This week I picked up my hardcopy of the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Basic Game. I enjoyed reading the pdf and my first attempts at playtesting. And there is a lot to like in this game. I’m a big fan of the way dice pools are generated. The plot point mechanic is also well done and doesn’t trigger the same negative reaction as similar mechanics do in other games. The player facing nature of the choice to trigger your limitations and to use them for plot points works well for me. Initially, my only negative about the game was its complete lack of a character creation system. Of course, MWP has released a random character generation add-on that is pretty neat, so that solves part of that problem. Also, if I were running the game I’d certainly adopt the house-rule I read about somewhere of letting PC heroes take D6 Specialties (I really wish I could remember where I read this, if anyone knows, let me know and I’ll link it). I understand that the game is not really meant to be “grainy” and that the skill and power system is very abstract but I tend to run my superhero games with young heroes and it feels like we need that 3rd level. For example, it weirds me a little that Armor has the same combat ability as Daredevil.
For all the things that I like though, I am not a fan of two parts of the system: Milestones and the Event structure. In some ways the two problems are linked, since Milestones are tied to the Event structure. Events are an easy enough thing to get around. Just ignore them. Run the game in a more traditional structure (or, at least, what is traditional for me…) and simply allow sessions and game events (as opposed to Events) bleed into each other naturally. The comic book structure of story arcs and events is great — for comics — but it really doesn’t reflect how I’d run a game.
Milestones are a little more problematic, in that if you eliminate the Event structure and the Milestones you really change the dynamic of giving out XP and this, in turn, has an effect on things like Unlockables (another part of the Event structure I don’t like…) and PP distribution, since players can spend XP to add PP to their pools.
So what’s the problem with Milestones?
Well, first of all, they can all to easily stop being a useful guide to RP and instead become a boring and gamey set of boxes to check off as the player runs through the event. Not a fan at all of mechanics like that. The second thing is that they can be awkward to come up with. I sat down to convert the characters from a long running Supers game I ran, some supers I’ve played, and then even tried to do it with other characters I’ve played, some with careers of 6+ years of play time, and I was hard pressed to come up with three things to fill up one milestone, much less enough for six lines. And these characters all have good backstories, long play histories, and plenty of personal drama. I think the problem is that Milestones are just really artificial constructs related to the XP mechanic and the Event structure more than useful tools for RP.
Overall, I think I could live with the Event structure of the game — I’d just map it backwards. That is, I think I could probably apply it retroactively to events in the game to keep the structure intact. When running the game though, I’d probably adopt a more traditional method of handing out XP and compensate with a few more PP during game-play (if that even became necessary). The Milestones just don’t work well for my style of gaming as a player or GM.
Is anyone else disappointed with Milestones or the Event structure? Any other thoughts on how to work around them? I’d love to hear any ideas. I hope to run this game at some point soon and some alternatives would be nice.
Thanks for reading.