Recently in the Design Journals Category

Continuing with design journals for Heroes & Villains, Volume 2 is the order of the day! And today we hear from our Silver Age guru, Professor Christopher McGlothlin, M.Ed.. All those titles around his name clue us into the fact that he's someone we can learn a lot from. Usually he drones on about history, but in this design journal he's talking about comics... Flash villains, the Rogues, and specifically, the Top!

***

Shout to the Top!

I'm sometimes asked, "How do you writer guys decide which characters you work on in those DC game books?" My usual answer is, of course, a coast-to-coast customized car race to the death: no rules, winners get their pick of characters (and to shake the hand of Mr. President).

The truth is more conventional, and--for better or worse--does not involve us freelancers scoring points for mowing down pedestrians. Fact of the matter is Jon Leitheusser just happens to be really good at his job, and has a great understanding of what each member of the Legion of DC Universe Freelancers is best at. I may still organize the aforementioned freelancer death race, but that will be without official Green Ronin sanction.

Vehicular homicide aside, as the freelancer who just turned 43 and the one best able to handicap a potential Captain Compass vs. Cave Carson fistfight, my character assignments tend toward the old and weird. Truly, it's one of the best things about being old and weird yourself.

Thanks to Jon's understanding and the generosity of Seth Johnson, the balance of Flash's Rogues Gallery fell under my purview. It was--as expected--a wonderful mixture of old and weird. Some of the entries were old characters, and some weird characters. Only the Top was both, so I adore the work I did on his entry above all.

Roscoe Dillon and I are both products of the 1960s, so I call him "old" with the greatest affection. "Old" is the new "cool," after all. However, one does not get to "old" without a re-invention or three along the way, and the Top is no exception. After beginning comic-book life as a wonderfully gimmick-obsessed John Broome/Carmine Infantino creation, the Top died a comic-book death and (somewhat inexplicably) became a disembodied body-snatcher during the Disco Era. At the start of this millennium, Identity Crisis and Geoff Johns made him into a psychotic menace. Oh, and he died. Again.

I am proud and honored to be the Top's DC Universe biographer. Chronicling all that re-invention is a fairly basic writer thing; you just include all the relevant details and hope your reader understands you're hitting the high points in a long career of strangeness. However, getting all the associated game information on a finite page is another, more daunting task. So much to say, so little space... there was ultimately nowhere to go but insane.

Years ago, I'd forced (absolutely forced) myself to buy copies of every Flash story from Showcase #4 to the then-current Wally West series in preparation for writing a Flash sourcebook that, sadly, never got published. H&V2 gave me a great excuse to dive back into those great old stories again, now with an eye towards getting every bizarre detail of the Top's fictional life down pat. That's when the madness began to take hold.

Coming up with game statistics for that one gimmick top that tangles people up in streamers was a must. Including the tops that explode was a no-brainer. The gimmick top that's also a flamethrower... well, c'mon, it's a top that's also a flamethrower! By the time I'd worked up statistics for the top that projects a tornado and the top that sprays glue, I knew I'd drifted into obsession.

By the time I was done, I'd written up every single gimmick top Roscoe Dillon had ever used. Every single one. Well, okay, I didn't do the atomic grenade top (because it's really a plot device) or the top that would've made the Flash really, really old (because Barry Allen faked him out and Dillon never actually got it to work). The rest are all there, each one a 1960s style comic-book caper waiting to happen. If that doesn't intrigue you--or at least make you smile--then my friend you just aren't Silver Age.

Which is totally okay. I included the Top's late-'70s mind-hopping power, and his more recent bout of insanity and vertigo-inducing powers are spelled out in a handy sidebar. So, my Bronze- and Modern-Age loving compadres, we have you covered as well.

Much to my delight, I was able to provide every moment of the Roscoe Dillon saga for your reading and gaming pleasure, and in a space that actually fit into the book. I hope you'll enjoy the fruits of my madness. Did I mention there's a top that's also a flamethrower?

The Top PL10

Abilities

STRENGTH2FIGHTING4
STAMINA2INTELLECT2
AGILITY3AWARENESS3
DEXTERITY2PRESENCE2

Powers

Immortality: Immortality 6, Recently dead or brain-dead body nearby • 12 points

Spinning: (Enhanced Advantage 11 (Defensive Roll 4, Fascinate (Deception), Improved Initiative 6), Enhanced Defenses 20 (Dodge 10, Parry 10), Enhanced Intellect 3, Senses 1 (Radius Vision), Limited: Must Remain Immobile • 7 points

Concealed Tops: Array (32 points), Removable (-8 points)

  • Streamer Top: Ranged Affliction 8 (Resisted by Dodge; Hindered and Vulnerable, Defenseless and Immobile • 32 points
  • Blacklight Top: Concealment 4 (All Visual), Attack, Cone Area • 1 point
  • Blinding Top: Affliction 10 (Resisted by Fortitude; Visually Impaired, Visually Disabled, Visually Unaware), Cumulative, Perception Area (Visual) • 1 point
  • Bola Tops: Ranged Affliction 10 (Resisted by Dodge; Hindered and Vulnerable, Defenseless and Immobile), Cumulative, Extra Condition, Limited Degree • 1 point
  • Electro-Top: Ranged Damage 10, Resisted by Fortitude • 1 point
  • Flamethrower Top: Ranged Damage 10, Cloud Area • 1 point
  • Gas Top: Ranged Affliction 8 (Resisted by Fortitude; Dazed, Stunned, Incapacitated) Cloud Area 2 (30 feet), Cumulative • 1 point
  • Glue Top: Ranged Affliction 6 (Resisted by Dodge; Hindered and Vulnerable, Defenseless and Immobile), Burst Area, Cumulative, Extra Condition, Sustained Duration, Limited Degree • 1 point
  • Grenade Top: Ranged Damage 10, Burst Area • 1 point
  • Soundwave Top: Ranged Damage 10, Sustained Duration • 1 point
  • Tornado Top: Move Object 10, Cone Area, Sustained Duration, Limited Direction (repulsion) • 1 point

Advantages

Agile Feint, Defensive Roll 4, Evasion, Fascinate (Deception), Improved Initiative 6, Improvised Tools, Inventor

Skills

Acrobatics 6 (+9), Athletics 4 (+6), Close Combat: Unarmed 4 (+8), Deception 4 (+6), Expertise: Criminal 4 (+6), Expertise: Science 6 (+8), Expertise: Tops 8 (+10), Intimidation 4 (+6), Persuasion 3 (+5), Ranged Combat: Tops 8 (+10), Sleight of Hand 4 (+6), Stealth 4 (+7), Technology 7 (+9)

Offense

Initiative +27

Concealed Tops +10 Ranged, Damage 10 or others

Unarmed +8 Close, Damage 2

Defense

Dodge 14 Fortitude 9

Parry 14 Toughness 6/2*

Will 11

*Without Defensive Roll.

Power Points

Abilities 40 Skills 33

Powers 65 Defenses 16

Advantages 4 TOTAL 158

Complications

Motivation--Greed: Money made the Top go round.

Relationship: The Top's girlfriend was Lisa (the Golden Glider) Snart.

***

Come back next time and we'll let Leon Chang loose on the Parasite! Plus for those of you who actually read the last line of articles like this, keep a look out tomorrow for a big announcement regarding the release of Heroes & Villains, Volume 2!

MEET THE BEETLES, Part II

We continue with our look at the Blue Beetle legacy with the write-up of...

Blue Beetle II                                            PL11

Abilities

Strength        3                  Fighting         8

Stamina          3                  Intellect       7

Agility            6                  Awareness    4

Dexterity       6                  Presence        2

Powers

BB Gun: Array (16 points), Easily Removable (-8 points)

        • Blinding Strobe: Cumulative Cone Area Affliction 8 (Resisted by Fortitude; Impaired Sight, Disabled Sight, Unaware), Limited--Visual Only 16 points

        • Air Burst: Cone Area Move Object 3, Diminished Range 3, Instant Duration, Limited Direction: Straight Away • 1 point

        • Air Hammer: Ranged Damage 8 1 point

Equipment

The Bug: Vehicle • 68 points

Huge; Str 8, Speed 8 (Flight), Def 8, Tou 9; Alarm 3 (DC 30), Navigation System, Remote Control; Swimming 6 (30 MPH); Immunity 10 (Life Support); Ranged Damage 10; Feature 1 (Skywire allows pilot to move between flying Bug and ground), Enhanced Skill 6 (Investigation +6, Ranged Combat: Heavy Weapons +6)

Other Equipment: Blue Beetle has 7 points to spend on other equipment.

