A Look Inside The Marvel Multiverse RPG Playtest Edition

MMRPG.jpg

It’s hard to believe nearly ten years since the last official Marvel RPG was released. In that time. Marvel has gone from a comic book company to a cultural behemoth. It’s brought home its favorite neighborhood webslinger, made a star out of a talking space raccoon and keeps the water cooler bubbling with weekly streaming shows. This time the company is releasing Marvel Multiverse Roleplaying on its own rather than licensing it out to a dedicated company. But it’s still stacked the deck by bringing in industry veteran Matt Forbeck to design the game. A shortened playtest edition comes out on April 20th but the company sent along a press copy for me to review. How does it stack up to the other ways to make yours Marvel? Let’s play to find out.

The game centers around the d616 system, which features three six sided dice. One of these three dice is the Marvel die, which triggers a special effect when it rolls the Marvel logo that’s in place of the one. For those folks playtesting at home, that means you should have a D6 designated as the Marvel die, preferably one that stands out from the other two. To accomplish goals in the game, players roll these dice and add them to one of their stats, which, of course, spell the word MARVEL: Might, Agility, Resilience, Vigilance, Ego, Logic. In play, it feels a little like Green Ronin’s AGE System mixed with WEG’s Star Wars d6. There’s a little bit of math to see if the roll passes or fails along with a chance of a narrative twist based on if the Marvel die pops off. Critical fails happen if all three dice come up 1, critical successes are if the regular dice roll 6s and the Marvel die rolls a 1 aka 616. On successes, a Marvel roll offers a “yes and” element and on a fail it’s a “no but” consolation.

Combat works on a similar basic principle with gridded distances, to hit rolls and hit points. There is some discussion of theater of the mind combat but the way distances work make this section feel a lot like it was written for people familiar with Fifth Edition combat without being a direct lift. In this draft, the Marvel die only activates knockback but it seems like there would be a lot of room for narrative flexibility.like disarms or add on effects triggered by that 1 out of 6 chance.

The character system is class and level based, though the latter is in-line with how Mutants & Masterminds handles levels. They are a general guide to power, one that can be modified within the stories told within the game. Level 10 seems the default power level here, with 5 being street level or young heroes, 15 being big team names from the X-Men or Avengers and 20 and higher being big cosmic type beings. The assumption here is that heroes remain static, though a discussion on level caps gives folks who want to watch their hero grow provide that option through milestone level ups.

The level system sets how many powers and traits a character has. Many of the traits come from how a character’s class and their origin plug together. Most traits are short, narrative permissions with simple mechanics attached. Usually the trait or the power inflicts a condition, offers a reroll or allows an attack or defense with an unexpected attribute. There’s not a lot of benchmarking here with certain heroes having better versions of powers. That seems all baked into the levels, with the Marvel die showing as the one in a million shot allowing a street level hero to get in an unexpected hit on Thanos, or at least creating an opening for a heavy hitter. It’s clear Marvel is going to sell at least one set of speciality dice for this but I would also like to see cards featuring the various powers and traits that could be dealt out to new players. The single page write-ups look impressive, but keeping in mind what options a character has might be overwhelming for new players.

Powers work like feat trees with options unlocked via previous choices and new levels. This document comes with a dozen power sets plus a general utility pool. These power sets match the characters released as part of the playtest: Peter Parker, Miles Morales, Black Panther, Captain America, Captain Marvel, Groot, Rocket Racoon, Iron Man, Thor, Storm and Wolverine. Characters build powers out of a few groups plus the general utility pool. It may not seem like much, but the relative simplicity of the powers make it pretty easy to hack new ones in the wait for the full book. The Spider Powers web slinging power tree, for example, could just as easily be repurposed as an Ice power tree for an Iceman write up with a minimum of fuss.

The write-ups are for the original 616 universe, but the text discusses how different versions could exist in other worlds. There’s a sense that most groups are going to be some mix of established characters and original creations. It seems easy to build and rebuild characters based on their power levels during specific comic runs or even MCU counterparts.

Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game comes down closer to the traditional RPG of its TSR predecessor than the narrative focus of Marvel Heroic Roleplaying. It has a straightforward pass/fail resolution with a small tip of the hat to narrative mechanics. It seems aimed at the larger Marvel or D&D audience rather than previously experienced gamers. How much of this will remain true has yet to be seen. This is a playtest, after all, and the people who plunk down their hard earned time and money can shape the direction of the game for its full release in 2023.
 

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Rob Wieland

Rob Wieland

I put this in one of the other threads, but the official page for the game is live on the main marvel.com site. It includes links to a survey, free character sheets, and errata, as the errata is made.

