Marvel Heroic Roleplaying House Rules

I’ve been running an MHR game over on RPGnet for about a month now and, while I really like the system, it’s quite wonkily unbalanced in places.

That said, here is my list of house rules for MHR – this is at least partially for my own reference and partially for anyone else who’s looking into running the game.

Activate All Opportunities

This is a PbP concession rather than a problem with the game design – to keep things moving quickly, when a player rolls the dice they can automatically assume all opportunities are activated by the Watcher. The Watcher then gets to pile the Doom Pool high. So far I’ve been sticking strictly to the rules for adding dice to the Doom Pool – each PP lets you add a d6 or step up the lowest existing die in the pool – but I don’t think the game will be harmed if you take 3 opportunities and jump straight to a d10 every so often. If you do that constantly then the doom pool will be much smaller than the players’ PP stores but will have higher-value dice in it; which might be good or bad depending on the situation and the SFX of players and bad guys alike.


The problem with counterattacks is that the defender has all the knowledge they need to make sure the counter hits, and the attacker has no recourse to prevent it. It makes counters far and away the best way to inflict stress, and lots of it thanks to stepping up on exceptional successes. I’ve seen two approaches to fixing this: either require that a reaction be an exceptional success before allowing for a counterattack (and that exceptional success not counting towards stepping up the effect) or spend the PP for a counter before rolling the dice, adding an element of risk. Or you could flat ban counterattacks, but I like having them around. My PbP is using the bolded solution, even though tracking precisely when people spend PP/doom in PbP is impossible – I’m happy to let it ride on the honour system.


When I first read the Area SFX in the MHR rulebook I thought “this seems a bit much”. And, under certain circumstances, it is. Start with the assumption that one PP and one Doom die are of equivalent effectiveness. When someone spends 2 PP on a roll it requires 2 Doom to counteract that – but when they spend 2 PP on an Area attack against four enemies it takes 8 Doom to counteract it. (At least – since it costs a Doom die to roll an extra die and it costs another Doom die to keep that die for something.) To keep the PP/Doom economy on track I’ve just instituted the house rule that when a Doom die is spent on a reaction to an Area attack, it applies to all the reactions to that attack. So if I roll an extra die, I roll that die for all reactions. If I purchase an extra die for my total, all the totals get an extra die. I’m not sure how well it’ll work… but we’ll see.

Use Doom Dice to Shift Stress

A bit of symmetry here: PCs can spend PP to shift incoming stress from one track to another, but it’s unclear whether NPCs can or not. I’m specifically allowing them to do so, since when characters are throwing around d10 and d12 level powers you need a way to make the NPCs a little more survivable. This costs a Doom die at least as large as the stress being ‘deflected’.

Categories: Gaming | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “Marvel Heroic Roleplaying House Rules

  1. icuseamus

    I thought I’d leave my thoughts on your rules. I may actually use them for a post on ‘Plot Points’

    Activating All Opportunities. I would say that this is really a matter of personal prerogative. It means that the Plot Point economy is flying around pretty randomly, but in a PbP game I can see how it speeds things up a little. I wouldn’t necessarily consider it a House Rule, per se.

    Counterattacks. Remember that using a reaction die comes with a cost. A hero needs to spend a PP to use their effect die, but that’s only when the reaction beats the action in the first place. It’s also not really a “counterattack”. It’s more like using an opponent’s strength against them. Yes, it can lead to harsh outcomes, but it also keeps the game moving. Keeping in mind the cost of the maneuver, and how getting rid of it would slow things down, I think it needs to be there.

    Area Attack. I’m not sure what you’re talking about here. There’s no cost associated with Area Attack on either side. The attacker can add a target to the attack and add a d6. They roll and each target rolls reactions. This is the only way to affect multiple targets, and each target builds their own dice pool in response to the attack. Any PP/Doom Dice that are spent are spent on that basis.

    Use Doom Dice to Shift Stress. This actually IS in the rulebook. It’s just not in the right place.It’s on OM94, where it says that anything that costs a PP for the player costs a Doom Die for the Watcher. It’s just a case where I think there was an editing mistake.

  2. Yeah, since I’ve played a lot more MHR my opinion on some of these has shifted significantly. I think the main problem I experienced was allowing people to make their own characters, which led to serious cheese. If you limit people to official datafiles you don’t have this problem so much.

    Area attack is still seriously powerful, though: what I meant in that post was that when a character with Area spends a PP on adding an extra die to their total, every target then needs to spend Doom to add to their resistance roll to counteract that. Area attached to abilities that inflict mental or emotional stress in particular are very powerful, as defences against non-physical stress tend to be a bit feeble.

    • icuseamus

      I see what you mean now. The only thing I’d say to that is that the defender has the advantage of knowing what target number to beat before spending any PP or Doom Dice. That means that any extra dice added to the total happen after all the numbers are known.

      Another thing to keeping mind is sort of the go-to cop out answer: The bad guys can do it too. If your player heroes do that often, then there’s every reason to throw in an NPC villain who can also do it. When you do that, every Doom Die you spend to add to your total costs a fistful of PP on the hero side.

      The big reason I am putting this out there is because most ‘fixes’ I’ve seen for Area Attack either over complicate things or leave it wide open for even more unbalancing abuses. Personally, I’m happy with Area Attack as is.

  3. I agree, pretty much. I think ‘fixing Area’ is less a case of changing the SFX and more about being careful how many characters pick it up and what sort of attacks it’s attached to, but I haven’t really got a lot of coherent thoughts about that.

    It occurs to me as I write this that the GM has other options as well: spend a d8 to move the Area attacker away from the mob along with a solo enemy, for example.

    Although you should probably also let the Area guy run riot on mobs of minions from time to time, because that’s what it’s for.

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