Fantasy Heroic Roleplaying: A D&D 4e Hack for Marvel Heroic Roleplaying

Copyright WotC and the ArtistThis is a hack of Marvel Heroic Roleplaying designed to use a lot of the trappings of Dungeons & Dragons (4th edition), particularly in the classes and races. You will need to be familiar with both games in order to get much out of this.

This hack started with a few thoughts on my own for another project, and then discussing with Rob Donoghue about how easy it would be to make Race and Class into power sets, complete with the trappings of the 4e versions of them. After jotting down one or two, I found that the conversion was coming pretty easy to me, so I stole his idea completely ran with it.

I kept affiliations- the whole Solo, Buddy, Team thing- which might not be ideal, but also might be a way to get around the “never split the party” stuff. As well, 4e is sometimes referred to as having super-heroic PCs, and this just gets them closer to that. However, this write-up is specifically geared towards being closer to “1st level” feel, with mostly low dice values and small numbers of power traits.

This is only the barest of first drafts, containing the races and classes that I completed, as well as a sample milestone, and a few sample monsters. It hasn’t been particularly edited, or playtested at all. However, I saw requests online for this kind of thing, so I decided to put it out there. If you try it out, definitely let me know.

Without further delay:

Character Creation Overview | Races | Classes | Milestones | Monsters

Character Creation

  1. Choose your Affiliation (Assign d6, d8, and d10 to Solo, Buddy, and Team)
  2. Choose your Race.
  3. Choose your Class.
  4. Choose three Distinctions, related to your Race, Class, Theme, or Alignment.
  5. Choose one Specialty at Expert.
  6. Choose your Milestones (related to Race, Class, Theme, or Quest)
  7. Choose your name.



Enhanced Reflexes d8, Enhanced Senses d8, Speed d8
SFX: Elven Accuracy. Spend a PP to re-roll any attack action, adding in Enhanced Reflexes.
Limit: Fae. Shutdown Elf and gain a PP when confronted with cold iron or another Fae-specific magic.


Enhanced Reflexes d8, Mimic d6
SFX: Dilettante. When making an Asset using Mimic based on another class’s power trait that you have witnessed, step up the die.
Limit: Fae. Shutdown Elf and gain a PP when confronted with cold iron or another Fae-specific magic.


Enhanced Stamina d10, Enhanced Senses d8
SFX: Dwarven Resilience. Before you make an action using your Dwarf power set, you may spend 1 PP to move your physical stress to the doom pool and step up your Dwarf power trait for this action.
Limit: Stocky. Convert Enhanced Stamina into a Complication and earn a PP. Recover on Opportunity.


Choose one: Enhanced Stamina, Enhanced Reflexes, Enhanced Strength, Enhanced Senses
Start with an extra PP
SFX: Versatile. Split any Human power into two stepped-down dice.
Limit: Exhausted. Shutdown any Human power trait to gain 1 PP. Recover on Opportunity.
Choose two Expert Specialties.


Enhanced Reflexes d8, Psychic Resistance d8, Teleport d6
SFX: Focus. Replace two dice of the same size in a pool with a single die +1 step up.
Limit: Fae. Shutdown Elf and gain a PP when confronted with cold iron or another Fae-specific magic.


Enhanced Reflexes d8, Fear Resistance d8
SFX: Second Chance. Spend a PP to re-roll a reaction against an attack, adding an extra die for your Fear Resistance.
Limit: Short. Convert Enhanced Reflexes into a Complication and gain a PP. Recover on Opportunity.


Fire Control d6, Fire Resistance d8
SFX: Infernal Wrath. Step up or double an opponent’s stress in your die pool (1 PP for both.)
Limit: Infernal Heritage. Shutdown Tiefling and gain a PP when confronted with something that affects your Infernal nature. Recover when no longer afflicted by it.


Enhanced Stamina d8, Enhanced Strength d8, Breath Weapon d6
SFX: Draconic Fury. Add your stress to your own dice pool for no PP cost, double for a PP.
SFX: Dragon breath. Add 1d6 and keep an extra effect die for each target beyond the first.
Limit: Draconic Temper. Step up emotional stress to gain a PP.


