Book Review: Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Basic Game

Marvel Heroic Roleplaying:  Basic Game, by Cam Banks

For a variety of reasons, I enjoy seeing how people are able to transfer the popularity of various creative properties into the world of tabletop role playing games [1].  Given that role playing games offer one of the most compelling ways that people can put themselves within a series, if one is a geeky person with a high degree of creativity and imagination when it comes to role and identities, this is not something that surprises me but instead pleases me with the creativity of those involved.  If this particular book is not groundbreaking, it is at least an example of how a popular intellectual property that has some serious fantasy elements, even if that basis is in the comics rather than in the high fantasy tone, and that is something worth celebrating and enjoying.  I certainly had a good time reading this book and I think that someone who plays this game would have a good time playing it.  I know quite a few people who are very serious about the Marvel universe and they would undoubtedly find a great deal of fun here.  It is also quite possible that a DC version of this would be equally enjoyable as well, although I do not know of such a work.

In terms of its contents, this book is a bit more than 200 pages and is divided into two parts, with the page numbers marked as OM (Operating Manual) in the first part and BR (for Breakout) in the second part.  After a foreword that talks about the history of the Marvel roleplaying world, the author includes five chapters that flesh out what Marvel roleplaying is like.  First there is an introduction to hero datafiles, the role of dice, plot points, the doom pool that the gamemaster uses to simulate the actions of the enemies of the party (1).  After that there is a discussion about playing the game in action and transition scenes (2) as well as a discussion about taking action in fighting and other aspects of heroism (3).  There are discussions about the information that is in the various datafiles (4) and finally a way to understand events and even modify or create them as part of one’s playing (5).  The second part of the book consists of a two-act event where a breakout at a top-secret prison for Marvel baddies run by S.H.E.I.D. then leads to an exploration of the savage land where something very improper is going on, after which there is a long list of hero datafiles for players to use in their own games.

There are a few aspects that make this particular book a worthwhile guide.  The rules of the game are simple, so that people who are geeky enough to be passionate fans of the Marvel comics but not geeky enough to be extremely big fans of complex dice-based games will be able to have a game that they enjoy.  This is the sort of game that is designed to be a bit more mainstream than most of the classic table-top games, with a game structure that is based not on quests but rather on events that are the kind that would take place over several comic issues or part of a film or multi-episode television show arc.  Given the popularity of the Marvel Extended Universe, this book and likely others (since this is only a basic set) are likely to be very popular with those who wish to pretend like they were favorite Marvel characters, and there is certainly a great deal of appeal in pretending to be a superhero.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/12/26/book-review-a-song-of-ice-and-fire-roleplaying-a-game-of-thrones/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/09/20/book-review-firefly-role-playing-game/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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