The Game: Marvel SAGA
The Publisher: TSR, but notably after the buyout by WotC
Degree of Familiarity: Before Truth & Justice, this was my go-to superhero game
Books Required: Just the corebook
Marvel Super Heroes Adventure Game, to give this game its full title, is a great game. Like all the Marvel games, it works very well for emulating Marvel comics—in spirit, at least. There's no rules for writers thinking "Transhumanism's hard! Let's make Tony Stark a complete knobend and ignore any hint of futurism." or "Wait, we can't demonstrate just how much of a hypocritical twat Magneto has become over the past 30 years! Let's say he was an impostor and retcon that entire author's run." The rules instead deal with Marvel level heroics and they do it so very well, everything from classic Tales of Suspense comics to Nextwave to any of the eleventy-billion X-books—and it'll do the films, too.
The system works off a custom deck of cards. Each card has a value (and the deck's weighted towards the middle), a suit, a calling, a story element, an aura, and a character. The GM turns over the top card to apply to the villains, while each hero gets a hand of cards dictated by experience. Then it's up to the player to choose which cards to play. The situations, calling, and characters come in as a way to liven up the action and introduce guest-stars. The well-thought-out Trump and Edge rules mean that experienced normals like Captain America and Nick Fury can hold their own against the Hulk, and the semi-random mechanics and lack of lethality model action as it happens in the comics.
I want to create a character for a modern supers game, in that sweet spot post-Heroes Return where characters were rebooted and the world was a somewhat simpler place. Plus, y'know, that's where I stopped reading Marvel (save for some Morrison stuff). Rather than the stereotypical group of outsiders and misfits, I want to create a member of an international superteam with ties to SHIELD. The sort of supers who get involved in black ops and conspiracies—and Steranko-grade insanity. I want a guy who's smart, and knows it—and can imitate other metahumans' abilities. Gained his powers in an accident involving eight-dimensional hyperspace and a connection to the sphere of metahuman potential; kinda like Animal Man but for other superheroes.
His codename's Reflec, though his team-mates know him as Gary Maxwell.
Ten cards. I'm going for a normal-powered game, so I don't redraw any. The suits are Strength, Agility, Intellect, Willpower, and Doom. The latter is generally bad, for perhaps obvious reasons.
My ten cards are 4A, 4A, 4I, 4I, 4W, 5A, 6S, 6I, 8I, 8W.
At this point, I play around with some possible layouts until I come up with one that works for me. Saves me rewriting the following a hundred times.
I've got to put at least one card into each score. I want someone who's generally physically capable, and able to break shit with raw willpower. I put the 6S into Strength, the 4As into Agility, One 4I into Intellect, and both Ws into Willpower. In a system where 4 is average, I'm rocking above average stats, which is about right for a member of a quasi-governmentally-sponsored metahuman intervention team.
Each Ability has a code, a general indication of how well a character uses his capacity. A code of X means no skills, D is one skill, through to A being 4 skills. I start with a D in each, any cards of the same suit give an extra one, while a Doom card sets the code to X.
That means Strength and Intellect have a code of C, Agility and Willpower get Bs.
Strength gets Brawling, as a means to use superhuman strength to kick the crap out of things. Skills only give a +4 to a given Ability, but it's still very useful. Clubs as well, just to be sure.
Agility gets Driving, Escape Artistry, Marksmanship, again as hallmarks of his training.
For Intellect, Cryptography and Espionage are pretty much a given, skill-wise.
Finally, Willpower. I go for Intimidation, Leadership, and Military
Edge and Hand Size
I start with an Edge of 1, but that's pretty inexperienced: teenage heroes, Franklin Richards and the like. Only thing is, I need to spend a non-Doom card rated 7 or higher. That'll be that 8I that I've been hanging on to. It's worth it for the extra card in the hand if nothing else. Hand Size is always works out to be Edge +2 so I've got Edge 2, Hand Size 4.
Powers and Abilities
Now for the fun stuff. I use the 4I to buy a Blast Pistol +4, a top of the line energy weapon. Then, I pool the 5A, 6S, and 6I to buy Power Duplication at 17. In other words, a power level enough to "borrow" Magneto's magnetic mastery. Oh, yeah. Both powers have Intellect as trump suit.
That Intellect card in Power Duplication means I get a free stunt. I take Mechanical Duplication, in order to borrow powers from robots, constructs, and power armour. Because, frankly, they're all superpowers in the universal consciousness. And robots can be full of useful devices.
No need for limits today.
Hindrances are optional, but I just realised that I don't have a card for the next step. Arseholes. Taking a Hindrance gives me a new card for free. Unlucky is pretty much a story hook in trait form, so I go with that one. I draw the 5I featuring Ant-Man. Fortunately, it's got a positive aura, so I can hang on to it.
I can choose any calling. If I go with the one on the card (Repentant), I can draw a card and add it to any Ability or power. Thing is, for the character I'm making, Repentant is a very good one. I normally like Responsibility of Power, but that wouldn't fit someone who can only copy other people's powers.
I discard the 5I and draw again. a 4 of Strength. I drop that card into Intellect, to bring my stats up to generally excellent levels.
Rockawesome. Time to beat people up for the free world!
Name: Reflec/Gary Maxwell
Hand Size: 4
Blast Pistol (I) +4
Power Duplication (I) 17 (Stunt: Mechanical Duplication)