I wrote about Marvel RPG’s wonderful random character generation back in July, but I’m going to say it all over again just to hammer the point home: Random Character Generation rocks.
Most modern RPGs (4e D&D included) are based upon the principle that the player should be in complete control of character generation from start to finish, being able to pick the race, class and even stats as they fill their character sheet. It’s good, but also roughly akin to telling a child that you’ll feed them only what they want; you end up with fat, lazy gamers who don’t eat their greens. Ok, maybe not the best analogy in the world…..
Marvel RPG’s character generation puts the majority of decisions over to the dice. You roll your origin, attributes, how many and what type of Powers and Talents you possess, then given the choice to either roll or select your Powers and Talents from a sublist. If you roll the same category of Power twice, you’re given the choice to either increase the rank of an existing Power or select/roll an additional one. It’s a terrific blend of random and selection where (if the dice go your way) you can end up with exactly the kind of character you desire, and if they don’t you’re likely left with something that’s batshit crazy but immense fun to play. As this is Marvel, the crazier character the better; when we take a look at the Gamer’s Handbooks later you’ll see how Random Generation perfectly suits the Marvel Way of character design.
What Marvel RPG’s random character generation gives you is Inspiration, and that’s sadly lacking in modern RPGs – and I include my own much-loved Mutants & Masterminds in this. When generation throws you an odd blend of Powers and Talents, a large part of the fun is trying to work out a coherent thread through them, turning the random into something that works. One of my old, long-time players was brilliant at this, able to work out a name, origin and backstory that left you hitting your forehead mumbling “Of course!” at how it all magically ties together.
It’s a dying art, and one that’s well worth grabbing Marvel RPG just to master. To be able to see something behind the raw stats and turn it from just a Load of Numbers into a Character is one of the core traits of being a great Player or GM. I cut my teeth in Marvel RPG doing just that, and occasionally still turn to those tables for Inspiration for new heroes and villains for Mutants & Masterminds.
But there’s more. There’s the excellent Zan’s Marvel Character Generator which allows you to create both random and custom characters, outputting both text and html versions of your character. For the real Random Character Generation magic, just hit CTRL-R to create a completely unique, one-of-a-kind character, then try to explain the origin. While it might take a few bounces on CTRL-R to find a character that appeals, with practise you’ll soon find that there’s few totally unplayable, unworkable characters, even if some end up…. odd. The generator defaults to using the generation options from the Ultimate Powers book which provides more origins, powers and options for the game. If you prefer to start with options just from the Advanced Players Book, remember to set that in Preferences.
Here’s a quick example using Zan’s Character Generator and the Ultimate Powers option.
Dayshift AKA Sister Maeve Jarvis (High Technology hero)
34, Female, 6’4″, 190 lbs., White skin, Brown hair, Silver eyes
Fighting: Typical (6)
Agility: Typical (6)
Strength: Excellent (20)
Endurance: Good (10)
Reason: Good (10)
Intuition: Good (10)
Psyche: Excellent (20)
Health: 42, Karma: 40, Resources: Typical (4), Popularity: Good (6)
Extradimensional Detection (Typical)
Talents: Sharp Weapons
Dayshift hearkens from a darker alternate Earth where humans have battled vampires in a 100 year long Undying War. Her nanite-enhanced strength, silver eyes, vampiric immunity, raw ferocity and blessed Blade mark her as one of the Most Faithful, a warrior bred by the Catholic Church to combat the heresy of Vampirism in the bloodiest way possible. She was pulled to this Earth through a portal which summoned a Master Vampire as she was about to slay him; he escaped, and now she’s stuck on a parallel Earth with the very real threat of a new breed of vampires in a world unprepared for their arrival.
Bishop + Blade = Slayer Nun! Oh yeh.
In a Berkerer rage, her Reason and Psyche both drop to Feeble Rank, and her Fighting increases to Excellent (19) and her Strength to Incredible (39). Ouch.
If you want to try the Marvel RPG yourself head over to Classic Marvel where the entire system and supplements can be downloaded for free. Go to Other Stuff->Downloads->Advanced Game and Modules for the Marvel RPG Advanced Set. Spend some time surfing the site – it’s a terrific resource full of more role-playing goodness than you can possibly imagine.
Special Day Two Bonus: Topless Robot’s timely and excellent list of 5 Greatest (and 5 Worst) Cartoons Based on Marvel Comic Characters.
Make Mine Marvel!