Enhanced Strength d8, Enhanced Reflexes d8
SFX: Furious Charge. Step up or double Enhanced Strength (1 PP for both), then shutdown. Recover on Opportunity.
Limit: Fringe. Gain a PP to step up emotional stress caused by being an outcast.



Enhanced Durability d8, Weapon d10
SFX: Fighter’s Mark. When taking an attack action against an opponent, you may mark that opponent until your next turn. While marked, that opponent suffers a d8 “Marked” complication when attacking anyone except you.
Limit: Exhausted. Shut down any Fighter power to gain 1 PP. Recover on Opportunity.
Combat Expert


Sorcery d8, Blast d8
SFX: Area Attack. Add d6 and keep 1 extra effect die for each target after the first.
SFX: Constructs. Step up any asset made using Sorcery.
Limit: Spell memorization. Shutdown a Mage power to gain a PP. Recover during a Transition Scene.
History Expert, Arcana Expert


Sorcery d8, Blast d8
SFX: Unleashed. Step up or double a Sorcerer power (1 PP for both) for one action. If action fails, add a die to the Doom Pool equal to the normal die rating of the power.
Limit: Unpredictable. Change a Sorcerer power into a Complication to gain a PP. Recover on Opportunity.
Arcana Expert


Enhanced Senses d8, Weapon d8
SFX: Sneak Attack. Step up any Stunt activated by a Opportunity, or step up Physical Stress on successful action when activating an Opportunity.
Limit: Exhausted. Shut down any Rogue power to gain 1 PP. Recover on Opportunity.
Acrobatics Expert, Combat Expert, Stealth Expert, Thievery Expert


Weapon d8, Enhanced Durability d8, Sorcery d8
SFX: Healing. Add Sorcery to your dice pool when helping others recover physical stress. Spend 1 PP to step back your own or another’s physical stress or trauma.
Limit: Spell Preparation. Shutdown Sorcery to gain 1 PP. Recover during a transition scene.
Combat Expert, Religion Expert


Weapon d12
SFX: Rage. Add a die from the Doom Pool to your attack action, then step up the die and return it to the doom pool.
Limit: Berserk. If the Barbarian takes emotional or mental trauma, he attacks the nearest creature each round, until all creatures are stressed out or the Barbarian is knocked unconscious.
Combat Expert, Intimidate Expert


Blast d10, Teleport d6
SFX: Dark Pact. Add a die from the Doom Pool to your attack action, then step up the die and return it to the doom pool.
Limit: Growing Dread. Treat 1s and 2s as Opportunities when using a Warlock power.
Intimidate Expert, Arcana Expert


Mind Control d8, Blast d8
SFX: Area attack. Add d6 and keep 1 more effect die for each target beyond the first.
Limit: Music. Shutdown Bard to gain 1 PP. Recover on Opportunity.
History Expert, Arcana Expert, Diplomacy Expert


Enhanced Durability d8, Sorcery d6, Weapon d8
SFX: Smite Evil. Against an evil target, add a d6 to your die pool and step back the highest die in your pool. Step up physical stress.
SFX: Lay on hands. Add Sorcery to your dice pool when helping others recover physical stress. Spend 1 PP to step back your own or another’s physical stress or trauma.
Limit: Pious. Shutdown Paladin when doing something against the Paladin code to gain a PP. Take an action versus the Doom Pool to recover.
Combat Expert, Religion Expert


Sorcery d6, Weapon d8
SFX: Oath of Enmity. Designate an enemy to swear your oath against. Spend a PP to re-roll an attack action against that target, adding any Avenger power trait to your pool.
Limit: Sworn enemy. Shutdown Avenger if the target of your oath gets away. Recover during a transition scene.
Combat Expert, Religion Expert


Enhanced Durability d8, Weapon d8
SFX: Inspiring Presence. Spend 1 PP to step back an ally’s emotional or mental stress or trauma.
SFX: Tactical Genius. Spend 1 PP to add a die pool from the Doom Pool and add it to your roll, then return it to the Doom Pool and step the die back.
Limit: Exhausted. Shut down any Warlord power to gain 1 PP. Recover on Opportunity.
Combat Expert, History Expert, Diplomacy Expert


