Sunday, November 12, 2017

Ask Barking Alien - Flying High

I am having a pretty good week so far, and as such I thought I'd post while in a positive, posting mood. 

I've only received a single question after my request for inquiries from the Barking Alien viewership, and while that's a bummer, I figure once more people read about it I'll get more questions. Right? Hello? Bueller?

OK, on to the question...

Tom Reed asks, "What is your favorite type of superhero to play?"

Great question! Why? Because even though I haven't played even half as much as I've GMed, the one RPG genre I think I've partaken in the most is Superheroes.

I've played a fair number of Superhero Player Characters, and although I've tried a wide variety, there are definitely certain types that I gravitate towards, and favorites that I have.

First, I tend to create characters that have elements of my favorite well-known, published Superheroes. These include, but are not limited to:

Green Lantern, Iron Man, Mon-El (Legion of Superheroes), the Silver Surfer, The Vision, and Wildfire (Legion of Superheroes).

What you'll notice here is we have a lot of spacefaring heroes, a good number of aliens, and characters who use high-tech armor, or are assisted by technology.

I like heroic, Silver Age heroes who can fly through space, and who are a little unfamiliar with the world setting they are in. I like to play the stranger in a strange land, an alien, or android trying to understand Humanity, and their place among it. 

I also like playing powerful heroes, though less for the raw power, and more for the flexible variety of options they have.

My three favorite heroes of my own creation are:

Equinox, Starguard, and Excelsior 


An android whose chest cavity houses an ancient, pre-Mayan artifact that summons four elemental spirits into the android's body. The elementals then form a gestalt being with a variety of supernormal abilities.

Equinox can fly (thanks to a combination of his air, and fire powers), change the nature of his form to that of any of the four elements (air, earth, fire, and water), release blasts of any of these elements, sense changes to those elements in the world around him, and other related feats depending on the game system in which he was generated. Additional abilities in the past have included controlling, and shaping the elements, 'force fields' of the elements, and absorbing them.

Personality wise, Equinox was originally patterned heavily on the Silver Surfer - an intelligent, powerful being who exhibited a child-like sense of wonder, and fascination regarding the modern world. Not Human himself, he found Humanity strange, and wonderful, though dangerous to themselves, and their world. His goal in protecting them was to have more time to understand them, and perhaps help them to better understand each other, and the Earth itself.

Over time the character changed, and expanded. Each of the different elements, when in charge of the gestalt, had a different look and personality. Air is very much as described. His is curious, whimsical, and asks a lot of questions. Earth patient, a slow, though deep thinker, and a bit more callous towards Humans. Fire is bold, aggressive, more direct, and has the least amount of patience. Water is female, flowing, forever coming up with new ideas, and approaches, though likely to change her mind, or be distracted by new people, places, and occurrences.

I created this character for a friend who wanted to play with an idea from an old folktale he knew. His favorite character was the Silver Surfer, who is a fave of mine as well, so I tried to merge the former Herald of Galactus with my friend's South American myth.

Equinox was first created in Villains & Vigilantes 2nd Edition, and played by my friend Sergio. He has appeared in Champions (as an NPC when I GMed), and Kapow! (finally played by me) as well.


One of my oldest characters, and my absolute favorite (though Starguard is a close second).

Excelsior is a former astronaut, and engineer from about 25 years in the future who was sent back to the present when the experimental FTL drive on the starship he designed exploded. In addition to being hurled back in time, Excelsior was converted into negative matter, or anti-matter, the source of the starship's power. 

To prevent him from exploding by just being in existence, those that found the time-lost man put him inside a highly advanced containment suit that uses magnetic fields to keep him together. This provides him with armor, but it's an armor without which he would detonate and easily vaporize a three mile radius. In addition, he has a limited perception of the world around him, as he 'sees' and 'hears' through magnetic sensors. He has no sense of touch, smell, or taste in his current state. 

For reasons unknown, Excelsior's body is surrounded by a constantly regenerating field of anti-energy. The suit has functions that allow him to channel that energy into bolts, create blasts from his feet for flight, generate a fine, 'anti-energy' mist that serves as a force field, and systems that give him superhuman strength, and endurance. 

