HeroQuest and Supers – Part 3

This is the final part of a series of posts (part 1, part 2) on using the HeroQuest RPG to run a superhero game.

Example Characters

For these characters, I’m using the character write-ups on Marvel.com and the Marvel Universe Wiki.


Here is Spider-Man’s 100-word write-up, taken from his entry on Marvel.com and edited slightly to fit into the 100 words:

Bitten by a radioactive spider, high school student Peter Parker gained the speed, strength and powers of a spider. Taught that with great power comes great responsibility, Spidey vowed to use his powers to help people. Peter can cling to most surfaces, has superhuman strength and is 15 times more agile than a regular human. His acrobatic leaps and web-slinging enables him to travel rapidly from place to place. His spider-sense provides an early warning detection system, enabling him the ability to evade most any injury. Peter is an accomplished scientist, inventor and photographer who lives with his Aunt May.

I’ve underlined the abilities in the above paragraph so you can see where they came from. Here is Spider-Man’s list of abilities:

Bitten by a radioactive spider
With great power comes great responsibility
Vowed to use his powers to help people

Speed, strength and powers of a spider
Cling to most surfaces
Superhuman strength
15 times more agile than a regular human
Acrobatic leaps
Travel rapidly from place to place
Evade most any injury

Regular Life:
High school student
Scientist, inventor and photographer
Aunt May

Note that some people might break out scientist, inventor and photographer into three separate abilities, I’ve chosen to leave them into one overall skill-set ability here. Both are valid options.

Of course, this description leaves out his constant wisecracking, which has often been used to save his life as he drives a villain into to blind rage, forcing them to make mistakes.

If I was going to use the List Method of character generation, I would take a different approach. Here is how I might define Spider-Man using this method:

Spider-Powers [keyword]

  • Proportionate strength of a spider
  • Superhuman agility
  • Web-slinging

Secret Identity [keyword]

  • Aunt May
  • High school student
  • Scientist, inventor and photographer
  • Continuous wisecracking banter

With great power comes great responsibility

Note that both Spider-Powers and Secret Identity are keywords, and he has one separate ability that doesn’t really fall under either keyword, With great power comes great responsibility.

You can see how the List Method compresses a bunch of abilities under the keywords. For example, I didn’t call out his Spider-sense or his Wall-crawling abilities, as the keyword covers that and they don’t really need to be broken out unless the player wants to raise them above the keyword.

In this kind of game, I would probably rule that the keywords cannot be raised on their own—only the breakouts can be raised. This allows the player to better focus their game-version of the Spider-Man character on the specific things he or she is finds most interesting.


This is a bit harder to boil down to only 100 words, but I’m going to give it a try. Again, the write-up below comes directly from Thor’s entry on Marvel.com, edited to get it down to 100 words.

As the Norse God of thunder and lightning, Thor wields the enchanted hammer Mjolnir. He’s quite smart and compassionate, and also self-assured—he would never stop fighting for a worthwhile cause. As the son of Odin and Gaea, Thor’s strength, endurance and resistance to injury are greater than the majority of his superhuman race. He is extremely long-lived, immune to conventional disease and highly resistant to injury. His flesh and bones are several times denser than a human’s. Thor is trained in the arts of war, being a superbly skilled warrior, highly proficient in hand-to-hand combat, swordsmanship and hammer throwing.

Here is Thor’s list of abilities:

Norse God of thunder and lightning
Son of Odin and Gaea
Superhuman race

Enchanted hammer Mjolnir
Strength, endurance and resistance to injury
Extremely long-lived
Immune to conventional disease
Highly resistant to injury
Flesh and bones are several times denser than a human’s

The Man Himself:
Quite smart
Never stop fighting for a worthwhile cause
Trained in the arts of war
Superbly skilled warrior
Hand-to-hand combat
Hammer throwing

Once I listed his abilities, I see that there are some redundancies. For example, his resistance to injury is listed under two abilities, and his combat skills have a lot of overlap. If this was a player designing a character, I might encourage him or her to adjust the description to get rid of the repetitive bits and perhaps add something about being in the Avengers, or his relationship to the Warriors Three, or something else like that.

I’m going to skip the List Method here, as it will be similar to what I did with Spider-Man above, compressing some of the abilities under keywords. But the gist of the character will be the same.