Weapon d8, Animal Control d6, Plant Control d6
SFX: Tracking. Step up any Asset related to tracking or terrain mastery.
SFX: Multiattack. Split Weapon d8 into 2d6.
Limit: Sworn to nature. Earn 1 PP and step up emotional stress related to damage to nature.
Combat Expert, Nature Expert


Sorcery d8, Animal Control d8, Plant Control d8, Weather Control d8
SFX: Constructs. Step up any Asset created with a Druid power by +1.
Limit: Sworn to nature. Earn 1 PP and step up emotional stress related to damage to nature.
Nature Expert, Mystic Expert


Adventuring Party

1 XP whenever your party kills a monster.
3 XP whenever you complete a minor quest, or reject a minor quest in pursuit of a higher goal.
10 XP whenever you complete a major quest, or spectacularly fail a major quest.


Young Red Dragon

(large scale threat)
Solo 3d10
Buddy 2d8
Team 1d6

Belly Full of Fire
Always Chaotic Evil

Red Dragon
Fire Blast d10, Fire Resistance d12, Superhuman Strength d10, Superhuman Durability d10, Superhuman Stamina d10, Claws d8, Bite d10, Flight d8
SFX: Multipower. Include two powers in the same pool by stepping each down by -1.
SFX: Tailslap. On successful reaction against a melee attack, the attacker suffers a Tailslap complication equal to the dragon’s effect die. This complication applies to any movement attempts.
SFX: Area Attack. Add a d6 and keep an extra effect die for each target beyond the first.
SFX: Bloodied. Add the Red Dragon’s physical stress in any pool using a Red Dragon power, as long as the physical stress equals or exceeds d10.
Limit: Shutdown Fire Blast whenever you roll an Opportunity in a pool including a Fire Blast trait. Recover by activating an Opportunity.
Limit: Large scale threat. Defeat solo dice (with d12s) to defeat.

Combat Expert, Intimidate Expert

Kobold Mob

Team 6d4

Small But Fierce

Claws d6 Spears d6 Slings d6

SFX: Traps and Devices. When creating an asset or complication, add a d6 to your pool and step up effect die.
Limit: Minion Mob. Knock away team dice (with d6 stress) to defeat.

Thievery Expert


Team d10
Buddy d8
Solo d6

Blood Crazed
Goblin Leader

Goblin Bandit
Weapon d10, Enhanced Durability d8
SFX: Versatile. Split Weapon into 2d8.
SFX: Berserk. Spend a die from the doom pool to step up any Goblin Bandit power. Afterward, return that die to the pool and step it up.
Limit: Gear. Shutdown or add or step up a die in the doom pool to shutdown any Goblin Bandit power. Recover by taking an action.

EDIT: Adam over at Exploring Infinity has added more Races and Classes using these ideas, so be sure to check them out!

About Dave

Dave "The Game" Chalker is the Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Critical Hits. Since 2005, he has been bringing readers game news and advice, as well as editing nearly everything published here. He is the designer of the Origins Award-winning Get Bit!, a freelance designer and developer, son of a science fiction author, and a Master of Arts. He lives in MD with e, their three dogs, and two cats.


  1. I think this is a great idea. I love the Marvel RPG, and I think this has a lot of potential. I especially like the idea of creating milestones for adventures/adventurers. Great work!

  2. Thanks! I think the milestones could be pretty cool, customized for your type of adventuring party.

  3. Kate Kirby says:

    You sir, are a mad genius.

    I’d totally play this.

  4. Clark Valentine says:

    I like what you did with racial power sets. Simple, iconic, and useful.

    There’s another interesting way to do it that might be worth considering: races as Distinctions. Perhaps inspired by the discussion from February (?) of “Should race be mechanized in D&D Next?” (or, perhaps not), this is a way people can decide for themselves what being an Elf might mean at any given moment, while still giving that decision mechanical weight.

    It’s also possible I was feeling lazy at the time, or decided I didn’t want to bother trying to figure out how to represent a half-elf’s +2 bonus to Diplomacy in C+ Heroic Roleplaying. 😉

    This is a very nice conversion, and given that my first love in RPGs is fantasy rather than supers, I really might give it a try. Great job!

