Marvel Heroic RPG Review

We discuss our rather varied opinions on the new Marvel RPG. Some loved it, some liked it, and Dan doesn’t think it’s possible to make a good Supers RPG. Apologies for the sound, we were recording in a different venue and it shows!

Relevant Links

Crunchy Bits!

10 Responses to “Marvel Heroic RPG Review”

  1. Seth Says:

    Could not disagree more with some of Dan’s points.

    Plot Points balance different power levels very well. Bigger dice generate fewer PP, smaller dice generate a lot more.

    You can easily reward role playing with un-lockables, and Milestones. Unlockables are great for getting people to step up to the plate when you want them to. And Milestones should be almost exactly like Burning Wheel Beliefs and Instincts.

    Story events that are tied to your Milestone are very easy to incorporate into the game with the use of Assets, Complications, and Resources.

    That said the game could use a lot more explanation on some parts.

  2. Richard Says:

    Despite the static, I enjoyed the review. I think it’s the best comic book simulation to date. I think that is a bit different than a superhero rpg though. Having played Champions and GURPS Supers, I’ve had it with big crunchy rule systems. In the end, all of that paperwork didn’t produce any better of a game than the rules light MHR system.

    I agree that the Transition scenes are a weak point, and the event system may not be as flexible as, say, the Plot Point system in Savage Worlds. Read Necessary Evil for an excellent SW Plot Point supers campaign. I really hope and expect to learn more about how to run a longer term game when Civil War comes out, since 2 sample events is not enough. There is an excellent 10-or-so act Secret War event written by the folks at that is a bit railroady, but I loved running it and it was a bit hit.

    I am still torn on whether I like the Milestone XP system or not, and having to spend XP during a game for “unlockables” and such where they either are not allowed or can’t be gotten to without spending XP. I think it will get better as we all get used to writing new Milestones.

    I really learned a lot listening to your actual plays, so keep up the good work.

  3. Dave Says:

    Just wanted to drop by and give you guys props for another good AP and review. I’m not a huge supers guy but I enjoyed listening to the AP because you did a great job balancing fun and interesting play/story with analysis of the game.

    Keep up the good work!

  4. Justin Says:

    That was a really fun review, guys. Thanks.

    I found a lot of Dan’s comments were very interesting, and I have a few thoughts I’m hoping you can respond to.

    Regarding the dice in general, it seems that Dan isn’t necessarily concerned with the amount of “crunch” or “meat” in the system. There’s plenty of tactical nuance in the system, a lot of decisions to make, a lot of fiddly dice play. Rather, it sounds like he wants the dice to have a bit more inherent meaning in the fiction. As it stands, the dice don’t seem to care about the fiction and don’t mean much to the fiction. The dice mean a lot for the tactics of a given scene. They can tell us who wins or who’s in an advantageous position, but it’s completely up to us to rationalize that into the fiction. There is a sense, then, in which the dice are heavily removed from anything that’s happening in the fiction, and I think that’s what Dan was pointing at. It doesn’t matter if you have d10 Super Strong or d10 Super Fast because they have the exact same tactical effect, and they don’t constrain or propel the fiction in any particular way. Does this seem accurate from your play experience, or am I completely off base?

    As to the milestones, there does seem to be some difficulty with making them engaging. A lot of the milestones which appear on the datafiles are either a matter of just saying something and getting xp for it or being lucky enough to have an applicable situation come up in play. Maybe there are ways to play toward some milestones, but the overall structure of the game seems to make that difficult or unreliable. For the milestone you can “ping” (Matt Murdock comes to mind), there’s also an awkward matter of being played against your integrity. The game clearly encourages us to accumulate xp, but pursuing xp with highly repetitive actions can easily strain our artistic integrity. Generally not a fun situation. Milestones are an interesting but potentially sticky part of the game, so I’m curious if these observations speak to your experience.

    Again, a fun review and a great set of actual plays. Thanks and I look forward to the next project.

  5. Jared Rascher Says:

    I know it’s been a while since this was put out, but I just got around to listening.

    I disagree with a lot of the harsher points made in the podcast. I think there is a lot that can be done with the game, but I think it requires getting out of your comfort zone if you are used to other RPGs.

    In the podcast you mentioned not being able to do the scene with Black Widow and Hulk from the Avengers movie. You can actually do it really easily.

    Black Widow starts out Solo. Every time she acts against Hulk, she is create a complication “Evading Hulk.” When building her die pool, all of her dice are justified with dodging Hulk and using stealth to get away.

