Monday, February 7, 2011


I've finally finalized my final decision for the New Jersey Group's new ongoing campaign. Finally.
A very special thanks and a hardy I-couldn't-have-done-it-with-out-you goes out to Erin Palette of Lurking Rhythmically who figured out what I was looking for when I wasn't so sure myself.
Mr. and Mrs. America and all the Ships at Sea...NewFlash...This just in from the Empire State of New York and the Garden State of New Jersey...Introducing...

A gritty Golden Age campaign set right smack in the middle of World War II. Think the Golden Age comics of the 1940's meets Saving Private Ryan, The Guns of Navarone and A Bridge Too Far.

Largely its comic book style characters placed in a real world war setting. Bullets may bounce off one or two people but they still hurt and they still kill the guy next to you. If you can throw a car the Ratzi's are going to be aiming for you before the lady who leaps around with a trick staff. I've already mentioned it to the group and they are all over it.

I've always included a healthy dose of Golden Age comics in my Superhero campaigns and used the period to create a history and mythology for my modern caped and cowled universes. I've never actually run a Golden Age game however. I'm really excited to finally be doing so.

At least two characters have already been pitched. I won't reveal them yet as I'm looking to get more info on one and a few ideas from the ladies in the group. Suffice to say they fit the setting though they are very different from each other. One would appear to get along perfectly in a brilliantly four color comic book setting, though there are twists and obstacles to the character giving it a deeper nature. The second character is much more Pulp, akin to a Doc Savage feel. Its going to be very interesting seeing these guys interact, especially since they do have some common elements between them.

Things I Need to Keep in Mind:
This is not my usual comic book style game. PCs can kill the villains. Villains are out to kill the PCs.

War is Hell. Superheroes are fun. How do you make Hell fun?

Genre tropes and conventions need to be more flexible. Realism edges out comics this time.

So many ideas and so much more to think about. Really wish I wasn't completely exhausted from work and my utter lack of sleep.

More to come as always.

Good night America and have a pleasant tomorrow,

Barking Alien


  1. Cool. Sounds a bit like Godlike. I have the books for Godlike and would like to play a game but I haven't yet tried to read up on the One Roll Engine.

  2. How do you make Hell fun?

    That's the real trick, isn't it? Sadly, I have no good answer to this, as it's something I've been struggling with for years. I love Legend of the 5 Rings RPG, and invariably some of the PCs end up going into the Shadowlands (which is, literally, Hell on Earth.) Sure, I can make it sucky and punishing for the PCs, so that they never ever want to go there again, but for the life of me I can't figure out how to do that and make it exciting/fun at the same time.

  3. I love Golden Age Comics!(With the exception of regrettable elements like racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.. which depending on the comic, could be given more rein[i.e. more visible, at least] than in later eras.[I'd rather use the ideals than the worst aspects of course.] And there were some surprising issues where Japanese/Asians, Germans, the Criminal Underclass, Jews, Blacks/Hispanics/Indians, Immigrants, etc.. were treated sympathetically if not well.) I'd like to see a continuation of the ethos with more inclusiveness, myself. The focus on the random individual in peril, without losing sight of the war being waged, the lower level of power in general and the grittiness without losing heart are worth revisiting, I'd say.)

    That, and the fact they're like the most major hardasses evar! "The only reward I want is a chance to fight the Nazi beasts again and again ... to spread terror among the foulest terrorists the world has ever known! Tremble, you Nazis! The Grim Reaper is coming back!"
    -The Grim Reaper after spiriting hostages out of Germany.

    'How do you make Hell fun?':
    Golden Age heroes Do or Die(And they DO die[there are no franchise people yet, thankfully], and they're depowered, or lose a loved one, but they never, ever stop![No matter how torn up they are inside...]), no middle ground.(I could see how the Green Lantern's will could be the most powerful weapon in the universe for the first time when I read Alan Scott's exploits.) From what I've read, the Superheroes gave their all in the thick of it(with the occasional quip), and enjoyed themselves in between and after battles.(With some like the Hangman, the Black Bat, and Madame Satan, etc... during...) I'd say that'd call for a Homefront dimension, where the Significant Others, Family and Friends are.

