Marvel Plot Points

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

Reskinning Marvel Heroic: Not Just for Superheroes

When you breakdown almost any game (especially RPG) they are composed basically of a mathematical framework (crunch) and a layer of cosmetic flavoring (flumph). Usually actions and conflicts are resolved around inputs and outcomes from the system crunch, but “what happens” comes from the flumph. Many games are built around the premise of being a “generic system” and have built in scenarios to mutate the cosmetic layer. On the other hand in other games crunch and flumph comes hand to hand and glue together. Megs_ratchSometimes we watch a movie, a TV series, or read a book, comic book and so on, and get an urge to play a game in that setting, but rarely there available options. In those cases, reskinning an existing RPG maybe the road to go.

Reskinning is a valuable tool for any “dungeon master”, and it consist of removing the cosmetic layer of an existing game, and providing a new flavor, but maintaining (mostly) intact the system crunch. Many times it is a simple process of renaming some elements of the game (like switching halflings for hobbits or kenders), but sometimes the overhaul can be more drastic, for example, using rules for underwater combat for space combat.

Back in 2010, I even went pretty radical with reskinning and (on a Portuguese podcast: I proposed to create X-men characters out of the Dungeon and Dragons Players Handbook. It was a fun project, and we proved to ourselves that there are no boundaries to play the game that you want, if you have the resources and a pinch of imagination.

Now, looking at our beloved MHRPG, and the Cortex engine that runs its crunch system, things get a little tricky. The Cortex Plus system is designed to be a great framework to receive any (or almost any) kind of cosmetic overlay, but the tricky part is that, the way it was designed, the published “settings” (Marvel, Smallville, Leverage, Firefly) using Cortex are not compatible between themselves. That happens because the stories being told have a complete different tone, and focus on many diverse aspects (like relationship X action).

To be fair, there is the “Cortex Plus Hacker’s Guide”, a book all about reskinning, adaptation and creation of you very on system. I own the book, but haven’t had the time to read it, and pardon me if the things I am saying may not be in line with the ethos from the Hacker’s Guide.

This week on the site we are having a “Transformers Week”, and the guys suggested a mini event and some Autobots and Decepticons datafiles. While I think they are totally doable using the RAW (rules as written) on the MHRPG books, I was wondering if with just some minor tweaks (or reskinning) we could end up with a more accurate and independent Transformers RPG.

So let’s break down some ideas that came to my mind.

Robot / Car Modes:

The main idea is to use power set’s as “modes”, each with its own set of abilities. Some abilities can be in different modes, but with distinct values. For example, Jazz is as faster car than he is as a robot, so, he could have Speed d8 as a car and Speed d6 as a robot. Also “disguise” is a big part on Transformers, especially on the Autobots side, so the more mundane the alt mode is higher value on “disguise”. One cool idea is to have an Limit that the transformer can not shift modes if it has any stress over D8.


Mental and Emotional stress doesn’t make much sense in a game full of robots, the idea is to still keep the 3 tiers of stress but switching PME for Hull (representing the armor / shell of the transformers), Mechanical (representing the inner workings of the robots) and System (representing all the software parts).


Nothing wrong with the Solo/Body/Team system to be used with transformers RPG, but would make more sense to adapt that part for something more in the feel of the TF mythos. One idea is to change it to a Tech/Assault/Stealth or even dabble into the original toys datafiles and use of the values for Skill/Rank/Courage.

Many more ideas for reskinning can be developed from here, some just changing the flavoring, others meddling with the inner workings of the system. It is up for each group of players and mostly up to the narrator to find its sweet spot.

Please share any of your ideas in the comments section. Also, how would you do an adaptation for other famous IP’s like G.I Joe, He-Man, Ghostbusters? I have my own ideas, i would like to hear yours.


8 comments on “Reskinning Marvel Heroic: Not Just for Superheroes

  1. I’ll tell you something, you’re in the right mindset although you did not read the Cortex Hacker’s Guide (which I also backed).

    When it comes to the new ways to use the base rules, you pretty much nailed it. I would even go further and say that your example is better than what we have in the guide. They give us lots of interesting takes for their previous cortex incarnations, however the heroic system is entirely dedicated to medieval fantasy. I even felt I wasted my money back then. Sincerely, I expected more than just rules for a setting I barely ever play anymore. Nevertheless, the guidelines within helped me come up with the broad strokes of a Dragonball Z adaptation.

    • felipenerdcore
      February 21, 2015

      Dude you made my day!

      I would love to see your DBZ adaptation, and if you want, we can share it here on the site.

    • Jose Allen
      March 10, 2015

      I just asked about this. I’ve been wanting to do something like DBZ and was very curious to see how it could be done.

  2. johnnysmash1618Johnny Smash
    February 21, 2015

    Hey! I just wanted to drop a line and say how much I appreciate the work you put into your site!
    I love the many data files you create. From Marvel to Star Wars to Transformers and beyond, the effort you put forth is evident of your love of the game framework.
    I’d like to ask: Do you game regularly? If so, Table? PbP? Via Google hangouts? I’m in a group of about twenty and NOONE will play Marvel Heroics.
    It’s really frustrating as a comic lover with access to a great superhero game and noone to play with.
    I’m a working dad and family man so time is limited but if I could find a game I’m certain I’d be able to work something out.
    Anyway, thank you so much and please keep them coming!

    • felipenerdcore
      February 21, 2015

      We played a few games on hang outs. MHRPG proved to be a more viable option for Hangouts than D&D, and we loved it.

      Probably you can see some of those session via youtube.

      Make sure to follow Andrew and Mark on twitter, because every now and then they post a call to arms to play MHRPG.

  3. Jeremy Long
    February 28, 2015

    I completely understand and agree in using a game’s rule structure to play other games. I have found such methods used for many other games. For example, I absolutely love the Mass Effect universe and luckily have found someone who created the Mass Effect Saga using the saga rules from the Star Wars saga system from Wotc. The rules were in Portuguese, but it didn’t stop me in trying to read all 3 of their books; just slow with a English to Portuguese dictionary. :). With the end of Legend of Korra, I have recently come to want to roleplay in that universe. So far, I have found a D20 set for Avatar: the Last Airbender (nothing updated with the Korra storyline, though.)

    • felipenerdcore
      February 28, 2015

      Jeremy nice to hear your experiences.
      Actually the guy that made the Mass Effect adaptation is a friend of mine, and a fellow podcast co-host.
      He will be glad to see that his work went that far!!

  4. Jeremy Long
    March 1, 2015

    @felipenerdcore That is very cool news! Well, I appreciate the hard work. I really enjoy the RPG. You guys got a fan right here if you can think up even more ideas for it! 🙂

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This entry was posted on February 21, 2015 by in Resources, Tips & Tricks, Transformers.

All images and names of characters and locations, unless expressly stated and are ™ & © Marvel & Subs. Used without permission.

Heroic Roleplaying & the Cortex Plus system ™ Margaret Weis Productions, Ltd.

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