Advantages

Agile Feint, Benefit 3 (Millionaire), Contacts, Defensive Roll 4, Equipment 15, Evasion, Improved Initiative, Instant Up, Inventor, Luck 3, Move-by Action, Power Attack, Redirect, Uncanny Dodge, Weapon Bind

Skills

Acrobatics 6 (+12), Athletics 6 (+9), Close Combat: Unarmed 4 (+12), Deception 5 (+7), Expertise: Science 6 (+13), Investigation 8 (+15/+21*), Perception 6 (+10), Persuasion 3 (+5), Ranged Combat: BB Gun 8 (+12), Ranged Combat: Heavy Weapons 6 (+12)*, Technology 10 (+17), Vehicles 6 (+12)

*While in the Bug.

Offense

Initiative +8

Unarmed +12                     Close, Damage 3

Blinding Strobe               Close, Cumulative Cone Area Affliction 8, Resisted by Fortitude

Air Hammer +14               Ranged, Damage 8

Defense

Dodge               14               Fortitude            7

Parry                 12               Toughness 7/3**

                                                Will                     8

**Without Defensive Roll.

Power Points

Abilities          78                Skills                34

Powers             10                Defenses        20

Advantages    36                Total           178

Complications

Blue and Gold: Blue Beetle is best friends with Booster Gold, and their shared misadventures and sense of humor is notorious.

Legacy: After he was injured saving Ted Kord's life, the dying wish of the first Blue Beetle was that Kord carry on and continue his battle against evil. Kord's adventuring as the Blue Beetle is a never-ending effort to live up to the name and wishes of his predecessor.

Real Name: Theodore "Ted" Kord

Occupation: Inventor and Entrepreneur

Base: Chicago, IL

Personality

The Blue Beetle fights crime with a grin on his face, trading quips with his friends as he trades blows with his foes. Yet beneath the humor he takes his crime-fighting seriously, always improving his equipment and studying new tactics.

Powers & Abilities

The Blue Beetle has no meta-human abilities, but combines his skills in acrobatics and hand-to-hand combat with his own genius inventions, including the non-lethal "BB-Gun" and the flying craft he calls the "Bug."

Allies

Blue Beetle's best friend is the time-travelling hero Booster Gold, a partnership that has led to as much trouble as success over the years. Together, they served as members of the Justice League, and later as part of the "Super Buddies." He has also been a technical advisor to Oracle and her Birds of Prey.

Enemies

Blue Beetle's own rogue's gallery includes the indestructible battlesuit Carapax, the motley mercenaries called the Madmen, and the living pharmacopeia Catalyst. Alongside the Justice League, he battled the robotic Manhunters, the forces of Darkseid, Master Disaster's Injustice League, the intergalactic conqueror Despero, and the interdimensional villans called the Extremists. Yet the villain who in the end defeated the Blue Beetle was someone he once called friend: the mind-controlling businessman Maxwell Lord.

History

The first Blue Beetle was mortally injured defeating a robot army built by the uncle of young genius Ted Kord, and charged Kord with carrying on the legacy and the battle of the Blue Beetle. Unfortunately, Kord was unable to use the scarab that gave the Beetle his powers, so instead constructed his own costume and equipment to become the new Blue Beetle.

For a time Blue Beetle fought crime in Chicago while running his research company Kord Omniversal, until he joined a new incarnation of the Justice League. There he met Booster Gold, and between titanic battles with villains like Despero and Starbreaker the duo found time for misadventures that included founding a Justice League-themed casino on the Pacific island of Kooeykooeykooey. But his time with the League also involved more serious challenges: for a time, Blue Beetle fell under the mental domination of the Queen Bee, and while trying to prevent Doomsday from reaching Metropolis, Blue Beetle was beaten so badly that he was in a coma for several months.

Yet the Blue Beetle stuck by the friends and teammates he made as part of the Justice League, even when businessman Maxwell Lord formed a new and somewhat low-rent team he called the "Super Buddies". He also helped other teams of heroes, such as the Birds of Prey, providing funding and financial assistance.

When money began disappearing from Kord Omniversal, Blue Beetle tracked an increasingly worrying series of clues to a castle in the Swiss Alps, where he discovered that the international espionage organization Checkmate had been taken over by Maxwell Lord, who planned to use Checkmate and his powers of mental domination in his bid for power. To keep his secret, Lord killed Kord.

Along with other heroes of the Blue Beetle legacy, Booster Gold travelled through time to save the life of Ted Kord. Though they were successful, saving the Blue Beetle created an apocalyptic alternate timeline. To save the world and restore history, Ted Kord returned to the time of his demise and accepted his fate.

Blue Beetle III                                          PL10

Abilities

Strength        6                  Fighting         4

Stamina          4                  Intellect       1

Agility            4                  Awareness    2

Dexterity       3                  Presence        2

Powers

Beetle Wings: Flight 5 (60 MPH) 10 points

Carapace: Protection 8 8 points

Reach Infiltrator: Array (16 points)

        • Khaji Da: Senses 8 (Analytical (Normal Hearing), Analytical (Normal Sight), Counters Illusion, Counters Concealment (Invisibility), Danger Sense, Darkvision, Radio, Radius (Normal Sight), Tracking), Enhanced Advantage: Assessment, Enhanced Skill 5 (Insight +5)16 points

        • Dimension Shift: Dimension Travel (Bleed) 1 point

        • Dimension Step: Concealment (total), Unreliable (may cause Blue Beetle to skip forward in time up to +8 ranks of time he intended to stay concealed) 1 point

        • Energy Pattern Disruption: Effect Nullify 10 (Energy Effects), Randomize1 point

        • Rocket Booster: Flight 5, Stacks with Beetle Wings (2,000 MPH)1 point

Reach Weaponry: Array (16 points)

        • Energy Cannon: Ranged Damage 8 16 points

        • Arm Blades: Strength-based Damage 3 1 point

        • Shield: Protection 4, Impervious Toughness 12, Distracting 1 point

Strength of the Scarab: Enhanced Strength 4; Enhanced Stamina 2; Enhanced Agility 2; Enhanced Dexterity 2; Enhanced Fighting 3 26 points

Subdermal Scarab: Feature 1 (Scarab AI and Database), Feature 1 (Quick Change to armor) 2 points

Advantages

Extraordinary Effort, Language (Spanish), Power Attack

Skills

Close Combat: Arm Blades 7 (+11), Close Combat: Unarmed 6 (+10), Expertise: Tactics 3 (+4), Perception 7 (+9), Ranged Combat: Energy Cannons 9 (+12)

Offense

Initiative +3

Energy Cannons +12                       Ranged, Damage 8

Arm Blades +11                                 Close, Damage 9

Defense

Dodge               8                  Fortitude          12

Parry                 8                  Toughness       12/16*

                                                Will                    7

*With Shield.

Power Points

Abilities          26                Skills                16

Powers             84                Defenses        21

Advantages      3                Total           150

Complications

Family and Friends: Jamie Reyes has shared the secret of his super hero career with not just his family, but also a circle of friends, all of whom help and support him in his adventures.

Hybrid Hero: The Blue Beetle was born when Jamie Reyes merged into a unique symbiotic relationship with the scarab named "Khaji Da." Together they are still figuring out the exact nature and extent of their abilities.

Identity: Blue Beetle isn't always super-powered, sometimes he's a normal teenager -- with an alien probe implanted in him. Regardless, when the scarab isn't active Jaime doesn't have any powers.

Lone Star: Blue Beetle is not only a new hero, he is a hero in a Texas city that has not previously had many super heroes.

Real Name: Jamie Reyes

Occupation: Student

Base: El Paso, Texas

Personality

The newest Blue Beetle is a young hero, and along with his youthful enthusiasm comes inexperience but he has also proven more than willing to seek out and accept help when needed.

Powers & Abilities

The scarab bonded to Jamie Reyes can surround him with a suit of shape-shifting armor that enhances his physical abilities, grants him protection, and allows him to fly. It can also manifest a variety of weapons from blades to energy cannons, provide him with a variety of enhanced senses, and allow him to slip into the transdimensional space known as the Bleed.

