Friday, February 24, 2012

Iron Fist - Role: Striker. Hulk - Role: Heavy Tank: What the Marvel U. can teach us about 5th Ed. Roles.

I haven't had the chance to get a copy of the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Basic Game yet (I'm holding out for the freaking Age of Apocalypse one-and-done book for all my childhood comics dreams to come true), but I do know that A.) it looks awesome and B.) plenty of people have been raving about it. I grew up on the Marvel Universe, specifically the X-Men, and although my recent foray into buying weekly comics centers on DC's New 52, I'm no stranger to Marvel's immense digital library thanks to my Digital Comics subscription. X-Men will always be my corner of the Marvel Universe, so of course I was interesting in checking out the Avengers Vs. X-Men event program guide which Marvel put out for free digitally this week.

Right when I opened it up, I knew that whoever was writing it either is already into role-playing games or should be introduced to them by a role-playing friend. For each of the teams you get a roster showing the main team members, their name, their power, and most interestingly, their role. These rosters seemed to be screaming for some attention as they seemed to be great ways to think of these classic iconic characters in terms of what role they would play in D&D 4th Edition. In case you're somehow unaware of these roles and how they work in 4th Ed. (and good for you if you are! way to play something other than D&D!), 4th Ed. takes the approach that all classes are assigned one of four roles to better summarized what role they might play in a party. Leaders are buffers and healers (Cleric), Defenders are essentially tanks and guys who can take a beating (Fighter), Strikers are the ones who do big splash damage or are extremely reliable turn to turn with average damage (Rogues), and Controllers are ones who debuff enemies, move creatures around in a fight, and generally do whacky stuff (Wizards).

While I think only having four roles - and having them all be oriented based on their role in combat - is a bit limiting, I do like them. They're short-hand for a given classes' general ability structures, durability in a fight, and what kind of things they tend favoring over others. I really like how the event program for Avengers Vs. X-Men plays with this concept of figuring out where a given team member fits into the team (or in our vernacular, a party). It's especially appropriate given Marvel Heroic Roleplaying's recent debut.

Some of my favorite roles are Dr. Stranger: Caster, Colossus: Tank, Magneto: Nuker, Hope: Mutant Messiah, and of course the best role is Wolverine: The Best There Is. I'm not one to talk about or really care even much about D&D 5th Edition, but I do know that I'd love to see roles worked on more for the next edition. I want to see roles worked out on the same level mechanically (meaning essentially they don't give a bonus so much as let you know which classes are your peers and work as a short-hand description to what the class can do) while being fleshed out more creatively on a fluff level. Much like talent trees, I like the idea of role trees. For example I'd like to see Striker with maybe three branches - Nuker, Sniper, Infiltrator. The nuker does big blasts periodically, the sniper does more precise damage each turn, and the infiltrator is less damage-oriented and more focused on getting behind enemy lines and messing up their plans. The key here would be that each Striker still does the most damage of any role, but it's easier to describe with a little more specificity.

I don't know what we'll see in D&D Next. I'll probably pick up the handbook but don't care to spend much more time or money on it than that. I'd love to see some ideas from Fate and Mouse Guard ported over, but I'm really not holding my breath. Until we know, I'll simply say Make Mine Marvel! 'nuff said.

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