Roleplaying Adventures Through DC Comics Universes

By Christopher Helton

With the recent Mutants & Masterminds Bundle of Holding causing a surge of interest in the system, I thought that I would take time to talk about a couple of Green Ronin Publishing's other uses of the Mutants & Masterminds system. Today I am going to talk about the DC Adventures RPG, Green Ronin's adaptation of the pre-New 52 DC Universe to the Mutants & Masterminds rules. The next article in this series will deal with the licensed setting based upon the Wildcards novels edited by George R.R. Martin.

The fact that this game line adapts the DC Universe from before the New 52 reboot (or the Flashpoint event) may be a selling point for some, and a weakness for others. The only unfortunate thing (for me) is that the Wildstorm characters (as usual?) tend to get short shift in the game line, being mentioned in passing in the DC Adventures Universe book. The Wildstorm characters haven't made an RPG appearance since the 2004 Authority RPG and Resource Book put out by Guardians of Order. I will probably use Mutants & Masterminds and DC Adventures interchangeably when referring to the rules of either of these games. Both games use the exact same rules, so calling those rules by one name or the other won't be a big deal.

There are four books in the DC Adventures line: DC Adventures: Hero's Handbook, DC Adventures: Heroes & Villains vols. 1 & 2 and DC Adventures: Universe.


DC Adventures is a super-hero roleplaying game of a moderate level of crunch ("crunch" refers to the amount of rules in a roleplaying game, one with fewer rules to it is called light crunch while a game with a lot of rules to it is called a heavy crunch game) to it. Based on the D20 System mechanics that powered the 3rd edition of Dungeons & Dragons, DC Adventures shares very little with its forefather these days in terms of mechanics. If you come into this game expecting it to be like your D&D games, you might be a bit disappointed. However, it is these differences that make DC Adventures the game that it is.


The core book in the line is DC Adventures: Hero's Handbook. In this you will find all of the rules that you need for play as well as a sample selection of DC Universe characters. The book uses a lot of art from DC Comics that fans will be familiar with, including a familiar piece of Alex Ross art as the cover. There is also a brief introduction to the DC Universe, just enough to get play started, most of which will probably be familiar to fans of the comics.


The rules are robust and, as befits a game set in the DC Universe, allow for a great variety of super-powered characters, from the mundane street level vigilante to alien creatures who roam the stars protecting those who cannot protect themselves. Can you make characters equivalent to the likes of Batman or Superman without straining the system? Yes and the write-ups for both in the core book demonstrate this.


If you have never gamed before, there might be a bit of a learning curve to the DC Adventures rules, but nothing that a few days of reading cannot take care of. Coming in at over 250 trade-sized pages, there is a bit of reading to be done to master the system. It isn't daunting, and Steve Kenson, the designer of DC Adventures and Mutants & Masterminds, does a good job of breaking down the rules and presenting them in such a way that even someone not familiar with the workings of a roleplaying game should be able to figure them out. Outside of the rules, some twenty-sided dice (easily found in hobby stores or online) and paper and pens are the only other things that you will need for the game.

Really, the DC Adventures: Hero's Handbook is all that you need for play, but Green Ronin Publishing has produced three other books for the line. DC Adventures: Heroes & Villains: Vol. 1 & 2 give you hundreds more DC Universe characters to use in your games, complete with write-ups for use in the rules and some background information for those who may not be familiar with the characters. For those DC Comics fans who want to continue the adventures of Cassandra Cain or Stephanie Brown, you can do that with the write-ups included in Heroes & Villains Vol. 1. One of the great things about a roleplaying game based in a licensed universe is that you are not bound by canon and you can tell the stories that you want about characters in your games. In addition Volume 1 includes characters like Darkseid, Black Hand, Catman, The Doom Patrol, the various Flashes and Green Lanterns, Aztek and many others. Volume 2 finishes out the alphabet with characters like Orion, Ravager, the various Manhunters, Nightwing and many more.


All of these characters were designed by fans of the comics, and vetted by DC Comics, so they well represent the characters at the time this book was written. As I said earlier, the representations of these characters are from before Flashpoint and The New 52, so if you want the characters as represented by the current comic books, you will find the histories to be slightly different and the occasional power write-up varying with how the characters are represented now. Most of these are fairly easy things to fix, if the group wants to play adventures in the current DC Universe.


The final book in the line is DC Adventures: Universe. This book expands the setting of the DC Universe from the basics that were in the core book to the length and breadth of the universe. It goes into the various worlds of the multiverse, the far flung worlds of outer space and the past and future of the DC Universe. As vast as the DC Universe is, there is obviously some details that are left out (like the lack of Wildstorm characters mentioned earlier), but the book does a good job of providing a backdrop against which to base your DC Adventures campaigns.

The DC Adventures game is a solid line of books that will appeal to fans of DC Comics who might want to give roleplaying a try, as well as more experienced gamers who are interested in super-hero gaming. The compatibility with Green Ronin's Mutants & Masterminds game means that material from one game can be crossed over into the other without any conversion. You can add Green Ronin's Freedom City or Emerald City (two of the settings of the Mutants & Masterminds game) to your DC Advetures games if you are interested in creating new corners in the DC Universe where your characters can have their own adventures without bumping into Superman or Wonder Woman too often.

Christopher Helton is a blogger, podcaster and tabletop RPG publisher who talks about games and other forms of geekery at the long-running Dorkland! blog. He is also the co-publisher at the ENnie Award winning Battlefield Press, Inc.  You can find him on Twitter at @dorkland and on G+ at where he will talk your ear off about gaming and comics.

Roleplaying Adventures Through DC Comics Universes

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About Hannah Means Shannon

Editor-in-Chief at Bleeding Cool. Independent comics scholar and former English Professor. Writing books on magic in the works of Alan Moore and the early works of Neil Gaiman.
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