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

Staffan

Legend
For those who care, this reminds me of the secret wars ( where Spidey got his black costume, and Galactus called for his " house " )
That's exactly where it came from. The X-Men feel excluded by the other Heroes, and discuss going to join Magneto who has set himself up as a neutral party. Spidey overhears them, and they try to catch him to stop him from telling anyone else, and they don't have a chance until the Prof mind-zaps Spidey.

Euh Trump Cards and Donald Trump wtf ?
In trick-taking games (meaning a game where players take turns playing cards and generally have to follow suit, and when everyone has played a card the highest card takes the "trick"), one suit is often designated as a trump suit, meaning that those cards outrank other suits (so if the trump suit is Spades, I can play a three of Spades and win over your Jack of Hearts). This is not directly related to the Trump family, other than having similar origins relating to latin triumphus.

In Marvel Saga in particular, trumps work a bit differently. You have five suits, four of which are associated with one stat each (Strength, Agility, Willpower, Intelligence). You can play any card to help with any action, but if you play the right suit for that action you will add an additional card from the deck to the total (so if I want to lift something and have a Willpower 7 and a Strength 3 card available, I could either play the Willpower 7 card and know I'm getting a +7 to the action, or I could play the Strength 3 card and get +3 plus a random draw).
 

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Marvel Heroic is exceptional, and my preferred for when people want to play a 'canon' character. Sentinels is exceptional, too. But, man, it is a TRAVESTY (hyperbole alert!!) that no one has mentioned ICONS Assembled by Kenson.

Narrative with dice tricks, easy integration of multiple power sources, a number of amazing supplements, so fun and intuitive IN PLAY... it can make any hero. Definitely a game that you gotta play 2-3 times to see it's grace, but it is a really exceptional game.

(As for this current playtest, everything bounced off me...too crunchy, not aesthetically pleasing, too fiddly, etc)
 

Arilyn

Hero
Marvel stated that they want a game that would appeal to D&D players and feel comfortable. Forbeck is a good game designer and has created a solid game that does do that, if players look past what seems at first glance to be fiddly rules and tables. The rules are pretty straight forward and the tables are only used to grab numbers during character creation but it looks daunting.

I don't like the branching power structure and the reams of powers doing a bunch of different things, but it is what exists in D&D via class abilities, race abilities, spells and feats. The 6d6 is not that different from d20 with the gimmick of getting amazing results, or terrible failures.

The characters having differing tiers of power levels does not appeal to me either, but Forbeck cleverly has tasks for higher tier characters require higher TNs. This allows Black Widow and Thor to work on a level playing field, unless they attack each other or run into Thanos. In this case Black Widow will need to get clever and start using the terrain around her. This works.

So overall the system is sound. It is not my preferred way of playing super hero games. I much prefer Icons, World in Peril, Marvel Super Heroic or Sentinel.

I think Marvel may not realize just how hard it can be to pry 5e fans away from their favourite game, and super hero fans tend to prefer a less D&D approach to their comic games. Time will tell if this will prove to be a major stumbling block.
 

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.

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

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The thing is, with comic book power levels, there are CLEARLY a number of characters, in both DC/Marvel, that are pretty much OP, but then they end up losing easily or what not when the whims of the story demands it.
 

Staffan

Legend
The thing is, with comic book power levels, there are CLEARLY a number of characters, in both DC/Marvel, that are pretty much OP, but then they end up losing easily or what not when the whims of the story demands it.
Spider-Man is OP in a rather specific way. He is basically second-tier in everything. He's no Hulk, but he's pretty darn strong. He's no Reed Richards, but really smart nonetheless. He's no Northstar, but really fast and agile. He doesn't have the formal training of Captain America, but he's a great scrapper.

So sure, his foes usually outmatch him. In one area. But against strong opponents, Spidey's fast and clever. Against smart opponents, he is fast and strong. Against fast opponents (though that's not very common), he uses strength and trickery.
 

Drake2000

Explorer
Marvel Heroic is exceptional, and my preferred for when people want to play a 'canon' character. Sentinels is exceptional, too. But, man, it is a TRAVESTY (hyperbole alert!!) that no one has mentioned ICONS Assembled by Kenson.

Narrative with dice tricks, easy integration of multiple power sources, a number of amazing supplements, so fun and intuitive IN PLAY... it can make any hero. Definitely a game that you gotta play 2-3 times to see it's grace, but it is a really exceptional game.

