Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Multiversity: A Reality-Hopping Superhero RPG Proposal

Cover Stars From Left To Right: Heroes from Earth 23, 5, 20 and 26

As part of my preparation for restarting my Justice League Beyond game, I’ve been re-reading some superhero comics.  I don’t buy many American comics anymore – I read a lot of DC comics between about 2003 and 2011, but I fell out of love following the New 52 reboot.  Still, I have a bookcase filled with graphic novels and individual issues so I’ve been getting myself into the mood by taking a stroll through masked mischief.

One series I re-read was the last DC comics series I followed: Multiversity, a universe-hopping tale in which characters from various alternate Earths end up drawn into a single plot and must ally together.  It’s told mostly in the form of one-shot comics set on alternate earths – so Mastermen is a single issue set on a world where the Nazis won the second world war, while Pax Americana is set on a Watchmen-esque world with only one true superhuman.   

Uncle Sam versus √úbermensch

Multiversity #1 and #2 serve as bookends to this concept, showing the setup and resolution of the problem including a lot of stuff about the nature of fiction and speculating that every reality’s story is told in fiction in other worlds, so characters in each comic are shown reading the other comics of the series.  And in at least one case, the actual comic they are currently in.

…Yes, it was by Grant Morrison.  How did you guess?

A  map of the DC Multiverse's 52 core Earths.

Anyway, the jewel of this series if the Multiversity Guidebook.  This issue is both a universe-hopping story in and of itself, explaining what’s going on in some minor realities during the events of the main series, as well as a gazetteer for the DC Multiverse that codifies what exists and where.  A “map” of the multiverse – the main 52 Earths and its surrounding weirdness – is shown.  Of those 52 earths, 45 are provided with descriptions and pictures of their main super-occupants offering a lot of fan-boy squeeing as notable alternate universe tales and cross-company-comparisons get name-checked.

I loved this issue more than anything else because of the inspiration it gave me for RPGing – so much promise is offered up in the little team shots and single-paragraph blurbs that accompany each universe.  My more comic book fans were similarly enchanted and award winning comic booth writer John Lees mentioned how much he’d love the chance to read stories set in some of these worlds and lamenting the untapped promise therein.

There's no shame in nicking good ideas.

While chatting with him, I got to thinking about how I could harness Multiversity’s ideas into making a superhero RPG and one which could appeal to people like John Lees or Neil Slorance who read comics but haven’t popped their RPG cherry yet.  One that I could run either on it's own or as a companion piece to my existing Justice League game.

Therefore, I mashed it together in my head with Marvel’s Exiles, TV’s Sliders and the Mutants and Masterminds adventure Time of Crisis to produce the following campaign seed:

A host of different versions of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman floating around in Hypertime in The Kingdom.

Imagine a game in which a group of heroes wander the multiverse and all it’s Hypertime tributaries.  They are refugees from destroyed worlds; travellers from lands they no longer feel kinship to; explorers lost adrift in the cosmos and unable to find their way back home.  A rag-tag group of superheroes from a host of different histories.

What has bound them together is an extra dimensional threat, something that endangers the whole multiverse – the return of Darkseid, dread lord of Apokolips and God of Evil.  He seeks nothing less than the complete conquest of reality and he will not let anything stand in his way, even if he must destroy all 52 Earths in the Orrery of Worlds to achieve it.

My favourite version of Darkseid, as seen on the cover of Final Crisis #4.

Players could take on their own custom characters or could play alternate universe versions of major DC characters – Steampunk Batman is a perfectly valid choice, as is Cowgirl Wonder Woman or Pirate Aquaman. Whether a casual or hardcore comics fan, a current reader or a lapsed nerd, there's enough space in the multiverse to find and old favourite or chart your own path.

Some of the universes are a bit canon fodder - getting to visit Superman: Red Son or Batman: Red Rain will be boxes to tick for the die-hards.  Still, even a casual fan can appreciate the idea of "Superman landed in the USSR in this world" or "Batman got bit by Dracula and made a whole vampiric Justice League".

And that's just the Supermen of the multiverse teaming up.

Equipped with a somewhat erratic method of inter dimensional travel – perhaps a Monitor bleedship or a malfunctioning Mother Box – they hope from world to world to defeat the forces of darkness but also to try and find what their individual members are looking for.  A way home, a new life, a second chance at love, a world free of their hated enemies… is there something for everyone in the Multiverse?

I can easily run this as a few sessions here and there to account for a somewhat erratic schedule for newbies who don't to commit to a months-long, weekly game.

So, does this sound like an idea worth expanding on to anyone?  Would anyone be interested in playing a pilot episode/limited-series run of this game?

You can even be someone from the current DC comics line.  I'd rather you weren't, admittedly...

1 comment:

  1. I'd be happy with the idea that this rag-tag group of heroes comes to our JLI's Earth for the chance to beat up some bad guys :), or if you need a regular to shore up this other group that you're planning on cheating on us with *sniff*.