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So, here you find a blog about life in general, but with a focus on family, games, books and creativity. Other "stuff" will creep in from timt to time.

Monday, February 27, 2012

A Few Words on the Marvel Heroic Role Playing game

There is a lot to say about this great game and the company that produced it, and I can only speak to a fraction of it at the moment.  However, I wanted to get some thoughts down before I get to actually play the game (which will happen at the previously mentioned Taste of Marvel at the wonderful Labyrinth Games) and then give some more impressions after I get to experience it in play.

So, I am actually buying the hard copy book from Labyrinth and picking it up at the event this weekend.  However, since I prepaid, I received a prompt and efficient e-mailed link and coupon code for a free download of the PDF so that I could start looking at the game last week.  MWP was prompt and the download on Drive ThruRPG was easy.  This is the second game I have bought from MWP (I pre-ordered Leverage for a friend), and this interaction confirms my initial impression, that they do good work and are very competent with their customer care.

I have not read the game itself cover to cover yet.  As is my usual, I have done a combination of flipping through, looking things up (good index and TOC) and then started slowly moving the bookmark (so to speak with a PDF) through the volume.

Everything that I have seen so far impresses me. 

First, they have a foreward by Jeff Grubb who helped bring us the original Marvel Super Heroes game from TSR.  It is a nice piece, and it is classy to have him, in effect, hand the torch to the new game.  Despite many criticisms I have written here about the old MSH game, I have a great fondness for and terrific memories of playing it.  From the first pages, I get the feeling that MHRP will similarly gain a solid place in my RPG repetoir.

The look of the book is great.  The layout is clean and clear.  The art is well selected from a back catelogue probably hundreds of thousands of images in the Marvel library.  But the selected art fits with the themes of the sections they adorn and are not just randomly assigned.  The feel is very professional, very comfortable and it communicates well as the system is described bit by bit.  Right up front they have a breakdown of what things make up a character and a summary of what they mean, using Captain America's sheet as an example.  Then you can dive into the details of the rules immediately following.

Of course, before digesting all the nitty gritty of the rules, the first thing to do is to flip to the back and check out the official stats for the included heroes!

There are 23 super heroes fully statted out and ready to play in the "Mini Event" included in the book.  They include a good representative group from Mavel's popular teams: all of the Fantasitc Four, important members of the Avengers and X-Men, and of course a number of popular "unaffiliated" (at least before the Avengers Disassembled story arc) heroes like Spiderman and Daredevil.  I have no complaints about the initial group of heroes, though I do have some observations.

The group is very representative of the marvel Universe and should satisfy most Marvel fans as a first round of official stats. 

What is disatisfying for me, which is not the game's fault, is the lack of representativeness of the Marvel Universe. 

In this group of heroes, we have 8 women heroes and 15 men.  Marvel suffers from a lack of solid and interesting female heroes, and has never developed any female hero iconic as DC has in Wonder Woman (and even if she is constantly treated as a distant third behind Batman and Superman, no matter what DC does, it has been unable to not have her in that big three).  Here we have Armor, Black Widow, Emma Frost, Invisible Woman, Ms. Marvel, Shadowcat, Spider-Woman and Storm.  These are all solid heroes, but given the almost 2 to 1 ratio of male heroes to female, I hope that somehow the game can overcome the inherent gender issues in the Marvel Universe to get girls and women to the gaming table with the game.  Because I like it a lot.

Looking through the vector of race/ethnicity, there is a starker contrast.  19 of the heroes are white/caucasian background, with other racial/ethnic groups represented by two black Africans, an African American and an Asian (Japanese) character. 

Gaming should know no boundaries, and imagination should admit everyone.  Marvel, along with mainstream comics everywhere, has definitely got some major gaps in how representative its heroes are.  While Marvel has established an imaginary world where there are 9000 significant characters, many from all over the world and from all kinds of backgrounds, the most popular, the most promoted, and the most famous tend to be white and tend to be guys.  This game is not going to fix the industry.  However, going into the game and making the Marvel Universe your own to game in, one has to understand that the way things play out in character selection for the write-ups is pretty reflective of the Official Universe. 

The nice thing about it is that, if you don't like it, in the game, you can change it.

Hopefully, MWP can find some way to tap into those players who maybe don't see themselves in the "top tier" of Marvel heroes and nonetheless get them interested in the game.  With luck, that may bring in some more readers who may be able to exert some market forces for change in the official universe to balance out its cast.

As it is the rules make creation of heroes or statting up of your favorite (but as yet not officially released) hero fairly easy.

I'll have to talk about that tomorrow, as I am out of time to write today.