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Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Basic Game

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Average Rating:4.2 / 5
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Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Basic Game
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Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Basic Game
Publisher: Margaret Weis Productions
by Daniel V. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/08/2012 13:35:49
I want to give a fair review here with both the good and bad issues I found with this game. First let me say I have played pretty much every super hero RPG that is out there from the dice based system by TSR to MM.
(Note: I also purchased a hard copy from Weis's site)
The mechanics of the game are fairly simple you pick dice from several categories and together they make up your dice pool.
The PP or Plot Points format is a neat idea (I would compare it to Void points in L5R).
Milestones give your character some set goals and you gain experience when you achieve a milestone.
The book is set up to tell you what everything on your character sheet is and what you can do with it.
Its a new marvel system that isn't based on "Stones".
The book provides you with a ready made way to get your heroes together.
Stats for some Avengers and X-Men are in the base book.

The BIGGEST issue I had with this book was character creation- The book assumes you will want to play a existing hero, if you want to make your own there is about 5 pages of rules to tell you how. All of the character creation is arbitrary you can give your hero any stat /power/ skill at any dice code you want. There is no you get so many dice or so many points to make your character, not even a random roll.

Plan on you and anyone else at your table reading the book through at least twice, the rules are interesting but there are a lot of little side notes of each thing I felt.

Marvel Heroic Roleplaying has the potential to be a great RPG, but its not there. The mechanics are good, but the way the explain it and hide the rules among everything makes this feel like it should be a supplement "Avengers" or "X-men" book. Not a core rule book.

[3 of 5 Stars!]
Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Basic Game
Publisher: Margaret Weis Productions
by Clay C. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/08/2012 01:13:39
Simply put, the book is too short and the system confusing...Very disappointed!

[1 of 5 Stars!]
Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Basic Game
Publisher: Margaret Weis Productions
by Alexander O. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/04/2012 06:55:13
Right off the bat, I have to warn you: Marvel Heroic Roleplaying is a mashup of different RPG philosophies and may not be what you're expecting from a super-hero RPG. If you give it a chance, if you accept that not all of it may necessarily flow down traditional RPG design paths, I think that you'll find it's an excellent RPG.

It uses Cortex Plus, which -- as anyone whose even leafed through another Cortex Plus rulebook can tell you -- doesn't necessarily guarantee the exact same ruleset. This variant still creates dice pools, but the sources of these dice pools (Affiliations, Distinctions, Power Sets, and Specialities) are different enough from the Smallville version to claim that it's a different game altogether.

I do like the Affiliations (which differentiate character power levels when operating as part of a team, as a buddy, or solo) and the Distinctions (which give both bonuses and "penalties" based on character "tags" or "schticks") a lot because of the narrative / comic book feel they give the game.

I like the Power Sets with some reservations. While the Power Sets (with their related SFX, Stunts, and Limits) do allow for very broad, yet customizable abilities that can fit on one page, the absence of a coherent point-based approach really throws me off when trying to determine relative power levels. They also may pose problems for GMs and Players with less solid character concepts and more rules lawyer-oriented philosophies.

The Specialties are a nice way to cover skill groups quickly, in pretty much the same fast-and-loose way that comics tends to handle skills. I wish that there was a little bit more gradation in the skill levels though.

Of course, it does mean that Character Creation can be very fast, and can be tweaked as the game goes along.

As far as task resolution, GMing, and scene / adventure / campaign rules go -- it's very much got a narrativist / indie feel (game milestones that grant XP that you can spend to tweak the game, several mechanics that feel very much like Fate), but with just enough crunch to pencil in justifiable rankings on the abilities of a given character.

The art is fantastic, and -- since most of it was taken from comics in the past decade -- it has a very modern feel to it as well.

The mini-event that comes with the game, and the characters with ready stats, are all taken from the New Avengers storyline that preceded the whole Civil War, Dark Reign, and Siege storylines.

Overall, it's a fantastic RPG that somehow manages to grant that feeling of playing in a modern Marvel comic book, somehow gives mechanics to the somewhat elastic power levels found in their pages, and somehow allows the players to recreate the narrative ebb and flow of adventure and drama in the genre.

Most important -- it's an RPG that makes me want to play! Avengers Assemble!

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Basic Game
Publisher: Margaret Weis Productions
by Andrew A. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/03/2012 13:30:06
The quality was great. I had some issues downloading pdfs to my iOS device, but that seems to have been fixed.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Basic Game
Publisher: Margaret Weis Productions
by Jared B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/02/2012 18:24:48
A generally minimalist RPG, with only the barest set of rules to hang on to, a focus on shared storytelling, and one or two interesting mechanics (gaining plot points/doom pool, and the milestones where interesting). Unfortunately, this minimalism hurts it badly in the super hero genre, giving the jarring presentation of Colossus, the Thing and presumably the Hulk all at the same level, as a for instance. With only three levels of difference between heroes, and the rest reduced to descriptive notes as an aide to improvising, there just isn't a lot of "game" here.