    This Era is now tied with the Bronze Pre-Crisis Era in my heart. I look forward to recaps of your game!

    I've really been into the Nedor heroes(Pyroman,The Woman In Red, Miss Masque, Black Terror, Doctor Strange) and Harvey's Black Cat of late. I have this idea for a Hawkwoman, Black Cat, Miss Fury, Miss Victory, Liberty Belle, Miss Masque, Woman Inn Red Team Up that's just writing itself!(Now to timewarp Hellcat, Tigra, and Spiderwoman[Jessica Drew] ;-)) Must... play... soon! :-)

    Good Luck!

  4. @Johnathan - Give that man a cigar! GODLIKE is indeed a major inspiration for this campaign. As a matter of fact, if I had to choose two items that once merged would most resemble my concept for this campaign it would be the RPG GODLIKE and the DC Elsewords Graphic Novel The Golden Age. Oddly, 'The Golden Age' actually focuses on post-WW II America rapidly approaching the McCarthy era but something about that story always haunted me. Its very much what became of the Golden Age DC Heroes after WW II but also as if we never go to see the real stories. We read cleaned-up, peaches and cream versions of what really happened. That's what I want to explore. The war that turned the Justice Society of the Golden Age comic books into the Justice Society depicted in the Golden Age Graphic Novel.

    @Erin - I do have an answer of sorts but it may be one of my weird, hippie-gamer, ZEN crazy elements that may take a post of its own to explain.

    @Velaran - First, LOVE the Nedor characters. I was very disappointed with the Superpowers comic series by Dynamite Entertainment as I much prefered Alan Moore's approach to them in their Terra Obscura appearances by America's Best Comics.

    Your approach to the 'Hell is Fun' paradigm is most interesting. I think you are going to see characters who truly come alive when in the environment of World War II's bloody and explosive killing fields but I think local heroes from back home who joined the cause to fight for freedom may end up disillusioned, scarred or just plain scared out of their wits.

    Won't this be a fun trip kids?

  5. My Specific input would be "Godlike" as mentioned above as it covers similar territory and is Good with a capital G in my opinion.

    My Background suggestion would be to look through some actual golden age comics, maybe ones you have not seen before. The whole E-comics thing is betting pretty big now and stuff from the 40's is available.

    My Worry, based on having looked at some of the aforementioned comics is that they may be too simple for the modern player. There aren't a lot of grey-tinged conspiracies, there isn't a lot of angst (maybe after the war but you don't see it much during the war) and there isn't much debate about right and wrong - it's Silver Age sensibilities with less science and aliens, more guns and planes, and a fair amount of "cheesy" dialogue. In trying to make it appeal more to modern player's, I think it can be tricky to avoid making it into something else.

    My Experience with war-based RPG's (mainly Twilight 2000 but also some Traveller and even some Rifts) is that the acquisition of stuff can rear it's ugly head if the players get caught up in making sure they have every possible weapon or tool they might ever need. With Supers it might be a little less likely to happen but if Supply ever "screws them over", even once, it can rear its ugly head and then you have the heroes turning on their own side, etc. If you want to make sure the game goes in a different direction just make sure they can always requisition what they need. They're the "special mission force" or something right? They should get the good stuff.

    My Thing-That-Would-Interest-Me-So-I'll-Selfishly-Mention-It-Here is to drop them into actual historical battles and let them change stuff. What if Pearl Harbor had a few superheroes hanging around on that particular Sunday? What if either side had supers scouting for the carrier forces at Midway? The pursuit of the Bismark? Stalingrad? You can mine everything from books to the history channel to ASL scenarios for maps and forces and plot and go nuts.

