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

pemerton

Legend
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?"
If you're meaning in MHRP, my first thought is via a Limit. And secondly, the GM could use the Doom Pool to impose a Silence scene complication that would go in pools to resist Dazzler.
 

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Eric V

Hero
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?"
In SCRPG, she'd have the power that when she is hit with sound, she instead takes that as a boost, and another one where she can boost on her own (to represent absorbing all the ambient noise around her, etc.). Then, she'd have a fairly straightforward blast attack.
 

Lord Shark

Explorer
If you're meaning in MHRP, my first thought is via a Limit. And secondly, the GM could use the Doom Pool to impose a Silence scene complication that would go in pools to resist Dazzler.
Yeah, there are a couple fan-made datafiles for Dazzler floating around out there, and they all work by giving her a Limit to shut down her light powers when there's not enough sound around for her to convert, plus letting her use a reaction to step up or create a stunt die if she's hit by a sonic attack.

The Terrax thing could have been Dazzler taking the time to create a "Supercharged" resource die before the fight to supplement her attack.
 

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.
I don't like narrative mechanics in my game, superhero games included. As well-designed as MHR was, the Fate-style descriptors and genre emulation stuff turned me off it. I prefer FASERIP, or M&M for hero-play, or possibly Autarch's new Ascension game, which like their other work is very process sim oriented. This new system jibes pretty well with that for me.
 

I don't like narrative mechanics in my game, superhero games included. As well-designed as MHR was, the Fate-style descriptors and genre emulation stuff turned me off it. I prefer FASERIP, or M&M for hero-play, or possibly Autarch's new Ascension game, which like their other work is very process sim oriented. This new system jibes pretty well with that for me.

I'd suggest that even superhero games that have no overt narrative mechanics, often have some dramatic conceits baked into the general mechanics. M&M absolutely has metacurrency for example, and you'd get ridiculous degrees of swingy results without it. FASERIP did too, far as that goes.
 

I'd suggest that even superhero games that have no overt narrative mechanics, often have some dramatic conceits baked into the general mechanics. M&M absolutely has metacurrency for example, and you'd get ridiculous degrees of swingy results without it. FASERIP did too, far as that goes.
Noted. But overt narrative mechanics are a different thing. That's the issue.
 



Everyone has their own line. Mine is at narrative mechanics, at least in my D&D. Metacurrency is a grey area, where I'm willing to negotiate.

Well, I'm not telling you you don't have a right to draw it where it suits you, but to most people I've talked to on the subject, metacurrency is a narrative mechanic, at least outside cases where its explicitly luck or something intrinsically fourth-wall-breaking like TORG Possibilities.
 

Greggy C

Adventurer
Supporter
Reddit was having a fit that you had to "pay for this". But I bought it, seemed ok, but my head started to hurt with the middle different colored die that could be low = good or something, I stopped reading the mechanics after that. Not my cup of tea.
 

Chriscdoa

Explorer
The game plays really well if you are careful with the numbers.
But there are huge problems with the maths

With a 3d6 roll you really only have a range of about 10 but character stats vary by much much more. And not between ranks. Some of the rank 15 prevents either struggle to hit each other or auto hit.

And the lack of a fighting stat is huge.

I've done various articles solving these problems and the game is actually really good fun. And it really feels like playing the characters

But it needs a lot of work. Luckily, it's a playtest, not the final game so hopefully it will get fixed.

 

aramis erak

Legend
Reddit was having a fit that you had to "pay for this". But I bought it, seemed ok, but my head started to hurt with the middle different colored die that could be low = good or something, I stopped reading the mechanics after that. Not my cup of tea.
Reddit also threw a collective conniption over each of the FFG SW public betas, and the Pathfinder 2E playtest....

But, given the number of pirates on Reddit, and the number of extremist open source geeks on reddit... I don't think it's a good overall indicator.
 

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