DC ADVENTURES Design Journal #3


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!

Villainy Unleashed

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...

All characters, their distinctive likenesses, and related elements are trademarks of DC Comics © 2010. All rights reserved.


You say Barry Allen is the more iconic Flash than Wally West, but then say Tim Drake is the more iconic Robin than Dick Grayson?

How about some consistency?

Wally's been the Flash for over 30 years now. That's long enough to establish that Wally West is THE Flash now. Barry sacrificed himself in the Crisis on Infinite Earths. There have been some wonderful early years stories with Barry since (and other stories involving a time-traveling Barry or someone posing as him), but Wally is the Flash.

As for the JLA, the founding members were Aquaman, Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), Flash (Barry Allen), Martian Manhunter, and either Black Canary (Post-Crisis) or Wonder Woman (Pre-Crisis). The Magnificent Seven is the Heavy Hitters roster. Post-Crisis, only one member of the Magnificent Seven is a founder, Martian Manhunter.

Oops. Wally's been Flash for 23 years.

Seems like 30 to me though...

Tim Drake has been Robin for 20 years, and Dick has been established as Nightwing for longer. I wholeheartedly support this decision and lineup. Many of the classic versions of DC staples (Hal, Barry, Ollie) are back and working their way into younger comic readers' consciousness. I think this was the best approach to satisfy everyone.

However, Prometheus' PL is way too high for a character who only really threatened the JLA in one short story arc and then got thrown out of the clocktower window by a wheelchair bound Barbara Gordon. The reason Prometheus was able to best the JLA to begin with was by surprise (and liberal GM fiat). Don't get me wrong, I love Prometheus and am thrilled at his inclusion, but I'll be lowering his PL if I run a DC game.


I have to agree on Prometheus' inclusion. His original conceit, at least to me, always seemed to be a combination of the Wraith (a pre-Crisis anti-Batman) and Paragon (again, pre-Crisis, a mutant who could duplicate natural powers and skills within range).
I'd have chosen Deathstroke instead, for these reasons. First, his physical abilities are on par with Batman, a human at the top of the range. Second, he's tangled with almost every hero (or so it seems) and usually cleans their collective clock. Three, he knows enough about most heroes (powers and secret identities). Lastly, he's a good singular villain to throw at a team and make it a challenge.
As an aside, Deathstroke is the original DC equivalent to Marvel's Taskmaster, which Prometheus is a poor copy of. Look at the original costumes for both (designed by George Perez), date of introduction (Taskmaster in the Avengers late is Perez' run, Deathstroke in the New Teen Titans early in Perez' run), motivation (mercenary villain for hire), and power set.
I'm no Mark Waid, but given the role and longevity of the character, as well as his most recent appearances, Deathstroke would make a better choice.

If tou go to Leavel I have some request.
1) For me Dick is more a 11. Beacause he Take to times the Cowl of Batman.
2)Lex Will must have to Power level. Because 14 is when he wear the Battlesuit. And I haven't allaws be in.
3)You must have to or more powerlevel for :
Superman current/Superman Bleu or Red
Superman Current/Old Superman Earth 2
Hal Jordan and Kyle VS Parralax situation
Captain Atom and Hawk VS Monarch/Extant Situation.
And I don't talk of Balck Lantern Situation.

Then I will be Surpirse that the more iconic Badguys si not present. I talk of Superboy Prime.
A take down more Lantern that Parralax. Kill Titan and Superman Earth One. And be against three version of the Legon assemble.

I Hope for Him,Johnny Sorrow, Mordru and Maw Llord in the supplément.
And for a first campaign I thinck that you should be looking at Justice League : Génération Lost. The Pitch is very good for start a play !

Leave a comment


About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Steve Kenson published on June 9, 2010 6:00 AM.

DC ADVENTURES Design Journal #2 was the previous entry in this blog.

DC ADVENTURES Design Journal #4 is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.