Civil War: The Road to Stamford

***Spoiler Warning***

My group and I are playing through the Civil War event book for Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, from Margaret Weis Productions. While the course of play may not follow the event book – or the comic books – precisely, there’s going to be a certain amount of stuff that does conform to the adventures and comic series.

In short, if you don’t want to know what happens in Civil War, don’t read these posts. Or the comic books.

***You Have Been Warned***

After some scheduling delays, we managed to get the Guardians together for the second session of our Marvel RPG Civil War event. I really wanted the whole crew for this session, because I planned to end it with the Stamford explosion and the clean-up scene. After this, we get more flexible with attendance, but this is pretty much the seminal event of the… uh, event, and I felt that the impact would be diminished if only some of the heroes were present for it ((We also had dinner: homemade beef stew, homemade soda bread, homemade butter, and homemade trifle for dessert.)).

Because of some real-world stuff, we got a bit of a late start. I had planned to run through two scenes this session – Titanium Man Attacks Washington, and Clean Up Stamford. That, I figured, should be enough to fill the evening and would end the session on a good, dramatic note.

We’d left our heroes at the end of last session exiting their congressional hearing into a crowd of reporters. Titanium Man appeared, smashed a decorative fountain, pointed at Mega Joule, and shouted, “You!” That’s where we picked things up, and I gave the first action to Mega Joule ((Just because it seemed dramatically appropriate, really. I mean, Jumpstart had his superspeed, so maybe he should have gone first, or The Doctor, with some warning from his mystic senses, but really, sometimes you just gotta go with your sense of the dramatic.)). He amped up his kinetic ability, spending a Plot Point to bring in both his leaping and kinetic control, to slam into Titanium Man and launch them both out of the crowd and into the reflecting pool.

A good roll on Mega Joule’s part and a bad one on Titanium Man’s part and Titanium Man winds up sputtering in malfunctioning armour in the reflecting pool with Mega Joule standing over top of him ((Yup. First action of the session was Mega Joule one-shotting the villain.)). The scene I had planned to take about half the session lasted less than five minutes.

So, I changed what the scene was about. The Guardians interrogated the Titanium Man ((Now encased in concrete, thanks to Volcanic.)) before S.H.I.E.L.D. agents arrived on the scene, trying to figure out why he had come to Washington to attack Mega Joule. I had to change how I was using Titanium Man to fit this new circumstance; instead of being a realistic and intimidating threat ((Like the original Boris Bullski.)), he became a young  punk ((Because he’d just been taken down like a punk, after all.)) who had newly acquired the Titanium Man armour, and got in over his head.

This, of course, meant I had to come up with answers to the characters’ questions ((I hadn’t made the answers up, yet, because real life got in the way of my prep.)). The story I came up with: Titanium Man had been hired by the Sloveniy Bratva ((A Russian mafia group that I made up on the spot. Name inspired by the Solntsevskaya Bratva.)) to stop Mega Joule from messing with a street gang in Mega Joule’s neighbourhood, said street gang paying up to the Sloveniy Bratva.

This story introduces a new thread to the event, one not intrinsically tied to the Civil War, but that’s something I really wanted to do. See, a lot of the impact of the Civil War is in how it changes the lives of those involved – how it makes doing the normal things that much harder. With original characters like the Guardians, there isn’t the built-in baseline assumption of what “normal” is for the characters the way there is for, say, Spider-Man or Daredevil, so it becomes vital to build in some of these types of concerns into the game. Otherwise, the story has no emotional depth for or connection to the players.


I didn’t have anything prepped for going after the Sloveniy Bratva just yet, and it was too early in the evening to jump right to the Stamford explosion, so I said, “Who wants a mission from S.H.I.E.L.D.?” and everyone put their hands up. I pulled out Crusader Hijacks an Airplane, starting itin media res as suggested – The Doctor, Mega Joule, and Jumpstart disguised as Treasury agents, and Volcanic disguised as cargo – just as Crusader and his minions unveiled themselves.

