I know, this day’s #RPGaDAY question is supposed to be about a genre-mashup, but it seems that there’s been a few questions that touch on that and I’d rather talk about Marvel Super Heroes RPG, the first of the superhero roleplaying games that used the Marvel Comics IP.

Whenever I see this game system mentioned, people reflect on it with a sense nostalgia that I never had. I’d be willing to say that you’re thinking about good ol’ FASERIP now with a smile slowly spreading across your face. But for me, this was the game where I learned an important Truth in Gaming: dice tell crappy stories.

See, it was the early 1980s and RPGs were following the D&D model: there’s a series of encounter rooms, like a dungeon, that you go through. We were going up against Arcade or Ultron, and there was an underground lair, which meant a dungeon map. We were the Avengers. Were in a hallway, rushing down it, and there’s a 10’x10′ pit trap.

Of course we roll to see if we make it over. Hawkeye, sure. Vision, he’s flying. Iron Man, too. Scarlet Witch makes it. I don’t recall who all was there, but everyone rolled and made that leap. Hell, if someone was playing Jarvis, he’d make it over, too.

I picked up the dice and rolled. Failure. My character falls down the pit that everyone had just easily crossed.

I was playing Captain America.

If there’s one thing I know about Captain America is that he doesn’t fall down an open pit in the middle of the floor. Especially if a half-dozen Avengers are getting over the thing and the writer of the comic book wanted to show that was a threat, it’s not Captain America that falls down the damn thing.

But there the dice were, and Cap stumbles and down he goes.

This is why I like games where you get Hero Points to say, “No, sorry, the result of that die roll is stupid. Captain America doesn’t fall down a hole everyone can see and prepare to jump across.” PLUNK, goes the poker chip.

Alternatively, it took us many years to realize you should only roll the dice when the outcome is interesting on success and failure. Nothing as mundane as making it past a speed bump or pothole.

We wound up playing Champions, which also didn’t work out for me, but that’s because it felt like a tactical combat miniatures battle game when we played it. (We were fourteen then and thought that’s how all RPGs should be played.) It took me a long time to find a game that caught the feeling of playing a comic book and that game was Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, the most recent Marvel Comics roleplaying game.[1]

Previously on #RPGaDAY…

Last year I could describe the ideal game room if the budget were unlimited. Uh. Sure. A big room with a game table like the ones that Geek Chic made. Maybe a ceiling-mounted video display thing? Some comfy chairs? Hell, I dunno.

In 2015, the topic was “Rarest RPG Owned” — Still have that copy of Everway downstairs.

In 2014, the topic was “Favorite RPG Playing Celebrity”, which was Stoya. I don’t know if she still plays.

  1. Masks is a great game, but that captures the feeling of Young Justice, a television show, more than it does the types of superhero comic books I prefer. []

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