Wednesday, March 7, 2012

CAGE MATCH! Marvel Super Heroes v. Marvel Heroic

Ok, so there is a new Marvel superhero RPG out.

Tho old one (Marvel Super Heroes a.k.a. "FASERIP"--named after the stats used in the system) is pretty well respected.

How do they stack up? Try this:

Open a window with this here in it.

Put it next to what follows and read in parallel.

(I’m using bold text for the GM (a/k/a the Judge).) Okay, so let’s cut to a new scene. Spider-Man, you’re on top of the Fisk Building. Since you stopped to threaten the Kingpin a second ago, I’m going to say that the Vulture’s had a few minutes to take to the air. He's flying away at 6 areas per round as is his wont, so if you want to do anything, now's your chance. The Vulture looks over his shoulder at you and snarls, “You’ll never catch the Vulture, wall-crawler!” What now?

(I’m using regular text for Spider-Man’s player.) Well, I guess I could try to web him up. But last time that didn't work so well, plus he'd probably going to spend all his points to dodge it, plus if I don't catch him now the Atomic Slut will annihilate Battery Park and everyone in it!

Wait, why are you talking about that, that isn't in the original example?

Because in this version of the game I have to actually worry about consequences of my PCs actions in the fictional world we created rather than just consequences in terms of which digit I have to carry on my character sheet.

Oh, right, anyway, carry on...

Ok, so I need to hit him but I need to make 100% sure I do it or we're all doomed. Fuck! I don't know what to do, this is my first time playing.

This is your first time playing?

Yeah, I mean, you told me in the FASERIP system I didn't really necessarily have to know the rules I could just say what I wanted to do and you could explain if necessary.

Oh yeah, that's totally true--a lovely thing about good systems. So what you're going to need is some Karma points to add to your roll in case you miss the Vulture. Now normally you get those after the session ends but I give them right away otherwise the players forget what they even got them for and they are less a part of the economy of the game.

Wait, you're hacking the system? Why?

Because that's what all good people do. Hacking is good. Hacking is smart. Hacking is a force that gives us meaning.

Oh, right.

Here's another hack: there's a horror game hack that by making something go wrong for your PC you can get a bonus....

"Oh no! I’m out of webs!" Yeah, I mean, I really wanted to ruin the Kingpin’s upholstery back there. You should see the place. Webs everywhere. I guess I shouldn’t have been so wasteful.

Let's say that gives you karma = half the power rank of the power you just crippled. Incredible hardens to Monstrous, split the difference, call it Amazing. 25 Karma. Plus how are you hitting the Vulture?

“Without my web-fluid, he may be right!” There’s probably heavy industrial stuff on this rooftop, right? Like A/C units, satellite dish, water tower, that kind of thing? I’m gonna rip up a big chunk of roofing machinery and chuck it at the Vulture. Mmmm...I think I want some more karma: “Hate to wreck property, but I gotta keep the HVAC unions in over-time!” Role-playing award?

Yes, wow, that seamless melange of soft-hearted-pseudo-New-York-provincialese and Level Nine Anti-Funny sounded exactly like vintage Al Milgrom. You are at 30 karma and I am impressed. Anyway, Vulture gets a 75 to dodge, you are at -4CS (don't mind me, I'm talking to myself, newbie) you need a 46 to hit him.

Yeah but I need something insane to actually knock him out of the sky right? I want to destroy the wings.

98 to get a red result and stun him--I'd say this is roughly the same thing. Red result to disable his harness, he'll roll against it as if it were a stun to avoid falling out of the sky.

Okay, so I’m going to throw the AC Unit one-handed at the Vulture and break those smelly wings. And I'll need more Milgrom dialogue! “Vulture, if you’re flying south for the winter, you’ll need air-conditioning!”

5 more karma and you are at +35. Also, that "smelly wings" thing makes me think maybe you just are Al Milgrom and so I shouldn't be giving you these karma awards at all, but whatever...

80! Plllllus 35!

Yes sir he is down. The Vulture groans in pain and plummets from the sky! He’s going to try to roll to.... (Roll roll) Yeah. Not going so well. He’s falling toward a building helplessly–thinking maybe he had a spare power pack somewhere and realized he forgot it at home. What do you do now?

I’m going to swing over there and get him.

The Vulture’s screaming out, “My wings, my wings!” He’s unsure whether to be more scared of Spider-Man or hitting the rooftop, and so isn’t able to prepare well against either.

I’m closing in on my web-line. Thwip! Thwip!

Okay. And–hey, wait a minute! Weren’t you out of web-fluid?

