DC Adventures Design Journal #7

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.

Jon Leitheusser

Jon Leitheusser is the developer for the Mutants & Masterminds game. He started gaming at the age of 12, has worked in the industry at a game and comic store, two distribution companies, as a publisher (where he originally published the Dork Tower comic book), as a game designer for HeroClix, as a freelancer, and finally for Green Ronin. He's originally from Burlington, Wisconsin and now lives in Renton, Washington with his wife and a really unfriendly cat.