Warning: Geek alert — this is not an intro post; I’m going to talk about role-playing game mechanics and superhero graphic novel story lines without providing context or explanation. As a result, it may be even more incomprehensible than usual for those who aren’t into that sort of thing.
This afternoon Edmund and I tried a little combat example using Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, published from January 2012 through April 2013 by Margaret Weis Productions.
The game was immensely popular among my gamer friends when it was published last year, but I understand that the costs and restrictions of licensing Marvel’s property rights made it impractical to continue with a longer line of licensed supplements. As a result, it’s currently very difficult to find online Game Master (or “Watcher”) resources such as blank character sheets (“hero datafiles”), rules summaries, GM advice for constructing events or balancing the opposition, and so forth.
We pulled out our bags of dice and Edmund used Daredevil’s character sheet from the the sample adventure (or “event”) in the basic rules; for the opposition, I started with the standard 2d6 Doom Pool and I used a mob of 3d8 mooks in Hell’s Kitchen, followed by Typhoid Mary (who else?) as statted in the book. (We were both big fans of the DD era written by Ann Nocenti and illustrated by John Romita Jr.)
I opened with with the mooks and discovered that I had a tendency to roll lots of 1s for Edmund to exploit, which means I used up my little 2d6 pretty early on before he’d even rolled a single Opportunity for me to exploit in return. After them came Typhoid Mary, but her stats are that of a minor villain in the MHRP book, nevermind the multi-episode story arcs to the contrary we’d read. The best I could do was pretty much to spend the encounter rebuilding my 2d6 starting pool — and handing out Plot Points.
After the playtest, I took a closer look at the opposition in the “Breakout” event in the basic rules; it seems to me they all open with pretty stiff opposition, villains whose stats are the equivalent of the typical hero’s. I wanted to ease my way into encounters by building up the Doom pool with low-level encounters first, but it seems to be completely backwards; the GM needs to tenderize the PCs with a big attack before easing up on them for plot development, or even to consistently use opponents that, either singly, as a team, or as a mob, have about the same stopping power at the heroes.
On the positive side, the dice-pool building approach did allow simulation of typical comic book action. Then again, as this was a first try, there was a lot of flipping back and forth through the book to figure out the variants possible for Plot Points, Doom dice, Opportunities, stress, complications, events, and trauma.
I expect that MWP will probably release a generic version of the system and, hopefully, a GM guide or some supplements that can be used with MHRP or with the metahuman setting of your choice. But until then, does anyone have some advice or resources to suggest?