Saturday, October 2, 2010

Will Wonder Woman ever really be as iconic as Superman & Batman?

While I am a WW fan, most people can't relate to the characters. She's just too foreign and few creators "get" her.
Superman may be an alien, but he is a messianic figure, who embodies hope. He had an American, midwestern upbringing and even to non-christians his values are familiar. He is a man out of place, who lost a family/people that he never got to know, and who seeks to connect to his heritage. He is also alone even though he has people who care for him. These are all things that most people can relate to on some level.
Batman is the very embodiment of loss, tragedy, alienation, the battle with inner demons and the desire for vengeance.
Both characters are fantastical representations of the "masks" that most people have to wear. Everyone must be different in different situations. They are also both representations of mankind's desire to make their environment safe and to have the power to fight those that are more powerful.
Wonder Woman has very little of that.
First she is a woman and unfortunately many people, including women, are prone to see strong women as a threat, not role-models. Most societies on this planet are patriarchal and while views are still evolving and maturing, the image of a powerful woman is still not as desirable as a powerful male savior. Secondly, she has little that the audience, mostly men, can relate to on a personal level. She's clay, given life by greek gods. Even among the non-religious this concept is someone "foreign" in many cultures where the Abrahamic religions are prominent.
Lastly, with the exception of the current storyline, WW is a princess, who regularly chats it up with gods, she has a "family" that loves her and she isn't out for vengeance. She is trying to assume a messianic role as a peace ambassador, but even that is not something most males(the majority of readers) can relate to. She does have the battle between her warrior nature and her desire for peace, but that's about as close as she gets to seeming human and sometimes that seems forced. She's just a little too perfect.
Batman, Superman, Spider-man, Capt. America, Iron Man, Hulk, and countless other characters all have very human inner and outer battles. Money, love, loss, rejection, desire and isolation are all traits shared by the more popular (Iconic) characters. That's why people can relate to them.
If you ask the average non-comic book reader to tell you about Superman, Batman, Spider-man and Hulk (Thanks to the movies and cartoons you could possibly add Wolverine, Iron Man, Fantastic Four, Ghost Rider, Blade and Green Lantern) they will hit on many of the very human traits that have helped these characters survive for so long. The traits and fears they will hit upon are are almost universally shared by all people.
Now if you ask them to do the same thing with Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Thor or the Flash you will get completely different answers. Wonder Woman will likely be associated with being sexy/wearing a sexy outfit, magic lassos, and invisible planes. With Aquaman you'll get swims, talks to fish and maybe the color of his costume. With Thor you might be lucky to get someone to mention his hammer and with Flash you'll get "he runs fast" and maybe the color red.
There is a reason characters like Wonder Woman are not as successful outside of the realm of comics. Even in comics Wonder Woman is the only one of DC's trinity that doesn't have more than one title. I could be wrong, but I think that she barely sells enough to support even that one.
I'm not bashing her. Hell, she's one of my favorites, but honestly most little girls would rather grow up to be Supergirl than Wonder Woman.
If her current storyline had been her origin or were to become the definitive WW, then this might change. As much as people may dislike the costume change, the current direction of her book has made her much more human than before. I for one hope it continues. It could be exactly what she needs to truly be the icon she is supposed to be.

Friday, October 1, 2010

This Year's Halloween Theme?

I'm not sure what I want to do for this year's Halloween themed game. I've done zombies more than once, but then again you can never get enough of zombies. I've done vampires, werewolves, mummies, ghosts, mad Nazi scientists, Cthulhu(naturally) and I think I even did aliens one year.

My past Halloween games have been in fantasy, pulp, modern and future settings. This year I don't know what to do. Maybe it is still too early, or maybe it is the fact we are still having 100 degree weather, but this year I'm not feeling too inspired.

So is anyone else planning to run a Halloween themed game this year? If so I'd be glad to hear what you plan to run so I can steal your.... ummm.. use your ideas for inspiration.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

My Favorite Pathfinder Character Generator

Recently I was looking for a Pathfinder character generator so I could make some quick NPCs and pre-gens for new players. I came across this site with a great PFRPG character gen. It is easy to use and it generates fairly nice character sheets that you can print when you're done.

