Marvel Plot Points

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

An Introduction to Me And My Love for Marvel Heroic

Hello to all Plot Pointers! My name is Joshua Unruh and I’m the newest blogger to join the Plot Points stable. It took the death of the Marvel part of Marvel Heroic to force my involvement in the fan community, but I’m very glad to be forced. And I’m even happier that Plot Points would have me.

By way of bonafides, I’m 35 years old and I’ve been reading superhero comics for thirty of those years. I’ve been a tabletop roleplayer for about twenty-five of those years. Now, while I cut my teeth on the TSR Marvel game and have a lot of nostalgic love for it, Marvel Heroic is the first superhero RPG that I’ve enjoyed as a superhero game.

Slow down, ye fans of Champions or Mutants & Masterminds! Let me explain! The thing that MHRPG does that no other superhero RPG has bothered to do is emulate the genre. The fine folks at Margaret Weiss Productions didn’t set out to do a game with superheroes in it, they set out to do a game that worked like a comic book story. And that, friends, has made all the difference.

Over the last few years, I’ve become interested in the so-called “story games” end of the RPG pool. One of the main hooks for story games is that the rules reinforce the genre. I make my living as a professional writer, mainly as a novelist, and this approach appeals to the novelist in me. The “hero” of my hardboiled detective novella doesn’t act like the heroes of my Young Adult Spy-Fi who don’t act like the hero of my Viking saga fantasy. The worlds around these heroes don’t act the same from story type to story type. Even physics serves the whim of all-powerful genre.

And freeing superheroes from the tropes of more traditional roleplaying games to instead build a game around how superheroes work…well, that’s just magic.

As a writer and longtime comic book fan, I have spent literally countless hours thinking about how superheroes and their stories work. Meta-mythologies, jointly created universes under a deadline, the superhero as super-category, I can wax poetic about all of them. But at the end of the day, I’d rather play them. (Well, most of all I’d rather write them, but that’s a work in progress.)

And if there’s a piece of good news mixed into Heroic’s newfound freedom from the Marvel IP, it’s probably that Heroic is now utterly free of Marvel’s IP. We can now, with an utterly clear conscience, play in other sandboxes, from the most obvious (like DC) to our own sandboxes (my three tween girl spies could totally work in a Heroic game).

While I struggle with a lot of the output from either of the Big Two these days, I’ve been predominantly a DC guy since college. So the first thing I’m going to do for Plot Points is some write-ups of the major players at the Distinguished Competition. I plan to start with Batman, but that’s not just because he’s the greatest character in the history of Western Literature.

I’m going to start with Batman because, thanks to Batman Incorporated, he’s probably the best character to show how versatile in its simplicity Heroic is. Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson are very different Batmen. Tim Drake and Damien Wayne are very different Robins. Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown are very different Batgirls. And while the powers and their attendant dice may be very similar, things like affiliations, names for SFX, and Milestones (the crown jewel of Heroic) are going to show how different they can feel and play.

I hope that sounds really exciting to everyone! I know I’m excited to get started. So give me a few minutes and I’m sure I’ll have some controversial things to say about Batman in an upcoming post. Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel!


About joshuaunruh

Contributor Joshua Unruh is a novelist, blogger, and freelance writer. It took the death of Marvel Heroic to get him involved in the fan community, but he's in it up to his eyeballs now. He's been reading superhero comics for thirty years and a a tabletop roleplayer for about twenty-five years. Despite nostalgic love for TSR Marvel, Marvel Heroic is the first superhero RPG that he's enjoyed as a superhero game. You can find Josh on Twitter as @JoshuaUnruh, at his blog or email him joshuaunruh [at] gmail [dot] com.

6 comments on “An Introduction to Me And My Love for Marvel Heroic

  1. salsatheone
    May 6, 2013

    All right, some DC! Although I use DC Adventures for that, let’s see how this one goes 😀 Can’t wait!

  2. very cool man!
    welcome to Plot Points 🙂

  3. joshuaunruh
    May 7, 2013

    @Salsatheone If I remember right, DC Adventures is built on the Mutants & Masterminds engine and…well, I do not love it. So hopefully I can convince you to just do DC with Marvel rules as I go along. 😉

    @William Thank you, sir!

  4. Chris Hatty
    May 27, 2013

    I’m quite interested in what you have to say here, especially upon seeing that you call Milestones the Crown Jewel of the game system. Milestones are something I’ve basically dispensed with because I can’t figure out how to do them justice without a well defined Event and taking some care to make sure the XP rewards are balanced among the players. Unfortunately, I don’t really have time to prepare an event, and the existing ones aren’t to the taste of my play group. I like the game, but I’m just not sure how to actually GM a campaign with the players and the tiny amount of prep time at my disposal.

    • joshuaunruh
      May 28, 2013

      Hey Chris! We’ve had some real life creep up behind the scenes but you should see a whole slew of Milestones for Batman in two posts (I do the datafile first).

      In the meantime, let me clarify. I’ve been a GM for decades and yet never managed to learn how to read my players’ minds. Because of that, I’ve become a huge fan of games that put what my players want to see in their games right there on the character sheet. FATE Aspects, Smallville’s relationship map, and Marvel’s Milestones are my three favorite examples.

      I’ve only written a couple of Events myself, but there are several wonderful fanmade examples out in the world. As for Milestones, yes, obviously, the GM would be responsible for the Event specific ones. But PC specific Milestones should be created by the player or with the GM and player in tandem. With a player created PC, they have to be based on an arc the player wants to see character go through.

      I admit there isn’t much I can do about limited prep time, but does that illuminate my love of Milestones at all?

  5. Chris Hatty
    May 29, 2013


    I get what you mean. I love that Milestones drive how the characters are played and result in some kind of advancement or reward. And honestly I believe there IS a way for me to handle a Campaign-based MHR game, even if it’s by adapting Events other people have made. I just haven’t hit upon the way to do it yet. I think it will involve adjusting XP rewards. I think starting with the character “Advancement” and what the players want and working toward story and world is the proper way to do all this, and I haven’t ever done it before, so I am out of my comfort zone and looking for options. Does that make sense?

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This entry was posted on May 6, 2013 by in Introduction.

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