Marvel Plot Points

A fan site for the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game by Margaret Weis Productions

Incorporating Item Power Sets

What, you didn’t think you would go a whole week without hearing from me did you?

Let me just say up front that this article is really by all of us in the Plot Points Bullpen. We were discussing these ideas over email last week and decided it would be useful to write about them on the blog. I just volunteered to knock it all together into a post. So if there’s something you don’t like, I’m sure one of the other guys came up with it.So let’s talk about including Item Power Sets in your Marvel Heroic Roleplaying games.

There are a couple different ways to incorporate Item Power Sets. Which way you go will depend somewhat on what type of players you have. Basically it boils down to a mechanics-based or story-based implementation. That said, it’s not necessarily an either/or proposition. There are a spectrum of choices anywhere between these two poles.

Let’s say you have a “power-gamer” who comes to you and says, “Here’s my character concept: Alien Symbiote-Juggernaut hybrid Thor.” To which you as the Watcher would likely reply, “No that’s ridiculous.” Which would then prompt said power-gamer to whine, “There’s nothing in the rules that says I can’t do that.” So, what do you do? Let them have their “Mary Sue” or invoke Watcher veto power? Another option would be setting the Item Powers Sets as unlockables during the course of an Event. Cam Banks suggested as much in a thread over on MWP’s forum, which can be found here.

The short version is, you spend 5XP to unlock a new blank Power Set slot. After that, pay out 15XP to swap the blank Power Set for the Item set. That means that in order to get the new Power Set, a hero has to pay out 20XP.

Using Colossus as an example, in Fear Itself, he sacrificed himself to become the new Avatar of Cyttorak. Assuming he had already racked up 10XP over the course of the event, plus getting 10 more from his Milestones for sacrificing himself, he’d have plenty to cash in for the Crimson Gem of Cyttorak Power Set.

That example assumes a story-based connection between the character and the Item Power Set, and really that makes the most sense for the MHRPG. But there’s nothing stopping you from letting your players have any items they want as long as they have the XP for it. It just comes down to the kind of game you want to run. Just keep in mind, if the players have access to too much power they will (probably) eventually get tired of being super-ultra-mega-powerful because there is no challenge, and RPGs (for the most part) are about overcoming challenges.

The other end of the spectrum for incorporating Item Powers is a purely story-based approach. What that means is the character gets an item, without the player having to expend any XP, because it makes sense in the story. Characters that get items this way likely won’t keep them permanently. They may keep them until the end of an Event, or an arc. Until it no longer makes sense from a story perspective for them to have that item. An example would be in an early Secret Avengers story-arc when Steve Rogers gets the Nova power. He did not take it with the intent to keep it forever, but in the context of the story he needed it. You can handle Item Powers in your game the same way. That might mean you wind up with one character that seems more powerful than the others, but that is likely between characters even when there isn’t an Item Power Set involved. As long as you have players that want to serve the story, rather than “win the RPG”,  you shouldn’t have a problem.

Another option is one that we are employing in our Secret War Event, and that is giving all the characters the same item. In the case of the Secret War that is the Kree Tech Armor. Used in this way, items can function as quest-related boosts. Again, these are usually temporary and originate from the Watcher.

So, what do you think? How do you plan on incorporating items in your game? Do you plan to use them at all? Let us know in the comments, we would love to hear your thoughts.


10 comments on “Incorporating Item Power Sets

  1. Shawn Schmitting
    April 26, 2012

    I am curious what would happen when they give up or loose that power set. Makes complete sense the temporary power boosts that go away at the end of the game, so no exp investments, but what happens when that power that you spent experience points on is removed. Would you get those experience points back? Or would you lose them. I can see arguments on both sides of the fence for this. What is everyone else’s opinion on this?

    Also speaking on temporary powers a gained by characters. I started to think of the Captain Universe powers and all the characters who have been Captain Universe for short time. That is cool to see as an Item Power up.

    • Andrew Gatlin
      April 26, 2012

      If it were my game, I would let them have the XP back for the Item, but not the blank slot. So they would get back 15XP and have a blank power slot.

      • felipenerdcore
        April 26, 2012

        On my games, i haven’t been very stritic with the XP economy, I really don’t mind giving the player who does not have all the 15 xp an item if it fits well in the story.

      • Andrew Gatlin
        April 26, 2012

        I agree Felipe. But if I were going to use the XP economy, that’s how I would do it.

  2. felipenerdcore
    April 26, 2012

    Yeah, since an item is somewhat a “power up” for the character he must pay the price. As a watcher, i would be more than willing to give them a “discount” in favor of the storytelling. Also the player must earn and deserve the right for the power up.

    • Shawn Schmitting
      April 26, 2012

      Sounds like Tony stark falling into a giant pit of burning lava to make sure his armor is “worthy”

      • icuseamus
        April 26, 2012

        Or more specifically, when Tony got his Ur-metal suit.

  3. icuseamus
    April 26, 2012

    I should take my part of the responsibility for this. I play with a lot of noobs (gaming in general and folks with limited experience) who do well to have a mathematical foundation to retro-fit the story to. Enjoy!

  4. Marcos Bolton
    April 27, 2012

    Pretty much this ^

  5. Hugo Morelo
    July 31, 2012

    The beauty about XP is that it can be earned all over again. =P
    What I’d do as a Watcher is not give the XP back. If a character lifts Thor’s Hammer an’ is willing to pay for the XP to have it, he can have it. But if the story goes to a point where Thor actually returns, he’d lose it all, probably.
    Of course, if I plan on puttin’ Thor very soon on the story, I wouldn’t allow the character to pay a full price for Mjonir (Or if I plan on makin’ it a central dispute between other characters, such as Dr. Doom or even another asgardian).

    I always put the story first (the story I’m plannin’ an’ the story the players are tellin’). So, if I’d find it too random a new power set based on an item (like havin’ the Thing with a symbiote) or that it creates “polution” on the story, I wouldn’t simply allow it on the game. Not everythin’ is possible or accessible, after all.

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This entry was posted on April 26, 2012 by in Tips & Tricks.

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