    If she steps up the complication past d12, she gets away, and Hulk is out of the scene. The GM can say that since Hulk lost her, either he calmed down and turned back into Banner, or got bored and exited the Helicarrier.

    What “happened” in the movie is that she didn’t step up his complication, Hulk stressed her out, and he moved on to the fight with Thor.

    The same kind of thing could be used for Wolverine evading the Raptors in your actual play podcasts. That’s what complications are for.

    The other trap you seem to fall into a lot is that since you “can” get a die from affiliations, distinctions, power sets, and specialities, that you are “owed” a die from each of those, so some of the extra dice don’t matter, etc.

    The whole point of the game is to create a narrative. If you can’t come up with an explanation for why a die is included, you don’t get the die. If none of your distinctions make sense for your action, you don’t get to use it.

    As one of he people on the podcast said, if you are better at “BS” then you get more dice, yes, but the point of the game isn’t to use points to build an ultimate character to see what kind of thing you can beat with that “build,” it’s to tell a story. So if you tell a story to justify your dice pool, that’s the whole point. If you want to make a killer build to prove you can beat something of a given CR, that’s great, but that’s not this game.

    As for the game being marketed for “Amnesiac Marvel Fans,” I’ll just point out that I hated Civil War, but I’m really tempted to play the event, because it doesn’t have to happen the same way, and the event itself has several places where it points out that you can change things at a few critical junctures to really switch things up.

    Regardless of my own criticisms, I really appreciate the time you spent playing, reviewing, and publishing these podcasts. Take care!

  6. Kevin Weiser Says:


    Thanks for this wonderful comment! We have posted our thoughts on the points you bring up here: Enjoy!

  7. The Walking Eye Podcast » Blog Archive » Bonus Episode: Marvel RPG Review Followup Says:

    […] Marvel Heroic RPG Review […]

  8. Bill Olander Says:

    Finally caught up. This is my last podcast from you guys that is sitting in my “to be listened to” queue.

    Just wanted to throw out some know-it-all nerdity. The MURPG game was published by Marvel but designed by QED Games who’s big game up to that point was a card based civil war wargame. The game was not great as released and took a lot of flack because it was basically built in such a way that it made Wolverine based builds the only option. Even Spiderman had a healing factor because of that. The fan community did a wonderful job of patching the game but Rules as Written, not so much.

    Back in 98 or 99 I happened to be dating the con chair for a small sci-fi convention in Mass. Guest of honor was Margaret Weis. I fanboyed quite a bit despite trying to hide it. In a slow moment in her schedule, I was dragged down to the gopher room (out of the TMNT game I was playing) where I got about an hour of one of one gaming talk with the woman herself. Loved it.

    We talked about Dragonlance (she signed my 1st ed Dragonlance Adventures) and how I (at the time) thought that the Darksword RPG would have made a good superhero game. But the big thing on her mind was the new game system they were working on for her Sovereign Stone setting. It sounded really cool when she was describing it though I never got around to playing it.

    They later released a version of Sovereign Stone that was d20 based because it was early 2000 but I believe Sovereign Stone was the first Cortex (Cortex Classic?) game to have come out.

  9. Omega Says:

    While this is a little late, hearing some of Dan’s comments about supers RPGs in general (Barring the false assertion that superheroes exist solely as a fiction genre for comic books), I wonder if he or any of you have checked out Arc Dream’s Wild Talents. I’m a huge fan and run it currently (So I’m obviously biased) and I think it handles a lot of supers issues pretty well.

    It has a robust point-buy system that once you’re familiar enough with the system you can model just about anything mechanically, while the actual rolling is ORE so it shakes out pretty simple. And I can tell you from experience, even if you have two characters who cost 250 points, they can have VERY different power-levels depending on where they put those points.

    For example, out of two 250 point characters, one could be mostly mundane, and only have a lot of variety of skills he’s good at, combined maybe with a couple of souped-up version of mundane gadgets, and the other guy can lift 12.8 tons, walk through regular gunfire as if it isn’t there, have fists that hit like being shot with bullets or lasers, and also probably still have points left over to fly or teleport or breath fire or something, depending on the Extras/Flaws you use.

    I’m not saying it’s perfect, but it handles some stuff pretty well, and it’s worth a look, a long with other ORE games.

  10. Walking Eye Response – MetaStuff Says:

    […] through the stack of Walking Eye Podcasts and I had a lot to say about the first five minutes of this podcast. Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, back to […]

Leave a Reply