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Tabletop Game / Marvel Super Heroes

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Marvel Super Heroes is a tabletop role-playing game designed by Jeff Grubb, written by Steve Winter, and set in the Marvel Universe. Its first edition was published by TSR in 1984,and followed by an expanded edition, the Marvel Superheroes Advanced Game, in 1986. A new game was released in 1998 called the Marvel Super Heroes Adventure Game, utilizing the same card-based SAGA system as Dragonlance: The Fifth Age.

The basic game is designed to allow players assume the roles of Marvel superheroes, whose origins fall into one of five categories: Altered Humans (normal people who acquired superpowers), High-Tech Wonders (normal people whose powers come from devices), Mutants (people born with superpowers), Robots (created beings), and Aliens (non-humans, including extra-dimensional beings). These origins determine the upper limits of a character's superpowers, which otherwise function on an ad hoc basis. In addition to playing as established Marvel characters, players are also given the opportunity to create original characters.

Most game situations are resolved by rolling percentile dice and comparing the results against a column of the "Universal Results Table", with the column used determined by the Attribute used. Each character has seven Attributes—Fighting, Agility, Strength, Endurance, Reason, Intuition, and Psyche—which give the game system its nickname of FASERIP.


This tabletop RPG contains the following tropes:

  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: In the Deluxe City Campaign Set, the sewers of New York are described as being up to 30 feet across.
  • Black Magic: Mind Control is considered a villain's power, and if a hero ever used it he would lose Karma not only for the act itself, but for any negative actions committed by the controlled character.
  • Brought Down to Normal: A hindrance called "Triggered Powerless" in the 90's version, where the hero loses his or her powers under certain conditions.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: The five card suits in the 90's version. Green=Strength, Red=Agility, Blue=Intellect, Purple=Willpower, Black=Doom
  • Combat Tentacles: In the Uncanny X-Men boxed set, the PCs are attacked with a Spider Tank with six 12-foot-long tentacles while eating lunch with the Beast. Fortunately, it's a Secret Test to determine if the PCs are worthy to be superheroes.
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  • Compelling Voice: The Ultimate Powers book had "Hypnotic Voice", which could theoretically be on all the time.
  • Dash Attack: The adventure Mutating Mutants had a supervillain named Ramhorn who had horns like a bighorn sheep and could charge headfirst into enemies.
  • Demihuman: Here, the term refers to Petting Zoo People.
  • Evil Gloating: Indulging in this is one way for villains to earn extra Karma.
  • Evolution Power-Up: The "Evolution" superpower allows a hero to shift up and down along their evolutionary path, from an unintelligent but brutish cave-man to a frail but hyper-intelligent "future" form.
  • Experience Points: Here, experience points are called Karma, which players receive at the end of every adventure chapter if they accomplished mission objective, and which they could spend to raise attributes or abilities or to modify dice rolls, or even to contribute to a community pool to help the group. Conversely, heroic characters lose karma by failing objectives or doing heinous things like killing (even villains, even by accident), thereby preventing players from creating a usable '90s Anti-Hero-type character.
    • An interesting exception to this is Wolverine in the Secret Wars adventure who "has no bad feelings about killing in combat. In this adventure, Wolverine suffers no Karma penalty for slaying an "Evil" opponent. Inform the player running Wolverine of this in his first fight. Wolverine will still lose Karma for killing heroes (including Magneto), or for letting innocents die." This exception effectively makes Wolverine a Game-Breaker character in this game as he doesn't need to follow the most important rule of it. Compare this with more conscientious heroes like Colossus, Reed Richarads and Cyclops who in the same adventure automatically lose 10 Karma points a day simply because they miss the people they love back on Earth. By making this exception the authors of the game have unintentionally rewarded Wolverine's Heroic Sociopathy and punished other heroes for having empathy!
  • Flamethrower Backfire: Polyhedron magazine #27 adventure "She Rampage". If the backpack containing a flamethrower's fuel is damaged, it may create an Amazing strength explosion that affects everyone in the same area.
