D&D General Adventurers As Superheroes

Reynard

Legend
I know that many folks consider high level D&D characters to be super-heroic in a power level context, but I am talking about D&D adventurers acting as super-heroes or at least superhero analogs. This as opposed to acting as tomb raiders, murder hobos, or explorers.

In most standard settings, D&D adventurers share a lot of features with comic book super-heroes. First, they have powers and abilities largely unavailable to the average person in the setting. Second, they have a freedom to act that most people, even people in power, do not. They also generally face threats that are beyond the scope of the normal authorities.

Most of what is different are motivation (D&D adventurers are often motivated by money, but there are other motives) and how their heroic activities are couched in the setting.

I have always enjoyed treating D&D heroes more like superheroes: their adventures are about protecting a city or a world, their opponents are super-villains in dragon, lich or Dark Lord form, and so on. D&D adventurers do tend to be a bit more pro-active than most super-heroes, but that is okay. The Authority went out looking to punch evil, too.

What do you think? Can D&D adventurers fill the super-hero niche in your world? If so, at what level does it make sense? And how are your BBEG's more like super-villains than monsters?
 

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jgsugden

Legend
...Most of what is different are motivation (D&D adventurers are often motivated by money, but there are other motives) and how their heroic activities are couched in the setting... What do you think? Can D&D adventurers fill the super-hero niche in your world? If so, at what level does it make sense? And how are your BBEG's more like super-villains than monsters?
In 5E I think that the idea that high level PCs tend to be motivated by money may not be too widely agreed upon. There are countless pages of people talking about how useless money is in 5E. I do not find this to be true, but it does seem to be the majority opinion.

In my campaigns, the motivations of the PCs are highly varied. They start out with backstory inspired motivations, but they're introduced to a lot of story hooks, foils, and opportunities during their adventures. They get to decide which ones catch their attention and drive their adventuring choices.

That being said, there does tend to be a significant 'Monster at the End of this Book' element to my campaigns that is hinted at and foreshadowed through the entire campaign. I have expectations for how the PCs will address the situation, but I am often caught off guard. My expectation is that they'll want to stop the really bad thing - perhaps to be heroic, perhaps to save their own skin, perhaps out of vengeqance - but that is not always how it plays out. I'd say that I have an expectation they'll do the best thing for the world in which they live, but it may not be a super heroic motivation ... and I have to be prepared that they will not elect to do it.

As for when PCs get to that point where they feel like super heroes and their enemies feel like super villains - It depends upon the game. It can be as early as 5th level or as late as 17th. It depends upon the builds, the challenges, etc... I find it occurs when the players realize their PCs are insanely powerful ... not when something specific in the setting triggers it.
 

Can D&D adventurers fill the super-hero niche in your world?
I think D&D adventurers can sort of fill this niche by taking a superhero from Marvel or DC, and making them into an archetype. Level Up has done this with several characters from the comic books.

https://a5e.tools/rules/charging-shield Captain America
https://a5e.tools/rules/fantastic-fletcher Hawkeye/Green Arrow
https://a5e.tools/rules/mutant Scarlet Witch
https://a5e.tools/rules/throwing-ace Gambit
https://a5e.tools/rules/songweaver Banshee/Siryn

Outside of archetypes, there are builds you can put together to create a character who fills the superhero niche.
 

Reynard

Legend
I think D&D adventurers can sort of fill this niche by taking a superhero from Marvel or DC, and making them into an archetype. Level Up has done this with several characters from the comic books.

https://a5e.tools/rules/charging-shield Captain America
https://a5e.tools/rules/fantastic-fletcher Hawkeye/Green Arrow
https://a5e.tools/rules/mutant Scarlet Witch
https://a5e.tools/rules/throwing-ace Gambit
https://a5e.tools/rules/songweaver Banshee/Siryn

Outside of archetypes, there are builds you can put together to create a character who fills the superhero niche.
Interesting but that's not really what I was talking about.
 

Superheroes are fantasy characters in drag. There is no difference between Conan and Daredevil, other than the specifics of their goals. But both are larger than life, both save people, and both are portrayed as honorable despite their flaws.

Same with Elric and Dr. Strange, Aragorn and Superman, etc.
 

Superheroes are fantasy characters in drag. There is no difference between Conan and Daredevil, other than the specifics of their goals. But both are larger than life, both save people, and both are portrayed as honorable despite their flaws.

Same with Elric and Dr. Strange, Aragorn and Superman, etc.
or, put another way - superheroes and DND both have their origins in pulp fiction. it really shouldn't be surprising that they have so many similarities.
 



There is a difference in the story structure of your typical D&D campaign versus your typical supers RPG campaign. In this thread I am talking about closing the gap between them.
In Fantasy, the heroes are either nobodies or they become kings, rulers, etc, otherwise known as legends. Meanwhile, in Superhero stories, everyone knows about the superheroes. They see them on tv, in the news, and so on. And this introduces the first major difference in the genres: the information connectivity of the settings. Superman flies around and everyone sees him. They blog about it or go to the news or go on tv and talk about it. But that kind of technology doesn't exist for Fantasy characters. However, you can replicate it through bards, wanted posters, festivals, and so on.

In a lot of ways, Star Wars shows very well this information gap. Even though Luke and Han and everything are famous and well-known, the lack of connectivity between different star systems means that a lot of people begin to think of them as legends or faraway tales that don't mean much, if anything at all. I think this example also highlights the real core of the issue, which is the lack of MEDIA connecting the setting.

There is no MEDIA in a Fantasy setting. As a result, people aren't reading newspapers and watching the news to learn what's going on in the world. Even bards are bawdy storytellers usually, and likewise, most people don't actually care what the crier has to say.

So, if you can think your way out of this riddle, you can probably close the gap pretty easily. This will take them from heroes to superheroes, as now they have a huge impact on society, and everything they do falls under a microscope (key to the supers genre), etc etc.
 

Reynard

Legend
In Fantasy, the heroes are either nobodies or they become kings, rulers, etc, otherwise known as legends. Meanwhile, in Superhero stories, everyone knows about the superheroes. They see them on tv, in the news, and so on. And this introduces the first major difference in the genres: the information connectivity of the settings. Superman flies around and everyone sees him. They blog about it or go to the news or go on tv and talk about it. But that kind of technology doesn't exist for Fantasy characters. However, you can replicate it through bards, wanted posters, festivals, and so on.

In a lot of ways, Star Wars shows very well this information gap. Even though Luke and Han and everything are famous and well-known, the lack of connectivity between different star systems means that a lot of people begin to think of them as legends or faraway tales that don't mean much, if anything at all. I think this example also highlights the real core of the issue, which is the lack of MEDIA connecting the setting.

There is no MEDIA in a Fantasy setting. As a result, people aren't reading newspapers and watching the news to learn what's going on in the world. Even bards are bawdy storytellers usually, and likewise, most people don't actually care what the crier has to say.

So, if you can think your way out of this riddle, you can probably close the gap pretty easily. This will take them from heroes to superheroes, as now they have a huge impact on society, and everything they do falls under a microscope (key to the supers genre), etc etc.
While I generally like your overview here,a couple things:

Most supers operate in a discrete location (usually a city or even a neighborhood). You can easily do that with D&D adventurers, too. Characters known for cleaning out rat infested cellars and taking on corrupt sorcerers are no different than the Heroes for Hire in NYC.

Second, I'm not sure how essential "everything they do falls under a microscope" is to the supers genre broadly.
 

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