Heroes & Villains, Volume 2 Design Journal #2: The Top

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!

Heroes & Villains Design Journal #3: Blue Beetle, Part II

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), Randomize
1
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.

Heroes & Villains Design Journal #3: Blue Beetle, Part I

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 10
20
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 I
Khaji 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),
Randomize
1 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 10
20
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. I
DC 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

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 2 Fighting 5
Stamina 2 Intellect 1
Agility 2 Awareness 3
Dexterity 3 Presence 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.

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.

DC ADVENTURES Design Journal #2

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.