RPG Corner: The Comics Party

Hammerknight pointed out that we probably have a lot of RPG players here, and suggested that we introduce a series of posts on various topics related to gaming. I thought it sounded great, since I follow several RPG blogs, so we'll give it a shot and see how it goes. Feel free to talk it up, make suggestion, post images, and have a good time with the topic at hand. Which this week is:

If you were to fill out a "typical" ideal five-person RPG adventuring party with comic book super-heroes, who would you choose?

Discussion to follow.

To answer the question, first you have to figure out what the roles are. Now, this is just my (relatively uninformed) opinion, but I think there are "traditional" roles the PCs fill out in most RPG parties, almost regardless of system. Although this isn't a comprehensive such list, my ideal default five-person RPG party would be something like this:

  • Guardian: Front line defender, giving the back-line folks time to do their thing, classically represented by the Paladin;
  • Damage Dealer: Offensive oriented, dedicated to dealing out massive damage before going down, sometimes filled by the Mage or Rogue, sometimes by a Berserker type fighter;
  • Healer: Keep the other team members going longer than otherwise possible, your typical Cleric model;
  • Utilitarian: Jack-of-all-trades, able to do lots of different things the party might need well, but nothing necessarily outstanding, not necessarily combat-focused. This was usually the Thief in D&D;
  • Crowd Control: Master tactician, able to manage the battle so the team can focus their energies on just one target at a time without getting overwhelmed. I don't think this had an analog in classic D&D, but you definitely see it with mages in, for instance, WoW.

Once you've identified your roles, you have to pick people to fill them, which immediately brings up the question of power level. In a D&D style RPG, that's settled by deciding what actual level the PCs are -- typically you start at level 1 and work your way up, with various adventures being marked for the appropriate levels. In points-based systems like HERO, you have different measures but the idea remains that adventurers should all be about the same power level.

When it comes to putting super heroes into an RPG setting, level is very important. An adventure that would be fun and interesting for Superman-level characters would slaughter a bunch of Ace the Bat-Hound level guys. And the reverse is also true, a great adventure for the Super Pets like Ace would be a snooze-fest for Krypto.

So for my roster, I'm going to fill it with a Tier 1 Party of major heavy-hitters.

For Guardian, I'd choose Superman. He can take a crapload of damage, he can move quickly to hunt down breakouts, and he can help dish out hits if for some reason his defenses aren't fully engaged.

For our Damage Dealer, you'd have to go with Hulk. He's pretty much the prototypical "All I do is hit stuff really hard" guy. Just point him in the appropriate direction and get out of his way while Supes defends everyone else.

I'm at a bit of a loss for our Healer, because I can't think of too many super-powered characters that fit the role. The only name I could come up with was Raven from the Teen Titans. She fits the classic "cleric" slot pretty well, as she can not only heal but do other interesting things as well, bringing in a little mystical ability and cool movement.

The Utilitarian character in my ideal super-hero RPG party would probably be Douglock (the combined Warlock and Doug form) from New Mutants, assuming we were going on a technologically advanced adventure. If instead we found ourselves on a true medieval dungeon crawl instead, he could still use his shape-changing powers to get through most traps, I'd think. Plus he's got all that sciency smartitude from Doug.

Finally, my Crowd Control character would be, believe it or not, Sue Richards, the Invisible Woman. Those force fields are so versatile and effective, she could wall off groups of attackers, funnel them into the Hulk, stop runners, all sorts of good things. Plus she can ghost down corridors and check things out, which is a great secondary skill.

So, that's my five-member team of supers, were I kitting out an RPG group. Who would you choose? Would you have different roles/archetypes? Would power level make a difference, for instance what if you were fitting out a team of sidekicks?

26 Responses to RPG Corner: The Comics Party

  1. My first inclination would be to go with Superman as the Guardian as well, but I’m afraid the team would become too dependent on him. He might become a crutch….Not much of an issue in the comics, but it could be an issue in an RPG setting.

    So, here goes:

    Guardian: Iron Man. Never been a huge fan of the comic character, but I think He’d fill this role nicely. Offensive and defensive abilities, he could definitely hold the line while the others got their hits in. Plus: Access to financial resources.

    Damage dealer: Wolverine. Hes stood toe to toe with the best of them, and when he hist berserk rage don’t be standing there. Plus; Enhanced senses and tracking ability, and when not berserk, one of the better fighters int he comic universe.

