This is a character creation hack for MHR based on Smallville‘s pathways. It uses some of the ideas from Dresdenville and is based on the point values in my previous post on MHR chargen, with some new insights based on playtesting. It’s intended for making new heroes not based on existing characters, but potentially existing in the Marvel universe. The character map steps should be useful to you in creating relationships and antagonists even if you prefer the default, freeform method for generating stats. Note that this system treats all power traits and SFX as if they were of equal value: if you feel certain of these are less/more versatile, feel free to charge half/double for them.

Nodes

The following node types are used in this system when making the relationship map:

  • Protagonist (Square): This is used for PCs. All PCs are placed in the center of the page and are automatically connected to one another.
  • Secondary Character (Circle): This is used for NPCs. Unlike Smallville, there isn’t a mechanical distinction between features and extras, but you might wish to double-circle NPCs that wind up with a lot of lines drawn to and from them, as they’ll likely be very important to the plot. These NPCs should typically be neither antagonistic nor completely helpful: they are not the players’ enemies (that’s antagonists, below) but they will often have their own goals and serve as foils.
  • Theme (Triangle): This is a one or two word theme, typically a very broad noun like “Ostracism,” “Fear,” “Sacrifice,” “Forgiveness,” and so on. The intent is to provide a core concept for Distinctions to build off of, and to give the GM ideas as to what concepts are central to the game when planning scenarios.
  • Macguffin (Pentagon/Shield): This is an important item or element that will drive the plot by frequent attempts to obtain or use it. It can be something powerful but specific (Mjolnir, Cap’s Shield) or something broadly important (the Odinforce, the Super Soldier Formula). It should not be something easily destroyed. It might also sometimes be an important location; in this case, draw the symbol as a diamond per standard Smallville notation.
  • Antagonist (Hexagon): This is a character or group with goals the create conflict with the PCs. They might not be villains as such, but they will always have an agenda that causes them to be at odds with the protagonists.

Like standard Smallville notation, connections between nodes are one-way arrows: one node might have a relationship with another with a different reciprocal relationship (or none whatsoever). There are a few limitations to this:

  • Themes cannot have outgoing arrows, only incoming arrows. The label for this arrow is the name of the Distinction so created.
  • Other players and the GM might draw arrows from other nodes to any protagonist, but only the player of that character can draw outgoing arrows (i.e., only the player can define how his PC feels about other nodes). With the above rule, this means that only the player can connect his own PC to themes.
  • Each node can only have a single outgoing connection to any other node (i.e., it can’t have two different relationships with the same element).
  • Unlike Smallville, when a player draws an arrow from his protagonist, he does not get to draw and define a reciprocal relationship for free: if he wants to control both sides of the relationship, he’ll need to spend another connection before another player or the GM decide to spend one to define it first.
  • Remember that placing something means giving it a node type and an interesting name, but the other players can and will define it by creating connections, and the GM will ultimately stat it and use it based on those connections. Don’t get your heart set on a thorough definition for an item as soon as you place it: something cool sounding but vague will likely be enhanced by other player input.

Pathways

Begin the setup by placing and naming all the PC squares and connecting them (the arrows can be labeled at any point for free or left blank). Come up with a basic concept for your character. You can define your Solo, Buddy, and Team dice (from d10, d8, and d6) at any point in the process. Rotate around the table between every addition to the map (e.g., everyone adds a node before connecting to nodes) and alternate which player starts the process each time. Stop at the step that best defines the type of game you want to play (e.g., complete step 4 but don’t complete step 5 if you want to play regional-level heroes).

1. Background

Think about your character background and what your primary Power Set will be.

  1. Add a Theme (Triangle).
  2. Draw an arrow from your protagonist to any Theme. Define the connection as your first Distinction.

Pick one of the following:

  • Early Power: Add a Power Trait at d6.
  • Early Training: Add an Expert Specialty (d8).

2. Catalyst

Think about the situation that granted your character powers.

  1. Add a Secondary Character (Circle).
  2. Add a Macguffin (Pentagon).
  3. Draw an arrow from your protagonist to any Circle or Pentagon.
  4. Draw an arrow from any Circle or Pentagon to any protagonist.
  5. Draw an arrow from any Circle or Pentagon to any Circle, Pentagon, or Triangle.

(Define all connections as you make them.)

After all players are done with this phase, the GM adds one Antagonist (Hexagon) or Macguffin (Pentagon) and makes two connections (between any valid elements).

Pick one of the following:

  • Indoctrination: You received your powers from training or deliberate experiment.
    • Add an Expert Specialty (d8).
    • Add two Power Traits at d6.
    • Add an SFX or step up one Power Trait to d8.
    • Define an appropriate Limit.
  • Mutation: You are a mutant and likely received your powers at puberty.
    • Add a Power Trait at d8.
    • Add two SFX.
    • Add another Power Trait at d6 or an Expert Specialty (d8).
    • Take the Mutant Limit.
  • Accident: You received your powers from some kind of scientific or mystical accident.
    • Add a Power Trait at d8.
    • Add an Expert Specialty (d8) or two SFX.
    • Add another Power Trait at d6 or two SFX.
    • Define an appropriate Limit.

At this phase, no specialties can be higher than Expert and no powers can be larger than d8.

