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Posted by Raine Hutchens on Sep 4, 2012

Become A Hero With The Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game

Growing up I wasn’t exactly a huge comic book nerd. I knew of some superheroes from watching cartoons on TV, but even then my knowledge was limited. As I got older I could recognize the difference between Marvel and DC heroes and the worlds in which they lived. I now play HeroClix, a game that allows me to become the heroes I fell in love with, and still care about today. While HeroClix is a fun game on its own, there’s not much roleplaying to it. I think that when players get the chance to become their favorite superheroes they want to think like them and take on their personas. In short, they want to roleplay as those heroes.

Over the weekend I stumbled on a new tabletop RPG. I’d heard of it before but I hadn’t had the chance to check it out. It’s called Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, and it’s everything you’d want out of a superhero RPG. A local game store in my town was demoing the game, but I wasn’t able to be there as I went out of town. It turns out that the game was also being demoed at the event I went to, so I got to get into it after all. It only took one play through and I became hooked. I returned home and bought the game the very next day.

In Marvel Heroic Roleplaying players take on the role of their favorite superheroes as they fight on through many different scenarios. One person takes the role of The Watcher, which is basically the game’s GM. The Watcher sets up Events (scenarios) for the players and tells them what they’ll encounter. He also plays the role of the villains and anyone else who attempts to stand in their way. The other players choose their hero from a list of datafiles found in the official rulebook, or they can create their very own. The only drawback with creating your own superhero is that they tend to be a bit underpowered. The list of datafiles in the official rulebook isn’t exactly vast, so options are a bit limited. There is, however, a website dedicated to datafiles for superheroes who aren’t in the book. You can find heroes like Ghost Rider, Gambit, and many more. These files are all listed on the site and are completely legal for play.

Once you’ve gotten your hero picked out you’ll instantly get into the action. Events can take place over a single session, week, or even month depending on what The Watcher has set up. These Events play out like comic book issues, movies, or TV series that center around the player heroes. You’ll have different scenes that will put the characters in different situations, forcing them to either fight or find a way to progress forward with the story. The sky’s the limit with this game, and you could literally do anything you set your heroic mind to.

The best thing about MHR is the gameplay. It doesn’t run like other types of tabletop RPGs where you’ve got skills, and need to roll to your hit when in combat. You don’t have stats like normal characters in RPGs either, which is vastly different. The gameplay, characters, and situations in MHR revolve around a dice pool which is how anything gets done – or undone. When a player wants to attack, perform an action, try to get out of a situation, or do something heroic he/she will build a dice pool and roll it to see if what they attempted succeeded or failed. The way this works is simple: each time you make a dice pool you’ll start from the top of your datafile and move down, adding dice to your dice pool for different reasons.

First you’ll see whether you’re by yourself, with a buddy, or in a team. The Watcher will make this clear for you. Whatever type you are you’ll start by adding the die listed for it to your pool. Then you’ll move to Distinctions. Each hero has 3 Distinctions that can either help or hinder them. Let’s take Spiderman for example. He has “Wisecrack” as a Distinction. If the player controlling him decides to take that as a helpful Distinction, he/she must come up with some sort of joke in order to gain the specified die to his/her pool. That’s something unique and really cool about MHR – in order to pull things off you need to roleplay. If you want a Distinction to help or hinder, if you want to take a heroic action, even if you want to go against the storyline of the Event, you will have to convince The Watcher. Roleplay is key, and I really like that.

After your Distinction come your power sets. These sets correspond to the types of powers each hero has. They can be anything from Superhuman Strength to Cynbernetic Senses and much more. Depending on which one you take you’ll get a different die to add to your dice pool. Finally there come specialties. These are abilities that your hero is particularly excelled in, ranging from Combat Expert to Acrobatics Master. These function the same way as power sets as you’ll get another die for your pool depending on which one you take.

Now that you’ve got all of your dice it’s time to make a roll. Whenever you want to attack or perform an action (aside from just moving, talking, and searching) you’ll need to roll for accuracy. Using the dice you put together in your pool you’ll make a roll. You take the two highest numbers and add them together which will become your accuracy roll. Finally you’ll choose another die as your effect die. This die designates the type of success you’ve achieved with your roll.

Most of the time The Watcher will roll against you. If your roll is higher, you succeed. If it’s beaten by The Watcher than you fail, it’s as simple as that. It’s a very simple system and it makes gameplay fast and frantic. After you’ve rolled you designate who takes the next turn, and it will continue to play out.

The rules get a bit more specific when it comes to dealing damage and whatnot. Your hero (and the villains) can only take so much stress on them before they’re knocked out – or worse. Stress comes in the form of Physical, Mental, and Emotional. Remember the effect die I mentioned? That’s the type of stress you and enemies take when in combat. You can only take up to a certain die (D12, D10, etc.) of each type of stress before it’s too late. This is how you will defeat enemies and possibly be defeated yourselves. More of that can be found in the official rulebook for the game.

Honestly I am glad I picked up Marvel Heroic Roleplaying. I love being able to play as Beast and jump off buildings, come up with tactical plans, and basically be a sir. There are tons of characters to choose from, and there are more Events than you could imagine. This game has been well-received since its release earlier this year and there’s already tons of fan-made content out for it. If you’re looking for something new that puts you in the suit of your favorite Marvel superhero, this is definitely a game worth checking out. I definitely plan to get into this and give it a full review sometime in the near future.

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