[x]Blackmoor Vituperative

Thursday, 2017-12-14

Fantasy characters vs superheroes

Filed under: Gaming — bblackmoor @ 10:41

Thinking about characters and games, and how my favourite long-term characters are mainly superheroes. Why is that? I have had fantasy characters I’ve loved, but they don’t have the longevity that superheroes do. I think there are a couple of reasons for that.

medieval Avengers (thedurrrrian)

First, fantasy characters are almost always tied to a specific fantasy world. More than that, even: a specific fantasy world being GMd by a specific person. You can make up the same character more than once for different settings or different GMs, but they really aren’t the same character.

For superheroes, it’s not like that. If the game system is the same (and in my experience, most people stick with one superhero game system for years and very rarely change it), you can drop a superhero from one game into another with minimal fuss. The genre makes that a trivial exercise: the hero moves from their old campaign city to a new one, or gets recruited by a new team, or at worst, gets sucked into a vortex and arrives in a new version of Earth. For a superhero, that’s just a typical Tuesday.

Second, fantasy characters almost always exist on a “level” spectrum. A typical fantasy character changes a LOT from Day 1 to Day 100, with new powers, more potent abilities, better equipment, and so on. There are fantasy game systems that don’t have this continual power inflation, but in most cases, a fantasy character that’s been played for a year is virtually unrecognizable from how they started out.

For superheroes, it’s not like that. In most game systems, a superhero starts out more or less fully-formed. A speedster, a vigilante detective, a flying armored alcoholic… they don’t change that much, even after a decade of play. Sure, they get a bigger base, they fly a little faster, maybe pick up a new power or two, but the core of the character doesn’t really change.

That’s why I have superhero characters that I have played for *decades*, and could easily play again. Could I do that with any of my most beloved fantasy characters? No, not really. They are tied to a specific time and place in a way that superhero characters really aren’t.