Making the Grade
One of the things we knew the DC Adventures Hero's Handbook would include was a selection of DC characters, both heroes and villains, to get players started and to provide gamemasters with some resources and examples. The big question was: which heroes and villains? It was a process of putting together a list of the best characters we could fit into a limited amount of space, given we had room for basically fourteen hero write-ups and the same number of villains.
The Brave & the Bold
We started with the heroes. The no-brainer was to include the "Magnificent Seven," the founding members of the Justice League: Aquaman, Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, Superman, and Wonder Woman. That was half of our heroes right there.
We decided to go with the most iconic versions of the characters. That meant a beardless Aquaman (with both of his original hands), Barry Allen as the Flash and Hal Jordan as Green Lantern (although other Flashes and Green Lanterns show up in Heroes & Villains, Vol. I).
We considered the other seven heroes. Should we try and round things out with some Teen Titans or Outsiders? It would be tight and wouldn't leave much room for anyone else. No, this really had to be the A-list, the most iconic and well-known DC heroes, who also provided a good mix of character types and examples.
Green Arrow is both a major comic book archetype and core member of the JLA, so he was in. That made Black Canary a natural addition, providing some additional "girl power" as well as another unarmed fighter to match with Batman. We did get one teen hero with Robin, since we could hardly have Batman without his famous sidekick. Although Dick Grayson has the longest history as Robin, we decided Tim Drake was the most "iconic" of the Robins these days. Dick Grayson makes it in there as Nightwing, bringing us up to eleven heroes.
The rest were rounding out some niches: Plastic Man made it in as a great example of a shapeshifting hero. Captain Marvel provides some comparison and contrast with Superman, Wonder Woman, and the other physically powerful heroes, as well as a look at handling a hero with a secret identity who is a whole different person! Lastly, we wanted a magical hero. Dr. Fate was one of the contenders, naturally, but we ultimately decided to go with Zatanna because she: 1) Had a less involved history than Dr. Fate; 2) Was not as cosmically powerful, but still very capable; 3) Fit into the largely Justice League group of heroes better, and; 4) Added another woman to the roster.
Speaking of power, one thing we wanted the sample heroes in the Hero's Handbook to do was provide benchmarks for players, gamemasters, and designers of the game, so they could look at, say, Superman's Strength or Batman's Investigation skill and use them to gauge where their own characters should fall on the scale. So the first thing we did was come up with power levels for all of the heroes in the book:
Aquaman (12), Batman (12), Black Canary (10), Captain Marvel (15), Flash (12), Green Arrow (10), Green Lantern (14), Martian Manhunter (14), Nightwing (10), Plastic Man (11), Robin (8), Superman (15), Wonder Woman (15), and Zatanna (11)
You might immediately think that DC's "trinity" of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman should all be power level 20, the very top of the scale, right? After all, they are the world's greatest heroes. So why are they "only" power levels 12, 15, and 15 (respectively) and why is Batman, of all people, a lower power level than the other two?
A lot of it is in understanding what power level is and what it's used for. All power level does is provide a guideline for players to follow in creating and improving their DC Adventures heroes, and it gives an idea of the kind of capabilities, particularly combat capabilities, you can expect from a character. On the other hand, consider the power point totals for the "trinity": They're all within just 4 points of each other, and all of them at values close to the recommended starting points for power level 19!
Thus, many of the characters in DC Adventures have broader and "deeper" capabilities than their mere power level may indicate. For all his amazing abilities, Batman is still a mortal, without superhuman powers. It's impressive that his power level is as close as it is to two of the mightiest beings on Earth!
With the heroes set, it was time to bring on the bad guys. We wanted to have a good cross-section, along with major archenemies for most of the heroes. That gave us an immediate "must have" list: Lex Luthor, the Joker, Cheetah, Sinestro, Black Adam, and Black Manta. We also wanted perhaps the DC Universe's biggest villain, Darkseid, as a given. That still left seven spots to fill and, admittedly, we looked to the foes of DC's trinity (Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman) for some of them. We added Brainiac, Catwoman, and Circe to the list.
Gorilla Grodd won a spot for several reasons, he: 1) is a Flash villain (and perhaps the most unusual one); 2) has mental powers, which we hadn't touched on, and; 3) is a gorilla, and it's hard to deny the appeal of a gorilla.
Our remaining three villains were more general characters to round out the list: Vandal Savage (a villain who has fought just about everyone in the DCU at some point), Solomon Grundy (for sheer brute-force power), and Prometheus, one of the higher power level foes (able to take on the whole Justice League), made even more suitable (and villainous) by his role in Justice League: Cry for Justice.
How high power level, you ask? It came out looking like this:
Black Adam (16), Black Manta (10), Brainiac (13), Catwoman (10), Cheetah (12), Circe (14), Darkseid (16), Gorilla Grodd (12), The Joker (11), Lex Luthor (14), Prometheus (14), Sinestro (14), Solomon Grundy (14), Vandal Savage (13).
Darkseid and Black Adam tied for highest power level characters in the book, although Darkseid wins out in terms of point total (weighing-in at about 30 power points more than Black Adam).
Now that you know all the characters profiles in the Hero's Handbook, next up we'll give you a more detailed look at one of them. Which one? Check back with us next week...
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