D&D General The Boyz... murder hobo PCs and NPCs and even normal ones

So in multi threads I have stated that superheroes are the new modern mythology (Not ONLY superheroes of course) but since right now we are in a renaissance of deconstructing them (the Boys and Invincible on Amazon being the best of them) I started thinking about using them as inspiration for a game.

then I realized the problem... the killer super is 'wrong' or 'against type' but the killer adventurer is just well... and adventurer.

Now I am not going to go into any details, but the most resent season of the boys is super sick, full of sexual things, drug things and gore things... all that seem to go against 'superman' and 'Captain America' and even 'batman' and even sicker then 'punisher'

Now I of course can make a antagonist be a more popular and even more powerful adventuring group (say the 7) or I can make a big powerful solo legendary bad guy that acts like a hero (Omniman) but the only reveal would be 'hey these guys aren't saving people to be good people they are just out for themselves...' but I mean everyone of us has seen parties like that.

so this little thought experiment I made up (and will be talking over with friends once it is fully formed) goes like this... If you have a setting and have big named 'heroes' (so like elminster, tensor, and king Arthur) but they turn out to be jerks, perverts and out only for themselves, is that really any different then some (not all) games that you have run/played where the PCs were jerks, perverts, and only out for themselves?

Now, as much as I talk about modern mythology as comics, but regular mythology is full of it too... Herc isn't a super hero, the gods of greek and roman times were some of the most perverted. Samson isn't really a strong hero as much as a strong guy who sometimes fights bad things.


So is the 7 from the boys (comic or show I know both but prefer the nuance of the show) MORE like modern mythology and regular superhero's more like a 'imaginary heroic mythology that has been sanitized for children'?

now you can replace the 7 and the boys with watchmen, or Constantine, or Snyder verse DC, or Invincible, or many others. When we look to superhero mediums for D&D inspiration, are we turning the JLA into the 7?


((((slightly off topic but I have referd to the 7 sisters, the harpers, elminster, black staff ect as the JLM for yers standing for the Justice League Midnight... cause it always felt to me that they had the same issue as starting a superhero game with the JLA in the setting)))
 

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Reynard

Legend
So in multi threads I have stated that superheroes are the new modern mythology (Not ONLY superheroes of course) but since right now we are in a renaissance of deconstructing them (the Boys and Invincible on Amazon being the best of them
I think you might be starting from a bit of a false premise. The Boys and Invincible are both nearly 20 years old. they are coming at the end of reclamation of the super-hero after the deconstructive phase that began in the late Bronze Age, peaked with Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns, and then spiraled into leather and chains clad silliness in the 90s. The Boys is a parody of that tradition, while Invincible is an honest attempt to crawl out of it.

As to your broader question: we have always expected our heroes to be better than us, within the context of the society at large. The first super hero, Gilgamesh, was punished because he was a depraved king who forced married girls to lay with him on their wedding night. Heroes are punished for their flaunting of the rules and avoiding their responsibilities (Achilles, anyone). So I think, yes, well written super hero stories are continuation of the heroic myth tradition.

In the context of D&D, it might be interesting to do similar stories where you start with high level characters that are not the nice guys, and get themselves in trouble with whatever powers rule morality in the multiverse. I just don't know if D&D is the best vehicle for that (it is baked into Exalted, for example) nor do I know if it would be easy to find a group of players who would be excited to tell that story.
 

so this little thought experiment I made up (and will be talking over with friends once it is fully formed) goes like this... If you have a setting and have big named 'heroes' (so like elminster, tensor, and king Arthur) but they turn out to be jerks, perverts and out only for themselves, is that really any different then some (not all) games that you have run/played where the PCs were jerks, perverts, and only out for themselves?
In the context of D&D, it might be interesting to do similar stories where you start with high level characters that are not the nice guys, and get themselves in trouble with whatever powers rule morality in the multiverse. I just don't know if D&D is the best vehicle for that (it is baked into Exalted, for example) nor do I know if it would be easy to find a group of players who would be excited to tell that story.
With D&D, there is a specific problem when comparing characters to superheroes. A player can get to superhero status. A player can reach Elminster status. Which is different from fiction, where no one can reach that level. Even in superhero myth, there are strata of powers, and rarely do they deviate; Robin will never be able to beat Superman.

