This blog takes a look at episodes from the Young Justice animated series from a tabletop roleplaying game perspective, both in terms of game design and game play.
Obligatory Spoiler Warning: I will be discussing the events of the episode in the post. If, for some reason, you’re interested in the show and this blog and have not seen the show, go and do that first. The blog will make much more sense, and you won’t have your enjoyment of the show spoiled. You Have Been Warned.
An old man with a picture of a woman in a locket enters Madame Xanadu’s card-reading parlor in the French Quarter of New Orleans, looking for a message from his dear, departed wife. The reader puts on a show, but the old fellow laughs at her, provoking an angry response until another man appears out of thin air, abducts the old man, and vanishes.
It’s a bit of a pity that Madame Xanadu is a fake on Earth-16 (supposedly the parallel Earth on which the Young Justice series is set) although Kent Nelson notes that she has “…the perfect aura for the work.”
We’re treated to a serving of beefcake as a shirtless Superboy spars with Aqualad, much to the appreciation of both Miss Martian and Artemis. Superboy’s training is clearly coming along, as he proudly proclaims that Black Canary taught him the move he uses to take down Aqualad.
Red Tornado informs the team that Kent Nelson, formerly Doctor Fate, a founding member of the Justice Society (the Justice League’s predecessors) has gone missing. Aqualad refers to Fate as Earth’s “Sorcerer Supreme” (the first time that particular term has been used in a DC context) while Miss Martian likens him to the great sorcerer-priests of Mars. Tornado sends the team to Fate’s tower in Salem with a key to give them entrance.
What does this episode teach us about superhero RPGs?
Errands and Interests: On the surface, this is a simple “errand” — to go and knock on Dr. Fate’s door, and see if he’s home. It’s complicated by the plot to steal Fate’s helmet, but also by the particular interests of the Team, especially Kid Flash’s need to impress Miss Martian. This highlights what important ingredients the characters are to the story and the game. That might sound fairly obvious—they are the main characters, after all—but most published RPG adventures are written without knowing exactly who the characters are or what their interests will be, unless it’s a very focused game or the characters are pre-generated (two things which often intersect). This is where things like aspects in Fate, qualities in Icons, distinctions in Marvel Heroic, or even bonds in Dungeons & Dragons come into play: creating connections and hooks to pull the characters (and therefore the players) into the story.
Next: Aqualad returns to Atlantis with a decision to make: life on the surface world with the team, or life underwater with the woman he loves?