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Maximum Force: Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Example Character

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From the Power Corrupts campaign setting comes the spoiled child turned superhero Maximum Force. Using Max, I'm going to give an example of character creation in Marvel Heroic Roleplaying.

First things first: The character concept. Before generating a character's stats, you should have an idea in mind: General powers, origin, catchphrase, personality. You should be able to explain who this character is and what they do to someone else without referencing game mechanics. However, that said, mechanics can inspire character details- in particular, I created Maximum's character concept partly as a way of providing a mechanical example.


Maximum Force is a young man with incredible powers he inherited from his parents. As the spoiled son of a regime leader, he would normally be somewhat bratty and selfish. However, since he is the second child and naturally calm, he's learned to yield to the inclinations of his parents and older brother, who is much more assertive. This makes him relatively naive and suggestible, as he always took his parents at their word to avoid arguing. He's also designed to be more of a classic 'flying brick' hero, which generally tends towards physical powers and purer motivations, like Superman. Unlike Superman, however, he hasn't got ranged powers (at least not yet). This is to better reflect his simple, straightforward nature, and partially because the list of powers he already has is pretty dang extensive.

One of the character concept points I nailed down as soon as I thought about this character was that collateral damage would likely be a big thing with him. After all, what would a naive 14-year-old who can naturally lift buildings really do if he got into a fight? He probably wouldn't think through the repercussions of dropping a bridge on someone until after the fact- after all, lives are at stake NOW. He would probably be dangerous just because him punching someone is likely to put a hole in them or send them through several feet of concrete, or that if he threw a temper tantrum it would rip train tracks out of the ground.

How does this translate into mechanics? Well, creating a Marvel Heroic Roleplaying character has a checklist associated with it, mechanically speaking.
  1. Assign Affiliations
  2. Choose Distinctions
  3. Create Power Sets
  4. Assign Specialties
  5. Create Milestones

Let's start with Affiliations, which describe how a character 'plays' with others.

1. Assign Affiliations

There are three Affiliations, which are Solo, Buddy, and Team. Between them, we assign a D6, a D8, and a D10. What this means is when we're constructing a die pool, we look at who's working with the character and use one of the three.

Solo is, of course, when a hero acts alone. 'Loner' heroes generally have D10 as their Solo die. Buddy is when the hero is up against the wall with another hero to back them up and fight beside them. When a character usually pairs up with guest characters, has an ally they usually fight besides X and Y style, or employs a sidekick, they've generally got a D10 Buddy die. However, if there are three or more heroes together, they're a Team instead. Generally, heroes that have a D10 Team die are natural leaders or otherwise find themselves as part of a moderate to large group of heroes.

Remember when I said before that mechanics can help characterize? This is one of those times. When you're assigning these, you can set them in such a way that helps clear up some ambiguity or allows for interesting interactions or insights. For example, Max is used to having his brother or one of his parents guide him, and so he's uncomfortable making tough decisions on his own. This makes Solo D6 and Buddy D10. Team is therefore D8 by default. Here, we can use this mechanical situation to get the insight that since the leader of a team relies on the teammates knowing how to contribute, Max may have some issues as a team player because he misinterprets commands or expects his leader to give him direct orders. However, someone is still telling him how to act, so it's easier for him to focus on what he's doing rather than thinking everything through himself.

2. Choose Distinctions

These are closest described as a parallel to the High Concept from Fate, except instead of one, you get three, and they can also double as a Trouble (pun not intended). For example, I'm going to choose Son of Supreme because Maximum's father and how people view him due to the Regime's actions is important, Hopelessly Naive because he is and it's sure to get him in trouble, and Brute Force to double down on the fact that Max usually takes the most straightforward solution in nearly every case. These should be short sound bites or catchphrases, no longer than a short sentence. They don't need to describe everything, just the most important or prominent things.

When constructing a Dice Pool, you can always use one of these, and add either a D8 to your pool or add a D4 instead and gain a Plot Point. Adding the D4 is important because it rarely contributes to the total (you normally only get to add two dice when counting up your total in the die pool), but it's more likely than other dice to create an Opportunity, which is a chance for you to gain another Plot Point- at the cost of creating trouble for your heroes. More simply, use a Distinction as a D4 when you want to represent your character's personality or history causing issues and a D8 when you want it to help their efforts. Of course, that Plot Point can often come in handy...

3. Create Power Sets
This is easily and by far the most complex part of character creation. For details on character creation, I would suggest reading the Basic Game handbook, and looking at the example Power Sets provided in the back. It's something you either know how to do or don't, and while I've seen a randomized character generator floating about online, I don't know where it is at the moment.

A good rule of thumb is that a hero should have no more than two Power Sets, and if they have any D12 (highest possible rank) Powers, they should have no more than 2 between all of their Sets. Extremely powerful heroes are not uncommon, but be reasonable. Any set that has a D12 rank Power should have at least 1 Limit, if not two or three. If you only have one Power, make it count with some neat SFX, like Cyclops' Optic Blast having multiple ways to use it.

