Ambush Bug: Don't Ask!

5 weeks to go before Year Zero, but the year is now 1989 and college Siskoid is grabbing a 1986 DCHeroes RPG module (what we old schoolers used to call adventure scenarios) by the unlikely title of Don't Ask!It is, by far, the craziest superhero scenario I have ever come across and one of my great regrets is that I never run it. I don't want to spoil it, but it has: Kid versions of Deadman and the Spectre, Jonni DC, an essay that reduces villain motivations to those who say "Bah!" and those that don't, a chapter that can only be called comic book limbo, a fake magazine to shill (I mean read), a universal secret origins table (which can create Flex Mentallo!), and an appearance by Ambush Bug himself. Like so:
As you know, Ambush Bug knows he's in a comic. Well, this version of the Bug knows he's in an RPG! He comes complete with a unique power called Reality Check that allows him to become aware of his true nature. Here's my tweaked 2nd edition version (for DCH fans - skip the gobbledegook if you're not):

REALITY CHECK: [Link: INT, Range: Self, Type: Dice, Base Cost: 30, Factor Cost: 3]
First, characters with this Power automatically know they are in a comic or game. Further, with Reality Check, players can cut through the truth of any situation, and even use it to discover if something is really happening, or if it is just a game illusion or silliness created by the GM. However, if a player disputes something and doesn't make the roll, the Power will backfire on the player, attacking the character's Mental Attributes as he or she tries to deal with the backfire. To do a Reality Check, the GM's age is both the Opposing and Resistance Values, and the RAPs are how much information the GM tells the player concerning what is really happening. If the GM needs to boost the OV and/or RV to maintain the illusion for the players, he can do so by using the amount of money that he has in the same manner as Hero Points (1 dollar = 1 Hero Point). The GM does not need to give any money away, but must show it to let everyone know the cash exists. No change is allowed, only paper money (as well as loonies and twonies for Canadians). When a Reality Check backfires, the APs of Reality Check act as both the Acting and Effect Values, with the character's INT and MIND as the OV/RV. RAPs are subtracted from the current value of the character's MIND, which will never fall below zero due to any backfire, cumulative or no. In cases of a Reality Check where the character's life depends on knowledge of what is really happening, reality may shift in an attempt to totally waste the character. There will be a second attack on the hero's Mental Attributes in the next phase as reality shifts. If he succeeds, he/she may take him/herself out of the game or allow the GM to change some aspect of the environment.

Ambush Bug isn't the only character with this power, of course. Superman has it, for example. He's demonstrated it many times by winking at the readers at the end of all those Silver Age stories (and even later). Across the street, Deadpool and She-Hulk both have it. And I wonder... I wonder... Is Ambush Bug's return connected to Final Crisis in some way?

Think about it. Grant Morrison is restructuring the DC Universe, and the man has a clear Silver Age fetish. Those subtle, tongue-in-cheek, Kryptonian winks from his childhood eventually turned into fourth wall-breaking (and Fourth World-breaking??) existential fantasies, from Animal Man onward. In Morrison's DCU, it's possible to meet your maker, to walk through comic book limbo, to spit out comic books to herald a Crisis, and to break the bounds of the comic book panel to reach the "white space" on the other side.
Animal Man broke the wall, saw the reader, and unlike Superman, he found nothing to smile at. More recently, we touched Zatanna palm to palm.
It's Morrison's universe and Morrison's rules now... It's Ambush Bug's sandbox once again.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Quote: of my great regrets is that I never run it.

Where do I sign up?

Scott Jenkins said...

So run it! That's why I wrote the damn thing!
But yeah, we had to print up extra masks on the back cuz nobody wanted to cut up their copy.
Thanks for the review!

Siskoid said...

Just a matter of getting the right group together that will actually get the jokes, believe me.

Thanks for stopping by, Scott! You're royalty around here.

Patric Rogers said...

I remember this adventure from my high school and college days. I never actually read it, because I never really got into the DC game. So, it's fun to read a review years later.

And, it amuses me I'm reading a review of a 20 year old book ten years after the review was written. Shut lives forever on the web.

Siskoid said...

I don't care when you read it, Patric, so long as you enjoy it!

This is on the list of things Shagg and I want to cover on the Hero Points podcast. And soon!


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