Over the last week I was reading sentiments that run along the line that without a chance for character death, it’s hard to actually care about your character in a roleplaying game. Without debating or affirming that particular statement, this got me thinking about how I would go about making Marvel Heroic a bit more lethal. What follows is the result of that conjecture.
Optional Rules: Remember the 90s?
This alternate set of rules for Marvel Heroic Roleplaying is intended to make the game potentially more lethal.
The Trauma Check
Whenever a character has been stressed out of a scene, and if the character causing stress is not pulling their punch, at the end of the scene the character must make a Trauma Check. This takes place before the scene ends, and so is not part of the next scene.
To make a Trauma Check, the character assembles a dice pool to resist whatever type of stress took them out of the scene. This is opposed by the Doom Pool, adding in any appropriate Scene Distinctions, Stress, or Complications.
If the character fails their check against the Doom Pool, the character is removed from the Event. If the character is removed due to Physical Stress, they are dead, and if they are removed due to Emotional or Mental Stress, they are unable to function on a meaningful level, and likely hospitalized for their own good.
A character that succeeds against the Doom Pool in this roll acquires Trauma as per the standard rules.
Allies and Trauma Checks
There are two ways an ally can assist in a Trauma check.
The first way is for the character that must make the Trauma check to pay an ally to use an appropriate trait die to use in their dice pool. This represents the ally and the character making the check working together to save the stressed out character.
The second way is for the ally to make the check for the stressed out character. If this is done, the character may not attempt a second Trauma Check on their own. They forfeit their own Trauma Check and put their life in the hands of their ally, who assembles an appropriate dice pool to represent their ability to save their ally from their fate.
Watcher Characters and Trauma Checks
If a player character stresses out a Watcher character and does not pull their punch, that character is either killed, or mentally or emotionally damaged beyond the ability to function. If the Watcher wants that character to survive, he may spend a die from the Doom Pool to represent their successful Trauma Check, at which point the Watcher character suffers Trauma in the manner proscribed in the standard rules.
Unlockables for Trauma Checks
Characters may spend XP to gain benefits related to Trauma Checks. Remember that these must be purchased before the scene in which the Trauma Check occurs, since XP is only spent during Transition Scenes.
5 XP Too Stubborn To Give Up. When you spend 5 XP, if you must make a Trauma Check, if the check fails, you may reroll your pool to give you one last chance to pull yourself from the brink of disaster.
10 XP It’s Not Your Time. When you spend 10 XP, if you fail a Trauma Check and fail, you may opt to survive and take Trauma as normally prescribed by the rules. Once you use this option, you cannot do so again until you purchase this unlockable again.
15 XP Life Changing Moment. When you spend 15 XP, if you fail a Trauma Check, you may opt to survive instead. If you do this, you do not take Trauma, but begin the next scene with a d10 Stress in whatever form of Stress took you out of the scene. In addition, your near death or sanity wrenching experience has galvanized your resolve, and you may use your effect die from the failed Trauma Check as a persistent asset for the rest of the event, representing your new perspective on life. This asset steps down once each act. A character may only have one Life Changing Mvent per event.