Allies

Jamie Reyes greatest ally is the scarab, which has named itself "Khaji Da." Jamie's family and friends also know of his adventures and help when they can. Jamie is a member of the Teen Titans and made a number of allies through the legacy of the Blue Beetle, including Danielle Garrett (the granddaughter of the first Beetle) and the second Blue Beetle's friends from the Justice League and the Birds of Prey.

Enemies

The alien Reach vow to destroy Blue Beetle, and he has already tangled with a wide number of Earth's villains, including the Parasite, the Ultra-Humanite, and Eclipso.

History

Jamie Reyes was walking home from school with friends when he discovered a strange scarab in a vacant lot and took it home. That night, the scarab bonded to Jaime while he was sleeping and the new Blue Beetle was born. After helping Batman defeat the orbiting Brother Eye satellite during the Infinite Crisis, Jaime returned home to El Paso and launched his heroic career with a lot of help from his family and friends.

Investigating the true nature of the scarab, Blue Beetle discovered it had been created by an alien race called the Reach, ancient enemies of the Guardians of the Universe who had designs on conquering Earth. With the help of the scarab and his many allies, Jamie defeated the Reach. He continues to defend El Paso and adventure alongside the Teen Titans and his many allies.

 

All characters, their distinctive likenesses, and related elements are trademarks of DC Comics © 2011. All rights reserved.

MEET THE BEETLES

My name is Seth Johnson, and I love the DC Universe. A lot.

If there's one thing I love about the DC Universe, it's Ambush Bug. But if there are two things I love about the DC Universe, it's Ambush Bug and the legacies. Ambush Bug should be self-explanatory, but let me talk about the legacies for a minute.

Growing up reading DC Comics, I think the first time I was ever really aware of a legacy was the early 1980s, when the name and costume of Robin passed from Dick Grayson to Jason Todd. Part of me remained a Dick Grayson fan and followed him on to his adventures as Nightwing in the Teen Titans, but another part was still a fan of Batman's sidekick and kept reading about Robin. Then we had to vote about whether to kill him or not, but we can talk about that childhood trauma another time.

In the mid-80s, I started noticing a new character popping up during the Crisis on Infinite Earths ― the Blue Beetle! Eagerly, I started reading the new Blue Beetle comic... and discovered that this was not the first Blue Beetle. The first Blue Beetle had been a two-fisted hero powered by a magic scarab, nothing like the gadgeteer acrobat I knew about. This wasn't just a costume being passed from one teenager to another ― this was a more interesting legacy, where a hero carried on the mission of the one who came before, but did it in his own way.

I'm legally barred from talking about the backroom deals and knife-fights among M&M writers about who got to write up Robin for DC Adventures, but I can tell you I was lucky enough to write up a few of my favorites ― including the Blue Beetles. It was a lot of fun to try and echo their very distinctive styles and powers in writing them up, while also being true to that very real feel of legacy.

Blue Beetle I is a PL12 character, drawing on the full power of the mystic scarab he discovered buried beneath the African desert. Yet his power set is reasonably straightforward:

                Chainmail: Protection 4 4 points

                Kaji Dha!: Feature 1 (Change into costume as a free action)• 1 point

                Lightning Blast: Ranged Damage 1020 points

                Soar Like a Beetle: Flight 6 (120 MPH) 12 points

                Strength of the Scarab: Enhanced Strength 7; Enhanced Stamina 6; Enhanced Agility 3; Enhanced Dexterity 4; Enhanced Fighting 8 56 points

Only one of his powers has more than one effect, as the scarab charges up mild-mannered archaeologist Dan Garrett into the azure avenger of Hub City.

Compare those powers to those of Blue Beetle II. Ted Kord is a PL 11 character, a power level that represents his experience but also his lack of the mystic power that belonged to his predecessor. Dan Garrett gave Kord the scarab and passed on his mission with his dying breath ― but didn't pass on the magic words Kaji Dha! that would activate its powers. So in becoming Blue Beetle II, Kord was forced to rely on his own natural athletic abilities and gadgeteering genius to create the weapons he needed for his war on crime. His main weapon, the BB Gun, is represented as a power array that gives him a variety of handy effects:

                BB Gun: Array (16 points), Easily Removable (-8 points)

                        • Blinding Strobe: Cumulative Cone Area Affliction 8 (Resisted by Fortitude; Impaired Sight, Disabled Sight, Unaware), Limited--Visual Only 16 points

                        • Air Burst: Cone Area Move Object 3, Diminished Range 3, Instant Duration, Limited Direction: Straight Away • 1 point

                        • Air Hammer: Ranged Damage 8 1 point

But Kord packed even more features into his flying fortress, the Bug:

                The Bug: Vehicle • 68 points

                        Huge; Str 8, Speed 8 (Flight), Def 8, Tou 9; Alarm 3 (DC 30), Navigation System, Remote Control; Swimming 6 (30 MPH); Immunity 10 (Life Support); Ranged Damage 10; Feature 1 (Skywire allows pilot to move between flying Bug and ground), Enhanced Skill 12 (Investigation +6, Ranged Combat: Heavy Weapons +6)

Two characters that couldn't be more different, right? That's why it's particularly cool that during the Final Crisis, in the tragic aftermath of Ted Kord's murder, young Jamie Reyes found Dan Garrett's scarab (or was it that the scarab found him?) and was thrust headlong into a new heroic career as Blue Beetle III.

Still young and inexperienced, Blue Beetle III is a PL10 character. But he's a PL10 character packed with the potential of the Beetles who came before him ― reflected first and foremost in how he possesses some powers very similar to Blue Beetle I:

                Strength of the Scarab: Enhanced Strength 4; Enhanced Stamina 2; Enhanced Agility 2; Enhanced Dexterity 2; Enhanced Fighting 3 26 points

                Beetle Wings: Flight 5 (60 MPH) 10 points

                Carapace: Protection 8 8 points

                Subdermal Scarab: Feature 1 (Quick Change to armor) 1 point

Yet Jamie Reyes has discovered the truth of the scarab ― that it is, in fact, not a mystic artifact, but actually a creation of the alien race known as the Reach, symbiotically bonded to the young human. In that discovery, Blue Beetle III has a power array that has a name familiar from Blue Beetle IKhaji Dha, not magic words but the name of the scarab ― and in calling upon it he has a whole new range of effects:

                Reach Infiltrator: Array (16 points)

                        • Khaji Da: Senses 8 (Analytical (Normal Hearing), Analytical (Normal Sight), Counters Illusion, Counters Concealment (Invisibility), Danger Sense, Darkvision, Radio, Radius (Normal Sight), Tracking), Enhanced Advantage: Assessment, Enhanced Skill 5 (Insight +5) 16 points

                        • Dimension Shift: Dimension Travel (Bleed) 1 point

                        • Dimension Step: Concealment (total), Unreliable (may cause Blue Beetle to skip forward in time up to +8 ranks of time he intended to stay concealed) 1 point

                        • Energy Pattern Disruption: Effect Nullify 10 (Energy Effects), Randomize1 point

                        • Rocket Booster: Flight 5, Stacks with Beetle Wings (2,000 MPH)1 point

But in my mind, Blue Beetle III's connections to the past aren't only to Dan Garrett. On his character sheet, Jamie Reyes has one last power array that to me echoes the days of Ted Kord charging into battle with courage and his 16-point weapons array:

                Reach Weaponry: Array (16 points)

                        • Energy Cannon: Ranged Damage 8 16 points

                        • Arm Blades: Strength-Based Damage 3 1 point

                        • Shield: Protection 4, Impervious Toughness 12, Distracting 1 point

As a game designer, it's fun to try and play out the truths of a character in their game stats, to try and capture the essence of a hero in powers and stats. But the real truth comes when they make their appearance in your campaign and we see if they live up to their heroic legacy. I hope you include one of the Blue Beetles in your game, so we can see where the legacy goes in your series. They're some of my favorite DC heroes.

Along with Ambush Bug. Whom I also got to write up, thanks to winning a three-way sudden death overtime chessboxing match against Kenson and McGlothlin. But that's another story...

