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Monday Lab: Make Mine Marvel

That's four role-playing games, from 1984, 1998, 2003, and 2012. Each one is strikingly different from other games of its respective publishing era - at the very least interesting and ambitious, and in my view, worth a lot more than "at the very least."

Some of the points in the discussion include why each one is so limited in scope and in publishing life compared to the licensed material, how each one's system is curiously and perfectly suited to the one thing that distinguishes Marvel characters, and what lame characters languish in our minds which could live again, for the better, in playing these games.

The follow-up will be a long-term project, including playing all the games, working up the Midnight Men from All Alone in the Night for all of them, and getting some of the creators involved. Not in the next months, but after that.

My verbal and not-very-careful account of Marvel history in the video is better presented in my blog writings, most specifically in Context!, but with better (uh) context in Context too! For a good application, see Marvelous, meet miraculous.


Ross's picture

I am blaming you Ron for the amount of time I wasted last night finding my msh books and creating a character (surely the preferred past time of all comics fans who can't draw!)

I am certainly getting an early nineties marvel vibe off the result but I do wonder how much, with these sort of "here's some random stuff, you make it make sense," character creation rules, that is down to my comics reading history and your blog rather than anything in the rules.

Ron Edwards's picture

Feel free to scan your character sheet and post it here!

Maybe we should investigate user-influence on the MSH rules. I could have sworn the comics content was classically 1978, practically synonymous with Archie Goodwin's chief editorship and then the first year or so of Jim Shooter's. But that's what one would expect me to say, if I were projecting "my gut Marvel" into it.

I also don't know much about the difference between the first release and later ones, which one of the people in the video alluded to. Maybe the later material was more easily identified with the later comics.

Forgot I wasn't actually registered yet, whoops...

Anyway, character sheets for the '84 system below.  I eyeballed a rough point-buy system based on the random chargen rules toward the back.

I haven't read the core rules from front to back, but I did notice that it seems to opens with a fairly precise statting-up of spiderman and comparisons to other big-name Marvel heroes.  I can kinda see where the supplements were headed in that sense?

Ron Edwards's picture

I agree about that latter observation, in that anything and everything about mid-80s role-playing publishing and comics-corporate identity had just one way to go. Both Marvel Super Heroes and DC Heroes were born trapped in the mire of "this is how strong Superman is" as a raison d'etre, in direct contradiction to the potential of role-playing for making - you know - a thing of your own.

I'm an outlier in both topics, as it seems perfectly reasonable to me to use a licensed character in a personal/our unique application, up to and including revising anything you want to about that character ... just like any new creative and/or editorial team does with that character in the comics. But that wasn't really in the cards at that time.

It may be pure projection on my part, but it does look to me as if in design, MSH was wide open to doing with the hero as you will, morally speaking, whereas DCH was far more, uh, willingly (? maybe not the right word) committed to comics-fandom portraiture as a function of play.

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