Anyway, I did pick up the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying game last week and I've been kind of obsessed about it. It seems like every time a new superhero roleplaying comes out, I think "this is how you do supers"*. But then another game comes out. I went through this with Mutants & Masterminds, Truth & Justice, ICONS, and now Marvel Heroic.
My first impression of the game is that it might be a little too fiddly in its dice mechanic and a little too meta in its scene/event construction for my taste. But there is undoubtedly a lot to love about the game. Two of the things that stand out:
I knew that it lacked a balanced character creation system going in, so was actually surprised to find something so flexible, detailed, and (on a story level) balanced. I actually really like the idea of building supers characters to concept without having to worry about points. What matters is that regardless of power level, every character is useful and every character has something cool to do. Characters in Marvel Heroic meet that criteria.
I spent a little time creating original characters to see if the system actually worked. And yes, it does (I hope to post some characters soon). Assigning affiliation dice, distinctions, specialties, and even powers were really easy. The only thing that gave me pause was the currently limited selection of special effects and limitations. Even then, it really wasn't hard to make up new ones.
The strangest part about character creation is the design of character milestones. These are essentially roleplaying keys that, if you hit them, award you varying levels of experience points during a scenario. It effect, the player is creating their own experience point table (which is replaced when they complete their milestones).
I love, love, love the Initiative system in this game. I have never seen anything like it before and I'm strongly considering adapting it to my future (and possibly current) campaigns, regardless of system.
In a nutshell, you use common sense to determine who goes first. After that, the acting character gets to choose the next character in the order. You do this until you run through all the characters (including NPCs) and the last character gets to choose who goes first in the next round.
The GM has some tools to insert themselves into the order, but the real balancing mechanism is that if you let the GM characters go last, they gain control of the initiative sequence through their ability to determine who goes next in subsequent rounds. Fred Hicks has a great post on this here.
One More Thing
I almost forgot, but I really like how the doom pool would seem to allow for escalating tension, without having the GM be responsible for all that. In a nutshell, the GM (called Watcher) has a supply of doom dice that act as both anti-plot points (the player resource for awesome) and also represent the base difficulty level for opposed rolls. Not sure how it works in practice, but it seems really nifty.
So, I'm really liking wha I see so far. Now if I could only play to game to see if it is as awesome as I hope or fiddly as a fear.
* Obligatory disclaimer: Of course, you could always use Risus.