If you go back to the home site, TroveToken, you can buy some of their products and also access the beta for an online 4e NPC generator, an online battlemap generator and a generator called "Storybook."

To be quite honest the Pathfinder generator is really the only thing on the site I've ever used, and I use it a lot, so I can't speak of the quality or usefulness of the others. However, I will probably start using the 4e NPC generator if my players take to the Essentials line like I have.

One last note, most of these programs are free to use online, but they will cost you if you want to download them.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

My little girl's adventure as a "dark elf"

I just finished running an adventure for my daughter and she did remarkably well for her first time actually playing.

She played Azula, a "dark elf" (she doesn't like calling her drow) fighter/slayer out of the D&D Essentials Heroes of the Fallen Lands book. I started her out at first level to be sure that the numbers crunching wouldn't be too much for her and was surprised at how well she caught on.

Azula came upon a small village where the children had been disappearing at night. She offered to help the town's people out by looking for the kids, whom she discovered were being abducted by goblins. The goblins were hold up in an old mine just east of the village and upon discovering this Azula made a bee-line for the mine.

On her trip there she was confronted on two separate occasions by goblins that were out patrolling the area. After making quick work of these lowly goblin patrols she made her way to the mine, where she had to take out the goblin guards at the mouth of the mine.

Long story short, she fought her way through the mine and eventually took out the leader of this band of kidnappers and his second in command. Triumphant she returned every last one of the kids before the goblins were able to sell them to an evil dragon that was going to eat them.

OK I know this adventure won't win any awards for creativity, but I think it served its purpose. My intent was to make it something simple enough for a young, first time gamer, but with enough action to keep her interested. I fortunately succeeded on both accounts. Actually I think I may have over compensated and had too many goblins for her to fight because at one point she did comment on how many there were, but I took it easy on her and made sure she didn't lose her first character on her first run.

I have to say that she did much better and was far more creative than I thought she would be. During battles she would come up with these incredible maneuvers and relied heavily on her acrobatic and athletic skills. She got through the skills challenge in the mine with flying colors and had almost no trouble remembering which dice to use and for what. She even did a good job of keeping track of her special abilities, feats and powers, something I still have to remind my older players about.

Over all I think it went well, and she seemed disappointed when it was over. That is kind of my fault because I expected to spend a lot more time during the game explaining things to her, but she needed very little help. Since she had such a good handle on the mechanics, the whole thing only lasted about 2 1/2 hours, which I feel is a good first game. A few reminders about adding her attack bonus to rolls was all she required through the whole scenario as she mercilessly hacked her way through my goblins. Even though I am always proud of her, her skills as a gamer took that pride to a whole new level.

When we rolled up Azula last night she immediately began pushing me to come up with an adventure. I told her she would need to wait until Sunday because I still needed time to prepare. She was so proud of her PC, and since she just couldn't wait until Sunday, she actually took the time to come up with a fairly detailed back-story for Azula. She named her parents, sibling and her reason for being a fighter. Apparently her father was a great fighter and when he died she became a fighter in his honor. Of course I immediately wondered what Freud would have said about that one.

While the game was a hit, the oddest thing happened after we were done. She asked me why we didn't play normal D&D. I explained to her that this was D&D and asked her what she meant. Her reply was that it didn't "feel" like the normal D&D that she has watched me and mom play over the past decade. She then told me that she wanted to play "that D&D".

Of course I knew that she meant Pathfinder/3e because that is the game that we normally play. I honestly didn't think she would know the difference as far as the actual play experience went. I did my best to keep the game as close to what I normally run as possible and I didn't think it seemed that different. At least not from where I sat.

So afterwards she asked if she could convert Azula to Pathfinder and we did. Next time my group gets together it looks like Azula will be tagging along.

I'm not giving up on Essentials just yet. She's agreed to run another character in another 4e adventure, but she's itching to get her feet wet running with the big kids in Eberron. So, as successful as her first gaming experience was, she apparently has paid more attention to what has gone on during my games than I gave her credit for. I raised a 3rd edition player and didn't even know it.