About comic books, and about role-playing games.
Last modified: 25th of January, 2013.
All items can be clicked to go straight to the corresponding answer.
- 1/ Tell me more about role-playing games.
- 2/ So what does the game data in the articles mean?
- 3/ Thanks for the skinny. Where can I learn more?
- 4/ Tell me more about super-hero comic books.
- 5/ Is this site solely a DC Heroes/Blood of Heroes project?
- 6/ Is this site solely about comic books?
- 7/ What about the “Writeups.org & Amazon.com recommend” links?
1/ Tell me more about role-playing games.
One of writeups.org‘s core things are tabletop role-playing games, also called pen-and-paper roleplaying games or story-telling games. They‘re called that way to help distinguish them from other hobbies - especially one their descendants, the various forms of computer and console RPGs.
Many of writeups.org readers are not role-players - but they might be intrigued by the game stats sections in the articles. If that is your case, read on!
While playing a tabletop role-playing game, you will pretend to be someone else — a character. In a tabletop role-playing game, there are players, each with their own character, and a guide (also commonly called a GM), who takes on the role of the situation itself.
How does it work? Just imagine that we’re sitting at a table, and I say to you “So, you’re a dragon, and you‘re up on a mountaintop, looking around. You‘ve just seen a group of people making their way towards your lair, and they look like dragon hunters. What do you do?” - and you respond “Well, I guess I‘m going to try and figure out if I can beat them in a straight fight, first, so I‘m going to slip down closer and scout them out”.
I think about it, and tell you a couple of possible ways to slip down the mountain to get closer, and you pick one, and I respond with more stuff; and we’re playing. I’m the Guide, and you’re the player. We have an imaginary role (you‘re a dragon!), and we’ve got a situation that works, one where you have a goal, some obstacles, stuff like that. Things are going to happen - perhaps it will turn out that these people are not actually dragon hunters. So far, easy.
Now, we might not agree on just how tough your character is, or how sneaky, and those matter, so I get you to describe him a bit more, and we figure some way of resolving it so we don’t end up bickering. We’ll bias things in your favor if your dragon is good at sneaking and fighting, or against them if they‘re bad at it. In the interests of being fair, we’ll try to codify how we did it this time, and write it down, so that we can keep it in mind for the next time that character has to bash some stuff or sneak around; it’s good to be consistent. And we’ll make up a few other rules to make it feel more like being a dragon, so you feel even more involved in the emerging story.
2/ So what does the game data in the articles mean?
If writeups.org had an article about the dragon in the game above, the game stats are where we‘d note how tough and how sneaky that dragon is.
To do that we use a specialised language - a language built to describe the abilities of characters in action stories. Whereas the English language is a bit vague for such purposes (“this guy runs about as fast as most cars, and, hmmm, he seems able to lift a large car over his head too”), the much more specialised DC Heroes language allows us to express the same things in a succinct and precise way (“Running: 06, STR 07”). Once you have learned the DC Heroes language, we can describe characters to you in a comprehensive yet brief fashion - how strong, how charismatic, how fast, how intelligent, able to belch flames of such and such destructive potential, probably able to withstand such and such attacks, how knowledgeable about physics, how far they can throw a foo‘, etc.
Writeups.org uses two main games :
- Blood of Heroes Role-Playing Game : Special Edition
- DC Adventures RPG Heros Handbook: Super-Hero Roleplaying in the DC Universe
The “Personality” section in the writeups.org articles is also a consequence of this web site having role-playing roots. In a tabletop role-playing games you have a role, but since you take decisions as you go along there are no lines. So you need to know enough about the character to play them on the fly, a bit like an improv actor. If you decide that the dragon above is a cautious old one who feels a bit lonely, you‘ll take very different decisions than if you decide to play a dragon who‘s an impulsive hothead.
3/ Thanks for the skinny. Where can I learn more?
The example with the dragon is adapted from Levi Kornelsen‘s Fundamentals of Tabletop Role-playing, a 15-page .pdf with full but simple explanations about the hobby. You can get it here — left-click to read or right-click to download as usual.
You can also read Greg Stolze‘s How to play role-playing games, another .pdf you can get right away. This document comes from Greg‘s site, which includes another free .pdf about how to be a guide. Other possibilities - since one can never tell who will like which approach - is Guy McLimore‘s article, or the Wikipedia article.
4/ Tell me more about super-hero comic books.
Super-hero comic books are one of the most content-rich literary constructs ever.