This game appears to be squarely aimed at the beer and pretzels crowd, or perhaps at those few Marvel comics fans somehow unaware of RPGs who they hope to lure in with nonthreatening rules. This is "lets play make believe" with just the barest number of rules to prevent things from degenerating into "I got you! No you didn't!" For some, that is exactly what they are looking for, and so I can recommend this game to them. For myself and my gaming group, this was a bitter disappointment of a game. The state of the art of RPGs has moved well beyond this type of rules, especially since the first RPG set in the Marvel universe was printed in something like 1986. As flawed as that original game was in places, it does a far better job of spurring ones imagination when stepping into the mighty Marvel universe than this anemic entry. If you hoped for something more modern and robust than that, move along, you will not find it here.

And even for those who prefer minimalist, I cannot say this is worth your money. No one needs to plunk down $13 to be told "use your imagination and your own judgement on how Banshee's scream might work". If that is how you want to play a game, Amber Diceless would suit better. You could pull down from your shelf nearly any other RPG, scribble some notes on a piece of paper on who is faster than whom, and play a game as authoritative as this one.

Production quality is good (at least, in the PDF), and being able to pull from the vast library of Marvel art never hurt anyone. There is, in fact, possibly too much art, with most of each page given over to layout and art, rather than rules text.

Overall, a pretty piece of fluff backed by a much coveted license. If you are looking for something more meaty, stay away.

[2 of 5 Stars!]
Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Basic Game
Publisher: Margaret Weis Productions
by Strahinja A. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/02/2012 17:47:35
Comic and Tabletop geekdoms are somewhat entwined. Hence it's not surprising that many RPGs have handled the theme and issues of comic supers. I'll cut to the chase - this is the best of them.

We had a bi-weekly ICONs game. I mentioned this game to my GM. He grabbed the pdf, and after we quickly got to converting our game over. We played last night, and it was an unqualified thumbs up from everybody (with everyone grabbing a copy or planning to). This is not intended as a slight to any other game, but as praise at the benefits of Marvel Heroic Roleplaying.

The comic book genre is a tough one to emulate. It requires too much suspension of disbelief to model correctly using hard simulation (ex: Colossus or Superman would fine-red-mist someone on their first punch). It's also too finicky in power set details to simply hand-wave and make a couple of wide generic stat's for. This game hits all the fine notes with fair grace.

Your die pool is assembled of up to 6 or so dice of various sizes (d4 through d12). And while powers are certainly important (superhuman d10 superstrength) it only represents a portion of your die pool. Your team interplay, how you set up stunts, how good you are at creating openings for your teammates or for future actions are all as important or even more important than the raw power of your strength. This means that the classic dilemma (Batman vs Superman) could go in favor of the caped crusader (as it does in more than one comic).

The game provides enough crunch to feel like a 'game', but was simple enough that everyone at the table picked it up and was narrating stunts their heroes were performing. It also utilizes well some of the more modern game design ideas. For example the xp system (modeled after Keys from SotY or Lady Blackbird) helps motivate players to go after varied goals and sometimes clash because of it. It provides system rewards for following hooks. You can invest XP in unlockables that open up the story.

So what's the bad? The system is fantastic for modeling heroes (and we had premade heroes due to our ongoing campaign), and for organizing stories into events. It's downside as I can see it is trying to create heroes from scratch. Namely you have to come up with a superhero and then model their powers, there is no step by step, point-by, self-balancing and correcting system. This could be a problem with munchkins at the table, but ultimately the powers aren't the thing that rules the day every time.

Overall though, I've played super hero games since the 80's, and I haven't seen a game that engages the players, keeps things light, fast and simple, and models comics and comic-stories in play quite so intuitively and accurately. I cannot recommend it enough. And from the smiles and quick purchases of my GM and fellow players, it seems I'm not alone in this.


[5 of 5 Stars!]
Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Basic Game
Publisher: Margaret Weis Productions
by Scott R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/02/2012 13:36:39
First off, presentation: I bought the pdf version, so I can’t speak to the quality of the book, but based off of the electronic copy, it’s damned pretty — a full color, high quality version of the game book, along with a player and GM (called the Watcher for MHR)…and you’ll need it the first few times. And a character sheet. The file for Marvel is far superior to the other Cortex PLus stuff — there’s not a lot of lag time on page turns on the iPad 2, unlike the previous Cortex Plus core books.

