I’ve started playing D&D when I was 13; I started reading and collecting comics when I was 10. Any time I can combine my two nerdly passions it makes me very happy. When I was younger I played the Marvel Super Heroes RPG a lot (even more than D&D). I tried the DC Heroes RPG as a kid but liked it a lot less than Marvel, although the recent version from Green Ronin Publishing is a lot better. Even though I still read comics I no longer play any of the comic-centric RPGs. D&D is my game. So I’ve often thought about how to incorporate comic book superheroes into D&D. It’s not something that has an obvious or easy answer. The characters work in the context of their setting for a reason.
For starters, normal D&D character advance they get more powerful. Comic book superheroes generally don’t change or advance. Their powers generally remain the same. Still, porting comic book characters into D&D is worth a try. What would Superman, Batman or Wonder Woman be like as D&D characters? What races and classes would seem most appropriate? There’s no right answer, but it is likely to generate some debate and discussion.
I’ve decided to start this exercise by focusing in detail on the three most popular DC heroes (arguable the most popular comic book characters of all time): Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. From there we take a quicker look at numerous other supporting but no less important members of the Justice League.
I’ll share my thoughts and ideas on how I see these iconic heroes re-imagined as D&D character and then I encourage you to leave your comments below. I’m not going to actually create or stat out any of them. I think the discussion is a more fruitful exercise.
Throughout April Dungeon’s Master is participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. The challenge is to write a new article ever day in April, excluding Sundays. That’s 26 articles over the course of the month. To make things even more interesting the title of each article will begin with a different letter of the alphabet. The “J” in today’s post is for Justice League as I combine my two favoutire hobbies into one article. As a huge comic book nerd I’ve been wanting to do this kind of article for a long time.
Truth, justice and the American way. Superman has always been a larger than life character who exemplifies the best qualities of mankind (despite the fact that he’s an alien). He strives to see the good in everyone. He won’t kill unless there is no alternative. He lives by a strict moral code which he exemplifies by his actions. He’s a leader in every respect. Sounds like a Paladin to me; one who worships Truth and Justice as concepts rather than any one deity. Selfless and self sacrificing; that’s Superman to a T. I doubt there’s much debate on this call.
Superman is mainly known for his super strength. Sure he can fly and shoot lasers from his eyes, but his strength and invulnerability have earned him the nickname Man of Steel. For this reason I see him as a Goliath. This gives him the strength and size of a super man. The Goliath’s racial power Stone’s Endurance gives him resist all for short periods of time which echo his invulnerability.
The Stoneblessed paragon path seems appropriate given the long-time correlation between Kryptonians and crystals. The paragon path provides the Goliath with a new affinity for rocks and minerals (easily tweaked to crystals by the DM).
Since Superman has so many different powers it’s going to be hard to account for all of them, but giving him magic items is the easiest way to do that. A cloak (cape) that grants flight, a head item that provides his with magic missiles, and armor that provides enhanced resistances would round him out nicely.
If there’s Superman than there needs to be Kryptonite to balance things out. Depending on how powerful your D&D Superman is the Kryptonite could cause vulnerable 40/stunned, save ends, -10 to saves while kryptonite is within 2 squares.
D&D Superman: Goliath Paladin, Stoneblessed paragon path, Lawful Good.
Upon witnessing his parents’ murder as a child, Batman has dedicated his life to fighting crime and bringing criminals to justice by any means necessary. He follows his own laws and will not kill.
Although Batman is the pinnacle of human achievement both physically and mentally, I don’t know if I’d keep him Human in a D&D setting; I’m thinking Changeling. This would support the concept of his secret identity as well as the various personas he often employs (i.e., Bruce Wayne , Matches Malone, Hemingford Gray).
Class is a much more difficult conversation. I’ve always thought of Batman as an Avenger. Like with the Superman re-imagining above I’d have Batman as an Avenger of the concept Justice rather than for any one deity. However, given Batman’s incredible knowledge and well rounded education he might be more suited as a Bard. This would allow him to multi-class as needed into almost every other class. The Bard route also reinforces his preference to intimidate his enemies into submission (high Charisma and Vicious Mockery power) rather than through force.
As much as I like Bard I don’t think we can dismiss the idea of Batman as a Rogue. He works at night and relies heavily on stealth. He certainly has all the skills associated with a Rogue. Given the depth of the Bat Family roster I can see Batman taking the Guildmaster Thief paragon path and his roster of companions as the rest of the Bat Guild (Robin, Nightwing, Batgirl, Red Robin, Red Hood). There’s a reason Bruce Wayne is so wealthy, perhaps he didn’t come by it as honestly as he claims?
