May 7, 2013
A Look At The Crunch Of The Marvel Universe Role-Playing Game
In honor of the release of Iron Man 3 in theaters, I thought that I would do something of a retro-review of a personal favorite of mine; the MURPG, or Marvel Universe Role-Playing Game. Now, this isn’t the newest game to feature the Marvel Universe, as that one would be Marvel Heroic Role-playing by Margret Weis Productions. I haven’t tried that one, so I don’t feel educated enough to discuss it here. The MURPG, created by Marvel Comics, has been a favorite of mine for many years.
The MURPG is a dice-less role-playing game. Rather than rely on randomness, players must invest energy to resolve conflicts. Each character has a pool of energy at their disposal, some of which regenerates each turn (or “page” as it is called in the game), a list of attributes, abilities, modifiers, and equipment. A character’s attribute/ability determines how much energy can be invested into the action, which can then be modified by their modifiers or equipment. For example, let’s say that a character has the ability to read minds at a ranking of five, linked to their intelligence attribute, which is also a five. That would mean that they could invest up to 10 points of effort/energy into trying to read someone’s mind.
The difficulty of tasks is either set by the Gamemaster, such as a lock that requires four effort to get through, or by the resisting opponent. In the above example, let’s say that the person who is having their mind read doesn’t want that to happen (who would?). That person has an intelligence of four, meaning they can put up to four effort into resisting the mind reading, which isn’t nearly enough if the other character puts in the full ten. However, if this resisting character had the modifier Mental Resistance at five, that would mean they get five free effort each time they try to resist, which would put their total mental resistance up to nine. Now the mind-reader would need to put in the full 10 effort if they wanted to read the target’s mind.
The tricky part of the game is that you don’t know how much effort you need until you try. In the above example, the mind-reader wouldn’t know how much they need to invest into the power to read their target’s mind, just as the target wouldn’t know how hard they need to resist. Both sides of a conflict determine their energy investments before revealing their “hand,” so to speak. This is what makes the game interesting and challenging. There is a lot of guessing, a lot of assumptions, and a lot of trial and error. However, it is a very fast game to learn and to make characters, making it ideal for single-session play (one-shots) or for introducing to new players who have an interest in comics and role-playing.
This game did not succeed very well, having only three official releases and one fan release, all of which I feel are excellent books. I recommend this game to players wanting to try a new way to play role-playing games and fans of Marvel Comics alike. You won’t be disappointed
As a final note, it is a lot of fun to be able to stand up and shout “HULK SMASH!” in the middle of a game. I recommend playing this game if, for no other reason, than to be able to do that in context.
Image Credit: Marvel