Creating mechanical effect
Like alignment, this is based on a simple matrix. One axis is determined by how the hero best operates in relation to others.
Those three options (lovingly borrowed from the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game by Cam Banks) are Solo, Buddy, and Team. As an example, a hero like Punisher obviously prefers to operate Solo. Luke Cage and Iron Fist would prefer Buddy. A consummate Avenger like Captain America might prefer Team.
The other axis defines the hero’s approach to encounters. The three options here are: Subterfuge, Conflict, and Aggressor. A hero that prefer subterfuge engages encounters best when stealth and surprise are maintained. A hero that specializes in Conflict are best when they’ve been dragged into an encounter at odds with those that oppose them. Heroes that are Aggressors are those that prefer conflict and go out of their way to create it, usually at a large scale.
Black Widow would be a prime example of a hero that prefers Subterfuge, using deception and stealth to engage encounters, or avoid them entirely. Wolverine is the best at what he does, and what he does is fight. Put him in a Conflict, and he’ll quickly end it. Doctor Doom has caused more large-scale battles against any and all foes than just about anyone which makes him the perfect Aggressor.
In order to make this gameplay change important, these tactical situations have to give bonuses. Let’s discuss what those bonuses are, and how they’re awarded:
As an example we’ll use Daredevil. It’s decided by the Daredevil player and the DM that Daredevil’s Tactics are Solo and Conflict. This lets the player and DM know that Daredevil’s peak tactics are whenever he is alone, and drawn into open conflict. However, it also means that Daredevil performs above normal during either a solo encounter, or in open conflict.
What happens when Daredevil is able to rely on only one of his preferred Tactics? He is able to gain the benefits of a Short Rest as a bonus action any time he enters an encounter with a single tactical preference. This can be triggered any time during that encounter as long as the tactical needs are met.
This is meant to imply that while Daredevil is facing encounters either Solo, or in Conflict, the encounter favors his tactics, and he’s able to perform at levels above everyone else. He’s a hero in his element.
This bonus of gaining the benefits of a Short Rest as a bonus action is the same for any hero that has a single tactical advantage.
When a hero has both their tactical advantages though, the bonus is much more indvidual. Players will work with the DM to come up with unique hero abilities that can be used by their hero, and their hero alone while they maintain both tactical advantages. In the instance of Daredevil, DM and player have decided that with both tactical advantages the Daredevil player has access to the Rogue ability Evasion, even as a fifth-level Fighter. This is thematically true to Daredevil’s ability to perceive incoming attacks before they happen, and provides a huge boon when he’s in his element.
There are many heroes that aren’t so clearly defined as Daredevil in how they operate within these tactics. Someone like Captain America could easily encompass Subterfuge, Conflict, Solo, Buddy, and Team. At the start of the campaign, players should work with the DM to pick one for each vertex that will best cover how that player would like to play their chosen hero.
That’s not to say that there won’t be opportunity for players to gain multiple selections for tactical advantage as the campaign progresses.
Splitting the Party
There’s an old axiom in D&D: don’t split the party. With the existence of Relational Tactics being split across Solo, Buddy, and Team it feels as though Marvel Overpower is advocating some players to do just that. That splitting the party would help players achieve maximum tactical advantage and gain access to their unique tactical ability, therefore making it desirable. Alternatively, if players didn’t want to split the party, it would make sense then to just make every hero have Team tactical advantage even if it didn’t make sense for the character.
This is both completely true and entirely false.
The goal of Tactics is just that: to encourage the use of Tactics. Splitting the party can be useful. Using a Wolverine with Solo tactics to scout ahead not only fits the character, but lets him track enemies, find traps, etc. It also gives him the chance to benefit from maximum tactical advantage when he’s in his element.
It’s true that when the rest of his team catch up to him, he loses access to those tactical advantages, but Wolverine is the best he is at what he does, and if the Wolverine player were to run headlong into a brutal encounter, his tactical advantage might be enough for him to end it, quickly. If not, then the other players having used tactics to their advantage can use the distraction and surprise any enemies left standing.
Tactical advantages are simply a bonus. They exist to help characters feel more authentic, and also drive interest in exploring different tactical approaches. They’re not meant to be chased. In the same way that character classes excel in different situations, tactics should be approached the same. Parties should look at their unique makeup, and devise tactics that best suit them, and the encounter.
As highlighted, Solo and Buddy tactical heroes aren’t required to be off doing their own missions in order to gain their tactical advantages. They can simply be scouting ahead. But what is the correct amount of distance to determine whether the party has engaged Solo, Buddy, or Team Tactics?
This is ultimately up to the DM. Whether or not the actions being taken embody one set of Tactics over the other. A quick rule of thumb however, is about sixty feet of distance, or what would require a standard round Dash action.
That’s not a ton of separation, but requiring the rest of the party to spend an entire round to close the gap feels like a distinct enough threshold to feel intentional.
Of course, if Wolverine is 60 feet ahead, tearing through a mob, but one his party members Hawkeye is perched within range of his longbow to provide sniper support, does that count as Solo, or Buddy? This ultimately is where the DM needs to decide. There’s no reason however, that that same situation couldn’t be Solo for Wolverine, AND Buddy for Hawkeye, and so both would receive maximum tactical advantage.