 

Blue Beetle I                                              PL12

Abilities

Strength        9                  Fighting         10

Stamina          9                  Intellect       4

Agility            5                  Awareness    2

Dexterity       5                  Presence        3

Powers

Chainmail: Protection 4 4 points

Kaji Dha!: Feature 1 (Change into costume as a free action)• 1 point

Lightning Blast: Ranged Damage 1020 points

Soar Like a Beetle: Flight 6 (120 MPH) 12 points

Strength of the Scarab: Enhanced Strength 7; Enhanced Stamina 6; Enhanced Agility 3; Enhanced Dexterity 4; Enhanced Fighting 8 56 points

Advantages

Fast Grab, Interpose, Languages 2, Power Attack, Takedown, Ultimate Effort (Athletics)

Skills

Athletics 3 (+12), Close Combat: Unarmed 5 (+15), Expertise: Archaeology 4 (+8), Perception 6 (+8), Ranged Combat: Lightning Blast 7 (+12), Vehicles 3 (+8)

Offense

Initiative +5

Unarmed +15                     Close, Damage 9

Lightning Blast +12          Ranged, Damage 10

Defense

Dodge               10               Fortitude          12

Parry                 11               Toughness      13

                                                Will                     7

Power Points

Abilities          38                Skills                14

Powers             93                Defenses        14

Advantages      7                Total           166

Complications

Sacred Charge: Dan Garrett is charged by an ancient power with eradicating evil from the Earth as Blue Beetle.

Seclusion: Garrett takes his mission as the Blue Beetle so seriously that he has virtually abandoned his former life.

Real Name: Dan Garrett

Occupation: Archaeologist, adventurer

Base: Hub City, IL

Personality

Dan Garrett is supremely focused on his mission to battle evil, with room for little else in his life. Yet he maintains a passion for archaeology, and is often drawn to museums and archaeological digs.

Powers & Abilities

From the scarab that gives him his name, the Blue Beetle gains superhuman strength, the ability to fly, and the power to shoot bolts of a lightning-like energy. When he says the magic words "Kaji Dha", Daniel Garrett is transformed into his costume, made of a chain-mail material the protects him from harm.

Allies

Though he has few regular allies in his war against evil, in his civilian identity Dan Garrett he is a mentor to Ted Kord, who would carry on his legacy as the second Blue Beetle. However, years earlier, when the alien Apellaxians nearly conquered the planet, the Blue Beetle fought alongside the Freedom Fighters and the newly-formed Justice League to defeat the invasion.

Enemies

The Blue Beetle's enemies are many and bizarre, from the insane ecologist known as the Praying Mantisman and the rampaging Red Knight to the lightning-powered Mr. Thunderbolt and the robotic Mentor the Magnificent.

History

Archaeologist Dan Garrett was on a dig in north Africa when he discovered the tomb of the Pharoah Kha-ef-re, and with it a blue scarab lying atop the pharoah's tomb. Picking up the scarab, spirits taught Garrett the magic words that would unlock the power of the scarab and charged him to battle a never-ending war on evil beginning with the mummy of Kha-ef-re!

After defeating the mummy, the Blue Beetle returned to Hub City and carried out the spirits' mission, with only occasional breaks to return to archaeology as a visiting professor. While teaching at Midwestern University he met student Ted Kord and travelled with him to Pago Island in the south Atlantic where the Blue Beetle fell in battle, but passed his mission to fight evil on to Kord, who would battle on in his name.

Continued in the next post!


All characters, their distinctive likenesses, and related elements are trademarks of DC Comics © 2011. All rights reserved.

Heroes & Villains Design Journal #2: Freedom Fighters

By Christopher McGlothlin, M.Ed.

Hi, I'm Christopher McGlothlin. You may remember me from such sourcebooks as DC Adventures: Heroes & Villains Vol. IDC Adventures: Heroes & Villains Vol. II, and the ones I did under my pen name "Steve Kenson."

Line developer Jon Leitheusser -- not to be confused with the Reverse Leitheusser or Bizarro Leitheusser (always check to see if the uniform colors are reversed before trusting "Jon")--asked me for an after-action report on designing the Freedom Fighters for Heroes & Villains Vol. I. This is the red, white, and blue result.

Some of you are no doubt going, "Freedom Fighters? Grant Morrison! Jimmy Palmiotti! Justin Gray! Cool!" Others are exclaiming, "Len Wein! Totally radical!" Somebody else is probably going, "Ah, the Quality Comics characters." The best part is, like a peewee league soccer game, everybody wins! You're all correct.

That's just a fact of life for most DC Comics characters: they've been around since Fibber McGee & Molly ruled all media (and a most Happy 75th Anniversary to Major Wheeler-Nicholson's progeny, while I'm at it!). Not only have the characters associated with the Freedom Fighters been around since rumble seats, they've been invented, re-invented, re-imagined, and resurrected for each new generation of comic-book readers.

Enter yon middle-aged game designer. Golden Age idolater that I am, any mention of the Quality characters brought visions of Stormy Foster and Bozo the Iron Man to mind (no, that's not Robert Downey, Jr. in a clown suit). Then I was informed of the sourcebook's sub-Rowling page-count, and away went the obscurities, much to the Ghost of Flanders' sorrow
.

That still left the Bronze Age/Golden Age retcon version of the Freedom Fighters, the iteration that did red-shirt duty in Infinite Crisis, the current team, and many, many more words than I had room for. So like an afterschool special, I talked to some groovy adults, resisted peer pressure from the popular kids, and made the right choices. And you know something? I grew up a little in the process.

The first step was to make sure the Freedom Fighters' whole history was retold, from their big move to the DC metro area back in ‛42 to their long-running feud with the Silver Ghost to JLA: Year One (did you miss their cameos?), right on into the new millennium. So even when I lacked the room to quantify a particular character, I made sure he wasn't erased from memory. The Red Torpedo would've wanted it that way.

This made escaping the love-square between me and the Len Wein, Geoff Johns, and Morrison/Palmiotti/Gray versions of the team a lot easier. You see, all these talented creators know well the Freedom Fighters' long history (Uncle Sam debuted in 1940) is part of their appeal, and each rendition of the team took care to preserve their heritage. Therefore, focusing on the game statistics of the current version of the Freedom Fighters still left enough room to include the most significant differences between its present members and their predecessors. So whether you're a Richard Grey/Thomas Wright voter or a Ryan Kendall fanatic, it's not too much work to have your preferred Black Condor soaring through your DC Adventures series with the information presented.

Now I know there's no getting you into the tent without a little peek at what's inside, so peep this and get ready to buy your ticket. Yessiree, this book has the Red Bee in it. Yes, the Red Bee--my personal test for how big a DC fan someone really is. If you know Superman, that just shows you've been alive since 1938, but the people who know the Red Bee... someday, Johnny DC himself will look upon you and call you his own.

The Red Bee(s--there've been two so far) has appeared in three RPG books. I've written two of them. That's what I call an accomplished life, and herein lies the proof:

The Red Bee II                                                                                      PL10 • 150 points

Abilities Str 7, Sta 3, Agl 4, Dex 3, Fgt 4, Int 4, Awe 4, Pre 3

Powers Exoskeleton (40 points, Removable, -8 points): Stinger Blasts (electricity; Ranged Damage 8), Flight 5 (60 MPH; Wings), Impervious Protection 5, Enhanced Strength 4, Senses 1 (Communication Link with Robot Drones)

Advantages Beginner's Luck, Inventor, Minion 6 (2 Robot Drones)

Skills Close Combat: Unarmed 7 (+11), Expertise: Entomology 9 (+13), Expertise: Robotics 9 (+13), Expertise: Science 8 (+12), Perception 7 (+11), Ranged Combat: Stinger Blasts 9 (+12), Technology 7 (+11)

Offense Initiative +4, Stinger Blasts +12 (Ranged Damage 8), Unarmed +11 (Damage 7)

Defense Dodge 12, Parry 10, Fortitude 9, Toughness 8, Will 10

Totals Abilities 56 + Powers 32 + Advantages 8 + Skills 28 + Defenses 26 = 150

Complications

Thrills: Freed from the laboratory, the Red Bee quickly found the excitement of costumed super-heroics to her liking.

Relationship: The Human Bomb's hatred towards her drove her away from the team. She apparently harbors some degree of attraction to Andre Twist, but guilt over her actions while under the control of alien insects caused her to abruptly cease all contact with him, leaving their mutual feelings unresolved.

