New Campaign: Marvel Heroic RPG

My regular role playing group has decided on our next campaign: Marvel Heroic RPG. If you’ve poked around my site, chances are you’ve figured out I like this game. I posted basic write ups of the heroes the guys created and now I’d like to lay out some of my goals with the campaign and the setting assumptions we are making.

Marvel Universe and Canon

The biggest thing is that we will not be playing in the core Marvel universe, Earth-616. Essentially we will Earth-616 for inspiration and as a starting point but we will drift from it as necessary. It’s something along the lines of what Marvel has done with its Ultimate Comics imprint or with the film series: inspired and influenced by the decades of lore but not a rote copy.

When we begin the campaign we will set the clock to the same point in history as when the Marvel universe really gets going. In the original timeline, that was the early 1960s. Our timeline will be set in the here and now. This is a really exciting point in Marvel history when Iron Man, Thor, Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, the Incredible Hulk, and so many other iconic Marvel heroes and teams made their debuts. It’s the dawn of the age of the metahuman. A notable difference between our universe and Earth-616 is that it’s not necessarily the same metahumans appearing on the scene. Not only are our heroes showing up but they may replace some of the stock Marvel characters. Commander Turing, for example, is very much inspired by and similar to Iron Man. That means our campaign world doesn’t need an Iron Man.

Playing in our own drifted universe gives us license to change continuity and characters, as well. The important this is that Marvel acts as an inspiration and not a constraint.

The Foster Family

The Foster family holds a prominent station with my gaming group. We have actually reached the point where our own campaigns have become our shared cultural jargon – much the way Monty Python and Star Wars jokes permeate the table. The Foster family first appeared in a short campaign of the Dresden Files RPG. Alec Foster was the president and CEO of Foster Defense Initiatives, a multi-billion dollar defense contractor with the U.S. government. He was loosely inspired by Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark and was the player-character at the heart of the campaign. Alec put together his own team of clued in supernatural enforcers and protected Chicago from the predations of the Nevernever.

After the DFRPG campaign wrapped up (with a suitably epic and satisfying conclusion), we played D&D for a time. I quickly got tired of that and pleaded with the group to let me run something else. They caved to my demands rather than have a frustrated and angry GM. This time around we picked Spirit of the Century. Another player decided to make Thomas Foster, the Alec Foster’s grandfather. As the game was set in the 1920s, the name of the company was Foster Munitions. All of the players spent time adding to the Foster legacy and building up the connections between our SotC and DFRPG campaigns.

It would seem that the Foster family will be making another appearance in our MHR campaign. I was speaking with Commander Turing’s player earlier today and he said he wanted to tie in the Fosters to this world. This is really cool because he’d be the third person to play a Foster in a campaign. We discussed the situation a bit and came up with an interesting backstory. Commander Turing is a Foster in the spirit of our previous incarnations of the family. He’s a bit of an altruist and has a solid moral core. His family, on the other hand, are cutthroat corporate raiders not above a little double dealing and heavy arms manufacturing. Commander Turing was ousted from Foster Defense and he has started Fostech. Using the resources available to him through Fostech, he has created a small fleet of super drones that he uses to combat his family’s shady business partners around the world.

I really look forward to the possibilities this has for an interesting, exciting game.

Campaign Experiments

There are a few new things I want to try out with this campaign. Much the way comics are structured, I want to give each hero his own stories. This will probably just be narrative emails or wiki updates back and forth between me and the players between sessions. However, once in a while, I’d like to step away from our “Avengers” series and maybe do a one- or two-shot in a hero’s solo title. To help facilitate this, I’m putting together a bunch of sidekick or fringe superheroes that can join in the fun on solo titles. This lets the solo title really focus on one hero but also gives the other players characters to play. This helps us explore troupe-style play while helping reinforce the feeling of comic books.

My initial plan is to run a modified Armor Wars event to get the ball rolling. Rather than being focused on Iron Man, it will be focused on Commander Turing. The only thing I’m worried about with running the campaign is how social scenes run. It’s very obvious how to roll physical conflict in MHR. Coming up with a decently sized dice pool for social conflict is somewhat trickier.

Supervillain Contest

Here’s the coolest bit of news: I’m going to host a contest here on the site for people to submit supervillains. I don’t have everything finalized yet but I’ve got the basics organized. Due to the weirdness of how I bought MHR (PDF on launch day, then physical copy from MWP at a convention) I have a download code for a PDF copy through DTRPG floating around unused. I wanted to have a contest but I didn’t have a good idea for one. Commaner Turing gave me the perfect contest: have participants each create a nemesis for one of the four heroes in the campaign. The winner will get the PDF and we will stat up the supervillain to use as a nemesis in the campaign. How cool is that? Look for more details on the contest in the next week.

About PK

PK Sullivan is a game designer and writer living in Chicago.

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