    Healer: Right there with you Jeff, can’t think of a good healer character, so I’ll throw in a doctor; Dr. Strange. “Hey doc, could you hit the books, pick up a healing spell or two? Thanks!” Plus, he’s got all kinds of other skills and abilities.

    Utilitarian: Madison Jefferies/Box. Living Steal power armor and the mutant ability to shape metals, plastic, glass, etc into anything he can imagine. Throw in engineering skills and he’s pretty formidable. He’s created Hand guns, robots, even fully functional hyperdrive space ships. Very handy to have around. Plus’ can fix just about anything.

    Crowd Control: I decided to go with a telepath. Professor Xavier would be a good first choice; Top tier psychic abilities, teacher, tactician, and diplomatic. Could also act as team leader.

    Wow, looking back over the list It’s pretty marvel heavy, I never got much into DC. If I were to roll some DC characters in there I guess I’d look closely at Green Lantern for the guardian, and Batman for utilitarian.

  2. Those are good choices Gene. I had considered Professor X in that role for the mental lockdown, but overlooked Wolverine as a Damage Dealer, that’s a good call. Much more controllable than the Hulk, that’s for sure.

  3. I was thinking more on the lines of the traditional fantasy (i.e. AD&D) work up (or, build your 5 super heroes as AD&D characters). You have the 4 core archetypes:
    Warrior- (generally the Fighter, Paladin or Ranger)
    Rogue- (Bard or Thief)
    Healer- (Cleric or Favored Soul)
    Spellcaster- (Mage or Sorcerer)

    Now, my personal style in fantasy gaming tends to rely on one of each archetype and then any additional slots would go to additional heavy combat capability (specialist warriors). I also don’t want to be THAT heavy of a power gamer (sorry Jeff). So, with that in mind, Here’s how I would likely break it out:

    1. Warrior/ Group Leader Slot: A tough one. There are so many possibilities that have this combination of being a good or great warrior, while also being able to lead a group with diverse personalities and beliefs. Right now, I think I’m going to go with Tony Stark/ Iron Man. I know, he’s not a religous zealot Paladin, nor is he known to use weapons (though I don’t think he’d be averse to whipping out a sword to slaughter some orcs) and he does tend to have an issue with booze, but the man has mad skill when it comes to the blacksmithing aspect. This could be damn handy in a campaign. I think he’d also be able to hold together the rest of the team.
    2. Specialist warrior slot: It never hurts to have a Ranger/tracker in the party. With that in mind as well as having the “dual wield capability, my vote is for Wolverine here
    3. Healer Slot: Who better to fill the slot of of the devout devoted to a god, than an actual god? Now, I agree that known superheroes with the ability to heal others hasn’t really been shown in comics, but I’d have to think that if you’re a god, you’ve GOT to be able to do it (whether or not you choose to is another matter). So, with that in mind, I will have to go with Thor.
    4. Rogue slot: Hmm, I actually have a challenge here, as I can think of several characters that might fit the bill really well. The first being Storm. Now, Storm spent time on the streets of Cairo as a child thief. She was also worshipped as a weather goddess in her tribe (cross-classing could be advantageous). Second, we have one Remy LeBeau/ Gambit who has also spent time as thief and is even a member of the thieves guild. The Shadow is a possibility as well with a great movement style. Rogue herself could be interesting in this slot. She also spent time as a thief in her past. Last, but not least is Nightcrawler. Now, I don’t know if he ever spent time as an actual thief; but I do know he was raised by gypsies, in a circus. He has acrobatic ability, the dark skin and movement method would make him ideal for those backstab bonuses and he definitely knows how to buckle a swash. There’s also his nickname to consider. So, with all that in mind, I think I’ll have to go with my personal favorite; the “Elf” Nightcrawler.
    5. Spellcaster slot: Hmm, Well, I admit that this is a bit of a challenge for me primarily because I’m only really familiar with one spellcasting super. I know there are others, but since I’m only familiar with one, I’ll go with Dr. Strange.

  4. I’ll answer from Marvel’s point of view, heavily mutant-aspected.

    Guardian: Cyclops. Yup.
    Damage Dealer: Wolverine is good for this — heals his own damage too, so you don’t need to spend the healer’s energies there.
    Healer: Elixir from X-Force. He’s both healer AND damage dealer.
    Utilitarian: Gambit/Storm. Both also capable of dishing out damage and useful with or without powers. An another good choice would be Sage.
    Crowd Control: Magick of New Mutants fame, Blink of Exiles, Amanda Sefton, Rachel Summers (with or without Phoenix Force), Scarlet Witch.

