Monday, February 29, 2016

Shifting Memories

My Campaigns I Have Known series of posts seems to be a rousing success.

The series has generated a huge number of hits (mostly from Reddit*, and RPGBloggers), gotten a lot of positive feedback (as evidenced by comments on the blog, messages on Facebook, and emails directly to me), and has just been so much fun reliving the awesome of yesteryear.

I intend to continue doing these posts into the rest of 2016.

The posts up until now have been focused on IP based campaigns. That is because, as I've noted in the past, I've run A LOT of IP based RPGs.

I would also say that what you've read so far are the campaigns you'd expect to see from me. By that I mean it really shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that I am reminiscing fondly about Star Trek, Star Wars, Marvel, DC, and Macross, a Space Opera story with Mecha. Adam ran memorable games of subjects he likes a lot? Wow, I'm stunned...said no one who knows me, or reads this blog.

For the next part of this series, I'd like to include some campaigns that aren't in the genres you might expect from yours truly.

During a sizable stretch of my time in the hobby, it was very much my groups thing to try new games. If a game came out, and we knew about it, we played it. Many such sojourns amounted to little more than simply plotted, and/or action heavy one-shots. With a decent number of these experiments, my friends and I ended up discovering new favorites. On occasion, we would get at least one great campaign out of a new system before moving on to our next new game.

It seems only fair that such games, and campaigns get a nod, and a thank you. A little blog love for the unlikely to be played, but never forgotten.

I'd also like to get a little more original art from back in the day posted up. Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of the art that was created for most of these games, having misplaced, or lost a lot of it over the years. I do still have some, and I'm getting in touch with some of my old players to see what they have. If you're interested, wish us luck.


Thanks for stopping by this month. See you in March!

AD
Barking Alien







STAR WARS - THE FIRST CAMPAIGN

This is the last of the Campaigns I Have Known for the month of February, but not the end of the series as my next post will explain. For now, let's discuss another first in my personal hobby history. 
 
If you forced me to choose between my love of Star Trek, and Star Wars, I'd have to choose Star Trek every time, but only because you forced me to pick one. Why would you do that? It's so cruel. Who the heck do you think you are? I...wait...ahem.

I do absolutely love me some Star Wars, as should be readily apparent from the Star Wars Traveller project I started last month, if nothing else. I discovered D&D, and Role-Playing Games in the same year that Star Wars came out. It was inevitable that I would incorporate my passion for that galaxy far, far away into my favorite pastime.

Unfortunately, unlike Star Trek which had an official RPG in 1982, Star Wars wouldn't see one until the awesome West End Games version came out in 1987.

Wait a moment. Think about this for a bit. I mean really think about it.

In 1982 there had only been two films, Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. The 'Expanded Universe' consisted of four novels: 'Splinter of the Mind's Eye', 'Han Solo at Star's End', 'Han Solo's Revenge', and 'Han Solo and the Lost Legacy'. There was also the Star Wars Holiday Special, but the less said about that the better.

That's it. That's all there was to base a campaign on. To be honest, that made it so much easier, and so much better than trying to do it now. Now there are a million non-canon things that are confused with canon, and people have a hissy-fit if you don't include as law that one, ridiculous idea that just happened to be in that one book that was their favorite, but you put down after chapter 2.

This was when Star Wars was focused, pure. When Star Wars was Star Wars.

Well, this Star Wars fan wasn't going to wait for an official RPG.

After a particularly vibrant discussion about Star Wars in the lunchroom of my Junior High School, my friends at the time convinced me to put together a Star Wars RPG. Using an unholy mish-mash of rules from Dungeons & Dragons, Gamma World, and Villains & Vigilantes, I was able to create a workable system.

Here is all I can remember about this endeavor. Like that Star Wars game of many years past, here goes nothing...

Warning: I remember only bits, and pieces of the details of this campaign. If you have any questions about the game, the characters, or anything at all please don't hesitate to leave a comment. I will do my best to clarify.
 
 
 
 ***



Campaigns I Have Known
Proudly Presents...
 