This battle took a little ((Well, a lot.)) longer, and was more exciting. Volcanic used his massive size to send the plane into a dive ((Putting the complication Gravity is a Harsh Mistress d10 on the villains.)), Mega Joule and Jumpstart went on minion duty, and The Doctor tried to bind the Crusader with magic ((That didn’t work out too well, and The Doctor spent the next little while dodging his physical attacks.)). The doom pool was up to 5d10 by the time they got Crusader disarmed and was sitting at 4d12 and 1d8 by the time the minions were under control. I thought about ending the scene, but that felt a little cheap at this point – the heroes were working for their victory, and the only reasonable way to end the scene seemed to be for the plane to crash.

So, I spent the doom pool d12s to help Crusader in his solo battle ((There’s probably a whole blog post in the idea about spending your doom pool in different ways as a method of shaping the dramatic flow of the game. As I play more, I hope to gather enough insight to actually write it.)). The upshot of this was that the heroes still got the XP from me spending the d12s, it felt like a serious fight, and the heroes got to feel like they earned their victory ((Because they had.)). They got the bad guys wrapped up and the plane on the ground safely ((If just barely.)), and turned the villains over to S.H.I.E.L.D. agents waiting for them.

That’s when they heard the news about Stamford. Well, kind of. Some of the younger soldiers and agents who met them on the ground were kind of freaked out about the whole thing, staring wide-eyed at the heroes and such, acting very nervous. When one tried to tell them what was going on, his sergeant shut him down, and all he could do was tell them to check out the news. They did, and headed out to Stamford to help the cleanup.

I used the scene to set up personal stakes and interests for each of the characters. Volcanic helped with the rescue efforts, developing a real hate for Nitro; Jumpstart witnessed a heated discussion between Iron Man, Mr. Fantastic, and Captain America, and later had a rather ambiguous conversation with Captain America; The Doctor had a similar discussion with Iron Man, who seemed to be sounding him out about where he stood on the SHRA; and Mega Joule had a heartfelt talk about what it means to be a hero with Luke Cage.

We wound things down, then, with each character having an idea for what they wanted to pursue next. This is what I want: at this point, I want things to become much more character-driven. I still intend to throw in a few GM fiat scenes to help advance the overall storyline, but mainly I want the characters to determine which direction things go in the event. So, what are their loose ends to track down?

  • Follow up on the Sloveniy Bratva and their attempts to strong-arm Mega Joule.
  • Track down Captain America to see what he was trying to say to Jumpstart.
  • Track down Iron Man to see what he was trying to say to The Doctor.
  • Find Nitro and bring him to justice.

That’s enough to be going on with, I think. I look forward to the next session.


Civil War: Doom & Democracy

***Spoiler Warning***

My group and I are playing through the Civil War event book for Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, from Margaret Weis Productions. While the course of play may not follow the event book – or the comic books – precisely, there’s going to be a certain amount of stuff that does conform to the adventures and comic series.

In short, if you don’t want to know what happens in Civil War, don’t read these posts. Or the comic books.

***You Have Been Warned***

Friday before last, we gathered the players and got in our first session of our Civil War game. Well, kind of the second session, if you count the dry run I did previously. Or the third, if you count character creation. But really, it was the first full session where everyone got to try out their characters.

I wanted to ease into things in this session, letting the players fit themselves into the world a little bit before throwing some action at them ((There are good things about starting out with a bang, but sometimes it’s a good idea to ease the players into things. Especially with a new system.)), so I started by saying, “It’s a Wednesday night. Where are you?” This led to the group – who call themselves The Guardians, by the way – spending some time coming up with a secret base for themselves.

It’s the concealed sub-basement of an apartment block in Brooklyn, owned by The Doctor’s parents, with tunnels reaching all over NYC, courtesy of Volcanic. The base has accommodations for all the team members, a gym, science lab, tech lab, ritual room, and med bay.

So, we spent some time fleshing it out, getting into character, and doing a little roleplaying to set the scene. Then I had Reed Richards call Jumpstart to ask for a favour.

I think three out of the four characters have some sort of relationship with the FF, but I picked Jumpstart because he also had ties to S.H.I.E.L.D. and tended to have more of a military outlook. Those qualities made it pretty likely that he would agree to do the favour for Reed ((Possibly committing the whole team without consulting them. Well, a Watcher can hope, right? ‘Cause that would have been some fun drama.)), which is what I wanted, because that was the on-ramp to the story.

