Friday, March 27, 2009

Children Of The d100

Like a lot of kids in the early 90s, I was obsessed with Marvel Comics. Since I was already playing RPGs (Robotech and AD&D at the time), picking up TSR's Marvel Super Heroes game was a no-brainer. These days I prefer the SAGA system-based version of the game that came out in the late 90s, but the original had many charms, and we played the hell out of it. In fact, it's probably my second most-played RPG, just behind that other mighty monolith of adolescent power-fantasy games, RIFTS.

One of the wackier things about MSH was its character creation system. You rolled stats randomly, which was normal for the time, but you also rolled your "hero type" (alien, mutant, robot, etc.) and even your powers randomly. If I remember correctly, the rulebook did say that you could pick them out with the Judge's permission, but all the example characters were random-rolled. It was kind of fun, but also kind of stupid. I mean, one of the sample pregens was LEOPARD, a guy in an Iron Man-style battlesuit that turned into a cat. (The battlesuit/animal transformation combo seemed disturbingly easy to roll up - I once randomly generated a power armor guy who could transform into a bear and control fire. Obviously, I named him "Smokey".)

Some of the characters my friends and I created and ran for a mutant-focused campaign included:

Flamestrike, a flying guy made of fire. With claws.
Flux, a telekinetic who could control time.
Unleash, a guy who could steal or nullify powers. He could also shoot force bolts. Oh, and he was slightly resistant to electricity.
Chrome, a guy who could transform into a liquid metal jaguar that shot razor-sharp chunks of itself at people.

Okay, so Flux wasn't too bad.

One of the supplements for MSH, the Ultimate Powers Book, featured even more vast and bizarre random character generation tables. My group lusted after that thing. I have a PDF of it now, but in those pre-internet days, we were never able to track it down. Based on the ridiculous stuff we made with just the old boxed set, I think that may have been a good thing.


  1. yeah, i remember that game too, and how totally random stuff was. i didn't play much of it, but i remember the rulebook fondly.

  2. The randomness did lead to some nice inspiration as well. Wasn't one of your throw away characters the inspiration for a new Six-gun Kid? One with a six shooter where each chamber fired a different type of ray or some such. Kind of the western version of the Infinity Gauntlet.

  3. Wasn't one of your throw away characters the inspiration for a new Six-gun Kid?

    Actually, Kid Six-Gun was somebody I just thought up on my own, but you're right - the randomness was sometimes inspiring.

  4. This was the first RPG I ever played, back when I thought we were playing superheroes with rules. We normally played superheroes by running around the backyard and making up stories (so the same but with random dice rolls). I played Wolverine in my first game.

  5. I forgot that Chrome shot razor sharp chunks out of himself.

    Let's see...Body Transformation: metal, Body Transformation: Animal and a ranged physical attack. I recall that his ranged attack was 'Good' and his animal transformation was 'Amazing' and therefor he had 'Amazing' damage claws.

    silly Marvel Super Heroes.

  6. he had 'Amazing' damage claws

    Which, if I recall correctly, meant his claws did more damage than Wolverine's.

  7. Yep, Wolvie did Excellent damage and had Unearthly material strength.

    Such a fun, flawed game. I miss it.

  8. One of the cool things about the system is that it had no real balance. A perfect mimic of how comic books work.

  9. A perfect mimic of how comic books work.

    Yeah, except it was almost impossible for Captain America to beat up the Rhino. The SAGA version of the game was the one that really "worked like comics do", in my opinion.