Tuesday, February 23, 2016

DC HEROES - EARTH-AD

I think that after including my one long-term Marvel Super Heroes campaign amongst this Campaigns I Have Known series, it's only fair I write up one of my DC HEROES ones.

Yes? So glad we agree.

I've run a good number of DC Universe campaigns. Not all of them using the DC HEROES game by Mayfair Games however. No actually, only a scant few of my DC oriented RPG campaigns actually used that system strangely enough. While I did enjoy the game quite a lot, I started running games in the DC Universe before it came out, and long after it went out of print.

My first DC game was a Teen Titans related campaign using Villains & Vigilantes in which we played new teen heroes joining the established Wolfman/Perez era group. Another was an Earth-2 inspired game using Golden Heroes in which we were a kind of alternate All-Star Squadron (I think we called ourselves The All-Star Society, or The Justice Squadron, or something).

Remember that when DC HEROES came out in 1985, DC Comics was producing it's epic, continuity changing Crisis on Infinite Earths series. This meant that a lot of the material in the game, which focused heavily on DC's Silver Age, was now inaccurate, or incomplete to the Bronze Age comics fans of 1986, the comics they were reading at the time, and the post-Crisis status quos to come.

I ran a few games using the 1st edition of DC HEROES, but most were short, used as a break from one of our other, longer, ongoing campaigns. It wasn't until Crisis on Infinite Earths was over that inspiration struck me for a great DC HEROES campaign.

Please note that a number of elements in this campaign description would later appear in published DC Comics. My friends and I came up with these stories years before they would see print by professionals. We were about 17. 

How's that for perspective. A group of 17 year olds came up with characters, plots, and ideas it would take adult comic book pros years to duplicate.

Heheh. Great minds think alike I guess. Don't be surprised if, as a DC comic book reader, you find you remember some parts of this story. It's not deja vu, until later.

Or something.



***


Campaigns I Have Known
Proudly Presents...
DC HEROES -
EARTH AD


First there was a multiverse,
an infinite number of separate, but connected alternate, parallel universes,
and in each universe, an Earth.
Then...there came a Crisis...



When it had ended, the multiverse appeared to be no more. Only a single, combined Earth remained.

But that was not exactly the truth. Not the complete truth.

I shall not reveal the greater truth to you right away, but rather just as I revealed it to the players. I shall reveal it...at the end.

Title: DC HEROES - EARTH-AD

System: DC HEROES (Mayfair Games), 1st Edition.

Circa: 1986-1987. There were approximately two dozen sessions give or take a few.

Player Base: We started with five male players, 16-17 years of age. By the end of the campaign we had added one more regular male player, and one female player who appeared often, but not every session. All were in the same age range. Occasionally, additional players would pop in for a few sessions playing 'guest stars'.

The grand finale had something like nine, or ten players/PCs.

Characters: The characters were created at a slightly higher point base than was recommended by the rules. Our intention was to have a team of heroes whose power levels were between those of the Teen Titans, and The Justice League of America.

The basic premise we started with was that Superman first appeared on the scene in 1938 (Action Comics #1, cover date June, 1938), Batman in 1939 (Detective Comics #27, May, 1939), and The Flash (Jay Garrick that is) in 1940 (Flash Comics #1, January, 1940).

If the first time a hero appeared in public on Earth-AD' was the same as their first appearance in comics, if the universe never 'rebooted', and if linear time were constant and the characters aged normally, what does 1986 look like?

Sound familiar?

Our characters for the campaign are the Justice League Infinity, and consist of...





From Left to Right...
In the air: Kroo Pan, Green Lantern of Sector 2814
On the ground: Wonder Woman, Flash, Atom, The Atomic Man (in the back),
Superman, Batman, Robin, and Amazing Man.



Amazing Man

The son of the original Amazing Man who operated in the late Golden Age, Owen Everett was one of the oldest members of the team, but not the most experienced when compared to the former Teen Titans in the group. Still, Everett took on the roll as the soul of the team, and the voice of wisdom more often than not.

Like his father, Owen has the ability to transform his body into any material he touched, gaining its properties. For example, if he touched steel he would essentially turn into steel (like the Marvel Comics villain Crusher Creel, The Absorbing Man).