History

Jenna Raleigh is the grand-niece of Richard Raleigh, who fought crime and Axis saboteurs during the early 1940s as the costumed Red Bee. Uncle Sam saw to it her grand-uncle's notes and crime-fighting gear found their way into her hands, and coupled with her extensive knowledge of insects and robotics, she was able to outfit herself as the second Red Bee.

The new Red Bee made her public debut helping to free Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters from the clutches of S.H.A.D.E., and with that accomplished accompanied the team back to its extra-dimensional base "the Heartland." Excited by her first super-heroic outing, Jenna eagerly accepted Sam's offer to join the team, and remained steadfast even after witnessing the Invisible Hood II's slaying by the traitorous third Ray.

Jenna's assumption of the Red Bee mantle changed her life entirely. She experienced the first sparks of romance with her teammate Andre Twist, and was groomed by S.H.A.D.E. to become the team's public face after Stormy Knight became a drunken embarrassment. The greatest transformation of all occurred as a result of her encounter with a swarm of alien invaders which secretly took over her mind and forcibly mutated her body into a more insect-like form.

Under their domination, Jenna seized control of the Freedom Fighters and forced them to do her bidding in preparation for a full-scale invasion of Earth. Eventually Jenna regained her free will and normal human form with the help of her teammates, and was instrumental in defeating the insect conquerors. Despite her redemption and other mitigating factors, Jenna's relationships with Andy Franklin (whom she forced to mate with her) and Andre Twist were strained to the point she felt compelled to leave the team. She returned to her research, and it remains to be seen if she will ever resume her career as the Red Bee.

Richard Raleigh

The original Red Bee had no super-powers, but relied on his hand-to-hand combat training, swarm of trained bees, and "stinger gun" (Damage 8) to fight crime. Unlike Jenna, his Expertise was in practicing law and bee-keeping.

Robot Drone                                                                                      PL6 Minions • 46 points

Abilities Str -5, Sta ―, Agl 4, Dex -2, Fgt 0, Int ―, Awe 0, Pre ―

Powers Stinger Blasts (electricity; Ranged Damage 6), Shrinking 8 (Continuous, Permanent, Innate), Flight 5 (60 MPH; Wings), Immunity 40 (Fortitude Effects, Mental Effects)

Offense Initiative +4, Stinger Blasts +6 (Ranged Damage 6), Unarmed +8 (Damage -5)

Defense Dodge 12, Parry 9, Fortitude Immune, Toughness 0, Will Immune

Totals Abilities -26 + Powers 71 + Advantages 0 + Skills 0 + Defenses 1 = 46

 

I can hear the scoffers in the back snorting, "So yer game kin handle a guy who wears a belt full o' bees! What about a guy who can level Manhattan with his sweat, huh? Stat that, nerd boy!" So without any further ado, here's the new Human Bomb:

 

The Human Bomb II                                                                           PL12 • 234 points

Abilities Str 3, Sta 4, Agl 2, Dex 2, Fgt 2, Int 4, Awe 4, Pre 2

Powers Explosive Physiology: Array (132 points): Nuclear Blast (Burst Area 12 (16 Miles) Damage 12, Side Effect (same as base effect, always occurs)), AE: Tissue Grenades (Ranged Burst Area Damage 10,), AE: Thunderclap (Cone Area Damage 8); Fibro-Wax Containment Suit (Protection 6)

Advantages Extraordinary Effort

Skills Expertise: Chemistry 12 (+16), Expertise: Science 7 (+11), Technology 7 (+11)

Offense Initiative +2, Explosive Physiology (Damage 12, 10, or 8), Unarmed +2 (Damage 3)

Defense Dodge 12, Parry 12, Fortitude 8, Toughness 10, Will 14

Totals Abilities 46 + Powers 140 + Advantages 1 + Skills 13 + Defenses 34 = 234

Complications

Acceptance: The Human Bomb feels almost completely cut off from humanity, and hopes his heroism will somehow overcome the fear he engenders in others.

Temper: The highly emotional Andy has a tendency to overreact when he believes his teammates have been harmed, retaliating with extreme (sometimes lethal) force.

Accident: If not immersed in a fibro-wax bath or given special daily medication prepared by S.H.A.D.E., Andy's explosive physiology reaches critical mass in 24 hours and uncontrollably explodes at maximum Damage rank.

Honor: Though his Temper complication sometimes overwhelms him, Andy is normally governed by a strong moral concern for the well-being of others.


Andrew Franklin was a young research scientist working in Blüdhaven when the villain Chemo's exploding poisonous form ravaged the area. Like other city residents, Franklin gained meta-human abilities as a result, and his entire physiology become dangerously explosive. Contact with his bodily tissues, even his perspiration, could level cities. The government agency S.H.A.D.E. kept Andy immersed in liquid fibro-wax to keep his power in check until, at Father Time's behest, he was equipped to serve the organization as the new Human Bomb.

Of the various meta-humans working for S.H.A.D.E., Andy had the most qualms about its aims and means, and eventually deserted it to join Uncle Sam in forming a new Freedom Fighters. In time, his teammates lost their trepidations about his volatile abilities, and his awesome powers were a major asset in defeating Gonzo the Mechanical Bastard and its corrupt allies in S.H.A.D.E..

Later incidents threatened Andy's new hard-won friendships with his teammates. While both under the influence of invading alien insects, Jenna Raleigh forced Andy to mate with her, something he has yet to forgive her for. Andre Twist in turn harbored a grudge against Andy for the incident because of his feelings for Jenna, but the two have since reconciled. With the Freedom Fighters in abeyance, Andy ponders his future in the team's "Heartland" sanctuary.

Roy Lincoln

The original Human Bomb's abilities were similar to Franklin's, but with a top-rank Damage 9. Lincoln also did not have the Accident complication.

And that, gentle readers, is my testament to a legacy handed down from Lou Fine to Travis Moore & Trevor Scott, with many, many other talented folks involved along the way. It's equally humbling and an honor to have chronicled them, and I am left with but two words for the DC Adventures-buying public: En-joy!

***

Join us next time as Seth Johnson takes a look at what it's like to create different versions of a legacy character... just like Blue Beetle!

 All characters, their distinctive likenesses, and related elements are trademarks of DC Comics © 2011. All rights reserved.

DC Adventures Design Journal #7

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by Jack Norris

So let's talk about Thomas Blake, better known to comics fans as Catman.

Catman presented three challenges in DC Adventures. First, he's a lot like Batman. This might seem like a plus, and in a lot of ways it is, but it also means care needed to be taken to showcase both the similarities and differences between the two.

Second, when looking to the ultra-cool iconic version of the character you don't have a lot to work with. Most of Catman's 47-year history can best be described as moments of crazy and plenty of "Oh hey, he's like Catwoman as a dude." Only very recently has Catman been successfully reimagined as a truly dangerous costumed predator and anti-hero. It really took the character's portrayal in comics like Villains United and Secret Six to finally make him as notable and cool as Arthur Adams' portrait in the old Who's Who in the DC Universe made him look. And so that, mostly, is the version of the character that is used as inspiration for the DC Adventures write-up.

Third, Catman doesn't have any powers. This means the cool effects and in-game potency of the character comes from Abilities, Skills, and Advantages. And of course you want those stats to accurately reflect not only the character but also his relative place in the hierarchy of other heroes and villains.

So let's get to how that happens, shall we? I've rambled enough.

Methods differ, but I start with the background write-up. It puts me in the right frame of mind, brings up iconic moments and storylines, and lets me read comics as research. After this it's time to compare and contrast with other heroes and villains. Or in other words, it's time to play "who would win?" I take the image of the character I've worked up so far and compare it to the game stats of characters we've already developed. This gives me a solid idea of where, roughly, to place Catman among such esteemed company as Batman and Nightwing. This is also where I start to identify variables that will give the character an edge in conflicts with others.

Catman's very strong and tough but not superhuman, and cunning but no genius. His Abilities reflect that. The real exception is Fighting. Catman's Fighting of 11 puts him in an elite circle of combatants. He's not at the top, but he's very dangerous. And when you see him take down various superpowered foes in Villains United and Secret Six it's not hard to see where the support for that comes.

