A Diceless, Resource Allocation Super Hero RPG
The Marvel Universe Roleplaying Game is a superhero role-playing game that was released in 2003 by Marvel Comics. It’s designed to be a diceless roleplaying game, though it avoided the categorical nature of diceless roleplay set up by the Amber Roleplaying Game and instead used resource allocation for task and combat resolution. This decision was driven by a desire to wed the storytelling aspects of rpgs to the resource contests of collectible card games. Marvel Comics assumed the two markets were compatible, because of the fantasy nature of the games and probably because both rpg gaming and ccg gaming are seen as geek pastimes.
Marvel Universe Roleplaying Game Supplements
Besides the core book, two supplements were released: Guide to the X-Men and Guide to the Hulk & Avengers. The game line had slated sourcebooks called Guide to Spider-Man’s NYC and Guide to Wolverine, but these were never released. A fan-published Unofficial Guide to Spider-Man’s New York since has been produced, because many fans thought a look at the Marvel Universe’s version of New York City would have been illuminating.
Diceless Superhero Role Playing
Dice rolls and randomness were replaced in by a resource allocation system using red stones. Depending on their stats, each player received a certain number of maximum red stones. When a task needed to be performed or a melee action need to be taken, the player would allot a certain number of red stones to performing this action. The red stones represented energy.
When a task or unopposed action is being performed, the player must overcome both a Difficulty Level and a Resistance factor. The difficulty rating stated where a character’s base stat associated with that task had to be to have a chance to perform the task at all. Clear that hurdle and you can attempt to perform the task. Resistance is how many stones you need to succeed.
Combat and Red Stones
In an opposed situation between two characters, success is determined by which player allotted more stones to the task. The degree of success is determined by how many stones the winner won the contest by. After the end of a game round (counted in “panels”, not actions), a certain number of red stones would regenerate, determined by several factors.
When combat occurs, a player has to allocate stones to attack, defense, and power usage (often damage). Defense stones work against all attacks that round, while certain powers avoid a defense. When an attacked succeeds, health is lowered by the difference in the number of stones between winner and loser of that panel. When health reaches zero, the character is stunned. Subsequent attacks might cause a coma or death, though a character with some Health remaining can choose to be knocked unconscious, instead of being beaten down to zero health.
Marvel Universe Roleplaying Game Line Cancellation
Before the Marvel Universe Roleplaying Game came out, its overseers didn’t help themselves in role-playing circles by stating in interviews that probability-resolution systems were a thing of the past and that traditional dice-based rpg games were too complex. This earned the game few fans in the traditional role-playing game market and probably caused a certain amount of critical backlash (or fan resistance) when the game first appeared in stores.
While the resource-driven aspects to the game were designed to draw in fans of collectible card games and living card games, most CCG and CG fans didn’t enjoy the role-playing aspects of the Marvel Universe Roleplaying Game. Thus, the game fell between two proverbial chairs by alienating both its main target audiences in one way or another.
Despite that fact, sales were strong by current standards of the role-playing game industry. The game books didn’t have sales figures approaching those for Marvel Comics’s main product, though. MU executives probably had unrealistic sales goals, given that comic books are much cheaper than role-playing game supplements. The unrealistic nature of Marvel Comics’ expectations were highlighted when it was learned they were disappointed MURPG didn’t sell as well as the core rulebook of the latest Dungeons & Dragons edition (considered an impossible dream before the advent of D&D 4th Edition and its rival, Pathfinder). When a new Marvel Comics CEO came on-board, the Marvel Universe Roleplaying Game was cancelled.
As you might imagine, the production value was off the charts. The art, taken from the best of Hulk, Avengers, and X-Men art over the past several years, was excellent. The books were beautiful and certainly made me want to like Marvel Universe Roleplaying Game. I’m a huge fan of Amber Diceless Roleplaying and continue to wait for a time I can find a group of players to enjoy Nobilis with me. That being said, I didn’t like the resource management aspect of the game either.