Onto the substance. First the bad — the base mechanic is nightmarish to describe; it’s, at base, pretty simple, but describing it is a pain in the butt. I’ll try to distill it: you have a dice pool based on whether you work Solo, witha Buddy, or in a Team. Add your die in a power set and/or a Distinction (a description of your character’s motivations, etc.) Take the two highest dice as your result to hit a target number based on the opposing dice pool of the bad guy (or the “doom pool” for non-character incidents.) Except it’s more complex — there’s all sorts of dice you can get from special effects on your powers, or borrowing from the doom pool with plot points, or or or… Out of the dice left over you have an effects dice — how much damage you do. Damage here is like the Fate stress — physical, mental, or emotional and rated from d4 to d12. More than that and you take Trauma — longer-term injuries that stick with you between action scenes. It’s easier to track than it sounds.

The complexity of the dice mechanic not withstanding, the game is not as unplayable as it will first read. If you cut out a lot of these options, and for the beginner I think you should ignore some of this, the system gets very manageable. The authors should have included some kind of stripped rules set for people just coming into the role playing game, or even people who don’t have a lot of time to reread the rules the half dozen times it took to get it down. Once played a few times, I think it would be easier, it just has too high a learning curve right off the bat.

The good: character creation is superb. No points. No balancing. What do you want to play? Give them the right skills, power sets (with a limitation or two to make it interesting), and go. It will require a bit of restraint from the munchkins in the party, but I think it’s pretty much the only way to do superheroes. One of the benefits here is that there are only four real levels of “strength” for a power: normals have a d6 (or lower…you’re not playing these guys), there’s the enhanced folks with d8 — the street level heroes; superhuman at d10, godlike at d12. You can reskin powers listed with new names, distinctions add characterization (as do Milestones — goals that earn you experience points), and there’s a couple dozen Marvel Universe characters to get a good idea of how to build that character you want. Gadgets are handled like powers, except you can take ‘em away.

Simple, straightforward…only the extensive list of plot pont fired options causes it to be overly complex for the beginner.

Longer review here: http://blackcampbell.wordpress.com/2012/02/23/quick-review-m-

[4 of 5 Stars!]
Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Basic Game
Publisher: Margaret Weis Productions
by Whitney M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/02/2012 12:22:20
Overall the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Basic Game is a blending of the good parts of several games. First and foremost it takes the CortexPlus system, of creating dice pools based on categories of abilities. It is like Smallville in that some abilities are relational, though nothing as complicated. It is like Leverage in that you also have abilities that are better than others, and takes the same approach with Super Powers. It has taken lessons about aspects, placing aspects of scenes, and a fate point-style mechanic from Spirit of the Century/FATE. Similar to Dresden Files, the fate points (Plot Points in MHRBG) serve as the game-play balance of heroes with disparate power levels. Taken together these create a game which traditionalists probably won't love; However comic book enthusiasts, new RPG players, and the indie crowd will love. The book itself is fairly well laid out, the art could have been punchier but its very well organized at a typeface that is comfy and a writing style that is easy on the reader. It has a good index, cheat sheets, and chapters that follow the flow of play.

The Good Parts

Good Mechanics, especially around XP, Pacing, and Super Power scope.
Has equally complex rules for duking it out with Doc Ock or negotiating for equal treatments for Mutants.
Passes the True Supers Test: Batman and Superman could fight each other, Batman could possibly win.

The Iffy Bits

The lack of super-structured Character Generation is going to leave some scratching their heads.
In long-term play I'm left a little uncertain on how to handle some particulars, what if I end partway through an adventure, what do I do if the Players want to take a new direction, what if someone dies? An experienced GM can handle this, but this book seems aimed a newbies who could use a wee bit more structure.
The book could have highlighted the fact that supers with lots of powers get less PP, those who are weaker get more. Someone naive to this might get in fights in the group over balance, without a strong guiding hand by the GM.

Read the Full Review at:

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Basic Game
Publisher: Margaret Weis Productions
by cesar d. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/02/2012 09:52:45
One of the best RPGs I ever read that deal with superheroes. We started a campaign last week and everybody loved it. One of the best games I ever bought.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Basic Game
Publisher: Margaret Weis Productions
by Hamilton R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/29/2012 00:00:32
(1) Do the rules work? Do they pass the "reality check?" -- MHR has some very innovative ideas that make the game unique. Here are a few that I particularly like:

a) Using the word “stress” for damage, fatigue, or anguish has a subtle humorous ring to it. “Yeah, the Hulk may be mad, but my telepathic surge is gonna’ stress him out REAL GOOD!” (see what I mean?)

b) Lack of ability scores and standard abilities. (Before MHR, I incorporated this concept into my VaV rule set).

c) Whether a hero performs better with others or working solo.

