A Captains Shield
of Strategic Modifiers for the
Marvel Universe Roleplaying Game

Each action in conflict contains elements of instinct, directness, response, deception and analysis. In terms of the Marvel Universe RPG the effects of the 5 methods (one for each point of the star on Captain Americas shield) are really just situational modifiers. Yet they are of a somewhat different metal for they are like adamantium "always" there or more like vibranium as they are also rather shifting.

In any roleplaying game using broad brush strokes is important to allow the details to be flavored by the players imaginations so of course for simplicities sake and playability every performance will be treated in terms of its most dominant strategic element. (rather than the complexity of allocating stones to each or like classic games which make up tons of specific maneuvers).

The circle dominates counter clockwise providing +2 stones from the general pool. The star clockwise through the points benefits +1 stone from the general pool.

Direct defeats Instinctive (+2) and of benefit vs Deceptive (+1).
Responsive or
defeats Direct (+2) and of benefit vs Analytical (+1).
Deceptive or
defeats Responsive / Manipulative (+2) and
of benefit vs Instinctive (+1).
Analytical defeats Complex / Deceptive (+2) and of benefit vs Direct (+1 )
Instinctive defeats Analytical (+2) and of benefit vs Responsive(+1)

Complex and Deceptive are strategically equivalent as are Manipulative and Responsive.

Nobody is right

The advantages of strategy are what is called in game theory non-transitive... sounds fancy but what it boils down to is nobody is “right” because whatever strategy you use there is atleast as many strategies which defeat it as it defeats. Now even the hulk isn’t Instinctive or Direct all of the time though he usually is one or the other. The more you break up your choices they more you keep your adversaries on their toes but it is possible to vary between just two of the five options and have it work.

When the actions are initiaited play one of 5 cards or perhaps more realistically players select a strategy for each action and a distinct one for "defense". One of benefits to this is that it allows simultaneous "strategic" wins for actions in a panel.

You will need at least a couple sets per player and the Game Master will need enough to manage the tide of villains. The cards don’t have to be that big of deal, they can be simple 3x5 cards with a word on one side. But I recommend a glossy card stock print of artwork with a graphical montage of heros who exemplify the strategy whose name is also artistically on the card. Card designs bouncing around my head... with Loki and Gambit on the deceptive and Thor on the direct and the Hulk and Wolvie on the instinctive, Spiderman on the Responsive Mr Fantastic on Analytical  etc. Strategy Cards should also list what strategems they defeat and are beneficial against as in the table above.

Prior to actions being resolved reveal the strategy of opposed actions and be sure to describe how your action employs the method. Strategic benefit may then be moved to defense if you desire. (This allows your successful aggressive strategy to be described in ways that show how it aids in your defense even if your defensive strategy was less than ideal this time)

Doing the strategies sans cards?

In many situations all it takes is a "description" when it is players versus the supporting cast this is more than reasonable and may even play more smoothly than using the cards. However when it comes to player vs player brawling the cards can help enable it without even Game Master adjucation.

It is also important to remember there will be circumstantial modifiers which go beyond that provided by the basic strategic mods. And sometimes the impact of strategy can go beyond the +1 or +2 for these times a GM is most handy.

The cards can also act as a memory aid and inspiration for a beleagered GM who is trying to control and make the actions of NPC’s interesting and fair.

There is a “Hold your breath moment” just before the cards are flipped that is extremely appealing in play, the fact that this moment is tied to the actual methods chosen for the characters and trying to out guess and be a step ahead of their adversaries makes it even more interesting.

So What Are The Strategies?

Direct / Simple also known as Proactive

This is seen by some as no strategy at all.. but rather an attempt to perfect the actions and forms of combat itself. While this does involve minor assumptions it is really only in the vaguest way predictive ignoring most deceptions and complexity, it relies somewhat on forcing a quick resolution, it is to the point with little or no wasted effort, the simplest and most basic strategy. Pure acts "without strategy" are effectively Direct. This is also the most predictable of strategies.

Responsive / Manipulative

This is the strategy that uses its adversaries action and innaction against itself. These strategies attempt to control the situation by force and by using the visible actions and status of the situation to immediately adjusting your own actions and exploiting them, in most cases it resolves concurrent with your opponents actions and hence matches the speed of the direct proactive maneuvers and when applied against a proactive challenge and defeats it because of the added benefit of analysis. (these actions tend to be of somewhat reduced potency in result inorder to achieve quickness). The reliance on fairly immediate perception of the situation makes this vulnerable to the deceptive and complex challenges.

Deceptive / Complex

Taking an indirect route and hiding true intent behind a layer of complexity or outright hidden intent and so defeat strategies such as responsive maneuvers but their complexities and deceptions get ignored by those taking the direct route and can be figured out... by analytic response. Those acting instinctually cant seem to resist apparent openings left via deception and are defeated by it.


This strategy looks for deceptions analyses the opponents actions in some ways its out right predictive.. Adjustments to ones own performance based on a more precise perception of the situation much like reactive but it extends the performance attempting to achieve optimal assuredness at the expense of speed, it over comes many deceptive and/or complex challenges by avoiding reactive conclusions, but is vulnerable wild unplanned action which are not suited to prediction.

Instinctive / Wild / Chaotic

This fast but unplanned barrage of action can overwhelm those who try to find its plan... it doesn't have any...It invests little in any given sub-action lacks the follow through of direct action and so is cut short by resolute direct action.

Clarifying the Gambit vs. Blob Example

The interaction of movement / speed is so very vital to conflict that one of the prime examples presented for combat is about using movement to ;-) escape close combat. Assuming no real strategic elements or should I say both using Direct / Proactive Strategies. The example plays out as follows and is pretty much as the rules indicate for MURPG (atleast according to subsequent erata), and it works within certain limits.

