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

Dave “The Game” Chalker recently made an excellent foray into a 4e D&D fantasy hack for Marvel Heroic Roleplaying. Simple, elegant, and iconic hacks like this really show how well and how easily Cortex Plus adapts to diverse genre and source material. This hack promises to fit my 4e group’s preferred playstyle better than even 4e does.

A warforged, as depicted in the 4th edition Monster Manual and the WOTC Daily Art Preview by Eva Widermann.

The following are my ideas for a few more of my favorite races and classes that Dave’s initial hack didn’t cover. Many are from Player’s Handbook 2 or 3, or campaign-specific player’s guides, so they’re a bit more involved than the core races and classes, but hopefully they’re just as fun to play.

New Races

New Classes

NOTE: Githzerai Limit edited based on good input from Danny Rupp (@bartoneus). Monk limit edited based on ideas from Dave Chalker.



From Dragon 366, "Ecology of the Genasi." Sep 9, 2008

Choose one of the following manifestations for your power traits and SFX. All genasi share the Limits Inevitable Flux and Elemental below.

  • Firesoul
    • Fire Influence d6, Blast d8
    • SFX: Fiery Body. On a successful reaction against a physical attack action, inflict physical stress with your effect die at no PP cost or step up +1 for 1 PP.
  • Watersoul
    • Water Influence d6, Enhanced Reflexes d8, Insubstantial d6, Swimming d6
    • SFX: Second Wind. Before you make an action including a Genasi power, you may move your physical stress die to the doom pool and step up the Genasi power by +1 for this action.
    • SFX: Water-breathing. You can breath underwater.
  • Earthsoul
    • Earth Influence d6, Durability d8
    • SFX: Stone-skin. Spend 1 PP to ignore physical stress or trauma results caused by edged or blunt attack actions.
  • Windsoul
    • Air Influence d6, Speed d8, Airwalking d6, Cold Resistance d6
    • SFX: Wisp. Spend 1 PP to add Speed (or step up by +1 if already in your pool) and reroll all dice on a reaction.
  • Stormsoul
    • Weather Influence d6, Lightning/Thunder Blast d8
    • SFX: Promise of Storm. Add a d6 and step up your effect die by +1 when inflicting wind, lightning, or thunder complication on a target.

Limit: Inevitable Flux. Inevitable Flux. Earn PP and step up mental stress when you misunderstand other races’ aversion to change.
Limit: Elemental.  Turn largest Genasi power into a complication and gain a PP when facing opposing elements or elemental-specific magic or gear. Remove complication or conditions to recover.


Enhanced Reflexes d8, Psychic Resistance d8, Astral Senses d6
SFX: Iron Mind. When using Enhanced Reflexes or Astral Senses in your dice pool, redirect physical stress to mental stress at no cost. Spend 1 PP to step back redirected stress by –1.
Limit: Freedom. Gain a PP and take d6 Emotional stress when you take stress or complications related to being restrained, stunned, dominated, or mind controlled. Take d8 Emotional stress instead if thus afflicted by githyanki, illithids, or their thralls.


Magical Senses d8, Invisibility d6, Sorcery d6
SFX: Fade Away. On a successful reaction vs an attack action, convert your effect die into an Invisibility or Sorcery Stunt. Spend 1 PP to do so if the reaction fails.
SFX: Cantrips. Before rolling a pool that includes Sorcery, step back Sorcery for one roll and step up effect dice for illusion- and cantrip-related assets.
Limit: Slight. Gain a PP and step up physical stress or complications related to lack of strength and fortitude.
Limit: Mischief. Gain a PP and turn a Gnome power into a complication. Remove complication to recover.


Horns d8, Enhanced Strength d8, Bovine Stamina d6
SFX: Goring Charge. Step up or double Horns or Enhanced Strength (1 PP to step up and double), then shutdown that power. Recover on Opportunity.
SFX: Ferocity. When you are stressed out, you may inflict d6 physical stress on a nearby character. Spend one or more PP to inflict this stress on one or more additional targets.
Limit: Monstrous. Gain a PP and turn a Minotaur power into a complication when your monstrous heritage causes you trouble. Remove complication or otherwise establish yourself as benign to recover.


Enhanced Speed d8, Natural Weapons d6, Feral Stamina d6,  Feral Senses d6
SFX: Tooth and Nail. Add d6 to your dice pool for an attack action and step back the highest die in pool by –1. Step up physical stress inflicted by +1.
SFX: Bloodied Shifting. Step up or add d6 to your mental stress to step up a Shifter power by +1 for the remainder of the Scene. No power may be stepped up more than once.
Limit. Soothe the Savage Beast. Gain a PP and step up or double any asset, stress, or complication used against you to calm or control you, if it appeals to your animal nature.
Limit: Stigma. Gain a PP and step up Emotional stress or complications related to being an outcast.