It took me a few tries to get into ICONS but when I did finally grok it, it really blew me away. I've done quite a bite with Fate, so I think the similarities were initially throwing me off, but reading, re-reading & then really playing with Qualities in-game was a real "Aha!" moment. It sits right at the top of my favorites list with MHR (and Champions, for nostalgic reasons).
 


TrippyHippy

Adventurer
Everybody is entitled to an opinion, certainly about a play-test, but bluntly, mine is that this is the worst set of rules I have seen for any Marvel RPG and one of the laziest designs I’ve ever seen in any professionally produced RPG.

It almost seems like somebody said "we need to make something that works a bit like D&D5e, because that is selling like hotcakes, but lets throw in a couple of signature gimmicks like Ability scores spelling M.A.R.V.E.L. and a D6 with an ‘M’ on it, and that will be cool!’.

The numbers are too high to relate to or work around the table in an intuitive way. The archetypes/classes are poorly conceived and don’t account for that many character types in any purposeful way. The power trees are too specific and itemised to individual characters (who else other than Spiderman will be web slinging?) and suggest zero-to-hero progression, via levels, that doesn’t really reflect the way the characters develop in the comics or movies. The game design doesn’t reward creative, spontaneous storytelling.

Marvel RPGs have, traditionally I guess now, had some of the most innovative and dynamic RPG designs through various editions in their respective times. This isn’t one of them.
 
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antiwesley

Unpaid Scientific Adviser (Ret.)
I think, for me, the strongest and weakest link is the 616 mechanic. For hard core gamers, the roll is contradictory. High numbers are good, except on the 'middle' die, where low is good. I could see this particular setup confusing some entry-level gamers who want the MCU experience.

It's a strong thing because it's a mechanic I can't recall ever seeing before. Regardless of the die in question, 3 is still the high on the bell curve. A roll of 3/3/3 can handle most basic difficulties, and the middle die being 'opposite' can lead to interesting results.

I've read everything else, and it's a good start, but I seriously expect the first tome of the actual RPG being a Champions sized book just to cover the basic power sets and variations of such.

Hopefully, though, this will be an entry-level game that can lead players to far better systems which have all been already named.
 

aramis erak

Legend
The power trees are too specific and itemised to individual characters (who else other than Spiderman will be web slinging?)
Venom, a handful of minor villains, both Miles and Peter
and suggest hero-to-zero progression, via levels, that doesn’t really reflect the way the characters develop in the comics or movies.
Agreed, but any advancement in movies is between movies. Advancement in the comics is really limited to certain character clades: the youth of Xavier's academy, Each character's backstory tale, and Agents of SHIELD.
In the TV show, AoS has interesting growth - mostly lateral, that is, more powers but not increases in peak abilities...
This system provides upward only.
The game design doesn’t reward creative, spontaneous storytelling.
Reread the section on Karma. It does, just not strongly.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
Hopefully, though, this will be an entry-level game that can lead players to far better systems which have all been already named.
The concern is that casual MCU fans are going to look at this, have their eyes glaze, brows furrow and then go and play a Marvel heroes video game instead.

MCU movies are light entertainment and these rules with their reliance on tables, non-intuitive maths and power ranks is anything but ‘light entertainment’
 


pemerton

Legend
Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, the game I designed at Margaret Weis Productions, didn’t require a lot of narrative to handle both Thor and Black Widow on the same team. The game directly supported that and it worked really well based on the positive feedback we kept getting about it.
Great to see you posting here about your awesome RPG!
 

sithholocron

Villager
So its 0616 system and marvel is egotistical enough that the statlines spell out marvel, and they want you to pay for a playtest. I'm going to go give my money to Modephius
 

Lord Shark

Explorer
Another odd thing about the Rank system -- it's apparently assigned based not on the character's comics power level, but on their sphere of influence. Like, Daredevil is Rank 5 because he mostly sticks to one neighborhood, Spider-Man is Rank 10 because he's best known as New York's hero, but Captain America and Black Panther are Rank 15 because they represent nations. But because Rank also determines your power level in the game, this leads to weird situations -- like, Spidey would have a hard time beating Cap if you played it out in this game.
 

manhammer

Explorer
There's also business being done here. They're selling a $10 play test and have a digital push alongside it on the TTRP products. Instead of kickstarting their gauging popularity via play test buy in and at a level I was comfortable being a part of.

I love all of the FASERIP love and played the heck out of it. The Marvel Universe books for the game could not come out fast enough for me.

Oh mighty canoe of Uatu take me to Asgaard!
 