    My Hope is that your players understand it and get on board in the proper spirit of things and that you have a really cool campaign to discuss here from which I can steal stuff for my own game.

  6. ..and I see that you answered some of this while I was posting. Ah timing...

    Also the Weird Wars game supplements from Pinnacle might have some fun material - Nazi Werewolves etc.

  7. Its interesting the way you discuss 'supplies' Blacksteel.

    I am treating it all realistically. My grandfather fought in World War II as a tank driver during the Battle of the Bulge. He couldn't just 'requistion' a better gun or tank when he wanted one. Why should the player characters have access to stuff a soldier wouldn't have access to?

    I'm not really worried about that anywat since the players in my NJ group are...well...they're just different. These are not (I have come to realize) typical gamers. They're not in it for the stuff. They're not in it to be powerful. They're not even in it for the experience points. They are in it to create cool and interesting characters than participate in and generate exciting stories that we can talk about for years to come.

  8. Post 1:
    'There aren't a lot of grey-tinged conspiracies, there isn't a lot of angst (maybe after the war but you don't see it much during the war) and there isn't much debate about right and wrong':

    Oh, there's conspiracies afoot. Gangsters, cults, secret societies, Nazi saboteurs, Sympathizers who believe FDR is taking the US to Hell in a handbasket, even the German Underground Resistance, which is rarely mentioned nowadays.(The Grim Reaper, Fighting Yank, Americommando, and Miss Fury worked with them in particular....) Pyroman's origin story tells how he was electrocuted for crimes his friends committed, and they show a LOT of misapprehension before and after setting him up! One tries to save him later. The dialogue is pretty good, a fair amount of the time, imo. Doc Strange's impassioned defense of Americans of Japanese exraction was pretty powerful stuff back then, I'm told. People on the wrong side of the law by choice or not are common themes, including some fairly serious looks at juvenile delinquency. And as for 'right and wrong', Fascists aren't so clear on the concept.(Nor hardened gangsters.) Even the Hangman, of all people, considers a small time felon to be a better human being than cheats, embezzling fatcats, hypocrites and murderers!(Great story, actually.)

    The PCs can get 'em the same way Captain Battle, The Reaper, Liberty Belle, etc.. did, appropriate and deny to the enemy. Could be official help every now and then, but mostly solo/squad action, I'd think.

    My only caveat is that the Magic heroes, then as now, can do ANYTHING! Dr. Fate hurls planets into the Sun! 8-O Stardust the Superwizard transmutates people into misshapen beasts and compacts them into ONE Skull he flings into space! Zatara can shift cities with his will and a backwards phrase! Etc...

    'Silver Age sensibilities with less science and aliens, more guns and planes, and a fair amount of "cheesy" dialogue':

    The Sensibility of the Silver Age is quite different in many respects!(Especially when it came to humor and otherworldly strangeness, I've noticed.)The science could be iffy, but it was about as accurate as the Silver Age, and often less ridiculous. As to guns and planes, Hell Yeah, a lot more, and used!(Golden Age combat is hella brutal, people may die in the fight![Sometimes even by accident! :-)]) There's a reason recurring villains only became common in the Silver Age! There are few aliens, though, they tend to be in the Scientification strips, and rarely interact in the War period. And 'cheesy' dialogue will never die!

  9. Post 2:
    The Golden Age Comic:
    This seemed to go overboard by giving every character personal issues that hampered them in daily life.(That seemed a bit cartoony to me. Trying too hard to make them [comic book book, Marvel style]'realistic', I guess, without recourse to the original's personalities, it seems. Human foibles are one thing, but milksop Miss America, psycho Manhunter, a liquor sodden Tarantula, but I guess he was going for bigger than life people have truly egregious stress and vulnerability. I woulda turned it down a notch or two, myself.) Then there was the total lack of strategy in the end fight, which being as All Star Squadron was canonical[even the parts I thought shouldn't stand like arbitrary 'Sonic Powers' for Liberty Belle and pairing her off with Johnny Quick and Tarantula, though she had a in-comic love interest, Rick Cannon, brushed aside likely because he was non-powered. A favorite theme of Roy Thomas', unfortunately.]), I'd expect a better showing, ya know. But, it was nice to see the characters again, and this was back when James Robinson was still considered to be at the height of his powers... It was an enjoyable read, even with the things that irked me.(One of The Bad Guys was too easy to deduce, though, but I guess that was part of the fun. That and the classic archfoe.)

