Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Event Outlines

Marvel Heroic Roleplaying’s Event structure was a brilliant way to handle what seemed like it might have been a license-enforced mandate: to use known comic book events and situations to develop gaming books, rather than attempt to spin-off with truly original works. While there might be some unfortunate side-effects of this, the creators of the Cortex Plus system developed an interesting way of presenting the Event structure, allowing players to pick their favorite heroes and run them through the event, while giving Gamemasters (Watchers in MHR parlance) the tools necessary to tailor the Events to those heroes and take them in very different directions.

If there’s one criticism to be had with the Event structure and its position in the Marvel Heroic rule system, it’s that there’s an awful lot of circumstantial information to present in a fairly broad-strokes manner. A comic book Event is tailor-made to the heroes that show up in it, but if a player of the roleplaying game pulls out Thor in an Event built for Punisher and Daredevil, that’s going to fundamentally change how the action progresses.

In order to run such a fast-and-loose presentation without getting bogged down but loads of “if this character is in play, this might happen, but if this other guy shows up, then it changes to this,” I went ahead and created a very simple Event Outline that I could adhere to. Not only does it help at the table, but it also serves as a great format to build my own Events, by laying out the structure and important mechanical pieces, allowing me to fill in the details elsewhere (in my case, with sticky notes and 3×5 index cards).

Spider-Man: Breakout

Mosh pit!


The Outline lays out the following, mostly mechanical information in as simple terms as possible:

  1. Event Milestones: these are the goals of the Event, and thus the motivation for how the characters get involved.
  2. Acts: these are the larger “beats” to the story, more like Acts in a screenplay, and provide the 3-5 act structure you’d find in most movies or TV shows.

Within each Act, you just need the following information to be crystal clear in order to easily ad-lib, as well as remember what traits are important that you want to bring into play when framing the various scenes within each act.

  • Starting Doom Pool size.
  • List of Watcher Characters and any specific traits or Doom Pool interactions they might have.
  • Each Location and its Scene Distinctions.
  • Unlockables.

Even without all the flowery prose you might find in a published Event, this information could probably give you enough of an idea of what’s going on to run the whole Event without having the book handy at all.

Example: Breakout

Breakout is a short Event, so it serves as a good example. You’ll notice I call out page numbers wherever possible when outlining a published Event, so that I can refer to the book quickly when necessary. Theoretically, reading through the event two or three times and using the outline should allow me to not even bother doing that.

Event Milestones

  1. Liberate the Sentry (alternatively, use Hulk from the What If? scenario download that was once available through MWP’s website). See TRANSITION: Talking to Bob (BR 16).
  2. Round up the fugitives.
  3. SHIELD Super Agent.

Act One: Breakout at the Raft (BR 4)

  • Doom Pool 2d6
  • 67 highly trained SHIELD agents (Expert SHIELD Agent BR7)
  • Foggy Nelson: acts as a mobile Scene Distinction; d8+ effect die can knock Foggy out and deliver =d Emotional Stress to his defender
  • Get Me My Gear BR14: d6+ doom die to re-power
  • The Man is Keeping Us Down BR15: villains begin with Drugged d10 or Dampened d10 complication; d10+ doom die to remove

Landing Deck

  • Open to the Elements
  • Reinforced Entry Bay Doors

Underwater Levels

  • Very Dark
  • Maze of Hallways
  • (Holding Cells)
    • Extraordinary Security Features
    • Power-Neutralizing Agents

Elevator Shafts & Air Ducts

  • Good Places to Hide
  • Enclosed Space

Power Plant

  • Stark Technology
  • Cheap Tech

Unlockables (BR18)

  • 5/10 – Unlock the Sentry (optionally, use Hulk from the What If? event add-on)
  • 5/10 – Unlock Champion Clearance with SHIELD
  • 5/10 – Unlock Redemption of a Raft Inmate

BUILDUP: Getting to the Action (BR8)

  • Electro BR9
  • (Optional) Change to an Action Scene, adding Hydro-Man and Living Laser as a Team with Electro. For large groups, or split parties, add Silver Samurai and Mentallo as Buddies.

ACTION: Nefarious Escape (BR11)

  • Setting: Landing Deck?
  • Count Nefaria BR11
  • (Optional) Add Tiger Shark BR46 and Armadillo BR34 (remember chained together Complication), Living Laser BR 42, or Grey Gargoyle BR40

ACTION: Carnage In the Dark (BR12)

  • Setting: Underwater Levels
  • Carnage BR12
  • d10+ doom to spawn a Symbiote of Spawn BR13 that infects a non-powered inmate
  • (Optional) Add Cutthroat BR39, Jigsaw BR41, or Razor-Fist BR45 to take advantage of the chaos Carnage sows

ACTION: The Villainous Mob (BR14)

  • Setting: Elevator Shafts or Power Plant
  • Mob of Minor Villains BR14
  • (Optional) d6+ doom to power a villain from the Get Me My Gear list during the fight
  • (Optional) Add an opposing Mob of Minor Villains for a three-way fight

TRANSITION: Talking to Bob (BR16)

  • (Optional) Replace this with the What If?: Bruce Banner Was a Prisoner at the Raft event add-on.
Action: It Ain’t Easy Being Green
  • Bruce has Better Off Where I Can’t Hurt Anyone d12, which is added to the Doom Pool if anyone attempts to rouse him to aid against the Breakout
  • d8+ to have the U-Foes attack
    • Settle Old Scores
    • Confined Space
    • No One Likes Hulk When He’s Angry

TRANSITION: Mopping Up and Investigation (BR17)

Call to Action

I’ll leave Act Two up to you. Things you’ll note are where I use parentheses and where I bold text. It really boils down to:

  • Parentheses are for optional elements. They are designed to make the Event’s Scenes more complicated or dangerous, or might cause the Event to go in a wildly different direction.
  • The use of Bold Text is to signify Watcher characters (usually enemies, but not always) that have a datafile, as well as Scene Complications that come into play.

Again, the whole idea here is to just create a simple cheat sheet to reference at the table. The published events often have a lot of potential Scene Distinctions called out in the body text, so it’s nice to have something to reference easily.

Furthermore, this outline structure makes it very simply to see what the “moving parts” are of an Event, and thus allow you to change them up, riff off of them, ad-lib with them, and create your own Events.

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neuronphaser is an editor, eCommerce consultant, web producer, and analyst living in sunny Hollywood, CA. He’s been playing tabletop RPGs of all kinds since 1985.

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