Marvel Plot Points

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

Damage Control: New Powers and SFX (Part 2)

Last time, I worked out a couple power trait home rules that have been out there. A good reading of the rules shows them to be unnecessary. Now, I will tackle some SFX that have come out, using the same logic, and with examples of how more effective systems are already in play.

Link to the new SFX from the Marvel Heroic Wiki.

Berserker Rage

I believe this SFX already exists. It’s called Berserk. To make a new system for that seems silly. I think I understand the rationale behind this idea, but the idea comes from a fundamental misunderstanding of what the Doom Pool is and what it does. The Doom Pool represents the escalation of the threat in an Event. When a Berserk hero adds to the Doom Pool, he’s making things worse. If a Watcher is keeping an eye on what’s happening, the Berserk hero’s temper tantrum will result in all sorts of trouble for the heroes in a Scene.

Example: Wolverine

When Wolverine gets riled up, he doesn’t take mental stress. He generally just makes things worse for everyone around him. This may mean injuring the bad guys, but it also means ramping up the difficulty for his teammates. As the tension in the scene rises, Wolverine might get a little sloppy. The result of this could mean that a villain can use larger bonus effect dice, add a larger die to the total of any roll, or other effects. The worst case scenario is that Wolverine can swing around the nutty stick to a point where the Watcher is sitting on 2d12, and can end the scene with Wolverine completely losing whatever sense he might have. In a crowded place maybe the police show up and hit him with a stun gun while everyone else has to make an escape to avoid capture themselves. This derails any plans the heroes might have of getting the bad guy because now Wolverine needs to get out of jail. The whole thing very brilliantly illustrates Wolverine’s need to strike a balance between his animal urges and the desire to do good, which is central to every great Wolverine story.

Deadly Venom

This one is hard to make sense of. Again, I understand the intent, but we end up going in directions here that don’t make a lot of sense. Firstly, there’s the notion of a typed complication. Complications don’t come down as emotional, mental, or physical. Then there’s this idea of stepping it up every time the ‘poisoned’ character acts. It doesn’t work that way. Finally, we see the afflicted (remember I said that) character being attacked by the Doom Pool. The Doom Pool doesn’t take actions of its own. If it did, when would this happen? Is the Doom Pool sentient now?

There’s an easy way around this that makes perfect sense within the rules. Afflict. It’s simple, and it doesn’t require any weird fundamental alterations of how the game works. The poisoning character places a ‘poisoned’ complication on his or her target. Any time anyone takes an action against the ‘poisoned’ character, the acting character can spend a PP or doom die to step up the complication or inflict additional stress as a result of the exertion being placed on the ‘poisoned’ character. The same holds true for reactions against that character. A player (or the Watcher) in control of the poisoning character may spend a PP (or doom die) to make it a persistent complication that will hang around until the end of the next Action Scene.

Example: Spider-Woman

While Spider-Woman’s Pheromones are not deadly in and of themselves, they do exemplify what is going on here. To be fair, any poison or drug can be damaging if someone is exposed to enough of it. In the case of Spider-Woman, though, she uses her Pheromones to make her attacks more potent. From that moment on, anyone affected by the SFX has a much harder time in any actions against Spider-Woman or one of Spider-Woman’s allies. While the complication might not necessarily be used to cause stress, another character might use it for that, and in fact, does. Consider: Rogue.

Just A Scratch

This is entirely pointless. There are so many ways to avoid being hurt by what is hitting you, that this SFX is at best superfluous, and at worst abusive. I can’t think of a single hero that would use this as it seems to be intended. Perhaps it is a way for showing that a hero might go on taking damage without the negative effects of it. That’s an attempt to break the system. I wouldn’t as a Watcher stand for it.

Besides, we have Immunity. And Invulnerability. And Godlike Durability. If those weren’t enough, there are plenty of ways to avoid being hit in the first place. If you want a hero to show how tough he or she is, there are much better ways of showing it.

Example: Luke Cage

Here is the closest I could come up with for a tough hero that could get hurt without feeling it. He takes a pounding on a pretty regular basis. He can usually avoid being hurt altogether. When he does get hurt, he has a really hard time getting over it. It’s clean, and it doesn’t break the fundamental rules of the game.