STAR WARS - THE FIRST CAMPAIGN



 

 

Our Ship - A Corellian Medium Freighter
Based on this early concept painting of the Millennium Falcon
By the incomparable Ralph McQuarrie



Title: STAR WARS - THE FIRST CAMPAIGN

Yeah, this campaign didn't actually have a title. I don't think I titled any of my campaigns from 1982, or earlier. If I did, I probably gave them a title afterwards, even years later.

System: Homebrew/Kitbash. Class/Level system similar to D&D. Special powers based on Mutant Powers in Gamma World, and Superpowers in Villains & Vigilantes. Weapons, Droids, and other technology taken from, and based on Gamma World. Armor similar to V&V.

Sadly I have very few memories about the rules specifics. I remember that the Jedi Class had four 'Stages'. Levels 1-3 you were a Wanna-Be Jedi. You needed to find some kind of teacher in order to proceed to Levels 4-6, Jedi Apprentice. For 7-9 you are a Jedi Knight. You could stay a Knight, or face a great personal challenge and proceed to Jedi Master, Levels 10-12.

Circa: 1982. We played a few days a week for about six months, with each day's session lasting only 4 hours or so. Once, or twice a month, we would meet on a Saturday, or Sunday for full 8 hour sessions. If I had to venture a guess, there were close to a hundred sessions.

Player Base: Our core group consisted of five male players, all about 13 years of age. Other players would pop in and out playing guest star roles on a fairly regular basis. Some of the guest stars had pretty substantial roles, appearing quite regularly.

Our grand finale had about 7, or 8 players.

Characters: I wish I could recall all the Classes I created, the specifics of the Alien, and Droid rules, and many other elements that are completely eluding me. If any of my friends reading this recall anything please let me know.

As with my previous post on Star Trek - Polaris, my memory is a little dicey here. I don't recall all of the PCs' names, and I'm certainly missing a lot of details, but I'll do the best I can.


Jake Sunrunner  - Jedi (played by David F.)

Although all the characters in this campaign were awesome, and had their own moments in the sun (or in the case of Tatooine, Suns) the campaign's protagonist was very much Jake Sunrunner. He was the star of the show, no doubt about it.

Sunrunner starts the game as a mechanic, working at a fix-it shop on the desolate, ash-covered planet of Gardine (pronounced GAR-deen). The shop is owned by his uncle, whom he lives with as his parents are deceased.

Jake becomes involved in the adventure of a life-time when a pair of Smuggler types call on him, and his uncle to help repair their ship, a modified Corellian freighter. The vessel is old, beat up, and has obviously seen some combat recently, but the Sunrunners think they can fix it. The Smugglers indicate they are in a hurry, and are willing to pay extra.

Eventually, while moving through the bowels of the freighter, Jake senses something in the cargo hold that is calling to him. He searches for the source of this strange phenomenon until he comes across a small, very old case about the size of a lunchbox. Not sure what it is exactly, he seeks out the Smugglers to ask them, when all of a sudden Imperial Stormtroopers show up to capture the Smugglers and their ship.

Jake's uncle (Jeb, I think) tries to talk to the Stormtroopers, possibly stall them so the Smugglers can escape, but they gun him down. The Smugglers, whose ship is not completely repaired, beat a hasty retreat, taking Sunrunner with them.

Jake begins the hero's journey, learning about the Rebellion against the Empire, discovering his Smuggler allies are actually Rebel Agents, and finding out that he is the inheritor of a very special destiny. Jake Sunrunner is strong in the ways of The Force, and another with a similar gift, a similar curse, is out to get him.

Jake's first lightsaber, given to him by the Worsellian Jedi, Wossow, had a blue blade. When Jake build's his own, we decided his experiences, personality, and optimism warranted the first golden-yellow blade we'd seen outside of the original Kenner action figure of Luke Skywalker.


Human, Male, Smuggler/Spy (played by Chris D.)

As with a number of Player Characters from this campaign, and others of the time, I can not recall the character's name. A shame too. I remember most of the names from this campaign were great, and very Star Wars appropriate.

