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Troy’s Crock Pot: Has DC relaunch hit your home game?

Posted By Troy E. Taylor On August 3, 2011 @ 5:05 am In GMing Advice | 10 Comments

Question: What’s more daunting than being sucked into a Bizzaro world vortex with Bat-Mite and Mister Mxyzptlk calling the shots?

Answer: How about the New 52?

Babs is back as Batgirl!

For those who aren’t readers of DC comics, the company’s entire line of 52 titles is getting relaunched starting Aug. 31. For their signature heroes — Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern (and my personal favorite, Batgirl) — and a slew of others, it means new costumes, new backgrounds, new storylines and new supporting casts.

But if you’re running a tabletop roleplaying game featuring DC’s costumed characters, such as DC Adventures from Green Ronin, and you run within the comic book continuity, what’s it mean for you and your game?

1. Ease into it

Comic book canon is like 52 flavors of ice cream. There’s always something new and if it tastes better than what came before, we forget the old and embrace the new. But if something doesn’t taste right, we mine the past for old favorites and incorporate it until the next reboot.

The news from ComicCon was that the essential elements to every character’s past have been incorporated into a 5-year timeline that predates the events starting with the new launch. (Which explains how Babs can be Batgirl, then Oracle, run the Birds of Prey, and by some means yet explained, Batgirl once again.)

So, try incorporating only those elements that appeal to you, and do it slowly, so it won’t cause a sea change.

2. Adapt to the new stuff

If you’re playing a stat-driven game, such as DC Adventures and its Mutants and Masterminds game engine, you might have to tinker with powers and such to bring your characters in line. Though details from DC are slim, assume your main supers are getting their powers dialed back a tad.

3. Take what you want, discard the rest

This might be the most appealing, because unless you plan on reading, absorbing and incorporating the new info from 52 titles, it might be easiest to just use the stuff that appeals to you.  Heck, if Dick Grayson is STILL your Robin, tagging alongside Batman on patrols of Gotham City, then all the power to you.

4.  Reboot your universe, too

Even if you don’t feature DC characters in your game — but you want to shake things up a bit, why not take a cue from the comics book companies. If your supers game is getting convoluted or the timelines are a little bit wacky (how many times can you realistically save Metropolist/Gotham/Central City, anyhow?), turn the timeline back to zero and establish a new canon going forward. I think you’ll find the experience as liberating as the writers and artists for DC’s books say they are.

5.  Go retro

Maybe you found the World War II origin of Captain America motion picture interesting. (Yes, I know, Cap works for that OTHER company. It’s just an example). What if you found the Batman-Doc Savage stories of DC’s First Wave compelling? Maybe the Golden Age exploits of the Justice Society are more appealing. Take your game into past and take on the villains of the era you like the best. This way you avoid the reboot issue entirely.

6. One title, one universe

Fans of comic books tend to see canon and character interplay across the entire spectrum. That how terms like DCU (DC Universe) come into play. What happens in a book in the company’s line can affect stories elsewhere, or at least in one line of titles. (Stories in Batman, for example, at least impact other Batman or Gotham City-related titles, if not allied Justice League members, such as Superman).

But what if your game focused only on the universe as one DC character sees it? What if your universe comes from the perspective of Green Arrow, or Aquaman or Huntress? Such a micro look might be an excellent way to get into a supers game. Let a single comic title define your universe, and build on that using characters of your players’ own devising.

So, is the DC relaunch going to affect your supers game, or at least change how you look at the setting of your own supers game? Share your thoughts.

About  Troy E. Taylor

Troy's happiest when up to his elbows in plaster molds and craft paint, creating terrain and detailing minis for his home game. A career journalist and Werecabbages freelancer, he also claims mastery of his kettle grill, from which he serves up pizza to his wife and three children.




10 Comments (Open | Close)

10 Comments To "Troy’s Crock Pot: Has DC relaunch hit your home game?"

#1 Comment By Roxysteve On August 3, 2011 @ 8:57 am

I can’t help feeling that this DC reboot overthinks the problem – at least when to comes to an RPG port.

I often encounter the same issue when discussing Call of Cthulhu with younger GMs. They want the timeline to fit, and it doesn’t really, because when the stories were written, the monsters were set-dressing, used or not as fitted the plot.

