As you all - the regular readers anyhow - should know, I am currently running a Marvel Heroic RPG. It is going well, and my players seem to be having fun. However, the game does enough things differently that I am having some concerns about the system and wanted to expand on my thoughts. Perhaps someone here will have the solutions for my woes, or perhaps it is just something that needs to be out there to be addressed. Some of these are a lot less serious than others, but they still deserve at least some mention. Let's begin.
Character Progression Is Stunted
One of the coolest things about the Marvel Heroic RPG is that when you make your character you get to make him/her at the power level that you feel they should be at. There is no power levels or leveling up system for you to deal with. If you want to start off as Wolverine, then you get to start off as Wolverine. In a very real way this is one of the game's selling points. Hero's you make can be just as good as the main heroes in the Marvel universe, or - if you want - you can actually pick up and play one of marvels big heroes.
On the downside however, it can lead to character progression feeling stunted. Now, this is a trade off players have to keep in mind, but it can cause problems when you feel like you have no way to spend your XP or that your character isn't growing in the way you've grown used to in other games. Now, again, the player can mitigate this, but it is something that I've noticed as a potential problem. Especially now as several of my players are thinking to try other characters out (not a bad thing.) Normally this wouldn't concern me, but when 1/2 the game all want to swap out for someone different, perhaps weaker, an that 1/2 are the people who have gamed the longest, you can see it as a warning sign.
The Woes of One Powerset
Some of the most awesome and spectacular characters in the Marvel universe would have only one powerset. The Hulk, for instance, only has his Gamma Radiation stuff going on that turns him into the Hulk. Venom and Carnage, on the more villainous side, only have their symbiote to give them powers. Someone like Superman would only have one powerset (Kryptonian Blood, or something.) However, when you do this in the game you in effect cripple yourself. Your average dice pool for something like combat is one die smaller than other characters, but that one die is incredibly significant. You now have to spend more Plot Points to have additional effects (since you don't have the dice to do it normally) or to add more dice to the total of your roll. Your chances for variance in rolls is a lot higher. More importantly, you feel one of your big die's rolls a lot more keenly since if a D12 rolls poorly you likely have very little to back it up.
I don't think this was intended by the designers as a potential problem. I think they meant for all characters to do fairly well here. However, in play both my players who have limited themselves to one powerset have said they've keenly felt the effects of it. I've also found myself adding in a second power set, even if it may be a bit redundant, on some villains just so they can keep up. Fortunately, this problem is quite easily solved simply with having a second power set on the characters. Still, it is something to keep in mind.
Unlockables Are Weird
This is more from a GM standpoint, but I feel weird about the unlockables that are supposed to be present. It feels weird to allow a player to spend 5 xp to "make Black Panther available later on or otherwise have him help." To me, that sort of stuff should be covered by Role Play and Role Play alone. As such, I've had trouble with dropping unlockables into my games. It is something I need to get over - probably starting with how I view XP in this system - but it is still there.
The Core Problem
The core problem that I am seeing is the same that I saw when my group tried out Houses of the Blooded by John Wick. The game is different from the kind of RPG that I, and many of my group, are used to playing. It is different on a fundamental level as well. Because of that, the differences are going to be more glaring and cause more growing pains. I still like the system. In fact, I like it a lot. However, there are issues that I need to find my own way around or the game will suffer from it.
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