 


Jer

Legend
Supporter
I put this in one of the other threads, but the official page for the game is live on the main marvel.com site. It includes links to a survey, free character sheets, and errata, as the errata is made.
Interesting that the "Buy the Rulebook" link at that site leads to comicshoplocator.com - explicitly telling folks to go to a comic shop, not a game store, to buy this book. That was what I was thinking their strategy would be given that it was listed in Diamond for ordering - I wonder if that'll just be for the playtest or if that will continue for the final publication as well.

I'm really wondering about the physical format of this book - is it a trade paperback or is it in a comic-book magazine style format? I might have to go to the old comic shop this week to check it out if they have any copies.
 


Interesting that the "Buy the Rulebook" link at that site leads to comicshoplocator.com - explicitly telling folks to go to a comic shop, not a game store, to buy this book. That was what I was thinking their strategy would be given that it was listed in Diamond for ordering - I wonder if that'll just be for the playtest or if that will continue for the final publication as well.

Not thrilled with that, really.
 

Arilon

Explorer
I'm really wondering about the physical format of this book - is it a trade paperback or is it in a comic-book magazine style format? I might have to go to the old comic shop this week to check it out if they have any copies.
I got my physical copy today. The book feels and looks like a graphic novel, in terms of sturdiness, etc. It’s definitely something more durable than a standard comic book.
 

I'm kind of torn on this product. On one hand, I love new superhero rpgs...but, this is so...I don't know... 3.5ish. There have been so many fascinating innovations in the super rpg genre over the past 10 years it seems odd to get essentially a version of Mutants & Masterminds with 3d6 instead of a d20.

I'm guessing this D&Dish take is intentional though. I'll give it a chance.
 

Our gaming group talked about this game the other day. Although we are all avid Marvel fans we don't feel like learning yet another game system (it would be the fifth!). Anyway your review has picked my curiosity, I will keep and eye on the game development and maybe this new version will grow on me.
 



WageMage

Old School!
View attachment 155242
It’s hard to believe nearly ten years since the last official Marvel RPG was released. In that time. Marvel has gone from a comic book company to a cultural behemoth. It’s brought home its favorite neighborhood webslinger, made a star out of a talking space raccoon and keeps the water cooler bubbling with weekly streaming shows. This time the company is releasing Marvel Multiverse Roleplaying on its own rather than licensing it out to a dedicated company. But it’s still stacked the deck by bringing in industry veteran Matt Forbeck to design the game. A shortened playtest edition comes out on April 20th but the company sent along a press copy for me to review. How does it stack up to the other ways to make yours Marvel? Let’s play to find out.

The game centers around the d616 system, which features three six sided dice. One of these three dice is the Marvel die, which triggers a special effect when it rolls the Marvel logo that’s in place of the one. For those folks playtesting at home, that means you should have a D6 designated as the Marvel die, preferably one that stands out from the other two. To accomplish goals in the game, players roll these dice and add them to one of their stats, which, of course, spell the word MARVEL: Might, Agility, Resilience, Vigilance, Ego, Logic. In play, it feels a little like Green Ronin’s AGE System mixed with WEG’s Star Wars d6. There’s a little bit of math to see if the roll passes or fails along with a chance of a narrative twist based on if the Marvel die pops off. Critical fails happen if all three dice come up 1, critical successes are if the regular dice roll 6s and the Marvel die rolls a 1 aka 616. On successes, a Marvel roll offers a “yes and” element and on a fail it’s a “no but” consolation.

Combat works on a similar basic principle with gridded distances, to hit rolls and hit points. There is some discussion of theater of the mind combat but the way distances work make this section feel a lot like it was written for people familiar with Fifth Edition combat without being a direct lift. In this draft, the Marvel die only activates knockback but it seems like there would be a lot of room for narrative flexibility.like disarms or add on effects triggered by that 1 out of 6 chance.

The character system is class and level based, though the latter is in-line with how Mutants & Masterminds handles levels. They are a general guide to power, one that can be modified within the stories told within the game. Level 10 seems the default power level here, with 5 being street level or young heroes, 15 being big team names from the X-Men or Avengers and 20 and higher being big cosmic type beings. The assumption here is that heroes remain static, though a discussion on level caps gives folks who want to watch their hero grow provide that option through milestone level ups.

