


  • The Vehicle Expert gets a Concept Bump when driving any wheeled vehicle, even if he doesn’t have an appropriate Concept Trait. 
  • The character chooses a single vehicle (either his personal car or one from the motor pool at his M-Force office) to focus his attention on. This vehicle becomes a 1 Boost Hero Prop after the next Season Break (or at the beginning of the game, if the character begins the game as a Vehicle Expert). Thereafter, the character can give the vehicle a free modification every time he levels up. This can be a Trademark Boost that gives a bonus to certain types of rolls (like Handling or Speed), a Special Effect (like armor plating or a nitrous), or a Plot Device (like vehicle-mounted weapons or a waterbed). The character may also modify vehicles during the season, but doing so requires some work on the player’s part: talking the AIC into paying for the modification, locating parts and characters with appropriate expertise, and rolling for work during downtime, for example. 
  • If the character’s favored vehicle gets destroyed or badly damaged, he can either rebuild it or establish a new vehicle of choice during the next Season Break. Then new or rebuilt vehicle gets the same Hero Prop value and number of modification as the old vehicle, but the modification do not have to be the same ones. Rebuilding or replacing a vehicle during the season requires time, money, and die rolls, just like modifications. 


  • The character gets a Concept Bump when operating any land-based vehicle, even if he doesn’t have an appropriate Concept Trait. 
  • The character can maintain a number of Vehicles equal to his Hero Factor. All vehicles in the character’s care are considered 1 Boost Hero Props when the next Season begins (or at the beginning of the game if the character somehow starts the game with Mastery). 
  • When the character levels up, he gets a number of free modifications equal to his new Hero Factor. These modifications must be made to vehicles under the character’s care, but the player gets to distribute the modifications as he sees fit (so he can add one modification to each vehicle or heavily modify a single vehicle). This ability replaces the free modification for the character’s original vehicle of choice. 
  • The character may also increase the Hero Prop value of a single vehicle by one each time he levels up. 
  • The character’s ability to rebuild or replace a destroyed or badly damaged vehicle during the next Season Break applies to any vehicle under the character’s care, but he can only rebuild/replace one vehicle per Season Break. 

Other Possible M-Force Specialties: Armorer, Cryptobiologist, Field Operations, M-Force Administration, Maritime Operations, Marksman, Medic, Monster Expert, Occult Expert, Researcher, Scene Investigator   


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M-Force Specialties for Cinemechanix.
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