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Complexity Level : Advanced (Full Game System)
Format : Paperback
Game System : Combat
Game System : Randomization Method : Dice
Game System : Scores
Genre : Superhero Fiction
Licensed Property : Comic Book Tie-In
Target Age Group : Teenagers
Writing Style : Present Tense
Writing Style : Second Person
Marvel superhéroes (Spanish)
Les Super Héros Marvel (French)
Supereroi Marvel (Italian)
This series of gamebooks uses a system similar to that of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Gamebooks, which isn't surprising, since it's also a spin-off of a TSR role-playing game. In each volume, the reader controls one or more characters from Marvel comics. Each character comes with a set of pre-defined attributes which are combined with dice rolls and compared with target numbers in order to perform actions. Characters also have Health Points (which are self-explanatory) and Karma Points (which change as a result of good or bad deeds and which may be spent to improve dice rolls). The books were first published in the United States by TSR and then several were reprinted in a different order by Puffin in the UK.
Gamebooks1. The Amazing Spider-Man: City in Darkness
2. Captain America: Rocket's Red Glare
3. The Wolverine: Night of the Wolverine
4. Doctor Strange: Through Six Dimensions
5. The Thing: One Thing After Another
6. The Uncanny X-Men: An X-cellent Death
7. The Amazing Spider-Man: As the World Burns
8. Daredevil: Guilt by Association
This is an eight-book series released by TSR between 1986 and 1988. It was released at a time TSR had an interest in innovating with several new gamebook series, such as AD&D Adventure Gamebooks, Catacombs, Car Wars, Amazing Stories and Sniper! As such, the series follows the format characteristic of most of those other series: design oriented strongly towards narrative, and rather few sections but with more text than is usually the case in British gamebooks. As you might have guessed from the series title, each of these books gives the reader the chance to control a superhero from the Marvel Comics canon.
Since TSR was licensed to produce the Marvel Super Heroes tabletop RPG at that time, the system used is reminiscent of the simplicity of the multiplayer game. There are three kinds of stats: health points (life), skill points and karma points. There is no player-controlled character creation of any kind: all stats are determined from the start. Skills cover a wide range of areas (the characters in all books have seven skills that are common to all of them). There are also some skills which are unique to each hero, so that Spider-Man would have a skill score with his web gadgets, and Wolverine would have skill with his claws, healing, etc., for instance.
Skill checks are almost the only rule mechanic in these books. In order to check your skills, you roll one die and add the result to the appropriate skill. Rolling above a certain number means success, though there are cases when an average roll will mean partial success, and a very high roll complete success. Karma points form a limited reserve which can be used to tilt the results of skill rolls in the player's favour, though they must be spent before the roll is made, and will be lost even if the roll fails. You can also use your limited Karma supply to heal lost health points. Karma is a measure of how good the player behaves through his character's decisions: good deeds will earn you karma, while failures or evil deeds will mean a loss of points. This idea of introducing a moral concept would have worked well if it had been implemented in a similar way to the often hard-to-resolve moral conflicts and the Honour / Shame mechanic found in the Cretan Chronicles series, but this is not what we get in this case. Instead, the TSR authors often (though not always) designed their books to be preachy in an irritating sort of way.
Overall I'm not very much of a fan of this series, as I feel it mostly lacks the great ideas and creativity found, for example, in the better-known AD&D Adventure Gamebooks. However, at least two of the books show exceptional quality and should not be missed.
(Thanks to Kieran Coghlan and Per Jorner for their help with correcting the book reviews).