3. Mission (Local-level heroes)

Think about your character’s personal ethics/code and desires. Add one of the following:

  • A Theme (Triangle) if your character is defined by an Ethos
  • A Secondary Character (Circle) if your character is motivated by Love
  • A Macguffin (Pentagon) if your character is in pursuit of an Item

Then:

  1. Draw an arrow from your protagonist to any Theme. Define the connection as your second Distinction.
  2. Draw an arrow from any valid node to any protagonist.
  3. Draw an arrow from any Circle, Pentagon, or Hexagon to any Circle, Pentagon, Hexagon, or Triangle.

After all players are done with this phase, the GM adds one Antagonist (Hexagon) or Macguffin (Pentagon) and makes two connections (between any valid elements).

Pick one of the following:

  • Addition: You gained a useful piece of gear or a secondary suite of powers.
    • Add a secondary Power Set and choose a Limit for that set.
    • Add one Power Trait to the new set at d6.
    • Step up any two Power Traits or add two SFX (or one of each).
  • Empowered: You went through some training or enhancement process to increase your powers.
    • Add two new Power Traits at d6 or step up four Power Traits (or one Trait and two steps).
    • Add one SFX.
    • Add an Expert Specialty (d8).
  • Trained: You went through an education process that mostly focused on mundane abilities.
    • Add an Expert Specialty (d8).
    • Step up an Expert Specialty to Master (d10) or add an Expert Specialty (d8).
    • Add a new Power Trait at d6 or add two SFX.
    • Step up a Power Trait or add one SFX.

At this phase, a maximum of one specialty can be Master and only one power can be larger than d8 (any number can be d6 or d8).

4. Agenda (Regional-level heroes)

Think about your character’s plans for the future and why he or she continues to fight. Add one of the following:

  • A Theme (Triangle) if your character pursues an Ideal
  • A Secondary Character (Circle) if your character is supporting a Group
  • A Macguffin (Pentagon) if your character is in pursuit of Knowledge

Then:

  1. Draw an arrow from your protagonist to any Theme. Define the connection as your third Distinction.
  2. Draw an arrow from your protagonist to any Circle, Pentagon, or Hexagon.
  3. Draw an arrow from any Circle, Pentagon, or Hexagon to any Circle, Pentagon, Hexagon, or Triangle.

After all players are done with this phase, the GM adds one Antagonist (Hexagon) or Macguffin (Pentagon) and makes two connections (between any valid elements).

Do all of the following:

  • Add a new Power Trait at d6 or step up two Power Traits.
  • Add an Expert Specialty (d8) or step up an Expert Specialty to Master (d10).
  • Add a new Power Trait at d6 or add two SFX.
  • Step up a Power Trait or add an SFX.

At this phase, there are no limits on specialties at Master except you cannot have more Master specialties than Expert specialties. Only one power can be d12 (any number can be d10 or less).

5. Legend (Global-level heroes)

Think about the legacy your character plans to leave the world and what he or she has already done to attain it. Add one of the following:

  • A Secondary Character (Circle) if your character will be remembered for Virtue
  • A Macguffin (Pentagon) if your character will be remembered for Power
  • A Theme (Triangle) if your character will be remembered for Awareness

Then:

  1. Draw an arrow from any valid node to any protagonist.
  2. Draw an arrow from any Circle, Pentagon, or Hexagon to any Circle, Pentagon, Hexagon, or Triangle.

After all players are done with this phase, the GM adds one Antagonist (Hexagon) or Macguffin (Pentagon) and makes three connections (between any valid elements).

Do all of the following:

  • Add a new Power Trait at d6 or step up two Power Traits.
  • Add an Expert Specialty (d8) or step up an Expert Specialty to Master (d10).
  • Add an Expert Specialty (d8) or a new Power Trait at d6.
  • Add a new Power Trait at d6 or add two SFX.
  • Step up a Power Trait or add an SFX.

At this phase, there are no limits on specialties at Master except you cannot have more Master specialties than Expert specialties. There are no limits on Power Traits.

6. Transcendence (Cosmic-level heroes)

Think about what your character means to the cosmos and what they will call you across the stars and dimensions. Add one of the following:

  • A Secondary Character (Circle) if your character is a powerful being’s Agent
  • An Antagonist (Hexagon) if your character will be known for a powerful Nemesis
  • A Theme (Triangle) if your character is considered a God in his or her own right

Then:

  1. Draw an arrow from your protagonist to any Theme. Define the connection as a replacement for any previous Distinction.
  2. Draw an arrow from your protagonist to any Circle, Pentagon, or Hexagon.
  3. Draw an arrow from any Circle, Pentagon, or Hexagon to any Circle, Pentagon, Hexagon, or Triangle.

After all players are done with this phase, the GM makes four connections (between any valid elements).

Do all of the following:

  • Step up two Power Traits or add a new Power Trait at d6.
  • Add an Expert Specialty (d8) or step up two Power Traits.
  • Add an Expert Specialty (d8) or a new Power Trait at d6.
  • Add an Expert Specialty (d8) or step up an Expert Specialty to Master (d10).
  • Step up an Expert Specialty to Master (d10) or add two SFX.
  • Step up a Power Trait or add an SFX.

At this phase, there are no limits on specialties at Master except you cannot have more Master specialties than Expert specialties. There are no limits on Power Traits.

Work with the GM to come up with Milestones for your completed character.

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