Marvel Multiverse RPG review, launching Aug. 2

Marvel Multiverse RPG review, launching Aug. 2

July 31, 2023 0 By Gary

Picture it: before you stands a great portal, crackling with energy. It expands and contracts malevolently as if breathing – as if it were alive.

To your left, hanging upside down from a web line is Spider-man who quips, “Y’know, it kinda looks like a butt, so I bet whatever comes out of there is gonna stink!”

To your right, stands Thor the god of thunder. His eyes burn with blue energy, and hanging loosely at his wrist is Mjolnir, his uru-metal hammer – the loose strap conceals a secret, though. It’s coiled, like a snake, ready to strike.

You stand before the portal taking in the sight, faint war cries growing louder by the second.

Both Thor and Spider-man look to you expectantly: what do you want to do?

The Marvel Multiverse RPG is a brand-new tabletop roleplaying game produced in-house at Marvel. After two years, and countless hours of playtesting by Marvel fans around the globe, the core rulebook is set to be officially released on Tuesday, Aug. 2, wherever fine books and RPGs are found.

In a previous article, I took fans through the playtest guide for the game, and while some things are the same, some are different, and that’s worth talking about.

Overall (TL;DR)

  • The rules are accessible and straightforward but offer depth for RPG fans of every skill level
  • Play as your favourite character (more than 120 pages of options) or create your own, with hundreds of powers, backgrounds, and traits to make your hero unique
  • Fun art and a sensibly organized layout
  • Enough lore and narrator tips to get even the newest player started

The book itself

The Marvel Multiverse RPG core rulebook is 319 pages long, divided into 10 chapters:

1] How to play – it explains what an RPG is for new players, how it works, the concept of safe gaming, and what you need to play.

2] Core mechanics – this chapter describes how you make checks using the d616 system (we’ll get to that later), what it takes to succeed and fail, and more.

3] Character profiles – here you’re going to get the low-down on what everything on the character sheet means like rank, your ability scores (Melee, Agility, Resilience, Vigilance, Ego, Logic – they do spell Marvel), Karma, Traits and more.

4] Combat – this section is here because the bad guys won’t punch themselves

5] Creating a character – this is everything you need to start the character-building process, this chapter goes hand in hand with chapters 6 and 7 too

6] Backstories – every hero has their origin or occupation, and in the Marvel Multiverse RPG, backstory is a key element of a character. Your backstory could add tags and traits; the former is primarily narrative in nature, and the latter is mechanical.

7] Powers – there are more powers, and power sets here than Quicksilver could read in an hour!* (*slight exaggeration, but there is still a lot)

8] Characters – the largest section of the book, by far, includes more than 130 characters and villains to choose from.

9] The Marvel Multiverse – some multiversal lore that will help players, and narrators, build a world all their own.

10] Narrator – tips, advice, and support for the hero who will be running these games.

The core mechanic

The game is based on the d616 system. That is not a typo. It’s named after the Marvel Universe dimension that is considered ‘the standard’ universe where the comic book action takes place.

Whenever you want to do something, whether it’s punching a villain or saving a cat stuck in a tree, you’ll roll three six-sided dice, like those you’d find in Monopoly, or at a craps table. One of them needs to be different than the other two, so you can tell it apart. That different die is your “Marvel” die. It’s special. If you roll a 1 on your Marvel die, it counts as a 6.

It’s a unique way to generate results, and thematic too.

An example of the d616 system in action is below.

Updates from the Playtest Rulebook

Last year, Marvel released a playtest rulebook – an early look at the game, to get player feedback. The response was huge, and the team received thousands of responses on how to make the game better. The core rulebook has some noticeable differences from the playtest rulebook.

This list contains the differences I found but I can’t claim it’s complete.

Rank – in the MMRPG, a character’s training, and raw power are reflected by their rank. If you’re familiar with RPGs, rank is roughly equivalent to level – where a level represents a character’s overall strength. The ranks in the core rulebook are 1 through 6. An AIM Agent is rank 1, while Captain Marvel, Magneto, and the Silver Surfer are rank 6.

In the Playtest Rulebook, ranks went from 1 to 25. Reducing the spread of rank simplifies the game but in the best possible way. It tightens play and requires significantly less persnickety math when building an original character.

Abilities – Might has been changed to Melee, and initiative is now equal to Vigilance plus any bonuses. Previously it was Agility or Vigilance, whichever was higher. (This change is good – Agility will be sought after for ranged combat skills, so forcing players to make a choice about their initiative is a smart one.)

Archetypes – eliminated. A lot of the persnickety math I mentioned above came from the archetypes and has been removed from the core rulebook. It also allows for a more holistic experience, as you aren’t limited by any artificial game rules from making the character you want to play.

Characters – generally, depowered. Defenses are lower, but so are attacks (see combat, below)

Combat – In the playtest rulebook, each character had a modifier for each ability score. Thor Odinson, for example, had +21 for Might, which he would apply to both combat and non-combat checks. His Might defense was 32. In the core rulebook, instead of having a modifier that you add to attacks, you just add your ability score. So now, Thor adds his 8 might score to his d616 and his Might defense is 17. (A change that makes life easier – it does mean that luck plays into the game a bit more, a hydra agent could potentially get a shot on Captain Marvel with the right roll, but the change streamlines the game more and makes it easier for new players, but not at the cost of game depth.)

Damage is now based on the Marvel die rolled during the attack, with a multiplier based on attack strength. Let’s use Scarlet Witch as an example. Her Ego is 8, so making an Ego attack you’d add 8 to your d616 – assuming the attack hits, you’d multiply the result of the Marvel die by 7 (as noted in the damage table in the bottom left of the sheet) then add the ability score, +8. It’s elegant and reduces unnecessary rolling. It also enhances the importance of the Marvel die, which is one of the key differentiators in the mechanics.

The approach taken by Marvel on the long playtest was worth it – these changes are great and wholly improve the product. It’s a better, more accessible game as a result. They made changes but not just for the sake of making changes – every difference that I was able to find seems thoughtful. I don’t have any arguments with their revised design choices.

In fact, my only complaint about the playtest rulebook has been addressed in the core: the way they laid out the character-building sections. Using the playtest rules to build my own hero, I found myself flipping back and forth between multiple chapters. It was a bit frustrating, to be honest. It feels like the changes they’ve made to character building, including removing archetypes, will reduce the need for this, if not eliminate it altogether. I can’t wait to try it out.

Final thoughts

The answer to “Should you buy this book?” is always tricky. I think in most cases, the answer is yes, but it really depends.

TTRPG fans who love comics, or the Marvel Cinematic Universe can use this book to create the campaign of their dreams: there’s enough meat to satisfy even the most seasoned player, and the rules are flexible enough that even the most zany ideas are possible. To you, I’d recommend picking it up.

For comic fans who’ve never even heard of an RPG before, and might be a little intimidated, the rules are very simple and easy to learn. You don’t even need any fancy dice. Once you get the hang of it (and you will get the hang of it fairly quickly) you’ll find it so rewarding to create some stories with your friends! To you, I’d recommend snagging a copy.

If you don’t like comics, or RPGs (if this is you, I don’t know how you made it this far) then you might not need to buy a copy of the book, but I will say it’s absolutely gorgeous – with some interior art that’s been produced just for the core rulebook, alongside images ripped straight from the comics. The layout is crisp and easy to follow, so if you just wanted something pretty to look at, you can’t go wrong with the Marvel Multiverse RPG.

The only quibble I have with the Marvel Multiverse RPG core rulebook, and it’s minor, is the price: at $59.99 USD, $75.00 Canadian it seems a bit on the expensive side – however, this quibble is tempered by the fact that this is the first post-COVID, post-shipping apocalypse, post-paper shortage RPG book that’s come across my desk in a while. That said, Dungeons & Dragons’ newest book is releasing in two weeks and is being advertised for $59.95 USD – and comes with a free digital download, and free shipping in some countries.

The price issue doesn’t diminish my love for this book – because I do love it, I just worry that the price point is going to be a bit high for some folks who won’t get the opportunity to purchase it. Maybe a digital version will emerge in the future that will be less expensive, or perhaps a shortened version of the core rules that doesn’t include character profiles, lore, or narrator tips…

Marvel Multiverse RPG clearly has a bright future ahead, with hours and hours of fun just waiting…because after all, as the designer Matt Forbeck said when I interviewed him last year: it’s a game “about telling epic stories with your friends.”

And what can be better than that?

A press copy of the Marvel Multiverse RPG was provided for this review.
All images copyright Marvel unless otherwise indicated