The main fictional universes are connected with each other, and tales about these universes have been told for 75 years by hundreds of writers and artists. Many of those were very talented, and some (such as Jack “King” Kirby) were major contributors to the history of the arts. Furthermore, super-hero stories go beyond being shared literary worlds, as they have a concept of ’continuity‘ — the stories, characters, locations, plots, subplots, etc. are intended to remain coherent from one appearance to the other, no matter who is writing or drawing about them.
Thus, the richness in terms of protagonists, antagonists, supporting cast, locations, overarching plots, relationships, background, backstory, etc. is enormous, and has often been called by literary scholars a ’modern mythology‘. The wealth of content and backstory in super-hero comic books is only matched by other mythologies, such as the Classical myths and religions, the medieval Matters, the Arthurian stories, Star Wars, the large body of myth about the Vedic gods, urban legends, etc.
With the success of super-hero movies and TV series during the 2000s and beyond, a broader public is exposed to this mythology - as comic books ceased to be a mass media some decades ago. Series and movies also present a less intimidating amount of backstory.
5/ Is this site solely a DC Heroes/Blood of Heroes project?
Writeups.org is primarily a Blood of Heroes Role-Playing Game : Special Edition site, and the community behind it is a DC Heroes/Blood of Heroes discussion space.
However, the site also features content for the popular DC Adventures RPG Heros Handbook: Super-Hero Roleplaying in the DC Universe — on the ’Advanced Search‘ page, select “Dual-stats” in the Game System menu. There‘s now a good amount of material, and our discussion and creation space for it is on Green Ronin‘s Atomic Think Tank forum, in our discussion thread. M&M players are encouraged to participate on the thread.
Entries with DC Adventures Technical Data use a system of collapsing sections so folks don‘t have to scroll through lengthy technical data.
There are no current projects to host content for other game systems, though the site‘s administrator is open-minded about partnerships.
6/ Is this site solely about comic books?
Those are the bulk of the entries, but certainly not all of them. In the search box in the upper right corner, open the “Category” menu to look at the rest.
Generally we stick to geek-friendly stuff such as action movies, pulp fiction, horror movies, science-fiction, action-adventure video games, TV series popular among role-players, etc. but we occasionally have fun with other sorts of material. Browsing through the categories and sub-categories in the search box to display lists of entries is the best way to find them.
There are also hundreds of original characters (called “homemade” in the category menu) though these are generally meant to be part of comic-book-style super-hero stories.
7/ What about the “Writeups.org & Amazon.com recommend” links?
Many entries on writeups.org have a “Writeups.org & Amazon recommend” link near the top of the entry, which links to selected products on Amazon.com. We talk about thousands of characters and stories on this site - at some point, readers may want to read/watch the actual stories.
Writeups.org gets a small percentage of the sales done after you click on the link, even if you buy something else. The money serves to sustain and develop the site.
These specific links are text only and manually written in, and a little layout trick with the left-hand vertical green line emphases that the link is outside the flow of the article.
The links are normally meant to be a/ the most relevant stories that come to mind about the character and b/ in a convenient format. For comics the latter means trade paperbacks, hardcovers and omnibuses if they exist. If the story we have in mind wasn’t collected when the link was made, we’ll pick something else or point toward individual issues (“floppies”). If getting the story is a mess (for instance very old floppies that are now very expensive and/or hard to find and never were collected) we’ll go for a more general recommendation, such as our favourite sourcebooks.
We favour colour editions, but if none exists we’ll go for a B&W collection rather than floppies (such as Marvel Essentials or Showcase Presents.)
Keep in mind that the recommendations are updated as the entries are. It is thus entirely possible that collected editions that didn’t exist when the recommendation was done have since appeared - for instance the trade paperbacks for Avengers West Coast stories of the mid-1980s were only published in 2012. It is also possible that, in the time since we made the link, the price of the book has skyrocketed due to fighting pricing bots or somesuch.
We’ll often link to result pages rather than single products — for movies we can’t know if you’d prefer DVD, Blu-Ray, streaming or even VHS or a future format. For books this makes it easier to find the cheaper version, for TV series to pick the format you like best (individual seasons or a big set), etc. We prefer linking to specific products when a risk of confusion exists, though - say, different reprints with different content but similar titles.
If some room is left - which is usually the case for characters with few appearances - we’ll occasionally throw in either a link to a decorative toy such as an action figure or a game figure (usually HeroClix), or to something completely whimsical related to the character. We sometimes indulge in less whimsical links such as educational books about subjects closely related to the character, but these are less likely to sell.