Which also leads to a problem I have noticed (a bit off topic): Players that base their character off superheroes or supervillains will often take on their persona, yet they start at first or second or third level. A superhero often starts at 10th level or 15th or 20th. So to play, say, a Dr. Strange, really doesn't work, as he went from neurosurgeon and level 1 sorcerer to level 20 in a month. The Hulk went from level 1 fighter to 20th level Barbarian in fifteen seconds. This lack of growth from comics makes it a terrible template to imitate in D&D.
 

I think you might be starting from a bit of a false premise. The Boys and Invincible are both nearly 20 years old.
the comics are... but the shows are new and ongoing. to the public at large that didn't read them (where I would suggest reading invincible, I will NEVER suggest anyone read the boys) so modern mindsets are a bit disconnected. What is old hat to comic readers is new to the movie goers (like multiverses... DC was doing that in the 70;s and blew up there multiverse in 85 before I even started reading, but CW shows and Doctor Strange are making it more mainstream).
they are coming at the end of reclamation of the super-hero after the deconstructive phase that began in the late Bronze Age, peaked with Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns, and then spiraled into leather and chains clad silliness in the 90s. The Boys is a parody of that tradition, while Invincible is an honest attempt to crawl out of it.
I can see where you are going with this but I see Dark Knight Returns in BvS/JL movies and the animated adaption is only a few years old... realistically people who are not comic fans are coming to these ideas now not then
As to your broader question: we have always expected our heroes to be better than us, within the context of the society at large.
this is the meat of the question... but we have a Black Adam trailer (that made me laugh) where Hawkman says "We have heroes and villians and heroes don't kill" and as funny as that is in a movie (how many superhero movies' can you name that didn't have the hero direct or indirect kill the villain... not even 33% I would bet) in D&D that sentiment would be crazy. Can you remember the last campaign (not single session) where no PC killed anything?
The first super hero, Gilgamesh, was punished because he was a depraved king who forced married girls to lay with him on their wedding night.
I was going to use that example too but my spell check doesn't do nice things with his name.
Heroes are punished for their flaunting of the rules and avoiding their responsibilities (Achilles, anyone).
but that one I didn't think of.. but great example
So I think, yes, well written super hero stories are continuation of the heroic myth tradition.
yup that is my feeling too
In the context of D&D, it might be interesting to do similar stories where you start with high level characters that are not the nice guys, and get themselves in trouble with whatever powers rule morality in the multiverse. I just don't know if D&D is the best vehicle for that (it is baked into Exalted, for example) nor do I know if it would be easy to find a group of players who would be excited to tell that story.
the idea that brought this up (and has been more or less scrapped/back burnered) was to have big adventure NPCs that PCs would hear great tales and songs of... but when they met them they are jerks or worse...and turn out to be the BBEG of the campaign when it turns out they are just self serving... but that twist works in a JLA parody but not so much in D&D. If I told you elminster is sleeping with 12 women a week drinking to excess and smoking something other then tabaccoo would anyone even react?
 

Reynard

Legend
the idea that brought this up (and has been more or less scrapped/back burnered) was to have big adventure NPCs that PCs would hear great tales and songs of... but when they met them they are jerks or worse...and turn out to be the BBEG of the campaign when it turns out they are just self serving... but that twist works in a JLA parody but not so much in D&D. If I told you elminster is sleeping with 12 women a week drinking to excess and smoking something other then tabaccoo would anyone even react?
The depravity or breaking the rules has to be relative to the moral expectations. So Elminster beings a gross old rich dude isn't really a major issue, but if it turned out his power came from sucking less experienced wizards dry or consorting with Lolth, that's something the PCs and public at large might care about.