Amazing Man was not the team leader, but no matter who was acting as leader at the time, they paid close attention to his council.

Amazing Man joined after session 10, and remained a regular from that point on.


The Atom

Sometimes referred to as 'Atom, The Atomic Man', Albert Rothstein is the grandson of the villain Cyclotron, godson to the Golden Age Atom Al Pratt, and a star pupil, and lab assistant to Ray Palmer, the former [Silver Age] Atom.

Rothstein possesses the ability to alter his mass, and atomic structure so as to become physically larger, or smaller, and more or less molecularly dense. He can, for example, become a super strong, four inch tall man, or a forty foot ghost by adjusting his density to pass through walls.

The Atom has a number of weaknesses, including being unable to attain his maximum, or minimum density, or size for more than a few minutes at a time. In addition, high level of radiation can destabilize his body.

Rothstein is the teams go to science expert, especially in the area of physics and nuclear energy.

The Atom/Atomic Man was a series regular.


Batman
 
Dick Grayson*, formerly the first Robin, becomes the second Batman, with Bruce Wayne, and Kathy Kane-Wayne's son Bob serving as the second Robin. All grown up, Bob Wayne is now Batman, often teaming up with his half-sister Helena, aka The Huntress.

Bob Wayne's personality, and style is more relaxed then that of his predecessors. He thoroughly enjoys being Batman, fighting crime, helping people, and being a member of the JLI. His gear is a little more advanced, but relatively the same as the traditional equipment familiar to Batman fans. He does possess a highly advanced, grav-car Batmobile, that is essentially a Batplane as well.

Around the 6th session he teams up with Miranda Harper, the daughter of Roy Harper/Speedy*, dressed in a Robin costume and equipped with Oliver Queen's/Green Arrow's old weaponry. She joins him officially soon after as the new Robin.

Batman was a series regular.


The Flash

Wallace West has taken over for the deceased Barry Allen, who perished during the recent 'Crisis' while saving the universe from certain doom. Wally has been a hero for years, operating as Barry's sidekick, and with the Teen Titans as 'Kid Flash'. Initially depressed over the death of his uncle, and mentor, Wally is given a pep talk by the Golden Age Flash Jay Garrick, and entrusted with Garrick's helmet.

Wally is romantically linked with Raven, but the feelings are not reciprocated due to her fear of releasing the inner demonic power she holds within her. When she departs this realm for worlds beyond, Flash is comforted by the heroine Green Flame (NPC), the daughter of Jade, and grand-daughter of the Golden Age Green Lantern Allan Scott. The two began a romantic relationship in the later part of the campaign.

Flash was a series regular.


Green Lantern 

Just as Abin Sur used his ring to find a worthy successor in Hal Jordan, Jordan used his ring to locate a worthy successor when he planned to retire and marry his long-time love, Carol Ferris. His ring chose a most surprising recipient - an alien of the  Klaramarian species, infamous to Earth's Superhero community due to their worst possible representative, the villainous 'Faceless Hunter of Saturn'.

The son of Klee Pan, the heroic Klaramarian who thwarted the evil Faceless Hunter Chun Yull on a number of occasions, Kroo Pan was initially greeted with some degree of mistrust by the other Justice Leaguers. Nonetheless, Kroo Pan proved himself time, and again a true hero, and a stalwart friend.

Green Lantern was series regular.


Robin

The daughter of Roy Harper/Speedy, who later became The Red Arrow, Harper was on a tour of the Hall of Justice, when it was attacked by the supervillain known as Ultimatum (secretly The Ultra-Humanite...and more! See below).

While attempting to find cover, she noticed several damaged display cases containing paraphernalia belonging to former Justice League members. Donning a Robin costume, and gear once belonging to Green Arrow, Harper joined the Leaguers on duty in the fight against the invader.

Impressing Batman (Bob Wayne), and Flash (Wally West) very much, Harper was offered additional training and a spot on the team as the new Robin.

Note that this makes Robin only five years or so younger than Batman. This proved a very interesting dynamic for the Dynamic Duo.

