Thursday, July 26, 2012

Alan Moore's Superhero Warbox

Not everything called Twilight is all sparkly. One of the things called Twilight was a never-used pitch by Alan Moore for a war-of-the-superheroes comic.

If you have not read it and take nothing away from this blog entry other than that you should and can read it, then the sun has not set on this day without me having done a good deed.

As Moore says in the proposal:

"This central idea... that of a war and all its spectacular ramifications, makes it ideal material for a role playing game... perhaps the ultimate superhero role playing game. "

Now thems sound like bloggin' words to me.

I am not going to do up a whole thing like I did with the similarly contorted and sandboxable factional narrative in The Wire because:

1. I think it takes much less work to see how you could turn Moore's outline/proposal into an RPG set-up than a whole TV show with a plot and all, and

2. I prefer to leave it kinda generic so that I can later lift the skeleton into another genre or campaign if necessary

3. What am I, made of time?

Though that would be cool and I'd be all made of living sand like the Time Trapper...but I digress

So what I've done here is:

-Made a quick visual guide to who is where in the US... (assuming the Titans are in their Bay Area Tower rather than their NYC one just to spread things out)

-outlined Moore's plot events in order (that is: how things would go if the PCs didn't interfere), and

-added some notes on the bottom for changing the superheroes to other settings.

None of this will make sense if you haven't read Moore's original thing, but if you have and want to lift the set-up, this stuff might help you keep it all straight in your head.

Click on the pic to enlarge...
That little purple arrow is a note that Sinestro is on the moon with the Green Lanterns but my computer screwed it up. It's just a note so I figure no biggie.

Events (in order):

First two hooks:

1. Superboy to marry Mary Marvel (people worry)
2. Locked-door mystery in the ghetto

Contingent on event 1:

3. House of Titans and House of Justice and House of Secrets consider alliance
4. Blackhawk recruiting more Blackhawks for apocalyptic scheme
5. Constantine contacting every faction
6. Constantine pulls the lighter trick with Manhunter/Marvel
(Somewhere around here: Constantine acquires Moebius chair & melts down Gold)
7. Houses of Titans, Justice & Secrets attack Steel & Thunder at wedding

Contingent on event 7:

8. Aliens invade
9. Capt Marvel revealed to be Manhunter (Contingent on events in game)
10. Constantine arrives w/humans in gold armor
11. Constantine tells aliens the weaponers of Qward are showing up on the aliens' home planets


-Converting most superheroes to post-apoc mutants for RIFTS or Gamma World is trivial. D&D takes a little more work, but not much...

-House of Thunder: these can be lightning wizards or Thor types. Mr Tawky Tawny can be a Rakshasa, Mr Mind an evil psyworm. Same deal in a post apocalyptic setting.

-Superman etc are harder: he is kind of a crappy out-of-scale concept in a D&D context. Just some heavy Paladin? Man of Steel?

-Everyone in the House of Secrets has an obvious D&D version, they're wizards and demons and whatever.

-Green Lanterns=space magic=Lovecraftian cult?

-Moore's remaining Titans have a bird motif (Nightwing, Raven, Hawk). Maybe they are bird people. Cyborg is half golem, Changeling/Chimera fits right in.

-Joker is an evil jester/clown, Luthor and Sivana are crazy wizards, Catwoman is, y'know, a catwoman, Grodd is just a smart ape or monkey. The villains are really easy to D&Dify, let's move on...

-Blue Beetle=a bug guy, Captain Atom is a hideous mutating freak(?), the Flash is a quickling. The rest of the House of Justice is trivial to convert.

-The House of Tomorrow is cool, a bunch of time wizards with time-clones of themselves hanging around.

-The barrio can be Vornheim (House of Steel its ruling class?) or any Lankhmar rip-off. Constantine is a wizard, duh, Phantom Lady is an ex-spy, Doll Man is pretty much as-is only a curse victim rather than ex-shrinkhero, Uncle Sam is tough to translate--insane cleric?, Blackhawk is a kenku, Plasticman is a changeling, Congorilla another intelligent monkey, Black Canary an opera singer, Adam Strange a dimension-hoppping wizard, Batman is a vampire. The rest are trivial to convert.

-The House of Mystery (wizards) doesn't do much in Moore's story. They could easily be the PCs or their patrons if need be.


  1. I'm still astounded that DC turned this down.

    1. And instead gave us Millennium!

    2. It eventually became Mark Waid and Alex Ross' Kingdom Come (1996).

  2. See for me, I'm just over Alan Moore's whole "destroy the Superhero genre!" schtick. Or rather, fatigued of it.

    1. See, I'm over the whole "Judge things based on their broad outlines/perceived agendas rather than the moment-to-moment experience of experiencing them".

      Oh, wait, I was never into that.

    2. It was more "Give a proper mythological ending like the Iliad, the Mort d'Arthur, the Mahabharata War" than a deconstruction.

  3. Holy crap this is awesome. And I'm just about ready to start a DC/Marvel crossover game with the new Marvel game. Now I know what I'm using for broad strokes.

    What Houses would the Marvel characters be in? Would they be part of their own houses? Would all the mutants migrate to Mutant-land?

  4. Sounds like DC stole the idea for Armageddon 2001, where a hero from the future returns to warn DC superheros of a time when they're all dead and Monarch, the one metahuman left after killing them all off, rules the world with an iron fist. Used to collect them back in the day...

  5. I've never understood why Batman and Superman always get into a fist fight when they have a disagreement, even in alternate "realities." Supes knows that Batman has a kryponite ring and that Batman has better martial technique. What Superman has is super-speed, heat vision, and the ability to fly. Even evil Superman never seems to think, "Hey, I'll just fly up about 50 feet and incinerate that dude." Game over.

    1. To be honest it never occurs to Superman to just fly up really high and shoot heat vision at someone.

      I think sometimes they're like "Oh well he doesn't want to kill anyone" but come on.

    2. You might want to take a look at the Hero System.

      It's definitely my favorite for superheroes, since it works just as well for

      a) Guys with tech/gadgets
      b) Phenomenal Cosmic Powers
      c) Cops with Guns

      It's all point based, so it levels everything out quite well.

      The only issue with it is the character creation is kind of a pain, but it's made much easier by the character generator program they also have.

  6. Did you tried the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying? It is a nicely adaptation to the whole superheroe genre.

    1. check around the blog a little more

  7. Green Lantern = psionics, if you have a system that you like for D&D. (Are you familiar with the Lensman novels, inspiration for the Silver Age Green Lantern.)