May 18, 2012

Marvel Heroic RPG - Building a Hero

In my last post, I mentioned that I was willing to consider trying at least a one-shot of Margaret Weis Production's Marvel Heroic RPG due in no small part to how much I enjoyed the Avengers movies (which I've seen three times so far, enjoying each viewing just as much as the first time).

Well, as the Star Wars NJO campaign that I play in on Wednesday nights gets ready to launch into its end-game, the GM of that game pitched the idea of his running Marve Heroic RPG once the current campaign came to an end.  Seeing as how the Avengers was still fairly fresh in our collective minds, we agreed.  But the GM had two caveats: The first was that we had play a hero; not an anti-hero or borderline villain, but an actual heroic character.  Also, we could use an established hero from the comics, but only if that character had not appeared in a movie form.  So no Film!Avengers, or X-Men, or even Spider-Man for us.  Truthfully, these really only annoyed one player that was eager to role-play Deadpool, but for most of us, this wasn't much of an issue.

Having only really gotten involved with comics during the early to mid 90's, I opted for my favorite character from that era, the novice hero Darkhawk.  Seeing as I hadn't been paying all that much attention to Marvel comics for some time, I wasn't fully aware that he'd been brought out of relative obscurity and promoted to participant in cosmic-level events and that apparently most of the events of his old series had been retconned away as being one big delusion.  Wowzers.

Well, as the GM was thinking of setting this in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, that did give me some leeway in concocting Darkhawk's background for this campaign.  So I gave some thought to that, decided I'd keep the core concept: Teenage kid finds a weird psuedo-magical amulet that transforms him into a super-hero.  And I can always flesh out a background blurb later, deciding what aspects of his personal and family life from the comics I want to keep.  For those of that have no clue who Darkhawk is, you can get most of the salient details from the fansite Darkhawk Zone, found here:

Okay, got my character concept, so on to character creation... and pardon the sarcasm, but this is where the real fun begins.  In opposition to just about every other RPG on the market, character creation in MHRPG is almost entirely freeform.  No points, no rolling, no classes, no hit points.  You pretty much pick what powers suit your concept and slap the numbers together.  Maybe it's the power-gamer aspect in me, but this just seems so ripe for abuse.  Well, no matter, on to creating as faithful a PC version of Darkhawk as I can manage.

So, starting off, each character has three affiliations: Solo, Buddy, and Team.  These form the basis of your dice pools in the game, and are generally based upon whether you're working alone, with a partner, or with a group, assigning a d10, d8, and d6 to reflect how good you under those three circumstances.  Going by his solo series, Darkhawk seems pretty good at operating on his own, doesn't often work with a team, but seems to work pretty well with a partner, so I opted to set his affiliations a Solo d8, Buddy d10, and Team d6.

Okay, next step is Distinctions.  Pretty much, these are three core traits that reflect either who the character is or their personality, and are added to your dice pool when they would apply.  These can be used as d8s for a better chance at success when used, or as d4s which also grants you a Plot Point (in-game currency to do cool stuff).  So, having read-up on Darkhawk's entry pages various web-pages, I chose to go with "Anger Issues" (never was the most level-headed person, even during his own series, "Edge Against Crime" (what he thought of himself as during the early part of his run), and finally "Into The Fray" (never really saw Chris as being one to hesitate to get into the action, which can easily be a double-edged sword).

Third, we come to the real doozy... Powers.  If any section of a superhero RPG needs firm guidelines, it's the powers section.  And when it comes to choosing the, MHRPG has little beyond "here's what they generally do, chose what feels right for your hero, but don't be a dick and pick straight d12s for your powers."  Yeah.  So, back to building Darkhawk, I figure he's got two Power Sets, which is the term that MHRPG uses to describe collections of powers, such as Wolvy having "Feral Mutant" for his healing factor and senses, or Iron Man having "Powered Armor" for his suit and "Weapons Platform" for the suit's weapons, or Captain America putting his 'peak human abilities' under "Super-Soldier Program."

So for Darkhawk, I go with two Power Sets, the first being "Armored Form" (I figure that since this is a starting-out version of Darkhawk, he's not really aware of the whole body-swap android body thing, and I may not even go that route with this character) and the second being "Darkhawk Weapons" to cover his amulet and claw bracer.  For the Armored Form, I stick to Enhanced (d8) levels of Durability (resisting damage), Reflexes (reaction time), Stamina, and Strength, while also picking up a Senses power (labeled as Infrared Visor) at d8 and Subsonic Flight, also a d8.  The last bit was a point of contention, as under his default form, Darkhawk is generally restricted to gliding, but since DH is also considered to be on par with Spider-man in terms of strength, the GM allowed it since I'd chosen to be weaker than Marvel has officially pegged the ol' bucket-head at being.  For "Darkhawk Weapons," I take Force Blast at d10 (kid can do some damage with that sucker), Superhuman Durability to reflect his amulet-generated force shield (giving him an even better shot at avoiding damage), and Claw Bracer at d6 to round out the set.  In the comics, his Claw Bracer also had a grapple line, but since my DH can fly, that's not really needed, and he's got plenty of powers already from his "Armored Form" power set.

