RPG: I Am A Card Carrying Avenger

by Jay Malone on August 10, 2012

in Nerd Culture

Like many children of our generation (those whose formative years were the 1980s), I grew up what would easily be classified as a ‘nerd’. I loved comics, toys, video games, and rolling dice as I pretended to be a mythical character or superhero. This lasted – and to a point, still does (check out my podcast – Push to Regen!) – well into my 20s.

I played Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Star Wars, GURPS, and the TSR Marvel Super-Heroes Role Playing Game. The Marvel RPG was my absolute favorite – a simple mechanic, a great universe to play in, and no shortage of interest in playing amongst my regular gaming group.

The longest running, and most satisfying game we played involved a ragtag group of q-list heroes who would make up the new West Coast Avengers. And to play that ragtag group of heroes, you had our gaming group – a group of people, despite falling out of touch, personal differences, and the distance that comes with adulthood – have remained in touch, and remained friends.

I’ve asked three of our players – myself included – and our Game Master, Gordon, to reminisce about our long running adventures as Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.

Twelve years after our last adventure as the West Coast Avengers, these are our memories of adventures in the bright lights and big city of Los Angeles, California:


“Gordon, who were some of the Avengers regulars we interacted with?

Gordon: “As I recall, the canon Avengers that were featured were: Hawkeye, Rage, Namor the Sub-Mariner (who had an ongoing issue with Owen’s character over an Atlantean princess that had a crush on TinTin), Captain America, Hercules, Wasp…I may be forgetting some, but I think those were the prominent ones.”


Why did you choose the main Marvel Universe characters that you did for us to work with?”

G: “The characters that you guys interacted with the most were either chosen to serve specific story points (like the fight with Mysterio, which was to show the team that until they started ACTING like a team, one midlevel Spider-Man badguy could kick their asses up around their ears), or simply because they were characters I liked well enough and was familliar enough with them to be able to represent them accurately and in character within the confines of the game setting.”


Tell me about your character. Power sets, personality – anything you think is relevant.”

Mike: “My character was Daniel. Named by the players as he did not have a name. He was built by Ultron off plans designed for Vision and Jocasta. He was super strong, flew, had laser blast eyes, and could survive in space. He adopted the name Defiance to reflect his fight to ignore and override programming left by Ultron. He was a straight up knock off of Data and a kid. He wanted to find his place in the world, but he had come to terms with the fact he was an android and was not human. He was at times innocent and naive and other times he was temperamental and belligerent. “

Rich: “I played Paragon, a self made character, who was a Kryptonian from Argo City. I played him as a young, fun character who embraced his heritage and loved being a superhero for his new world. He chose no secret identity, saw no point in hiding who he was. While not team leader per se, he had a great relationship with the media and served as spokesman and liason. Paragon was dating Anna Kournikova, a real celeb power couple. Trouble is, she got kidnapped by Ultron…Paragon felt himself to blame. The game ended with him questioning whether or not to have personal relationships because of who he was.”

Jay: “My character was Blast, one of my own, that I’d created a few years before we ever rolled dice together. He was brash, impulsive, hotheaded, and frequently made terrible decisions – in short, he was me as an 18 year old. He never felt sure of himself, and was always concerned about how he’d appear in front of someone like Captain America – after all, Cap was a legend, and Blast was just some kid who never felt good enough to be an Avenger. That said, he was never afraid to charge into battle – as proven by his near disembowelling by Sabretooth – and always tried to be a positive voice, along with Bucky (the female Bucky from Heroes Reborn, as I recall). He was able to fly, shoot plasma bolts out of his hands, and create VERY limited plasma constructs – kind of like a remedial Green Lantern. His hair, and eyes, were very, VERY blue.
Rich, didn’t you later play a character named Mister Judo?”

R: “Mr Judo had a kickass name! I seem to recall a scenario where we were sneaking around a compound of some sorts, and mr judo was very important with his silent stealth skills.”


“What was your earliest memory of the game?”


M: “The West Coast Avengers … this game was so amazing. It came along when I was in the PRIME of my gaming life. It was my best friends playing in a genre I adored. I can’t think of anything that was more perfect at that time. My earliest memory of the game was Captain America acting like lunatic (He was played by one of our idiot friends.)

R: “…the missions were def kept on the lighter side,focusing on character rather than epic battles. Our major villain was Ultron as iI recall.”

J: “For me, the earliest thing I remember about the game was my character breaking into the West Coast Avengers Compound in an effort of impressing them. From what I remember, it didn’t go so well – I’m pretty sure I learned that day exactly how advanced the Avengers defensive measures were as a player. I also learned that the Avengers were cool with taking felons into protective custody to keep an eye on them in an effort to rehabilitate them.”

G: “My earliest memory would be sitting around my apartment on Illinois avenue, and debating what people wanted to play, during character creation. Most of the players had fairly fully formed ideas, and some, like Jamie, had just a powerset that they wanted to play with, and the character came as a result of suggestions made by myself or other players from that powerset idea.”


As a player, what was the most challenging scenario Gordon put you into? In turn, what was the most challenging scenario you think you put him into?”

M: “My most challenging scenario was when Gordon had provided leadership of the team to one of our least qualified players. It was difficult not to do what I felt was right and doing what I was told to do. As for what I put him through, I believe it was when I made my character Daniel decide to take up jazz music and forcing him to provide an adventure that centered around a blind old black guy who was just some musician.”