    'The war that turned the Justice Society of the Golden Age comic books into the Justice Society depicted in the Golden Age Graphic Novel.':
    Wasn't it the changes in American Society that altered the characters in the comics, rather than the War itself?

    Superpowers comic series:
    Yeah, could've been better.

    Public Domain Comics:
    I got to Digital Comics Museum first myself. It rocks!

    Sounds like a good potential campaign shaping up so far.

  10. Velaran's interesting observation..."Wasn't it the changes in American Society that altered the characters in the comics, rather than the War itself?"

    Yes, largely because they were characters in a comic and not real people who lived through a life changing event.

    Granted, World War II is a very different beast from Vietnam and I agree that 'Golden Age' the Graphic Novel could have toned it done a bit and focused on those who suffered by comparing them with those that made it through relatively unscathed. But relatively is, well, relative. I can't imagine you would experience something like that and it would have no effect on you what so ever.

    Also, you left out my favorite DC Magic-Makes-Me-God character of all. I'm talking about the old testament superhero and the real G's right hand man, The Spectre.

    The Spectre is CRAZY in the golden age. Dude is ridiculous. I've heard people say that there really is no comic book character that reflects Dr. Manhattan from the Watchmen and that he is literally a plot device/metaphor. Not true. THE EFFING SPECTRE! This guy could grow, shrink, fly, be super strong, super fast, past through walls, cause fear and manifest a dozen other powers while he was getting warmed up to do some real damage.

    Spectre FTW baby!

  11. I think the supplies thing is less likely to come up in a Supers game and especially so depending on how you emphasize it in-game. I'm assuming they would be positioned as a sort of elite commando unit and would be requisitioning gear before each mission, rather than being line troops who pretty much do as they're told.

    On a related note the first time a not-as-combat-capable hero picks up a fallen panzerfaust and blows someone away with it, the real test of the superhero mentality is whether they drop it and move on or whether they start looking for another one because they work so well.

    I guess the core of my caveat is that in a military game players tend to be a little more concerned about equipment and gear and which guns are better and how far that tank can shoot and which plane is faster and tend to want the best stuff.

    Setting some kind of baseline, like "A Messerschmidt 109 is Fly Speed X" or "A Tiger I's main gun HE round is Blast X" can ensure that the characters know where to position themselves if they want to be able to outfly a fighter or stand up to a main gun round from an enemy tank. If they know that they're better than most of the "stuff" then they won't be as concerned about loot and gear.

    A lot of this comes on experience with my largely D&D-trained players. They can go off and play a modern age Champions game and never care about gear, join in a Star Wars game without looting Stormtroopers, and then we switch to a military-centric game and by session 2 we have a deuce-and-a-half loaded up with guns, ammo, and fuel "just in case". From the sound of that group you won't have this issue and that's a good thing.

    Oh yeah - what system are doing this in? DCA?

  12. @Velaran - there are conspiracies but even those are pretty black and white. They're either supporting Allied victory or working against it. I'd say of any era of comic-book heroes, good and evil are the clearest cut in the Golden Age. You can work in some gray stuff, but I don't think there was all that much of it in the original material. The easiest route is probably the "extreme" hero who's gone over the edge and might oppose the PC heroes if they aren't as "committed" as he is.

    There are a lot of "theme" decisions to make in a Golden Age game and full disclosure: I've never run a Golden Age WW2 Supers game.