Speaking of Limits, one of the important things I made sure to answer as part of his creation is "Why doesn't Max just beat the tar out of everyone? He has insane strength, is basically untouchable physically, and has natural psychic resistance." The answer, which is informed mechanically by the Limit Growing Dread, is "Because he hasn't mastered his powers yet, and they're dangerous." Growing Dread makes rolls of 1 or 2 Opportunities, not just 1s. Since Opportunities can't be used as Effect dice or contribute to a die pool, AND the Watcher can use them to add to the Doom Pool, that means that his powers are very likely to cause trouble, especially if he uses his SFX like Area Attack or Dangerous. Instead of his ground-smashing attack simply knocking away Regime troopers, it might rupture a nearby pipeline or causes civilians to be harmed or scared.

On the other hand, it also makes Dangerous an interesting trade-off. The following example of play can show how Power Sets, SFX, and Limits might be used. Maybe Max decides that, after seeing Vlad being knocked out by a superpowered thug, this particular villain really needs to feel the pain, and cuts loose with his D12 Strength. He constructs a pool using the following dice: Solo D6, Brute Force D4 (+1 Plot Point), Godlike Strength D12, Combat Expert D8 (we'll get to Specialties later) for a total of 1D4+1D6+1D8+1D12. Sure, that's nothing to sneeze at, but with Dangerous, that becomes 1D4+2D6+1D8+1D10, and he gets to step up the damage inflicted after the roll.

So what? The reason why this is useful is because he can spend a Plot Point (like the one he got from Brute Force) to keep an additional die instead of his usual 2 to make a total, and when he exceeds his opponent's total by 5 or more, he can step up his Effect die again. That's not guaranteed to happen, but it's useful in certain situations.

Let's say the rope-a-dope he's fighting has a pool of 1D8+3D10 (Solo, Durability, Combat Master, and a D8 Distinction). Max rolls a 2 (Opportunity), a 4, another 2(Opportunity), an 8, and another 4. Things aren't looking great, because the enemy can pick the best 2 of 3D10, which is likely to beat a 12 total. As the Watcher, I decide to be a pain and add 2D6 to the Doom Pool, giving Max's player a pair of Plot Points- two Opportunities can be turned into a D8 at the 'cost' of only one Plot Point, but I don't want to do that now. Now, I'm planning on turning one die around at Max: Since I expect to beat him on this roll, I'm planning on spending one of my D6 to have the enemy create an effect on Max as if the enemy had attacked him.

My plans work out with a roll of 2, 10, 8, 6, for a total of 18 and an Effect Die of D10. Since Maximum is Invulnerable, I decide to make this Effect an Emotional one, and explain it as the villain taunting him about his heritage. Hey, that sounds like something we should come back to. Since the total is 18, which is 6 more than 12, I also get to step up the Effect die to a D12, basically causing the young hero's blood to boil.

I decide to go for the knockout by rolling the enemy's 1D8+3D10 and adding Max's Stress to my pool. Oh, and I'm also planning on spending the other D6 to keep a third die for my total. That should clean up nicely... And I just rolled 8, 4, 2, 9, and 3. I decide to take the D12 as my Effect Die to cover my bases and hope a 21 total is enough. I mean, come on, what's the worst that could happen?

Now, Max isn't gonna take that sitting down, and he's also got 3 Plot Points handy. Uh oh. He decides to up the ante by spending a Plot Point and adding his Stress die (the one I just inflicted) to his next roll. Thing is, he has to step up this Stress whether he fails or not. He's decided to also use his Solo die, his Brute Force as D4 again for another Plot Point, his Superhuman Durability, and his Combat Expert. In fact, he decides to escalate things by spending ANOTHER Plot Point and adding another Trait- his Godlike Strength. That leaves him with 1D4+1D6+1D8+1D10+2D12... and two Plot Points left.
He rolls 2(Opportunity), 6, 4, ...9, 9, 10.

You know what? Just for fun, I'm going to activate his Opportunity and give him a Plot Point for a D6 of Doom. Let's see what he does with it. It turns out what he does with it is spends it and another to add another TWO dice to his reaction total, keeping the 9 D12 as his Effect. This gives him a total of (6+4+9+10) 29. His final Plot Point is spent reversing the enemy's attack. Since he's using a D12 Effect and his total exceeds the attacker's by 8(!!!) allowing him to step up the effect die again- or in this case, since it's a D12, immediately stressing out his attacker.

Narratively, this all translates to Max's taunter having his fist caught by the young hero, then being punched so hard he goes through a nearby wall. And then some. However, since Max needed to step up his Stress after exploiting it, he immediately becomes Emotionally Stressed out, muttering to himself about how he doesn't want to hurt anyone, sobbing as he imagines how different the scene would have been had there been someone behind the wall, and then trying to shake Vlad awake to make sure his secondary mentor figure is alive- and so that he can help.