But the Abilities are just a skeleton. There's still the meat to go. In this case the meat is Advantages and Skills.

Let's look at Skills first. This is an important step because through these game mechanics I can explain a lot of the little details that really make Catman different from Batman, who in turn are both different from Nightwing, and so on. For example, Catman is currently shown in the comics as being one of best knife-fighters and trackers in the business. He's also one scary guy, who folks have compared not unfavorably to Batman in that regard. Of course, Blake's still wigged out by Batman so he's still probably not to the Dark Knight's level there, but then that just means he's only incredibly scary and driven, not completely scary and driven. So skills like Close Combat: Short Blades, Intimidation, Perception, and Expertise: Hunter are strong. Note that Close Combat: Short Blades was used instead of Close Combat: Knives to reflect that in addition to knives, Catman is also proficient with those handheld fighting claws he's fond of carrying. It's one of those neat things you can do in DC Adventures, tailoring your specialties to fit a character concept. Other skills like Stealth and Acrobatics are at appropriate levels to reinforce the "top costumed cat in the super-jungle" image of the character.

Advantages are a big deal for a character like this. They're the modifiers and tricks Catman uses instead of Powers to deal with Monsieur Mallah or whomever else might attack him. Advantages represent fighting style, important Equipment, and special abilities that don't fit in elsewhere. In Catman's case he has combat Advantages that reflect a fast, brutal, predatory style of combat that lacks the breadth of some "trained in the Orient for years" characters but still provides a wide range of thematically appropriate and fun tricks for him to pull. Add to this, Advantages that give him pointy things to stab folks with (Equipment) and those which showcase those things he's really, really good at (Tracking, Ultimate Tracking, Skill Mastery) and voilà!

Lastly, Catman has a unique distinction ― cats accept him as one of their own. He could live with a pride of lions and not get eaten. I used the Benefit advantage to reflect this little extra touch from the comics that isn't very important game-mechanics-wise, but really helps define and differentiate him.

Finally we add Defenses and Complications. Defenses are another place where I looked to similar characters to see how he compared in terms of willpower (Will), physical endurance (Fortitude), and general defensive combat abilities (Dodge and Parry).

Complications are probably the easiest to come up with since I've already written the history and personality of the character. In a nod to his crazier past, I give him the Complication "Delusional" and note that it's in the past. Then I move onto "Conflicted," an Obsession, and the Relationships he's formed. All of these are rich areas that could be mined by a Gamemaster (if Catman were a player character) for hero points, but also give a good sense of what the character is like and the sorts of challenges he faces.

And that's basically it. You can see the results right here on the page. Catman's going to do well in any hand-to-hand situation. But if he's got a blade on him he's got a notable edge (pun intended). And while his damage output is not superhuman, things like Power Attack help him put the hurt on even superhuman foes, which accurately reflects what has happened more than a few times in the DC Universe. And if you think this guy is just too scary and you need to run? Well, good luck because he's one of the best trackers around, with a high Perception, Expertise: Hunter, appropriate Skill Masteries, and Ultimate Effort (Tracking). Note that Catman isn't optimized to hit the PL cap at every turn and there are certain stylistic choices I could have made differently for the same number of points. But Catman's written up to reflect his abilities in the comics as accurately as possible and to make him different from several other Advantage- and Skill-based characters in the DC Universe while still fitting in with them. Enjoy.

Catman                                                       PL11

Abilities

Strength        4                  Fighting         11

Stamina          4                  Intellect       1

Agility            6                  Awareness    4

Dexterity       4                  Presence        4

Equipment

Catarang: Ranged Strength-based Damage 2 • 8 points (Note: Catman rarely uses this weapon these days)

Cat Claw Grapple: Movement (Swinging) 1 • 2 points

Fighting Claws: Strength-based Damage 2 • 2 points

Knives: Strength-based Damage 1, Improved Critical • 2 points

Advantages

All-out Attack, Animal Empathy, Benefit 1 (Cats accept Catman as one of their own), Defensive Attack, Close Attack 3, Defensive Roll 4, Equipment 3, Evasion, Improved Initiative, Instant Up, Power Attack, Precise Attack (Close; Concealment), Quick Draw, Ranged Attack 4, Seize Initiative, Skill Mastery (Expertise: Hunter), Skill Mastery (Perception), Startle, Takedown, Tracking, Ultimate Effort (Tracking), Weapon Bind

Skills

Acrobatics 7 (+13), Athletics 10 (+14), Close Combat: Short Blades 2 (+13), Deception 5 (+9), Expertise: Animal Trainer 10 (+11), Expertise: Criminal 8 (+9), Expertise: Hunter 14 (+15), Insight 5 (+9), Intimidation 10 (+14), Perception 12 (+16), Persuasion 4 (+8), Ranged Combat: Throwing 4 (+8), Sleight of Hand 6 (+10), Stealth 10 (+16), Technology 5 (+6), Treatment 3 (+4), Vehicles 5 (+9)

Offense

Initiative +10

Catarang +12                      Range, Damage 6

Fighting Claws +16          Close, Damage 6

Knives +16                          Close, Damage 5, Crit. 19-20

Unarmed +14                     Close, Damage 4

Defense

Dodge               14               Fortitude            9

Parry                 14               Toughness  8/4*

                                                Will                   10

*Without Defensive Roll.

Power Points

Abilities          76                Skills                60

Powers               0                Defenses        22

Advantages    32                Total           190

Complications

Conflicted: Catman is often torn between extremes such as hero or villain; leader or follower; loner or team player.

Delusion: (past) Catman thought his special costume protected him from harm.

Obsession: In the past, Catman was obsessed with cat-themed places, objects and people, including the villainess Catwoman. He has abandoned this Obsession but feels a connection to big cats, their predatory ways, and hunting that at times borders on extreme.

Relationships: Catman has a son, Thomas, Jr. with the villainess Cheshire. He is unlikely friends with his fellow Secret Six teammate, Deadshot. He and the Huntress share a mutual attraction.

 

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


DC Adventures Design Journal #6

A Knight in Gotham

In one of our recent Design Journals, we looked at a full DC Adventures character. This week, we take a look at characters in action, with the Dark Knight Detective himself, Batman!

The middle of the night in the industrial district of Gotham City. Shadowy figures load a truck backed into the loading dock of the chemical plant while steam wafts among the metal catwalks and beams overhead. A shadow passes across the dirty window, backlit by the nearly full moon outside.

"C'mon, hurry up!" one of the rough-looking men calls to the others. "We gotta get this stuff loaded before..."

He trails off as a shadow spreads out from the end of the truck, falling over the men hurrying to load it, a shadow that spreads dark wings out to encompass them.

"Aw, no..." one of them whispers.

Round 1

Investigating the Joker's latest scheme, Batman has tracked the Clown Prince of Crime to a supposedly shut-down chemical plant, which now appears to be anything but. Knowing the Joker intends to poison the city, Batman wastes no time getting to the plant.

Taking the Dark Knight's routine Stealth check value of 30 into account, compared to the routine Perception value of 11 for the men loading the truck, the Gamemaster allows him to approach undetected without the need for a die roll. She describes the scene of the men loading up an eighteen-wheeler.

Batman's Player: I stand on top of the truck, casting a shadow down over the men to intimidate them.

GM: Roll your Initiative.

Player (rolls a 15): With my +11, that's 26.

GM: (nods and rolls a 7) You beat them easily. You also surprise them, so you get a free standard action.

Player: I'll make that a move action to jump down from the truck into their midst.

Batman's routine Athletics check value of 24 is more than enough to jump down from the back of the truck as his move action, so the GM does not call for a die roll.

Round 2

GM: The thugs all gasp and you hear one of them mutter "Aw, no..." they reflexively step back a bit, but otherwise hardly move. Your turn again.

Player: I'm going to take out the closest one.

GM: You want to make a routine attack check?

Player (grins): Ah, minions! Yeah, I'm going to go for the Takedown, too, so I'll Power Attack, full +5.

Since the thugs are minions, Batman gets to make attacks against them as routine checks. His routine check value with his unarmed attack is 30. Even with the -5 modifier from his Power Attack, more than enough to beat the thugs' Parry defense value of 12. Since they are minions, a failed Toughness resistence check automatically takes them out of the fight, and since Batman has the Takedown advantage, he can follow a successful attack with another against an additional thug within reach.

