Wednesday, February 13, 2013

General Gamery: Marvel Heroic Roleplaying- Annihilation

This is a momentous day.

When the wonderful crew at Margaret Weis Productions announced they were going to work on a Marvel license, I was like a giddy schoolboy, literally squirming in my seat in excitement. Seriously. Ask my wife.

While I have a strong passion for comics, Marvel has always stood head and shoulders above DC in my book. Don't get me wrong, I can appreciate the modern mythology created by iconic characters like Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. But Marvel always felt more.. real.

Maybe it was that the Marvel Universe was based on my world and had places I recognized. While Superman was from Smallville, Kansas, he spent his time in a city called Metropolis and Batman grew up in another fictional city- Gotham. Sure they were supposed to represent aspects of New York City- but instead they developed into their own cities over time. In Marvel, New York City was the backdrop of most superheroic adventures and with heroes hailing from Harlem, Hell's Kitchen, Brooklyn, and Queens; I recognized everything I saw. Even Long Island, where I grew up, had its heroic origins- Iron Man and Nova (and by now, my fearless readers, you know how much of a Nova fan I am).

Maybe I latched onto Marvel over DC because of the inherent humanity of its characters. DC characters were superheroes first, people second. Superman was Superman until it was time to act as Clark Kent. Bruce Wayne was just a bit of pageantry Batman put on to keep suspicion away from his identity. That made it hard for me to relate. In Marvel, Peter Parker had all kinds of problems, but he felt free behind the mask of Spider-Man. Rich Rider was just an average kid from Hempstead, Long Island and was the type of guy most people didn't notice until he was chosen to bear the powers and helmet of a Nova centurion. And despite all his patriotic brouhaha, Steve Rogers never forgot how everyone he cared about had grown old or died in his absence under the ice. Those were stories about people before heroes. That was something I could understand and relate to- even as I grew older.

Whatever the reason, I am a Marvel man. So, Margaret Weis Productions doing a Marvel game after the brilliance I saw in Leverage and was privy to in Smallville? Awesome. Then they explained, Marvel Heroic Roleplaying would be released in an event format, making use of the awesome annual events to come out of the House of Ideas like Civil War, Age of Apocalypse, etc.

My hand shot up as soon as they asked if there were any questions. If they were doing events, maybe my favorite event, Annihilation would make the cut. Sure, I might love it just because Nova was the star- but this was a major cosmic event, different than anything else Marvel had done. Most Marvel cosmic events had a quasi-religious bend that never quite fit with me. But Annihilation was pure sci-fi: layered in its story and brilliantly executed. Oh, and did I mention that my favorite Long Island hero, Nova, was the star?

They called on me.

"Would there be an Annihilation book?"

"Yes!" was the answer. In fact, there would be an Annihilation book and a trio of books to supplement it.

I nearly jumped in my seat.

Now I had to find a way on that book. I'd spoken to Cam Banks (who was at the time Creative Director at Margaret Weis Productions) about comics during the writing of Smallville. He knew my love of the buckethead. At least I hoped he did. It didn't matter, I would have offered him my left arm or firstborn child for a chance to put word to paper and make me a part of Nova's legacy.

As it turned out, Cam had already thought of me and planned to put me to work for Annihilation. I swear, my head blew up like in the movie Scanners.

While one of my weekly gaming groups got to playtest Marvel Heroic as it was being developed, Annihilation was the first book I worked on for the game (though not the first released- see my post about Civil War: X-men). Not only did I get to work with Cam again, but I got to work with writers and game designers I knew and respected like Dave Chalker and Mike Lafferty as well as a host of other writers that were of the finest caliber. Cam even let me lend my Nova expertise to Nova's Datafile, which was a great learning experience and made me gloriously happy.

And you know what? Annihilation turned out better than I could have hoped. Some new timing mechanics were created to keep the tension up. And rather than just feeling like tights in space, Annihilation is handled like the epic science fiction delivered in the source material. That's right, kids. We're not just talking heroes- we have space ships, armies, alien race templates, and the big guy, Galactus himself.

Back to today. Today is a momentous day. Today is the day I have been waiting for. Today, you can experience Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Annihilation for yourself. It has been put up for preorder on the Margaret Weis Productions site (which gives you the dead tree version PLUS a free PDF) and for those who don't want the paper version, you can buy the PDF on Drive Thru RPG.

Blue Blazes!