I love comics, super heroes, and role-playing games. Since you are reading this here on Ideology of Madness, I am going to assume that you love these things as well. Allow me to offer you a virtual fist bump. I’ld throw in the shoulder bump but I don’t know you that well. We’ll get there though, I know it. Where was I? I was talking about comics, super heroes, and role-playing games. Marvel Heroic Roleplaying was just recently released in PDF and should hit shelves at your local game store soon. It takes these three things that I enjoy and puts them into one neat package.
Here on Ideology of Madness, Funnybooks is doing a multipart review of the game itself. You can find the guys initial thoughts here. They will be giving you a much more in-depth look at the system, and I don’t want to tread on ground that will be covered soon. What I want to do is point out three things that elevate this game above the standard super hero role-playing game.
First, the game utilizes the Cortex + dice pool mechanic. This is the process where you build a pool of dice from various things on your character sheet with the size of each die representing level of skill. I find this a refreshing way of handling tasks as most other games of this sort either require a bucketful of one type of die or rely on one die to take care of everything. I am a gamer. I have a big bag full of dice that I would love to use and hardly ever get the chance to break out. This game recognizes this fact and actively engages it. Not only that, but the process of gathering dice keeps you engaged in the story and aware of what your character can do most of the time. A secondary benefit of this dice pool mechanic is that it allows the game to engage the player on both the mental and tactile level. It takes the propensity of gamers to play with their dice and makes it an important aspect of the game.
Second is the use of Milestones. A milestone is a character’s connection to the world or the story line and is a unique way of tracking progress. Each character can have up to two Milestones for each adventure. These milestones can either be from the characters data file or from the event in which the character is taking part. This provides a role playing drive for play to help direct decisions made without being to constrictive. It also allows the player to view their character in two different ways. They can take a more granular perspective and use milestones that drive the character personally or choose event-based milestones to help further the plot of the current scenario. This allows for a wide variety of play to occur and be rewarded.
These milestones are what actually makes the third thing work. This is utilizing actual Marvel characters in play. In other games, making use of canon characters can easily devolve into an argument over who gets which iconic character as they are the most powerful. This problem is easily sidestepped with the use of Milestones. They allow you to play whichever character you would like because your advancement is not tied to being a bad-ass, but to accomplishing the goals of the character or the story. This frees up players to choose a character from canon that they would enjoy to play without worrying about being overshadowed as they will get their time in the spotlight to achieve whichever milestone they choose. Personally, this would allow me to play Cloak without having to be concerned about balance as I am going to get my time to shine. Yes, I like Cloak and Dagger. Don’t judge me. The other issue of using canon characters that crops up is which iteration to use. In this game, there will be multiple versions of characters so that you can use the one that fits with the timeline or just choose the one that you like best.
Marvel Heroic Roleplaying captures the feel of comic books while defusing some of the more common problems found in this genre of role-playing game. I look forward to the event books and seeing my favorite character’s data files.