Here it is! The big review of the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Basic Game. I was kindly sent a review copy from Margret Weis Productions, and wanted to share my thoughts here. Face front, true believers!
The Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game is unlike anything you’ve seen before, while at the same time, familiar. It shares a similar ruleset to Leverage and Smallville, and to a lesser extent, Serenity and Battlestar Galactica, but is interpreted in a whole new way, to create a more dramatic and combat-focused game.
Whereas Smallville spent more time dealing with relationships, Marvel Heroic Roleplaying focuses more in interaction between characters, as well as combat. It isn’t a combat-centric game, but, being about superheroes, the rules definitely give you the ability to hit things.
The Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game uses a dice pool mechanic. Using various options on your character sheet (Affiliations, Distinctions, Power Sets), you add dice to your pool, roll the dice, and choose your best two. All rolls are opposed rolls.
You are then able to choose one other die that’s left over to use as your effect, basically determining how powerful your roll was, if successful.
If you roll any 1s, those dice are given to the Watcher (Game Master), which are added to his Doom Pool. The Doom Pool can be used for all kinds of bad things, and work similarly to Plot Points.
Plot Points are given to players in certain circumstances, including a player purposefully giving themselves a bad roll. They can use these Plot Points later to get more dice in their roll, as well as activate more powerful abilities.
An interesting thing a player gets to add to their pool is their Affiliation. Each hero works well as either a Solo character, a Buddy character, or a Team. If you have a d10 in Solo, you will have a d10 to roll in your pool, whereas if you only have a d6 in it, that’s what you’ll roll. This means you’ll have to use some tactics to make sure you’re paired-up (or not) to what works best for you. In addition, the Watcher can use their Doom Pool to either separate or push heroes together in order to disadvantage the players.
Distinctions are a key word or phrase that can be used to advantage or disadvantage a player. For example, Captain America’s Man Out of Time could be used to allow him to remember something that happened in the 40’s, but used to disadvantage him when covering something that happened while he was on ice. If it’s used as a disadvantage, the player is given a Plot Point. Pretty nifty.
Characters also have specialties, which are similar to Skills in other games, and an either be Expert or Master level. Basically, if you are in a situation where one of your specialties apply, you can use that die.
Milestones are a mechanic that is similar to Lady Blackbird, where you have certain key roleplaying moments that give you XP for performing the actions on the milestones.
One interesting thing about the way a character’s turn works is that a character is able to perform any action that could be performed in a single frame of a comic. In addition, whoever’s turn it is decides who next gets to act, meaning that there is no set turn order from round to round.
Character creation is fairly robust, but has no real hard or fast rules. It’s more of a “do what works best, and ask your Watcher if this is okay.” I like the idea behind it, and look forward to making characters of my own.
There’s a mini-event in the Basic Game, similar to the Event books that will be coming in the future (Civil War, Annihilation, Age of Apocalypse). The event is basically issues 1-6 of the New Avengers. It deals with the breakout of the supervillains from the Raft prison in New York. The storyline is pretty straightforward, but features a lot of villains that will lead to interesting conflict between them and the heroes. For example, the Purple Man is one of the prisoners, and if one of the players is playing Luke Cage and knows the backstory between the two, you can have a really fascinating scene.
There’s a wide variety of villains, but most are fairly minor bad guys. This gives you the opportunity to introduce bigger villains that you’ve made the stats for yourself later on.
Halfway through the event, the heroes can make their way to the Savage Land, which leads to some fantastic “superhero vs. dinosaur” action.
It’s a great event to introduce players to the system and the world (if they’re unfamiliar with it).
There are a great variety of heroes in the book, including all of the major players in the universe, such as Captain America, Spider-Man, Iron Man and more. There’s quite a few women to play, which was encouraging to see, such as Invisible Woman, Emma Frost, Shadowcat and a few more. Each datafile really captures the feel of the heroes.
This is a great, fantastic game system, one which is robust, easy to use, and will, I think, stand the test of time. Go check it out now.