Monday, March 19, 2012

One More For The Road: Marvel Heroic Roleplaying

One more blog post, and then it's time for some sleep and a return to the World of Work.

I was agonizing a bit over if I should even post about this, since I wasn't planning on purchasing the product, but it occurred to me, if I was turned off by the resources at hand, that's probably a valid thing to post about as well as if I just had to buy the game.

What am I talking about?  The Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game  from Margaret Weis Productions.

While I'm a huge DC Comics fan, it's hard not to have a soft spot for characters from both companies, spending as much time as I have buried in comic books over the years.  Spider-Man is nearly as dear to my heart as Batman, and I had a subscription to the Avengers and the West Coast Avengers for years.

As much as I enjoy Mutants and Masterminds, I wanted to like this thing too.  Liking one game doesn't mean you can't find room for something else in that same genre, right?

The more I read about this game, however, and the more I researched it, the less I wanted the game.  A lot of the suspicions I had about the game were essentially realized when I listed to the Vigilance Press podcast of actual play for the game.

I'm not expecting anyone else to have the same gaming tastes that I do.  Obviously Smallville and Leverage have their fans, so a Marvel game with similar sensibilities will probably find it's fans as well.  But it's not for me.


1.  While you can create your own characters, the game really does lean on playing existing Marvel comics characters.  So much so that part of the advancement scheme for the game has to do with how well you play the character the "right" way.

2.  Much of the support of the game is going to be to provide "adventures" based on following Marvel mega events.  So if you are someone that has hated most mega events and just wants to come up with their own things?  I guess you can, but the point is, the game is, again, geared towards running existing characters through existing events.

Marvel seems to be pretty certain that everyone that plays a Marvel RPG wants to play an existing character and wants to play through their mega events.

3.  Too much player side control of when to do what.  Yeah, I know, I'm a mean jerk of a GM, but it just seems pointless to have all of these die pool excuses, and then to tell the GM that he shouldn't tell the players that they are wrong when they say that their excuse for adding a die pool is wrong.

In theory, it seems like it's suppose to support story telling, but at the same time, as one reviewer said, it kind of boils down to having a die pool called "I'm awesome," and then saying "I'm being awesome right now, so I'm adding this in."

4.  The whole thing is so meta that it's hard for me not to see the moving parts underneath the skin.  You are working against the Plot.  At different times, the Plot is named Carnage or Galactus or a Nuclear Bomb, but the Plot is the thing you keep rolling your die pools against until the GM says "enough, the Plot is done!"

5.  For a game that is very "meta" about presenting a story and having the players tell their story and give their reasons for adding in this or that, there still seems to be a lot of fiddly rules about where this die shows up or where it goes and how many die this takes from where.

I guess I wish this were either all in or not.  Either you are an abstract storytelling game with a few rules to reinforce comic book tropes, or you are a game that has concrete stats and times and places that you can use those stats.

Having abstract conceptual storytelling based stats that still have to do with shifting dice here and there seems to be the worst of both words.  It's not a true storytelling game or a true stat based game. It's a game about justifying throwing die pools together and then applying other rules that shift die in other directions until you finally find out how many you are suppose to roll.

As I said above, I'm sure there are fans.  Not everyone will wrap their brain around this game the way I do. But for me, between all of the interviews, reviews, and actual play that I have taken in, I'm going to have to add in my "Cynical Gamer that Has been Burned" die pool to my "I Only Have So Many Gaming Dollars To Spend" pool to resist the "Shiny New Game" attack that has been enhanced with "Emotional Attachment to IP" pool, and I think I rolled enough of a success to pass on this one.


  1. I really think its a nice system. Kind of a roll and keep system. But as you said its so meta and abstract I don't like it as a supers game.

    In a game where every one is human and only relationship is important or action it would be great. As a supers game I just don't care for it.

  2. I guess they were trying to go for a less crunchy system than Mutants and Masterminds here, but it feels kind of.. meh. Honestly, I've heard good things about Icons, though, so that might be a better alternative.

  3. I would recommend you play the game if you get the chance. It's really wonderful, and you may end up liking it. That, or confirm that it's not for you.

  4. I'll be honest, I'd me more than willing to play if someone wanted to run a demo of the system. I'm just not keen on spending the cash myself when the system hasn't seized me at this point.

    So yeah, any local gamers that can wiggle a demo time at the Gopher, I'm in! ;)