  5. This kind of reminds me of the Marvel Overpower card game from the mid-90’s where you assembled a group of four heroes or villains (or both) to do battle. Since everyone is going the hero route, I’ll try to make an all villain team (minus the god-like characters).

    Guardian – Sabretooth or Omega Red; Sabretooth mainly for regenerative powers and Omega Red for his carbonadium armor and life draining abilites.

    Damage Dealer – Juggernaut; could be switched for Guardian role, but seemed to be a perfect fit here.

    Healer – Apocalypse or Mr. Sinister; Again, Apocalypse is another character who could fit multiple roles, but I’m figuring his alien technology could augment the others somehow. Likewise, I think Sinister could use his genetic research to augment the others as well. (Really, I’m drawing a blank at the moment thinking of a villain who could heal others. I hate brainfarts.)

    Utilitarian – Doctor Doom; Technology and magic and armor, oh my.

    Crowd Control – Magneto; granted we’ll constantly need to be around metal.

    Probably not the best overall team and their egos may prevent them from working together, but I’m a marvel guy and I like my villains better than the heroes.

  6. Thanks Jeff!

    I later realized that my team was entirely male!! How boring! So, in respect for the fairer sex;

    Guardian – Wonderwoman – Strength, flight, combat ability, she’s got it all, and looks good doing it.

    Damage Dealer – Rogue – Strength and invulnerability. Plus, in a pinch she could steal you enemies powers for a bit.

    Healer – Raven – couldn’t think of much here again, so I went with Jeff’s suggestion. Healing and some other handy magical abilities.

    Utilitarian – Batgirl – I know that there have been several women fulfilling this role, but they all have the same basic abilities; combat, stealth, detective, and enough criminal skills like lock picking and disguise to make them a useful rogue.

    Crowd Control – White Queen – Stuck with a telepath here, she’s in the same league as Prof X, so she’s a perfect fit. Teacher, leader, and in a pinch can become invulnerable.

    Wow, a villain team….I like the thought of that……

  7. My team has two warriors, who specialize in their own thing to the extreme and to counter them the three remaining characters are all versatile people, whom can substitute for many different tasks:
    Meat-shield: Hercules, a god. Not as powerful as Superman or Hulk, but also is not a pasifist nor a berserk threat to team mates – both excellent qualities for a fighting team.
    Ninja: Elektra. A ninja, accept no substitutes.
    Healer: Engineer from Authority, uses nanobots, can also handle bombardment, tech stuff and communications.
    Utilitarian: Doctor, also from Authority. That near omnipotence is not something to take lightly.
    Area controller: Storm, an X-man, weather control is powerful. Can also substitute for a ninja, a tactician and a blaster.

    I think the team might also need a brain, but that’s not essential. This team can work around that weakness with versatility.

  8. This is great feed back. I have always called the damage dealers and guardians, “Tanks”, don’t know if anyone else does but that is what my kids got me calling them and they are real big in the games. This is something that people can build on, putting together team after team. I think it would be really cool to see a comic book version of D&D using only known comic characters, an Else World type of thing.

  9. Hmmm… I’m going with the Kirkman-verse:

    Guardian: The Immortal
    Damage Dealer: Invincible
    Healer: Atom Eve (it’s always seemed to me that with her ability to rearrange stuff on an atomic level, she should (in theory anyway) be able to heal folks.
    Utilitarian: Robot
    Crowd Control: Repli-Kate

  10. I’ve used the term Tank quite a bit. another one that comes to mind from my old Shadowrun days is Gun Bunny. That guy that carries more guns than he could possibly wield in a game session.

    If I went with the D&D style Fighter/Cleric/Rouge/Mage combo:

    Fighter: Wolverine – As mentioned above, one of the best all time fighters in the comic world; over a century of training, healing factor, adamantium bones, claws – and unmatched senses gives the group a tracker.

    Rogue: Batman – Always billed as one of the greatest fighters, his detective skills is what puts him in the role; Stealth, lock picking, climbing, hide in shadows, etc.