  • From Bad to Worse: The 90's version had the Doom card suit. When a player used a Doom card for an action, the GM collected it and kept it in a "Doom bank." At any time after, the GM can add any (or all) of those banked Doom cards to aid characters he controls, just to make things harder on the heroes.
  • Fun with Acronyms: FASERIP.
  • Game Master: In this game the game master is called a Judge.
  • A God Is You: When using stock characters, you could theoretically play as Hercules or Thor.
  • Hologram: In Mutating Mutants, one of the rooms in the secret laboratory has holographic projectors that create illusions of Doctor Doom and two Sentinels.
  • Horn Attack: Another trait of Ramhorn, mentioned in Dash Attack above.
  • Improbable Weapon User: Naturally, given that the game system allow the players to weaponize anything a superhero can... including other PCs.
  • Improvised Golem: Certain superpowers would allow players to create constructs out of solid matter or machines (though the two were mutually exclusive).
  • Jet Pack: Two examples here:
    • In the adventure Fantastic Four: Fantastic Voyages, three jetpacks are stored aboard the Skrull scout ship Kell'rr Anelle, and Jon-Larr has one.
    • In the Uncanny X-Men boxed set Adventure Book, Chapter 9 pits the heroes against Arcade. If they don't find him within 15 minutes after the end of the basketball game he will put on a jetpack and try to escape.
  • Just Between You and Me: Villains actually get Karma points for telling the heroes their plans.
  • Karma Houdini: Literal case for Wolverine in the Secret Wars adventure. Every and any other hero in the entire game will lose all their Karma if they kill, no matter how understandable or reasonable the circumstances were. Wolverine is the only 'hero' that does not lose any Karma for killing a villain as he does not feel guilt.
  • Karma Meter: The Karma system was rather unforgiving, rewarding Honor Before Reason rather obsessively and penalizing heroes for everything from killing people (even villains, even in self-defense, even accidentally, even to save lives, even if the dying character is a willing sacrifice for some greater good) to missing a press conference. Villains had their own karma system that rewarded them for being stereotypical villains.
    • The only exception to this is Wolverine who in the Secret Wars adventure "has no bad feelings about killing in combat. In this adventure, Wolverine suffers no Karma penalty for slaying an "Evil" opponent." Wolverine's so special that he breaks the most cardinal rule of the sytem, while more conscientious heroes like Colossus and Cyclops are actually penalized 10 Karma points every single day of the adventure simply because they have loved ones that they miss. This wouldn't be the first or the last time that Wolverine has outdone Cyclops.
  • Knockout Ambush: Happens to the heroes several times in the Uncanny X-Men boxed set, twice via...
  • Knockout Gas
  • Powered Armor: Mandrill's mooks frequently use suits of powered armor based on SHIELD's Mandroid armor.
  • Quicksand Sucks: In the Uncanny X-Men boxed set, the PCs can accidentally fall into quicksand while trying to rescue a woman, whereupon they will sink at one foot per minute.
  • Railroading: Several encounters in the Uncanny X-Men boxed set specifically state that the PCs have no way to win or otherwise avoid being incapacitated and captured.
  • Rapid Aging: in "Judge's Book", Hela can fire Aging Rays that instantly age the target by 100 years.
  • Rewriting Reality: In the module The Revenge of Kang, the villain plans to travel to a parallel dimension where the Marvel Universe exists only in comic books, rewrite the ending of Time and Space #3 so he wins, and then use Science! to cause his home reality to synchronize with the comics only one, making him victorious by fiat.
  • Secret Test: The spider tank attack in the Uncanny X-Men boxed set, outlined above under Combat Tentacles.
  • Slave Collar: In "Nightmares of Futures Past", captured mutants are forced to wear inhibitor collars that prevent them from using their mutant powers.
  • Spider Tank: One of these attacks the PCs during lunch in a Secret Test to see if they're worthy to become superheroes.
  • Stun Guns: Several of these are used throughout the Uncanny X-Men boxed set to knock out the PCs without killing them.
  • Super Strength: This is represented with a good roll for your Strength stat, if you're playing a character type with access to the upper echelons.
  • Time Crash: In the modules centered around the time-traveling Kang the Conqueror, a creature called a "chronovore" causes a time crash by devouring time itself.


Example of: