Marvel Universe RPG Soars

Marvel Universe RPG Soars

April 19, 2022 0 By Gary

“With great power, comes great responsibility…”

Never have I lived this quote. Until two weeks ago. You see, I am a huge Marvel fan. A comic kid from the time I could read; a Dungeons & Dragons player from the age of 7. And last week, I received a preview copy of the Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game playtest rulebook.

But I couldn’t say anything. To anyone. Until today.


I’m free. Free as the Silver Surfer on the spaceways; free as Namor beneath the waves; free as Galactus dev- er…never mind.

The game is glorious. I need to play it. Marvel has walked a fine line of creating a game that has unique elements that will differentiate it from other games but has enough similarities that it won’t deter players familiar with RPG tropes from enjoying it.

It’s also simple enough to learn for someone who doesn’t know a d20 from a doombot.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The most important thing to note about this ruleset is that it is a work in progress. The rules are complete enough so you can be confident in taking them for a whirl, but Marvel wants to hear your thoughts on what you like and don’t before releasing the final rulebook in 2023.

It is a playtest so things may change based on feedback

We’ve seen this model work well with Pathfinder 1.0 and 2.0, DnD Next, and other systems. It isn’t for everyone, but I’m here for it: excelsior!

Overall (TL:DR)

  • Simple, easy to understand, but with enough potential complexity to entice any RPG fan
  • Unique core mechanic (d616) that differentiates it from other games
  • The layout is gorgeous
  • Has fun character content to explore
  • Enough hero templates for popular heroes
  • Some character elements (powers, mainly) are limited only to what relates to the included hero templates
  • Relatively low bar to entry (playtest rules are not expensive)

The Book – and what you’re getting

The book is just over 100 pages, coming in at 118. The sections include game mechanics, how to fight, on building a character, on example heroes, the role of the narrator, and a short introductory adventure.

The Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game playtest rulebook is going to allow you to grab a character (or make your own) quickly learn the rules and provide you the tools to run an RPG set in the Marvel Universe.

You’ll learn the mechanics of the d616 system, you’ll get access to a robust character generation system, and you’ll learn all about the combat and how the actions work.

It’s meant to introduce you to the system they are creating and it does an effective job at doing that in an accessible way.

How does it work?

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.

To resolve a check, roll 3d6 (that’s 3 six-sided dice, like you’d find in Monopoly, or at a craps table.)

One of them needs to be different than the other two. That different die is your “Marvel” die. It’s special. If you roll a 1 on your Marvel die, it counts as a six. If you roll a one on your Marvel die, and 2 sixes on the other two dice, that’s a fantastic success!

If you rolled three 1s, however, that is not so good…that’s a botch. Something real bad happens.

Okay, let’s make a check. Say you want to acrobatically dive into an alleyway to avoid your enemy.

Start by rolling your dice and add them together:

You got 11. Great start.

Now, you apply your modifier to the total.

In this case it’s your Agility because you’re doing something acrobatic.

Let’s add +6 for a total of 20.

Now the narrator compares it to the Target Number (that’s the number they feel matches the level of difficulty of what you’re trying to do) and determines your success or failure.

Lots of things will affect your modifier; your rank, your archetype, your skill, and even the circumstances under which you’re making the check!

Sometimes you’ll even have an Edge, which will allow you to reroll one of your dice in the hopes of getting a better result.

The d616 system is a neat take on result generation, and I’m excited to get it to the table.

Character generation

The biggest question you might face while holding the playtest rulebook is: “who am I going to play?”

It’s a difficult choice, of course, with many kids growing up wanting to be Thor, Storm, or more recently Miles Morales.

But the playtest rules empower you to play the game your way. It gives you some pre-built character templates for some of Marvel’s most popular heroes such as Captain America, Spider-man (Miles Morales), Storm, Wolverine, (and others) but it also gives you the tools to build your own; Cobra Chicken, here I come!

Before we go too deep into character generation (arguably the most fascinating section of this rulebook) the idea of “rank” within the rules needs to be mentioned.