Robin didn't  really join until session 7. She appeared in about a dozen or so sessions total.


Superman

Grandson of Clark Kent, and Lois Lane, son of Jonathan James Kent, the current Superman of Earth-AD is Clark Kent Jr., sometimes nicknamed 'CJ'. He is initially shown to be less powerful than his predecessors, but later discovers he can temporary increase his abilities by prolonged exposure to increased levels of Yellow Sun Energy. He must be careful, as too much will harm him.

He is more resistant to Green Kryptonite, and Magic than his father, and grandfather, with the former causing him mild pain, and nausea only.

Superman is in an on again, off again relationship with Donna Troy/Wonder Woman. It's complicated.

Superman was a series regular.


Wonder Woman

The current Wonder Woman is Donna Troy, who recently took over the position from the original Wonder Woman's daughter Lyta Trevor, previously called Fury. Like Wally West, Donna Troy had grown up amongst the Superhero community as a sidekick to Princess Diana, and as a member of the Teen Titans.

Donna Troy's origin, a much convoluted, and retconned mess in the comics, was greatly simplified here, sticking close with the original tale, but making some key adjustments to reconcile with our timeline.

She is played as being in a rocky relationship with our version of Superman.

Wonder Woman is initially an NPC, and often called off on separate missions. She is taken over as a PC in session 12 (I think), and appears in the next dozen sessions give or take one, or two absences.


Guest Stars Included:

Aquaman - The son of Arthur Curry/Orin of Atlantis, Arthur Curry Jr. goes by the alias of Tom Waters when we first meet him. The undersea kingdom of Atlantis was under the rule of Black Manta, who had captured Garth, the second Aquaman (formerly Aqualad). The Justice League aided Tom, who revealed his true identity, took the throne, and took on the mantle of (the third) Aquaman.

Aquaman made three appearances.

Doctor Fate - Hector Hall, son of the Golden Age Hawkman, and Hawkwoman, and who previously had a career as a hero called The Silver Scarab. Kent Nelson, the original Doctor Fate, granted the Helm of Fate to Hall when he passed away.

Doctor Fate made two, or three appearances.

Hourman - Grandson of the original Hourman, Robert Tyler had vastly improved the compound that gave his grandpa his powers. Using minerals, and chemicals extracted from a deteriorating Bizarro, Robert created 'Super-Miraclo', which essentially made him Superman for one hour every twenty-four hours.

Hourman made five, or six appearances.

Supergirl - The daughter of Clark Kent's cousin Kara Zor-El, aka Powergirl (later Powerwoman). In this reality, Powergirl first appears in the late Golden Age/early Silver Age. making her a contemporary of Jade, Fury, Hector Hall, and the like. Supergirl is therefore her daughter, and a closer contemporary to the PC team. She is only a part-time Justice Leaguer as she spends a good deal of time in the future with the 30th Century Legion of Superheroes.

Supergirl made five, or six appearances.


Synopsis: Following a year long event known as 'The Crisis', the Justice League reorganizes to became Justice League Infinity, establishing a new, and improved Hall of Justice as their home base.

While the participants of the event recall that there was a 'Crisis', and remember certain key, dramatic moments during it (such as the death of Barry Allen, the Silver Age Flash), no one can seem to recollect exact details about it. There is some belief that their lack of memory about what transpired may be protecting them from allowing it to happen again (although they are not certain why they hold this belief).

That is all background however. Our story opens with the Justice League Infinity members in the middle of a battle against the forces of the evil villain Ultimatum! With the help of numerous other costumed criminals, and gimmick garbed goons, Ultimatum has been on a crime spree, stealing scientific equipment, and advanced technology from Wayne Enterprises, S.T.A.R. Labs, and others.

As the story progresses, the heroes discover that Ultimatum is not the only one stealing cutting edge tech. A mysterious female figure has been reported appearing out of nowhere at various sites, taking particular pieces of equipment, and then disappearing just as suddenly as she came.

Batman follows a hunch based on a clue at one of the crime scenes, and encounters an unknown individual with pale, purple hair, wearing a green, and white outfit at the site of the original Justice Society of America headquarters. The odd man warns him 'This world is coming apart...it is made of memories poorly reconciled...until now. Now there are no memories left..." After delivering his cryptic message, the fellow vanishes.

