Marvel Plot Points

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

A Fantastic Walkthrough of the Game Mechanics

Sam Johnson, a longtime reader of Plot Points, has sent along an amazing walkthrough of the mechanics of Marvel Heroic, alongside a descriptive scene. You can read the scene down one side of the doc, and see how it translates to mechanics on the other side. It’s really well done, and if you are still struggling with the rules, it’s a great way to see how it all works. The document is a living document, so he’ll continue updating it as his story continues.

Here’s his introduction, and the link to the Doc is below:

If you’re reading this you may be as lost as I was in 2014 when I started learning Marvel Heroic Roleplaying (MHR). You may be totally comfortable with and running MHR for years and want to get a different perspective on the mechanics. You may be curious as to how this out-of-print game works because you’ve been hearing about the Cortex/Cortex Plus/Cortex Prime systems. That’s all cool with me.

I started roleplaying in 1980 with the D&D beginner’s red box. I went through almost every TSR game produced in the 80s, including one of my favorites, Boot Hill. My mind was blown in 1983 when a close friend of mine, who knew how much I loved Marvel comics, introduced me to Champions III. Champions let me do whatever I wanted in a “crunchy”, point-based method that required a relatively good grip on basic math. Since I enjoyed math and numbers I was hooked again. In 1985 our group graduated from high school and went our separate ways. Table top role playing faded from my collective energy and became fond memories.

Fast forward to 2014 and a spark is lit by, of all people, my kids. They’d heard my stories, even seen all the games I’d kept as memorabilia, met a few of my gaming friends, and they asked me if I’d introduce them to superhero gaming. I didn’t want to introduce them through Champions. I had picked up a copy of Champions Complete and reintroduced myself to the mechanics and character building and still loved it but knew that it would be a tough slog for two kids who had no idea what anything meant in the system or how to spend points or build powers. It was too much. I bought a copy of Marvel Heroic Roleplaying because I’d read that the storytelling-driven system was really fun and great for introducing new players plus it brought the four-color comics world to life and was entirely focused on my favorite Marvel comics characters.

I didn’t get it.

I went through the Basic Rules Operations Manual (OM) 12 times. Each time I read the OM I found something new to highlight, something I’d missed, some new option, some oddity I couldn’t wrap my head around or figure out how to “Watch”. 

I never introduced my kids to MHR or to roleplaying. They don’t hold that against me. 

But deep down I knew I just needed a push, something that would help my mind click the tumblers in place and the world would open up, that I’d get comfortable with the system in the way I would want to run it without feeling I was doing something “wrong”. That epiphany occurred in January 2021.

I’d been reading previews and the Kickstarter about Cam Banks’ new Cortex Prime Handbook. I bought it. I started reading it…and bam. Concepts started coming together. The freedom of the Cortex system (and MHR) began to jell. I wasn’t struggling with the fact that every character had the exact same Physical, Mental, and Emotional tracks anymore. I wasn’t worried about Affiliations versus Complications versus Assets versus Resources versus Stress versus Stunts and their differences. Dice pools started making sense when I was able to justify them. Plot points became the currency of my game as the OM said they were. The Doom Pool as the Watcher’s way to respond to the players’ Plot Points and influence the story became much clearer. The structure fell into place and I applied a Cortex Prime lens to a re-read of MHR.

And that’s where I am today and that’s the genesis of this document.

I’ve taken an unusual, and I think unique, perspective to this “mechanics practice”. As a writer I wanted to build a side-by-side, two-column approach to developing the story that results from the decisions and dice rolls within the game’s story. What you’ll see in the left column is the story as it might be in a script or novel, including the exposition and dialogue between characters. On the right you’ll see the rolls and outcomes made by a fictitious Watcher and related characters. Those decisions and dice rolls influence the story written on the left-hand side. All dice rolls are real and were completed with real dice or the Dice Ex app when I was up late and needed to be quiet while my family was sleeping.

I hope you’ll take away three things from this: MHR is an awesome storytelling system that gives players and Watchers the freedom to make superhero gaming a collaborative and exciting world like the comics they originated in. I hope that reading this will clarify how rules work, how they might be interpreted, and when you might use them. Second, this document isn’t perfect; far from it. It’s a living work in progress and it’s how I’d run the game based on my interpretation of the rules, which may not be yours. Finally, I hope you’re entertained by the story I’ve created and that it reads like something you’d find in a comic book with the action, stress, battles, and tension that comes from the unknown but always leads somewhere even more interesting and fun.

Let’s practice.

Follow the link here for the document.


About Mark

Mark is a military veteran, game designer, a believer in the oxford comma, and an all-around nerd.

One comment on “A Fantastic Walkthrough of the Game Mechanics

  1. Eligiusz
    April 7, 2021

    In my opinion a reaction roll against a sentinel allows only to defend a character, counter-attack is allowed only if you won contest before, otherwise every defending character would instead attack the attacker.

    Is it possible to step up a stunt to d12? where is it written? i know why it goes from d8 to d10, but d12 for a 1PP??

    You are using distinction every roll, but in my personal opinion it should be more validated, because players just use distinction for d8 without explanation.

    there is a funny mistake about numbers of thugs: 5dx is a large crowd of people, maybe 100 of them.

    but why is it funny? because when you read a marvel heroic rulebook carefully, you will notice that at some point there was an idea to use one die per opponent, so five people=5 dice. look at velociraptors in a rulebook.

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This entry was posted on February 28, 2021 by in Action Scene, Actual Play, Narrative.

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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