To be clear, the game would not have been derailed if they hadn’t taken the bait. I had some contingency plans, layered in stages, right up to the Guardians sitting around playing video games until S.H.I.E.L.D. capekillers came knocking on their doors. This is something I’ve tried to emphasize with the players – they are free to make whatever choices and decisions they want, without worrying about “ruining the adventure.” The structure of the event book ((Which I talk about back here.)) makes it easy to improvise on the themes of the Civil War, build scenes on the fly, and track what changes if the players do something really unexpected. Along with that, I’ve picked up enough experience running more improvised adventures in recent years ((Thanks especially to GUMSHOE and FATE games for the recent practice.)) that I think I can cope with what they throw at me, and make the game about their heroes, rather than about the big names in the Marvel Universe.

I’ve also warned them that I may make some changes from the comic books, especially about who joins what side, so they shouldn’t count on Cap fighting against registration, or Tony Stark spearheading the registration forces. Am I going to change those two, specifically? I’m not sure yet. I’m not making any decisions about this until after the SHRA passes, and I’ll see how things stand then. The heroes have already done some things that will affect the course of events ((No, I’m not telling you what just yet. You’ll have to wait and see)), and I’ve taken notes and done some thinking about consequences.


Reed Richards called and asked Jumpstart to look into a potential problem in Broxton, Oklahoma – reports had reached him of numerous incoming aircraft, currently passing over the Atlantic, ETA two hours. Volcanic was able to build a quick detector to trace the origins of the aircraft, and discovered that they were coming from Latveria. Richards would not confirm or deny that, nor would he tell them what was in Broxton that the Latverians ((Doom, by all reports being dead, or at least trapped in Hell.)) might want – the characters didn’t have clearance for that information from the government.

Why was Richards calling them? Well, he and the rest of the FF were in Washington, giving testimony to the committee discussing the SHRA. I didn’t spell that out to the characters, but Reed Richards in a suit, unable to leave where he was, and the discussions about the SHRA made it pretty clear, I think.

Richards loaned the Guardians ((All of whom agreed to go. I had something up my sleeve for anyone who chose not to go along, but I didn’t need to use it. That’s fine; I can save it for another time.)) the Fantasticar to get them to Oklahoma in time. At the site, they found a military installation – quonset huts, security fence, patrols, etc. The colonel in charge was grateful for their help, but still wouldn’t tell them why the military was on site.

The heroes took some time to create resources before the arrival of the aircraft, and then settled in to wait for the arrival of the invaders. The Doctor, when the armoured personnel fliers started arriving, woke the spirits of the air to knock them out of the sky ((No-Fly Zone d12+ grounded everything. Everything. Including commercial aircraft, who now had to detour around a large section of Oklahoma.)), and Volcanic caused the ground to open and swallow several of the carriers that had landed ((“Did I get them all?” “All you could see.” “How many more are there?” “Enough to make this scene an exciting battle.” “Gotcha. There are PLOT carriers.”)). Then the silhouette of Dr. Doom appeared on a hilltop and everyone stopped and stared.

And another silhouette appeared. And another. And three more, and then a dozen, and then a score. They figured pretty quickly they were dealing with Doombots, but it still made them plenty cautious. Volcanic was swarmed by Doombots ((Applying the complication Covered in Dooooooms! d12.)), and Jumpstart rushed to his defence, trying to pull as many Doombots off him as possible. Mega Joule had set up an ambush, and popped out to delay a another mob of Doombots marching on the encampment, while The Doctor held the main gate.

This scene had a bit of a strange rhythm, to tell the truth. The players weren’t rolling many opportunities, and this my doom pool wasn’t growing, and they weren’t getting Plot Points ((Except, of course, when they used their Distinctions for a d4.)). This meant that they weren’t able to bust out some of the cooler things they could do, but it also meant that I was limited in the tricks the bad guys could pull in.