A typical Corellian Smuggler on the surface, this persona was a cover for an accomplished Rebel Agent, and Spy. He was part Han Solo, a little Peter Quill/Star Lord as seen in the 'Guardians of the Galaxy' film, but also a touch of James Bond.
 

Ithorian, Male, Smuggler/Scout  (played by Raymond G.)

Along with his Human partner, this member of the Ithorian species, commonly called 'Hammerheads', was only posing as a Smuggler to hide his true identity. In actuality, he was a member of the Rebel Alliance, and a former Explorer/Scout. The Rebels, and his friends, valued his extensive knowledge of the various planets, creatures, aliens, and spatial phenomena found on the frontier of space.  

Another character whose name eludes me.


 
 

Ithorian 'Hammerhead'
 
Concept Art and Costuming
from Star Wars (1977)



Human-Cyborg, Male, Bounty Hunter (played by Bruce D.)

While I can easily remember the name of this character's NPC enemy, and arch-rival, the name of the PC itself is gone from my memory banks.

A Bounty Hunter working for the Corporate Sector, this fellow was badly banged up, and left for dead after an encounter with some space pirates. Saved, and turned into a Cyborg by the Imperial Empire, he eventually escapes them to become their worst nightmare. After a run in with the other PCs he joins up with them, and the Rebel Alliance to overthrow the Empire, and destroy the Corporate Sector Authority.

Had cool armor, a cybernetic right eye, right arm, and right leg. Possessed Heightened Senses, Heightened Strength, and could leap high, and far.


Ungawarra -  Wookiee, Male, Soldier (played by Joe C.)

I loved this character. Still do.

Ungawarra was a pale, tawny-brown colored Wookiee who travelled the galaxy trying to pay back the Life Debts of those Wookiees who had died without fulfilling their end of the Life Debt bargain. He would go from world to world, and do something for people who had saved the lives of Wookiees at some point.

When he encountered the rest of the PCs, he was engaged in trying to find a Human's stolen droid. During his excursion, Ungawarra ran afoul of the Empire, and the other PCs ended up saving his life. Now having a Life Debt of his own, he temporarily stopped his karmic endeavors, promising the spirits of the universe he would return to it at some point.








Guest Stars Included:

A snappy, and sarcastic Protocol Droid (played by Martin F.)
A Human-Cyborg, Male, Rebel Soldier (played by Buzz A.)
A Human, Male, Starfighter Pilot (played by ?)

 

Synopsis: The galaxy is locked in a state of interstellar civil war...you know the score. The fledgling Rebel Alliance fights a desperate battle against the seemingly endless military might of the Galactic Empire.

Enter two Rebel Agents, undercover as of a pair of Smugglers, who are bringing supplies to a Rebel base hidden away on the distant planet Undrador.

In addition to various medical supplies, and mechanical components, a contact from Nor Randan gave the 'Smugglers' a small package to take back to Rebel Alliance Command. Unfortunately, Imperial forces are on to them, and they are attacked by Tie Fighters as they attempt to jump to lightspeed.

The Rebel Agents escape, but their ship is damaged, and they are forced to set down on the ash world of Gardine for repairs. That's when they meet up with Jake Sunrunner, and the three of them end up escaping together once the Imperials catch up with them.

Sunrunner turns out to be Force Sensitive, and the mysterious package the Rebels are carrying is a crystal capable of unlocking the secrets of an ancient Jedi temple. An Imperial Inquisitor named Sinistros knows about the crystal, and hopes to obtain it for either himself, or to win the favor of Darth Vader.

Sinistros has at his disposal an army of war droids that he designed himself, based on a model that pre-dates the Clone Wars. The PCs eventually discover that part of his plan, should he fail to get the crystal, is to lay siege to the Jedi temple with a superior version of these robots called Sinistroids (just sort of Anime style Mecha).

The campaign culminated in a multi-part battle between some PCs in ships, and starfighters against space worthy Sinistroids, some on the Jedi temple planet against Sinistroid ground forces, and Jake Sunrunner in a lightsaber duel with then Darth Sinistros on the latter's personal battle cruiser.

EPIC!
 