One thing to consider alluded to by @Scott Christian above is the place of the PCs in the world as it compares to the "supers" you are taling about. I generally consider the PCs to special. Not only do the vast majority of people not level up, they actually CAN'T. The form it takes varies between campaigns and sometimes it is more explicit than other times, but generally PCs and powerful NPCs exist in a class of their own. They are the supers, even if the PCs are just learning that to be true in the early levels. So in the end, in your scenario, it matters to the PCs because they are the only ones capable of putting these depraved "supers" in their place.
 

With D&D, there is a specific problem when comparing characters to superheroes. A player can get to superhero status.
well in the two examples the PCs being 'the boys' or 'invincable' they WERE able to reach those levels even if it took time.
A player can reach Elminster status. Which is different from fiction, where no one can reach that level. Even in superhero myth, there are strata of powers, and rarely do they deviate; Robin will never be able to beat Superman.
1st, any character can beat any character it is up to the writer...
the big VS arguments often bore me because I could imagine a cross over where Mole Man and Kite Man team up and in the 1st act take down the combined forces of the JLA and Avengers. Would it be hard to write...yes, is it impossible no.
So can Robin beat superman? if the story calls for it yes.

but again even in a super hero game there is no reason you couldn't play a street level 'luke cage' or 'spiderman' like character and grow and level up to a 'beat superman' level. in RPGs (and even in comics power creep is a thing) you have levels and can grow into them.
Which also leads to a problem I have noticed (a bit off topic): Players that base their character off superheroes or supervillains will often take on their persona, yet they start at first or second or third level.
I don't see this any more or less then people wanting to play merlin, drizzt, or a generic master swordsman... I often have to remind 1 player in particular that "You can't write the entire campaign into your 3rd level back story"
A superhero often starts at 10th level or 15th or 20th. So to play, say, a Dr. Strange, really doesn't work, as he went from neurosurgeon and level 1 sorcerer to level 20 in a month.
I laugh cause when useing little to no down time I have had PCs I have played go from 2nd or 3rd level (we rarely start at 1st) to 16th+ level in a month or two of game time.

infact playing through curse of strahd we left the FR at level 1, played over a year, but in game it was 6 1/2 weeks... killed strahd, did a ritual to cleanse Vympre... and got back to the realms level 15. To the bartender at the bar we started at we went on a month and a half camping trip as basic peons and came back super powers...
The Hulk went from level 1 fighter to 20th level Barbarian in fifteen seconds. This lack of growth from comics makes it a terrible template to imitate in D&D.
even that... who is to say hulk isn't a 3rd level frenzy bezerker barbarian with a rolled 18 str... don't make him angry you wont like him when he's angry?
 

payn

Legend
So is the 7 from the boys (comic or show I know both but prefer the nuance of the show) MORE like modern mythology and regular superhero's more like a 'imaginary heroic mythology that has been sanitized for children'?
I'd prefer Watchmen as I think its a better written story (both graphic novel and television series) to make the modern and regular mythology comparison. The Boys muddies the water because its all shock jock and caricaturization of political statements for cheap jokes. Its difficult to take seriously in any capacity and is a poor comparison to Greek/Roman mythology as it wasn't meant for cheap laughs.

Even Watchmen isnt perhaps the best example. The real problem is this idea of perversity, which has changed greatly in the thousands of years since these OG Gods and myth stories were created and told. The stories were entertainment, but also moral tales to help guide morality among the population. Like Aseop fables for adults. The purpose of the stories isnt to examine the powerful and behind the curtain of their actions, its to warn people about their choices and consequences of certain actions. (Of course, those with influence chose the stories and consequences even then, so perhaps the story tellers are the best regular vs modern take to have?)
 

Reynard

Legend
I'd prefer Watchmen as I think its a better written story (both graphic novel and television series) to make the modern and regular mythology comparison. The Boys muddies the water because its all shock jock and caricaturization of political statements for cheap jokes. Its difficult to take seriously in any capacity and is a poor comparison to Greek/Roman mythology as it wasn't meant for cheap laughs.

