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Marvel Multiverse RPG Review

Many great RPGs have been released this year, and I wanted to share my thoughts about these different games over the next several months. I will start with a more recent release, the Marvel Multiverse Role-playing Game Core Rulebook. First, I will break the book down into chapters and give a summary of character creation. Finally, I will include thoughts about the system and possible gameplay experiences. Please note that I have not played this game in a gaming session. Also, my personal experience with Marvel only extends to buying some comics, game shop comic conversations, video games, and movies. I apologize for missing subtle details about comic character powers and the universe. With all that out of the way, let’s begin.

From the publisher:

Take on the roles of Marvel’s most famous Super Heroes—or create your own—to fight some of the most dangerous Super Villains in the Marvel Universe!

Featuring the All-New, All-Different d616 System, the MARVEL MULTIVERSE ROLE-PLAYING GAME gives players the chance to explore their own corner of the multiverse. 

All you need is the book, three six-sided dice, and a group of friends. What’re you waiting for? Start your adventure today!

Book Breakdown

It is a hardcover book with 320 pages of glossy color pages. The book quality is excellent and should last many game sessions. There are ten chapters, a character sheet, power tree reference pages, and a glossary/index.

Chapter 1: How to Play

This is a short chapter that discusses details around tabletop roleplaying games. It is meant for beginners who have never roleplayed before. Enough details are given around playing sessions, dice, character sheets, and house rules. For completeness, there should have been a short example of an RPG session possibly mirroring one of the comics. This might not be necessary in the age of YouTube, Twitch, podcasts, and VTTs.

Chapter 2: Core Mechanics

The game uses three six-sided dice. The player rolls all three dice and sums the total before adding them to the character’s ability score. One dice is designated as a “Marvel dice” that can trigger fantastic rolls and failures. There is also a similar rule to the advantage/disadvantage reroll mechanic found in other games.

Chapter 3: Character Profiles

This section provides details for character abilities and other game statistics. Ranks are the equivalent of “Levels” in this game and represent power levels. The lower ranks are meant for street-level comic characters, while the higher ranks represent more world-ending superheroes. The highest rank is six, including advancement details to move a character to a higher tier. Also, it should be noted that the game statistics don’t include the more typical RPG tropes like classes and skills. Instead, it uses Traits (mechanical effect) and Tags (narrative effect) to give characters more flavor beyond their powersets.

Chapter 4: Combat

Combat is like most modern RPGs. In each turn, a character can take standard and move actions. There is also a reaction action, usually powers triggered by certain events. However, the damage mechanic is quite different. The character multiplies the power/effect’s value by the previously rolled “Marvel dice.” Combine that with fantastic rolls, and characters can do crazy amounts of damage.

Chapter 5: Creating a Character

Character creation involves the following steps:

  • Determining Rank
  • Assigning Ability Scores
  • Choosing a backstory (Origin and Occupation)
  • Choosing Power Sets
  • Calculating other stats

The process is relatively straightforward. The rank determines the number of Ability points and powers. The backstory provides the initial traits and tags. Multiple examples of character creation and advancement provide good insight into the process for a beginner.

Chapter 6: Backstories

The character backstory is composed of origin and occupation. The origin assigns traits to the character, and the occupation determines tags. The lists of origins and occupations are based on Marvel comic characters and should be easily recognizable.

Chapter 7: Powers

This chapter covers all the available powers to a character. They are grouped in power sets, which force characters to have similar powers. Some powers, like Healing Factor, aren’t part of any power sets. A mechanism exists to obtain these powers but doesn’t allow a character to possess many. Like the backstories, the powers are based on existing Marvel comic characters.

Chapter 8: Characters

This chapter covers a large number of Marvel comic characters. It includes heroes, villains, and everyone in between. A few characters I knew from the comics align with what I’ve heard and read. It should provide a good gallery of NPCs and adversaries for narrators. I will also note most heroes and villains from the last twenty-five years of movies are covered here. There are some missing characters, but I suspect they will be added in future supplements.

Chapter 9: The Marvel Multiverse

The current state and history of Earth 616 are covered here in broad strokes. Plenty of comic material will provide additional details in the different areas. It also lets narrators create the game they want without too much interference. This is a different universe than the Marvel Cinematic Universe, for those unaware. Other universes are also summarised, as well as shifting between them. More recent movies should give narrators plenty of ideas for their multi-dimensional hopping.

Chapter 10: Running the Game

This chapter is designed to help narrators build adventures and manage their sessions. Guidance on handling familiar superhero tropes is provided in some detail. Experienced narrators may not get as much out of this chapter, depending on their experience with the superhero genre.

Making a character

I decided to start backward by choosing a power set or two first. After perusing the options, I made a character based on the concept of a ghost. Noticing the illusion power set has an invisible power and an illumination power. I decided to use both the Phasing and Illusion power sets. Choosing to go the more mystical route, I chose an origin and occupation based on an archeologist discovering a mystical amulet. I emphasized abilities related to melee, agility, and logic. My initial goal was to use Rank 2, but I found I got a character to more of my liking at Rank 3. There are rules for handing characters of different ranks; specific teams are famous for this power level disparity.

Final Thoughts

The game design and rules are very straightforward and almost austere. Many modern RPGs have been moving in this direction to make them more accessible to a broader audience. Examples include the reroll logic and the abstraction of weapon damage. These were smart choices to keep the game more accessible, but the lack of nuances or details is lost. Players who prefer more narrative-driven roleplaying sessions won’t be bothered by the lack of detail, but more tactical players may have more of an issue.

Character creation has its challenges. The players will be better served with a character concept going into Session 0 than relying on the available options. Getting lost in all the power sets and generic backstories is easy without a concept. It should be simple enough if the player is okay with copying or mirroring another known character. But, if the player wants to build a more unique hero, they may encounter additional challenges. It is nothing that house rules can’t fix or a discussion with the narrator. The other interesting design choice is the lack of enforcing a disadvantage. Many heroes are known to have their own issues and personal demons. Instead of forcing this on to a character, they only suggest adding it as part of the character’s narrative and not representing it mechanically.

Finally, the narrator may face challenges keeping players playing the same characters with the same powers in many adventures. Players could become bored and disinterested. Advancing to a higher rank will help, but even that has limits. Artifacts and new locals could help, but this is also where the character’s everyday life could help add more color to the adventures. After all, most superheroes still have to eat, pay for a place to live, and possibly fall in love.

Overall, I like the game and the relatively light rules. I hope to one day play in a group of adventures. But, I worry that the game system diverges too much from the popular fifth edition games. Don’t get me wrong; this is a strength, in my opinion. However, some players may resist learning a completely new system. Over time, this will change as word spreads as long as the publisher keeps their expectations tempered.

Published inReviewsTabletop Roleplaying Games