GM (rolls 1 and 10, for Toughness 4 and 14, both failures): You easily take out the two guys nearest to the end of the truck. How do you do it?

Player: I land, then rise up, menacingly. I lunge into one guy, grabbing him in an arm-lock, and then twist to throw him into the other one, the two of them going down in a heap at the edge of the loading dock.

The player's description is just for color, but the GM nods approvingly at the added detail.

GM: You've still got a move action.

Player: I'll move towards the other guys.

GM: Now the four remaining thugs get to go. One reaches for a gun, but another guy yells, "Don't, you might hit the gas!" and the other three rush you, swinging wildly.

The GM makes attack checks for the three thugs. Rather than make them all separately, she decides to give them a team check: two of the thugs roll their +2 attack bonus against DC 10; one gets a 16, the other an 11, for a total of three degrees of success. That's enough to give the third thug a +5 circumstance bonus on his attack check. The GM rolls an 18! With his +2 attack and +5 circumstance bonus, the thug has a total of 25 ... which just manages to beat Batman's Parry defense class of 24!

GM: Two of the guys box you in and the third manages to connect with a sock to the jaw. Give me a Damage Resistance Check.

Player: (rolls a 9) I got a 17.

The GM compares this against the thug's Strength 2 Damage. The resistance check is a success, right on the nose.

GM: It was little more than a graze. No damage.

Round 3

Player: HA! I turn and glare at the guy who just tagged me and demoralize them. I'm going to take a -5 on my Intimidation and do it as a move action. (rolls) I get a 27.

Compared against the thugs' Will DC of 11, that's four degrees of success, enough to disable them (-5 check penalty until the end of Batman's next turn).

GM: They're clearly rethinking the wisdom of their actions.

Player: Good. Now I take 'em down! Power Attack again!

Three of the thugs are within reach, and Batman's routine attack check is enough to hit all of them. The GM rolls Toughness checks against DC 24: all failures.

GM: How do you do it?

Player: I duck under the guy's next wild swing so he hits one of his friends and knocks him out cold. Then I kick that guy in the stomach, putting him down. When his other buddy comes up behind me, I do that thing where I bring my arm up and hit him without even looking back, keeping focused on the fourth guy who was going for his gun.

GM: (laughs) Okay, they go down. Just one guy left. He's backed into a corner and looks scared out of his wits. What do you do?

Round 4

The GM has decided that the remaining thug is too scared to do anything and that it's time to wrap this fight up, so she goes to the player's turn again.

Player: I loom over the guy, knocking aside his gun, if he goes for it. Then I grab him by the lapels, holding him against the wall and say, "Where's the Joker?"

GM: Sweat is pouring off the thug as he tries to swallow, eyes darting around, "He... he..." he stammers.

(in a different voice) "Yoo-hoo! Batsy!" a voice calls from the catwalk above. The Joker is up there! He has a gun out and leveled in your direction.

Player: I toss the thug aside. "It's over, Joker!"

GM: The Clown Prince of Crime gives an exaggerated pout. "Oh, and we were going to have such fun! You need to lighten up, Bats, have a few laughs!" Then he points the gun and pulls the trigger...

Player: (grabs the die, prepared to take action)

GM: ... and a flag with a big "BANG!" sign pops out of the gun.

Player: I draw a Batarang to take the Joker down.

GM: The Joker laughs maniacally. "Didn't get the joke?" he asks. "Don't worry, this one'll kill you!" He pulls the trigger with both hands, and the little flag shoots out of the gun like an arrow! It misses you by a mile, but it hits one of the metal canisters sitting on the dock waiting to be loaded into the truck.

Player: Uh-oh...

GM: A cloud of white gas hisses out of the punctured canister, quickly engulfing you! I need a Fortitude resistance check!

Player: (rolls an 11) I got a 20.

The GM compares this result against the rank of the Joker venom in the canisters (10). That's a DC of 20. Just enough!

GM: You manage to clap a hand over your mouth and nose just in time as you reach for the rebreather in your utility belt. The white cloud of mist covers the loading dock and you hear the sound of laughter and a truck engine starting up! You emerge from the cloud to see the truck pulling away, with the remaining thug at the wheel and the Joker hanging out of the passenger side of the cab, the open door swinging. He grins and waves at you. "Be sure to catch my encore act, Bat-breath! It'll have everyone in stitches! HAHAHAHAHA!"

Player: I grab my grapple-gun and shoot it at the truck's bumper!

GM: Make a ranged attack check. You can use your Batarang value.

Player: (rolls a 2) Um... 16?

Luckily for the player, only a roll of 1 would have missed a target as big as the truck.

GM: Good enough. The grapple drives into the edge of the metal just as the truck accelerates towards the highway on-ramp. It might be in there a little loosely, though. The cable spools out and snaps taunt.

Player: Oh boy.

GM: (grinning) Better hold on. It's going to be a bumpy ride.

Can Batman stop the Joker before he escapes with his cargo of deadly gas? What does the Clown of Chaos have planned for Gotham City? Only the Gamemaster knows for sure...

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

DC Adventures Design Journal #5

The Game System Top 10

With the appearance of a full hero write-up for Green Lantern last week, everyone is abuzz about what to expect from the game system of DC Adventures.  Here's a list of the top ten modifications and updates to the Mutants & Masterminds game rules you'll see:

1. Abilities

Rather than the original six abilities of M&M, DC Adventures has eight with the addition of a Fighting ability (representing a character's raw close combat capability) and Agility, splitting off the movement capabilities from the fine motor skills of Dexterity.

We also changed the names of some of the existing abilities to make them better fit the super-hero style, rather than the game's d20 ancestry. So we have Stamina, Intellect, Awareness, and Presence in place of Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. Strength and Dexterity remain unchanged, save for the aforementioned split between Agility and Dexterity, which helps to spread out the ability's elements, keeping it from becoming a single "uber-ability".

As previously mentioned, the system also streamlines abilities by assigning them a single numerical rank, dropping the previous ability score used to calculate that rank. Now abilities simply cost 2 point per rank.

Lastly, note that the prior Attack and Defense scores have been folded into abilities, based off of Fighting and Dexterity (for close and ranged attacks) and Fighting and Agility (for parry and dodge defense) modified by specific skills. Now the odd-duck traits of combat work the same way as other abilities and skills do.

2. Skills

Speaking of skills, DC Adventures slims down and streamlines the game's skill list. Where possible, multiple redundant skills (Climb and Swim, for example) are folded into a single skill (Athletics). Various specialty skills like Craft, Knowledge, and Profession have become a single Expertise skill. We've also added Close Combat and Ranged Combat skills, helping unify the skill system as a whole.

The smaller skill list means a bump in skill cost: 1 power point per 2 skill ranks, since characters typically have fewer overall skills (and therefore ranks in them). We also simplified power level limits with regard to skills with a flat (PL+10) ceiling for total skill bonus.

3. Advantages

Feats are gone, but not forgotten. They are replaced with Advantages, which perform the same function: minor benefits and abilities, most often for things a character either has or does not have. We generally consolidated the advantage list, making ample use of the Benefit advantage to cover a lot of general ground.

Other modifications to advantages include making many combat advantages like Power Attack into improved versions of combat maneuvers (so everyone can Power Attack, those with the advantage simply do so better) and use of circumstance modifiers (see below) to clarify the relationship between advantages and power level.

4. Effects

Powers in DC Adventures have been clearly divided into effects, which are the components and game elements, and the powers themselves, which are made up of one or more effects with modifiers. So Damage, for example, is an effect, whereas a Blast is Ranged Damage, possibly with some other modifiers and appropriate descriptors, such as electricity or force. Similarly, razor-sharp claws are Close Damage, perhaps with the Penetrating modifier. Powers may even have arrays of Alternate Effects, choosing between different ones each round.

Again, where possible, effects have been consolidated and made consistent. For example, the Affliction effect and its modifiers allow you to custom-build a wide range of powers that impose certain conditions, including Dazzle, Mind Control, Sleep, Snare, and Suffocation, to name a few. You can even fine-tune the power so your Dazzle has different conditions (or imposes additional ones). The pre-built powers are simply examples of what you can do with the effects and modifiers.