Rank represents a character’s “experience, training, and raw power.” If you’re familiar with RPGs in general, rank is generally equivalent to level.

It’s important to mention rank because, the higher a character’s rank, the more powerful that character is. If Wolverine (rank 10) teams up with Captain Marvel (rank 25), somebody isn’t going to be having any fun. Either the challenge will be too steep for Logan, or too easy for Captain Marvel.

But if you teamed Wolverine (rank 10), with Rocket Raccoon (rank 10), and Groot (rank 15), now we’re building a super team!

Your narrator will decide an appropriate rank (from 1 to 25) for you to begin and you’ll be able to start building your character

First, let’s look at the anatomy of a character. Here’s Black Panther.

He’s Rank 15, so he’s a moderately powered character.

Beside his Rank, you’ll see Striker. Striker is Black Panther’s archetype. Each character will have one, and it represents your characters preferred style of play.

Strikers, for example, “are strong, agile heroes who excel at close-quarters combat,” while Blasters for example are “[f]ast but fragile, rely[ing] on accurate, powerful shots to defeat their enemies.”

The other archetypes include Bruiser, Genius, Polymath, and Protector.

In addition to your style of play, your archetype will also give you increased ability score caps, modifiers, and more…so choose wisely.

Next, let’s look below the picture at Black Panther’s Abilities.

The six ability scores in MMRPG are Might, Agility, Resilience, Vigilance, Ego, and Logic.

Yes, if you line them up, they do spell MARVEL. I agree. It’s amazing.

The abilities are generally straightforward and measure the same things that most RPG stats do. Might “measures physical strength,” Agility “represents coordination and reaction time,” Resilience “measures stamina, toughness, tenacity, and pain tolerance,” Vigilance “represents situational awareness, mindfulness, and discipline,” Ego “measures energy, self-confidence, personal magnetism, and force of personality,” and Logic “represents powers of reason and insight.”

Each Ability has an associated Modifier (what you use to make checks with) and Defense, the Target Number your enemies would roll against.

Health is how much damage a character can sustain before they drop, and Focus is used to drive powers.

Initiative is how quickly they act in the combat, Speed is how fast they move, and Damage is self-explanatory.

Karma is like a character’s pool of luck; you can spend it to enhance your checks and abilities. Once depleted, it returns after you rest.

Powers are purchased through the character generation process and really make your character who they are. They may be defined by your archetype, or not. It’s your character, I’m not your mom.

Looking at a completed character, it really does look like an easy system to pick up and play. But looking at the power sets and abilities…it’s clear there’s going to be a real depth to the character-building process that fans of both RPGs and comics are going to be able to sink their teeth into.

I suspect the book is going to be quite large! The system will also have lots of room for extra sourcebooks, so if you’re looking for a system that’s got longevity, it’s going to be this one.

It’s also worth noting that the power sets and abilities chosen for the playtest book were taken from the Marvel characters in the book. Weather control, for example, is used by both Storm and Thor.

As you can see below, I tried my hand at making a character (it was fast, it took about 30 minutes, and a bunch of that was editing the character sheet in photoshop.) The book guides you effectively through the process, though there is a little bit of back and forth as you’re choosing your archetype, traits, and so on. It’s a minor quibble, and one I expect will be streamlined in the full version of the book.

The character building makes sense. It’s accessible. It should be fun for both experienced RPG pros and novices alike.


The Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game playtest rulebook is good.

Like…really good.

It’s only a snippet of what the game is going to be, but it provides enough that I’m hopelessly excited for more.

The biggest compliment I can pay the book is that it’s thoughtful. They’ve made an effort to develop a system that is reflective of the massive universe the characters could inhabit.

So assemble your team, try not to die, and by the hoary hosts of hoggoth have some fun…’cause it’s clobberin’ time!

‘nuff said.

PS: here’s the character I built using the rulebook. I built it from scratch, using only the rulebook to guide me. It was an easy process, but you do have to flip back and forth a bit to get all the bits together. Yes, before you ask, I used Papyrus font.

A PDF copy of the Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game playtest rulebook was provided for review purposes