    Mage: Dr. Strange – Just your every day Arch mage

    Cleric: White Queen (She apparently has some healing ability, but that’s not all clerics are about; healing, enhancing, learning, and convincing are all part of a clerics job, and I think Emma could handle that. Yeah, she’d be a Chaotic Neutral cleric, but still.)

  11. Ah, now, if I am to bring in a team of super heroes for say a Champions game, there’s an interesting set as well. I’ve heard this broken down differently than the way you do Jeff, but I think the archetypes will be fairly similar as well:

    1. Tank/ Damage Dealer (I’ve also heard this referred to as the “Brick” The guy everyone else stands behind to avoid Damage): There are so many to choose from, but just for the sake of being different, and to have a better male/female team ratio AND because she hasn’t been mentioned, i’ll go with the Emerald goddess of DAAAYYYUUUMMM!!! herself, She-Hulk

    2. Guardian (I tend to think of this more as the “Brawler” or fighter archetype): Again, Wolverine. He slices, he dices, he makes julienne fries out of his enemies.

    3. Healer: As we’ve pretty much established, there seem to be very few “healers” in the super hero world. Also, overall, if you have a team that are in need of a healer during combat, you’ve got bigger problems. Also, considering the makeup of the rest of the team so far, Under my slot number 3, I’m going to insert the Age of Apocolypse Iceman. Consider all the things you can creatively do with Cryokinesis including immobilizing your enemies, making them unable to stand (the comedic value is not to be underestimated), to hurling huge chunks of ice. This combined with AoA: Iceman’s ability to “transport” others could be invaluable.

    4. Utilitarian (or Gadgeteer. They don’t necessarily have powers of their own, but if you need a bomb built out of 4 straws, 2 paper clips and a rubber band, they’re the go-to person): I think I’m gonna have to go with Forge on this one. If you need it, he can make it.

    5. Crowd Control: I’m of a similar mind here as to the Healer archetype in that during super hero combat within the inner city, You (or the hero(es) you’re controlling) have bigger issues than strictly crowd control. After all, most civilians do (or should) know that if some freaks in tights show up, they (the civvies) better get the hell out of Dodge on their own. So, I’ll modify this category to that of the “Blaster” this character may not be good in a brawl, but why kick your enemy in the nards if you can take them down from a distance, right? So: I’ll take Storm. Weather control baby. Rain and Thunder and Blizzards, oh my!

  12. JinkieZoinks

    Ok I know this is a total marvel lineup, but this team got me through Marvel Ultimate Alliance… Good times.
    I added in the scarlet Witch because…Why not.

    Guardian: The Thing

    Fighter: Wolverine

    Utilitarian: Iron Man

    Healer: Scarlet Witch

    Crowd Control/Team leader: Captain America

  13. I have played Final Fantasy XI a lot and we always had a 6 man team.
    Tank 1
    Tank 2
    puller
    White Mage-healer
    back up healer
    3rd mage.

  14. Puller being the one that goes out and gets the monster to fight and brings it into the group.

  15. Oh, we call that guy ‘Bait’.

    Or, if the player doesn’t show up that session, Pointman.

  16. Tank/Brick: Hmmm…Superman is the first name to come to mind for this role. He just is perfect for it.

    Damage Dealer: Wolverine seems to be almost perfect, but in the interest of being different…Wonder Woman. Because this team needs some feminine influence.

    Utilitarian: Batman as has been mentioned before, he can do almost anything.

    Healer: Dr Strange comes immediately to mind, because a superhero team doesn’t need a healer but can’t go wrong with a Master of the mystic arts.

    Crowd Control: I think of this as the tactician of the group. If I hadn’t already said Batman, I’d choose him. My other choice then would have to be…Captain America. he’s great for that kind of thing.

  17. Heroes:
    Guardian: Thing. Thing, would prove to be a great guardian character due to his enhanced stamina and lung capacity, and increased resistance to sensory and temperature extremes. He is much easier to control over the unstable rage that the Hulk would possess, but with the same powers, if not more.

    Damage Dealer: Deadpool. Deadpool, possesses a lot of damage dealing qualities among his numerous talents with swordplay, hand-to-hand combat skill, and marksmanship. His inhumane reflexes, strength, and speed allow him to fight evenly matched with almost any opponent. He also has a superhuman healing factor like wolverine’s.

