Superhero Roleplaying: How to Run Comic Book RPG Campaigns That Feel Super


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By The 3 Wise DMs. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

From The Avengers to The Snyder Cut and Arrow to Wanda Vision, superheroes have conquered entertainment. Are you ready for them to clean up the streets of your game group, too? That’s exactly what’s been happening at the 3 Wise DMs’ game table, as our little experimentation with TSR’s Marvel Superhero RPG (MSH RPG) from 1984 has ballooned into a 3-DM shared universe. Instead of the MCU, we now have a 3WDMSHRPGU! (We really need to work on that acronym).

Ever since DMs Dave and Tony were 0-level Dungeon Students, they’ve both been dying to get a superhero game up and running, and now it’s finally off the ground. But bringing a superhero world to life, managing 60 years of great backstories, and managing player characters who don’t really progress and get more powerful the way we’re used to from D&D, presents a whole new set of challenges. Not to mention, TSR’s system is not at all easy to learn by modern standards.

In this episode, we’ll break down how superhero games play different from D&D and other traditional RPGs, what we do to bring them to life, and how we’ve handled the steep learning curve.

Note: Episode contains paid promotion.

1:00 Paid Promo! Our first sponsor is Crit Academy’s Capes & Crooks: A 5E Superhero RPG. Visit for more information.

3:00 The Marvel Superhero RPG: Digging up TSR’s 30-year undead superhero roleplaying system

5:00 Why superhero gaming? 60 years of great background material to mold into our own shared Marvel Universe (the #3WDMSHRPGU?)

8:00 What sets superhero campaigns apart from D&D or other more typical RPG settings?

12:00 How do you present true “superpowers” in an RPG, like throwing cars to the moon?

29:00 Capturing the fantasy of superhero roleplaying: Why lack of progress is a feature, not a bug

37:00 Superheroes vs. murder hobos: A no-kill comic book power fantasy

42:00 5 elements of a superhero campaign:

  1. Heroes are defined by their villains
  2. Machinations playing out from the street to the villain’s secret lair
  3. Know the level of the team you’re playing with and the villains they’ll be fighting
  4. Let the threat escalate around them
  5. Public opinion matters for the heroes

51:00 How session prep for superhero games compares to D&D

56:00 Cameos, cameos, cameos! Galactus, The Elders of the Universe, The Avengers, Ego the Living Planet … our superhero team has met them all and more!

61:00 Can you pull DC into your Marvel? Sure! If you can manage the power gap

67:00 Final thoughts

69 episodes