The rules work well; they are fairly easy to understand with the first reading and are balanced with each other. There are many options with each action and the mechanics create a three-dimensional feel to the interpretation of the dice rolls. The only drawback (if it is a drawback) is that alot of dice are required to make a roll, but this seems to be a Cortex issue, not a Marvel issue. (I like Cortex as well, so it's not a big problem for me.) -- RULES? A–

(2) Is the layout viable for the information presented? -- The layout supports the PDF version in subtle ways (like page-display quirks and view size) that can be easily missed with the untrained eye. There is a definitive “art” to MHR’s layout, something you should be able to see right away upon your first review of the PDF book.

The layout is not wasteful at all; in fact, having open space in your layout allows the design to “breath” and it provides ample space for you to add your own house rules and game notes (if you don’t mind marking your rule books with writing).

Finally, placing the last page right after the first page is an excellent idea in this case!-- LAYOUT? A

(3) Is the text easy to read and understand? Is it FUN? -- The text deviates from pristine grammar and composition with orphans and widows, and you can’t learn the rules quickly if you stay up until 3am reading them. However, the writing is fun, witty, and to-the-point when discussing rules. It is exactly what you expect from Marvel; the writing is thorough and reductive but not complex or restrictive.

For those who have played other versions of the Marvel RPG experience, you will see some “nods” to them (ex: the Doom Pool compared to Marvel Saga and overt usage of adjectives and terms from TSR Marvel Super Heroes).

Also, there is an example of play imbedded within the rules; you just have to read the rules in order (from page to page) to see the connections in the examples given. -- TEXT? A–

(4) If you do see any rule problems, how would you solve them? The only thing that I might have done differently if I designed this rule set is to include a more-mechanical system of character creation (though the system given to create other heroes in MHR is excellent for what it is). -- STABILITY? A

Overall, this is a wonderful and unique game to play, and it handles what it was designed to do very well, if you like cinematic or story-telling games. In other words, if you like real role playing games, you will like this.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Basic Game
Publisher: Margaret Weis Productions
by Adrian S. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/28/2012 20:30:13
MWP's iteration of the MArvel RPG represents an intertesting method for running games in general, not just this one. As with other product lines (most notably Smallville), there is a massive responsibility for all of the players and the GM to reach accords, discuss gameplay rationally and also look to the the 'bigger picture' rather than remain selfishly introspective - which may not suit all gaming groups style of play. That said, the game is about playing superheroes, so the premise that you need to work together, think about the whole plarty and have fun aren;t at odds with the chosen genre. I'm very keen to use this game with my group as it does offer a conceptual challenge, and it will be interesting to see how they handle it.

Character creation is a process which will require some thought, but it is relatively streamlined and essentially revolves around picking descriptive aspects of your character and assigning a dice value to them (as a side note, if you don't want to play your own character, there is a datafile in the back with a lot of recognised heroes ready to play). These are Distinctions (what your character is well-known for) and Specialities (the skills at which you are adept). Different modes of play are supported by the Affiliation stat which governs whether your character is best at Solo, Buddy or Team play. The only downside to this, is that I can see those characters with Solo rated the highest being a little frsutrated given that most scenes will be a co-operative team effort, so the dice will let them down a little in those circumstances. However, this is something the GM will need to consider when deisgning play opportunities for their group.

The Power Sets are quite well-developed, but the GM should take a guiding role in development at this point, as it is easy (as with most supers games) to build a character with a single, extremely over-powered speciality. I was glad to see that most of the powers I'd expect in a supers game to be here (including sorcery so I can play Stephen Strange!).

Gameplay, as I mentioned is highly collaborative, and those with experience in the Smallville RPG will feel right at home. The dice mechanics will take a bit of time to fully grasp, and in a newer group you should expect that any event requiring dice rolling will take time due to the number of variables that can be assigned to the roll. I would have liked a much more streamlined system (like Serenity) as this would support the 'fast and furious' action that comics represent. Only time (and a lot of play) will see if I can move my combats at the optimum speed. Outside of Cortex, I can't think of any parrallel experience to which players will be able to relate; as each set of variables is assigned at the point of rolling. Add to this that you can be rolling upwards of seven different dice which contribute to your pool for very different reasons and you can see what I mean.