Iron Man

This one is a bit different, as Tony Stark himself is a human being with no superpowers of his own (even though he is a genius). All his super abilities come from the armor that he invented and wears.

Captured by terrorists, billionaire industrialist Tony Stark created an advanced suit of armor to save his life. With a new outlook on life, and accompanied by his assistant Pepper Potts, Tony uses his money and intelligence to make the world a safer, better place. Tony has a genius level intellect that allows him to invent sophisticated devices. He also possesses a keen business mind. The armor includes many rays, bolts, missiles and projectiles, sonic generators, magnetic field generators, a laser torch built into the finger of Tony’s gauntlet, and the armor’s surface can generate an electric charge to dispel attackers.

I had to go to the Marvel Universe Wiki to get additional information on Tony’s armor, and it was a struggle to keep this one down to 100 words. In the end, I compressed all the various weapons (repulsor rays, pulse bolts, mini-missiles, explosive shell projectiles) into “rays, bolts, missiles and projectiles” as we don’t need a high level of granularity for what amounts to the same overall effect (doing damage). The specific details of which attack Tony is using at any given time can remain part of the player’s and GM’s narrative.

I kept his sonic generators and his magnetic field generators as separate abilities, as I can see some creative uses of these different abilities in various situations, so I felt it was worth it to give them their own abilities. Other players and GMs might combine those to get a few more words to use for another ability.

Here are Tony’s abilities.

Captured by terrorists
Billionaire industrialist

Special Equipment:
Advanced suit of armor
Rays, bolts, missiles, and projectiles
Sonic generators
Magnetic field generators
Laser torch
Electric charge to dispel attackers

Tony Stark:
New outlook on life
Assistant Pepper Potts
Make the world a safer, better place
Genius level intellect
Invent sophisticated devices
Keen business mind

Character Summary

All three of these characters are playable as written, and as a GM I would find it pretty easy to run a game with players selecting any or all of these.

However, as I mentioned previously, it’s important for all the players to be on the same page regarding the narrative specifics of these powers. For example, Spider-Man has Superhuman strength as an ability, and Thor has Strength, endurance and resistance to injury as an ability. But Thor’s strength far exceeds Spider-Man’s, though their actual ability ratings may not be very far apart in the game.

So the players need to have a few notes that define the range of these abilities and what they mean. This doesn’t have to be comprehensive, especially if the players are all familiar with the heroes (and villains) that show up in the game. This is where something like the Marvel Universe Wiki is very useful. The players can jot down some key definitions on the back of the character sheet so that it is handy if the question comes up in a game.

For example, the player of Spider-Man may want to note that his superhuman strength can lift up to 10 tons optimally (up to 25 tons max) and that he can use his web swing-lines to travel anywhere from 40 MPH to 110 MPH (depending on which source you reference), and Thor’s player should note that Thor can lift in excess of 100 tons.


But what about the villains? Well, one of the great things about HQ2 is that villains don’t need full stat blocks like heroes. Instead, the Resistance is used when the villain opposes the hero.

Note: I’ve been running games for a very long time, so don’t generally use the entirely optional Pass/Fail Cycle to determine the Resistance, because I don’t really need it. I know that some people are offended by the very existence of the Pass/Fail Cycle, but since it’s an optional tool that is explicitly noted as only being used when the GM isn’t sure what the Resistance should be and “…can envision equally entertaining story branches from either result…” it means that it can be safely ignored if you don’t like it.

Villains often also have powers they can bring to bear on the heroes, and more importantly, they have weaknesses the heroes can exploit. Luckily, HQ2 already contains a perfect tool for GMs to manage this, in how it suggests you describe fantastic creatures (HQ Core Rules, page 105).

For your villain, the GM can note Significant Abilities (those abilities that describe key elements of the villain) and Exceptional Abilities (special abilities that the villain can bring to bear to increase the Resistance). I would also add a third category and suggest the GM also notes Weaknesses (those elements of the villain which, if the heroes engage the villain on that axis, would lower the Resistance).

Here are some examples to show what I mean:

Dr. Doom

Here is Doom’s write-up from Marvel.com for both his Powers and his Abilities:

Powers: Doom can exchange minds with others. He possesses some mystical abilities, such as casting bolts of eldritch energy and invoking mystical entities (principalities) for additional support.

