So this past Wednesday, instead of playing our bi-weekly NJO campaign, we opted to give the Marvel Heroic RPG a try.
By dint of having a PDF of the book, I had a partial leg up on the other players, mostly as I'd already built my character (though Darkhawk needed and still needs a bit of fine-tuning), so I could help the others with their heroes. After an hour, we had four of the six possible heroes ready to go (the other two players were still trying to figure out which non-movie comic book character they wanted to be), so the GM decided to throw us into a quick scenario to let us try and get a feel for the system and possibly make any tweaks before we settled on our respective characters. The scenario itself was pretty simple, a group of separate heroes minding their own business in downtown New York City when a mad scientist criminal mastermind shows up to cause trouble.
The group of heroes (won't go so far as to call us a team) were a pretty interesting lot. Aside from Darkhawk, we had the following:
X-23: This one was pretty easy to build, since she's pretty much Wolverine as a teenage girl, so she used the official stats for Wolverine as her blueprint, dropping the Weapon X powerset and replacing Wolvy's enhanced strength with claws to get her powers (though her recovery ability isn't quite as potent) and not being as good a fighter.
Miss Hex: Drawing heavily on the base concept of DC's Zatanna, this one turned out to be much easier than Darkhawk to build, as she only had one Power Set and just a few powers within it. To say nothing of her player using the write-up that she'd made for a Mutants & Masterminds game I'd tried to run in the past but ultimately went nowhere, so she already had the core character idea in place, making it easy to determine Distinctions and Specialties.
Maverick: I'm pretty sure the name's been used elsewhere in the Marvel comic universe, but the fellow for this session can be boiled down to "Captain America as the result of intense training" with some commando gear instead of a mighty shield. Naturally, the official write-up of Cap was used as the baseline for this one. Since we're pretty much going to be playing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the player chose to have Maverick be part of S.H.I.E.L.D. in much the same capacity as Black Widow and Hawkeye.
The villain was Professor Haywire, which if you've seen BARON's character threads over on Green Ronin's Atomic Think Tank forums you'll probably recognize. In short, Haywire is a mad criminal genius that relies on his "techno-cane" for his powers and a blonde, buxom, leggy fembot named Miss Marilyn that can toss cars as his "gal Friday." The good professor also had a mob of street thugs for some added muscle, and I think his stated goal was to intercept a couple of armored cars to build up some "venture capital" for his next grand scheme.
As an added bit of fun, the group member that's big into HeroClix brought his figures over, and I was able to use the Darkhawk mini for my character. Now while MHRPG doesn't really have tactical rules, having a map on the table and minis to place certainly helps the other players keep track of who's where in the scene.
The Affiliation aspect was proven to be a great deal more variable than I first thought, but that could just be the GM willing to play a little loose with the rules in some respects, as Darkhawk and X-23 weren't forced to use our Team affiliation, though it did cut down on the assets we could be given; X-23 often went it alone rather than work in a group or with a partner, and Darkhawk really got a chance to shine when working in tandem with a partner, while Maverick and Miss Hex were definitely built to work in a group.
Combat in MHRPG moved pretty quickly after some adjustment to how the dice pools work. To give an example, let's say that Darkhawk, having just seen Miss Marilyn almost flatten Miss Hex with a thrown car, decides it's time to put the robo-moll down with a Force Blast.
