Point-based Creation in the Marvel Super Heroes Adventure Game
The hero creation rules in the Marvel Super Heroes Adventure Game are based on a random hand of cards drawn from the Fate Deck. While it tends to yield reasonably balanced heroes, it can create feelings of disappointment in players who get less favorable hands than others, or end up with cards that do not support their hero concept. The Reed Richards Guide to Everything also presents a completely random system for hero creation. This can yield some interesting characters, but may still leave some players frustrated.
For a third alternative, we can take a page (or two) from point-based character creation systems like Hero Games’ Champions or Steve Jackson Games’ GURPS, without sacrificing the simplicity and elegance of the Marvel game system. This option uses a system of “Hero Points” where every player starts with the same number of points and customizes his or her hero as desired. Players start out with a pool of 55 Hero Points to spend on creating their hero. Narrators may provide a smaller or larger amount of Hero Points for games of different power levels.
Step One: Origin
First, come up with a concept for your hero: a name, type of powers, a costume, background, and origin. Make sure your hero fits in with the sort of adventures the Narrator plans on doing. For example, if your Narrator is running adventures about a team of young mutants like Generation X, then your hero shouldn’t be a middle-aged scientist without a very good reason. Clear your concept with the Narrator and get to work.
Step Two: Calling
Choose a Calling for your hero based on your decisions in Step One.
Step Three: Edge
Your hero starts out with an Edge of 1 and a Hand Size of 3 for free. You can increase your Edge for 10 Hero Points per +1 to Edge and Hand Size. Most heroes should not start out with an Edge greater than 2, although it’s up to the Narrator. Heroes with an Edge of 4 are very rare; heroes shouldn’t have Edge 4 without careful consideration from the Narrator. Spending too many points on Edge is going to leave very few for buying other abilities, as well.
- Edge: Edge 1 for free, 10 Hero Points for +1 Edge.
Step Four: Abilities
Assign Hero Points to your hero’s four abilities (Strength, Agility, Intellect, and Willpower). Each point in an ability costs 1 Hero Point. Heroes cannot have any ability greater than 20, and Narrators may wish to restrict hero abilities in other ways at the start of the game, such as no more than one ability greater than 10, or no more than 35 points in abilities total.
- Abilities: 1 Hero Point per point in each ability.
Step Five: Skills
Choose skills for your hero. Each skill costs 1 Hero Point, master-class skills cost 4 Hero Points, while world-class skills cost 8 Hero Points each. Your hero can have up to four skills for each ability (unless the hero is a Genius or Master in a particular area, in which case you can ignore this restriction, see the Marvel Game Book for more information).
- Skill: 1 Hero Point.
- Master-Class Skill: 4 Hero Points.
- World-Class Skill: 8 Hero Points.
- Genius or Mastery: 1 Hero Point.
Step Six: Powers
Choose powers for your hero. Each point of power Intensity costs 1 Hero Point. Each stunt also costs 1 Hero Point. If you add a Limit to a power, reduce its cost by 2 Hero Points (but never to less than 1).
- Powers: 1 Hero Point per point of intensity in each power.
- Power Stunt: 1 Hero Point.
- Power Limit: -2 Hero Point cost (minimum cost of 1 Hero Point).
Step Seven: Hindrances
You may choose to give your hero up to two Hindrances. Each Hindrance gives you an additional 5 Hero Points to spend elsewhere. More than two Hindrances is not allowed, except with the permission of the Narrator.
- Hindrance: +5 Hero Points.
Step Eight: Approval
Total up your hero’s values and check your math. Run your hero past the Narrator for approval and make whatever changes he or she requires, then you’re ready to play!
Example of Hero Creation
Let’s create a new hero. We’ll use Bitstream, a character from my Guardians series.
Step One: Andy has worked out Bitstream’s concept: Amanda Deckard was a computer scientist developing a neural AI program. She was attacked by villains who wanted to steal her work and left for dead. The artificial intelligence inhabited her body and assumed her identity, using its abilities to control electricity and interface with other computers to track down the villains and fight crime.
Step Two: Andy looks at the list of Callings in the Game Book and decides “Vestige of Humanity” suits Bitstream perfectly, since she is technically a computer program trying to learn what it means to be human.
Step Three: Andy decides to leave Bitstream’s Edge at 1 for now. She’s not an experienced hero, and he’ll need the Hero Points elsewhere.
Step Four: Bitstream is very intelligent (she is a computer, after all) so Andy gives her an Intellect of 10. She also has incredible fast reflexes (again, that computer response time) so he gives her an Agility of 10 as well. She’s not especially strong, so a Strength of 4 is sufficient, and her Willpower is only slightly above average, so he goes with a 5 there, for a total of 29 Hero Points spent on abilities, leaving him with 26.
Step Five: Bitstream’s Intellect of 10 already makes her good at most things involving the Intellect. The one area Andy wants her to be really good at is working with computers (Amanda Deckard was a computer programmer, and Bitstream is a computer). So he gives her Computers skill for 1 Hero Point, leaving 25.
Step Six: For Bitstream’s powers, Andy chooses Computer Link 10 and Electrical Control 14, for 24 Hero Points. With one Hero Point left, he chooses the Absorption stunt of Electrical Control for Bitstream. He wants to get a couple more power stunts, so he decides to apply the Non-Generative Limit to Bitstream’s Electrical Control: she can manipulate existing electricity, but not create it. That gives him 2 more Hero Points to spend, and he uses them to give Bitstream the Lightning Speed stunt for Electrical Control and the Multiple Machines stunt for Computer Link.
Step Seven: Andy chooses not to give Bitstream any Hindrances, since he had enough Hero Points and they don’t really fit his concept of her. If he did, he could gain some additional Hero Points to spend.
Step Eight: Andy shows his finished Hero Sheet to the Narrator, who approves the write-up, and Bitstream is ready to make her debut in the Marvel Universe!
Narrators can modify the point system given above as needed to suit their own games. The easiest way is by changing the amount of Hero Points players get at the beginning of the game. 55 Hero Points tends to produce starting characters around the power level of the New Warriors, the Thunderbolts, and other “rookie” heroes in the Marvel Universe. 60-65 points can produce Avengers- or Fantastic Four-level heroes. Fewer points (say 45) are good for inexperienced heroes with only one main power, like the mutants from Generation X.
The Narrator can also set spending caps for particular steps in the process, such as limiting the heroes to no more than Edge 1 or 2, no more than X points for abilities, or X points for powers. You can disallow the purchasing of any abilities you don’t want in the game (such as particular powers) or that you don’t want at the start of the game, such as World-Class skills.