Appendix N: Obviously the films Star Wars, and The Empire Strikes Back, as well as the various Star Wars novels available at the time. The Art of Star Wars, and The Art of The Empire Strikes Back were major inspirations. Also, Marvel's Star Wars comic books, the Kenner action figures, Star Wars Radio Plays, as well as the Terran Trade Authority books by Stewart Cowley. Lastly, like Lucas himself, the Lensmen series by E. E. 'Doc' Smith also played a significant role in this campaign's design.

Bonus Features:

The rules system used here was probably my first attempt at kitbashing, homebrewing, or creating my own system. I don't remember the details of the rules well enough to tell you if it was actually any good, but it worked well enough to run the campaign.

The art of concept artists Ralph McQuarrie, Ron Cobb, and the other greats who worked on Star Wars were of course major influences on the campaign. Many of the designs not used in the films became important elements in our campaign. This is something I've done ever since.

The Terran Trade Authority books, filled with illustrations by some of the most fantastic artists of the 1970s, also provided ideas for starships, planets, and other bits, and remains a huge source of inspiration for me when running Sci-Fi games to this day.

A big part of the story deals with Wossow, an old alien Jedi who has been in hiding since the rise of the Empire and the elimination of the Jedi Knights (back then believed to have been accomplished by Darth Vader, and his agents). It turns out Wossow's original job was guardian of the crystal that will unlock the temple. He lost it in a fight against Vader, who lost it to the elements of the planet they were fighting on. The crystal made its way from person to person, until an ally of the Rebel Agent/Smugglers recognized it as some kind of Jedi artifact, and thought the Rebellion should have it.

Before The Empire Strikes Back came out, a fanzine had a rumor that Luke Skywalker would meet another surviving Jedi, and that he would be 'a green, lizard-like creature with pointed ears'. We eventually discover this character to be Yoda, but my friends and I had fun speculating what this Jedi might look like.





The sketches we made became Wossow the Worsellian. The name of his species, The Worsellians, comes from the dragon-like alien Worsel from the Lensmen books.

Kenner Star Wars figures were used as 'minis' on occasion.

Well, that's finally done. Whew! It took forever to write this up, but I'm glad I did.

Boy I love Space Adventure games! Seriously! Hmmm. 

We'll talk soon,

AD
Barking Alien








STAR TREK - POLARIS

For this next installment of Campaigns I Have Known, we're going to go to Warp 9, slingshot around the Sun, and travel all the way back to 1983.

This my dear friends is one of my earliest campaigns for one of my favorite games. Based on a suggestion/recommendation by my good buddy WQRobb, here is a campaign classic...

The campaign came about as the result of an impromptu RPG session thrown together because we had a few free periods at school. It was likely the result of some special assembly, or a teacher's union meeting, or some such. Anyway, for whatever reason, my friends and I had the time, we had the freedom, and we decided to get a game together.

This was a fairly common occurrence. Throwing a Star Trek game together I mean. It was our go-to game at the time. We would roll up officers, pick a ship, and head off into the Final Frontier on some crazy, ad-libbed adventure that would pop into my head.

We must've made a dozen crews, named a dozen different Starfleet vessels, and visited a dozen planets that were never seen again.

Mini-rant...Honestly, I can't understand people who play the same character every time they play a game. That, or they reuse old characters again, and again. Sure, we all have favorites. I've reused characters a number of times myself. I do it in Superhero games more than any other genre, and always after years of not using the character. C'mon people, stretch that ol' imagination. Don't be lazy....Mini-rant over.

Where was I? Oh yes...

So in this one instance, just like many before it, the players generated some Star Trek characters, and I prepared for our mission. There were a few things that made this particular outing special as I recall.

  • For some reason, most of the players wanted to play Andorian characters.
  • We wanted to use lower ranked characters, on a smaller, less powerful ship.
  • We set the game in the era of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, instead of TOS.

I had gotten a hold of a fanzine somewhere, and low and behold, there was an original [fan created] ship in there that I really liked. It was labelled a Research/Survey vessel and fit the bill of the kind of ship we were thinking about. I showed it to the group, and it was unanimously voted so strange looking that we just had to use it.