Pauper

That guy, who does that thing.
I have to say I feel very odd when listening to conversations about the old FASERIP system; I also played the heck out of it back in the day, but I far preferred Champions as a super heroic game system. Of course, Champions is all but dead these days -- even the Sixth Edition rules, which have finally started the process of simplifying the game that's been promised since before the 5th edition hardcover was released (eliminating Figured Characteristics and thus the rules associated with guying characteristics as Powers, eliminating the Elemental Control Power Framework) are far too complex for gamers who seem much more comfortable with D&D 5E.

I'll also say that I'd much rather spend $10 on a physical book that I can tinker with then throw some ridiculous amount onto Kickstarter and hold out the hope that what I'll end up with in the end will be worth the money I spent, but I guess that's just my hang-up with the current seeming ubiquity of crowd-funding. I can't deny that crowd-funding helps get projects made that otherwise likely would have a hard time getting funded, but I feel like if a crowd-funded product ends up being any good, I can happily spend the list price on the product once it's available to the public as a whole.

Lastly, to get back on topic and in partial response to MarkB's comment, there are no psychic powers in the playtest book at all. With the exception of about two-and-a-half pages (the part about safety that fails to mentions safety tools, the part about planning a Session Zero, and the half-page discussing Karma), the book is basically a tactical superhero combat simulator. I've enjoyed tactical combat simulators in the past (see Champions above), but that's not really what I'm looking for these days.

--
Pauper
 

TrippyHippy

Adventurer
I have to say I feel very odd when listening to conversations about the old FASERIP system; I also played the heck out of it back in the day, but I far preferred Champions as a super heroic game system. Of course, Champions is all but dead these days -- even the Sixth Edition rules, which have finally started the process of simplifying the game that's been promised since before the 5th edition hardcover was released (eliminating Figured Characteristics and thus the rules associated with guying characteristics as Powers, eliminating the Elemental Control Power Framework) are far too complex for gamers who seem much more comfortable with D&D 5E.
Champions isn’t ‘dead’ as such - they have a readily available Champions Complete book along with various supplements and third party support, along with recently released ‘Champions Begins’ PDF which looks like a proposed starter box set. However, Champions doesn’t seem to move very quickly in terms of updating its design or getting some upmarket production on its releases (Champions Complete is a very plain looking book compared to most other supers games around now). I suspect Hero Games has a very low key business running these days, but I’m not in the know.

The other point about wanting to have a game that taps into a familiarity with D&D5E in some way is a curious one. We have already had a solid game produced for the D20 system in Mutants & Masterminds (which was already adapted for the DC Adventures too) that could be used as a starting point for development - they even have more class-based Basic Rules that work well and you can make most of the Marvel archetypal characters quite easily with it. It isn’t impossible to do, but it does require a more thoughtful approach than what we have seen in this play-test, I feel.

I also think that the original FASERIP engine isn’t actually all that dated, and if they gave it a facelift in colour presentation and a brief review of the design, they could have easily marketed the game to the same and new audiences without the need to reinvent the wheel.
 
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Sketchpad

Explorer
I've ran a test of MMRPG with a few of my players and found it interesting, but there were some kinks to work out. The web powers seem a bit OP IMHO, as they need more details, and character creation seems a bit stiff at points. I honestly am a bit baffled that Marvel just doesn't take ownership of the FASERIP system and work off from that. Even changing the stats to spell MARVEL would be fine.
 

pnewman

Explorer
Indeed it does. And Hulk and Squirrel Girl, as well. It's a little weak on the Galactus level... unless one has d14 and d16 lying about... ;)

Both MHRP and Sentinel Comics suffer from the limits on 'standard poly sets'... a wider design space with d14, d16, d18, and the standard set could do better for Cortex Plus/Prime and for Sentinel Comics... and Savage Worlds, and a dozen other dice-step games.

For high powered Cortex I would actually skip the d14 and the d18 and just go d12, d16, d20 which are all (fractionally) closer to their neighbors than the d4 and the d6 are. Galactus gets d20's, Heralds of Galactus like Silver Surfer get d16's. Starting PC's max at d12.

Also, how do you handle characters whose power level varies drastically based on external factors? [1] Consider Dazzler who converts sound to light, the more sound she absorbs the stronger her light powers are. She'se had to run from unpowered muggers when it was silent. She's taken out a Herald of Galactus after getting powered up ahead of time.
[1] Not "How do you build the power?", It's just absorption and conversion; more "How, in a game rather than a comic, do we handle deciding how stong she can be right now? Always DM, always PC, both spend bennies for noise level declarations, what?"
 

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