A Very (Non)-review of DCA Heroes and Villains I

This is not a review. It is a personal observation. I might do a more detailed look at some point, but for now, short and to the point.

First, a small disclaimer. I like MM3E/DCA. I don’t love it. I think it did some things much better than 2e and in some places it got worse. I am one of those people, just to say it upfront who was disappointed with the character write-ups in the Heroes Handbook. I re-wrote several of them as my own versions and put them up on the forums at the Atomic Think Tank Roll Call — so again… now you know.

That said — I’m going to say that about 85% of the characters felt right to me as I read them. Some were great! Some were about what you’d expect, some were surprising, and some just felt really, really wrong — especially when compared to each other. Very few are just, plain bad (I really only feel this way about one, so, not a bad thing).

I realize that creating stats for comic characters is a very personal thing — and that DC did sign off on these write-ups, so I’m just some guy spitting in the wind when I comment on the choices, and I’m okay with that, no worries. But some of the write-ups are odd. Batwoman is one that seems off, and Black Canary, by comparison is truly underrepresented compared to her comic abilities… but I see why. Because the choice was made to use “iconic” builds (whatever that really means) as opposed to working from a set point in the history of the DCU. And that — to my way of thinking (and I can still only speak for myself here) was a mistake. Because characters pulled into the timeline recently will necessarily be very different than ones with a long history but who have evolved in the past, say, decade… And both choices have strengths and weaknesses, but for my money I would have liked my contemporary heroes a little more contemporary.

Some of the builds do also show off the weak spots of the new edition — but I’m not going into this too much, just leave it at — Affliction is a great mechanic, it doesn’t work as well for virtually everything as the designers want it to. But some of the builds also show off the strengths of the system and the wonderful simplicity that some builds now have compared to what they might have been in 2E.

The art choices are really well done. With very few exceptions (really only one) I could not have been happier with the art they chose. It was great.

Finally, a real complaint. Again with disclaimer… I am not a professional layout person. I don’t do it for a living and I would never claim to be an expert. But as a consumer, I found the layout really frustrating. Blocks of information belonging to one character are sometimes in the middle of another character’s write-up text. The way some entries start at the top (or bottom) of a page and then bleed over onto the next is odd and makes reading the entries less enjoyable. Something could have been done to correct this. In my opinion (which again, spitting in the wind here) I really disliked the layout and would have enjoyed the book much more if that had been improved. So much of the delay conversation with this book over at the forums went back and forth between DC approval and the vast task of layout so it was a little surprising when I saw it. Don’t get me wrong — I’m sure it was a monumental job, and frustrating as all heck, but it is the weakest part of the book for me.

In the end, I bought the thing — I’m too much of a DC nut not to and whatever my frustrations — I really am happy to support Green Ronin’s work. The few quibbles I have with stats are relatively easy to reconcile and should I run a DCA game again this gives me a TON of stuff that I don’t have to do myself. So, a few complaints aside — I can’t say it’s a bad choice.

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3 responses

  1. Good review. I’ve held off pulling the trigger on this, but I really want to see it. Your comments on layout seem to me to be valid- after all design ought to make things easier, not more complicated.

  2. I kind of feel that Superman’s intellect is a little low

  3. @middleagedm

    Since the release of the DCA book a lot of commentary has been offered over Superman’s stats. That said, I think you bring up an interesting point — because INT is probably one of the stats I have the most annoyance with when I look at the numbers.

    Looking over the book in a much deeper way I’ve revised my estimate of “Characters that feel right” down to about 65%. Stuff is strange.

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