I'll be honest, I don't remember the first session beyond that. I can't for the life of me recall the scenario. I remember we had fun though. We all liked the characters, the vessel, and the speculative science, mystery-solving, 'big idea' nature of the adventure. It was Star Trek as heavily influenced by Space: 1999, and OMNI Magazine.

It was a hit. More so than I had realized.

When the opportunity to run a quick adventure came up again a few weeks later, the group asked if I still had the characters sheets, and stats for the USS Polaris, our vessel. I did. For some reason I not only didn't throw them away, or lose them (as I did so many other one-shot game materials at the time), but I actually left them in a folder in my backpack (or book bag as we used to say).

We ended up playing them again. And again. Before long, we all looked at each other, smiled, nodded, and agreed - this was our new campaign. We couldn't have planned one better ourselves.


 ***



Campaigns I Have Known
Proudly Presents...

STAR TREK - POLARIS



 Pleiades Class Research/Survey Vessel

The vessel first appeared in an article in
the Star Trek fanzine, 'Warp Factor One'
written by Don Corson - Publication Date 1976




Title: STAR TREK - POLARIS

System: Star Trek, The Role Playing Game (FASA), 1st Edition.

Circa: 1983. There were approximately three dozen sessions in this campaign. Early on there was no set schedule, then by the mid-way point it was short 4-5 hour sessions once, or twice a week, and one 8-10 hour Saturday session a month.

Player Base: Our core group consisted of five male players, all about 14 years of age. Other players would pop in and out playing 'guest star'* roles on a fairly regular basis. While no one guest star appeared more then five, or six times, I do recall that one of the last sessions had about 8-9 players. It is possible that ship's Chief Medical Officer may have shown up more than 6 times, but I'm not positive.

This was actually a common dynamic in our games from 1982-1986.

Characters: As noted above, this was a pick up game initially. We had some time to kill, decided to play a Star Trek game, and threw some characters together. Oddly, one guy had been itching to play an Andorian, one always played an Andorian, and then another was like, "Hey, why don't we all play Andorians!" It didn't end up exactly that way, but it was a largely Andorian crew, which was awesome for me since they're my favorite Star Trek species.

Sadly, this is where my memory betrays me. I don't recall any of the PCs' names. I'm so ashamed.

I recall who played what type of character, species, rank, and what their position was aboard the ship. Just no names. It was 33 years ago. Cut me some slack.


Andorian, Male, Commander - Commanding Officer (played by Chris D.)

Our commanding officer was a career Starfleet Officer from a long line of Starfleet, and Andorian Imperial Guard personnel. He hailed from Andor (aka Andoria, Andor Prime, or Epsilon Indi VIII), but largely grew up on flights between his homeworld, and Earth. As such, he is especially good at dealing with other species, particularly Humans.

The Polaris was his first command, but he had spent years on a Miranda Class (called an Anton Class in the old FASA game) that had performed exploration missions near the Klingon border. The commander was not a fan of the Klingons.


Andorian, Male, Lt. Commander - First Officer/Chief Helmsman (played by ?)

(I sadly can't recall who played this character, which is very strange. A true, and slightly scary sign that I'm getting old. Also, that this was a long time ago. How can I not remember who played the First Officer? I remember the character, just not the player. So odd.).

A more disciplined, by-the-book fellow than his Commanding Officer, the First Officer was an excellent military man, having engaged in a number of conflicts while serving on his previous post (a Scout/Destroyer if I recall). His best skills are Starship Weaponry, Shields, and Ship-To-Ship Tactics.

The First Officer grew up on an Andorian colony some distance from Earth, and was unfamiliar with other species prior to attending Starfleet Academy.


Human, Male, Lieutenant  - Chief Science Officer (played by David F.)
 
The only Human being about the USS Polaris, the Chief Science Officer initially experiences quite a bit of resentment, and resistance from his fellow crewmembers. Recommended to the position by the former Andorian, Chief Science Officer, now retired, much of the staff of the Polaris felt the position should be awarded to another Andorian.

Through perseverance, skill, and confidence, the Science Officer turns things around, gaining the friendship, and admiration of his peers, and subordinates alike. He has a possible [off screen] romance with the Asst. Chief Helm Officer (a PC guest star).