Enhanced Durability d8, Enhanced Stamina d8, Enhanced Strength d8
SFX: Warforged Resolve. Before you make an action including a Warforged power, you may move your physical stress die to the doom pool and step up the Warforged power by +1 for this action.
SFX: Construct. Spend a PP to ignore stress, trauma, or complications from hunger, thirst, suffocation, fatigue, sleep, or aging.
Limit: Stonesoul. Gain a PP and turn a Warforged power into a complication when you misunderstand non-warforged cultures or your role in society. Remove complication to recover.
Limit: Repair. Physical stress and trauma does not automatically step back during Transition scenes or new Acts. Recovery requires a successful action. (NOTE: Heal and medical specialties usually don’t apply to warforged repair; rather arcana, tech, artifice, or dungeoneering make more sense)



Sorcery d6, Weapon d6, Utility Belt d6
SFX: Tinker. Step up artifice assets made using Sorcery or Utility Belt.
SFX: Infusion. Add Sorcery or Utility Belt to your dice pool when helping others recover physical stress or complications. Spend 1 PP to step back your own or another’s complication.
Limit: Artifice Preparation. Shutdown Sorcery or Utility Belt to gain 1 PP. Recover during a transition scene.
Limit: Gear. Earn a PP and shutdown an Artificer power. Succeed vs Doom to recover.
Arcana Expert, Dungeoneering Expert (or Tech/Artifice if playing in Eberron)


Weapon d8, Enhanced Reflexes d8, Enhanced Speed d6
SFX: Flurry of Blows. Add d6 and keep 1 extra effect die for each target after the first.
SFX: Named Maneuver. Double or step up Weapon for one action. If that action fails, shutdown Weapon. Recover power by activating an opportunity or during a Transition Scene.
Limit: Unarmored. Earn a PP and step up physical stress from weapon or magical attacks.
Limit: Mental Discipline. Mental Discipline. When you take emotional stress, convert a Monk power to a complication to gain a PP. Recover when you recover your emotional stress. Shutdown Monk when suffering emotional trauma.
Acrobatics Expert, Combat Expert


Sorcery d8, Weapon d8, Warding d6
SFX: Swordmage Aegis. Spend 1 PP to add a Swordmage power to another character’s dice pool before they roll a reaction. If that character takes physical stress, take d6 mental stress.
Limit: Arcane Exhaustion. Gain 1 PP and shutdown Warding when you take Mental stress. Recover on opportunity or Transition scene.
Arcana Expert, Sword Expert

About Adam

Adam is a husband, an explorer of the inexhaustible, and a hunter for unexpected synergies and collaborative potentials. His explorations into RPGs began with DMing D&D, though lately he enjoys mining the potentials of diverse systems, especially Cortex Plus.
This entry was posted in 4e DnD, CortexPlus, Gaming, Marvel Heroic Roleplaying and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Expanding Fantasy Heroic Roleplaying: A D&D 4e Hack for Marvel Heroic Roleplaying

  1. Pingback: Fantasy Heroic Roleplaying: A D&D 4e Hack for Marvel Heroic Roleplaying : Critical Hits

  2. That’s pretty good. My only real gripe is that I don’t think Earthsoul Genasi should have Inevitable Flux. The earth is solid, stable, and change comes slowly. Other than that it’s a great write up of the classes and races! I’m particularly fond of the use of Named Maneuver.

    • Adam says:

      Thanks Phil! I appreciate the feedback from a fellow hack-crafter. I’m glad you like Named Maneuver. It was the only way I could think of embracing the tone of all the wonderful power names: Crane’s Wings, Dragon’s Tail, Open the Gate of Battle, Falling Hammer, etc.

      That’s a good point about the Earthsoul temprament. However, I’d say even the earth changes, shifts, melts, erodes, compacts, breaks, turns to mud, to sand, to glass, travels the rivers, melts to volcanic obsidian, etc. All of it is just much more slowly or rather, at a much deeper, or more massive scale.

      The “Ecology of Genasi” article in WotC’s Dragon magazine, linked via the genasi image above, actually states that earthsouls are the least capricious and most introspective of the manifestations, although least and most in this case is still more than most other races are familiar with. An earthsoul woman may be introspective, but she’s still accepting of daily reversals of fortune and meritocracy that governs genasi culture (as outlined in that article anyway). She may be a ruler of the people one day, then abject for an exposed failure the next. This doesn’t bother her so much, since the next day may be just as wildly changed. The only thing that remains is attempting excellence and giving full vent to present passions whatever they may be. That’s the part that most fascinates me about the genasi as a race and culture of wild, passionate, elemental individuals.

      Anyway, that’s my take on the fascinating genasi. Earthsoul are definitely my favorite manifestation since I tend to think of myself as comparatively introspective and conscientious among humans. Plus, I guess my sense of symmetry doesn’t want an exception for subrace. The extra Water-breathing SFX already bugs me in that regard. 😛

      • Symmetry is only useful insofar as it actually enhances something. This is generally through ease of understanding and speed of play. Too much symmetry and you end up with uniformity, which is bland. Personal taste defines where uniformity and blandness meet. I actually would prefer less uniformity between the genasi sub-types because I’m a big fan of the idea that the elements are vastly different. Just personal taste and probably where my initial gripe came from.

        This is a great addition to Dave’s write up. I may have to try it out sometime. It’s much less involved than my Mass Effect hack, I think.

      • Adam says:

        I wonder what your Mass Effect hack would look like if you split the races and major gear types into little power set packages like this. Then maybe make training packages that merge with and enhance the race powerset, and you could be in business.

  3. I was thinking more of class and gear packages. So, yeah, I’ve thought about it. They’re nice guidelines but I’m really enjoying the freeform nature of the way it is now. Creating gear packages certainly would simplify making new characters for people down the road. I most definitely do not want to get so granular as to split out the individual weapons into specific power sets (saw that posted somewhere and rolled my eyes). I’m fine with people building their own power sets using generic “sniper rifle” and “shotgun” titles. When people start blocking out stats for the Widow sniper rifle as opposed to the Incisor and Mantis, that’s too proscriptive and crunch heavy for me.

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