It must be orders of magnitude worse to have the history keep getting retconned out from under you. I have no idea how one might deal with that mid-campaign other than to disavow the DC version for game purposes, which for the reasons you cite will be unsatisfying to many.

A great disincentive to play in the DC universe.

#2 Comment By Troy E. Taylor On August 3, 2011 @ 9:03 am

@Roxysteve – You bring up good points!
At least the history only gets rebooted every 20 years or so … for a new audience. I mean, when I started reading Batman in 1970s, I could care less that Batman battled space aliens every other issue in the 1950s.
I think there is an incentive to run in DC verse, in that it’s a good time for a starting point.

#3 Comment By BishopOfBattle On August 3, 2011 @ 2:09 pm

I’m not huge into comic books myself, but I’ve deviated from established worlds plenty in games before. Figuring out how to handle updated canon for a Shadowrun game involving a major character (Damien Knight?) after your players got to interact with and perhaps even kill them can get tricky.

If you can work it into your existing campaign, it could be fun to reboot it not only for your players, but also for characters that are involved in the storyline version for the reboot. Everything’s changed because of some temporal vortex… and only your characters know that anything has changed!

#4 Comment By Volcarthe On August 3, 2011 @ 3:23 pm

That’s the kind of reason I never wanted to play the Marvel RPG and we instead used something neutral like Silver Age Sentinels.

#5 Comment By Thammorn On August 4, 2011 @ 6:32 am

Gee Troy, does this mean you’re going to run a superhero campaign soon…?

#6 Comment By Troy E. Taylor On August 4, 2011 @ 7:21 am

@Thammorn – Depends upon if certain PCs — who shall remain nameless — want to continue their harassment of the law-abiding high priestess of Hera …

#7 Comment By KnightErrantJR On August 5, 2011 @ 9:50 pm

Honestly, regarding running a campaign with your own continuity . . . comics genre games are perfect for running an “alternate universe.” It’s a major trope of the setting.

I was pretty broad with my background information on my DC campaign, essentially saying that the universe is “more or less” the same as the (pre-reboot) Earth 0 up until Final Crisis, which never happened, as was replaced by a major event that caused the JLA, Titans, and JSA to disappear.

I could be wrong, but I think players are more accepting of an “alternate universe” in the super hero genre because it’s referenced all of the time. Elseworlds/What If/Ultimate universe, etc.

You can say that your Star Wars or Forgotten Realms games takes place in an “alternate” version of those settings, but alternate versions of those settings don’t really show up in the source material.

Of course, I like saying that the setting is “more or less” like Earth 0 since it gives me some leeway on forgetting if minor villain X or Y is actually dead or alive when I use them.

Reboot or not, it’s pretty easy to play with alternate realities in the comic book genre.

#8 Comment By the Phoenix On August 8, 2013 @ 9:17 pm

I handle the shallow & regressive DC New 52 by ignoring it as much as possible. Once I had a good look at what DC New 52 had done to most of DC’s iconic characters, turning too many of them into desperate parodies of the worst of 1990s Image and Marvel comics titles, I cancelled all my DC subscriptions.

I now tell all potential new players that if they are looking for a game that reminds them of the real DC, they are welcome into our gaming group, but if they are looking for something like the ridiculous DC New 52, they will be happiest if they look somewhere else.

#9 Comment By the Phoenix On August 8, 2013 @ 9:22 pm

I have no idea what is wrong with this site today: the log-in did not work for four tries, the click to edit refuses to work, and the request deletion refuses to wrok.

#10 Comment By the Phoenix On August 8, 2013 @ 9:24 pm

EDIT:
I handle the shallow and desperate DC New 52 by ignoring it as much as possible. After I had taken a good look at what DC New 52 had done to most of DC’s iconic characters, turning too many of them into pandering parodies of the worst of 1990s Image and Marvel comics titles, I cancelled all my DC subscriptions.

I now tell all potential new players that if they are looking for a game that reminds them of the real DC, they are welcome into our gaming group, but if they are looking for something like the ridiculous DC New 52, they will be happiest if they look somewhere else.


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