Thursday, March 5, 2015

12 Games March: Marvel Heroic Roleplaying

Week 1 Initial Reactions:
This month we're going to look at a game that is both fairly new and already out of print, Marvel Heroic Roleplaying. Coming out only three years ago in 2012 Marvel Heroic hit the scene with some mixed reviews about the free form system and lack of what many could call "core rules", but most notable was the promise that major events in the Marvel comic universe would have companion campaigns releasing for the rpg.  Sadly this promise only held true to two such events (Civil War and Annihilation) as only about a year later in April of 2013 Margret Weis Productions announced that they would no longer be publishing new content.  More surprisingly soon after the company pulled all digital forms of the game off of Drive-through RPG and similar site.  This was even more astonishing as Annihilation the newest of the campaign books had only had a digital release.

Now with the history lesson over we can move onto the actual content of the game itself.  At first glance the Cortex Plus system that the game runs off of feels like the version of Fate that I was hoping for.  So many aspects of Fate are seen in the core mechanics that it really is astounding.  Aspects are re-named Distinctions and Fate Points becoming plot points.  That combined with the similar free form nature of story telling it is hard for me to not compare the two.  The differences come up where dice are involved though and how Cortex Plus handles dice can only be described as "different".  The original Cortex system used attribute and skill daces measured in size of dice rather than bonuses (ex: A D20 system would have sneaking at +3 where a D20 is rolled then 3 added where as cortex would have a D6 or D8 sneaking).  This was a system I'm fairly familiar and comfortable with as Savage Worlds uses a similar system only without adding attributes to a roll and open ended dice.  Anyways, Cortex Plus still uses dice to measure level of proficiency with "skills", but instead of just a skill roll or skill = attribute the player builds a "dice pool".  Those familiar with World of Darkness or Shadowrun will understand a pool of multiple dice rolled at once usually counting only dice that roll above a certain number.  In Marvel however it goes in a direction I've never seen before.
I'm sure some of the particulars such as adding dice from "Power Sets" are unique to this specific game, but the over all concept with in Cortex Plus is as such: A player decides what they want to do then looks over their sheet adding dice (usually of different sizes) from any assets that might apply such as a power, specialty, or distinction. Those dice are then all rolled at once and the player select two dice from those rolled to count as his roll.  If the player is looking to effect the game some how such as damage or adding and asset to a scene a third dice is selected as the "effect dice".  What is rolled on the effect dice doesn't matter only the size of the dice. There are other more in depth aspects such as rolling a 1 doesn't count and the GM can buy dice rolled as 1s with a plot point to add to their pool, but that is the core function in the game.
To go along with that EVERY roll in Marvel Heroic is opposed.  This is pretty simple if a player is rolling against a character, but if they are simply rolling to achieve something in the situation and no character is the specific target then the GM rolls from the "Doom Pool".  A pool of dice that represent the GMs power within the game and more or less the over all danger heroes are facing.  Honestly I enjoy this concept and can't wait to see how it plays out as I feel it will force players to stay involved and active in the game.  There is also a mechanic that a character can spend a plot point (or doom dice) to flip an action and essentially reverse it turning a successful block into a successful attack.  This I'm hoping will greatly speed up combat as a player can not only describe how they avoid danger, but then turn it in their favor without needing to roll more dice.
There are some aspects that do worry me however such as the fact that initiative seems to function "round robin" with players picking who goes next in the order and the fact that character creation rules are almost none existent.  I will delve deeper into the issues I've seen with character creation next week, but I have to say that any book that repeatedly says "look at our pre-made characters" as and answer on how to do something is just plain lazy.  I'm also a bit worried as my players did not mesh well with Fate and this being another free form system might come to the same conclusion.  My hope is however that the slight extra structure built into Marvel and Cortex Plus will be enough to work past the issues we had before.
One last note as this is my first impression is that the over all formatting of this book is border line insane.  While each section is laid out very nicely the way in which those sections flow together is awful.  Also the publishers decided to use a completely different page numbering system with numbers for the core rules and then numbers resetting for when the sample adventure starts.  This also means all pre-made characters and glossary pages are numbers to this adventure. If I'm already having to remember a page number it does not make it easier there are two sets of numbers and then letters to remember.

1 comment:

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