Even Watchmen isnt perhaps the best example. The real problem is this idea of perversity, which has changed greatly in the thousands of years since these OG Gods and myth stories were created and told. The stories were entertainment, but also moral tales to help guide morality among the population. Like Aseop fables for adults. The purpose of the stories isnt to examine the powerful and behind the curtain of their actions, its to warn people about their choices and consequences of certain actions. (Of course, those with influence chose the stories and consequences even then, so perhaps the story tellers are the best regular vs modern take to have?)
I wouldn't try and paint the classical myths as serving one purpose. They were used as broadly as we use modern stories, from bawdy entertainment to deep philosophy.
 

The depravity or breaking the rules has to be relative to the moral expectations. So Elminster beings a gross old rich dude isn't really a major issue, but if it turned out his power came from sucking less experienced wizards dry or consorting with Lolth, that's something the PCs and public at large might care about.
exactly the thought experiment... what is 'that bad' in D&D?
One thing to consider alluded to by @Scott Christian above is the place of the PCs in the world as it compares to the "supers" you are taling about.
yeah... I have to say things like this are what I come here to REALLY talk about cause now this is getting into setting/storytelling/DM concept stuff... so thank you
I generally consider the PCs to special. Not only do the vast majority of people not level up, they actually CAN'T.
I see it more or less the same way. I wouldn't say can't I would say wont. In the Richard gear and Seas Connery King Arthur movie there was a line that stuck with me "Oh, anyone can learn this, you just need to watch, wait for the right moment, and not care that if you fail you die" followed by the guy who wanted to learn deciding not to.

Heroes, and main cast PC/NPC are not born... they are made. something happened (maybe in game maybe in backstory) that made you do something daring and crazy and maybe even suicidal (and in the case of me and my buddies most likely something stupid) and from that you got a little bit better... and you continued on that path were most would turn from it. That is what 'leveling' means in most of my worlds... learning and growing down a rare path.
The form it takes varies between campaigns and sometimes it is more explicit than other times, but generally PCs and powerful NPCs exist in a class of their own. They are the supers, even if the PCs are just learning that to be true in the early levels. So in the end, in your scenario, it matters to the PCs because they are the only ones capable of putting these depraved "supers" in their place.
yes... and that just makes them other monsters to fight... but also comes around to the boys and invincible who ALSO are 'the only ones who can stop them'
 


It's interesting because the difference between Invincible and The Boys is the difference between "can" and "will", respectively.
not to be too spoilery but I think that between the two is also the 'become what you fight' and 'look too long into the abyss' vs 'i can stop them without becoming them'
 

jgsugden

Legend
The premise that our D&D heroes go around killing things as their main activity is wavering. It has historically been the core of the D&D experience - go in and kill stuff while telling a story - but there is a lot of pushback developing that is starting to point towards less violence in the RPG and more problem solving.

You may not like it. I'm just saying that you can see it in things like the Call of the Netherdeep and Witchlight.

I think we'll always have a home for violence in the game, but it is moving away from an assumption and more towards an option in the game.
 

Reynard

Legend
The premise that our D&D heroes go around killing things as their main activity is wavering. It has historically been the core of the D&D experience - go in and kill stuff while telling a story - but there is a lot of pushback developing that is starting to point towards less violence in the RPG and more problem solving.

You may not like it. I'm just saying that you can see it in things like the Call of the Netherdeep and Witchlight.

I think we'll always have a home for violence in the game, but it is moving away from an assumption and more towards an option in the game.
I think it is showing that there is a palce for less "kill em all" style adventure in D&D, but I don't think the main thrust of the game as a whole is moving away from that. I mean, have we seen any UA articles on class abilities NOT built for combat? Frostmaiden is a standard murderfest of an adventure, with inherently evil humanoid foes. I bet the quests in Spelljammer will involve a lot of killing of space pirates and bad dudes.
 

Stalker0

Legend
Can you remember the last campaign (not single session) where no PC killed anything?
Well if we are going by comic rules, remember that monsters, aliens, and robots (constructs) are always fair game to destroy. So its more a question of "are PCs killing NPCs". And I have played in some campaigns where that was really frowned upon, and the law WOULD come looking for you.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
The premise that our D&D heroes go around killing things as their main activity is wavering. It has historically been the core of the D&D experience - go in and kill stuff while telling a story - but there is a lot of pushback developing that is starting to point towards less violence in the RPG and more problem solving.

