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Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Civil War Fifty State Initiative
by Alexander O. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/30/2012 07:25:55

Marvel Heroic Roleplaying's Event Supplement, titled Civil War - Fifty State Initiative, is a pretty good expansion of the Civil War event, allowing players to sort of round out the corners of their own version of the Marvel Universe.


OVERVIEW


This book hold two main sections: The Event Supplement and the Datafiles.


In the EVENT SUPPLEMENT, we get some idea of other elements of Marvel's Civil War that can be played out, including:


The Initiative


This tackles the drive to get a sanctioned super-hero team in every state, with details on
Camp Hammond: where newbie heroes go to train
two action scenes geared toward the Initiative
several sanctioned teams: The Great Lakes Champions, the Liberteens, Omega Flight, The Order, Psionex, The Rangers, and the Shadow Initiative.


While I'm okay with a lot of the content for rounding out knowledge of the event, the only elements that really grabbed me for play opportunities were the Action Scenes and the The Order. The former really sets up a good sort of mini-scenario, while The Order comes the closest to detailing -- much as the comic book did -- how a State-sanctioned team might be set up. And this is really what I was expecting from the book, perhaps unfairly: a way for the event to allow a group of player characters to become the de facto go-to government team for a state, and how it might be supported and monitored.


On the other hand, the book is better maximized (in my opinion) if the gaming group plays a rebel team and encounters one or more of these superteams in the course of their rebellion.


The Thunderbolts


As a change of pace mini-campaign, this has a pretty good setup. Villains get recruited into serving the government as sanctioned heroes (and with some nasty, some might say fatal, ways of being controlled by their handlers), and quickly learn that there are some villains already in charge.


It also plays well in an existing campaign as a set of tough opponents for a rebel superteam.


Heroes for Hire


If your players choose to play ball with the government, but retain some kind of autonomy, they can go the mercenary -- er, government contractor route of Heroes for Hire. Some nice datafiles and a rationale that puts the PCs in a sort of rivalry/conflict with superteams on both sides of the Civil War fence (essentially being tasked to actively hunt down and capture Anti-Registration supers.


DATAFILES


These are always welcome (and you get a fair number of them in the prior section already), and in this case the standouts are the core membership of NextWave, the Thunderbolts, and Heroes for Hire.


All in all, I think that it wasn't as stellar in my mind as the other Event book. It comes across as a supplement to a supplement, and not a superstar in its own right, if that makes any sense. However, it does have some interesting counter-campaign options for a change of pace or different point of view for this mega-event, and is still a must-have for the die-hard Marvel enthusiast.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Civil War Fifty State Initiative
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Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Civil War Event Book (Essentials Edition)
by chris m. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/12/2012 12:56:46

This was a great example of a n Event! Worth every penny, either as an example for your own events or as a source for a civil war campaign.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Civil War Event Book (Essentials Edition)
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Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Civil War Fifty State Initiative
by Nenad R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/09/2012 04:12:08

This book gives an overview of the initiative teams, as well as the Thuderbolts and heroes for hire. I found the write ups of the teams a bit sparse, but they do give enough ideas to get started, although I am not sure how useful they would be for somebody who has not read the storyline.


But then again, you have to love a book that gives you the stats for both Howard the Duck and Squirell Girl



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Civil War Fifty State Initiative
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Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Civil War Young Avengers / Runaways
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/07/2012 23:40:50

WHAT WORKS: They dumped in a number of datafiles I’d love to play in a game (Rick Jones, Living Mummy and Ultra Girl for three), and I like the excuse to add in a few more odds and ends villains to provide more options. Also, it’s nice to have the non-Penance Speedball as an option.


WHAT DOESN’T WORK: The awful New Warriors art. This book in general just feels way less “essential” (or way more “optional”) than the 50States Initiative, but that may be a pro, depending on how you look at it.


CONCLUSION: If you’re not sold on Marvel Heroic, this isn’t going to be the book that changes your mind. The datafiles really sell this book, as the extra material like the Milestones and Unlockables just don’t stand out as well with in this one as they did in Civil War and 50 States Initiative, so if you hate teen superheroes, you may not be thrilled with this. On the other hand, that selection of datafiles really is pretty cool, as a few more of my genuine favorites slipped in here.


