It’s Character Building…

Friday, July 6th, 2012 | Gaming

…in which I talk a little about the new Marvel Heroic Roleplaying system, and present my first character build.

Honestly, this is less of a blog and more of an excuse to publish my build of Havok for my upcoming game of the new Margaret Weis Productions Marvel Heroic Roleplaying game. And to that effect, I’m going to cut to the chase and post the datafile first since I suspect/hope that’s what most visitors will be looking for.

Update 07/09/12:

  • Per MWP request, I have changed the layout of the datafile.
  • I have also corrected some typos and made minor changes to some of the powers.

Update 7/10/12:

  • Corrected some additional typos.

Update 7/11/12:

  • Changed “Energy Absorption” to “Energy Resistance” for clarity of power.

Update 7/16/12:

  • Corrected syntax on “Unfettered Blast.”

Update 7/20/12:

  • Replaced (Limit) “I Can’t Control It!” with “Out of Control” which better simulates his powers getting out of hand.
  • Added the Tracking bars and boxes to the bottom of the sheet. They’re ugly, but at least now they’re included.
MHRP Datafile: Havok

Click the image for a full 2-page Datafile.

So, I’ve never been an avid comic book reader, and I’ve only ever read bits and pieces of any of the Marvel story-lines, but for some reason, Havok always stood out in my mind. To be honest, I’m not sure that, before this week, I ever even read any Havok stories. I’m not really sure where my familiarity with him spawned from, but when I learned that we were going to be playing a Marvel game in the near future, I knew that was the character I wanted to play. Imagine my surprise when even Exploring Infinity didn’t have a fan-made datafile of Alexander Summers.

Alexander Summers, AKA Havok

Just Cry… Havok!

So, before even reading through the Marvel Heroic rulebook, I started collecting piles of comics that in some way featured or focused on Havok, from his initial introduction in the classic X-Men comics, to his alternate universe stint in Mutant-X. I also scoured the internet for resources and information about not only his powers and abilities, but also history and personality. I felt like I was cramming for a test, it was a crash course in X-History. But once I felt fairy confident in my understanding of the powers, abilities, weaknesses, and limitations of the hero, I set to building the MHRP version. I relied heavily not only on the comics themselves, but also the official Marvel Comics Database, the Marvel Universe Wiki, Classic Marvel Forever, and even DC Heroes Writeups.

Despite, or maybe because of, the vast and varied resources, it has been tricky to consolidate it all down to the finished datafile. I had a pretty clear idea of what I wanted to do, but the more I read about the character, the more uncertain I was about how to do it. On top of that, being unfamiliar with the gameplay made it more of a challenge. I had a hard time quantifying power levels and determining if certain choices were too great or too weak. I spent hours pouring over other official MHRP datafiles, comparing how this character was written vs. how they were portrayed in a comic against Havok vs. how I had written a power. I snipped and stole concepts, effects, and limits from all different places. I wrote in powers, only to remove them the next morning and waffled over die sizes trying to convince myself that any choice I made was the correct one. I repeatedly scouted the internet for someone to have done all the work for me, but in all honesty, I’m happier to have done it myself.

What I have ended up with is a version of the character that I feel is not only accurate, but also fun to play (barring the fact that I haven’t actually played him yet). I built in a lot of power, but also a lot of risk, which I think makes the character that much more interesting. It’s one of the things that I took away from the comics I’d read. Havok is remarkably powerful, but he’s also a liability on the field. His power is unreliable and can get out of control very quickly. There are probably some other ways that I could represent this, but I feel like what I’ve done is created a fairly streamlined representation of him, with a certain amount of gamble inherent in the choices. I’ve also done my best to give the Watcher something to play with so that there’s a decent chance that things will go wrong, just by having him on the team.

Building this character did suffice as a crash course to the system, of which I have become very fond, already. As I said, I haven’t yet had the opportunity to play it, but even in reading the book and developing the character, I feel that I’ve got a good grasp of the mechanics and flow of the game. What I like most is how open the gameplay is. It is clear that the fine gentlemen from Evil Hat had their grubby little paws all over this because there are obvious borrowings from Spirit of the Century and Dresden laced throughout the book. The whole concept of loosely defining attributes and applying them “as they make sense” was a core concept to Spirit of the Century, and quickly becomes apparent that it is mirrored here. And honestly, that’s what I like so much about it.

Instead of having to pour through piles and piles of tricks, stunts, abilities, powers and effects, you simply have a small selection of more generic concepts, but then you describe them in a way that befits your character. I’ve heard from other gamers that Savage Worlds operates in a similar function and as a result I am keen to try that as well. To look at D&D as an example, there are a wide range of “fire” spells that have marginally different effects and have differing degrees of damage, but in a more EH/MWP construction, you would simply have one fire spell that could be used in a variety of different ways, based on your description and the situation at hand. Yes, mechanically, this opens up the game to abuse and relies on the players and the GM to be somewhat more in sync, but I think from a story standpoint, its much more flexible and dynamic.

One of the things that stood out and appealed to me most upon reading Spirit of the Century was that about half of your character is simply a collection of unclassified descriptions. These are fun because you can basically write your own character concept with no restrictions at all. The character is, in essence, exactly who you expected it to be. Mechanically, these come in to play as bonuses so long as you can convincingly apply your action to one of your descriptive features. If you have declared that your character “Throws caution to the wind,” then you’re going to get a bonus to your roll when you decide to chase that villain off the 25 story waterfall at the end of the raging rapids. It just makes sense.

And while this Marvel Heroic Roleplaying system is still slightly more structured than strictly Evil Hat productions, it’s got a lot of open flexibility built right in. Compared to earlier superhero games I’ve played (which admittedly is a small list), it’s far more approachable and immersive.

One of the other things I like about it, is you start out as the hero. You don’t start out as a “level one” super, barely qualified to save old ladies from purse snatchers. When you roll up a character in MHRP, you’re the epitome of the character. You have the abilities that they are known for and you know how to use them. You do gain XP in the system, but it isn’t so much used for advancement as on-the-fly modulation. If you find that you are outmatched or unprepared for a particular match-up, you can change up your character accordingly. This is only available during a transition scene, but in the event that the villain has just wiped the floor with you, you would decide to beat a hasty retreat, change up your composition and get right back in there.

So I’m really looking forward to trying out this Havok build when we start up our Marvel game, and similarly, I’m looking forward to the opportunity to run a Marvel game of my own now. I don’t think a superhero game has ever excited me the way this one has. I think they’ve done a really good job capturing the fluidity of the comics, and have truly put the story in the hands of the gamers. And I for one, am happy to take it from them and run with it.

Much thanks to Sean, Sarah, Jeremy, Bryan, and Jason for helping me with the build and grammar. This datafile wouldn’t be nearly as good without your assistance.

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4 Comments to It’s Character Building…

March 21, 2013

I know you don’t have templates up for it; is it alright if I hack it for templates I’m making for an Avengers game? I want a SHIELD dossier feel.

March 22, 2013

You are more than welcome to use it. I’d be proud to know it’s being used for good!

Dwayne Morash
August 22, 2015

do you have the template for that datafile?

August 23, 2015

Unfortunately I don’t. I build the entire thing in Adobe Illustrator. It was fairly flexible and I made a couple of other characters with it afterwards, but it wasn’t so flexible that it could be easily shared.

I suppose if you have access to Adobe Illustrator, I could offer up the original files and you could hack them up as needed.

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July 2012