You may not like it. I'm just saying that you can see it in things like the Call of the Netherdeep and Witchlight.

I think we'll always have a home for violence in the game, but it is moving away from an assumption and more towards an option in the game.
I've been thinking a lot about that lately. I do enjoy my violence in D&D, but I feel that one of the problems in north america is the glorification of violence. Why is batman fighting crime instead of oh, I don't know, using his massive resources to help alleviate societal problems (which often lead to crime...)?

In a recent session, our PCs encountered another group that had an opposed mission to ours - we both needed the MacGuffin, we were both convinced that our cause was right. But despite our best efforts, no agreement could be reached... so regretfully, a fight started, and our party's destructive power obliterated them, making the victory feel even worse...
 

payn

Legend
I've been thinking a lot about that lately. I do enjoy my violence in D&D, but I feel that one of the problems in north america is the glorification of violence. Why is batman fighting crime instead of oh, I don't know, using his massive resources to help alleviate societal problems (which often lead to crime...)?

In a recent session, our PCs encountered another group that had an opposed mission to ours - we both needed the MacGuffin, we were both convinced that our cause was right. But despite our best efforts, no agreement could be reached... so regretfully, a fight started, and our party's destructive power obliterated them, making the victory feel even worse...
Yeah thats tough to do in a timeframe of a batman movie. Its a little more focused on political intrigue and exposition which isn't exciting to alot of gamers. Negotiating a compromise is a likely end to that scenario, but often either the PCs or the GM doesnt want to do that. Often times neither do. So, instead they just take out the opposition. Rinse and repeat.

Currently, I'm running a sandbox in Traveller. The area of space the PCs are engaging in is a buffer zone between to massive empires. The systems and cultures in this zone are exploited and overlooked because of what the have to offer. The PCs have to engage in a series of capers to help gain their independence and get the resources they need to develop. It takes time and effort and you cant just simply go kill a guy and solve the problems.
 

wedgeski

Adventurer
The purpose of the stories isnt to examine the powerful and behind the curtain of their actions, its to warn people about their choices and consequences of certain actions.
Which would seem to make The Boyz the perfect modern incarnation of those myths.
 



I don't see this any more or less then people wanting to play merlin, drizzt, or a generic master swordsman... I often have to remind 1 player in particular that "You can't write the entire campaign into your 3rd level back story"
That is a great DM line. :)
1st, any character can beat any character it is up to the writer...
the big VS arguments often bore me because I could imagine a cross over where Mole Man and Kite Man team up and in the 1st act take down the combined forces of the JLA and Avengers. Would it be hard to write...yes, is it impossible no.
So can Robin beat superman? if the story calls for it yes.
True, it is up to the writer. But writers follow the logical consistency (most of the time) of the world their characters are in. So are there exceptions? Sure. Do many readers roll their eyes when the exception occurs? Sure. And I would argue in fantasy it is even stricter than the superhero realm. It's why Drizzt has never lost a fight to a goblin.
I laugh cause when useing little to no down time I have had PCs I have played go from 2nd or 3rd level (we rarely start at 1st) to 16th+ level in a month or two of game time.

infact playing through curse of strahd we left the FR at level 1, played over a year, but in game it was 6 1/2 weeks... killed strahd, did a ritual to cleanse Vympre... and got back to the realms level 15. To the bartender at the bar we started at we went on a month and a half camping trip as basic peons and came back super powers...
This sounds great. I really-really appreciate that style of play. But can we at least agree that it is not the norm? It's why most campaigns end before eighth level - it takes a long time (for most).
even that... who is to say hulk isn't a 3rd level frenzy bezerker barbarian with a rolled 18 str... don't make him angry you wont like him when he's angry?
With respect, the comic and movie lore say he isn't a third level barbarian. Everything he does is epic, from holding up an entire mountain for days in Secret Wars to literally pummeling a god into submission in the movies.
 

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