I start off with Affiliation, which since I'm directly aiding a single hero, the GM approves my usage of my Buddy die. Next is Distinction, which I first think Edge Against Crime since Haywire and Marilyn are known crooks, but since this is more of a gut reaction on DH's part, I suggest Anger Issues instead, which the group agrees fits the scene, which gives me a d8. Next up are Powers, and while the rules say you can pick one die from each Power Set (of which I have two), nothing in the Armored Form set leaps out as being applicable, so I skip to Darkhawk Weapons and grab Force Blast for a d10. I also decide to bring his Unleashed SFX into play, and go with doubling by the die type, so I now add 2d10 to my pool. Of course, this means that if my attack fails, I'm going to give the bad guys an extra advantage (likely narrated as being some excessive property damage). Lastly are Specialties, of which I can only pick one, and Combat is the natural choice. So, Darkhawk's dice pool to blast Miss Marilyn is as follows:
d10 (Buddy) + d8 (Distinction) + 2d10 (Power) + d8 (Specialty)
I grab 3d10 and 2d8, and roll them out, getting the following results:
5 (d10) + 8 (d8) + 7 (d10) + 1 (d10) + 6 (d8)
Now you only get to keep 2 dice to determine the total of your roll, so I'll take the 8 and the 7 for a total of 15. I could choose to spend a Plot Point to keep an extra die, but I think a 15 is good enough. Since one of my d10s rolled a 1, I set that aside (we'll get back to it in a moment). Of the remaining dice, I have to choose one to set aside as the effect die, which determines just how powerful my attack was, and since I want this to count, I choose the other d10 (the result on the die doesn't matter at this point). Now since I rolled a 1 on that third d10, the GM can choose to exploit that to increase his doom pool (what he uses to power bad guy abilities and resist hero rolls that don't target a specific opponent), which he opts to do, giving me a shiny new Plot Point point in exchange. However, since I know that Miss Marilyn is one tough broad, I choose to spend that Plot Point to add that last d8 to my effect dice. If this attack hits, it's gonna leave a mark, and the GM is regretting having handed me a Plot Point for that one.
Now, since Darkhawk is attacking a specific opponent (Miss Marilyn), she gets a roll of her own to resist, using much of the same formula: Affiliation die (probably Buddy given her partnership with Haywire) + Distinction die + Power die (likely a resistance-based power) + Specialty die (probably her own combat die). The GM rolls it, and spends a die from his doom pool to try and boost an otherwise lackluster roll, but only manages a total of 9. Not only do I beat the GM's total, but I get an extraordinary success, allowing me to kick my primary effect die up one step, meaning Miss Marilyn is getting hit with a d12 and a d8.
Okay, but of rules fuzziness here, at least on my part, but the way stress (damage) is tracked, if the effect die of the most recent attack is higher than the degree of stress you already have, the smaller die is replaced without any added effect. But if the most recent attack as an effect die that's smaller than whatever stress die you currently have, the existing stress die gets bumped up a level. For instance, if Darkhawk already had a d6 on physical stress and got hit by a d10 effect, he'd step his physical stress up to d10. However, if the attack only did d4 stress, he'd go from a d6 in physical stress to d8. Now, what if you have two effect dice? It makes sense to apply the highest die first and then use any subsequent dice to kick it up, but the rules (at least from what I can tell) are vague on that point. That was how the GM ruled it, so that's how I'm playing it out in this example.
As d12 is the highest you can go in terms of stress (physical, emotional, or mental), Darkhawk's force blast causes Miss Marilyn to hit the top of her physical stress track. If I only had the one effect die, then she'd be battered but not out. However, since I do have that extra effect die, I'd force her to step her physical stress track up a die, but as it's already at a d12, she becomes "stressed out" which translates to her being taken out of the fight. So Darkhawk just took out the heavy hitter of the bad guy duo, but wound up drawing Haywire's ire in the process. Good thing Darkhawk's got a force shield to help protect him form the inevitable retaliation that's coming his way...
In the end, the impromptu quartet of heroes claimed victory of the crazed crook, and there was a surprisingly low degree of property damage (three store fronts, one billboard, an armored car, three civilian cars, and one police cruiser). I did have to use my Null Zone Repairs after nearly getting taken out by Haywire's reprisal. The way initiative in this game plays also works to reinforce a "group mentality" in that you do need to keep your fellow PCs in mind, and sometimes going last in the order can be a good thing for the good guys.
I'm still not 100% sold on this system, but at least it was fun, so I'm willing to give it another go at least once more. It's also an interesting crew, though I've still no idea what likely obscure character the other two guys are going to wind-up playing (they're both comic book geeks), but it should be interesting whatever they wind up choosing. Even if the character bore no resemblance to the comic book version, I'm now glad that film!Deadpool exists, as I shudder to think what the one guy that has a weapons-grade man-crush on comic!Deadpool would be like if he was allowed to play that character.