In different incarnations his anti-matter powers have been either very powerful energy attacks and defenses, or what they were really meant to be, which is a power with disintegrating effects. For example, in Champions he could not only disintegrate matter, but incoming attacks disintegrated upon hitting his force field. 

Excelsior probably has the most complex personality of any character I have. He is very multi-layered, and I'm not sure I can explain it all in this post. Basically, he is a peaceful, scientist who now has the power to destroy, and only destroy. He can't really pull his punch, and his powers disintegrate. He is also a pretty non-violent guy, though he does know how to fight, he'd rather not have to. It takes him a while to come to terms with his abilities, and he gets pretty creative figuring out how not to kill people with his anti-matter.

He is also a man of 35 years of age hurtled 25 years back in time. He exists here as a 10 year old boy! Excelsior is told repeatedly not to interact with his younger self, but various situations and villain complicate that dynamic. This causes him to take very non-traditional actions to prevent events he knows will happen in the future. For example, he at one point speaks at his younger self's school, only to tell him that perhaps he should pursue art, or sports and not his dream of being an astronaut [an attempt to prevent the events that create his Excelsior identity]. 

Lastly, he has to deal with the loss of some of his senses, and in ways his Humanity. He can't touch another Human being, he can't eat, smell flowers, or enjoy any of the many simple pleasures of being a normal person. Music doesn't sound the same. Movies, and television have no depth, so he can't see them at all. 

A possible Excelsior redesign by my friend Aris

Excelsior was heavily inspired by Marvel's Iron Man and DC's Wildfire from the Legion of Superheroes.

Excelsior was first created before I ever played an RPG. The first game he appeared in was V & V 2nd Edition. He was so close to the random rolls I made that I made him up in for the campaign I was in. He was later built in Champions 4th Edition, Mutants & Masterminds 2nd Edition, and several other games over the years.

I really love this character and though he is my favorite story-wise, my favorite PC to play is...


Probably the character most familiar to my viewership, Starguard is the principal character I played in my friend William's legendary Champions campaign, The Age of Champions. I, and Starguard, were only involved in the game between 1986, and 1989, roughly. I was involved for three and a half years, but I don't exactly remember where the 'half year' fell. It is likely it bled into 1990. 

Starguard has been discussed on this blog a number of times. His origins have been told, and some of his exploits, both renowned, and infamous, recounted.  

Starguard is everything I love in a superhero character.

He has pathos, mythos, and the ability to fly through space and throw comets. He is a larger-than-life individual, doing what is right for the right reasons. Starguard stands up for the little guy, he despises cheaters, and thieves, and punches tyrants in the face. He has epic adventures, travels through time, and does all the most amazing of amazing things only superheroes get to do. 

His personality is also a ton of fun to play, as it isn't typical of the type of characters I create. Starguard's persona is patterned after Marvel's Thor, and Prince Namor, The Sub-Mariner. He boasts a lot less than they do, but he is prone to being just as arrogant, stubborn, and aggressive as they are. This is tempered by a 'Knights-of-Camelot'-like sense of justice, and honor that always keeps his ego in check. He will get angry, swear vengeance, call the villain a 'knave', or the like, but he never forgets he is there to protect the people under his charge. 

First designed, and constructed as a PC for Champions 3rd Edition, he has been rebuilt in 4th. Mutants & Masterminds, Villains & Vigilantes, and other Supers games. 

So there you have it. My favorite Superhero PCs to play in Supers games are high-powered, aliens, androids, or time-lost individuals, trying to make trying to make sense of the world and people they've sworn to protect.

Flying High, and on to the next question!

Barking Alien


  1. The more marginal the better. Like a rich business guy who can grow to be well over 8 feet tall. His name? The Big Tycoon.

    Or a guy with a moderately nice car, but he can always tell if someone's messing with it no matter where he is in the universe. He doesn't have a supername since I just made him up.

    1. An interesting interpretation of the genre. Very 'Mystery Men', if you will.