RPGs for Losers: The Outsiders Campaign

You know, we poke a lot of fun at the Outsiders here at Siskoid's Blog of Geekery, but no matter how lame the comic book has pretty much always been, we have to acknowledge its real appeal to tabletop role-players. Because the truth is, the Outsiders are a lot like "Your Own Heroes(TM)". Some players took some real DC heroes out of mothballs - Black Lightning and Metamorpho - but most made their own. Vague concepts (Katana, Geo-Force), powers that don't really go together (GF, Halo), terrible costumes (Looker!)... even their names sound like they came from generic RPG settings. Subsequent iterations of the team didn't fare much better. The proof is in the pudding: Mayfair's DCHeroes published a number of adventure scenarios starring teams that could easily be substituted with Your Own Heroes(TM) - New Teen Titans, Infinity Inc., and yes, the Outsiders. So "typical super-team" that you can plug them into anything.

But I want to take that idea one step further. If the Outsiders are losers, never quite able to hold their own against C-list villains, they somehow still take Batman away from the true equals of the Justice League. Losers can make good eventually (it just hasn't happened in B&TO, as it slowly gets critiques in these pages). Making losers on purpose can be an interesting challenge for a Supers RPG that trades on epic victories, but it can least to an interesting experience. It could be played for comedy, but that's not really what I'm talking about here. Having heroes, played straight, who hover just above mediocrity has a lot of role-playing potential and built-in angst. The Outsiders format even provides a reason for villains to still be stopped: The Batman. You could theoretically have a GM-run hero who consistently has to bail them out of trouble, trouble often caused by their own mistakes.

Making Your Own Lame Hero isn't difficult. In fact, most chargen systems/players will produce them a fair amount of the time. Another tactic is to make every player take an established lame hero - heroes who couldn't justify a solo book, or can't anymore - and have that hero seek redemption as part of an ill-formed team. The nice thing about such characters is that they're often obscure enough to act as blank slates. I'm thinking of such patchwork super-teams as Primal Force, for example, which included Claw, Red Tornado, and Jack O'Lantern (almost all Global Guardians make good choices).

A look through Green Ronin's DC Adventures' first splat book (Heroes & Villains vol.1) might yield the following team:
-Agent Liberty
-Air Wave
-Chronos II
(I of course could have put actual Outsiders on the list.)

But Mayfair's DC Heroes remains my favorite resource because they had so many sourcebooks full of characters. They might inspire the following:
-Son of Vulcan
-Ultra the Multi-Alien
-Robby Reed (Dial H for Hero)
(I would have liked to put any member of Hero Hotline on there, but I want to avoid parody.)

Some of the above are actually pretty cool, but they failed to be viable headliners in the past. If you had to play a lame or obscure superhero (it need not be in the DCU), who would it be?


Craig Oxbrow said...

Jasper Sitwell, Agent Of SHIELD!

Because he's a prominent Agent of SHIELD but he's called Jasper Sitwell.

mkhall said...

Lame is in the eyes of... well, the other players, I guess. That said, I played in a campaign like this once. My hero? Brother Power.

And this was before the Gaiman and Pollack stories.

Siskoid said...

Brother Power the Geek, awesome idea.

I think it would be rather easy to build a team only with characters that used to have solo books that didn't go past a year, like him.

mkhall said...

I like that idea of also-ran heroes who couldn't sustain their own books. Another character from that era would be Ragman, although I understand he's been brought back into play in recent years.

What about back-up feature characters, like Black Orchid? If you used her original appearances in Adventure -- a cross between Emma Peel and The Shadow, with multiple secret identities and poorly defined powers -- she could be fun.

Randal said...

Did...did you just call Robby Reed a lame hero?

Pistols at dawn, sir.

Siskoid said...

Well, not so much lame as forgotten. Then turned into a villain. Then forgotten again. We need a revival!

I really liked Black Orchid in Suicide Squad so I'm game there. I would have used Ragman, but wasn't he recently IN a patchwork team? Shadowpact had him, Detective Chimp, Blue Devil... Looks like someone was running the Outsider playbook.

Siskoid said...

And you'll note, Randal, that I'm also a fan of Aztek and Chronos... it wasn't about putting anyone down.

Except the Outsiders, of course.

mkhall said...

There's always this Outsiders team, which I had completely forgotten about until research turned it up today.

SallyP said...

Gotta go with Vibe. Scipio loves him, and that's good enough for me.

Jeff R. said...

I'll go with the other white meat/the other Hal Jordan, Airwave.

Although 'anyone from the Power Company' is a good secondary choice...

Siskoid said...

As GameMaster, I would make use of his same-nameness to get him all of GL's mail by mistake, etc. Hours of fun.

AJM said...

A team with Aztek and Walker Gabriel would be pretty awesome. Why not a team consisting entirely of characters from critically acclaimed but low-selling books from the late 90s? It could have the two already mentioned plus Cameron Chase, Resurrection Man, and the Linda Danvers Supergirl (she was successful for a while, but seems pretty much forgotten today). I'd buy the heck out of that comic.


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