Marvel superhero roleplaying week 1: The first encounter

In our first game session, we had a run-in with some baddies who tried to kidnap a friend of one of the player-characters. The characters hadn’t met at this point and had no idea who each other were. This is the first time they’ve crossed paths. They’re not costumed crusaders yet, either; this is the inciting incident that will eventually turn them into a new generation of costumed superheroes.

We’re using the Marvel Super Hero Roleplaying advanced system, which came out way back in 1986. I decided to start with opponents that were low-powered and easy to play, since I hadn’t run a Marvel campaign in 25 years and my players (also known as my kids) hadn’t seen the game before.

So, omitting the meta-narrative of my struggle to reacquaint myself with this old but excellent game system, here’s how the encounter went.

One of the player characters, Janey Nevitt, wound up stopping the getaway car by accident — the kidnappers crashed into her moped while she was delivering pizzas. They lost control of the car and jumped the curb, which allowed our second player-character to catch up and commence rescuing her friend.

Janey’s first reaction, on realizing that she was only battered and bruised, was to start picking up the pizzas that had been scattered across the intersection. When she saw a bunch of burly, identically dressed men attacking a struggling female, she realized that someone needed help and jumped into the fray.

The identically dressed kidnappers were in fact identical in all ways, because they’re Leader’s plastic Humanoid minions. (I’m not using Leader as such, but he’s a good template for a major villain who controls many lesser ones.)

The group of ten plastic Humanoids turned out to be a good opponent because, although they’re not very dangerous individually, they have Amazing-level armor, which means our player-characters can’t physically damage them. Neither group could do much damage, so the heroes had to find other ways to win the day.

In the end, Janey Nevitt tipped the scales in the heroes’ favor by using her power of bio-mimicry and animal transformation to become an elephant. With her commensurate strength & endurance, she punted three of the Humanoid minions halfway down the block and crushed the car’s front fender, rendering it immobile (the Humanoids had been trying to restart the stalled engine).

Sidney Malloy, our other hero, was then able to help her friend Ahria escape from the backseat of the car, despite being grappled by three of the pink plastic badsters. Her friend’s escape was assured when a bystander (my character, who will be part of the group but is technically an NPC since I’m also the gamemaster/judge) bodyslammed the Humanoid who was about to catch her.


“Elephant? What elephant?” said Janey. “I was too busy getting hit by a car to notice anything else.”

Their mission having failed, the remaining Humanoids scatter into adjacent shops and alleys. Janey turns back into her human self as discreetly as possible. Sidney Malloy, her friend Ahria, Janey, and the heroic bystander give their statements to the police, who arrive soon after and begin trying to sort things out.

And that was the felicitous ending to our first Marvel superhero scenario.

So…where do we go from here?

Well, since I never was an expert on the comics (most of my exposure was secondhand, as my friends raved about the latest Marvel happenings) and am no more expert now, I decided to ditch virtually all the Marvel lore. (Gasp…no! Heresy!)

I’m going to take whatever hero and villain info suits me (if any of it suits me) from the circa-1986 rulebook and give it my own twist. Marvel may have provided the system, but this game is in no one’s universe but my own.

Our campaign is set in a near-future version of the modern day, but one where superheroes were a thing…once. Gen-Xers like me might remember some of the events that filled the news back when we were schoolkids, but very few living people have seen superheroes in action. A lot of people aren’t sure it ever really happened. The last superpowered action went down in the 80s, and most of those who were involved are either aged and retired, cured of whatever irradiated or serum-induced or mutated state they were in, or have gone back to wherever they came from.

Society has long since returned to a somnolent, non-heroic sort of normalcy — from which it is about to be jolted by the reappearance of mutants and altered humans, as a shadowy, superpowered villain’s schemes begin to rock our heroes’ city and the world. Bwahahahaha!!!

I’m having a hell of a lot of fun with this, if you couldn’t tell.

Next: A look at the setup for Week Two of our new old-school Marvel campaign. I had a lot of fun with it; I think you’ll have fun reading it.

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