D&D Batman: Changeling Rogue, Guildmaster Thief paragon path, Chaotic Good.
Wonder Woman represents both power and beauty. She is a fierce warrior and a shining diplomat for peace in man’s world. Formed from clay, Wonder Woman embodies the powers and qualities of many classical Greek gods including Aphrodite’s beauty, Demeter’s strength, Athena’s wisdom, Hermes’s speed, Artemis’s skills of the hunt, and Hestia’s ability to detect truth.
Based on her origins we could make Wonder Woman a clay golem, but that seems limiting and untrue to the intent of the character. Human works, but seems boring given the multitude of other options. I’m thinking Elf. In the Dark Sun campaign the Elves are very tall and they are fierce warriors. This sounds like Wonder Woman.
For class I think there needs to be some Fighter in there. Perhaps a Warlord/Fighter hybrid? After all, Wonder Woman is a leader and a diplomat so the Warlord part would cover that off. I toyed with Paladin over Warlord, but I think that’s too limiting. Wonder Woman is a battlefield leader which is totally Warlord.
With this build the Battle Champion seems like the most suitable paragon path and given her origin and association with the gods it makes sense that she’d have the Demigod epic destiny.
Her most recognizable item is the magic lasso. It would have the ability to pull or slide targets. While ensnared the target cannot lie and suffers a -5 to Will defense. Her magic bracers could grant her resist all against ranged attacks vs. Ref or AC. If an enemy targets Wonder Woman with a ranged attack vs. Ref or AC and rolls a 1 on the attack roll, she can make the same attack against any creature within range.
D&D Wonder Woman: Elf Fighter/Warlord, Battle Champion paragon path, Demigod epic destiny, Neutral Good.
The Rest of the Justice League
These are the big three with DC, the holy trinity if you will. These character are so loved and well known by their fans that I’m sure we’ll have plenty of debate and disagreements on how to turn them into the right D&D characters. However, ther are others in the JLA that should get serious consideration during this discussion. Here are the top contenders in brief.
Green Lantern’s powers come from his indomitable will power and his ability to shape the powers of his power ring. I see him as a Human spell caster, most likely a Wizard. The shapes and forms he makes from the ring tend to exemplify a D&D controller and the power ring is clearly his implement. I can see a reasonable argument for making him a Sorcerer since he does have a lot of offensive capabilities too, a multi-class or hybrid maybe? Definitely a high Will defense bolstered by the ring.
D&D Green Lantern: Human Wizard, Neutral Good.
The Flash’s powers are pretty straight forward – super speed. This concept could be translated as a Rogue with exceptional Dexterity and nimbleness or it could be a spell caster who literally increases his speed, makes himself blurry, phases through walls, and runs across water. I suppose it depends on where you want to take this character because both ideas have merit. The Flash has a pretty good sense of humour and is often depicted as a trickster so I could easily see him as a Halfling which would go well with the high Dex.
D&D Flash: Halfling Rogue, Neutral.
Born of two worlds Aquaman had a human father and an Atlantean mother. He breaths both water and air. He has ties to the worlds above and below the seas but is akin to neither. Sounds like the plight of a Half-Elf to me. For a while Aquaman was depicted with a long beard. This always reminded me of the D&D Dwarven kings. Could Aquaman work as an undersea Dwarf? Maybe Atlantis is an underwater mining town? His class would definitely be primal since he’s all about underwater life and protecting the natural state of the seas. Druid seems like the most obvious class, but he also a fierce warrior so I’d argue that there might be some Barbarian in there too.
D&D Aquaman: Dwarf Druid/Barbarian, Chaotic Good.
As the last surviving member of his race, he found refuge on Earth. He deeply regrets the loss of his home world and does his part to keep the Earth safe from similar destruction and devastation. Martian Manhunter’s ability to shape change is best brought to D&D by making him a Changeling. He can fly, turn invisible, read minds, and is very strong. His love for nature and borderline environmental fanaticism makes him a good candidate for a Druid. Likewise his desire to right wrongs could see him leaning towards Avenger. He would have vulnerability fire 10 or more.
D&D Martian Manhunter: Changeling Druid, Lawful Good.
The newest member of the Justice League, Cyborg is a mechanical man. Warforged is certainly the best choice for race. He acts as a combat leader by providing tactical support, he also provides analysis of the enemies and the environment. Warlord, without question.
D&D Cyborg: Warforged Warlord, Neutral.
Let the discussion and debate begin. How do you envision your favourite superhero as a D&D character? Do you agree with my interpretations of the JLA or do you think I’ve completely missed the mark? Would you ever consider playing in a D&D campaign that used these characters as PCs?