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» Marvel Heroic RPG Play-test
Greg
 Posted: May 18 2012, 07:34 AM
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I can understand that having stable combat mechanics make sense for judging quality for certain people. For me however, I typically judge a system by how well the mechanics lend themselves to creating an organic and entertaining story, as well as how accurate the system is in recreating the feel of it's chosen property. With taking the clinical route for reviewing it's harder to see how well the mechanics on the storytelling side contribute to the experience.

The thing about the learning rate for this particular game is that while the basic mechanics and what they are tying to accomplish are a bit tricky to grasp at first, It seems like once you have that figured out, the game should become fairly smooth sailing in the long run in contrast with other systems with more complicated subsystems on them, such as Dungeons and Dragons, where the usage of almost any other spell or ability requires a look into the players handbook, and a half-hour debate as to whether the mechanic is supposed to work in a certain manner or situation. Because the special effects for the abilities are fairly uniform in Marvel Heroic, where one area attack is the same as another, it doesn't cause as much trouble in the long run.
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dingo
 Posted: May 18 2012, 10:51 AM
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QUOTE (Greg @ May 18 2012, 07:34 AM)
I can understand that having stable combat mechanics make sense for judging quality for certain people.  For me however, I typically judge a system by how well the mechanics lend themselves to creating an organic and entertaining story, as well as how accurate the system is in recreating the feel of it's chosen property.

This was an extreme example of recreating a licensed property in RPG form. You don't play Star Wars SAGA to recreate what happened in the movies. You do it to create new stories in the Star Wars setting. Same with our Mass Effect game. "Organic" is not a word I'd use to describe how Marvel Heroic RPG tells stories.

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With taking the clinical route for reviewing it's harder to see how well the mechanics on the storytelling side contribute to the experience.

Not sure what you mean here...

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The thing about the learning rate for this particular game is that while the basic mechanics and what they are tying to accomplish are a bit tricky to grasp at first, It seems like once you have that figured out, the game should become fairly smooth sailing in the long run in contrast with other systems with more complicated subsystems on them, such as Dungeons and Dragons, where the usage of almost any other spell or ability requires a look into the players handbook, and a half-hour debate as to whether the mechanic is supposed to work in a certain manner or situation.  Because the special effects for the abilities are fairly uniform in Marvel Heroic, where one area attack is the same as another, it doesn't cause as much trouble in the long run.

I could write a whole essay about this. You know, I think I will.
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Greg
 Posted: May 18 2012, 01:48 PM
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The way that Star Wars treats it's main character is quite different to how Marvel treats it's characters, at least in my opinion. With Star Wars, there is only one main story which is pretty much set in stone, whereas the Marvel Universe, while it does have a primary universe, likes to explore different possibilities, as seen by the What If line of Marvel comics, as well as other spinoff universes such as Age of Apocalypse and House of M. I think one thing that would have been interesting to try could have been running the game with a group of characters that were not directly involved in the events, such as the X-Men, and seen how/if the scenario could have played out differently, or if it could have ended up having a major effect on the Marvel Universe. It seems that judging by the way that some of the characters are designed (such as Emma Frost) the game is not intended to simply be a "Superheroes Fighting" game, but rather a game where the players are free to take their characters down different paths. We didn't really get a chance to see what could have happened if events played through to one of the characters making a major decision and then witnessing the fallout of that particular event.

One interesting idea in terms of something that could be done with this system is to take a particular event in the Marvel Universe, or even introduce a new event, and see what happens in terms of how it might effect the overall setting, switching to and from different groups of heroes, and see what happens to them in this alternate timeline we created. This concept may not appeal to everyone, but I at personally have a fascination with applying a "what if" to different settings/stories and exploring where that different path might lead.

(Okay, wow. Either I'm experiencing a really strong placebo effect here, or this Concerta stuff is making my posts longer. Not sure yet if it has actually improved the quality of my posts or not. :P)
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dingo
 Posted: May 18 2012, 02:04 PM
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I'd wondered about that. You've certainly been more articulate in the past little while than usual.

I think we've really nailed down this game's strengths and weaknesses, and it's pretty clear what kinds of people will enjoy it. Thanks for all the commentary, Greg. This will be a better review for it.
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Greg
 Posted: May 18 2012, 02:24 PM
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I've just started taking it this afternoon, so my first couple posts were merely fueled by my desire to express what it was that I found enjoyable about it, so as to help validate my opinion to more than simply "well, Greg just likes everything, so his liking it doesn't count for much".

I can be articulate about stuff, it normally just takes more time and/or passion for me to do so than most people. Hopefully the concerta will help with improving the frequency at which I turn out quality work, without it becoming annoying to others.
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Chronocide
 Posted: May 18 2012, 05:43 PM
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We weren't being hard on the game because it wasn't or couldn't be fun, I enjoyed myself enough. The reason we where hard on the game is that given what it was trying to do it makes some serious mistakes. Namely the following:

The system is very much a 'game' it is designed as players vs gm and enables the concept of winning. This was a good decision given what they are trying to do with the system but the problem lies in the fact that as a 'game' there are a lot of areas in the rules that need further elaboration. I think that power gamers especially would quickly be able to break the game in a negative way. This problem is mitigated slightly by the fact the the game does try to avoid you from thinking about these things and it does this fairly well, but I would expect that by the 5th session their will be some serious abusing of the rules and arguing. Considering the game does not seem to reinforce the idea of the GM as a referee the lack of rule clarification becomes a problem bound to encourage discourse.