4. Assign Specialties
This is much simpler than many of the others. Basically, this asks if there are any specific categories that the hero excels at, and if they happen to be absolute masters of the field in question. Experts are experts, Masters are Masters. Pretty straightforwards.
The basic Specialty list is:
  • Acrobatic
  • Business
  • Combat
  • Cosmic
  • Covert
  • Crime
  • Medical
  • Menace
  • Mystic
  • Psych
  • Science
  • Tech
  • Vehicle

The best of the best have seven Specialties, up to which three are Masters, most experienced heroes have five or six total and one or two Masters, and rookie heroes have two-to-three Specialties and no Masters at all. Max doesn't seem the sort to have mastered anything, but he seems like the kind of person who would be good at convincing people, like calming his brother or parents down, and have a basic grasp of combat beyond the average person. I'm giving him Psyche Expert and Combat Expert.

5. Create Milestones

As Milestones are going to be the source of the majority of your XP, this is where you need to talk to your DM- I mean Watcher. You want two sets of Milestones, generally, though a character can get away with one. Each of the three levels of Milestones represent a type of character development. Here, I'm choosing to work on two character issues: Maximum's control over his powers and their collateral damage, and his relationship with the Force Regime and his parents.

1 XP markers can be tapped any time, though usually the DM won't let you constantly press on it to gain an unlimited stream of XP. These events either represent the beginning of a character arc or a regular underlying theme for the character. My first Milestone focuses on collateral damage, so I'm inclined to use Growing Dread as a trigger for this Milestone, because it represents Max using his powers in such a way that they stop helping and start hindering.

3 XP Milestones can be tapped only once per Scene, and usually represent a bigger issue or problem, or something closer to the character. Here, Max is probably likely to accidentally or not-so-accidentally take someone out with a high-powered attack, so doing so will be his 3 XP Milestone. This is a chance for him to show how powerful he really is-and perhaps that he should restrain himself more.

10 XP Milestones can only be tapped once per Act, and once they are, the Milestone in question can be replaced- basically, this is the critical do-or-die moment, and once it's resolved, the book on this particular issue or character aspect can be closed for now, to allow for new character development. Now, something that is likely to eventually come up is his powers causing the Doom Pool to rise to unsustainable levels and result in dire consequences. He can prevent this by not using them, but it's probably going to come at great personal cost. Deciding how to use or not use his powers is a major part of his character, so deciding whether to surrender or push on until an ally pays the price is a good Milestone.

For future reference as to time units, a Scene is basically equivalent to one combat event or plot location. There are lots of Scenes in an Act, an Act is roughly equivalent to a sub-arc, and two or three Acts in an Event, which is enough play to contain a fairly short campaign. In comic terms, a character's action is a panel, a Scene is a group of pages where a conflict or plot point is resolved, an Act is one or more comic books, and an Event is a group of comics that come together to create a larger story.


Now, let's bring it all together. You can see the Affiliations, Distinctions, Power Set and Powers, Specialties and Milestones I've brought together to create Maximum in the following Datafile (MHRPG's term for a character sheet). I've made some modifications between now and my Discord post, so if you notice something that isn't here or wasn't there, that was intended. From this point forwards, you can add a character's History, Personality, and a description of their Powers and Resources.

Maximum Force:

Solo D6
Buddy D10
Team D8
Son of Supreme
Hopelessly Naive
Brute Force

Power Sets:
Force Powers
Godlike Strength D12
Superhuman Durability D10
Supersonic Flight D10
Superhuman Stamina D10
Enhanced Reflexes D8
Enhanced Senses D8
Psychic Resistance D8
SFX: Area Attack- Target multiple opponents. Add a D6 and keep an additional Effect Die for each additional target.
SFX: Dangerous- Add a D6 to your dice pool for an attack action and step back the highest die in the pool by -1. Step up Physical Stress inflicted by +1.
SFX: Invulnerable- Spend 1 PP to ignore Physical Stress or Physical Trauma unless caused by mystical attacks.
Limit: Exhausted- Shutdown any Force Powers power to gain 1 PP. Recover power by activating an opportunity or during a Transition Scene.
Limit: Growing Dread- Both 1 and 2 on your dice count as opportunities when using a Force Powers power.

Combat Expert D8
Psyche Expert D8

Sorry About That!
1 XP When you first trigger your Growing Dread Limit in a Scene.
3 XP When you inflict Trauma to an enemy using an effect die of D10 or greater.
10 XP When you either surrender to prevent your powers from harming others or the use of your powers accidentally leads to the death of an ally.

Sins of the Father
1 XP When a friend or enemy compares you to your father or mother.
3 XP When you receive Emotional Stress during a conversation with your parents or their regime as a subject.
10 XP When you either reconcile with your parents' regime or sever ties with it irreparably.

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