Abilities: Doom is a genius in physics, robotics, cybernetics, genetics, weapons technology, bio-chemistry, and time travel. He is also self-taught in the mystic arts. Doom is a natural leader, a brilliant strategist, and a sly deceiver.

Doctor Doom’s weakness has always been his arrogance. He truly believes he is better than every other living person, and he refuses to accept that any failures of his plans are due to mistakes made by him.

Now the above is actually fine when it comes to running Doom in a game, but if I was going to boil those down to elements that I could use in a “stat block” (as much as such a thing exists in HQ2), I would probably list it like this:

Doctor Doom

Significant Abilities: physics, robotics, cybernetics, genetics, weapons technology, bio-chemistry, time travel, the mystic arts, natural leader, sly deceiver, doombot army

Exceptional Abilities: Brilliant strategist, switch real self with doombot double

Weaknesses: Arrogance and pride

So if the heroes are going up against Doom, the Resistance would generally be Moderate on the Resistance Class Table (or whatever Resistance the GM feels is right for the situation) for anything that was opposed by Doom’s Significant Abilities. The Resistance would be High if they were trying to work against his strategic planning ability, which is one of his Exceptional Abilities. And the Resistance would be Low if they came at him through his arrogance or pride.


I’ve always liked Thanos as a villain. Here is his write-up from Marvel.com:

Powers: Thanos possesses the superhuman physiology of all Eternals, granting him superhuman strength, endurance, reflexes, and agility. His skin in nearly invulnerable, particularly against heat, cold, electricity, radiation, toxins, aging, and disease, and he can survive indefinitely without food or water even before his “curse” from Death left him immortal, unable to die. His mind is also invulnerable to most forms of psychic attack, and can project a psionic blast of energy as well as blasts of plasma/cosmic energy from his eyes and hands.

Abilities: Master strategist, adept in sciences far beyond Earth technology, some mystical knowledge.

Thanos has a couple of weaknesses. First is the fact that Thanos, despite having actually successfully conquered the universe more than once, ultimately leaves an opening for his own defeat. According to Adam Warlock:

“A man always seeking ultimate power and losing it as soon as he attains it! Why? Because deep in his soul he knows he is not worthy of it. Three times you have triumphed over incredible odds to gain the ends you desire…and three times you have subconsciously supplied the means to your own defeat.”

Another weakness is Thanos’ obsession and love for Death. And a third is his emotional state, as described on Marvel.com, “…a melancholy, brooding individual…”

Here is how I would list Thanos for HQ2:


Significant Abilities: superhuman strength, endurance, reflexes, and agility; nearly invulnerable skin, survive indefinitely without food or water; invulnerable to psychic attack; psionic blast; plasma/cosmic energy blast; mystical knowledge; highly advanced technology

Exceptional Abilities: Immortal and unable to die; master strategist

Weaknesses: Melancholy; obsession with Death; provides means to his own defeat


Magneto is either a hero or a villain, depending on when in the Marvel Universe the game is set. For this example, I’m going to use him as a villain.

Magneto’s description in the Marvel Universe Wiki is pretty wordy, so I’m not going to copy it all here. Instead, I’m just going to stat him up as I would for a game.


Significant Abilities: Master strategist; expert on genetic manipulation; engineering genius; immune to mental attacks and manipulation (helmet); control of electromagnetic spectrum energies; driven by mutant cause

Exceptional Abilities: Control over magnetism

Weaknesses: Honor to his enemies; protective of mutants

Note that I put his protectiveness over mutants as a weakness rather than as an ability. This is just a GM choice based on the fact that heroes might use this against him if they were trying to stop one of his villainous schemes.


Hopefully, this gives a HeroQuest GM some ideas on how to run a superhero game using the HQ2 rules. It’s actually easier than it might seem at first, and the narrative strength of HQ allows a great deal of flexibility, which is a core part of any comic book superhero story.

Thanks for reading, and happy gaming!

Note: All Marvel characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are Trademarks & Copyright © 1941–2018 Marvel Characters, Inc. The reference to these characters or the Marvel Universe is not a challenge to these Trademarks and Copyright.

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