Tips for speeding up fights in Marvel Heroic? (And a Marvel/Sorcerer hack)

edited January 2013 in Play Advice
EDIT: I've changed the thread title, because the conversation's turning towards how to create fast fights in Marvel Heroic Roleplaying. I'm still happy to chat about the original topic: whether combining the Marvel and Sorcerer systems would speed up fights.)

What if you took the dice pools from Marvel Heroic, then used the resolution system from Sorcerer to determine who goes first and who wins? What would the potential problems be?

I’m thinking of a procedure that goes something like this:

1. Everyone says what they’re going to do in a ‘round’ of combat. Figure out who is targeting who (draw a diagram if necessary)

2. Gather your dice pools as per the normal Marvel Heroic rules.

3. Roll dice and see who has the highest result (tied rolls compare their next highest results). This determines the initiative order – from highest result to lowest result.

4. People who go first compare their results to the results of their target. If you win, you choose your Effect die from your winning dice (the dice you have that are higher than the highest number on your target’s dice). If you have an appropriate SFX or spend a plot point, then you can add additional Effect dice.

5. Targets can either choose to either (a) continue with their stated action, in which case they get to narrate and then roll a single die in defence (Captain America’s shield!), or (b) abandon their action and narrate how they’re fully defending themselves (in which case they pick up their dice and make a completely new roll based on their narration.

6. Effect dice are spend as per the normal Marvel Heroic rules.

_______

Last night I did one round of solo playtesting of this and it seemed to work. There were some obvious issues that could be fixed just by slightly redefining characters’ powers. But can you see any issues with it?


Here’s why I’m thinking about this

I think the current initiative system is really neat, and I like Fred’s description of how it came about.

The Marvel/Sorcerer mash up I’m suggesting totally doesn't address Cam’s design goals of enhancing a feeling of teamwork or not having a ‘bog-standard’ initiative system.

The reason I started thinking about alternatives to the current initiative/fight system, though, is that in my last game I had a few hour-long fights against villains. These fights felt quite ‘spread out’ with actions/reactions taking quite a long time to get through, and the length of the fights was taking people out of the shared imaginary space.

My gut says that fights in this system shouldn’t take quite that long to get through (I want the tabletop fights to feel, in terms of speed, like the equivalents of a comic book or movie fight).

This could be a question of system mastery (which I’m doing some thinking about how to improve and teach). I’ve also been doing some thinking about mook rules (by reducing villains down to a Complication) which I’ll post about later, but this seemed like it might also be a productive approach.

I'd appreciate any other tips you might have for speeding up conflicts in Marvel Heroic.

Comments

  • My gut says that fights in this system shouldn’t take quite that long to get through (I want the tabletop fights to feel, in terms of speed, like the equivalents of a comic book or movie fight).
    Everytime I've played or run it, fights are really exciting, dynamic, quick and totally feel like comic book fiction.

    I wonder what I'm doing right?
  • edited January 2013
    I wonder what I'm doing right?
    That's a damned good question. When my group and I play, it feels like every turn in combat involves meticulously deciding what to do and building up our dice pools, trying to figure out which powers can come into play and when, whether or not any special FX are involved, etc. etc. I'd love to find a way to make that process move faster.

    Part of the problem may be that we randomly rolled up these characters randomly, and ended up with a lot of powers that are all disparate and therefore sometimes the best option is non-obvious.
  • edited January 2013
    I wonder what I'm doing right?
    That's a damned good question. When my group and I play, it feels like every turn in combat involves meticulously deciding what to do and building up our dice pools, trying to figure out which powers can come into play and when, whether or not any special FX are involved, etc. etc. I'd love to find a way to make that process move faster.

    Part of the problem may be that we randomly rolled up these characters randomly, and ended up with a lot of powers that are all disparate and therefore sometimes the best option is non-obvious.
    (bold mine)

    Mike -- are you saying you guys go into each turn deciding as a team what to do, when to go, etc.? If you are, that might account for the discrepancy in accelerated play. We do some of that but not a lot. More like, okay if you punch him over here, I'll kick him out the window. For us, there's not a ton of grand strategy requiring planning going on but I don't see a lot of that in comic books so we don't feel like we're shortchanging the fiction.

    Steve -- apologies for derailing the thread in anyway. I'll shut up now.
  • No, I mean on an individual per character basis. The turn gets passed to me and it can sometimes take me a while to decide what to do and figure out my pool.
  • Denys, this is definitely not a derail! I'm really interested in how to make the turns move faster.(That's the question that sits above this mash-up idea, and is the reason for it.)

    I agree with Mike: I've observed a lot of players taking a fair bit of time to decide how to build up their dice pools. Some stuff that might be going on here:

    - being unfamiliar with the system
    - being unfamiliar with the character sheet
    - struggling to convert 'what you've narrated' into 'what's on the sheet'
    - unfamiliarity with how to spend the dice
    - time between a player's turns leading to them checking out of the situation a little bit

    I'd be keen to find out why your fights move so quickly...
  • The best way to run Marvel is to have the players not worry about their dice.

    Sometimes as Watcher you need to raise your voice a bit and say, "NO WHAT DO WE SEE IN THE COMIC?" then build the pool based on the description. The worst time-suck to MHRP in my experience is playing mechanics-first.

    A system where you pre-declare adn then roll to see what order things happen in might work, but you're VERY definitely then not playing Marvel, or indeed, a sequential comic narrative-based game any more. The order that things happen in is supposed to feel like composing a comic together on the fly; the system you describe would seem to really mess up the sequential narrative part of it, no?

    I probably wouldn't ever play with randomly-generated heroes, either. It's optimized for play with the licensed heroes included in the game, which are all designed to emulate familiar characters and balance themselves within the context of the broader Marvel U. It's about playing cool What If stories set in the MU, and it does a really great job of it, but requires some pretty robust hacking to do anything else.
  • I totally agree about playing fiction-first rather than mechanics-first, Jim. The thing is that even after trying to apply that I've still found some players take a while to convert 'what they've narrated' into 'a pool of dice gathered from the stuff on their sheets'. (I do think there are some teaching techniques and play-aids that can alleviate that.)

    But I'm encouraged by what you and Denys are saying. It sounds like you're getting fast play in your games' fight scenes. Which means this is a solvable problem. You're obviously using techniques and strategies that I'm not - I want to try and figure out what those best practices are.

    ---

    I'm not sure whether you're right about the Sorcerer system messing up the sequential nature of things, though. What it does do is get everyone to pre-declare what they're trying to do (which, in my head, creates a more vivid sense of what's happening in the fight than Marvel Heroic's action-reaction structure). A different type of 'sequencing' from Marvel Heroic happens after the roll: I've found Sorcerer's 'abort or keep taking your action' decisions create interesting chains of events that often end up different to how we all imagined they'd be during the declaration phase.

    Maybe I'm misunderstanding what you're meaning by 'sequential', though?

    Anyway, I think I probably need to test this out at some point and see how it works and doesn't work.
Sign In or Register to comment.