Megarite, Male, Lieutenant - Chief Engineer (played by Joe C.)

The other non-Andorian member on the command crew was the ship's Chief Engineer, a Megarite. Megarites are an humanoid, aquatic mammalian species, similar to Terran Whales. They communicate through bellows of varying tones, volumes, and frequencies. While they normally  breathe air, they do have gill-like membranes that can extract oxygen from water for a limited time. His skin was similar to the hide of a Terran rhinoceros.

The Chief Engineer was warm, gregarious, and saw the crew as extended family.




Megarite
Concept Art and Costuming
from Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)



Andorian, Male, Chief Petty Officer - Chief of Security (played by Bruce D.)

Our toughest customer in personal combat was no doubt our Chief of Security. Well versed in the use of his fists, feet, swords, phasers, and demolitions, this guy meant serious business.

Hailing from a failed colony world, and having something of a checkered past, this guy was given a chance by the Polaris' Commanding Officer, and the two are fast friends.


Guest Stars Included:

A Female, Andorian, Helmsman - Lt. Junior Grade -  who covered for the First Officer when he was on landing parties. She was identified as the Assistant Chief Helmsman.





Illustration by Adam Cotnam.
Coloring By Adam Dickstein (that's me!)



An Andorian, Male, Shuttlecraft Pilot who also sometimes doubled as a Navigator on the bridge.

Andorian, Male, Doctor - Chief Medical Officer of the USS Polaris. He was a Guest Star, but joined us for a good number of sessions (probably 6, but maybe more). He was often used as an NPC while the player was not around (one of the first times I did that).

While the bridge/command crew only had two non-Andorians, there were a few others onboard. Roughly 5% of the total crew compliment of around 175 crewmembers were not Andorian.

Some other guest stars were:

A Male, Vulcan, Geologist who desperately wanted to be reassigned because of how cold the ship was (we decided Andorian 'room temperature' is considerably lower than Human standards).

A Female, Caitian, Bio-chemist. Also something of a nurse/field medic.

A Male, Zaranite, Engineer specializing in Phaser technology.


Synopsis: There was no real overarching metaplot in this campaign. Instead, I used a very sandbox approach, letting the Commander and crew choose which planets they wanted to study in an area of space not too far from the Organian Treaty Zone, and therefore the Klingon Empire.

Klingons were the main antagonists (one of my rare campaigns that used them much), but other reoccurring opponents included Orion Pirates, the Gorn, and an original species of weird, 'War of the Worlds Martian' type squid things.

Most of the sessions focused on some heady science fiction concept, not unlike the original Star Trek series, but in some ways more like Space: 1999, or Red Dwarf. That is, it was less about the moral, and social issues of the time, and more about exploring scientific theories, and 'What If?'s.

Appendix N: Obviously the original Star Trek television series, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan were the primary influences.

Additionally, a major inspiration for the campaigns' individual adventures came from articles in OMNI Magazine. Various classic Science Fiction novels and short stories, such as those by Robert Heinlein, Larry Niven, Alfred Bester, and others, were also a source of scenario ideas.

Bonus Features:

We really have a great layout for the interior of the USS Polaris. It had an unusual bridge design created by my friend Joe, and myself. We mapped out a good portion of the ship, including the Sickbay, Shuttle Bay, Engine Room, Mess Hall, and major laboratories.

The ship started with a standard Shuttlecraft (presumably two), but later we modified it into an original design the was more like a mini-scout ship.

I was reading a lot of scientific books, and magazines at the type, and this also influenced the type of adventures we had.

The campaign never had a definitive ending. I don't recall what happened to make us change games, but it was probably no more weighty an event than we found a new game we really want to try.

*I'm wondering if I should do a post in the near future on 'Guest Stars', a gaming tool I've been using for years that enables people to drop in, and out of campaigns easily.

Any interest in that? Does anyone else have that as part of their games?

See you again soon!

Oh wait! Happy Leap Day! Hurray for the end of the month of February >_<

Also, Happy Birthday Superman!

AD
Barking Alien







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