Saturday, January 23, 2010

My new favorite old comic may be my next RPG campaign

Ok really the comic isn't necessarily old, but Femforce,  published by AC comics, is the longest running all female team comic, since 1985, that I know.
I use to pick this book up back when I was a kid, but as I got older, got a job, had a family and the cost of comics went up, it was one of the books that got cut from my monthly purchases. Other than the occasional issues I came across over the years, I haven't read the book regularly in well over a decade. I actually thought it was canceled long ago. Last year I noticed a current issue on the shelf of my comic shop and I asked the owner to pull me an issue and I'm glad I did.
Is Femforce a groundbreaking and thought provoking title? Honestly no, but it sure is enjoyable. Reading through an issue of Femforce reminds me why I started reading comics in the first place. The book is just fun and I don't mean that in the "ha ha ha" sense, I mean that when I'm done reading an issue I don't feel bogged down by heavy continuity or preachy stories. Granted there is continuity, but unlike some comics, that I will be X-tremely careful not to MENtion,  I don't feel completely lost when I pick up an issue whether it is current or from 5 years ago. I like the simple nature of the book.
Featuring what is referred to as "good girl" art, the all girl team is full of scantily clad, well developed babes, but they are not defined by their looks. The characters are competent and capable heroes. Their sexuality is not hidden, but it doesn't define the characters. They are not a bunch of sex starved, vixens. The sex in the book reminds me of something from the 50's. You know what's happening, but you don't see it.
     However the comic is a flip book with the comic Gargantarama on the flip side of the book. Gargantarama has a bit more sexual overtone than the FemForce feature. Women growing into giants tend to rip clothes, but there is no actual nudity that I've seen, just very little clothing. Of course I think that is the nature of the comics in Gargantarama, giant women are suppose to be sexy. I won't deny that this isn't my favorite part of the book, but some of the stories are kind of entertaining.
The tone of the book is light, meaning that they don't go around constantly killing villains or using curse words in every sentence, though there are a few mild ones at times. The stories occasionally contain political or social issues, but they don't beat you over the head with the messages. Over all the book is very much what I loved about 80's comic as a kid, but with current stories.
I recommend this to everyone who wants a comic that is just entertaining to read. Besides with the rise of retro-gaming I don't see why retro-comics can't gain in popularity. Some may argue that if I want retro-comics I should just go buy Gold or Silver age comics, but that's not the point. I want the feel of an older comic, but without having to drudge through a story that feels like it was written for a 5 year old.Many of those older books they feel like they were written by a 5 year old. Besides most are incredibly outdated. That's one of the reasons I like Femforce, the old feeling with new stories.
The books is mature enough for an adult but not so mature that you couldn't let your tween(10-12 yr old) read it. The writing in Femforce is "simple" meaning that the stories are not overly complex, they are basic superhero fare, but are not childishly simple. 
Since I've already mentioned, in a previous post, my new obsession with old school superhero rpgs, I don't think that it should be a surprise that I plan to run a Femforce campaign. I haven't decided if I will use Villains & Vigilantes, DC Heroes or even Marvel Superheroes. Personally I think V&V would be the better choice.
However, I have also recently been reading a lot of Truth and Justice and BASH!(you got this if you bought the Helping Hati megabundle at RPGNow). Both are simple little systems that could easily be used for my planned campaign, but honestly I'm more torn between using V&V or T&J than anything else. I'm sure there are people that would say I'd be better off using Savage Worlds Super Powers, Mutants & Masterminds or even Silver Age Sentinels for my FemForce game, but I don't think so.
First of all Savage Worlds just doesn't feel like a superhero game to me. Granted I am not that familiar with the game, having just bought it recently, but I don't think it suites my needs. Besides I don't have the Super Powers supplement anyway.
Mutants & Masterminds is the obvious best choice, as it is probably the best selling superhero rpgs out right now, but it doesn't have the simplicity I want for my game. The simplicity requirement is also what took Champions(Hero System), and Heroes Unlimted out of the running.  Silver Age Sentinels (d20 or tri-stat) would also be good choices, but still not as simple and fast as I want. Honestly the d20 version, while playable, is far inferior to M&M or the Tri-stat version of SAS. At least in my opinion.
So right now that is where my mind is regarding which system and why. When it comes to supers games I am completely enamored with V&V and T&J at the moment. Honestly, I'm usually the type to shy away from smaller press games, which I find tend to be amateurish at best, but Truth & Justice has been a pleasant surprise. From my reading it seems to be a damn good, yet simple system that captures the feel of a comic. But to me so does V&V.
My first dilemma is deciding whether I want to use V&V because it actually is a game from the time period I want to capture the feel of or because it is the best system for the campaign I want to run. My second dilemma, and the most minor, will be stating up all the FemForce characters I plan to use in my game. If anyone knows of a site with pre-gen stats for these characters in one of my preferred systems post a comment.
My third dilemma is going to be convincing my group, currently comprised of all males (ages 12-36) to play an all female team in a mature fashion. Ok maybe I'm setting my sites a little too high, as long as they will agree to at least play a female character I can work on the "mature" part as we go along and they get use to the idea.
Like I said this is where I am at the moment, in the early planning stages. I have the feel I want for my game, I'm going to try to expand my groups playing skills beyond all male macho stereotypes, and I have an idea of what direction I want for the campaign. Now is the hard part, deciding which system to use.
I'm going to spend the next few weeks rereading the two systems. I'll stat up a few FemForce characters, in each, go over combat rules and hopefully make a decision by the end of February. That's usually when our winter break ends and we start fitting in an occasional game until spring hits and we get back on schedule.
I'll keep you posted.