Still, things turned around eventually, and I was able to turn the real Doom into a Doombot with 2d8 when The Doctor was about to take him down ((Using the You Are Not Worthy of Doom! SFX.)), and bring the real Doom in from the rear, through the fence and the torn-up quonset huts, down to the crater in the middle. He got his hands on what he was after – Mjolnir, sitting in the crater where it landed – and got blasted by Asgardian lightning for not being worthy.

This was the moment when the characters found out what was being guarded in Broxton. Doom made his escape at that point, and the Guardians were left to help with the clean-up, and discuss whether any of them were going to try to lift the hammer themselves. Eventually, they decided against it, and headed back to NYC.

Overall, the battle outcome was a bit ambiguous – the Guardians defeated all the Doombots, but Doom himself got to the hammer, but the hammer blasted Doom, but Doom got away… You know how it goes. They chalked it up in the Win column provisionally.

Reed got in touch with them the next day to thank them for their help, and to warn them that, due to their involvement with Doom and the military ((And the fact that air traffic had to be diverted around Oklahoma for an hour or so with no warning.)), they might be called to testify before Congress. At least, Volcanic would, because his identity is public knowledge. The other Guardians discussed this, and decided that, if Volcanic was subpoenaed, they would all stand with him.

Sure enough, a few days later, Dr. Nicholas Burns, AKA Volcanic, was called to testify before a Congressional committee, so everyone got on the train and headed down to DC, along with a Lawyer d8, thanks to The Doctor’s business connections.

In retrospect, I should have re-read this scene more carefully before the session. Testifying before Congress is run as an action scene using debating skills rather than superpowers ((Well, powers could be used, if they were appropriate. Mind control, for example, or growth for intimidation, things like that.)), knocking out dice from the Committee to win the debate.

My big mistake, I think, was using rolls to determine the effectiveness of arguments made by either side. That produced some strange results, and incidentally devalued the arguments being made. A better approach might have been to conduct the arguments and interview purely through roleplaying ((Or maybe to abstract the arguments and questioning a bit: “The Committee chair launches into a long-winded recitation of rulings by the Supreme Court, many of which seem to relate only remotely to the matter at hand. He’s obviously trying to confuse you and set you off your game.”)), and call for rolls only when one side or the other tried to directly manipulate the other through Psyche or Menace or some power. As it was, the whole thing felt like a mis-handeled skill challenge from D&D 4E.

The main point of contention, as it played out, was the issue of secret identities. The Committee insisted that the Guardians give their legal names in order to be heard, but the gang successfully argued that they should be allowed to testify under their noms de guerre. Well, kind of successfully. They got their remarks on the record, but they were entered as anonymous testimony, and thus carried less weight.

The upshot was that the Congressional committee thanked the Guardians for attending and dismissed them without getting any of their real questions answered. Still, the majority of the committee was favourably disposed towards the Guardians, so that counts as a win. Still, there was the implication that the committee might invite the Guardians back when they had more power to compel answers.

And to wrap things up for the evening, as the Guardians navigated the crowd of reporters out front, the Titanium Man landed in the midst of the crowd and roared out a challenge.

Check out the next issue for - The Terror of the Titanium Man!

Civil War: Dry Run

So, I’ve got a group of players that I’m going to be running through the Civil War event for Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, with original characters for all the players. We’ve had a character creation session, and two of the players have produced finished characters. The other two are dragging their feet a little bit, but I’m hoping that they’ll have their finished stuff to me soon ((Yes, that is a hint.)).

Anyway, to make sure we kept the interest up, and to give the two players with finished characters a chance to try their characters out, and to give me a little more experience running the game, we decided to do a one-shot with the two finished characters.

Actually, that’s not quite the way it happened.

I was trying to prod the two players with unfinished characters into finishing off their characters, so I offered to run the first session on Friday night if everyone had their characters finished. The two without finished characters were unavailable for completely unrelated reasons, so I figured I’d go with a one-shot for the completed characters who could make it.

Now, while I wanted to get playing, and I wanted to encourage the unfinished characters to get finished, I didn’t want this to be seen as a punishment for those who weren’t done. So, I decided that, while I would award XP as usual in play ((More on that later.)), no XP would carry over to the campaign. It’s just the only way it seemed fair.

