On August 19th, the topic is my favourite supers rpg. I’ve played many superhero rpgs over the decades. I started playing rpg with TMNT & Other Strangeness by Erick Wujcik and I’m always attracted to superhero games. Two rpgs are very close to being my favourite, Marvel Super Heroes Adventure Game (aka Marvel SAGA) & Marvel Heroic Roleplaying. I’ll talk about Marvel SAGA mostly as I have more experience with it.
Marvel SAGA is a superhero game set in the Marvel Universe of comics. It uses a special deck of cards for it’s task resolution. The players who take on the role of heroes get a hand of cards based on their experience (from 3 to 6). The player who takes the role of the Narrator doesn’t get cards unless the other player give him some. There are five suits in the game, four based on the attributes (Strength, Agility, Intelligence & Willpower) while the fifth is the Doom suit. When you do a task, you can play any card and add its value to your attribute or power, if the suit matches the action you wish to take then you can flip an additional card from the deck. The Doom suit has more powerful cards but you can’t get a flip from the deck. Additionally, if you play a Doom card then you give it to the Narrator who can increase the difficulty later in the game.
I love how the hand of cards gives a player choice on how to accomplish an action. Additionally, it is funny seeing a player hesitate to play a Doom suit card for fear to give it to the Narrator. I’ve seen players keep the Doom suit cards until their whole hand was ful in which case they had no choice. In Marvel Heroic, I’ve seen that choice show up as a player rolls a pool of dice and then gets to select which dice to add and which to use for effect. When a player rolls a 1, they get rewarded with a plot point as the Watcher increases the Doom pool. This is one reason why I had trouble choosing between both games as I see some very close similarities.
The difficulty of a task in Marvel SAGA is set by a value determined by the Narrator. If the villain can manipulate the situation, like the common battles which happens in superhero comics, then you flip a card from the deck and add the value to the difficulty. This value is shown to all and thus players know most what they are facing. I like this honesty of the game. Marvel Heroic has this transparent feel as you see the doom pool, you see the Watcher build the villains dice pool and the various traits are public. To me this shows the games are meant to be played as a group for fun.
The cards have descriptors on there which are events which can trigger in the game. You decide if an event would be appropriate. It can be reinforcements, innocents in danger, power surge, etc. Additionally, the events are tied to a motivation which each character has. If an event triggers then a hero with the matching motivation should react to it. If they do, they get a larger breadth of advancement and if they don’t, they might start changing in ways they don’t want. We played with a house rule that once per session each player can change the face up card for a one in their hand. If they did so then the event happened. I saw the group discuss to play appropriate cards for each others motivations.
In Marvel Heroic, each character have their own arc through milestones. An event also has milestones. When you accomplish the conditions on the milestone you get experience which can be used for advancement. Marvel Heroic also permits to spend experience points to unlock a hero to play. This means experience is awarded to the player rather than the character. The player gets to decide how the story will develop which is a cool thing. The player becomes a writer for a comic book.
I’ve played many years using the Marvel SAGA system. I’ve run complete campaigns with the World Task Force (WTF) as they defended Earth from threats from all over. The game plays smoothly, quickly and I had a creative group. For Marvel Heroic, I’ve played a few one-shots. I wish to try a campaign at one point. I read what the Marvel Plot Points site releases. I’m also happy that some designers of Marvel Heroic, which includes Cam Banks, Dave Chalker, and Philippe-Antoine Ménard, are designing Sentinels of the Multiverse RPG which excites me.
What is your favourite superhero rpg? What was your favourite superhero you played and their main nemesis?