Thursday, March 12, 2015
Marvel Heroic Role-playing (Week 2)
I would like to start this week's article with a simple statement, "what character creation". The core rule book for MHR mentions making your own character and then goes on to simply and repeatedly tell players to just look at their characters and go on from there. Yes this issue was eventually noticed and a fix was released which I will talk about further down, but for the core rule book without going online and looking for added material there simply is no "system" for making your own characters.
As I was reading through the core book I kept having this feeling in the back of my head that the designers REALLY wanted everyone to play pre-existing Marvel characters. I do understand the appeal, but as far as gamers I know we all want to make OUR characters and then either play in our own worlds or toy around in a pre-existing world like Marvel. There is a some what decent section on making your own powers and milestones, but again most of it simply says to look at the characters they made for you and go from their. In fact the book even mentions that a player can decided to have a hero with maxed out everything and the only recourse is possibly hearing other people around the table complain. I get that in a super hero game balance isn't as important as narrative, but simply saying "make a character and look at what we did for help" is not the same as claiming you have a system that can do it.
Onto the "fix". I'm guessing when this game first came out there were plenty of other people like me that seemed almost baffled that the rule book didn't provide any actual rules for making a character. I say this because in my digging I found post after post of people looking for answers on how to actually build a character other than just stating "this is what I want". In that search I did find that Margaret Weis released a set of tables of make randomly generated heroes for the game. I've also heard that these tables were added into the Civil War book as part of the core rules. Making random characters is a step in the right direction and definitely makes the building experience much more doable, but a random character and having a guide how to build a character you want are two very different things. The only other option I've found is to let players select off of the tables for what they want when it comes to a heroes origin and than tell everyone they get X amount of powers and specialties. It's doable, but it's also me having to hack together a system at the end of the day.
As for me and my play testers they all rolled up random characters ready to play and I do have to say they all feel like Marvel characters. In fact one players rolls ended up making basically Deadpool without the regeneration. A couple of my players wanted more esoteric powers such as being a cosmic cloud that can only boost other heroes rather than do anything themselves and the system is flexible to make such characters. I will admit it required so tweaking of existing powers and the character having multiple powers and that synergized with very specific special effects, but it is doable.
While may parts of this system are exciting me I have to say that this incredibly weak take on character building is starting to make me a little worried. It's obvious the creators want players to play their characters and from what I've seen so far the same might hold true for their adventures. I hope I'm wrong however as my review on actual game play hits next week.