The level system sets how many powers and traits a character has. Many of the traits come from how a character’s class and their origin plug together. Most traits are short, narrative permissions with simple mechanics attached. Usually the trait or the power inflicts a condition, offers a reroll or allows an attack or defense with an unexpected attribute. There’s not a lot of benchmarking here with certain heroes having better versions of powers. That seems all baked into the levels, with the Marvel die showing as the one in a million shot allowing a street level hero to get in an unexpected hit on Thanos, or at least creating an opening for a heavy hitter. It’s clear Marvel is going to sell at least one set of speciality dice for this but I would also like to see cards featuring the various powers and traits that could be dealt out to new players. The single page write-ups look impressive, but keeping in mind what options a character has might be overwhelming for new players.

Powers work like feat trees with options unlocked via previous choices and new levels. This document comes with a dozen power sets plus a general utility pool. These power sets match the characters released as part of the playtest: Peter Parker, Miles Morales, Black Panther, Captain America, Captain Marvel, Groot, Rocket Racoon, Iron Man, Thor, Storm and Wolverine. Characters build powers out of a few groups plus the general utility pool. It may not seem like much, but the relative simplicity of the powers make it pretty easy to hack new ones in the wait for the full book. The Spider Powers web slinging power tree, for example, could just as easily be repurposed as an Ice power tree for an Iceman write up with a minimum of fuss.

The write-ups are for the original 616 universe, but the text discusses how different versions could exist in other worlds. There’s a sense that most groups are going to be some mix of established characters and original creations. It seems easy to build and rebuild characters based on their power levels during specific comic runs or even MCU counterparts.

Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game comes down closer to the traditional RPG of its TSR predecessor than the narrative focus of Marvel Heroic Roleplaying. It has a straightforward pass/fail resolution with a small tip of the hat to narrative mechanics. It seems aimed at the larger Marvel or D&D audience rather than previously experienced gamers. How much of this will remain true has yet to be seen. This is a playtest, after all, and the people who plunk down their hard earned time and money can shape the direction of the game for its full release in 2023.
Interesting!

So on a Marvel roll, there is no complete failure?

From my understanding of the article, the two results are "yes and..." and "no but..."
 

Jer

Legend
Supporter
I'm guessing this D&Dish take is intentional though. I'll give it a chance.
I'm pretty sure it is - I suspect that they specifically wanted something that would be able to piggy back off of D&D as much as possible to be familiar to players who only vaguely know about rpgs from D&D. I picked up the digital version via Comixology/Amazon and ... it definitely reminds me a lot of D&D in a number of ways, at least in a preliminary filpthrough. I'll need to dig into it after work to see just how much like D&D it is.

Also glancing through it - I don't think it's Mutants and Masterminds but with 3d6. It seems much more structured and less open-ended than M&M or other point-buy superhero games. I'll have to see how it plays but just the initial glance kind of reminds me of D&D mashed up with the old FASERIP system in some ways (we'll see if that holds up once I get a chance to really read it tho).
 
Last edited:

robowieland

Adventurer
Interesting!

So on a Marvel roll, there is no complete failure?

From my understanding of the article, the two results are "yes and..." and "no but..."

If the Marvel die comes up as a one (where the logo face is located), two things happen: it's counted as a six when totalled with the other two dice and it offers a narrative twist. So if the roll succeeds with a Marvel , it's a "yes, and" but if it fails, it's a "no, but"

If all three dice come up as one, it's a botch. If the regular dice are sixes and the marvel die comes up (i.e. 6-1-6) it's a critical success.

There are still ordinary successes and failures if the marvel die doesn't roll a logo/1.
 


Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
At the moment I doubt they have easy access to other options. They are just plugged into the comic industry far stronger than they are the gaming industry.

And, really, folks, they are a comics company. This isn't much different from WotC only making alternate cover art on books available at FLGSs. Supporting their local stores is just good business.
 


Jer

Legend
Supporter
Here is a recent interview with Matt on the game that people should read
It's interesting that he mentions "Brave New World" which was the first thing I thought of when I heard he was on board designing the Marvel game. The thing I worry is that he took away the wrong lessons from BNW - it was definitely the wrong game mechanically for 1999, it might not be the wrong game mechanically for 2022. "The market likes crunch" is a lesson from the early 00's - "the market likes D&D 5e" where we are in 2022, and D&D 5e is only moderately crunchy.

However - looking over the game on my lunch break, it's certainly interesting. It's not quite as crunchy as it feels at first glance and my previous feeling that it feels like a mash-up of D&D and FASERIP feels more solid, even before him indicating that they pulled inspiration from it in the interview I was sure he had. The power write-ups especially feel a bit like a mix of the power lists in FASERIP and the spell write-ups of D&D - where folks were seeing "feat chains" before what it actually seems to be is a way of describing how "casting a spell with a higher slot" works when you don't have spell slots or casting - you end up with powers escalating across "tiers" of power levels.

