Slight Change of Plans

Today, I was going to post a link to an honest-to-goodness publication of mine as a means of self-promotion.  A gaming headline changed my intention the moment I read it.  Instead, I point folks to this:  and this resulting thread:  So, yes, Marvel Heroic Roleplaying (MHR) is a defunct license for Margaret Weis Publications (MWP).  It is a sad day for superhero gaming and we are due a moment of silence…

My favorite RPG, due mostly to setting over mechanics, is Jorune (a bit of product information can be found here:, while a good chunk of setting information can be found here:  Its an oddball, older game that sported some of the greatest RPG art (by the phenomenal movie concept artist, Miles Teves) around.  It was an ingenious, inspirational setting that plagues me to this day — and it has been out of print since its last incarnation by Chessex in the early ’90s.  My point with this is that a love of a system or a setting is not contingent on recent publications.

Despite MWP’s business actions, MHR lives on, and will continue to do so, so long as gamers everywhere make use of its fantastic, narratively-driven system.  MWP no longer holding the Marvel license does not mean we, as consumers, gamers, and ravenous fanboys, have to shelve those books and put away our dice.

In honor of the game’s early and untimely demise, I am reposting an early post I made concerning the game’s very unique economy and methods of working with and within it.  It is my very intention to eventually post Events, Characters, and Alternate Rules for Marvel at some future point in time.

MHR is a very unusual RPG in that, by the nature of the system, has a tendency to balance itself. A good portion of the power of the system comes in automatic narrative influence via an economy. In this case, that economy is Plot Points (PP) for players and Doom dice via the Doom Pool for Watchers. One of the means that this economy is acquired by either player or Watcher is the roll of a ‘1’ on any given die during an action. Following simple mathematic principles of probability, the larger a die, the smaller a chance to roll a ‘1’. Therefore, having several D10s (or even a D12 or two) might look really cool in your die pool but is minimizing your chance of getting that desired plot influence. No matter how many D12s you roll, if you still fail your reaction roll and have no PP to spend, you can’t trigger Invulnerability, and those typed words are left to mock you with their inaccessibility. Evil typed words.

Anyway, my point with that is to say that on the surface, what looks like an easy target could become very problematic or a real challenge could wind up with minimal plot influence and ability to show off their cool tricks.

There are, however, a few means of gauging general effectiveness. The more dice that can be put in to a pool, without using small dice (lots of opportunities to roll opportunities there), the greater (in general) your result will tend to be. Thus, while not always (and there have been, and likely will continue to be, many debates concerning this), two power sets offer a bit more versatility and baseline power than one.

Likewise, power sets that cover all bases are, obviously, vastly more effective than those that focus. If none of your villains have any means of mitigating telepathic assaults, then a player running Emma Frost will probably rake them over the coals. Similarly, if none of your heroes have any means of resisting mind control, then someone like Controller or Mentallo could prove far more potent than their datafile might indicate.

Additionally, take a look at SFX. Combinations, like Area Attack and Afflict-type SFX can be incredibly debilitating to an entire table of heroes. That isn’t to say avoid them, just be aware of them and try not to overuse them.

Also, Specialties have a great deal of influence, both in their general use and, more specifically, their creative use via Resources. While less present for villains than for heroes (although that is far from
always being the case), resources tend to be the “Bat-Shark Repelant” that solves a particularly challenging problem.

In the end, a lot of it will work out via play and feel and character selections will surprise in their performance in the hands of folks looking to have fun.

I do have a few recommendations, however.

First, to assist yourself in your scenario design, I would suggest putting some limit on available characters. If you intentionally include zero telepaths, then you don’t need to worry about your villains being a wet paper bag in the mental department, and it lets you focus on the brawl. Conversely, if you are worried that Mr. Fear will have little opposition, make sure your selection of heroes include one or two that stand a good chance of resisting his effects.Second, avoid stepping up villain affiliation dice if you want the fight to move along quickly. Affiliation dice are, really, the only dice a character is absolutely, unequivocally guarenteed to have. Thus, if you have one “boss” villain at 10/8/6, a few lieutenants at 8/6/4 and then a couple of mook/mobs (specialty characters, often at D8 or D6, and whose job it is, ultimately, to soak attacks and build the Doom Pool), you will, most likely, find it to be a perfectly adequate conflict.

Third, I touched on this one briefly above, but it really does warrant a bit of extrapolation: include minions and/or cannon-fodder. Not only are these excellent to allow heroes to showcase their arts of ass-kickery, but they serve to build the Doom Pool. Have them roll Distinctions at D4 whenever possible (and narratively appropriate, of course). Have them grandstand, threaten civillians, and break potted plants all to build that Doom Pool. You want that Doom Pool buffed so you can make use of your villain’s extra cool stuff. Things like Invulnerability cost Doom Pool dice for Watcher characters and nothing is sadder than being out of Doom early in a fight and watching the main bad guy pop like bubblegum. Likewise, don’t keep the Doom Pool high (unless you’re building to that 2D12 Scene Ender) as a powerful Doom Pool in Transition Scenes means it is less likely for the heroes to recover from stress…and really, you want them to be able to go into the next fight refreshed, fresh, and ready to dish out justice on a platter.In the end, though, there really is only one piece of advice that matters when running MHR (or any RPG, for that matter): play to the fun of everyone involved, not to the letters typed in a rulebook. Gauge your success not off the number of rounds in a fight, but the number of smiles around your table.

The Death of Captain America

The Death of Captain America (Photo credit: Wikipedia)