    You could focus on frontline combat against enemy soldiers or you could work on the home front (more like most supers campaigns) which would be fighting spies and saboteurs instead of typical supervillains. Deciding on one or the other of those alone nails down a lot of how the game will go - home is bound to be less dangerous that overseas. If you stay home then where? If you go overseas then which front? Lots of ways to flavor things with just a few broad choices and I'm very interested in how things go.

  13. @Barking Alien:
    'Granted, World War II is a very different beast from Vietnam':
    It's been heavily sanitized for public consumption(In America, that is. Other sources in various affected countries are more forthcoming.) Some members of my family have told some horrible shit that made my other relatives who were in Vietnam shudder.... There are now some informative books about the Great Wars coming out that finally start getting real. You'll find yourself missing the myth of the Good War real quick!

    This is the reason most people think that WWII comics were over the top with the casual murder, implications of rape, racial slurs/bogus ethnic theory, etc... But it was actually reflecting what was going on at the time, much more so than later comics.(Even some of the mysticism in vogue shows up.)

    'Yes, largely because they were characters in a comic and not real people who lived through a life changing event.':

    I meant, in the COMIC itself. They were having trouble dealing with the state of post-WWII America, especially uber-'Patriotism'. Not as a result of changing editors/writers, though that is a meta-factor. My wording 'sounded' ambiguous. :-)

    'Also, you left out my favorite DC Magic-Makes-Me-God character of all. I'm talking about the old testament superhero and the real G's right hand man, The Spectre.':
    He's limited by his obeisance to the Voice, whereas say, Dr. Fate and Stardust(practically any magic hero) do whatever they want! Look up Dr. Fate's body count, it's INSANE! Of course, he has been reduced to more 'superheroic' levels since, going against Gardener Fox's original vision.(Which was granted, a bit extreme, but no more so than the modern Spectre, imo.)

    The later changes to the to DC's cosmology to elevate the Voice to DC's OverGod annoy me. I mean the setting is overrun with Deities and Cosmic Beings! YHVH(I don't use the 'Old Testament' term 'cuz it just seems dismissive of someone's mythology to me) is just one God among many, and not necessarily the most powerful. But as contemporary religious beliefs fuse Him, the Christian God, and the God of the Muslims, I guess it was to be expected sooner or later.(Though Morrison ended up being able to use Zuriel[Who I assume, perhaps wrongly, isn't a figure from Judaism/Catholicism, or Islam. But Hercules and Mars are fair game, so whatseva.], an Angel from 'Heaven' as a character! I was stunned this was allowed in the modern age.) I preferred when it was just vague, and the Spectre was just a mean spirited revenge fantasy(like in the Siegel and Shuster stories, though he got 'cosmic' a few times) rather than the 'Lord's Avenger' or some shit.(But fanboyism elevated him in the 70's, hence his disappearance from the revivals of JSA.) He was More Fun then, imo. And, of course, then you have a more balanced Mythological Universe where all the Gods can work against one another, without one being able to shut down the other's machinations. Makes for better stories, I'd say!

    Looking forward to details about this one!

  14. @Blacksteel:
    Black and White Conspiracies:
    Luthor, the Ultra-Humanite, the Blue Shirts, the Blue Hoods(see a pattern? :-)), the Mob, random assorted rich guys who try to take over a city or two, and sundry others, were not working for Hitler, Tojo, Mussolini, etc... they were in it for their own goals!(their philosophies ranged from twisted humanitarianism, nihilism, greed, insanity, etc...) All Star Squadron seemed to be the comic that most centered on the bad guys are working for the Axis theme, imo.

    'I'd say of any era of comic-book heroes, good and evil are the clearest cut in the Golden Age.':
    I've never seen more references to out and out Evil in dialogue and captions than in the Silver Age stuff! Though actual onscreen evil acts are more common in the Golden Age, and later in the Bronze/Modern Age, imo. The Silver Age stuff was just supposed to be lighthearted entertainment(especially the Superman stuff of the Era!)r, from what I can tell, though there were some anomalies in the rough, like Doom Patrol, Spider Man, The Horror Comics, some War stuff, and so on.