I think it needs some presentation tweaks - it's good to see Forbeck indicate that these rules are written not for a general audience but for folks who are already gamers because there are some things in the book that could be simpler. I may actually run a few sessions with a few of my regulars and see how it plays - there are some interesting ideas in there. (For example, I like the idea of the Marvel die having the 1 count as a 6 unless it's a critical failure - it adds some swinginess to the bell curve distribution that I like to see personally. I'd like to see how it actually plays).
 

It's interesting that he mentions "Brave New World" which was the first thing I thought of when I heard he was on board designing the Marvel game. The thing I worry is that he took away the wrong lessons from BNW - it was definitely the wrong game mechanically for 1999, it might not be the wrong game mechanically for 2022. "The market likes crunch" is a lesson from the early 00's - "the market likes D&D 5e" where we are in 2022, and D&D 5e is only moderately crunchy.

However - looking over the game on my lunch break, it's certainly interesting. It's not quite as crunchy as it feels at first glance and my previous feeling that it feels like a mash-up of D&D and FASERIP feels more solid, even before him indicating that they pulled inspiration from it in the interview I was sure he had. The power write-ups especially feel a bit like a mix of the power lists in FASERIP and the spell write-ups of D&D - where folks were seeing "feat chains" before what it actually seems to be is a way of describing how "casting a spell with a higher slot" works when you don't have spell slots or casting - you end up with powers escalating across "tiers" of power levels.

I think it needs some presentation tweaks - it's good to see Forbeck indicate that these rules are written not for a general audience but for folks who are already gamers because there are some things in the book that could be simpler. I may actually run a few sessions with a few of my regulars and see how it plays - there are some interesting ideas in there. (For example, I like the idea of the Marvel die having the 1 count as a 6 unless it's a critical failure - it adds some swinginess to the bell curve distribution that I like to see personally. I'd like to see how it actually plays).
Really well-said. And, I agree, by & large, with the sum of this.

I too felt like he took the wrong lessons forward ... at least seemingly. Marvel Heroic, Sentinels Comics RPG, Icons, Masks, & more have succeeded because I think they've done exceptionally well at tapping into the thematic, narrative, comic book-y aspects of the supers rpg genre.

The crunch here at first blush seems so grounded in an D&D/Pathfinder vibe...it was almost like system shock to read it. Was getting Champions vibes (though it IS NOT that).

However, I wonder if, like you said, a lot of my initial takeaway is in the presentation of the material. Certainly, I think the format of this book (and the tepid adventure at the end) are not doing it any favors...but, the more I mull it over, I do wonder if in play it will sing a bit more than I am giving it credit for.

Hopefully, I'll have time to put it on the table soon and see.
 

It's interesting that he mentions "Brave New World" which was the first thing I thought of when I heard he was on board designing the Marvel game. The thing I worry is that he took away the wrong lessons from BNW - it was definitely the wrong game mechanically for 1999, it might not be the wrong game mechanically for 2022. "The market likes crunch" is a lesson from the early 00's - "the market likes D&D 5e" where we are in 2022, and D&D 5e is only moderately crunchy.

However - looking over the game on my lunch break, it's certainly interesting. It's not quite as crunchy as it feels at first glance and my previous feeling that it feels like a mash-up of D&D and FASERIP feels more solid, even before him indicating that they pulled inspiration from it in the interview I was sure he had. The power write-ups especially feel a bit like a mix of the power lists in FASERIP and the spell write-ups of D&D - where folks were seeing "feat chains" before what it actually seems to be is a way of describing how "casting a spell with a higher slot" works when you don't have spell slots or casting - you end up with powers escalating across "tiers" of power levels.

I think it needs some presentation tweaks - it's good to see Forbeck indicate that these rules are written not for a general audience but for folks who are already gamers because there are some things in the book that could be simpler. I may actually run a few sessions with a few of my regulars and see how it plays - there are some interesting ideas in there. (For example, I like the idea of the Marvel die having the 1 count as a 6 unless it's a critical failure - it adds some swinginess to the bell curve distribution that I like to see personally. I'd like to see how it actually plays).
Now, I am a little more intrigued. Currently in the mainstream rpg market, the holy grail is a game that makes optimizer types to feel there is crunch for them while said crunch not adding to the prep time for the GM.

I mean there is at least one game already designed for that but it twists too many expectations to get there for a lot of the gamer crowd.
 

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