Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game

Goal Setting 2013: Games I’ll Run

Hey everyone, since it’s the new year, the latest trend is not to come up with a list of resolutions, but to approach the year with a list of goals. So in the spirit of the new year, I figure I might as well put up a list of my own goals as well as far as running games is concerned:

Legend of the Five Rings – Inflated with the triumph of “Never a Dull Blade”, I’m hoping that my upcoming campaign, “Hearts and Souls” will be met with similar success.

Mummy: the Curse – It’s shiny and new and I’ve pledged for it in Kickstarter. Mummy promises to shake up how things are done for nWoD and I’m hoping that the book inspires me to run an interesting campaign that my players will like.

Exalted, 3rd Edition – Time to put my money where my mouth is… again. I’ve tried running 2e Exalted, only to quickly switch to the Qwixalted Hack because my brain died from the complexity. I’m still remarkably optimistic about this and I’m hoping that I’ll be able to make it work.

Something from Cubicle 7 – Qin: the Warring States, Kuro or Yggdrasill are all fine games and I’m curious about how they run. It’s a great time to actually break out of the usual stable of games I run and try stuff from other companies.

A Supers Game – Surprise, surprise! (Okay, not really.) Every year I keep hoping that I’ll be able to run a Supers game, but somehow it never really materializes. Whether it’ll be HERO, M&M, MHR or some other supers ruleset, I’ll make something happen this year.

[Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game] First Impressions

Last weekend was another playtest week for our gaming group, and this time it was for the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game! For the playtest, our GM was Sheimaruen, one our long time Exalted GMs who was up to experimenting with a new system for once, and wanted to try running a game based on the “A Certain Scientific Railgun” anime. To that end, Hikkikomori and I volunteered to be the players for this game, with Hikkikomori playing a biokinetic high school student named Kageyama (if I recall correctly) and myself playing Johnny Gato, the character I posted here on the blog a few days back.

I won’t go into the details of the plot, as I believe Sheimaruen is working on a recap of his own, but I’ll give my impressions of the game so far according to our first attempt to play it:

  • It’s Dicey and Fiddly – It took us a bit of time to get used to the dice pool assembly, even if we had most of it on hand in our character sheets. There’s a lot to remember so I was happy that we printed out the Player and Watcher sheets for reference. It was slow going at first, but I think it’s a matter of adapting to a new system. Over time, I expect the time to resolve actions to decrease as the participants get past the learning curve.
  • A New Paradigm – One of the more overlooked rules in the Operations Manual is that most of the time rolls occur whenever there are stakes to be considered. Shifting from the purely Pass/Fail paradigm of more traditional systems to the Asset/Complication/Stress condition setting of Marvel is a subtle, but significant shift that needs time to get used to.
  • Narrative! – Many of the older readers here know that my taste in games is more traditional, with L5R, Fantasy Craft, HERO and World of Darkness featuring prominently, so getting used to a looser system where players have a hand in the narrative is something that Hikkikomori and I had to get used to. I think old hands in Fate or other similar systems will find this game to be a lot easier to transition to.

That said I enjoyed my first foray into Marvel, and I can see trying to use the system for other Supers games. I’m still not sure if this will be a perfect fit for the Street Level campaign, but it might be worth a shot once we’ve figured out a way to better handle running it with regards to Transition Scenes.

[Marvel Heroic Roleplaying] Play This Character: Johnny Gato, Hotblooded Bancho


Johnny Gato, Hot-blooded Bancho
Solo D10, Buddy D8, Team D6

Distinctions
– Ex-Delinquent
– That all you got?!
– Hot-Blooded Hero

Power Set:

Newton’s Third
Enhanced Durability D8
Powered Strike D8
Leaping D8

SFX: Absorption – On a successful reaction against a Physical attack action, convert your opponent’s effect die into a Power Set stunt or step up a Power Set power by +1 for your next action. Spend 1 PP to use this stunt if your opponent’s action succeeds.

