In order to fully understand and use all of the information on this Page, there are a lot of things
you need to know about RPGs in general, and Marvel Super-Heroes© in particular. This
section will hopefully help you out, and save all of us a few eMails!
A role-playing game (RPG) is basically a mutual fantasy, co-created by the players at each gaming
session. Each RPG has different rules and different ways of playing, but they all have several
things in common: they all require one player to act as a "referee" or "game master" (GM), who
devises the scenarios and acts as final arbiter of the game action; they all have highly fluid
rules (to the point where they are sometimes more suggestions than rules); and they all require a
high degree of imagination on the part of all participants to successfully play. The main thing
that sets an RPG apart from other, more traditional games is that each player takes on a character,
and directs that character's actions, much as an actor takes on a role in a movie.
The Marvel Super-Heroes© RPG was produced by TSR, beginning in the mid-80s.
Unfortunately, the company ceased publication of the game, as well as all of the supplemental
materials, in the early-90s. This means that you can no longer order the game from the company.
But, all hope is not lost. If you look around the Web a little, you can still find dealers that will sell you a copy of the game, either used or older warehouse stock. Of course, there is always eBay, which generally has a nice selection of auctions for this game. A quicker and cheaper method is to go over to the "Marvel Super Heroes" site. Once there, you can download copies of all of the rule books you will need to start playing the game, in *.pdf format, which means that you will need a copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader© to use them. But hey, everything you need is free for the download!
Whether you get your rulebooks in hard copy or electronic form, these are the essentials you will need to get:
These are the essential rules for conducting campaigns. TSR released many other supplements, all with varying degrees of helpfulness. However, if you apply your imagination, and the knowledge contained in the above books, you should be able to do fine with just these basics.
Marvel Super-Heroes© game, instead of some other system?
Yeah, I know. There is a DC Heroes role-playing game, put out by Mayfair Games. I've
got a copy, along with several books and modules for it. I also own GURPS Supers,
Villains & Vigilantes, several editions of Champions, and a whole bevy of other,
lessor-known super-hero games. I've either played or thoroughly checked out all of these.
However, I've done most of my actual playing and GMing with the Marvel Super-Heroes
game. I really like the system, especially for new gamers. Since most of these games are no
longer being produced (to my knowledge, anyway), and since most of the characters I am using
were not/will not be supplied by any of the manufacturors, and since no one here is making a
dime off of this here Web Page, I figure that it doesn't really matter who made the game in
the first place.
For this game, you will need at least one copy of the
Universal Table and the
Results Table (multiple copies of each would be
really handy, though); a Character Sheet for each player; a random number
generator (usually dice); scratch paper & pencils; several
players with a thorough knowledge of the rules of play; and most importantly,
The Universal Table and Results Table are the keys to this particular game, and they are a very large part of why I like this game so much. If you have ever played Dungeons & Dragons, you know how many graphs and charts you have to keep track of. In this game, there are only these two tables, and that is it! Read a little further down, I go into much more detail there ...
A Character Sheet looks a lot like the statistics pages I have posted here. If you use any of these characters, just print out the stat sheet and go from there. If, on the other hand, you've made up your own character, just use a sheet of paper and format the information the same as on these statistics pages. For a player, the Character Sheet is the single most important piece of paper in the game. This is where the history of the character is built, where his fictional "life" is recorded. Without the Character Sheet, the game becomes all but unplayable, as there are really way too many numbers for most people to keep track of. BTW, when you update the Character Sheets, use a pencil! Trust me, in an active campaign, the numbers change often!
A random number generator can be many things, but dice are by far the most popular. For this game, standard cube-shaped dice will not work. You will need two dice that have 10 sides each, so you can generate numbers from 1 to 100. Most hobby shops and comic shops carry them, and you will need at least one set to play this game (although a set for each player vastly speeds up the process). Some shops also carry 100-sided dice; these will work, though I found them to be quite a pain because they tend to be hard to read. Another option is to look around the 'Net for small little software programs that will generate numbers for you. (Here is a good little program, called MSH DiceRoller. It's Freeware, check it out). However, dice are the preferred choice of most gamers.
Scratch paper & pencils are pretty self-explanatory, and they do come in handy.
The players need to be friendly to each other, and somewhat in synch. This entire game is an exercise in creating a mutual fantasy, and at least some consensus of opinion must exist as to what will constitute a successful gaming session. What this means is, a game can the run the gamut of pure hack & slash action, mushy romance, drawn out soap opera, high comedy, wailings of existential angst, and back again. (Just think about how many topics have been contained in comics over the years, and you will get an idea of what a typical gaming session may contain.) It is much speedier if everyone involved is at the same level of playing skill, so every attempt should be made to get new players up to speed as soon as possible.
However, the single most important factor in this game is imagination. Without
imagination, none of the above makes any difference whatsoever. Every single move and
bit of "action" takes place within the mind. If you leave your imagination at home, it
is best that you don't even attempt to play an RPG. It just won't work.
The Universal Table (UT) is a reference tool used by the GM and players to see if
an attempted action is possible. It cross-references two very important pieces of data
-- the character's attribute level for the action attempted, and the current dice roll.
Each character is assigned a level for each of his attributes: Typical, Amazing, Monstrous, Incredible, etc. These are found along the top of the UT. The player will announce his intended action to the GM, who tells the player which attribute to roll under and what result s/he will need to accomplish it. For example, if a character wants to lift something heavy, it would be a strength roll; if s/he wants to figure out a complicated mathematical equation, it would be a reason roll; etc.
The player then rolls the dice, and looks up the result on the Universal Table. There will be one of four results: white, green, yellow, or red. White results usually fail to do the attempted action, and green results or better usually succeed. However, if the action is particularly difficult, the GM may require a yellow or red roll.
Once you know the color of your dice roll (from the UT), you cross-reference it on
The Results Table, under whichever action was attempted. Keep in mind that this
is a guide only; as GM is the ultimate authority in this game, and he can over-ride a
dice roll on a whim. After all, someone has to be in charge ... ;-)