Because I have a preliminary copy of the DC Universe RPG and the DC Heroes
RPG Mailing List - http://w3.one.net/~joshdm/dch.html - knows, the group
demanded that I review the game for them. I've started to
read the reviews here... mostly because I'm looking for my own book...
but I figured I'd contribute a touched-up version of my review. The DCH
Mailing list focuses on the mechanics of games, so I focused on the
mechanics of the DCU game in this review, going through each part of the
rules book, section by section. What follows are excerpts from
Note: This is the upcoming DC Universe
RPG by West End Games, which uses the Legend - formerly D6 Double Prime, I think -
System. This is not the M.E.G.S. system, previously used in the Mayfair Games
DC Heroes RPG, and currently in Pulsar Games' Blood of Heroes.
The copy of DCU that I have is a photocopy preview given to me by WEG,
and I definately plan on acquiring a copy once the book is in production.
This prelim copy is missing 2 pages which summarize a lot of the skills
and how to purchase skills, so I have no idea how to go about doing
that. Since acquiring these photocopies, which have pictures in very
odd places and is laid out strangely, I have been to GenCON and
have seen the actual DC Universe RPG. The real book is laid out beautifully
and has wonderful inner pictures, though I'm not crazy about that cover.
The Main Book is full color and has original art in it. Fred Jandt
even explained how certain pictures had been redrawn from the original,
taking out or adding background elements that were missing, etc...
Suffice to say, the books looks phenomenol, as anyone who saw it at
GenCON can confirm or deny by leaving a short message at the bottom of
this review. Please note that the Narrator's Book is 2-color, not full color.
The Character Creation system is very detailed, almost too detailed.
Warning - Meanest sentence in entire review - Warning
At certain times it gets complex enough as to "nitpick" (for the lack of
a more-deserving, kinder, gentler word) certain concepts, so I had to read
it through more than once. I'm not sure if this is a result of the
photocopy pre-lim layout I had... most likely... but I had a very tough
time reading through the first few character creation areas. I have to stress
though that once I caught on, I got going, I mean I really GOT
GOING. The book becomes much easier to read later on and the
character creation ended up being quite simple.
How the rules "feel":
From a supers standpoint I am reminded of Champions with the
attention to detail and, as the local "expert", it goes into
much more detail than M.E.G.S. with every Sidekick Sourcebook rule
added... much more. Whether that is a good or a bad thing is up to
you, but I enjoyed it. From a rules standpoint it feels like GURPS.
Sidenote: I've noticed that all of the advantages can be easily duplicated
It begins with an introduction on how to roll the dice
and an entertaining Tim Drake/Robin solo scenario in choose-your-own-adventure form.
If you couldn't get your own copy at WEG's site (http://www.westendgames.net/),
I'll recap: Depending on your ability to succeed, you
are given a number of 6-sided dice to roll. Each die can achieve
a success "3-6" or failure "1-2". You are also given a difficulty
number from 1 to 10. After rolling, if you accumulate enough successes
to hit or rise above the difficulty number, you succeed. One of the
6-siders is WILD and as a result, it is theoretically "open ended"
and can be rerolled each time it rolls a 6. If it rolls a 1 on its
initial roll, the Wild Die takes away a success. On rerolls, the wild
die succeeds on 2-5 and fails normally on 1.
The book requests that you create a new character as opposed
to using a feature character. There are 5 power levels
for Narrators to pick from, each having a pool of Dice to
spend on abilities, a maximum # of Disads that can be purchased, and
a max Dice level that powers can be purchased at. Some power levels
limit the groups of Powers that can be purchased from Physical to
Mental and Transportation and Protection.
Power Levels with Example Experienced Character(s)
- Batman and his allies
- Plastic Man
- Starman - Jack Knight
- Superman and Flash
Ads and Disads:
There are a lot more Disads than Advantages listed.
The Narrator's book adds a lot more Ads and Disads to this list.
Advantages are standard fare, which affect certain skills or
abilities - Double Jointed, Courage, etc... Wealth is considered an
Advantage. The most "obscure" Advantage is "Intimidating Grin". For
all the generically-named advantages listed, the "grin" part is
too "specific", but that's more of a "I dunno if people who are new
to gaming will figure out that it can double as 'intimidating presence'"
nitpick. Suffice to say Jack Napier has that Advantage.
There is a good, detailed list here. Disads go into the nitty-gritty
listing a variety of mental disorders from "Cowardice" and "Delusions
of Grandeur" to "Narcissistic" and "Procrastination". Poor Wealth is a Disad.
Attributes go from 1 to 5 Dice, with 2 as Average and 5 as MAX.
Attributes can be increased beyond 5 with the SuperAttributes power.
Game-system-guy Comment: Base Cost of Superattributes (to
get 1D SuperAttributes) = 10 Dice, the same amount it costs to raise
any Attribute to 5 during character creation. SuperAttributes add
directly to the Attribute in question. IMHO - This balances
the game very well.
The 6 Attributes are:
- Reflexes - Agility
- Coordination - Manual Dex
- Physique - Strength and Endurance
- Knowledge - duh...
