DC ADVENTURES Design Journal #1
This Looks Like a Job For...
... Green Ronin! (What? You were expecting someone else?)
Yes, Green Ronin, the RPG publisher with the award-winning super hero game, who earned the attention of DC Comics, and secured the license to publish an RPG based on their properties.
Which brings us to this column. Whether you are a newcomer to Green Ronin and roleplaying games or a long-time fan, welcome! Here we'll be providing previews, tantalizing hints, and behind-the-scenes information about the creation of the DC ADVENTURES roleplaying game.
With seventy-five years of backstory and about a bazillion comic books, translating the DC Universe into tabletop roleplaying is a daunting task, to say the least, even if it has been done before (twice!). We're talking about characters that defined the genre of the comic-book super hero, icons enshrined in American (and world) culture. It's that "iconic" element that we'll come back to in a bit, but first, there was the freak-out.
No, seriously. Cover the entire DC Universe (which is technically at least 52 universes, plus past and future history) all in a single game line? Were we crazy? How were we going to handle the massive backstories, or the multiple versions of characters with publication histories older than any of us had been alive? How would we keep up with all of the current happenings in the comics, with the dust of Countdown and Final Crisis just settling at the time, and the shadows of Blackest Night starting to spread? (To say nothing now of Brightest Day, The Return of Bruce Wayne, etcetera, ad infinitum...)
The idea we focused on came from a Final Crisis tag-line: "Heroes die, but legends live forever." Many (if not most) elements of the major DC characters are timeless. They have an iconic quality beyond just the current interpretation in this month's issues. So we chose to try, as much as possible, to focus on the iconic, the essence of each character. Rather than making our write-ups lengthy summaries of every story published, the focus is on two things: what made the character and what drives that character?
So you are not, for example, going to find granular discussion in Batman's entry in the Hero's Handbook or in Heroes & Villains, Vol. I, talking about the time Bane broke his back, or even his more recent sojourn into "death" at the hands of Darkseid during Final Crisis. While those are things that happened to the Dark Knight, they're not essential to his character. The same with Superman and his widely-publicized death fighting Doomsday or the contemporary "War of the Supermen" storyline.
On the other hand, you will hear about Bane breaking Batman and Doomsday killing Superman in the entries for those villains, since those events helped define them as characters. So what is an "iconic" element of a character is often a matter of perspective. Still, the approach helps us to limit the vast scope of the DC Universe to the point where it is practical to write about it without having to devote an entire book to each character. Speaking of books, DC ADVENTURES has four:
The Hero's Handbook gives you all the rules and material you need to play the game. It is the DC ADVENTURES game, all in one book. So it includes, amongst other things, ready-to-use hero archetypes, along with an overview of the DC Universe, and information on some of its most prominent heroes and villains (fourteen of each).
Heroes & Villains is split into two volumes: Vol. I covers A-K, while Vol. II goes L-Z, each one packed with over 300 pages of characters! We spent some time collaborating on a master list of who had to go into these books and it is quite comprehensive.
DC Universe looks at the world of DC Comics, focusing on present-day Earth, but also venturing into the past and future, out among the stars, and across the dimensional gulf to parallel Earths and other worlds. It also serves as a third character book of sorts, as DC Universe will contain information on many supporting and background characters of the setting.
With these four books, you will have a very complete look at the DC Universe as a roleplaying game and setting.
Speaking of complete looks, check back next week when we talk about what happened when the DC Universe met the Mutants & Masterminds game system. It's a classic love story!
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