*Support the small press comic book publishers.*
The recent changes that Diamond Distribution has made are apparently having a sever impact on all comic publishers, but small press in particular. I'm not going to try and go into the details of the changes here, you can find tons of info and articles about it on the web. My point is that small publishers such as AC comics will probably be harder to find in your FLCGS. Readers are going to have a harder time finding their favorite small press books, unless they go directly to the publisher's website. Some may even disappear completely.
While I may not have always been a big supporter of small press rpg companies I am coming around, but I have always been a supporter of small press comics. I know that I have whined and complained about pdf versions of both rpgs and comics over the years, but I am looking at digital versions more and more these days. I hope that smaller companies, like AC Comics, are doing the same thing. I'd love to see the title continue and I will buy all the issues directly from the site or as pdfs if necessary.
I still prefer reading hard copies of my books and fortunately I have the capability to print them at this time. If I didn't my opinion would likely change again. Despite my dislike of digital versions, I have to admit that I never would have discovered some of my new favorite rpgs and comics if not for RPGNow and DriveThruComics. Plus I have to admit the cheaper price is a big motivational factor in my purchasing decisions and pdf/digital copies are usually much cheaper than their print counterparts.
The point to all my rambling is directed towards the comic book fans in the rpg community. You could do a lot worse than try a few extra small press books.
Femforce may not appeal to you, but there is also the Champions line or Flare from Heroic Publishing that are available in comics shops(for now), at the publishers website or at DriveThruComics. Champions is another comic with that retro feel that I read regularly. Heroic Publishing has several titles other than Champions and Flare (League of Champions, Anthem), but since I have yet to read them I can not give any details about those titles. Some of the other digital comic books I'm reading are The Uniques and issues of Crusade Comics' Shi that I either missed, never got around to, or lost track of over the years.
Help support the small press comics in the same way many gamers support the small press RPGs. If you are willing to buy a pdf RPG for $20, you can buy about 20 copies of some digital comics for the same money.

I've been communicating with Mr. Heike of AC Comics about the book and the impact the changes in Diamond policy will have. I've mentioned that I'd be willing to support Femforce by subscribing , but there is no subscription. I was told that if enough people would go to the site and contact them about opening up subscriptions to the public, they would be happy to create a subscription program. If not you should continue buying the book from their site or just pre-order at your local comic shop..


Anonymous said...

There was a FemForce RPG published at one time but I cannot remember by who.

I also prefer four-color heroics for my superhero games. If I run supers again, I will probably use M&M as it has a good mix of fast play/ easy character design with depth in character build, if you want to take the time.

I would also recommend Jack Staff (now published by Image) as a good source of fun superheroics.

Geek Gazette said...

I have never head of it a Femforce rpg. I'll check for it. I have picked up Jack Staff, but haven't seen it for a while. That's another thing to check for. Thanks.

Philo Pharynx said...

Our group (five guys and one woman, from mid 30's to early 60's) had a blast playing a magical girl team in BESM. Obviously, we don't talk about pretending to be 13-year old girls much, but it was an amazingly fun game. If you have somebody who is a hold out, you might have a male role for a supporting character/sidekick. We did have one male character playing the teacher who transformed into the magical animal guide. By having the one male character be a little less powerful it keeps the focus on the women.

Geek Gazette said...

I could get the older player to do it, but the two under 18 guys might not be so keen on the idea. I imagine one of them will have to play some type of male pc as I don't think they could handle playing a girl.

Geek Gazette said...

I did find some info on the FemForce RPG, but I can't find a copy anywhere. Also I found out that Big Bang Comics had an RPG, but I can't find it either.