- Perception - Talent/Intelligence
- Presence - Strength of personality
Skills and Powers:
Skills and Powers are taken at either face value or "Specialized" -
aka "Subskills Only" for those with MEGS background. Specializations
make a Power or Skill cost cheaper.
Example: Invisibility is a Specialization of Light Manipulation.
Limitations and Enhancements:
Skills control Powers. Example: "Know How (Speed
Manipulation)". Powers can be purchased with Limitations and
Enhancements aka Bonuses, both of which get VERY specific
including "Self-Invulnerability" aka "Invulnerable to own power" and
"Linked Invulnerability" aka "the 'Marvel Comics' Cyclops/Havoc can't
hurt each other ability".
Other Character Stats:
Race: The text hints in various areas that alien races may have
different "Advantages" and such available to them. I'm guessing a
Space or Aliens Sourcebook will detail these in the future.
Tech Level: Obviously, this part reminded me of GURPS. Characters must be
given a Tech Level which can be raised or lowered based on Ads.
and Disads. It's used for creating and using equipment.
Speed: generally 30 feet a round, some skills and powers increase this.
Passive Defense: The natural instincts to get out of the way.
Unarmed Base Damage: Self-explanatory.
Lifting Bonus: based off Physique Attribute.
Hero Points: Luck/Burn/Help/Hero Points. You start with 1.
Villain Points: Star Wars' Dark Side Points.
Character Points: These can be used like Hero Points or spent as
experience to improve abilities.
Body Points aka Hitpoints: You calculate this after purchasing powers.
It is equal to 20 + random number based off rolled # Dice in Physique.
This is the only variable in this point-based character creation system.
Skills and Powers in Detail
I don't list all the skills and powers, I simply paraphrase any names that
stick out and "group" them into sections like "Ninja-style" and "Vehicle-style".
I also list my favorite power from each power section.
These default to an appropo Attribute and unskilled use increases the
Difficulty number. Skills run from 1 (below average) to 15 (Mythical),
but can go higher. The 2 pages I'm missing reprint a master list of
skills and powers and relate how to purchase skills, therefore I have
no idea how to purchase skills. The Skills cover all the basics of
any "current day" genre:
Reflexes - ninja-style stuff: Acrobatics, Climbing Sneak, and Dodging,
Combat-stuff: Melee Weapons, and Martial Arts and Brawling,
Vehicle-stuff: Piloting and Riding
Coordination - Thief-stuff: Lock and pocket=picking, juggling, stage magic. Targeting
stuff: Gun-use and throwing
Physique - Ability to push Flight, Endurance stuff: Lifting, leap, running,
swimming, and poison resistance
Knowledge - Know-How stuff: Arcane Lore, Languages, Detective, Science, etc...
Perception - Technical: Repairing and inventing, Forethought stuff: Hiding,
searching, streetwise, shadowing, Talent stuff: Art, Know-How (ability
to APPLY info), Tracking
Presence - Interaction stuff: Bluff, charm, disguise, etc...
Martial Arts Section:
When I originally wrote this review, I nicknamed this the "Nightwing Section".
Then I went to GenCON. Turns out that WEG coincidentally also named this the
Nightwing Section, especially since that's whose picture is plastered all over
these pages... This section covers Martial Arts and Brawling combat specializations,
listing various maneuvers like Headbutt, Clothesline and Leg Sweep.
Powers need skills to use them effectively - Flight lets you fly, but Piloting (Self)
Skill is needed to Dodge and maneuver. Powers have Base Costs - once paid
give you the Power at 1, and Specialization Base Costs - how much it costs for
a limited version of the Power.
Powers list Managing Skills, specializations, duration, range, Base Damage Value.
Physical - Self-Focused: Elasticity, Shape Changing, Agility: Clinging, Jump,
Senses: X-Ray, Infravision, Sonar, Offense: physical blast projections,
Personal: Resistance to poisons, sustenance, and Superattributes. Superattribute
Specializations cover a single Skill - like Martial Arts for Karate Kid.
Fav Power: Longevity - Power that simply increases lifespan.
Mental - TK-Stuff: Animation, Explosion, Mind Blast, Thought: ESP, Empathy,
Astral Form, Precog., languages, Projection: Illusion, Possess: Mind Control,
Fav Power: Psychic Manifestation - Create items from Mental Energy.
Transport - Dimension Travel, Teleport, and Flight
Fav Power: There are only three... Ok, Flight.
Protection - Defense: Energy Absorb, Forcefield, A detailed Invulnerability -
essentially subtract Dice from Damage, Natural Armor - MEGS Skin Armor,
Healing aka Regeneration
Fav Power: Resurrection - Can come back to life or return
others to life. Power # lowers per use, unless bought at a Significant
Amount of Dice - then it's permanent. Mitch Shelley
(Resurrenction Man) has this Power with Uncontrollable. You still need
the Healing Power to heal damage.
This is the big section of boo-koo massive powers with room for
a lot of Specializing.
