Monday, February 27, 2012

Revisiting an old game in my mind

Today I posted a link to Margaret Weis Productions’ new Marvel Superheroes RPG on Facebook. I stated that it sounded interesting, and even though I know none of my current gamer friends would play it with me, I still might get it, because…what the hell? It’s looks way cool!

This sparked a brief discussion about previous Marvel RPG’s, including my beloved Marvel Superheroes (TSR, 1984), wherein one friend proceeded, within the span of a single paragraph, to destroy it with hate and, frankly unfounded, assessments. His opinion is fine, though on one point (that it was unsupported) was flatly wrong. I’m fairly certain that D&D is the only TSR game that got more support than MSH.

That being said, it got me thinking. Was it really a good game? Is my love for it tainted by the ever-present spirit of nostalgia that often seems to run my life (as far as my tastes go)? Would it stand up today? And is there room for an “OSR” for MSH? Hmm…

Was it really a good game?
I had this boxed set.

Well, that depends on your definition of “good” I suppose. For me, that means “Is it fun?” It is, after all a game. And games are implicitly meant to be fun. So, if a game is fun, then it is, by definition, good. MSH did a good job of evoking the larger-than-life feel and grandiose characters of four-color comics. It had a standard set of stats for the characters, and each was given a rank described by a Stan Lee-ism, rather than just a number. Your Strength could be Unearthly, your Fighting Amazing, your Psyche Remarkable, etc. And each of these related to a column that you rolled a percentage die against to test for success. True, it had an inherent fault, mathematically. There was an argument that, according to the rules, “Aunt May could kill Galactus with a spoon, if the player rolled well enough.” Well, that would just be shitty story-telling, wouldn’t it? Any referee who allowed that roll on principle should be taken out back and shot.

 One assessment my friend made was that it was inflexible (which I would highly debate), and only allowed you to play characters similar to those who already existed. Ok. Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that he is correct. My character can only be a Captain America or Spiderman or Thor rip-off. How is this different than any other RPG? It could be argued that every D&D fighter is a rip off of Boromir, only slightly tweaked and given a new name and look. Personally, I think that’s the biggest strength of RPGs. The fact that I could say “I love Spiderman, I wish I could play someone like him” and then proceed to make Feline, who shared many similarities with Spiderman, but had my own unique spins on him.

Would it stand up today?
Probably my favorite

Depends on who is playing, I suppose. It would probably stand up for me, personally. Those with differing views on what makes an RPG “good” would most likely have differing results. But, I think if the players came in expecting to play MSH, and not something else, it would stand up fine. And like any other RPG, the result would depend highly on the quality of the players, and less on the quality of the game.

And is there room for an “OSR” for MSH?
For legal reasons, probably not. However, if someone were so inclined, and if WotC were willing to let it go, I bet a generic Supers game, or one based on some other company’s property, could be made from the framework of MSH. The fact that the system is often referred to as FASERIP (named after the seven attributes; Fighting, Agility, Strength, Endurance, Reason, Intuition, Psyche), indicates that someone has given the idea some thought. I may have to do to some digging online just to see how far it went.

All I can say is that I LOVED this game back in the day. And I probably created about a hundred characters of all sorts with it. So, even if it was limited in flexibility, what it CAN do is very cool.

As an end note, while posting this and searching for links and pics, it became readily apparent that there is a large following for this game on the net.  Some sites may be out of date, but it's still out there.  And with Weis' version coming out, the older versions will no doubt be getting some new attention.

1 comment:

JoeMac307 said...

I don't think it was limited in flexibility. The Ultimate Powers Handbook alone greatly expanded what you could do with the game.