The set-up for the session was pretty simple. I was going to have either A.I.M. or Hydra steal a MacGuffin from NYU, where Volcanic ((One of the PCs)) teaches and lives. A tweet from Cam Banks gave me a better idea. He said:

I hope they feel overwhelmed right off the bat and turn it around in the 11th hour!

That gave me A PLAN! I decided that Hydra, with the aid of Mentallo, would steal the MacGuffin (a cylinder of dark matter that had been bombarded by cosmic rays ((That’s pure comic book science!)) ), but be ambushed by A.I.M. troopers before they could leave the building. A quick look at Google Maps showed me that the Center for Cosmology and Particle Physics at NYU is about two and a half blocks straight down a street from Washington Square Park, so I thought it would be fun to have things move down there for the climax, where Madame Hydra was waiting to pick the Hydra troopers up in a Hydra sky car.

I started by telling the characters that they were at NYU, and asking them why. Jumpstart ((The other PC.)) said that his character’s secret identity – a medical doctor and a scientist – was giving a talk there about the effects of cosmic radiation on brain structures, and Volcanic – who doesn’t have a secret identity, being made of lava and all – was listening to see if he could decipher any clues about how to change back into a human form.

The lecture was interrupted by the sounds of weapon fire outside in the main entry. Volcanic stuck his head out to see what was going on, providing a bit of a distraction for Jumpstart to switch into his costume. Outside the auditorium, our heroes were up on the mezzanine, looking down on the entry hall, which was dominated by a giant sculpture of an atom ((Why? Because comic book action!)). A gang of A.I.M. troops had pinned down Mentallo and his Hydra henchmen, but Mentallo had mind-controlled a team of security guards, who were outflanking the A.I.M. folks. Add to that the panicking students, and things looked grim ((I had spent a turn or two while the heroes were bogged down in getting into costume and out of the auditorium to effectively let the villains grandstand, building the doom pool, and deciding what distinctions to put on the scene. Doom pool, which had started at 2d6, was up to 4d6, and there were the distinctions Giant Atom Sculpture, Panicky Students, and Mind-Controlled Security Guards.)).

The good guys were a little intimidated by the big mess, I think, and didn’t know where to start. That didn’t stop them from wading in, though. Hydra took that opportunity to make a break for it, smashing through the plate glass windows despite Volcanic coating them with magma. A.I.M., still pinned down by the security guards, took hostages to try and escape.

There was some discussion at this point about pursuing Hydra before they got away, but the pair decided that keeping the hostages safe was the priority ((I am pleased about that. I like my heroes heroic.)). They concentrated on the A.I.M. troopers and mopped them up before heading out to chase Mentallo and the canister down the street to Washington Square Park.

The battle at the park went pretty quickly, and very much in the heroes’ favour. They were getting the hang of using their elemental control powers ((Three out of four of the characters have some flavour of elemental control, and the fourth has Sorcery. These are very cool powers, but they’re probably the trickiest to use in cool ways during the game, as they are very indirect.)), had established strategies for getting and using PPs, and each had a couple of assets to call on in an emergency. The bad guys got wrapped up in short order, and even Madame Hydra was snagged when her getaway vehicle got electrified.

I had planned for Madame Hydra to snag the canister and escape, with or without Mentallo and the troopers, but the heroes just beat me on that one. See, the second part would have been a Transition scene with the heroes tracking down where the canister was and assaulting a Hydra base – or A.I.M., if they had managed to snag it – and retrieving it before it could get used as a weapon. So, we ended early, and the bad guys all got hauled off to the Raft. I did make the point that this was pre-Breakout at that time, so I won’t have any questions if I use the villains again in the event.

Overall, the one-shot served its purpose – the players got the hang of their characters, I got more practice with the system, and everyone had fun. But no one was hitting their Milestone triggers in the game. I decided not to bring it up during play, but we talked about how important it is after the session wound down. It’s a change of perspective, making the characters decide when they earn XP, but with Milestones, there’s really no way for the Watcher to track the triggers for the characters. At least, not effectively.

I think the players are going to tweak their characters slightly based on how they played, but overall they were pretty happy with what they had built, and I thought they worked well, myself. For me, I got some insight into how to make a scene change location, some more familiarity with managing the doom pool, and some practice making the scene distinctions work for me. So, I call it a win.