I, um, forgot. Yeah, forgot. Say, you know what’s interesting about the Vulture? He’s like Spider-Man’s evil grand-dad or something. They’re both gadget-guys, they’re both acrobats, but Peter Parker is a nice kid and.....


Ok so why isn't the Vulture dead smartguy?

Ok, he's gonna try to tumble with it...alright, he's alive. Took some slam damage from falling 3 areas. Okay, so let’s say you’re clambering onto the rooftop where the Vulture landed. He’s all banged up and looks like he’s seen better days. What now?

(play continues)


NaldoDrinan said...

I'll give the new one this - it has inadverdantly kindled my interest in FASERIP. So hey.

Gregor Vuga said...

This version definitely sounds more boring.

Zak Sabbath said...



What do you long for that it lacks?

R Parker said...

FASERIP, my first love.

Thomas M. said...

After I finished reading the other window version I had to go back and make sure that I'd remembered to claim my dependents.

Black Vulmea said...

Oh, FASERIP, even after all these years, you've still got it, baby.

Mark Harris said...

A superhero game should be fast and fluid.
all about making plans on-the-fly, reacting to mad escalating situations , and rule-of-cool awesomeness.

That other example sounded like it was about careful rationing of resources and micromanagement hell.

I don't imagine Wolverine or Cap or Thor internally strategising resource vs reward payoffs and wondering how much to hold back for later.
I imagine them thinking "fuck you asshole!" and leaping into the jaws of the cyber-tyrannosaur to smash it's teeth out from the inside.

Scott Faulkner said...

The Al Milgrom bits are cracking me up. I wish I'd played Marvel Supers back in the day; my group did Champions for awhile, which was more fun in character creation than actual play.

Jeff Rients said...

Something about "+ Wisecracker d8" fills me with dread.

Evan said...

The part that got me was "Asset: Far Away."

Callan S. said...

They seem equivalent to me.

Both focusing heavily on simulating the moment to moment physics and generally ignoring the drama of how much spider mand will or wont screw up his life over these battles (which, so goes the old wisdom, aught to be left entirely up to roleplaying...though by doing so of course all this time spent on throwing air conditioners has really nothing much to do with what is probably the thrilling bit of spider man for ye)

Zak Sabbath said...

I think that last word was supposed to be "me".

Throwing air conditioners is all kindsa fun for me. College kid angst? screw that shit.

Trent_B said...

I want to play the one that doesnt take a week - so what's that, Marvel Super Heroes? Sign me up. I will play... Blackheart. He looks cool.

Oh wait, he's a bad guy.

Fine, I'll be... Nightcrawler/Deadpool/Wolverine or anyone else who would sit anywhere within that Venn Diagram of characters.

Oh wait, you're not running a game? Nevermind.

Cole said...

^ more air conditioner throwing please

Adam Dickstein said...

Probably silly to even post this but...

Never was a fan of FASERIP. Always felt too limited and childish TO ME (you have to say 'To Me' in big letters on the internet or it's a personal attack against the blogger, his friends, his pets, the American way of life and possibly free thinking human beings the world over), even when I first played it at the age of 15.

I went in to the Marvel Heroic RPG Launch Party pretty sure I was going to hate the game and I was one of the GMs who was supposed to showcase it. After a week of reading the PDF and 35 years of experience in the hobby I couldn't make heads or tails of the thing. Supers is one of my mainstay genres for gaming. How could I not get this?

Then I played it. And it was fun, intriguing and different. I like different.

I can't really tell which system you're mocking in the above example. Sounds like it could be either. Why? 'Cause any game can be described in a way that makes it sound not as cool as the game you like. I'd love to see someone do a serious analysis of the differences between the two but it may well be like comparing apples to oranges.

Anyway, it would replace Mutants & Masterminds 3E as my primary choice for Supers but I definitely want to give it a few more tries. Who knows? Perhaps it can change my mind further.

Zak Sabbath said...

It is strange to me that you assume I'm mocking either system or that you'd say FASERIP was "limited and childish" without saying specific things you didn't like about it.

Of M&M I have already spoken.

David Pretty said...

That's it, you've helped me make up my mind. I'm totally breakin' out that old yellow TSR boxed set next weekend...

Gregor Vuga said...

(I assume "to me" goes without saying.) Anyway, hard to say exactly. In James' post I was interested what was going to happen to Spidey and the Vulture, while this example is just kinda words words words and I didn't care about reading till the end.

This is not a judgement of the systems since I haven't played either (but I did take a look at both) or your respective writing styles because I usually enjoy your posts a lot.

