Marvel Plot Points

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

Why You HAVE TO Go and Make Things So Complicated


Complications. People often wonder why we should use them. They don’t seem to offer much mechanically to a conflict, other than a possible fourth (or more) type of stress. It’s true that from a story standpoint complications cover things not covered by other kinds of stress. From a mechanics perspective, however, they give you alternatives to direct attack that are sometimes the only way to really do anything to certain opponents. The key to this is limits.

It’s not mentioned in the section on spending Plot Points or Doom Dice, but on p. OM92 and OM95, it mentions that Players and Watchers can spend PP/Doom Dice to activate limits. Characters that have the Uncontrollable limit (or the same limit with a different name) turn a power into a complication when the limit is activated.

There are a few characters where this is really interesting. Colossus and Grey Gargoyle are good examples. Wolverine has this too, but it works slightly differently for him. Both Colossus and the Grey Gargoyle have the Invulnerable SFX, meaning they can shrug off most physical stress.

I’ll show you with an example (using Grey Gargoyle against a player, doesn’t wholly matter who the hero is, we’ll say Iron Man):

The Grey Gargoyle is attempting to break out of the Raft. Iron Man doesn’t want to waste his time trying to punch out the Gargoyle. Iron Man makes an attack to push Grey Gargoyle into the water. He’s teamed up with a few other heroes. Here’s his dice pool for the action:

  • d8 (Team)
  • d4 (Hard-Headed Futurist +1 Plot Point)
  • d6 (Powered Armor: Cybernetic Senses)
  • d8 (Weapons Platform: Repulsors)
  • d8 (SFX: Unibeam)
  • d10 (Tech Master)
  • =d4+d6+3d8+d10

The Grey Gargoyle reacts with:

  • d8 (Solo)
  • d4 (Overreaching +d6 to the Doom Pool)
  • d10 (Touch of Stone: Superhuman Durability)
  • d8 (Science Expert, trying to find the balance point to keep from falling into the water)
  • =d4+2d8+d10

Let’s assume Iron Man wins. He gets 11 with a d8 effect. Grey Gargoyle rolls 10 with a d10 effect. Because the Grey Gargoyle had a larger effect die, Iron Man’s effect steps back to d6. Iron man can opt to apply d6 Sinking as a complication. However, because Grey Gargoyle has the Like a Rock limit, Iron Man can spend a Plot Point to turn Superhuman Durability into a complication. Now, Grey Gargoyle has d10 Sinking (Superhuman Durability) as a complication. Not only does this give him a higher complication die, but he’s also lost the ability to use Superhuman Durability in his own dice pools. Let’s look at Iron Man’s next turn:

This time, he’s going to use his repulsors to push the Grey Gargoyle deeper underwater. His pool:

  • d8 (Team)
  • d8 (Cutting Edge Tech)
  • d6 (Powered Armor: Cybernetic Senses)
  • d8 (Weapons Platform: Repulsors)
  • d8 (SFX: Unibeam)
  • d10 (Tech Master)
  • d10 (Grey Gargoyle Complication: Sinking)
  • =d6+4d8+2d10

Grey Gargoyle reacts with:

  • d8 (Solo)
  • d4 (Overreaching +d6 to the Doom Pool)
  • =d4+d8

Iron Man now has a HUGE advantage. If he succeed, he’ll be unlikely to have his effect stepped back by Grey Gargoyle’s effect. In fact, he could find himself in a position where he beats Grey Gargoyle by five or more. Iron Man could then step up the complication by 2, and Grey Gargoyle effectively sinks to the bottom where he passes out. It could be said that he doesn’t need to breathe when he’s made of stone, so he’s out of the fight but not dead.

If there’s anything I’ve missed, be sure to comment. We love to hear what you’re thinking.

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13 comments on “Why You HAVE TO Go and Make Things So Complicated

  1. Stephen Benjamin
    June 21, 2012

    Interesting, I think you should write more articles like this showing the finer points of the rules that, on paper, seem daunting. Very well written.

  2. John Corbett
    June 21, 2012

    Very cool piece. I guess the question is whether or not the hero (or the player, for that matter) is aware that the Limit exists. I’m not personally very familiar with the Gray Gargoyle, so if my Watcher had thrown him at me during the first act of Breakout, I doubt I’d have known about it. Is anyone aware of a way to learn about this sort of thing or is it assumed to be built into the activation of an opportunity?

    • icuseamus
      June 21, 2012

      It’s not terribly clear. If a hero has had run-ins with a particular villain, I’d say it’s ok to just leave the villain datafile out there. Chances are the hero knows about the villain’s weakness. In the case of the Grey Gargoyle, he’s battled the Avengers enough that Iron Man probably knows how to handle him. If it were, let’s say, Emma Frost, who hasn’t had much contact with the Grey Gargoyle, I would play closer to the vest.

      The Watcher is in a special place, since the Watcher uses the hero’s Limits and Milestones to create challenges for the heroes. As a Watcher, you should be pushing those buttons often, not only to challenge, but to shine the spotlight on overcoming adversity.

  3. Shane Bradley
    June 21, 2012

    Well typed it’s another tool in the box

  4. GremlinLegions
    June 22, 2012

    Excellent example. If the rulebook had as many good examples as this, there wouldn’t be as much confusion.

    • icuseamus
      June 22, 2012

      Thanks. I have a feeling that if they put in examples for everything, it would triple the page count, driving the price way up. I also think it’s hard if you’re so close to it that any deeper explanation might feel like you’re talking down to your audience.

      The good news is that there’s guys like us who analyze this to ridiculous degrees and take the time to get the word out.

  5. Pingback: Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Collected Miscellanies

  6. Shane Bradley
    June 27, 2012

    After you use unibeam you’re supposed to shut down repulsors recover by activating an opportunity or during a transition scene but an excellent example Spider-Man creates complications with his webbing all of the time

    • icuseamus
      June 27, 2012

      Fair point. Still, though, if Iron Man doesn’t use the Unibeam on the first turn, he’s only down 1d8 on that action, and he can use it on the next action. This means that things are pretty much the same with the exception of the d8, which in the bigger picture, doesn’t make much of a difference. Thanks for noticing the flub, though.

  7. Jeremiah Vile-kin Nitzschke
    August 14, 2012

    Nice article. My character deals almost exclusively in complications in combat, and I find that while working in a team environment complications do wonders.

  8. leodeleao
    August 20, 2012

    I started playing MHR last week and youre blog is great.

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This entry was posted on June 21, 2012 by in Tips & Tricks.

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