By the Book of the Vishanti! I am roused from my eternal sloth to compose a quick post on the Marvel Super Heroes game. I’ve been meaning to blog about Marvel Super Heroes generally, but I’ve been busy with work and various holiday-related events.
Quick character summaries:
- Sternum’s playing DOCTOR STRANGE, the Sorcerer Supreme, whose super power is omnipotence.
- Bodacious plays The SKINK, a Japanese fire-demon who works in a pizzeria and lives in fear of the INS.
- Chrystos plays HORUS (a/k/a Sarcophaguy), a millionaire leper who is also a cyborg-mummy gigolo.
- WeisseRose plays TUNDRA, a Z-list super villain who is pretty much the northern half of Canada.
They fight crime.
Specifically, they are the Defenders.
For anyone who wasn’t a big Marvel Comics fan, The Defenders was a comic book series that ran through the 1970’s, briefly revived a few times since, where the idea is that it’s a team of people who don’t really like each other, and who don’t think they’re part of a team at all. As Prince Namor the Sub-Mariner phrased it:
The Defenders is merely a name, and no more. At times we battle together against a common foe–but the Defenders is not an alliance . . . There is no leader, no rules, no charter.
In other words, it’s a super hero team designed around a West Marches or Red Box style of attendance, where the strangest collection of characters, from the Hulk to Howard the Duck to Dracula can all team up, drop in, drop out, and save the day or whatever they please. Welcome to the world of Steve Gerber!
Character creation was a mixture of selecting established characters (Dr. Strange, Tundra), random rolling, and modeling based on concepts. The players of the Skink and Horus wheedled a few minor powers out of me, so it wasn’t an “honest” random roll, but since they’re partners with Doctor Strange, who is arguably the most powerful guy in Marvel Comics, and also the game lets you simply adapt concepts without rolling, I didn’t think this was a big deal.
Doctor Strange is warned by the Orb of Agamotto that bad guys are gunning for the fabled Scepter of Set, a mystical gizmo that can conquer the world–but anyone who touches it will have their soul destroyed. He therefore gathers up the Skink (who has no soul) and Horus (whose soul is theoretically sealed in a canopic jar), and after some bickering they arrive in Cairo to protect the Scepter. (Tundra presumably will arrive later.)
There, they confront the fanatical witch-hunter the Silver Dagger, the robot minions of Rama-Tut, and the astral spirit of Baron Mordo–precipitating a four-way battle for the Scepter of Set. After a lot of dice-wrangling, the heroes manage to seize the Scepter, only to discover it was a fake–suggesting that someone duped the Orb of Agamotto to keep Doctor Strange occupied…
More to follow, but basically things worked pretty well. It was a very fun session, but mainly because I enjoy playing with these folks so much. The Marvel Super Heroes Role-Playing Game didn’t get in our way at all, but didn’t do much to facilitate play either.
My only serious complaint is that, like early editions of Dungeons & Dragons, the mechanics permit but don’t require fictional inputs, leading to an “I attack… I dodge… I attack… I dodge” style of play if you’re not careful.
My thought on fixing this is to steal from Ron Edwards’s excellent SORCERER: if you end up repeating your action from last round, you take a cumulative penalty to your rolls.
My not-so-serious complaint is that the Magic Rules befuddled us completely. Sternum was most familiar with the Advanced Rules, I knew the Basic Rules, and Doctor Strange’s character sheet was from the Realms of Magic accessory–and all of these texts have different rules for magic. At some point we’ll have to figure it out.
Overall, a pretty good night. We’ll do few more sessions and see how things go.