Gaming Tonic

Interview With Cam Banks, Lead Design on New Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game

Hey True Believers! Seriously I feel lucky as Longshot to have had the chance to interview Cam Banks, Design Lead of the new Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Basic Game and Creative Director for Margaret Weis Productions.  To say I'm a huge comic book fan is an understatement.  When comics and rpgs collide, I can't help but get excited....Seriously my son is named after Ghost Rider!

How long would it take for a novice gamer to learn how to play the game and run the storyline? 

Usually, people pick up the basics in about 15 minutes. Without anyone else to show you the rules in play, it may take a little longer than the sit-down sessions of play we’ve been using. Read the book, especially the examples, and try the rules out with a friend using the hero datafiles provided.

Marvel Heroic Roleplaying cover

Lots of long time gamers will want to play their own character inserted into the storyline. Will players have to play classic marvel characters such as the Thing or Wolverine when they play one of the event storylines or will they be able to create and play their own unique characters? 

If you can imagine a character in your mind and think about them in terms of somebody from a comic book, you can create a hero datafile for them. The game assumes that you’re either playing a hero we’ve given you the datafile for, or a datafile of your own creation, but you need that concept first. Making a new datafile can take anywhere from a few minutes to an hour, depending on how long you like to spend on it!

Was there one style of character or a particular character that you found particularly challenging to have the game represent well?

The most difficult are those heroes who don’t have any super powers, nor any special gear. It’s easy to write up Iron Man or the Human Torch, harder to do Punisher. But the game rewards creative use of the system, and we’ve overcome that particular issue!

Will we see some of the classic storylines such as Mutant Massacre or Secret Wars or Operation Galactic Storm?

Our Event Model is mostly focused on modern events and crossovers that can generate a lot of play with a big choice of heroes to play. That said, we’re already going back a fair number of years with the Age of Apocalypse event (which hails from the 90s) so nothing is off the table.

What is your favorite Marvel event storyline?

I really like Civil War and the events that followed it: Secret Invasion, Dark Reign, and Siege. I like to follow certain characters and see where things go with them, and what new and fresh take a writer will have on them when they take over the writing duties.

The tinkering with characters so that they reflect how they might have been set up at the time, such as Storm with no powers because of Forge’s nullifier or the Armor Buster Iron Man armor is a fanboy’s dream but will we see complete line-ups for events?  (Will characters appear static or will they reflect how they appeared at that point in that storyline?)

Characters will always reflect how they were at the time of the event. This does mean multiple versions of Iron Man, Wolverine, Spider-Man, etc will appear, but in some cases their powers are quite different.

Any plans on producing character books that aren’t tied to storylines but concepts such as Marvel Knights?

No plans at this time. We like the Event model because we can use it to provide lots and lots of character writeups, adventures, and background all in one fun package. If we limited ourselves to roster books or concept books, we might miss a lot of that.

In Breakout, the storyline in Basic Game Book, I have compiled this list of baddies from other interviews that I know are in the book (and will list with this interview); who are the heroes?

Armor, Beast, Black Panther, Black Widow, Captain America, Colossus, Cyclops, Daredevil, Emma Frost, Human Torch, Invisible Woman, Iron Fist, Iron Man, Mr Fantastic, Ms Marvel, Sentry, Shadowcat, Spider-Man, Spider-Woman, Storm, Thing, Wolverine

Care to spotlight anyone we may see in the Civil War Event Book you are particularly excited or proud of?

I’m looking forward to having game writeups for such weird and not-as-famous heroes as Nighthawk, Howard the Duck, and Tigra. We’re going to pack these books with old friends and new favorites, I think.

Any plans for online support for the game such as character releases that couldn’t make it into one of the books for space reasons?

Yes, we plan on making bonus downloadable content (DLC) available for the game books. Some of them might carry a small fee, others will be free to download.

Is there one character in the Marvel Universe that you would take their power set for yourself? If so why?

Multiple Man, because then I can create duplicates of myself to help me manage everything I need to do. Hopefully, none of them becomes a S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent and turns me over to the authorities.

My thanks to Cam Banks and the kind people over at Margaret Weis Productions for all their assistance.  Check out my review of the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game in a couple days.  Until Next Time, Excelsior! err....Roll Hard!

Oh by the way for a chance to win the pdf or see some cool fan created characters and such check out Dice Monkey.

Comments (2) Trackbacks (3)
  1. I am very excited about a narrative focused super hero system. I am glad to hear that custom data files should only be limited by your concepts. The only thing I am holding judgment out for are the powers that no roleplaying system has done well so far. I’ve never seen a power mimic work to the degree it works in the comics. Rogue steals someones power and then can use it at full strength. The Rogue like character in a game uses the used flea market weak sauce version of a power. I am hoping a game like this can work out one that isn’t so weak as to be unplayable or so strong other players feel their specialty is threatened. That being said I am a big fan of Hero System so I hope the system has enough detail that character seem different.

  2. I think the system has enough flexibility that if you come with a strong character design you can accomplish a lot of variety. I agree with what you said about Rogue in most systems, the Scarlet Witch is another character with similar difficulties in design. The Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Basic Game handles these a lot easier than some systems (including Hero System, which I have run and played a lot) and gets out of the way of these sorts of builds. Lots of goodness that go with power sets are just included as common sense. I think you will enjoy it as long as everybody comes to have fun.

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