Several other villain plots, and hero/secret identity subplots follow, all the while regularly tying back into the overarching mystery. The man in green reappears with additional warnings, only to be drawn away again. As it turned out, this man was Kell Mossa, also known as Pariah, attempting to leave clues to help the Justice League against some coming apocalypse.

Finally the PCs discover that Ultimatum hasn't been stealing anything. Not exactly. The mysterious woman has been taking things, and Ultimatum is trying to stop her, even if it means taking, or destroying the item. The woman is found to be handing the items she steals over to her partner, who is assembling a Quantum Frequency Stabilizer. If he doesn't, reality itself will surely unravel!

Her partner reveals himself to be...Alexander Luthor of Earth-3! Actually, he is a dimensional impression of Alex Luthor.  He, and his ally Harbinger state that the universe the game exists in is merely a pocket dimension within the body of Alex Luthor. If he can not stabilize his powers, Alexander Luthor (the real one, not the pocket universe shadow that is conversing with the PCs) will die, and their entire continuum with him.






Ultimatum, originally described as a clone of the Earth-AD Lex Luthor, infused with Brainiac's technology, powered by Metallo's Kryptonite Heart, and possessed by the consciousness of the Ultra-Humanite is actually a vessel for a far more dangerous evil...The Anti-Monitor!

Hiding within Alex Luthor's pocket dimension, the Anti-Monitor has been slowly, arduously trying to repair, and rebuild himself. If Alex Luthor dies, the Anti-Monitor would be able to absorb the dissipating dimensional, and cosmic energy, and reform himself in short order.

After a few more episodes, battling a deteriorating cosmos throughout the pocket dimension of Earth-AD's space/time, the PC heroes enter a final battle against Ultimatum/Anti-Monitor, while Alex Luthor-3 races to complete his machine. Harbinger reveals that if Luthor-3 is successful, he and Harbinger will live, but the universe of Earth-AD could very possibly be rebooted beyond recognition. Of course, there will be at least three other survivors, specially protected by the dimensional abilities Luthor-3 possesses...

The original 1938 Superman, the original Lois Lane, and the Superboy of Earth-Prime.

You see, at the end of Crisis on Infinite Earths, [From the Wikipedia entry] after defeating the Anti-Monitor (with the help of Kal-L, the Earth-Two Superman and the Earth-Prime Superboy), Alexander reveals that he has saved Kal-L's wife, the Earth-Two Lois Lane, from
being erased from existence when the multiverse was destroyed. The foursome, no longer having a place in the Post-Crisis universe, retreat to a "paradise dimension" (which Alexander accesses with the last of his dimensional powers).

Earth-AD is the 'paradise dimension'.

Unfortunately, the entire universe of Earth-AD was 'constructed' out of the memories of the Golden Age Superman, Lois Lane, and the DC comic book reading Superboy of Earth-Prime. Discrepancies in their recollections of various DC continuity elements caused the ripples in space/time that were 'corrected' as best they could be. This explains the divergent history, ages, and other aspects that separate Earth-AD from the Post-Crisis on Infinite Earths continuity most comic fans are familiar with.

Made aware of their situation, and the possibility that saving the multiverse from a reborn Anti-Monitor may cause everyone, and everything they've ever known to cease existing, the PCs decide to give it their all, and ensure the defeat of the Anti-Monitor.

The final battle was brutal, and heart-wrenching. Dr. Fate, Green Lantern, The Atom, and numerous NPC Superheroes are killed. The Flash manages to power-up, and focus Alex Luthor-3's device, in much the same heroic way Barry Allen destroyed the Anti-Monitor's device, and saved the Earth in Crisis on Infinite Earths. The very last moments before the machine kicks in involve Batman, and Superman side-by-side laying a serious smack-down on Anti-Monitor.

THOOM!

The universe...no...the multiverse is reborn. This time the continuity is more like DC as it was before Crisis. It is a DC where Crisis never occurred, and the continuity of an infinite number of Earths lived on...

