Friday, December 10, 2010

Casting Call: The Justice League

My DC Adventures round for Owlcon is called "Justice League Unlimited - The Return of Lex Luthor."  I'm a big fan of the animated JL and its continuity, which feels like the best of DC Comics distilled down to its purest essence.

I've got the basics of the plot sketched out, and some ideas of what bad guys (and gals) I'll be using, but coming up with the Justice Leaguers for PCs is a bit more challenging.  For this post, I'm going to "blog out loud" my thought processes in picking the heroes for this adventure.

While it's easy to just stat out the so-called "Original Seven" (Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, Hawkgirl, and Martian Manhunter) and go with them, constructing an adventure around them, particularly one focusing on Mister Luthor is a bit trickier.  Even the somewhat powered-down cartoon versions of the JL are potential plot-wreckers, and a GM doesn't have the same sort of editorial fiat an animation director has.  For instance, the Martian Manhunter's telepathy is quite capable of bypassing a mystery that the heroes will need to solve. The same goes for Wonder Woman's magic lasso, though bringing it to bear appropriately might be trickier.  As an experienced supers GM, I can certainly find ways around this, but the trick is to do it without feeling contrived.  For a one-shot like this, it's generally easier to just leave potential plot killers out of the mix in the first place.

So, first off, I'm going to look at each of the seven and see what they could bring or take away from the mix:

Batman:  I can already tell you he's out.  First off, even in the JL, Bats doesn't play well with others.  His investigation skills are valuable, but there's too much temptation for anyone who knows the character to try and play him as "Bat-God."  Besides, my friend Rick is already running an All-Batman game at the con.

Superman:  I loves me some Superman, but he's another non-starter.  Too powerful.  Also, with Luthor as the focal villain, it's too personal.  A player with Superman would be entirely justified in single-mindedly dogging Luthor (never crossing the line) until he discovered the truth behind the plot.  I think Big Blue will be off saving aliens halfway across the galaxy.

Wonder Woman:  As noted, her magic lasso is a potential plot-wrecker, but she's iconic and a powerhouse in her own right.  Also, I like to provide powerful female PCs in my games, so she's probably in.

Green Lantern: Too much potential for shortcutting the adventure.  Also, the Power Ring is all about options.  In a convention round, presenting a player with too many character options is just asking for the game to slow down while they ponder their choices.

The Flash:  A solid choice.  Wally is powerful, but unfocused.  Definitely in.

Hawkgirl:  By the end of the JLU series, she was back in the League, but still not entirely trusted by the people of Earth.  She was also in a bit of relationship limbo due to certain future events revealed by time travel.  I like her though.  She's a good close-in fighter with lots of mobility.  I'll put her on the possible list.

Martian Manhunter:  A non-starter for the reasons listed above.

So, assuming I go with those three, I now have a Powerhouse (Wonder Woman), a Speedster (Flash), and an In-Fighter (Hawkgirl).  I'm lacking any sort of Ranged Specialist, a Mentalist (by design), and any sort of esoteric powers/specialties types.  The game is set up for six players, so I've got three more slots to fill.  Time to hit up the expanded League.

For a Ranged Specialist, I don't think I can do much better than Green Arrow.  He's versatile (all those cool arrows), has some decent investigative skills, and he's a smart-ass.  But unlike Green Lantern, his versatility is somewhat capped, making him a bit more manageable as a convention character.

Black Canary is a tempting choice.  She's got some ranged ability (the Canary Cry) along with being one of the top hand-to-hand fighters in the DCU.  She's also generally mentioned in the same breath as Green Arrow.  On the downside, she's a third character who's basically a skilled person in a costume (Canary Cry notwithstanding).  Also, while I never know what sort of mix of players I'm going to get for my games, I do know my groups are generally mostly composed of male gamers.  Plenty of guys don't have any trouble playing a female character, especially in a one-shot, but I've run into a few who actually seemed to have an issue with it.  Making my PC mix 50/50 male to female suits my sensibilities, but it might create friction, and sometimes the path of least resistance is best.  For now, I'm going to list her as an "alternate."  I'll have her character sheet available when players choose and if someone wants to play her, they're more than welcome to do so.

So, what do I still need? At this point, I can start looking for more esoteric and obscure types.  One of the joys of Justice League Unlimited was the expansive list of guest stars.  A quick visit to The World's Finest website (your one-stop shop for all things Animated DCU) provides me with a handy list of every hero who appeared in an episode of the series.

Right off the bat, Mr. Terrific looks good.  He's got brains and investigative skills, gadgeteering, and those nifty little T-Spheres that can do a number of handy tricks.  Plus, in the comics he's in the JSA and I'm a huge JSA fan.  So he's in.

Looking at the roster, I'm thinking it's a little underpowered, at least by Justice League standards.  So that's going to rule out a slew of characters who are basically costumed adventurers.  Looking at the list, I think Captain Atom might be a good choice.  I think I'll pencil him in.

So, we've got Wonder Woman, Flash, Hawkgirl, Green Arrow, Mister Terrific, and Captain Atom, with Black Canary as an alternate.  In terms of the adventure as written in my head, I think any combination of six heroes could handle it.  But if I've got fewer characters, I may need to prioritize the choices.  That's something I'll come back to once I've got thing plotted out more solidly.


  1. Hot dog. Wonder Woman is in. Life is good.

  2. Good picks. I have to confess I'd be tempted to use some of the members who never got any screen time like Hourman or Nemesis, but most folks might not recognise them.

  3. @Whisk (can I call you Whisk?): I'm married to an enormous Wonder Woman fan, so I'm a bit biased on that front.

    @R'ick: Yeah, I have to walk a fine line between self-indulgent continuity pr0n and accessibility in these things. That was the problem with my last "Heroes of the New Wave" game: I'd gotten used to the same core group of players from the previous two years and ended up writing a lot of the third one to the shared sensibilities we'd managed in a few game sessions. When most of them didn't sign up last year, the new players had no idea what I was going on about at times.

  4. Sure thing. Whisk is a name the gamers gave me and I rather like it.

    And your wife, she sounds amazing, of course. I have two Wonder Woman Wednesday posts at my blog, that you're wife might this is funny. Not sure. One is of Sheldon dressed as Wonder Woman and it just cracks me up.

    Catch you next time,

  5. Since you don't have Superman in there, what about Captain Marvel? Or Mary Marvel? Sure, they're powerful, but they're also pretty one dimensional.

  6. @Dan: Good question. To my knowledge, Mary never appeared in the animated Justice League, and I'm enough of a continuity whore to try and stay within what's been established in the show.

    The Big Red Cheese is certainly possible. I like the fact that Atom provides a decent long-range punch, but Cap's a possibility. Of course, in his last appearance on JLU, he had quite the falling out with the League over his misplaced trust of Luthor.

    I'll have to think about that one some more. Thanks for the suggestion.

  7. Captain Atom certainly fills the Ranged Guy/Strong Guy/Tough Guy roles, but Booster Gold works equally well.

    And while I'm not really a fan, Red Tornado certainly brings a lot of "oomph".

    Oh, yeah...Orion might work better than Captain Marvel.