Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Influential 10: Batman Role-Playing Game

Sometimes I forget how important RPGs were to my foundation as a writer. While I haven't been in an active game for almost twenty years now, I still will use them now and then as a means to generate interesting and unique characters for my stories. This Influential, previously exclusive in slightly different form to my Patrons, looks back at those formative years of gaming, with one game in particular taking the lead.

From a childhood filled with toys and grand superhero adventures, I moved in to role playing games as a way to express my storytelling. My brother started me down this road with the Marvel Super Heroes role playing game. This was the TSR produced game better known these  days as FASERIP. While I found the game fun, my access was always limited to when I could borrow it from my brother. With that in mind, I set out to find my own game to own.

I started with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Other Strangeness. Anyone that's played a Palladium system knows exactly how old school they are, even in comparison to the mid-80s design of Jeff Grubb with the Marvel game. I loved a lot about it (and it helped cement my already supreme fandom for TMNT) but it didn't allow me to create the full range of superheroes brimming in my young skull.

That came with the Batman Role-Playing Game. The standalone book came out in 1989 just in time for the film, but it is 100% pure old school Batman (and other 80s era DC vigilantes like Ragman and The Question.) Though the cover can best be described as boring, when I found it a year or two after release, I immediately wanted it. Considering we were in a Ben Franklin (remember those?) for maybe 5 bucks, it proved an easy get.

It's a shock it sold so poorly with
such an amazing cover, right?
The Batman RPG can best be described as the DC Heroes Basic Game. Built around a 9 stat system now called MEGS, every action in the game runs off a single action table. Built on an exponential system where each rank doubles the last, it has become a favorite of math-oriented gamers for decades. But I loved just how well the mechanics worked for building anything from a world-class detective to a man of steel. (I also found bemusement in that it was the only licensed game I read that outright said someone playing it should be Batman.)

This was the first book that I discovered a point buy system for character building, something my previous two game experiences left by the wayside for random character generation. Never had I felt so empowered to generate a hero from the ground up. Though the math was a bit complicated (though nothing in comparison to some other point-buy games like Champions I would eventually learn) I worked my way through it and started to really build characters.

And it was with MEGS that I started building my own super-universe. Initially I built it upon a plethora of comic books, pretty traditional DC and TMNT characters, but often adapting many a Marvel hero from a What If story. (I distinctly remember building the entire X-Men corner of the universe from What if Wolverine was Lord of Vampires?) Soon, I started to let that slip away as I developed into my own narratives however.

Things started with the Crusader, a name I sometimes used when we also turned our toys into superheroes. He would develop over the years to become a character I'm still developing for his own book, but back then he was pretty much just a badass knight with a magic sword. Simple and none too original for an early 90s comic fan.

The true foundation that really started the founding of my own original comic universe was built around trying to come up with a new power set for a young hero. I went through both the Marvel game and the DC game searching for something not used by many heroes in either universe. The answer was gravity manipulation.

Twenty plus years later, Lightweight is still the cornerstone of the Quadrant Universe. While he's a dramatically different character than his earliest RPG incarnations, so much of his character was developed in those fledgling days of character creation and excitement for a universe of heroes.
Yet that universe has grown from quite different routes than either comic book universe from which my gaming days started. But the true formation of the Quadrant Universe is a story for the next installment!

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