For my full review, please visit http://mostunreadblogever.blog-
spot.com/2012/10/tommys-take-on-civil-war-young.html



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Civil War Young Avengers / Runaways
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Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Basic Game
by Eric B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/03/2012 12:36:47

Great storytelling rpg engine. Love it. Perfect for super hero action the Marvel way.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Basic Game
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Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Basic Game
by Robert S. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/26/2012 03:38:57

This week in am reviewing Marvel Heroic Roleplaying from Margaret Weis Productions.


First things first – the game as a PDF, or at least a set of PDFs. The Marvel Heroic Roleplaying available from DriveThru RPG includes six items; the 234 page basic


• Marvel Heroic Basic Book,
• a cheat sheet for Watchers,
• a cheat sheet for players,
• a guide to character creation,
• a catalog of Marvel Heroes,
• and an example of play.


The basic Marvel Heroic book comes with a nice table of contents, an index and book marks. None of the other documents, aside from the 48-page catalog of heroes, are really long enough to include bookmarks. The catalog is problematic as it is a perfect repetition of a catalog that already exists in the main book, and it should have bookmarks to make it easier to navigate. It also does not include any of Marvel’s notable villains.


All the works are full color, well designed and include ample art from Marvel comics. The pages are a bit busy in terms of layout, but not badly so – though it can take a few seconds for the busier pages to fully load and present all their contents.


Moving on we get to the mechanics – as with other games from Margaret Weis Productions, such as Smallville, Firefly and Leverage, Marvel Heroic employs a variation of the Cortex System. Marvel Heroic does a good job in setting up a structural dynamic similar to the comic books it seeks to emulate. That is any comics, not just Marvel, something I will get back to soon. It is deeply story driven rather than a numbers game. This is a virtue and a handicap for the game.


Unfortunately, Marvel Heroic is not a good choice for people new to role-playing games. Narrative fiction does work under a system of rules, such as tension between opposed forces, rising action, character arc, climaxes and so forth. However, these rules are not as transparent or intuitive as the basic arithmetic that determines the mechanics of many, if not most, role-playing game systems.


The basic book is dense with terminology that can be difficult for new gamers or gamers used to a more mechanically straightforward affair. This includes terms like Affiliation, Stress and the Doom Pool.
The book introduces a double handful of potentially new terms and while there is a lexicon, it is in the back of the book rather than the front. As such, the plethora of new terms is a hurdle for first time gamers.


In the game, character are built out of various traits, including specialties, distinctions, powers and the like. Examples of these include elements such as being a trained human, an altered human, being best in a team, being best as part of a pair or being best when operating along, enhanced strength, enhanced durability and resistance to cold or heat. Further, characters include details such as personality traits, reputations, backstory, a catchphrase or title and some notable feature. Each of these, at least the important ones, receives a dice rating, be it a d4, d6, d8, d10 and d12. The d4 is special case, as it is nominally a liability but grants an advantage later.
To put it another way, think of any particular Marvel Heroic in terms of descriptive terminology, adjectives and adverbs rather than numbers to fill out things like strength, dexterity, constitution and so forth.


Players must keep handy a dice pool matching their characters and when it is required, they roll the appropriate dice. Appropriate dice are determined by a situation in story terms, not mechanically – Captain America’s trait as a natural leader comes into play in group situations with a team behind him, but would not be much of an issue in a singular combat with a robo-Nazi. There are ultimately too many variations and possibilities to get into in a single review, suffice to say to it is a system that is so dynamic it can be frustratingly flexible. Players employ the highest two dice and the next two highest dice for attempts to accomplish tasks or do something important. The doom pool is the name of the dice pool the game master employs for villains and difficult situation; it is the dice pool that opposes the player actions. The same basic rule about rolling the dice of the dice pool governs all situations where dice are rolled from fighting a killer Sentinel Robot to getting into a snark contest with Spider-Man.


That the game is so potentially flexible is not inherently a problem – depending on the group. Which is the crux of the issue – the rules come from a determination to reflect stories as they appear in comics and in this Marvel Heroic is successful. However, its dynamic quality makes it more vulnerable to disputes at a game table.


The rules of initiative in Pathfinder and 4E D&D are relatively rigid and a determined by an impartial roll of the dice while by comparison order of action in Marvel Heroic depends on fictional constraints. The game master chooses who goes first, based upon who is team leader or the fastest… and then the player of that character chooses who goes next. This might make narrative sense but it also depends upon the group getting on well.


