Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game Playtest Impressions

The Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game isn't the first (or second, etc.) Marvel universe RPG or even the first one designed in-house. Yet reading the playtest rulebook I can't help feeling like the expectations for this version is higher.

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Marvel's household name quality has always been a draw and thanks to the MCU, that name recognition doesn't just involve Spider-man or the X-Men but also deeper cuts Moonknight, Echo, Jessica Jones, etc. At the same time, Dungeons & Dragons is bigger than ever thanks to 5E's popularity, actual play videos like Critical Role, celebrities admitting that they still play D&D, etc. So Marvel (Disney) announcing that they hired Matt Forbeck to write and Forbeck, Mike Capps, and John Nee to design a new RPG was both a surprise and perfectly logical.

The new game, available as both an e-book and physical book ($9.99 MSRP), is actually a playtest version, but it's a substantial one – 120 pages. Considering the things the book references going into greater detail for in the final version, expect the actual core book coming in 2023 to be hefty.

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Rolling the Dice​

The new rules are called the D616 System, a reference to the multiverse designation for the Marvel we know and to signify how the dice work. Players roll 3d6, one of which is physically different from the other two. When taking an action, roll the dice, add them together, apply modifiers and compare the result to the target number (TN) to determine success.

However, a 1 on that different third die affects the results. If you roll three 1's it's a botch, meaning an automatic failure, plus something bad happens. Roll a one on the different die and don't have a pair of 1's on the other two, it's a fantastic roll, meaning that the one on the different die counts as a 6 when totaling the dice result. If you roll a one on the different die and 6's on both of the other two dice, a.k.a. 616, it's an ultimate fantastic roll (18). If the roll meets or beats the TN it's a fantastic success and a fantastic failure if less.

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Creating Your Hero​

Character attributes spell out “MARVEL” for easy remembrance: Might, Agility, Resilience, Vigilance, Ego, and Logic. Each attribute gets a score, a modifier, and a defense. Characters also have a rank to represent their power level and experience. Ranks can improve over time, but generally have a cap because characters in the Marvel universe are of various power levels. Daredevil is cited as a rank 5, Black Panther a rank 15, Thor 20, and Captain Marvel 25.

The playtest allows you to make new characters, as well as providing some characters. Each character is one of six archetypes: blaster, bruiser, genius, polymath, protector, and striker. These describe the character's focus and manner of behaving. So Peter Parker's Spider-man is a polymath, meaning he's a well-rounded character who is more flexible than a specialist like strikers Wolverine or Elektra. Protectors defend, support, and assist their team, like Invisible Woman or Professor X.

Powers are broken into power sets such as battlesuit, blades, cybernetics, firearms, energy control, martial arts, plasticity, shield bearer, spider powers, super strength, tactical mastery, weather control, and utility powers. Some powers are part of power trees, so you have to take, for example, Energy Beam to a rank of 5 before you can take Energy Wave.

I was able to play the enclosed adventure, “Enter: Hydra” before writing this review. It's straightforward and gives a good sense of the MMRPG. It's a solid game that plays well.

I did scratch my head at a few things, though. Thor has the powers Blow Away, Blow Back, and Blow Down, all of which seem to be single-target attacks. In fact, I only found a few powers with descriptions indicating group attacks. I don't think that's just a phrasing oversight because if it could affect multiple opponents there should be some sort of range or indicator for how many people can be affected or an area of effect. But it's a playtest so that could be adjusted in the future.

The basic layout is good and clear. The artwork is excellent and effective, of course, but who thought making yellow the background for white lettering was a good idea? I get that they're trying to be colorful and “four color” like comic books, but readability should always be a factor.

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Quibbles & Concerns​

While I enjoyed playing the demo and think that the MMRPG is a well-crafted game, I have a few quibbles and concerns: I'm not fond of power trees or ranks. They work here but will never be my design preference.

However, designing for the range of abilities in a superhero game is a tricky endeavor in general, and doubly so for existing properties like Marvel because you have to account for characters as apart in power as The Punisher and Phoenix. More lightweight superhero RPGs often omit galactic-powered characters or lean more on the narrative than mechanics.

That said, I don't consider the MMRPG to be incredibly crunchy, but rather midweight. However, Champions was the second RPG I ever played so your mileage may vary. Regardless of where you'd put MMRPG the on the scale of crunchy rule sets, anyone with basic RPG experience should be able to play the MMRPG fairly easily because Forbeck does a good job of laying everything out clearly and logically.

But one of my concerns is for people without any RPG experience. Reading the book, that's clearly part of the target audience for the final game, and with patience and good marketing the MCU could bring new players into TTRPGs that would never try D&D. Personally, I'm for expanding the base of gamers so MMRPG's potential excites me.

Yet I'm a little concerned that it could be daunting to newcomers. For that matter, I'm also concerned that people not currently playing RPGs won't even try the playtest, thereby skewing results in favor of established players so its newbie friendliness isn't addressed at all. Once the actual game is out marketing such as actual play videos with celebrities could help draw in interest and demonstrate play, but by then the core rules will be set.

The Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game is well-crafted for experienced players with a lot of potential to broaden the player base. At the same time, I hope the development team specifically seeks out newcomers for playtesting, too, to ensure that the MMRPG can live up to its fullest potential.
 