J: “The most difficult scenario I had to tackle from the game was when the curveball was thrown that my character was a clone or alternate dimension version of a previous players character. When I had to start role playing different scenarios that I’d never actually experienced, so that was especially challenging. As for the toughest scenario I put him into, there was a time where we all played new characters for a bit, and I remember opening a portal to the darkforce dimension – but I forgot to open an exit, so I sealed a bunch of criminals inside the dimension, dooming them to be tortured by demons and other undesirables.”


As the GM, what was the most challenging scenario you put your players into? In turn, what was the most challenging scenario they put you into?

G: “There was a storyline involving three characters being brought to the future by future counterparts of their friends. The three brought to the future were chosen because by that point in the timeline, those three were all dead, and wouldn’t have to face horrible counterparts of themselves. Of course, the rest of the team ended up in that dark future themselves, running into evil, twisted versions of themselves, and that allowed me to bring back from that timeline a new recurring badguy, the dark future counterpart of Phil’s character Randall Cosmoe. I had to juggle and represent alternate future counterparts for about 7 players, AND figure out a way to allow everyone to have a moment or two in the spotlight and not make it all about three specific players who were there ostensibly to save everyone else.”


As for most challenging, that’d have to be with Rich turning himself in to the US government, and going to the Vault, which isolated one character away from the rest of the party, so I had to still dovetail his story in with everyone else’s somehow, while not letting flipping back over to him drive the main story to a screeching halt. Most of the time, I can pretty easily juggle multiple storylines. My games have always been pretty freeform, and when I overplan or outline something it’s too restrictive to a good, flowing story.”


What are some of your favorite memories from the game?

M: My favorite memories were all the stuff around and outside the game. Phil showing up and taking five minutes to tell Rich his windows were down and it was pouring outside. Gaming until 6am, watching roaches try to attack Rich’s soda, and arguing with my girlfriend in my sketchbooks. “

Jay: “I’ve got great memories of that time of my life, both in the game and outside of it. In game, the things that stick out the most to me were the little things that became part of my characters canon that were a direct result of Gordon challenging me to add details to Blasts interests. To this day, in stories I write about him, he still loves Kung Fu movies, still wears the Shark Tooth Necklace he got from Jamie’s character Charlie, and still loves to surf. Outside of the game, though, I still treasure the picture of The Rock that Mike drew in one of my sketchbooks making fun of my love of the world’s worst wrestling tag team, Too Kool. I also look at that group as some of the best people I’ve ever met in my life, and that game triggered a love of gaming in me that persists to this day.”


Gordon: “In no particular order:”

  • “Prince Namor coming to tell TinTin, Man of Metal, to keep his land-dwelling self away from Atlantean girls.”
  • “Sabretooth scaring the bejeezus out of Shadowblade (Jen Newton’s character), even though Jen should have been able to walk all over him, based on her power set.”
  • “Batman dangling Randall Cosmoe off a roof because Randall was attempting to dig into Bruce Wayne’s financial records and personal life, in an effort to figure out who was under Batman’s mask.”
  • “The entire dark future arc, including Mike playing his alternate future evil counterpart as an infiltrator of the PC’s and snapping the neck of one of the “good” future characters in front of everyone.”
  • “Mysterio infiltrating the compound under everyone’s noses by using a dead Avenger’s security clearance, no one noticing, and the team getting beaten like a drum by him, including the death of Shawn’s character’s physical body, making him into an energy creature.”


“What was the best roleplaying moment you recall from the game?”


M: “I remember the most interesting one was when my character, the android Daniel- who was just coming to terms with what life was, ended up accidentally killing Mysterio.”

J: “For me, it was the curveball I mentioned earlier, but a little further down the road. After my character had established himself on the Avengers, the previous player – who had, with no interaction between the two of us, created a character with the same name and similar appearances – came back briefly. Having to role play against “myself” was difficult, but incredibly rewarding. I learned a lot about MY version of Blast in those games, and it made him a much stronger character as a result.

G: “Best roleplaying moment…watching everyone rally to defend Randall from yet ANOTHER of his bad ideas, Jamie’s character having a power flareup, and her running from the team for Mike’s character, the android Daniel to go fetch her back and admit feelings for her he didn’t think himself capable of having…either of those could qualify.”

Given the players, the way we left the game, and the fact that it’s been nearly 10 years since we last played, how quickly could you get back into character for the Last Hurrah of the West Coast Avengers?”

M: “ I could absolutely pick right back up. It would be a blast.”

R: “It was a brief game for me, but I’d gladly play again in that scenario.”

J: “Oh, absolutely. I’d love to play a game with my friends again – been far too long.”

G: “That would depend on who I could get back from the original group. But I think I could have that game running again for one last ride on a couple hours notice. I was always anti-planning, after all.”


And there you have it. The memories of four men, nearly a decade and a half after the last time they pretended to be superheroes. I hope you enjoyed this look back at one of the most enjoyable times of my life – I know I did.

Jay Malone is the co-host of the PushtoRegenPodcast, a bi-weekly fancast about the collectible miniatures game HeroClix. He also loves the world of GI Joe, and writes a (somewhat) regular column for TheTerrordrome. Jay once lived in a cupboard under the stairs like Harry Potter, has a dog that looks like Stitch, and his 3 year old son is named after the ruler of Latveria – but don’t tell his wife that. You can talk to Jay on Twitter by following @JCorduroy, or via email.



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