Marvel Super Hero
es was a roleplaying
game produced by TSR
in conjunction with Marvel Comics
group in 1984. The original set was followed two years later by an advanced version that built on and extended the first. The game tapped into the hugely rich tapestry of the 25 year old (at that time)Marvel universe
, with its many heroes, villains and comic-titles, that find their roots way back in the Captain America
comics of WWII
The Marvel universe of the comic books played constantly on the premise of "What If?" and frequently exhibited multiple realities, parallel dimensions and variant timelines that allowed its writers to kill and resurrect characters, or to run autonomous story lines simultaneously. And in a sense this is what the game encourages the players to do. You are free to run campaigns as you wish, as with all roleplaying games, but are also open to thread as much 'main line' Marvel material into your adventures as you need.
As for the rule system, Marvel avoided a solely numerical format, like most other RPGs, and opted instead for a more be-fitting 'word' based ranking system. Levels of ability, difficulty and power were instead denoted by increasingly dynamic adjectives:
The scale ran something like this:
Typical (average human ability)
Monstrous (This is just about the top level you can attain in character generation)
There were a few more levels above Unearthly, but these were usually reserved for the god like entities of the Marvel Universe, eg: Galactus, Death and Mephisto etc.
So instead of Spiderman having a 'strength rating' of, say 12, it was defined as 'Incredible', This system definitely matched the tone and flavour of the hyperbole loaded Marvel comics. (If you need a rough guide as to the levels in terms of your favourite heroes, Spiderman's agility was 'Amazing' and the Hulk's strength was 'Unearthly' (That’s a 100+ ton bench lift, according to the rule book, if you're interested).
One of the more interesting areas of the game, especially for those players who discovered it through the comics, rather than via roleplaying circles, were the 'Fact Files' of existing characters from the Marvel Universe. Here you could see comprehensive stats on your favourite heroes and villains, including brief histories, approximated abilities, and their super powers. A must for the die-hard Marvel buffs.
One down side of the game was that character development through experience points was virtually impossible. Which means that even after you've saved the world for a fourth time from those pesky Super villains, you would still find it difficult to improve or extend your character from the resulting Karma you received. So your Heroes never really develop after their origination. Which ultimately makes character loyalty a short-term affair.