Friday, June 22, 2012

Discussion: Marvel Heroic RPG - 2 Powersets vs. 1

This is a system specific post, specifically the Marvel Heroic RPG. It will also likely be a short post as I'd really like to get other opinions on this. So, basically, here is the issue as I see it:

In the Marvel Heroic RPG characters tend towards having either one or two power sets. Someone like Captain America for example has one power set for his Super Soldier Serum/Training and a second power set for his shield. It works out well, and lets you represent who Captain America is. She-Hulk on the other hand only has one power set; her irradiated blood. For some reason, I can't see that as anything but a fairly large disadvantage (granted: mechanically) when it comes to telling the stories that involve She-Hulk.

The reason for that view is simply this: when you make a die pool for any action you go down your character sheet and pull one die from your affiliation, one die from an applicable distinction, one die from each power set (provided it has a power that is applicable to the action involved), and then one die from your specialties. This means that in a fight Captain America, or any hero with 2 power sets, is rolling 5 dice while a powerhouse like She-Hulk - someone who should really be shining in a fight - only has 4.

To go into it further, this is naturally limiting in other ways as well. For one, it is harder for She-Hulk to get higher rolls due to increased variance of only 4 dice vs. 5. She-Hulk gets less Plot Points for power set limits because she only has one power set that can have its limits triggered (granted, adding limits can fix this) but also, when a limit is triggered she is left with even less dice. It is also harder for She-Hulk to keep a big die for effect, or to perform multiple effects on one roll.

Now, I get that the game is focused on narrative and mechanical concerns like this aren't necessarily something the system wants. Except that the first Event Book (Civil War) is going to be out soon, and in that arises the real chance for PvP combat to happen. In that PvP combat, someone who has a one powerset hero could be at a disadvantage.

So, what is the discussion? Essentially I want to know if folks agree with me, or if you've found ways to handle it. Does it just not come up as much as I think it would? Is it not as big a deal due to other factors? Ways to handle it?

Sound off in the comments and let's discuss this.


  1. I can see a fix for self-bult characters by reducing the die size if they have two power sets. Trading sheer power for flexibility.

  2. Im making a character for a game that uses a homebrewed point buy. d6, d8, d10, and d12 powers cost 1, 2, 3, and 5 points respectively. Note that d8 and d10 cost 1 and 2, respectively, in the case of skills. Your first powerset is free(Just have to buy the powers) and to unlock a second powerset costs you 3 points. SFX and Limits cost and earn points respectively and distinctions and milestones cost nothing as they all have a set number and general balance.

    It's pretty fair since those three points could be used to avoid excessive limits or bump up some powers or skills or purchase SFX, but the strategic and narrative value of another set makes it worth the investment.

    Under such a system (assuming all characters use the same point buy) She-Hulk might not have two powersets, but she could also pull from a larger pool of skills making a wider variety of scenarios have that 4 dice pool where those two power set characters might pull from 3-5. It's a question of wether you want consistency or circumstance.