I’ve been an on again off again (mostly off) tabletop RPG player since I was in tenth grade. I started with Dungeons and Dragons and eventually played GURPS (Generic Universal Roleplaying System). After high school I gave World of Darkness and the Marvel Universe Roleplaying Game a try. All of these games are a lot of fun, but MURPG is probably my all time favourite.
It’s a sin against the gods of classical nerdiness to ever admit you like an RPG more than D&D (or Pathfinder, post 3.5) but I’m going confess something here. I absolutely hate how dependant so many games are on dice. The point of a game is to have fun, not to do math. This is absolutely a subjective, personal opinion, but a strong one. GURPS makes it a bit better by designing the game around a bell curve but even in that game there’s a chance to roll a critical miss. There is nothing more frustrating and boring than playing an entire game of D&D and failing to hit an enemy or pick a lock simply because you have crappy luck. I remember playing whole games where I never landed a hit. Blame luck, shitty dice, or whatever you like the fact is those games were frustrating and boring. One way around this is if your Dungeon Master (or Game Master) is one of the types who doesn’t always “play by the numbers.” Someone who plays by the numbers will always tell you, 100% honestly, when you missed or hit and when their monster got a triple crit and murdered you in the first session. Sometimes, if they’re feeling merciful, a friendly cleric will show up and resurrect you out of pity. Just once. Or they make you create a new character and try to find a way to awkwardly cram you into the story. Some people like to play this way. The rules are there for a reason after all. I for one am the polar opposite. When I GM I will lie about my really great rolls and invent numbers on the spot in order to let the players live just one more turn. Then, when they make their last desperate attempt, I’ll give them some unexpected bonus and let them absolutely wreck my creature in a single blow. When it comes down to it, a last minute miracle victory is way more fun than a miserable failure at the hands of the dice. With the Marvel Universe RPG, however, you don’t have to worry about any of this.
I won’t bore you with a detailed explanation of the rules, but here’s the basics. You have action numbers that represent your competence in a task. If you have an action number of 5, you can put 5 stones of energy into that task. If the difficulty of a task is 4, you have to put 4 stones into an action to succeed at it. So if you put 3 stones into this task, you fail. Next turn though, you can try putting 4 or 5 into the task and you’ll succeed. There is guess work but very little chance involved. If you fail at something it’s either because you can’t complete the task on your own or you didn’t try hard enough. I love this so much because the players know exactly what they’re capable of and don’t have to waste turn after turn waiting for a great roll to succeed. If they max out their attempt and still fail they either move on to a different plan or try to do something new. They’re forced to get creative rather than lucky.
The other aspect of this game I love to bits is the fact that the character building is not only straightforward but it allows you to create a fully fledged super hero right off the bat. My players were reasonably capable of taking on Magneto with a crew of Evil Mutants in their first session. Many RPG systems start you out quite weak and pits you against goblins and kobolds at first. Then you gain experience and build up. I honestly do find level based games very fun and will always play them, but MURPG provides something a bit different. Players can immediately lift buildings in one hand, travel to other dimensions, command the elements with great ease, or do whatever other things they can think of. It lets the players kick ass and take names the second they walk through the door.
This system fits my play style so well it’s ridiculous. Luckily it’s also based around my favourite comic books. I’m not necessarily the best GM out there but of the systems I’ve tried this is the one my players have had the most fun with. I wrote a campaign based around the X-Men franchise and I was ridiculously impressed with some of the things my group came up with. They came up with some of the most creative solutions to their problems I’ve ever experienced in an RPG. I’ve found with systems like D&D it is easy to just make a balanced team consisting of Tank, Healer, Ranged, Spellcaster, and just fight it out the way most parties do. In MURPG I saw a team made up of Teleporter, Telekenetic, Humanoid Mouse with a Shotgun, and a Giant Stretchy Rubber Man. They didn’t build characters with a huge amount of strategy in mind, but they managed to accomplish some insane and fun things regardless.
I could ramble on about this game for days. I’m about to start working on a new campaign for it and am ridiculously excited. Despite my high praises it is flawed in a lot of ways. There are ambiguous rules and the books are a bit disorganized. If the game would have lasted more than 3 ish years it might have been ironed out by the designers more. Regardless of all this I love it and am very exited to get back into it. I may post more about it soon!
As a quick PS, I want to be clear that I get a lot of joy out of playing dice based games like D&D and GURPS. I seem super critical of them here, but it’s more so that I love the idea of a non random system WAY MORE. I’d really dig a levelling system that didn’t depend on dice based actions. Anywho. Toodles!