Monday, April 21, 2014

Marvel Super Heroes Reimagined

No Risus today. I'm writing about the classic Marvel Super Heroes game (MSH). This venerable game gave me hours of fun play back when it was released in 1982. The advanced edition in 1984 was just icing on the cake.

Characters had seven stats represented by FASERIP (also a dandy keyword for googling the game and resources because anything with Marvel in it will produce a jillion hits): Fighting, Agility, Strength, Endurance, Reason, Intuition, and Psyche. Stat levels are represented by a number and a name (this was eight years before FUDGE by the way.) So a Strength of 40 was Incredible. Everything could be represented by a rank. Steel had a Remarkable material strength (30.) So trying to break a set of handcuff say was Remarkable intensity. If you had Incredible Strength this was pretty doable. You'd roll under the Incredible column on the Universal table and success meant the cuffs broke.  The table had several degrees of success: green, yellow and red to represent mrgins of success. A green result was required for intensities less than your stat, yellow for equal intensities and red for intensities a rank above your stat. if you need to know more go look it up online because now I'm going into what hurt a very nice quick and dirty rpg.

Combat Damage
One of the problems with combat was fixed damage and armor stats. If you had Incredible (40) Strength punching a guy with Remarkable armor (30) did 10 pts. of damage to him. Punching a guy with Amazing  armor never did any damage. As a quick fix I'd suggest dropping the value of armor to the minimum for its rank. So Unearthly Strength deals 100 pts. of damage but Unearthly Armor stops 88 pts. Smacking someone in Unearthly armor with Unearthly Strength would thus do 12 pts. to him.

As a long term fix I's suggest increasing the damage done in an attack with a yellow or red result. If they'd be good enough to slam or stun someone or land a killing blow the higher colors could also represent finding a weak point in the defenses. A yellow result would increase the damage by 1 rank and do a minimum of 10. A red result would increase the damage by 2 ranks and do a minimum of 20 pts. So Spider-Man could do a maximum of Monstrous damage with his Incredible Strength on a red result. This also gives them a reason for holding back when fighting squishy humans like Doc Ock. That ought to be good for a Karma award.

Another problem with the system was a tricky, combat maven like Daredevil or Spidey was no harder to hit than say, J. Jonah Jameson (I originally was going to say Aunt May but who would want to hit the dear woman?) Sure you can roll against your Fighting to pick up extra actions and use one of them to Dodge or Block etc. But you even if you succeeded you picked up a penalty to your actions and the intensities for the multiple actions roll made it a desperation tactic unless you had Captain America's moves which even super heroes found hard to copy.

The simplest fix is to simply allow everyone an additional defensive move in combat. So now your character could Dodge the crook's gun shot while punching him (Blunt Attack!) Optionally you could forego your defensive move to add 1 rank to your damage done (think Rhino or Juggernaut.)

Stat vs. Stat
While the Universal Table is great for combat ... that's all it was used for. If you weren't punching, stabbing, shooting, or frying something/one you were supposed to roll under your stat's rank. The intensity of the challenge you faced gave you the color you needed to succeed. Rolling against an intensity equal to your stat required a yellow result for example. I have a problem with that. A character with Excellent (20) Strength having a tug of war with a person with equal Strength has a 30% chance of succeeding. A character with Typical Strength fighting with a person with equal Strength has a 20% chance of succeeding. Shouldn't the chance be 50% in both situations (Basic Roleplaying would say yes!)

Instead I'd use the Initiative rules for such a situation. Roll a d10 and add the modifier for the appropriate stat as you would add the modifier for Intuition to determine Initiative. So our character with Excellent Strength would add 1. If he was having a tug of war with a character with Incredible Strength that character would add 3, putting him at a disadvantage. You could use this for whatever contest you set up. Roll your Incredible Stealth suit vs. my character's Typical hearing. You get a +3 and I get +nothing. Whoever rolls higher wins.