We’re trying to set the first full session for September 28. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Civil War: Recruitment

It’s been a while, huh? Well, without running a regular game, I’ve had less to say than usual.

That’s changing now; this past Sunday, I got four of my friends together to create characters. We’re starting the Civil War event for Marvel Heroic Roleplaying.

I gave the players the option, individually, to decide how they wanted to create their characters: pick a pregen, model another existing hero, use the Random Datafile Generator from Margaret Weis Productions, or model a hero of their own devising. Given the folks who opted to join the game, I was expecting about half to take a pregen, and the other half to model their own heroes. Turns out, all four wanted to create their own heroes from scratch.

MHR  has a character creation system ((Though it doesn’t explicitly call it out as such.)), but I found it a bit lacking for what I wanted to accomplish. See, one of the most important themes in Civil War is the rift it creates in the heroes of the Marvel universe. The whole brother-fighting-brother vibe. Using homebrewed characters can be problematic, simply because these characters don’t have the deep histories with the other characters of the Marvel universe. Or even with the other players’ characters.

I needed to fix that in order to get the most bang out of the event.

Smallville RPG, also from MWP, has an interesting character creation system ((Called Pathways.)) that establishes all the types of relationships I need. And, as luck would have it, someone had already produced a version of the system for MHR. It’s very good, but it’s a little more structured in the assignment of powers and dice than I wanted to be, and more arbitrary in the relationships than I wanted ((I know, I know. I’m such a whiner. Seriously, the Marvel Pathways thing is awesome. It just didn’t quite fit what I wanted.)), so I looked to another great game for ideas.

Dresden Files RPG ((For which I have much love.)) builds relationships between characters in a wonderfully organic way, using the novels and the guest star roles. It creates history between the characters, and very rich relationships, but unless you throw in the entire city creation section, it doesn’t really tie the characters to other characters in the Marvel universe. And it felt counterintuitive to go through the city building if we wanted to play in the established continuity ((There are ways we could have done it, but they seemed more complicated than the cool they would provide, so I decided against that.)).

And so I wound up doing what I always seem to wind up doing ((It’s a sickness, I tells ya.)); I kit-built a system using parts from both DFRPG and Smallville. I snagged the idea of the relationship map from Smallville, and the phased approach, including the novels, from DFRPG. The end result was a set of guidelines for building characters that would produce finished characters, with relationships both within the group and with iconic Marvel characters, and develop the characters in a more organic kind of way. You can see the results here.

That’s what I sent out to folks before the game, recommending that they read it over, as well as the MHR basic rulebook ((Of course, some did, some didn’t, some read one and not the other, and so on. Which I expected.)). When we got to the character creation session, I quickly realized that I had made the system too elaborate and structured for the time we had.

We ran through the concept, origin, and first appearance phases pretty much as written, though we didn’t use the relationship map quite as I had spelled out. The players were eager to add contacts with iconic Marvel characters, so they jumped all over it, leading to a pretty full map pretty early on. Seeing that I had enough information on there for purposes of this game, I backed off it.

With the last 45 minutes of our session, we walked quickly through the novel stages, and then called it a night. I sent the players home with some homework: put the finishing touches on their characters, send me their novels, and decide on a name for their group. I’m starting to get replies, and things look good.

And who are these new heroes?

  •  Volcanic, an NYU professor who took on the mantle of a volcano god to save Manhattan from annihilation.
  • Jumpstart, an electric-powered speedster with a family connection to HYDRA, currently working for SHIELD.
  • Mega Joule, an inner-city high school athlete gifted with powerful kinetic abilities and a drive to help other kids on the streets.
  • The Doctor ((Based heavily on the character of the same name from The Authority.)), chosen by the soul of the world to be the new shaman for the age.

And that’s where things stand. As soon as everyone gets their homework back to me, we’ll set up the first session of actual play. I’m looking forward to it.

Pick a Side

So, I’ve finished reading over the Civil War event book for Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, and was really impressed. It is, of course, a beautiful book, full of Marvel comic book art, and Jeremy Keller’s wonderful layout. But that’s only part of it. It really succeeds on three levels: as an adventure book, as a resource book, and as an instructional book for designing your own events.


