Wednesday, February 22, 2012

New Marvel RPG - First Look

Short Take: It's very different.

Slightly longer take: The terminology is a little confusing on my first read-through but I'm getting it. It's not a dead-simple mechanical design like Icons but it's not as complex as M&M or Champions.

Personal scale of Supers games from least to most complex:

Icons -> Marvel Super Heroes -> V&V -> Silver Age Sentinels -> M&M -> Champions

The character sheet looks about as complicated as any traditional Supers game but what's there is not the same as other games.  I would describe most other super RPG's as driven by plot then settled by mechanics. This game is almost plot as mechanics. There's a lot of player control mechanics and giving and taking of dice based on weaknesses or complications or seeking an advantage or just rolling a "1" sometimes.

There are no standard attributes like Strength Dex or Con - only the stuff that is unusual is rated. That's taking a little time for me to get used to, but I think I can live with it. It is absolutely not a Simulationist game, in gamer techie terms. It is very much a storytellers game. You're not likely to see CharOp boards springing up around this game. Things are rated by die type, kind of like Savage Worlds, and you then assemble these different capabilities into a dice pool that you use to resolve your action. I've never played another game using these mechanics so it's a pretty big shift for me. I usually associate dice pools with fairly simple game mechanics like d6 Star Wars and Shadowrun but these are a level more complicated than that and at the moment less intuitive.

Final Oddity for now: There really aren't detailed rules for character creation. That's a little weird since character options are usually the heart of a Supers system. There's a short section that walks you through the structure of a character and basically says "decide what each of these things should be" but if you're looking for a long list of powers and point costs or random charts you're not going to find them here. They do give you 20+ Marvel heroes (which can be mined for power ideas) and a starting "Event" which is this game's name for a campaign, and I think it works, but I need to read through some of it again and try running it.


Barking Alien said...

I, and the perfectly pulse-pounding powerhouse John Stavropoulos of NerdNYC/RECESS fame among others, will be running a demo of this at our FLGS, The Compleat Strategist, on March 3rd. John and the incredibly creative Tim Rodriiguez (and possibly others) will be running it in Brooklyn on March 4th at The 20 Sided Store.

If you are in the New York City area (home of practically all Marvel Superheroes) stop on by true believers. Excelsior!

Blacksteel said...

That's cool and if I was there I'd be there, if you get my meaning.

Now, what do you think of it?

Barking Alien said...

I think it's very different, very innovative and potentially a tough sell. I have been playing a number of different superhero games over the past year and noticed something.

Comic book fans who play RPGs want something different out of a game then they do out of a comic. Many, but not all of course, love the pathos and drama and cool concepts of comics and yet want detail in their supers RPGs.

After playing a number of games with a pretty diverse group I found that while they liked M&M 3E a lot, Champions has been the overall favorite. This same group tends to like either simplier, high concept, indie games or 3E D&D (the groups preferences are pretty split). Yet all agree Champions, with it's versatility-due-to-detail and somewhat more crunchy combat (which makes the real life martial arts fans in the group happy) is the winning system.

Marvel Heroic reflects comics extremely well but is it what comic book superhero gamers are looking for? Not sure. It's a bit too early to tell what the overall reaction will be. I like it. I like it a lot. I don't know that it would replace Champions 4 or M&M 3 as my go-to supers games though for the reasons I mentioned.