Further, the rules specifically urge game masters to be quote “shamelessly transparent” unquote. This will be a real philosophical change of pace for many game masters.


These are issues that are not accidentally or incidentally a part of the structure of the game, but are basic design elements of the game. They are not flaws, but assets – simply assets that will not suit everyone or for work well for everyone, such as new gamers or contentious group. Among the few real flaws the book possesses is that it does not present any actual villains.


The game is admirably adaptable. A flaw of the Smallville game was excessive amounts of space in that book given over to a canceled TV show. Marvel Heroic fortunately discusses Marvel comic by presenting the major heroes and discussing the comics in large strokes – it does not devote pages to lengthy discussions of what happens in the comic. That space is reserved for the actual game. In any event, it should be with-in reach of a competent game master to use the system with characters from comics such as Dark Horse, IDW, Image, NBM and… what is the other one. Oh, right, and DC Comics.


In the end I give Marvel Heroic Roleplaying a 20 on a d20 with two important qualifiers, first this is not a game for people new to role-playing, even if they are also long time fans of comics, second, this is not a game for a contentious group, unless they also like games exploding in their face – it is best suited to a group which works well together and who are fans of comic books.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Publisher Reply:
Thanks for the review! Just a clarification with the bonus PDF of characters: this is a printer-friendly version of the hero datafiles in the main book, which is why it's a repetition of those characters. It's bonus content for those who purchase the PDF and want to save ink.
Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Civil War Young Avengers / Runaways
by Eric B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/23/2012 18:13:16

Great book. A lot of cool Datefiles. Nice Event. Worth the price of admission.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Civil War Young Avengers / Runaways
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Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Basic Game
by Ian H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/21/2012 12:20:53

First the good points, this is a well thought out and well writ tern game. If you get this it's because you are a marvel fan, but the character backgrounds are short but hold all the details you need to grasp the characters motives, history and personality.
This is a great system to run and play, had hours of fun running the game, the pregen senarios are fun and have a great feel, overall this is a great game
Now the bad point, just one there is an issue with the art, many of the pictures cover the text which is really irritating and poor presentation/editing.
I hope there is an update soon



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Basic Game
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Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Basic Game
by Brian R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/16/2012 11:40:05

This excellent roleplaying system is extremely easy to pick up and use, with extreme flexibility and user friendliness. My personal group has already adapted this system to two other roleplaying worlds and it works flawlessly. This book is a steal, and well worth the initial investment.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Civil War Fifty State Initiative
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/01/2012 13:22:05

This supplement gives you a Howard the Duck datafile. 'nuff said.


Okay, so maybe there’s more to say than that. This supplement to the Civil War event book really gives you two things, in very unequal measure. First, it gives you about half a dozen short action scenes set in the aftermath of the Civil War—two scenes for each of three teams, the Initiative (well, sort of a network of teams), the Thunderbolts, and the Heroes for Hire. Second, and mostly, it gives you datafiles for a whole bunch of second- and third-string heroes from the Marvel Universe … yes, including Howard the Duck.


It’s basically a roster book, so a glance at the table of contents should pretty much tell you whether you want the book or not. For me, Howard really was pretty much the highlight of the book, but whether that tells you more about me or about the book is for you to decide. Personally, I’m not very interested in most of the heroes included. The Great Lakes Champions, Liberteens, the Shadow Initiative, the folks training at Camp Hammond, and even the Rangers (I’m a Texas native, though living elsewhere now) don’t interest me very much. I have no desire to play them or run an adventure featuring them. The Thunderbolts might be a different story, though I’d personally use them as antagonists, not as the heroes. That pretty much leaves the Heroes for Hire.


The distribution of the datafiles throughout the book can be a little bit annoying, even confusing. Some datafiles, about half a page long with red backgrounds, are presented along with the action scenes and the team descriptions. Thus Baron Zemo’s datafile appears on p. FS55, in the section of the book dedicated to the Thunderbolts (pp. FS50–FS63). Here’s where you’ll also find Eel, Mongoose, Porcupine, American Eagle, Jack Flag, Sepulchre, and Steel Spider, in connection with two action scenes featuring the Thunderbolts. But to find datafiles for Bullseye, Moonstone, Radioactive Man, Songbird, Swordsman, and Venom, you look in the back of the book, where each has a two-page spread with a blue background. I’m not sure why Swordsman rates a two-page spread and Zemo only gets half a page, but I am sure that it’s a bit of a pain tracking where each datafile is found. Consistently grouping the characters with their teams or consistently listing everybody at the end in alphabetical order would have made the book more convenient to use.