The layout of the book was great, and it was nice to see a collection of Marvel art running thorugh the book. Marvel has (for me) very much a 'hit or miss' with their art of late, so it was good that MWP hadn't hinged the entire book on one artists' output.

Finally, game comes with the ubiquitous and expected 'module in the back of the book'. This two-act adventure is based on the first few issues of Bendis' run on The Avengers and I'm not convinced that designing a module around already printed comic plot was a good idea. Those familiar with the first few issues of this comic won;t find too many surpirses in store. I would have preferred to see something original in this place instead.

Overall, I've not had a lot of experience with supers RPGs, mostly because the systems for these games are almost uniformly complex. I'm not sure what it is about the genre that incites mathematical complexity in game designers, but Marvel seems to be at the lighter end of the spectrum. Given its' high attention to story, drama and coi-operative play, I should be able to sidestep my initial feelings about the system and play it with great excitement - and I recommend you do as well.


[4 of 5 Stars!]
Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Basic Game
Publisher: Margaret Weis Productions
by David G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/28/2012 18:41:57
Hold off until the other Event expansions are released!

This book is okay. And at $13 it's reasonably priced but there's just not a lot here. A couple dozen assorted heroes and 30-odd B-list villains. It's possible to make your own characters but there's only a couple pages of new powers.

Character creation in this game is an art. I wouldn't recommend it as a first time role-playing game, unless you're a fan of one of the very few included heroes. It's a good game for anyone who's a game designer at heart, and wants to design their own villains or heroes. I can imagine quite a few Watchers (read: GMs) making characters or powers for the entire party.

Much of this is a short term problem. Once a couple extra Event books get released the problem almost goes away. But even then, this is only if you like the standard well-known heroes. I doubt Ghost Rider or Chamber will be detailed any time soon.
Likewise, as the Events and characters are tied to the comics (and a very narrow point in the comics) it makes playing the characters from the movies or Avengers cartoons trickier.

[2 of 5 Stars!]
Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Basic Game
Publisher: Margaret Weis Productions
by Luke M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/27/2012 08:56:04
I am very impressed with this game. Layout wise it is gorgeous, and it looks perfect on my iPad 1 in both GoodReader and iBooks. Layout on the character sheet was excellent as well as we realized they were laid out to support the flow of play.

The content is excellent, but I will admit having to make a couple of passes through the book to fully grasp it. A full example of play would be nice. The system is innovative, and when played really supports the feel of a comic book.

Finally I want to point out the milestone XP system. This system is brilliant and is an design pattern I think a lot of the industry will start looking at.

The module in the book is short, fun, and has all the default marvel troupes (team up, super villains, redemption, etc).

Character creation makes sense when you realize it is more of an art than a science, and that it is up to the players, the Watcher, and yourself to not be the person at the time who wants to hog the spotlight and say you are good at everything. With that though a set of guidelines such as 'cosmic characters typically have..., street level characters typically have' would be nice. I for one do not want to see a point buy system for this.

Summary: Great game well worth the money. Ran it recently and my players are begging to play again.
Pro: Innovative System, Easy to Play, Great Layout that works on iPad
Cons: Book makes system feel dense. An example of play would have helped dramatically. Some sort of basic guidelines for power levels for character creation would help.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Basic Game
Publisher: Margaret Weis Productions
by David B. S. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/27/2012 08:39:55
I can't say too much more than what has been said by other reviewers here, so I will keep things short and sweet. Throw all your preconceptions of what a supers game should do- this is a game for comic and rpg game enthusiensts that love to weave stories of adventure.

The game encourages both the "Watcher" (GM) and the Players to let go of needing hard stats for super heroes and to embrace a fluid, more free-form style that, after you get used to it and embrace it, makes perfect sense!

It won't win over many of those who prefer a ton of crunch in their supers games, but there are more than enough options presented within to satisfy those willing to give it a spin. Highly recommended!

[4 of 5 Stars!]
Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Basic Game
Publisher: Margaret Weis Productions
by Billiam B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/26/2012 12:27:59
Beautifully presented, lots of graphic novel art. System: plot points and dice pooling will appeal to modern players - it looks pretty fast play, if you remember the right formulas for mixing up the abilities dice - some help is provided by a couple of handy prompt sheets. There's plenty of the more popular heroes to choose from, but being a basic game, there's not much in the way of adversaries beyond the scenario included - so curious referees will feel obliged to buy more material pretty quickly. I like the fact that the hero stat cards are also provided in a grey format which may hurt colour printers a little less than the high contrast glossy colours of the manual.
One for the new generation of Marvel fans. :)
-Billiam B.

[4 of 5 Stars!]
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