    Healer: Elixir. Elixir, is a high class mutant who has only demonstrated his powers for healing factors. He’s not a commonly mentioned hero, but if you want more information on him look here:
    http://marvel.com/universe/Elixir

    Utilitarian: Batman. I gotta give this position to the Bat Boy, I believe he’s demonstrated the most uses of devices, and expensive gadgetry in the comic universe. His whole character was designed on the use of utilities and transportation.

    Crowd Control: Hal Jordan. Green Lantern, would be my choice of crowd control. His Power Ring could keep a large area in control, along with the factor of his flying capabilities.

    And just for fun, I made a short villain version.
    Villains:
    Guardian: Bane
    Damage Dealer: Venom
    Healer: ?
    Utilitarian: Doctor Doom
    Crowd Control: Magneto

  18. Guardian: Invincible. Okay, yeah, he’s just a kid, but so what? He’s jaw-droppingly tough and he’s as good-hearted and trustworthy as Spiderman. Perfect guardian, as far as I’m concerned.

    Damage Dealer: Thor. You just cannot beat a thunder god for massive damage output. Between the super-strength, hammer, and weather control, I doubt there’s a superior candidate out there.

    Healer: I think I’ll go with Dr. Strange for this, too. The other make a good case.

    Utilitarian: Martian Manhunter. When it’s easier to list the powers your character DOESN’T have, they’re a utilitarian. 😉

    Crowd Control: Green Lantern. His power set gives him a multitude of ways to control crowd, and even do so gently, if that would be more appropriate.

  19. Huh. My original comment didn’t come up, oh well.

    Guardian: Green Lantern. That ring can make everything and the kitchen sink. Great for the guardian role.

    Damage Dealer: Hulk. Who can do more damage the Bruce Frikkin’ Banner.

    Healer: Dr.Fate. I’m unoriginal, sue me.

    Utilitarian: Rorschach. If a man can fight off a SWAT team using nothing more then a can of hairspray, a match and handful of pepper then he’s far better then any ‘Batman’.

    Crowd control: Human Torch. His fire power (HA!) makes him perfect for keeping the enemies at bay.

  20. Guardian: superman
    Damage Delaer: wolverine
    Healer: sue storm
    Utilitarian: batman
    Croud control: charles xavier

    why no one piked batman as a utilitarian??

  21. theimmovablewall

    Damage: Obviously the hulk. Can go wrong there

    Healer: Xorn, can’t believe no one picked him. He made professor x walk again.

    Guardian: Sebastian Shaw from the dark phoenix saga. He absorbs kinetic energy and can then send it back amplified.

    Utilitarian: That is hard. I could go with a high level psychic jean gray as the phoenix but i think i would like blue beetle. The first incarnation.

  22. theimmovablewall

    it seems i forgot crowd control: Gambit.

  23. I think more important than who you choose is that you follow the publishing/marketing rules.
    So my list is:

    Tough Man
    Smart Man
    Sexy Woman
    Butch Girl
    Ethnic Minority Man

  24. Guardian: Dr.Manhattan

    Damage Dealer: The Comedian

    Healer: Xorn

    Utilitarian: Nite Owl

    Crowd Control: Silk Spectre

  25. I’m glad to see all the feed back. I’m also happy to see that a couple of people put Batman on their teams.

  26. William A. Peterson

    Guardian: Thor, for Marvel, Captain Marvel (Billy Batson) for DC…
    It’s the Paladin position, after all, and one of these has the powers of a God, the other one IS a God!

    Damage Dealer: Iron Man for Marvel, Green Lantern for DC. The ability to deal many different kinds of damage, and to do so at range, and over an area, is very useful for this slot.

    Healer: This is going to look odd, but I’m going with Sue Richards for Marvel, and Booster Gold for DC…
    Sue can’t heal people, true, but as a Defender and De-buffer, she’s quite useful! For Booster, think the current version, who (eventually) is the guy who taught Rip Hunter everything he knows about Time Travel… 😀

    Utilitarian: For Marvel, I want Ant-Man, er, Giant-Man, I mean Goliath, er, Yellowjacket, or was that Doctor Pym, Scientific Adventurer! You don’t get too much more Utilitarian than that! For DC, yeah, I’ve got to go with J’onn J’onzz, the Manhunter from Mars!

    Crowd Control: For Marvel, I’ll go with Reed Richards, Elasticity and Gadgetry make for a potent combination.
    For DC, since I’m a BIG believer in Maximum Overkill, I’ll go with The Spectre! Just having him show up should give most everybody pause… 😀