Next step is to add at least one SFX and one Limit to each Power Set, which boils down to a special trick your hero can employ in regards to that particularly power set and something that works against you in regards to that power set, respectively.

As part of his new history, Darkhawk has access to something called "the datasong," which is a means apparently for the "Fraternity of Raptors" to communicate and work towards their goals.  Over at the Doom Pool (a fan website for MHRPG, found here), the site's author gave his version of DH an SFX version of the datasong, giving a boost to noncombat rolls.  I opted to just go with a straight Boost SFX, since this Power Set is only available when Chris is in the Darkhawk form.  Another trait of Darkhawk is his "body swap to insta-fix Darkhawk's damage."  That one gave me some trouble, and I ultimately wound up using something similar to Wolverine's Healing Factor SFX, which is a bit more powerful (especially if I spend a Plot Point), but the entire power set gets shutdown the reflect the "body swap."  Allows for really fast healing, but can be very costly in terms of Plot Points if I need to do so in the middle of a fight.  For this power set's limit, I again took inspiration from the Doom Pool's write-up and used a shutdown limit that allows me to just "switch off" any Armored Form power to gain a Plot Point, though turning that particular power "back on" isn't as simple.

For his Darkhawk Weapons power set, I go with the Unleashed SFX tied to his Force Blast, allowing him to really cut loose if need be, though at a risk of growing the GM's doom pool (pretty much what he uses to bolster NPC foes and make life tough for the heroes) if I fail my action roll, so something to be used with caution.  I also tacked on a Limit that says if Armored Form is shutdown, so to is Darkhawk Weapons.

Okay, powers are resolved (phew!), which brings us to Specialties, which are MHRPG's equivalent to skills.  This are pretty much macro-skills that cover what your hero is good at.  A d8 rating means you're pretty good (better than the average joe by far), while a d10 means you're amongst the best in the world.  For Darkhawk, I chose Combat (he's hand some martial arts instruction), Crime (both parents are involved in law enforcement, so he's bound to have picked up a few notions on crime-busting during dinner conversations), and Menace (his dark form and freaky voice are better suited to intimidation than friendly persuasion).  Well, that was easy.
Last part to building a character are what's called Milestones.  Pretty much, this is a way for your hero to gain XP to advance your character by playing in character with their particular story arc.  For Darkhawk, I opted for the first one to adopt the "Amulet & Anger" Milestone from the write-up on the Doom Pool site, changing the first entry milestone to trigger when DH uses is Unleashed SFX, but keeping the 2nd and 3rd entries.  For his second milestone, I decided to create my own Milestone to reflect that this version of Darkhawk is still a rookie crime-fighter and is a bit hot-headed.

So now that I've gone through all that, here's the final result:

Affiliations: Solo d8, Buddy d10, Team d6
Distinctions: Anger Issues, Edge Against Crime, Into The Fray

Armored Form
Enhanced Durability d8, Enhanced Reflexes d8, Enhanced Stamina d8, Enhanced Strength d8, Infrared Visor d8, Subsonic Flight d8
- SFX: Datasong. In a pool including an Armored Form die, replace two dice of equal type with one die of +1 step.
- SFX: Null Space Healing: Recover your physical stress or physical trauma, or spend 1 pp to recover both and then shutdown Armored Form.  Recover Armored From by spending 1 pp or during a Transition scene.
- Limit: Amulet Interference. Shutdown any Armored Form power to gain 1pp.  Recover power by activating an opportunity or during a Transition scene.

Darkhawk Weapons
Claw Bracer d6, Force Blast d10, Superhuman Durability d10
- SFX: Unleashed: Step up or double Force Blast for one action. If the action fails, add a die to the doom pool equal to the normal rating of your power die.
- Limit: Restriction: If Armored Form power set is shutdown, also shutdown Darkhawk Weapons power set. Recover Darkhawk Weapons power set when Armored Form power set is recovered.

Specialties: Combat Expert d8, Crime Expert d8, Menace Expert d8

Amulet and Anger
- 1 XP When you first use the Unleashed SFX of your Darkhawk Weapons power set.
- 3 XP When you first exploit emotional or mental stress to fuel a die pool.
- 10 XP When you either become emotionally stressed out or deal trauma to a foe while exploiting emotional stress.

Rookie Hero
- 1 XP When you first do something brash or unwise.
- 3 XP When you ask another hero for help or agree to help another hero.
- 10 XP When you join a hero team or turn down an invitation to a hero team and choose to go it alone.

Thanks to NunoXEI for his work on the Darkhawk Zone fansite, which proved quite helpful in coming up with my "Marvel Cinematic Universe" version of Darkhawk.

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