Perhaps someday, I will get to run in that universe.


Appendix N: Easily 50 years of DC Comics history, Crisis on Infinite Earths #1-12.

Bonus Features:

Sadly, while I can recall the players, I honestly can't recall them all, and I don't remember who played who. It's terribly embarrassing.

A special shout out, and thanks to Alfonzo V., Andres D., Buzz, Cynthia R., David C., Pete H., Will C., and several others.

Several comic books from DC have come out since we played this campaign that have had similar characters, themes, events, and other remarkably coincidences. Most notable to me is Superman/Batman: Generations by John Byrne. Some of the supporting cast, and background characters are not unlike those from Kingdom Come.

The primary focus was to create a modern comics world (well, modern for 1986) that evolved out of the Golden Age, not the Silver Age. Remember that the Silver Age essentially rebooted many of the Golden Age characters, and by 1986 those original versions were living on an alternate Earth (Earth-2). Earth-AD assumes a Silver Age that grew out of/descended from the Golden Age more directly, and then continued on from there.

Nearly every single DC character you can think of made some kind of appearance in this campaign in some form. A six session arc in the later half of the campaign (towards the end actually) sent the PCs tumbling out of control through time, encountering the likes of Wild West Heroes Jonah Hex, World War II heroes like Sgt. Rock, and the Justice Society, and into the distant future of the 30th century and The Legion of Superheroes.

While this was not my first DC campaign, not my longest, and not my last, it does remain a favorite.

*Some of the ages of the characters may seem off, but consider:

Dick Grayson/Robin, and Roy Harper/Speedy are often associated with the Silver Age Teen Titans, but actually Robin first appeared in 1940 and Speedy in 1941. Wally West, usually depicted as their contemporary, didn't actually make his first appearance until 1959.

The players decided that while Wally would make a viable Player Character, Dick Grayson, and Roy Harper would be too old.


Now get ready for Star Trek, Star Wars, Paranoia, Toon, and much more!


See you again soon!

AD
Barking Alien






6 comments:

  1. This sounds too cool. I've considered a "Next Generation" campaign of superheroes myself from time to time...

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    Replies
    1. I have actually run several of them.

      One was a Legion of Superheroes campaign set after the Legionnaires (more often than not shown as teenagers and/or young adults) had retired. The PCs were a mix of the sons, and daughters of familiar Legion members, as well as brand new characters.

      Another was a variant on 'Young Justice', focusing on a group of heroes too old to be Teen Titans, but not yet ready to join the Justice League.

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  2. You know, some time ago, a blog challenge asked spanish blogs "whom would you like to play with". While reading all the "Gary Gygax","Vin Diesel" and "the porn stars of Playing D&D With Porn Stars" answers, I was thinking I definitely would like to play a superhero game run by you.

    Did that sound too much like I am your groupie? XD

    The thing is, I love Mutants & Masterminds, but I feel I'm not great at GMing it, particularly in terms of scale and feeling*. Your campaigns, on the other hand, just sound like coming straight from a comic book.

    *I have had a few great moments, like this conversation between one of the heroes and the main, flying villain (sort of Wolverine and Magneto equivalents):

    "Come down here and fight like a man!"
    "I don't fight like a man - I fight like a GOD!!"

    That's the feeling I would like to give the game more often.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sounds to me like you're on the right track.

      Honestly, thank you so much for this comment. It really means a lot to me. Aside from getting positive feedback on a post (which is always nice), it is personally gratifying to know someone likes the idea of gaming the way I game.

      Years back I wouldn't have needed the vote of confidence so much, as I had a couple of groups who proved they shared my gaming approach by showing up for sessions; some people crossing state lines to do so.

      Nowadays...I feel it less clearly. I feel like my players like my GMing style, but that I'm not really running full throttle. If I did...would they still come to the table?

      In the future, if there is interest, I may attack the idea of Superhero game tips, tricks, and general advice.

      What do you all think?

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    2. I would love to ready any tips, tricks, or suggestions you have. Why I love comics books my friends and I have never really had any good success playing Super Hero RPGs. For whatever reason its one of the styles/types/genres of games I have a hard time with.

      Delete