SFX: Multipower – Use two or more Newton’s Third powers in a single dice pool at a -1 step for each additional power.

Limits: Conscious Activation – If stressed out, asleep or unconsious, shut down Newton’s Third. Recover Newton’s Third when stress is recovered or you awake. If Emotional Trauma is taken, shutdown Newton’s Third until trauma is recovered

Limit: Must Follow Absorption – Newton’s Third cannot be activated without a successful Absorption test.

Specialties
Combat Expert
Menace Expert

Milestones
Settle the Score
1 xP when you declare a villain as an old foe
3 xp when you inflict trauma on your chosen foe
10 xp when you forgive your chosen foe, or they beg your forgiveness and you let them go

Guilt-Ridden
1 XP the first time an ally takes stress from a Watcher character in a Scene that you are in
3 XP when your recovery of your emotional stress involves your admittsion of your own guilt.
10 XP when you either quit a team in order to save them or your team is defeated by a foe you have brought to them.

Here’s an interesting twist to Marvel Heroic Roleplaying. One of my group’s other GMs, Sheimaruen, volunteered to run a game of Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, with the caveat that he’ll be using it to run a one shot set in the world of A Certain Scientific Railgun, where high-school kids with psychic powers all live in a city built specifically for the purpose of the study of their powers. Among these kids are “Judgement” otherwise known as the public morals committee, who are responsible for hauling in all sorts of powered delinquents as to stop them from causing all sorts of mayhem.

Johnny Gato is a former delinquent who joined up with Judgement after his misadventures as a thug got his best friend killed. Rather than continue with his activities he submitted himself to justice and eventually ended up being recruited to join the other side. This hasn’t endeared him in the least to his former colleagues who view him with disdain. Coupled with the mistrust of most of the legitimate students, Johnny Gato is pretty much an outcast no matter where he goes.

Johnny powers are that of Kinetic Absorption and Expulsion. He can take the force of an impact and take it into himself, ejecting it via a punch, kick, headbutt or any other physical strike. The problem with this is that he can’t expel energy that he doesn’t have, making it necessary for him to take the first hit, as it were. He’s no stranger to getting hurt, and often uses his Absorption power upon daring someone to take their best shot at him with no effect in order to intimidate them into quitting without a fight. If that fails then at least he punch back with greater force channeling the absorbed energy back to the offending individual.

Johnny has many hangups and regrets, given his former life of delinquency, but he does feel a very strong sense of loyalty to his friends. It’s this sense of loyalty that puts him in over his head when facing something that he can’t reasonably handle alone.

[Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game] Sample Datafile: Nightwing from DC Comics

I told you guys this would be addictive. Alright, I’ve been fiddling with the MHRPG a little more today and I decided I wanted to try making another character. I’ll readily confess that I’m actually more of a DC guy than a Marvel guy, so the first character that came to my head was Dick Grayson, aka Nightwing, and the first Robin to Bruce Wayne’s Batman.

Nightwing

Affiliations

Solo D6
Buddy D8
Team D10

Distinctions

The Flying Graysons
Trained by the Dark Knight
Everyone knows Nightwing

Power Sets

AGILE COMBATANT
Enhanced Reflexes D8
Speed D6
Leaping D6

SFX: Second Chance – Spend 1 PP to reroll when using any AGILE COMBATANT power
SFX: Focus – If a pool includes an AGILE COMBATANT power, you may replace two dice of equal size with one die +1 step larger.

Limit: Exhaustion – Shutdown any AGILE COMBATANT power to gain 1PP. Recover power by activating an opportunity or during a Transition Scene.

SIGNATURE WEAPONS
Escrima Sticks D6
Swingline D8

Limit: Gear – Shutdown SIGNATURE WEAPONS and gain 1PP. Take an action vs. doom pool to recover

Specialties

Acrobatic Master
Combat Master
Covert Expert
Crime Expert
Menace Expert
Psych Master
Vehicle Master

Milestones

Dangerous love
1 XP when you choose to flirt with a non-heroic Watcher character.
3 XP when your heroic activities put your chosen character in danger, or your commitment to your chosen character puts your team in danger
10 XP when your involvement with your chosen character changes them irreversibly, or you break off your relationship in order to protect your chosen character.