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Beth Rimmels

Beth Rimmels

Mezuka

Adventurer
Today, RPG companies can use Youtube and other video channels to teach 'how to play the game' and 'how to role play'. It's easier for a lot of people to be shown how a game works with live examples than trying to understand a game just by reading a book. (also, tutorials are great for people who think they play the game right but in fact, are not.)

New and young players are all over social media. I'm sure they will find their way to video content about MMRPG.
 


Today, RPG companies can use Youtube and other video channels to teach 'how to play the game' and 'how to role play'. It's easier for a lot of people to be shown how a game works with live examples than trying to understand a game just by reading a book. (also, tutorials are great for people who think they play the game right but in fact, are not.)

New and young players are all over social media. I'm sure they will find their way to video content about MMRPG.
I'm sorry, but this just isn't a good argument. There are many things on social media competing with your attention. If I have to spend 50+ bucks on the game then look up about 5-10 youtube videos on how to play it off the bat, then the game has failed. Games need to talk about how to play them in their books. Telling someone to teach themselves online is one of the worst things you can do. However, if you do this while also giving them tools in the book to teach them how to play, now you have the best option — a combination of both worlds.
 



DarkElfLX

Villager
While I don't disagree with anything specifically you've said, I can't help but point out your review, much like the game itself has left out any mention of role-playing. It's combat. Period. Even the wisecracking utility skill they gave Spiderman can cause damage on the right roll. While there is no question that combat is an integral part of a superhero role-playing system, it's not the only way to tell a story, and leaves out a lot of options to play out enjoyable stories that don't involve bashing opponents, or at least don't JUST involve that.
 


WageMage

Old School!
I've played so many supers systems. I play HERO Every Friday. I can't find a better one than the old FASERIP by Jeff Grubb. THe sheer design freedom I have in that is amazing just by the FEAT rolls.

This ruleset looks solid. I like the sound of it. But I use FASERIP with great effect for modern players.
I kinda wished they just reworked FASERIP!

Our group still uses it to this day. It feels like it has more creative freedom than this version, but we'll have to wait and see how the final version plays out.
 

Staffan

Legend
Hopefully nobody gets their face rip...rats, Mournblade94 stole my thunder.

Of course what lots of people really want are the stats so we can see if Spiderman could beat Wolverine. ;)
I mean, at one point Spider-Man handily kicked the butt of Colossus, Cyclops, Nightcrawler, Rogue, Storm, AND Wolverine. He was only stopped by Professor X putting the mind-whammy on him.
 


Mournblade94

Adventurer
I kinda wished they just reworked FASERIP!

Our group still uses it to this day. It feels like it has more creative freedom than this version, but we'll have to wait and see how the final version plays out.
FASERIP got criticism because it doesn't do avengers well... THOR, IRON MAN, are on another tier than CAPTAIN AMERICA, who is on another tier than HAWKEYE, BLACKWIDOW, and TIGRA.

All true. But I have not yet seen a game except maybe MArgaret Weiss that put those different tiers well. No game does that well, thats why M&M broke up the tiers.

But Weiss' system required ALOT of narrative to explain why THOR could work with BLACK WIDOW. Well... you can do the same with FASERIP.
THe GM needs to provide opportunities for everyone. If you feel ineffective playing the Black Widow, that is not a failure of the system, its a mistake on the GM providing reasonable challenge.

Look at the Avengers movie. THOR and HULK go after the big guns, CAP is leading and protecting, BLACK WIDOW and HAWKEYE are fighitng the army. That's exactly how FASERIP should work.
 

Mournblade94

Adventurer
Or the time he beat a Herald of Galactus...

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So I forget what crossover it was. But Peter Parker was in alot of trouble. Tony Stark and Dr Strange were trying to figure out a way to save him. They figured to do it... they may need to sacrifice one of their lives. Dr. Strange said "Tony he is the Best of all us, he is what we strive to be." Tony Stark agreed.

Peter parker is just wholesome.
 


TwoSix

Unserious gamer
I'm sorry, but this just isn't a good argument. There are many things on social media competing with your attention. If I have to spend 50+ bucks on the game then look up about 5-10 youtube videos on how to play it off the bat, then the game has failed. Games need to talk about how to play them in their books. Telling someone to teach themselves online is one of the worst things you can do. However, if you do this while also giving them tools in the book to teach them how to play, now you have the best option — a combination of both worlds.
I think that might be neglecting the fact that plenty of young people (and not-as-young people) PREFER the instruction to be online to reading it on text. It's not an either-or thing.
 

MarkB

Legend
Any insight on how easy it is to create a new hero and power-set in this system? As in, are there any powers that would leave you scratching your head as to how to model them using the existing categories?
 



TwoSix

Unserious gamer
That's exactly what I said on my post. To have both.
I don't think anyone is arguing for the exclusion of either. Including post #2, which you seemed to indicate was arguing AGAINST the exclusion of "How to Play" material in the book in your post #4. Whereas I read post #2 as simply being pro-video instruction, not anti-book instruction.
 

Mezuka

Adventurer
I don't think anyone is arguing for the exclusion of either. Including post #2, which you seemed to indicate was arguing AGAINST the exclusion of "How to Play" material in the book in your post #4. Whereas I read post #2 as simply being pro-video instruction, not anti-book instruction.
Yes, he made incorrect assumptions. It is a play test document. There is still room for improvement.
 
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