One of the concepts I liked in Fourth Edition D&D was the Skill Challenge. This allowed a team to pit its abilities against a non-combat problem. When done well, they facilitate using in your character features, and can let non-combat encounters scratch the dice rolling itch.
In our recent one shots, I tried porting the skill challenge idea into Marvel Heroic Roleplay. Of course, “skill challenge” is a bit of a misnomer here, since the MHRP characters can chip in with whatever abilities are at their disposal. I thought of a couple ways of doing this, but I’ve tried only one. Here’s what I came up with.
Per Character Challenge
Since I was running a oneshot, or at least that was the intent, I used the version I thought would be faster: the per-character method. Present the situation to the players, and ask each individually how they’ll contribute to the resolution. Each player describes how they intend to help, we work out consequences for success or failure, and then the player rolls against the Doom Pool.
If they succeed, we generally create some sort of one use asset usable by that character. Failure would create a temporary complication, usable against the PC. In either case, the asset or consequence is set by the Effect of the roll, and could potentially be used against the group, if appropriate.
The example I tried was a survival situation. Normally, given that the characters are superheroes, I wouldn’t even bother them with this sort of pedestrian conflict. In this case, however, they were traveling with a bunch of “civilians”, so the challenge of survival became more “how do you get the civilians through the jungle?”
Bryan, playing Black Thorn, a plant controller, said that his character would command the jungle plants to create an easier path for the group. He succeeded, and created a d8 asset of “Well Rested”. Matt, whose character transformed into a large rock-man, decided that he would stay in rock form to use less resources, and knock a path through the less vegetable obstacles. Unfortunately, Matt failed his roll, so we agreed that he’d been spending so long in his non-human form that his mind was being affected, and he got a complication.
My other idea was to essentially treat the obstacle as if it were a solo opponent, giving it a multi die “stress track”. The characters could take turns trying to overcome the problem using whatever tools they had at their disposal. The obstacle, on its turn, would attempt to cause complications, or potentially even damage.
Using this method, a character’s successful roll would “damage” the problem they faced. The GM would roll the Doom Pool for the obstacle, and successes would be applied against the PCs as appropriate. The characters overcome their problem when they eliminate its dice. If the characters are knocked out, then they suffer complications, leftover stress, or potentially even trauma as normal.
Using the same survival situation, perhaps I decided that it was a 2d8 obstacle. Bryan’s Black Thorn goes first, doing 1d8 “damage” to their survival situation. Matt’s Monolith goes next, but fails to do damage. Now the challenge gets its own roll. It devotes extra dice to target the whole group, and ends up creating a d8 complication on both characters of “Dehydrated Civilians”.
When to Use This
Don’t make every problem the characters face into an all-out challenge. These are meant to be the bigger obstacles, ones that would take at least a page or two in a comic. Most things can be accomplished with the regular old roll against the Doom Pool.
An advantage of the Persistent version is that you can actually draw it out over a whole session. Keep track of the challenge’s stress track, and interleave bouts with the obstacle with other scenes. This represents an ongoing problem that the PCs face at the same time as other conflicts. For example, the survival situation could be confronted between encounters with the mutant locals.
Hope this idea will be useful. Let me know if you use it in your game!