The second deficit is that it comes across as a little bland. The huge number of heroes and unique characters they have at their disposal is one of the major pluses and coolest parts of the game. But it only takes another glance at another players character sheet to realize that your character isn't very special. That's exactly what I thought when I looked at Jimbo's "Oh I guess I can't really do anything special." A little flavour would have gone a long way. Remember rules are only a problem when you have to look them up if they are right there in front of you when you need them having lots of rules is not an issue (see Dominion for example).
Bottom line it doesn't make the game worse but it stops it from being really good.


Now the good things

It does do some things pretty well. The system is fairly simple and base mechanics wise a rather like it. It is however not that streamlined. Things need to be reworded and reorganized they are using a lot of terms where the word does not impart useful meaning to even help you guess what they might mean. Still overall the base mechanics given what they seem to be trying to achieve is a net plus

The huge character roster is great, removing the whole character building process and as a result the worry that you are building your character wrong (seriously this is an issue to new players) is a major plus. But the characters come across as a little generic.

I actually like the experience gaining system I think it is novel and rewards xp appropriately however, some of the milestones chosen are stupid. Increasing the number of milestones and having them count for less would be good, and mesh well with the short storey arch model.

Character sheets were well designed and had the information where I need it, this is often a huge gripe of mine when I have to search all over the character sheet to figure out what I can do or how I am going to be doing something. Full points here.

Anyway where I a teacher grading this assignment I would hand it back without a mark with the observations made and tell the student to finish it and resubmit it. That's where I see this game; simply needing a little more polish.
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dingo
 Posted: May 18 2012, 10:42 PM
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QUOTE (Chronocide @ May 18 2012, 05:43 PM)
We weren't being hard on the game because it wasn't or couldn't be fun, I enjoyed myself enough. The reason we where hard on the game is that given what it was trying to do it makes some serious mistakes.

Totally! I think we gave the game a fair shot, and, speaking for myself, testing it was a fun experience.
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...the problem lies in the fact that as a 'game' there are a lot of areas in the rules that need further elaboration. I think that power gamers especially would quickly be able to break the game in a negative way. This problem is mitigated slightly by the fact the the game does try to avoid you from thinking about these things and it does this fairly well, but I would expect that by the 5th session their will be some serious abusing of the rules and arguing.

...A little flavour would have gone a long way. Remember rules are only a problem when you have to look them up if they are right there in front of you when you need them having lots of rules is not an issue (see Dominion for example).

One of the best examples of an IP-based RPG is Dark Heresy. It's a well-realized system in my opinion, yet it is full of flavor. With the exception of World of Darkness, I've never seen a game that is designed with immersion as much in mind. The rules, the flavor text, the art, the page designs, etc. all work together to pull you into the setting, making you feel the dread, the imperialist zeal, the knowledge of one's own significance that your characters feel. In addition, the unique abilities that each class can access are pretty awesome. Most games don't that far, and they probably don't have to, but it's an example of how a big franchise can be turned into a really good RPG. It's an ideal to which I hold other IP-based games.
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Greg
 Posted: May 19 2012, 11:28 AM
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Yeah, I can see what your getting at. I agree that both systems you mention do a really good job at immersing the players in the setting. Additionally, making some more room for more specialized sfx would be a good idea for something to add, as I am also agreeing that our characters functioned pretty much the same in combat. Also, there should be a better way to scale a villain's health pool when fighting solo against a group of heroes, as a well placed punch seems to be able to knock out your typical villain making combat somewhat anticlimactic compared to how solo villains are supposed to be in the comics.

On the other hand, I'm wondering how much immersion is tied to "dark and gritty". One thing that I'm noticing is that both systems you mention hover on the grimmer side of the spectrum. Now I realize that I'm saying may not help in arguing whether Marvel accomplished what it set out to do, but I'm just a little curious if there are any epic/adventurous games that manage to hold up to the standards of "immersion". If not, then is the idea of immersion somehow tied to gritty and tragic settings?
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dingo
 Posted: May 19 2012, 03:41 PM
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There is a bit of a correlation in that it's easier to inflict fear than it is to inspire heroism. EDIT: Of course, grittiness and "epicness" aren't mutually exclusive, and there is no courage without something to fear.

It's really more that they did the work. Think of the vast library of WoD source books out there, and the quality of those books is very, very high. Each one has a short story that it tells throughout the book. And it's a similar thing with the 40K books. It shows the commitment to making the best possible product (in this case, a game), and it all adds up to a more immersive experience, just reading the rule book. I've never played Scion or Exalted, but I would guess that with the level of quality White Wolf puts into their games, that epic feel could be achieved well.

So the answer is no, immersion is not tied to darkness.

This post has been edited by dingo: May 19 2012, 09:53 PM
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dingo
 Posted: May 21 2012, 05:43 PM
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Found this on the Margaret Weis website. I'll be using it a bit in my review, but it's mainly for interest's sake.

Design Diary
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Greg
 Posted: May 22 2012, 01:22 PM
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Those articles answered some of my questions regarding the game. Specifically being "Where are Thor and the Hulk?". It also confirmed what I believed they were trying to do with the game in terms of the experience they wanted to create from it.
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