5. Defenses

"Saving throws" are converted to defenses in DC Adventures, values used for both the difficulty of certain attack or effect checks, and for resistance checks against certain effects. So your character's Dodge defense determines the difficulty to hit him with a ranged attack, and may also be used for a resistance check to narrowly avoid a danger or trap.

6. Complications

Complications come into their own in DC Adventures, taking over the role filled by drawbacks as well (some power drawbacks get turned into flaws for effects). Now pretty much anything that causes trouble for the heroes is handled as a complication which earns the players hero points. They range from personal issues and dramatic subplots to vulnerabilities, weaknesses, and physical challenges. In particular, players are encouraged to define their hero's motivation as a complication, which the GM can use as a story hook, rewarding the player with hero points for doing so.

7. Actions

We provide a clear breakdown of different types of actions during a conflict, including some new ones like Recover (letting you take an action to remove a damage condition), and modified actions like Grab, the new-and-improved version of grappling.

8. Conflict

The game's combat rules are generally cleaned-up. Modifications include the addition of maneuvers like All-out Attack, Defensive Attack, and so forth; different ways of performing actions that affect how the checks for that action are rolled. There are also additional options for critical hits beyond increased effect, including adding an additional effect onto the attack--such as a critical hit that blinds or stuns in addition to doing damage--or even having an alternate effect.

9. Circumstance Modifiers

The vast majority of situational modifiers in the game have been consolidated into a simple scheme of +2 for an advantage (+5 for a major advantage) and -2 for a disadvantage (-5 for a major one). Various conditions, effects, maneuvers, and so forth reference these circumstance modifiers and they provide a quick guideline for applying modifiers to any situation. Circumstance modifiers (being situational) do not count towards power level; anyone can partake of them, depending on the circumstances.

10. Rank & Measure

Lastly, DC Adventures uses a consolidated table for converting game ranks into real-world measurements of things like distance, time, mass, and so forth. This applies some consistency across the board in terms of how abilities and effects work, and allows for quick in-game calculations like the distance a character can cover with a particular movement effect rank (since speed + time = distance).

The Rank & Measure table is broadly used throughout the game, bringing many game systems under the same set of guidelines.

There's much more: addressing things like specific power effects, modifiers, actions like grabbing, and so forth, all designed to make things clearer, most consistent, and easier to use. We'll take a look at further examples and get a look at the game system in action in an upcoming design journal. Stay tuned!

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

DC ADVENTURES Design Journal #4

"In Brightest Day..."

Last week, we revealed which DC heroes and villains will be detailed in the DC Adventures Hero's Handbook. This week, we take a look at a complete character sheet for one of those heroes, the Emerald Gladiator, the Green Lantern!


Green Lantern                            PL14

Abilities
Strength 2Fighting 5
Stamina 2Intellect 1
Agility 2Awareness 3
Dexterity 3Presence 3


Powers

Power Ring: 124 points, Removable (-24 points) • 100 points

AI and Database: Features 2 • 2 points

Communication: Senses 1 (Communication Link to Central Power Battery) • 1 point

Flight: Flight 14 (32,000 MPH), Movement 4 (Environmental Adaptation: Zero-G, Space Travel 3) • 36 points

Force Field: Protection 12, Impervious 12; Immunity 9 (Life Support) • 33 points

Force Manipulation: 36-point Array

Force Blast: Ranged Damage 18 • 36 points

AE: Force Constructs: Create 18 • 1 point

AE: Lifting: Move Object 18 • 1 point

Scanning Beam: Senses 6 (Analytical Auditory, Chemical, and Visual) • 6 points

Universal Translator: Comprehend Languages 4 • 8 points

Advantages

Fearless, Teamwork, Ultimate Will

Skills

Athletics 4 (+6), Close Combat: Unarmed 3 (+8), Deception 4 (+7), Expertise: Law Enforcement 8 (+9), Expertise: Military 8 (+9), Insight 8 (+11), Investigation 4 (+5), Perception 4 (+7), Persuasion 4 (+7), Ranged Combat: Power Ring 7 (+10), Vehicles 12 (+15)

Offense

Initiative +2

Power Ring +10, Ranged, Damage 18

Unarmed +8, Close, Damage 2

Defense

Dodge 12

Parry 10

Toughness 14/2*

Fortitude 10

Will 18

*Without Power Ring Protection.

Power Points

Abilities 42

Powers 100

Advantages 3

Skills 33

Defenses 38

Total 216

Complications

Guilt: Hal feels at least partially responsible for the terrible acts of Parallax while the fear entity controlled him.

Power Loss: The power ring needs periodic recharging and issues a warning as its power runs low.

Reputation: Hal Jordan is a maverick in nearly all aspects of his life and known for having issues with authority. He is also both famous and infamous as Green Lantern.

Weakness: Green Lantern power rings depend on the willpower of the wearer; the maximum rank of the ring's effects is equal to the wearer's Will rank, and moments of self-doubt or hesitation can cause the ring to fail.

Green Lantern Power Ring

Green Lantern wields one of the most powerful weapons in the universe: a power ring created by the Guardians of the Universe to tap into the green light of willpower, gathered and focused through the Central Power Battery on the planet Oa, headquarters of the Green Lantern Corps.

A power ring protects its wearer from harm automatically (its Force Field power) and a Green Lantern on the defensive can use Force Constructs to Create powerful barriers. The ring is equipped with an artificial intelligence (AI) allowing it to answer questions for its wielder from a knowledge base on Oa. (The GM largely gets to determine what information the ring can provide.) Power rings are programmed to seek out a suitable new wielder if their current wearer dies.

The wielder's will and imagination are the only real limits on a power ring; a wide range of power stunts is possible using the ring's effects, particularly its Force Manipulation Array and Scanning Beam (for exotic senses or scans). A power ring's Force Manipulation Array is limited to ranks no greater than the wearer's Will rank.

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

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.

DC ADVENTURES Design Journal #2

The New Issue Number One

One of the goals with DC ADVENTURES was to present it as a complete RPG; DC wanted "a game" not a sourcebook for an existing game. On the other hand, it was the strength of the Mutants & Masterminds system and the production values of its products that attracted DC in the first place, so it had to be a game strongly rooted in what we'd already done. For us, the path to a new edition of the M&M rules seemed clear.

We could have simply repackaged the second edition of M&M with DC art, examples, and sample characters, but if we were going to produce a new, stand-alone game product anyway, why not take this opportunity to tune-up and spruce-up M&M? It was time: the second edition is five years old and, while it has been solid, there are things we've wanted to fix, either known issues with the rules (like ... sigh ... grappling) or ways in which we could streamline and simplify. We also had the benefit of years of supplementary material and insight, particularly Ultimate Power, to work with.

Another key reason for putting a new iteration of M&M in DC ADVENTURES was the change in the d20 System market. M&M Second Edition had long since established its independence from its Open Game License "ancestor" so why not go the rest of the way towards making it a truly independent system? That involved looking closely at what really worked in the game, and what was merely a holdover from the System Resource Document(s), whether it was terminology (*cough*feats*cough*) or mechanics (ability scores vs. ability modifiers; the scores didn't actually do much of anything).

One of the advantages of Open Content is also that it evolves and develops, and those developments are shared. So M&M could benefit from improvements in system design in our products as well as throughout the Open Game Content "infosphere".

We also knew that it was important to hold on to what made M&M such a success, the elements of the game that worked, and to make it possible to use our extensive library of M&M 2e material with the new edition with a minimum of conversion and tinkering. That's why we absolutely did not mess with things like the game's core mechanic (of d20 roll + traits vs. difficulty class) or popular elements like the damage system, hero points, or power levels (and their associated trade-offs and customization). You'll still find all of those in the game, although some of the terminology might be slightly different and some of the resolution a bit more streamlined.

Speaking of compatibility, the decision to tune-up the M&M system as the engine for DC ADVENTURES led directly to the decision to also produce a new, separate edition of Mutants & Masterminds. We wanted the two games to be 100% compatible, and for core M&M to benefit from the work we were doing on DC. So by this Fall, players will have the option of choosing from the DC ADVENTURES Hero's Handbook (with its full-color hardcover production values and DC Universe information) or the Mutants & Masterminds Hero's Handbook, a softcover just-the-rules approach to the game, both with the same game system content for playing and running the game. Further M&M material will be compatible and usable with DC ADVENTURES source material, giving you two game lines in one!



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

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