So there’s our first (rather lengthy) installment of Damage Control. In the future, we’ll look at Limits, Specialties, Milestones, or anything else that makes this game not play the way it’s supposed to. Please let us know what you think. Our ears are always open.

8 comments on “Damage Control: New Powers and SFX (Part 2)

  1. earthden1966
    February 24, 2014

    I’m not familiar with the ‘Just a Scratch’ SFX but the first existing SFX I thought of was ‘Second Wind’.

  2. icuseamus
    February 24, 2014

    That’s just it. ‘Just A Scratch’ is a home-ruled SFX. If you follow the link at the top of the post, you’ll see it.

  3. Warrior XIII
    February 25, 2014

    I like the idea here, it gives people ways of looking at things that they may not have thought of themselves. And it draws out the idea that for many people, myself included, are used to having hard numbers that tell us things and when we cant see those directly we feel the need to create them, often times unnecessarily as we’ve now seen. No offense intended of course to anyone who has made house-rules

  4. heathwilder
    March 6, 2014

    Great work. This is really helping me get a good grasp of my work as a watcher. Can’t wait for the next installment

  5. Gideon
    April 7, 2014

    I don’t like the idea of damage control. Those are house rules as you already mentioned.
    Everyone can play the game as they like! That’s the spirit of Roleplaying.
    I would much more appreciate it, if you would concentrate on bringing your own examples of how the game could work in special situations, explaining your way of making/using SFX for excotic Powers/Stunts (like you did), without the need of bad examples.

    Best article i’ve read so far is from Grimshade on explore-infinity:

    Something like this would be awesome.

    • icuseamus
      April 8, 2014

      I think you’re missing my point. The reason for doing “Damage Control” is that this game already has a limited audience, due simply to the fact that it’s no longer in production. We don’t benefit from people going online and finding a series of rules that make the game more complicated than it needs to be.

      I’m not making a point against house rules necessarily. I’m saying that the point of house ruling is not to throw something at the game just for the sake of doing it when the rules have very clear and simple methods for handling the situation. If you’ve read my first post on this subject, then you’ve seen why I’m doing it. It’s like the classic example of Monopoly. People have been house ruling that game for decades. The way it’s played now is overly complicated and bordering on unplayable.

      As for special situations, I’ve also written posts about that. See my post about chase scenes as an example.

      I think your idea about the spirit of roleplaying is close to the mark, but not quite. Of course you should play however you like. Without that, it’s not as fun and the question then becomes, “What’s the point?” My feeling is that the ‘spirit of roleplaying’ is really the process of creating an experience together, and rules should exist to further that goal, not slow it down. When I break down a house rule, I look at what the rule is trying to achieve and then see whether or not the situation can be handled within the rules as they already exist If no such rule exists, then I use what rules do exist as a template for finding a way to work things out in a way that pushes things forward.

      • Jared Rascher
        April 10, 2014

        Even in the official products that did come out, there were SFX that worked slightly differently from the ones presented in the Operations Manual, mainly to give a slightly different personality to new characters.

        New SFX aren’t really house rules in the traditional sense. The game is based on tweaking things to make them fit a character’s personality better, not saying “these are the rules, you should make everything fit within them.” Its not really about balance or even completely based on logic, so much as striking the proper “feel.”

        Have I seen homemade SFX and characters that I think would work better if they were streamlined a little, or expressed differently? Sure. On the other hand, while I appreciate these articles, I get a touch of “let the experts do it” from these comments, as if there is a hierarchy among fans of those qualified to make fan based material, which is the only support the game is going to get at this point.

      • icuseamus
        April 11, 2014

        Don’t misread me here. I’m not saying house rules are a bad thing, necessarily. What I’m driving at is that there are good house rules and there are bad house rules. More often than not, bad house rules happen when a fundamental concept is misunderstood and the whole system has to be re-engineered to fit something new.

        Part of the point here is that these “bad” house rules (most importantly those I’m talking about) highlight strengths of the system that people using it (especially newer players/Watchers) might not realize are there. This is particularly true where heroes already exist that use these effects. That’s why I wrote things the way I did, showing how similar effects were achieved without reinventing the wheel.

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This entry was posted on February 24, 2014 by in Damage Control, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , .

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