The Civil War event in the comic books was a big, complex, involved affair, and I was initially skeptical about how it would translate to an RPG adventure. The main issue ((Heh.)) in my mind was the question of taking sides in the war. What do you do if part of the group wants to side with the pro-registration folks, and another part wants to side with the anti-registration folks?

Well, the folks who wrote this book saw that one coming, and offer extensive and helpful advice for how to handle things. They encourage talking about the possibility of player-vs.-player combat, and making sure everyone feels comfortable with it. Beyond that, they suggest using troupe play, with players trading off characters to make sure the players are always on the same side, whichever side that needs to be in the current scene. There’s also a lot of advice about how to run the various scenes in the game for different sides in the way – pro, anti, and undecided. Very solid, useful stuff.

The overall adventure is broken into 37 scenes, split into 3 acts. Not every scene is mandatory, and it’s assumed that Watchers will improvise any other scenes that are needed based on the actions of the players. Scenes are identified as Action (26) and Transition (11), but several of the scenes have notes about running them as the other type. In essence, the structure and scene choices offer not just a sequence of events in the larger story of the Civil War, but a toolkit to let the Watcher and the players develop and explore their own experience against the bigger backdrop.

The structure provided is not rigid, but is a useful default and starting point. There are a few defining scenes that I think are pretty important to make the game about the Civil War, rather than just normal superhero hijinks, but you don’t need to follow the default roadmap to get to them. The structure is loose enough to expand for Watcher-created, player-driven scenes, and to collapse to omit scenes from the book that don’t quite fit. And there’s plenty of fodder in the book to make it easy for the Watcher to improvise both action and transition scenes on the fly.

That said, you don’t have to play that loose with the structure. Following it step-by-step from the first scene to the last in order will give you a solid, exciting event, one that your players will talk about.

The only thing that I think is missing is from the Sourcebook section at the front of the book. This is where the events behind the Civil War, the factions involved, and so on, are described to give you context. It’s very complete, but there are a few story threads that run through the three acts, in various scenes, that I think could have been noted here. Things like the Atlantean vengeance squad, or the MGH trail – threads that wind through the other scenes and that the Watcher probably wants to keep track of. You don’t need anything big; just a quick list of the various story threads and the scenes that directly apply to them.

But that’s a pretty small quibble.


Y’know, this book is worth the price of admission just for the datafiles it contains. You get 32 full hero datafiles. You get 33 villain-style datafiles in the Friends and Foes section, any one of which can be converted to a whole hero datafile with about thirty seconds of work. And scattered through the rest of the book are 59 other datafiles, ranging from villains to average citizens, and 3 add-on power sets. A few of these are duplicates, but the vast majority are at least tweaked from other appearances, either in this book or in the basic game book.

And then there are the milestones. 22 milestones specific to this event – that is, not attached to hero datafiles – and lots of interesting unlockables. While this stuff is tailored to the Civil War event, it is easily adaptable to other events/adventures/characters.

One of the things I look for in a product is material that I, as a GM, can lift out and use with minimal work. This book has that in spades, and has an index just of the datafiles for good measure. Kudos!


Above and beyond anything else, this book is a master-class in designing for your ownMarvel Heroic Roleplayinggame. Want to see a stunning example of how to build an event? Look at this book. It’ll teach you the structure and flexibility you need. Want to find out how to handle a certain type of scene? Odds are there’s an example in here ((There’s an action scene that is all about debating a Congressional committee, for God’s sake!)). Want to see how to put together a certain type of character or power set or milestones or unlockables or…

It’s all here. And the way it’s set out is accessible and instructive. Just reading this book, even if you never use any of the scenes or story, will make you a better Watcher. It is a stunning example of what to do with the game, and it is filled with smart ideas and interesting twists that show how the rules work in neat ways. In creative ways. Infunways.

Summing Up

If you plan to run MHR, I’m going to go so far as to say you owe it to yourself to read this book. It’ll make it all much easier and much better, both for you and your players. The adventure is good – very good – but the value of the book goes way beyond that.