    'You can work in some gray stuff, but I don't think there was all that much of it in the original material.':
    You see some sure, but mostly that's in evidence in the Bronze Age, and focused way too much on in the current Dark/Modern/Grim Age, in many people's opinion.(I'd say it's mostly about characters appearing 'cool' more than anything. As opposed to BEING cool, like in the preceding ages.Sandman fights crime dressed like a PIMP! :-))

    'The easiest route is probably the "extreme" hero who's gone over the edge and might oppose the PC heroes if they aren't as "committed" as he is.':
    Golden Age heroes/villains were in it to win it, so I don't see much conflict in the ranks over their goals. Methods maybe, Dr. Fate, Stardust, Fantomah, Lady Satan, Black Widow(From the Devil![Actually not unusual, strangely, maybe this has to do with Judaism being the religion of some of the writers, but she drags down the good with the bad!]), The Spectre, the Hangman, The Hood, The Black Bat, The Veiled Avenger(She kills everyone with a WHIP!), etc... and others of their kind are even more violent than most!

    :on the home front (more like most supers campaigns) which would be fighting spies and saboteurs instead of typical supervillains.':
    In the original comics, there was a mix of both, mostly weighted toward more normal people, 'cuz super-overpopulation(and the Silver Age ;-)) hadn't happened yet. Of course, there were bad-asses out there, but Golden Age brutality being what it was, they were lucky to survive(or damn good, like Luthor[whom Superman oddly respected...]).

    Good points!

  15. This is a good little chat (thanks Bark). Despite my interest in Supers and my interest in WW2 I've never really even tried to run a Golden Age game - it's kind of a blind spot. I have Godlike and would run (or play) that in a heartbeat but most of my players would rather do modern supers than anything else in that genre. Ah well. They haven't been too interested in my Ancient Greece D&D game or Weird War Vietnam or anything else with a historical flavor either so I guess that's just the way it is for now.

  16. Ah the beauty of blogging about Superhero RPGs. You can have a comic book discussion and a gaming discussion at the same time. ;)

    It just doesn't get much better than this.

    I'm really glad you're enjoying it guys and I thank you for spending some time here to have this exchange. It really helps me out a lot with my game and with ideas for further blog posts.

    Now there are several elements of both of your posts that I'd like to address but I'm going to think on it a bit before I do so. For one thing I'm limited on time right now and for another, as I said above, some things I want to say may well be worth posts onto themselves.

    Hooray for discourse!

  17. @Blacksteel:
    Weird War Vietnam? Don't see that one too much in the comics. I used to buy Weird War Tales(secondhand mostly) and G. I. Combat(especially for the Mercenaries feature), which featured mostly WWII, Korea and post Vietnam Cold War era intrigue.

    Ancient Greece D&D game?
    Have you seen Mazes and Minotaurs? If you haven't, it's a D&D style game that is easy to learn and fast in play(I'd call it rules-lite myself) that purports to be from an alternate 1970's(like Encounter Critical) where RPGs were influenced primarily by Greek Mythology rather than Jewish/Christian(with some Hammer Horror) Mythology with GrecoRoman/Arabic/Islamic Mythological tinge(I. E. pulp-driven.) instead. It even comes with its own Edition War: Revised and Original! Recently published was a variant called Vikings and Valkyries. I love it!

    @Barking Alien:
    'It really helps me out a lot with my game and with ideas for further blog posts.':
    That's great to hear! I hope this helps the ideas to percolate into something Awesometastic!

    'Hooray for discourse!':

    Good luck!
    And now, back to work tinkering on my current DC/Nedor/Marvel/Harvey Smashup! Someone else may actually run it, so I might actually get to play...