When the PDF of this book was first released, the image resolution was terrible, but MWP updated the product with a better-looking version. That’s good responsiveness and customer service … but it doesn’t really make the book any more useful for me. The book accomplishes its goal well. It’s just not a goal that really lights a spark in my GMing heart; the book does not inspire me to want to use these characters. GMs, er, Watchers who have an interest in these characters will love it.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Civil War Fifty State Initiative
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Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Civil War Fifty State Initiative
by Ashley M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/31/2012 14:56:19

This book is about the government sponsored pro-registration teams that were formed after the SHRA was passed. The book's in three chunks, one about the Initiative (a team in every state), another about the Thunderbolts (poachers turned gamekeepers) and the last one about Heroes for Hire (bounty hunters). There's also a shed load of data files.


The Initiative section is half good, half mystifying. The first chunk is about Camp Hammond. This is the place where newly registered and inexperienced heroes go to get trained. Trained so they don't make the sort of mistakes Spidey did trying to save Gwen Stacey. They're also taught enough about ethics so you don't end up like Wolverine. There are a couple of action scenes covering aspects of training and their first serious mission. There are enough data files in the back of the book to gather together a young team, chuck them in and see what happens. So far so good. Now the mystery begins...


The rest of the Initiative section is an outline of some of the Initiative teams. We have the Rangers and the Great Lakes Avengers/Champions amongst others. Each team gets a quick - page long - description, a guide to playing them and a set of Watcher character data files. Er, Watcher data files? Why? What are they for? Why not player data files? Is it so the Watcher gets to play Squirrel Girl (not a bad thing to be honest, after I finish writing this review she's being transcribed to a player data file ASAP)? There doesn't seem to be any explanation of what this section is actually for. Maybe these is an explanation somewhere but I haven't found it in a couple of readings. I suppose one use would be to give anti-registration heroes something to complicate their lives. Anyway, I found the reasoning a bit lacking - your experience may vary though!


The second section is about the Thunderbolts. They're villains given the choice of helping round up anti-registration heroes or rotting in the hell-hole of Project 42. It gives a quick overview of who and what they are at the time of Civil War and mentions that they eventually end up under the control of one Norman Osbourne. There's a couple of good action scenes and the playable data files for enough undesirables (Venom and Bullseye fans rejoice!) to give you a really strong springboard to start a Thunderbolts campaign. The data files also include a few nice milestones which help you visualise the internal conflicts and motivations of the characters. All in all well chuffed by this section.


The third section is about Heroes for Hire - a bunch of mercenary heroes hired to round up anti-registration heroes. Unlike the Thunderbolts this lot are in it for the money, not because they want to avoid prison and/or reform. Again there are a couple of cool action scenes and data files for the key members of the team. These data files also have good milestones and as a Watcher you can develop a decent amount of conflict between team members AND internal conflict for the team member. For example would Black Cat shop Spidey or let him go? Which way does her emotional compass point at this time? And yes, this means that you've got official data files now for a Black Cat/Spidey combo in games outside the Civil War. What's not to like?


The final section are data files. Some I'd heard of, others I hadn't. With 8,000 characters in the Marvel universe I'm not surprised. Most of them look fun to play and have evocative distinctions and milestones. For me Moonstone sticks out as someone interesting (and not just her picture which is in the best bottle-fed tradition of Super Hero art). She's sufficiently conflicted as to make anyone who thinks super heroes are one dimensional a reason to think again.


My final comment is that the book is a bit short for the price. I know, small doesn't necessarily mean low quality or lack of utility. I don't begrudge having paid the cash as there's still a lot to use but the Initiative teams just feel like filler.


So I'll drop a point for the size, drop another for the second half of the initiative section me add one back for Black Cat, Moonstone and Squirrel Girl.


PS: There's been an update recently which has addressed the fuzzy art issues and the lack of printer friendly data files. Hurrah, those really narked me so I'm glad they've been fixed.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Supernatural: The Hunt Begins
by Ron M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/31/2012 13:38:19

I have run this once with my group and scheduled to run in at the MACE gaming convention in Charlotte, NC. I am a huge fan of the show and love the RPG setting.