Physical: Density, Size, Air, Earth, Fire, Ice, Light, Plant, Water,
Force: Electricity, Gravity, Magnetic, Sonic, Speed, Weather
Universe: Energy, Magic, Matter, Mechanical, Reality
Fav Power: Reality Manipulation. Lets you use any skill
and at higher levels, manipulate attributes, and even higher, powers.
I think Amazo has this puppy... goes to check... WHOOPS, no Amazo in the book.
Guess I have to wait for JLA suppliment.
Equipment: There's an equipment section detailing from Camera to Escrima
Stick (blame Oracle/Batgirl). There is also an equiment creation
section that I didn't go into, but at a glance, it works.
Combat: Basic rules has a cool picture of
Nightwing, Green Arrow Connor and Hitman. The combat section is brief and quick, but it works. Initiative, etc... It's a standard combat
rules section and they work. Other than having to roll a lot
of dice for very high numbers, the rules work quickly.
Example Characters include 5 Homemade Characters, one for each Dice Pool Level.
They aren't that powerful at first glance. There is
a Blank Character Sheet here.
Tour of DCU
Cities: A paragraph+ on each city or city section in the case of
Bludhaven. Includes Fawcett, Leesburg, and Manchester.
Prisons and Asylums: Arkham to Strykers and all in-between.
Major Corporations: Daily Planet to WKEY and STAR too!
History: Is compressed into that 10-year scale like in all
those DC Comics Secret Files. I won't re-iterate what I think of this
idea, especially since it isn't WEG's fault, but they make a good
attempt here. 4 years ago, Crisis happened.
Characters of the DCU:
I'll list all Heroes and Villains because people will bug me incessantly
Heroes: I'll list them below The Heroes are QUITE detailed statistically,
but their stats are all in paragraph form rather than character-sheet
form and need to be "written out", something I that I didn't see done
in the final version, hence comparison between your character - Cap'n Bob -
and feature characters - Superman - needs a little bit of interpretation
on the part of the feature characters. What, you expect everything
to be spelled out for you? Hee hee.
Each character has a summary background section and a "Recently" section.
Nothing that isn't currently public knowledge is given out. The character
portrait drawings are all "new" and might be done by the guy
who did the art for that "Legends of the Legion of Super-Heroes" mini. Ramos?
A personal nitpick of mine which goes back to Mayfair's DC Heroes system
is that Dice Pools for feature characters are not given.
Hero List: Aquaman, Batman, Captain Marvel, Flash (Wally), Green Arrow
(Connor), GL (Kyle), Hitman, Ijmpulse, Martian M, Nightwing, Robin (Tim),
Starman (Jack), Superboy, Supergirl, Superman, Wonder Woman
Villain List: Bane, Black Adam, Blockbuster, Catwoman, Cheetah, Circe,
Cyborg Superman, Darkseid, Deathstroke, Dr. Light, Joker (WITH
Intimidating Grin!), Lady Shiva, Lex Luthor, Mirror Master, The Mist
(Nash), Neron, Ocean Master, Scarecrow, Trickster, Two-Face. I think that
more characters are in the adventures (Metallo, Riddler, Maxie Zeus).
Random NPCs: From Cutter Sharp to Linda Park.
Narrator Section: I loved the section back here where they
list all the example condition modifiers for each Skill and Power.
Example Target Numbers are listed for each skill and Power depending
on how tough the target "condition" is. Quite nice and very helpful.
Adventure: Bride of Metallo. Here he is. Metallo. Whoo hoo!
I didn't read the adventure yet since there is a LOT to flip through, but it
reads good from here and well-written.
This has a history of the DCU that's a bit different from the
one in the players book. There is a section
on adding depth to Characters, new Advantages and Disads,
example generic places and people and animals - a very good idea -
and Dramatic Effects Cards. The cards can be photocopied out
and handed to the players. If they can "roleplay" the situation
on the card into the adventure, they get the reward points.
Includes information on how to "make the world your own".
Great idea, and very detailed. It also includes a very fun adventure:
Official Opinion: It's a lot to read from photocopied pages and it read
a lot easier from the laid-out book at GenCON. The rules are
well thought out, and I think it works. It helps
that WEG provides example target numbers for each skill and power in
the back of the book, though I've been told by others that it's been done before.
Character creation isn't too hard since I only got mixed up
because of the 2 missing pages and, in fact, the variety
of powers and skills offered cover all the main bases.
Yes, there are probably ideas and specializations that are
missing, Example: Multiplicity Specialization (Separate Body Parts),
but all the prime ideas are all there.
The only part I had a beef with was the Speed
Manipulation Power. You can accidentally "Classic Traveller" your Speedster
during character creation. For those of you who don't get it,
there is a chance, if Speed Manip is bought at a high enough level
during character creation, that your character gets absorbed
by the Speed Force. Whoops! =D RPG History Note/Murphy Rule: In the old
Traveller, your character could die during character creation).
Other than that, DCU should make a pretty good addition to the
variety of other supers games out there. Kudos to
Fred Jandt and Nikki Vrtis of WEG.
Style: 5 (Excellent!)
Substance: 4 (Meaty)