First impression: Marvel Heroic Roleplaying

Marvel Heroic Roleplaying cover Yesterday the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying game by Margaret Weis Production has been released in PDF form. I’ve been looking forward to this game for a while, mostly because I heard good things about the Cortex+ System. I also have a soft spot for all kinds of superhero games (even though I never actually played one) and I enjoyed most of the recent Marvel super hero movies tremendously, so I had to pick it up.

The 232-paged PDF is reasonably priced at $12.99 especially for a licensed product and overall it looks great. The artwork and layout are top notch and it’s fun just to leaf through the book.

The rules are something you need to get used to. At least I had some trouble understanding how things are supposed to work. The core mechanic involves assembling a dice pool from various sources, like your characters abilities, powers, gear etc.
Sounds easy enough, don’t you think? But how you read the roll result is a bit more complicated matter. And on top of that you can use plot points to influence the results even more.

But once you’ve wrapped your head around the mechanic, I think Marvel Heroic Roleplaying can be a very fast-paced and freeform experience. Aside from the rules it contains a starter adventure (which they call an “Event”) and datafiles for a few iconic Marvel super heroes (like Captain America, Iron Man, Spiderman, etc.).

What irks me a bit are two things:

  1. The softcover edition of the book will be available in the US and Canada only. From what I’ve heard that’s because of some licensing issues. I really hope MWP will find a way to release it in the rest of the world, too. It would be a shame if the international fans are limited to the PDF version only.
  2. The game clearly focuses on playing the well-known heroes from the comics. Of course, there are guidelines for creating your own characters, but they are a bit vague and feel a bit like an afterthought.

Aside from that the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying looks pretty interesting. If you’re a fan of super hero roleplaying games, you should definitely give it a look, especially if you liked the other Cortex+ games by MWP.

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

3 thoughts on “First impression: Marvel Heroic Roleplaying”

  1. Interesting observations Michael. I’ve read thru it briefly, and I actually really like the character gen, it’s very consistent with the rest of the Cortex + titles, and actually would work very well in a Supers game. But then it’s hard to say until I’ve actually played it.

  2. From a couple of messageboard postings by Cam Banks it sounds like they are close to a deal for wider distribution.

  3. I think for those not familiar with a Fate or Cortex system and with a background in character generation from systems like 4e or Pathfinder will find the character generation rules difficult. It seemed amazingly easy to me especially after playing lots of Champions and Mutants and Masterminds. It is not good for a munchkin because there are no rules to exploit. For a storyteller it is a dream. Cam answered a few interview questions for me if you want more info check it out.

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