Honestly I don't see what the huge difference is either. In both you make shit up, say what you (want to) do and then roll some dice to see if it comes true or not.

If the problem is "why does this new game exist, FASERIP works fine" then the answer is "commercial licensing". If the problem is "I don't like how this game plays" then whatever, different people, different strokes.

Dan said...

My only issue with FASERIP was Karma being used as hero dice and experience both. That and it punished people like the Punisher, who kill. Otherwise, the system was great.

There's a great (and relatively short) post about FASERIP I recommend:

Adam Dickstein said...

@Dan - One of the neat things about the new game is a guy like the Punisher might get XP for killing his opponent and/or for the choice of deciding not to. XP is earned based on Milestones, key personal traits or obstacles to reach or overcome.

Iron Man gets XP for saying eff it all and going back to the bottle. He also gets it for finding the inner strength not to, manning up and going to kick the bad guy's butt.

You essentially design your own XP chart suited to your character. You can switch out that chart for Milestones specific to the adventure you're playing. In the prison escape scenario 'Breakout' that comes with the game, you can swap one of your two sets of Milestones for one in which you get points for snagging the escaping convicts.

Zak Sabbath said...

Well you have a choice:

Talk about the game or give up and go "i don't know"

No "problem" exists. I'm not sure why you'd assume that.

I simply wonder: Ok, in both the exact same things happen. I copied all the actions from the original.

There are very specific differences, all of them are pointed out, the second one is also much longer and has a lot more literary analysis. If you would like to talk about that, I for one would like to hear it. If you just want to say vague things then that doesn't really get us anywhere, but it is your inalienable right.

Unknown said...

Oh man, I love Marvel Super Heroes! I wasn't always keen on random rolls for powers growing up (I want to play a hi-tech wonder who uses punching gauntlets...what? I rolled a mutant who can control plants? boo), but when I ran the game as an adult I made the appropriate house rules to fix that. However I did and still do love the randomness for creating minor villains (I usually had an idea in mind for the head honcho villain).

As a kid I never used karma to increase abilities/powers. Just for bumping up my dice rolls. In the last campaign I ran a few years back my players were pretty keen on the ability/power ranking advancement though.

hmm...I want to run this system again.

Callan S. said...

'ye' as in 'have at ye!'. Old, odd word.

Otherwise *shrug*, I think I would enjoy actually throwing or launching an air conditioner.

Zak Sabbath said...

Yes, I am saying that your statement only makes sense if it's about you. Otherwise your statement seems to imply I care about Peter Parker's soap opera bs which would be insane.

Gregor Vuga said...

I'll go point by point.
1.I didn't answer this earlier because I've been really busy, plus I haven't got notifications turned on and didn't know you had replied.

2. Initially, my comment wasn't aimed at the games or playstyles, but the respective posts. James describes the game in question, and I was curious to see how it turned out so I followed it through. This post was set up to highlight the differences between the games instead of just following the action, which is why I didn't really care for it. This is what I meant by "boring" (to me). I should have been clearer on that. I have no particular opinion on either game.

3. However as the comments trailed on, a few people saw the differences as an opportunity to whale on MHRP and say how FASERIP was just better. Some posters (here and elsewhere) seem to have a "problem" with MHRP. That's the problem I'm referencing.

As a neutral party I had to ask myself what their problem was. If it's to point out that FASERIP is still a valid game to play, yes, sure, of course it is. This doesn't invalidate MHRP as a valid game in its own right. If the followup argument is "why didn't they reprint FASERIP instead", then we're talking about how the industry works, and that has nothing to do with the mechanics of the games as such.

On the other hand, if the argument here is that someone likes FASERIP better, well, other people like MHRP better, big whoop, who cares. Different tastes and all that.

It's just another bit of identity politics.

4. re.: "they're both the same". I meant that the process of play, as observed from the distance is equivalent. Someone says something about the fictional situation, and where it's required they roll some dice to see if it happens or not. There are clear differences, certainly, I just think they're more superficial than they seem.

Zak Sabbath said...

I think reducing the differences down to people expressing "identity politics" or to people being dumb enough to think liking Heroic is an attack on FASERIP is extremely condescending to the people involved.

People have reasons for liking things. These reasons are tied to their tastes. This connection is real and (on a gaming blog) considered interesting. Talking about them is part of what happens here and anywhere else where people talk about games.

Callan S. said...

I picked that up. I thought I'd used 'ye' wrong, somehow.

Not that it matters, but soap opera BS is just an examination of long term war in the short term. The old war. What dictates why we throw air conditioners is surely the power behind thrown air conditioners? The darkness that comes before and all that.