I have to tell you that Cortex is not my favorite system. Although I do not hate it, I keep wanting to revert to something like Savage Worlds so my dice can explode. It's a simple rules-light system with a few interesting aspects to it that obviously keeps the fan-base happy.


The adventure itself is well put-together and based on true legends. Obviously, to be Supernatural, it has to be based on some kind of folklore and that's what I liked most about it. For game falvor, I went out and did a internet search and printed out stuff about the legend. I recommend that you READ THAT MATERIAL as well because it gives you ideas for red herrings and other ways to spice up the adventure to make it creepy.


The adventure flows fairly well with a lot of investigation and a few normal encounters. The kick off to the adventure was the only thing that I was not crazy about but that’s not always an easy thing to do in this kind of setting.


One thing one should know is that it gives 4 pre-generated characters in the back. I would have preferred all original characters but unfortunately they were lazy and used Sam and Dean as two of the characters. I had a party of 6 and generated 4 characters on my own when I ran it.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Supernatural: The Hunt Begins
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Leverage: Hitters, Hackers, & Thieves
by Adrian S. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/30/2012 20:48:38

‘Hitters, Hackers & Thieves’, like ‘Grifters & Masterminds’ is a splat book to round off the main roles in the Leverage RPG. It follows the same format for each of the roles, namely:



  • an overview of the role and the history which has shaped it

  • at least 20 new talents (all of which offer versatility for your character. The Talents offered in all three sections were excellent, with strong attention to the thematic elements of the role)

  • a completely unnecessary grab bag of potential NPCs (36 pages of them)

  • and a few elements unique to each role.


With the clear exception of the NPCs, this book wasted no opportunities to add something valuable to the play experience in Leverage. The writers were ‘spot on’ in their ability to channel the style to emulate the mannerisms of the TV characters (I could hear Hardison in the back of my head all the way through the Hackers chapter). This level of skill should be acknowledged and congratulated.


The additional elements I found most interesting included:



  • [Hackers] new rules called ‘Exploits’ which provide an extended narrative for many of the hacker-related electronic activities. Having played games with this component before (Cyberpunk 2020 and Shadowrun in particular), I was glad to see that the writers acknowledged that sometimes playing a Hacker-style character can be dull and dice-heavy and have taken some steps to make it more interesting.

  • [Hitters] the opening section to this chapter is excellent and should be required reading for all gamers. It explains very simply why gun-enabled violence is never a good idea, why murder should be off the table in almost every circumstance and why people who use guns are cowards. It fits perfectly with the mood of Leverage and backs up the section with rules to support a player being ‘one of the good guys’. The Talents in this section are a good mix of the Fighting Styles and RP elements.

  • [Thief] this presents some new rules for designing neat locations and the security elements, backed up by two lists; ‘Cool places to break into’ and ‘Cool things to steal’. Both lists are well-developed and any GM should be able to grab the examples given and run a full Job with them. The variety here is pleasing (from faked DNA to expensive art to a special recipe for fried chicken) so there is something to please everyone.


The book is then rounded out with three differently-themed Tech Jobs and a section on Troubleshooting in Tech Jobs. The Toubleshooting section, whilst only one page, covers all the common-sense elements concisely and is good value.


Overall, this is a good book and well worth the investment to own. The writers for this supplement have shown a solid grasp of the concepts and have endeavoured to offer something unexpected for all roles. The layout and art (with the exception of the NPCs) is extremely pleasing, clear and easy to read. What is great to see is that at the moment, you only really need the core book to play – but these extra books have transcended ‘splat’ and offered something meaningful to make the game deeper rather than simply broader.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Leverage: Hitters, Hackers, & Thieves
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Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Civil War Fifty State Initiative
by cesar d. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/24/2012 12:47:18

Great book, simple and easy to use. Best if you already the Civil War supplement.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Civil War Fifty State Initiative
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Leverage: The Quickstart Job
by Peter H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/24/2012 12:25:59

I was a late comer to the Leverage show and just started watching a few episodes recently. Being a gamer, I was intrigued by the RPG. I was surprised that there was a cost to what is usually a few product. But, it was only a few dollars and I wanted a sample before I bought the main game. It appears to give a good overview of the game mechanics and the way adventures would be run. It would probably be a fun game but I prefer my current system to the system used in this game.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Leverage: The Quickstart Job
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