  5. I worked on a Leverage hack for Star Trek-type game, where that’s exactly how I handled alien races like “Vulcan” or “Klingon.” Playing the Vulcan security officer and need to lift something or analyze the readings? Vulcan as d8. Trying to understand someone’s emotions? d4 + PP. I think they both have appeal.

  6. Did you ever finish that Star Trek hack?

  7. TheMainEvent says:

    In case there was any doubt, hacks like this really drive home the point for me that Cortex Plus is really one of the most versatile and hackable systems out there.

  8. While DC and not Marvel, I thought you still might get a kick out of this:

  9. *YOINK* I was writing up a Cortex+ game inspired by 4th Edition…but this is far simpler and far better. Super-win. I applaud you. The race-class power set combo is genius. I also think that you should get the option to bump a Specialty to Master instead of getting another specialty at Expert.

    I also wonder…what if, instead of using Affiliations as the core die, you used, say, some sort of variation on Alignment? Have a spectrum of Values (such as Lawful, Benevolent, Survivalist, Trickster, Devoted…yes, stealing from Smallville here), and you get to pick 3 for your character’s Alignment traits. Set one to d6, one to d8, one to d10. It would encourage making alignment more central, because characters would have to justify bringing their trait into the action. Ideally, it would prompt them to make more dramatic actions.

  10. Mike Wight says:

    This is pretty darned cool. I must admit I was never very fond of D&D4E, for various reasons that I’ll not bother listing. But when presented like this, and where a lot of the description and stunts get to come from the players’ own imaginations (thanks to MHRP), it actually makes me want to play.

  11. Coderodent says:

    I would add/mod this with the ideas that Rob Donoghue was talking about in Bulldog:

    Make a list of ten SFX for each race and allow the player to pick two.

    This might work for class as well.

    An yeah a lot of work, but hey.

  12. I could definitely see Alignment replacing Affiliation (Lawful, Chaotic, Neutral, Good, Evil, assign d10, d8, d6, d6, d4 to them). I’ve also seen suggestions elsewhere to try adapting WotC’s “3 pillars of D&D” so you have a d10,d8,d6 in Combat, Exploration, and Social Interaction. There’s a lot of options there. I just happen to be fond of the Solo/Buddy/Team dynamic.

  13. That is a good point. Heck, on thinking it over, I bet that D&D could really use a team switchup mechanism, because keeping the party together is such a strong focus. Having an incentive for them to buddy up or go solo could be really interesting.

    Also…if you don’t mind, an idea has occurred to me. I think it would be smashingly awesome to put together a universe of 15-20 fantasy heroes, and then write up (much as MWP is doing with Marvel’s Civil War) a series of Events, letting you play out an epic storyline with some (or even all) of those heroes. So, I’m not sure that I’ll be getting started on it right away, but mayhap I can get out a simplistic PDF of the first Event by the end of April…

  14. Looks pretty good. How does leveling up work? Is it the same as with the Basic Game?

  15. I’m not entirely sure yet how leveling works, but at basics, I’m thinking: spend 10 XP to increase one of your die ratings, or combine another power set (via multiclassing), or improve your race stats, etc.

  16. I really love the whole “race and class are power sets” idea. I also like the suggestion from Coderodent. I would go further : 1 power set would be something along “what is your nature” (race included, but natural attributes could go there too) and the other one would be “what did you become” (class included, but a lot of skills, too).

    I’m starting to hack MHR myself for a fantasy feel (I never played 4e), and I’m thinking about simplifying it and getting rid of affiliations altogether (you can always get some of it back with some distinctions like “team player” or “lone assassin”, but with more awesome names); I would also get rid of specialties, putting them as power trait under power sets (I think they are too “min-maxable”, but that’s just me). I would give more room to equipment (geting rid of the ressource die; it would become an asset), though.

