Review: Marvel Heroic Roleplaying (Basic Game)

Superhero games are tricky beasts for a number of reasons. The sheer scope that’s taken in by the milieu of long-underpants comics has to take in everything from the masked vigilante to the red-white-and-blue alien god-immigrant, everything in between, magic, world-eating techno-gods and everything else.

The old Marvel Superheroes game (FASERIP) did a lot well with its easily graspable power levels and simple rules structure but there was still no way an underpowered hero could hold his own against the mega-threats as they might in the comics. Comparing heroes was a bit like a game of top-trumps.

This stuff, yes.

Aberrant brought a post-Watchmen sensibility to tabletop superhero games, grounding them in a reality – albeit an alternate one. The system worked very well for the powerful end of the supeheroic spectrum but not so much for the masked vigilante end. It was also all a bit po-faced and deadly serious which made the default setting not a huge amount of fun, though you could use it to replicate other setting well enough.

Marvel Heroic avoids a lot of the issues of both games by making traits and abilities useful at any power level. This lets heroes and villains compete with their strengths on much more of an even basis. The old Superman Versus Batman (yeah, DC reference, I know, sue me) doesn’t so much come up here as intellectual and technical superiority can compete on an even footing with alien superstrength so long as the person playing the character can justify it.

This. Not so much.

Characters are defined as much by their descriptions (distinctions) as they are by their powers and their skills and this gives an enormous freedom to the kind of thing you can create and represent.

I’m not entirely sure that I’m getting the rules entirely right but after one session it seems to flow relatively intuitively.

My only hesitation with the game and its system comes with its relative incapacity to replicate the more brutal end of the spectrum. As things stand running a game with a harder edge like The Boys, The Authority or Planetary or even The Ultimates, is going to be a bit tricky and rebalancing the stress/trauma (damage) rules to work for this more ‘hardcore’ kind of game is going to be tricky without throwing the whole system off.

That’s my needs clashing with the aim of the kind of games the system is meant to represent I think. So not actually an issue with the game itself.

All things considered this is a great, light, system that in the form presented in Marvel Heroic could be easily adapted to just about any genre or type of game, not just superheroes.

The presentation is great, using art form the books and printing it in a trade paperback format. My only concern about that is that TPBs don’t handle the kind of wear an RPG book needs to take very well. It looks great, but I’m, not sure it would handle day to day, week to week heavy referencing. Fortunately, once you grasp the system you shouldn’t need to do that much heavy reference.

Style: 5 (Very pretty, well presented)
Substance: 3 (Presented adventure events are very linear indeed, lack of good character creation guidelines)
Overall: 4

Marvel Heroic: The Honey Badger

The  Honey Badger

 [d12], Buddy [D4], Team [D4]

Pretty Badass
Doesn’t Care
Just Craaaazy

Power Sets
Honey Badger: 
Badger-Strength [d10], Fearless [d12], Watch Him Dig [d8], Doesn’t Give a Shit [d12], Claws [d8], Thick Fur [d8].
SFX: Hardcore 1PP allows the Nasty-Ass Honey Badger to keep BOTH an extra effect die and total die from his rolls.

1xp: Eat something nasty.
3xp: Eat something poisonous.
10xp: Eat something inedible.
Doesn’t Give a Shit
1xp: Not give a shit.
3xp: Takes stress.
10xp: Take trauma.


The Honey Badger doesn’t care and neither should you.

Neither hero nor villain The Honey Badger doesn’t give a shit. He just goes after whatever he wants and cuts through whatever is in his way. Many heroes and villains claim to have killed him but in every case he’s just turned out to be having a nap and gets up later on to continue not giving a shit.


If using Honey Badger as a villain, substitute PP for a D6 Doom Dice (or higher).

Delving into Marvel Heroic: 2013

The difficulty in getting people together regularly and reliably for the Victoriana: War of the Worlds game means that I’ve decided, at least for the moment, to kick it to the curb and to start a Marvel Heroic game. This won’t be the Marvel Universe of course, that’s so crowded it’s hard to create legends or a world of your own. It’s so choked up with heroes and villains that the whole world-creation part that’s a lot of the fun for me isn’t possible.

Characters are going to be amongst the first generation of superheroes known to the world, erupting into power on or around Jan 1st 2013 (I don’t believe in the whole Mayan cycle thing, but it does make a convenient plot-hook).

I’ll be running it on Sunday nights from around 8pm. The great thing about the superhero genre for this is that anyone can just ‘drop in’ and it makes sense for superhero team ups. The MH system is good because it allows balance between the likes of, say, Batman and Superman so that nobody feels useless and the Doom Pool somewhat automatically balances the difficulty for the size of the group and how many dice they throw at you.

My superhero inspiration doesn’t tend, so much, to come from ‘straight’ Marvel and DC. I take my cues from elsewhere. Planetary, The Authority, Zenith, The Boys, Underground and Aberrant. This is going to make for one interesting – and potentially fucked up – game world.

I kind of can’t wait to get started but the only thing that’s not ‘working’ for me as far as MH goes is the very, very linear ‘set fight’ nature of the existing scenarios. At the moment it seems to lack an example of a more complex and interesting, tangled adventure format, which is the kind of thing I much – much – prefer to run.

We’ll see how it goes. I’ll post some of the villains and resources etc I come up with as we go along.