Coming into his own
1 XP when you stand up to another hero
3 XP when you prove one of your decisions was best for your team
10 XP when you either accept leadership in a group or abandon your existing team

After putting together two characters now, I’m thinking that the hardest part of the character generation system is actually generating Milestones. These are key moments in a character’s story, and a player has to really think about what he wants to happen to his character and translate it the Milestone structure. I’m still trying to get the hang of it honestly, but I am happy that it does reinforce the need to think about concept and what you want to happen to your character in play.

[Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game] Sample Datafile: Vogue

Having had a chance to check out the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game yesterday, I figured that I might as well give the character creation system a spin. For this attempt, I’m translating an experienced character from my old HERO game, Vogue. Vogue started off as a simple enough concept, a teen supermodel who also had nanite-powered Prehensile Hair. This power gave her the ability to extend her hair to great lengths and use them as if they were extra limbs. She was patterned after characters like Milia Rage from Guility Gear and Marvel Comics’ own Medusa.

Personality-wise, she was also closer to Selena Kyle, aka Catwoman, with a gray sense of morality, that made it unclear if she was the type to actually be a hero or a villain at times. She’s shown a preference for dangerous people and has had a few romances with villains in the past.

With that out of the way, let’s take a look at her Datafile:

Vogue

Affiliations:

Solo d6
Buddy d8
Team d10

Distinctions:

  • Drop dead gorgeous
  • Hero or Villain?
  • All’s fair in love and war


Power Sets:

Prehensile Hair

Enhanced Strength d8
Superhuman Durability d10
Stretching d8
Hair Blades d8
Swingline d8
Tremor Sense d6

SFX: Hair Net – Add a D6 and step up your effect die by +1 when inflicting Entangled complication on a target.
SFX: Hair Spray – Add a D6 and keep an additional effect die for each additional target.
SFX: Multi-tasking – Use two or more Prehensile Hair powers in a single dice pool at -1 step for each additional power.

Limit: Conscious Activation – If stressed out, asleep or unconscious, shutdown Prehensile Hair. Recover when stress is recovered or if you awake. If Emotional Trauma is taken, shutdown Prehensile Hair until trauma is recovered.

Limit: Exhausted – Shutdown any Prehensile Hair power to gain 1 PP. Recover power by activating an opportunity or during a Transition Scene.

Specialties:

Acrobatic Master
Combat Expert
Covert Expert
Psych Expert

Milestones:

Bad Romance
1 XP when you flirt with a Villain for the purpose of actually finding love
3 XP when you pursue said villain beyond your initial advances
10 XP when you convert Villain to becoming a hero or if the Villain uses your affections to betray you.

Overall, certainly not bad. The system isn’t as detail oriented as Mutants & Masterminds or the HERO system, but it managed to hit all the necessary bases to form a character. Vogue here is at the power level that she was towards the end of the campiagn. I’m certain that if I was starting off with her original stats in HERO, I’d have a much smaller power set, and Milestones dedicated to making her debut in the superhero scene.

That was definitely an amusing exercise, and it didn’t take very long to build. I could get addicted to doing this.

[Review] Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game by Margaret Weis Productions

The Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game is the latest rpg to bear the license of the much-loved and world-famous Marvel Comics brand. It’s a lot of pressure on Margaret Weis Productions to come out with something extra awesome that can stand the test of time and fan scrutiny, but after having had a chance to read over the book a bit and spend some time studying its contents, I can say that this one is definitely a winner.

The Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game is the latest rpg to be powered by the Cortex Plus system, a semi-rules-medium system that MWP has had much success adapting to various games. From Smallville to Leverage, MWP’s team of designers know how to take a simple dice rolling mechanic and spin off all sorts of interesting ways to use it to deliver a specific feel appropriate to the source material. They’re veterans at coming up with neat mechanics that simulate their source material, so there’s little doubt that their design team has what it takes to adapt comic books to tabletop rpg form.

The book itself is a visual delight. The full color pdf I’m reviewing loads quickly and features bookmarks (always a plus!). The layout is simple, consistent, and clear, with the use of both sidebars, callout boxes and even little notes on the margins to tell you where to look up a certain rule that’s being referenced in the text. The art is taken from the comics, and as far as I can see there aren’t any unflattering renditions of any of the characters.

The system for the game however, is something that will take a bit of getting used to if you’re not already familiar with the Cortex system. To put it simply, when making a roll, a player assembles a dice pool, sets aside any 1’s rolled, and picks two dice to serve as his total, and one other die as the effect. There’s quite a number of polyhedral dice involved, and I can easily see the need for around two to three sets of dice for a game to run smoothly. Task resolution has a myriad of little permutations that can change the number of dice in your pool, how many dice you count for your total or the size of your effect die. Overall, it takes a bit of time to get used to, but I suspect that after a few minutes of sample dice rolling through a melee or two will help out with the learning curve.

Character Datafiles (or character sheets) are essentially composed of dice codes linked to traits or descriptors. These are grouped into several categories:

  • Affiliations – which detail if the character works best alone (Solo) with one other character (Buddy) or in a group (Team)
  • Distinctions – three short phrases that say something about the character, like “Friendly Neighborhood Hero”
  • Power Sets – self-explanatory, but detail a character’s available powers, and possible related limits
  • Specialties – which represent skills and other know-how)
  • and finally Milestones – which are personal goals that bestow an experience bonus upon achieving them

While there’s a whole bunch of hero datafiles in the game, I’m glad that there are guidelines to making your own character as well.  What I did find interesting, however, was the fact that the guidelines weren’t restrictive. If anything it was surprisingly permissive, which leads me to conclude that the game works best with groups who are very open to the spirit of cooperation and collaboration. Nothing in the rules stops you from getting d12 ratings on everything, but the game does sort of rely on the group to police each other.

This sort of collaborative mood shows up in other places too. Even initiative order, which is traditionally handled as a roll-off in many, many games, is treated her by agreement, or at the GM’s fiat. If it makes sense that Spider-Man acts faster than Captain America, then it does. No mess, no fuss. I get a great feeling about how the game encourages the idea that people are playing this game to have fun, and that the dice rolling and such are meant to support that.

Being a superhero game, The Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game also features a fairly diverse set of powers. These aren’t exactly treated with the same attention to minutiae as the HERO system, but they’re meant to support what can or can’t be done in the context of a comic book. Rough guidelines are provided for each tier of power level for each of the powers, and there are also a few other notes encouraging players to feel free to swap out or reskin powers, as well as some more advice on making their own powers.

The book also contains a starter adventure or Event in the form of and adaptation of the “Breakout” storyline of the New Avengers written by Brian Michael Bendis, accompanied by a substantial set of villain datafiles and hero datafiles.

All in all, The Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game feels like good, clean fun… as long as all of the participants in the game are willing to comply with a shared concept of what is acceptable or not in the context of the game. A lot of things, from the initiative to the character creation, is a cooperative effort, and I can’t help but feel that it takes a certain kind of maturity to really get the most of this game.

The system itself is easy enough to learn given time, but executing the game requires that players know when to lose gracefully, or roll with the punches when their character ends up stressed out or developing a trauma. Comic book fans might not really mind, to be honest, but I fear for those who tend to prefer mechanical supremacy.

That said, this is the first superhero rpg I’ve read in a while that has me interested in getting a few friends together and running something right now. It has all the things I look for in a system: transparency, speed, and flexibility, and with any luck, I can get a game up and running without much trouble and without needing any special software for it.

The Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game is now available via DriveThruRPG for only $12.99 or roughly Php 559!

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