At the start of the Page, here's the status of every character and what they say they're doing in their Panel:


From his 9 stone energy reserve, he puts 7 stones into his Charge Objects (1 from his Agility bonuse and 6 from his Charge Objects Action number) he charges up a +2 Throwing Spike.

As his second Action, he puts 2 stones into his Speed to represent he's trying to Escape from the Blob, and shifts one of those stones into defense (plus 1 free for his Kevlar).

He has depleted his energy reserve.


From his 18 stone energy reserve he puts 12 into Close Combat (Using his 8 strenght and 1 from his Close Combat Number, and 3 from his Durability Bonus) and doesn't worry about defense (relying on his +4 Toughness Defensive Modifier).

He has 6 stones remaining in his energy reserve.


Gambit goes first according to agility, followed by Blob. 1. Gambit attacks Blob (defense 4) with 9 stones of Charged Object, and uses his Speed to run away from Blob, broadening the distance between the two so he is no longer in Close Combat range. Result: 5 stones at 2x Damage get through, and Blob loses 4 white stones. 2. Blob attacks Gambit (defense 3) with 12 stones of Close Combat. Result: Blob hasn't put any stones into movement, and even if he had, at an Agility of 1 and a Speed of 1, Blob can't get close enough in time to the quicker, more agile Gambit to hit him. The fact that Gambit's Defense is only 2 doesn't enter into it at all.

The Inner Monologues

The strategies in addition to shaking up the action imply that internal monologue you see in just about every comic "Remy can't think of a reason to stand toe to toe decides to pretend to dash towards a stair well but switches to a leap deeper down the alley, intending to send one card streaking past Blobs face fast as a distraction hoping to rely on blob dodging into the second card he sends on the other side (puts down a deceptive card for both attack and defense).... Blobs predicts Gambit being - "tricksy" and figures he's gonna "make damn sure" he isnt tricked and crush the git (Blobs version of analytical) , sure enough it pans off big time and he ignores the stagger step towards the stair well, and gets a +2 on attack and yes on his effective speed. (NOTE In this example I am using the same strategy for escape as defense and for maintaining reach for attack) Blob shouts "Not this time!" as the cards are revealed, strategy makes all the difference and Gambit gets pounded.

OR closer to the original incident.

"Blob has heard this character is very tricky and expecting a lot of feints and false openings, decides to lead with a direct attack..and let his instincts drive any defenses, both are his favorites.... Gambit figures this hunk of flotsam is going to do something stupid errrr I mean predictable, and chooses to draw back in response (either down the alley or perhaps towards the stair well, when he sees the brute close and send a wild flurry of charged cards back after Blob.
In the above Gambits attack strategy is not particularly advantaged against Blobs defensive flailing but his defensive one is responsive giving him a bonus of 2 on his disengagement. In this example I am giving the same strategy for Gambits withdrawal move as his defense strategy." Since gambits withdrawal works Attack and Defense are never compared as in the standard book example.

Reality Check & Strategic Movement

According to the MURPG unless your adversary pre-allocates speed toward catching their opponent disengaging is pretty much automatic. Successfully disengaging without giving your opponent their opportunity to hit, is not that easy. Notice IRL(In real life) the "standard" combat stance involves maintaining ones reach to harm your adversary... and it isn't ever flat footed unless adversaries are exhausted! Well all this takes is for players to remember that they should almost always allocate atleast one effort from speed towards "movement" in combat situations (and perhaps play a strategy card for this movement). Mechanically this could resolves as a distinct strategy card to be played for each of movement, defense and attack. However realistically we can assume a zero point action which is used by default to maintain ones reach this "action" is effectively the same strategy as the attack employed since you did not allocate towards it. Similarly if you don't want a separate strategy card for the escape action it is reasonable to piggy back on your defense strategy.

Gambits 2 speed allocated towards disengaging are compared to Blobs 1 spent towards maintaining reach (I assume Blob isn't a moron and has a clue that Gambit uses ranged weaponry by preference). Gambits superior speed can indeed be matched by Blob, with a good strategic guess or even overcome with a better guess. Statistically there is a 40% chance of his preventing Gambit's escape to range. It would have been 60% if they were equal speed opponents and 20% if Blob was battling Captain America or various other 3 speed adversaries and yes Blob does indeed have no chance whatsoever of stopping spidey or other 4+ speed characters from escaping to range (without the spending of blue drama stones anyway and that is an example for a different day).

What is the effect of the above... Blob may manage to pound the git and he may not, a fairly healthy chance that things will go as per the description above but a reasonable chance of the Blob winning also exists dependent on the choices of the characters. Strategic choices can make all the difference here because speed is so similar 1 versus 2 and Gambit made his key element of defense disengaging before his enemy had opportunity.

Carry Over and The Benefits of Defense

Some of the above can result in defenses which are markedly successful yet the rules as they stand don't really account for any real effect if they do. This option simply involves figuring out the results of a defense like they were an attack but the results being interpretted as gaining a situational mod for the next go around.

Correspondences between the Abilities and the Strategies

The five methods mentioned above are not out of thin air nor were they designed specifically with murpg in mind however, there is in fact a certain fair correspondence with the 5 Abilities in the Marvel Universe Roleplaying Game. This relationship could be seen as a guide to what stategy suits what character.

Analysis is the province of  Intelligence, Directness : Strength and Responsiveness:Agility. Instinct corresponds to Durability  because health is reflected in stronger instinctual drives. The final method Deception would correspond to something for which there is no ability in marvel though other games call it Wit or Charm, if Speed reflected a form of mental quickness it might indeed be a full connect.