A fan site for the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game by Margaret Weis Productions
Editor’s note: I’d like to welcome our newest contributor, Filipe Mascarenhas from distant Brazil! Welcome to the crew, Felipe. You can see Felipe’s bio over on our Contact Us page.
The other day I finished my first Marvel Heroic RPG session, Watching the game for my brother and a friend. The game ran smoothly, save for the occasional pause to flip through the book to figure out some nook and cranny of the ruleset. When we were wrapping it up, I asked the dreadful question that all Game Masters should ask after a new game:
“So, did you like the game?”
The general response was:
“We should do it again!”
“You are the best GM ever!!!!” (okay, not this one)
But, one comment struck me like being stabbed with adamantium claws through the heart:
“When do we level up? From what I saw, I felt like playing this character will be the same even 20 sessions later. How can I get more hit points and more attack bonuses?”
The question haunted me for a couple of the days, because it is somewhat true. Unlike most RPGs, in the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game there is no such thing as leveling up.
However, that’s not a design flaw, because it does not make much sense on raising Wolverine’s stats to make him able to kick even more butts, and eventually make him capable to single-handedly dealing with Galactus. Since power levels only have 4 possible ranks (d6, d8, d10 or d12) each step makes a huge diference. So how could I keep my players interested in a long-play campaign, if their characters would be essentially the same from start to finish?
The answer to my dilemma was simpler than I thought.
I went back to comics I analyzed how the characters have changed throughout the years. The interesting thing is that the Marvel characters do not necessarily get stronger, or faster, or more powerful as the years, and issues goes by, instead they usually just change. Let’s look back at some major Marvel Characters, and some iconic changes they went through.
1. Gets six arms
2. Unites with Symbiote
3. Gets Iron-Spider armor from Tony Stark
1. Becomes Mr. Fixit
2. Gets smart
3. Splits from Bruce Banner
4. Becomes a gladiator
1. Gets adamantium bones from the Weapon X Program
2. Loses an eye and becomes Patch on Madripoor
3. Loses adamantium bones and becomes a savage animal
4. Becomes Horseman of Apocalypse and regains adamantium
Most of those changes are not the standard “level up” linear kind of development and power increase that we commonly see on most RPGs, but they still represent major changes on the characters.
That’s sideways development.
Like in Marvel Comics, in MHR, the characters do not need to become more powerful to remain interesting, they need just to change as the story goes by. Those changes should be consequences from the story, and make sense plot-wise.
Back in my game, after having resolved the question, I talked to the player. We decided that his character Wolverine, would start developing spider powers, since he is the new host of the Carnage symbiote after he killed the original host during the the Raft Breakout.
Can’t wait to see how the story goes.