    Your basic dice pool would be power traits (max. 1 from each power set) + 1 equipment (usually d6; room for magic items here) + 1 distinction (d8/d4+1PP) and 1 stunt/push dice (cost 1PP) ; you could add any number of support dice (effect dice from your allies), any number of scene distinctions (same as PC distinctions), 1 asset (effect dice + 1 PP created by any ally; 1PP to use one created by the enemy every time you use it), 1 complication (effect die by any ally), 1 stress.

    Magic items could also give other things (like a SFX or a power trait).

    [EDIT]: Geez, I just finished this comment and I read that from Rob Donoghue : “Don’t Take The Affiliation, Even Though It’s Awesome”

  17. Just to add: WOTC’s 3 pillars as the affiliation replacement does have a certain poetry to it.

    Anyway, took the rules out for a spin, with some mild hacks, last night. Positive experience, though hacking will follow. Breakdown here:

  18. Ah. I really like the three pillars split: Combat, Exploration, Social Interaction. Primarily I like that it would throw in tension at the points where one fades to another. A player with high combat might have good cause to just hit someone during the tense negotiation, while others would try to calm the violence to talk it through. Someone good in exploration but not combat would be very cautious, while those who are low exploration would be instigators. Which pillars people use could change rapidly within a scene and that’s great.

    I wonder if it’d be better as a scene property affecting all characters equally, or individual, based on actions one takes. While the dwarf is in combat, can the halfling rogue use exploration to address a trap, while the bard tries appealing to civility or beguiling misdirection via social interaction?

  19. I’m intrigued by Coderodent and Jordan Raymond’s comments: Race as “What’s your nature”, Class as “How do you solve problems”, Paraphernalia as “What do you employ”

    “What’s your nature” makes me think of Mouse Guard and how I love the denizens chapter with all sorts of animals with unique natures. Various descriptive words were pretty much all that was different about each mechanically (not counting weapons and nature score).

  20. Why not keep with the 4E roles rather than Affiliation? Use Striker, Tank, Healer, Controller, ect. Roll them like you would roll roles in Leverage.

  21. I noodled that for a while, actually, and there’s some merit to it. Ultimately the thing I didn’t like is that you essentially have to force the class to take the role that matches the class under this setup, and then you have to define what the role means. My Rogue has a d10 striker, but does he use that to pick the lock? Dodge a fireball? And so on. And if the answer to all of that is “yes” I might as well just give him a d10 to use in all situations.

  22. Dante Inferno says:

    I think for affiliations I would go with Strength, Finesse, Resolve. These could apply to any situation and represent a stylistic choice that could apply to any kind of activity. They also loosely map make to d&d’s saves of fortitude, reflex, will but are just more flexible now.

  23. When you’re not doing a super team the Affiliation’s don’t really make all that much sense.
    What You could do (and what I would do). Is stick in the 6 Attributes instead. You just need to rate them at whatever they should be rated at. If you look at the original Cortex system (that Marvel is based on) this is what they actually have.

    As far as skills go, I would also allow novice (d4) and Journeyman (d6) skill levels. and have starting characters start out picking novice and journeyman skills.

    The other thing that you often want more of in a Fantasy RPG is advancement. Towards that end I’d say step back all the die ratings so that there is more room for improvement.


  1. […] Fantasy Heroic Roleplaying: A D&D 4e Hack – by Dave “The Game” Chalker on (Added 3/26/12) […]

  2. […] “The Game” Chalker recently made an excellent foray into a 4e D&D fantasy hack for Marvel Heroic Roleplaying. Simple, elegant, and iconic hacks […]

  3. […] “The Game” Chalker recently made an excellent foray into a 4e D&D fantasy hack for Marvel Heroic Roleplaying. Simple, elegant, and iconic hacks […]

  4. […] Fantasy Heroic Roleplaying: A D&D 4e Hack – by Dave “The Game” Chalker on (Added 3/26/12) […]

  5. […] Even before Marvel Heroic Roleplaying was officially released, prospective players were using what they knew of the rules to create custom datafiles of their favorite Marvel heroes. The system itself has also been “hacked” for use in a more standard sword-and-sorcery set…. […]

  6. […] (@DaveTheGame) and Adam Minnie (@atminn) have already put their four cents into this discussion at Critical Hits and Exploring Infinity respectively. The basic concept is taking Margaret Weis Productions’ […]