Friday, September 18, 2009

Lego Batman at GwenCon

My favorite game at GwenCon this year was Lego Batman. It had a great balance of goofiness and challenge, played wonderfully with tropes and expectations, and was just a delight to dive into.

The setting was a city that had outlawed superheroes. The Comedian was dead. Sounds familiar, right?

Except this city was Gotham, and The Comedian was a former sidekick of The Joker, a sidekick who'd gone on to become a hero of his own. The Joker, you see, was one of the outlawed Superheroes. We were all playing characters mostly known for being villains that Batman battles against - but in this alternate reality, we were the heroes. Our backstories were just a little different to fit that as well - they paralleled various superhero backgrounds. I was The Joker. My parents had been killed on our way home from the circus as a child, so I grew up to become a crime fighter, wearing a costume styled after the most terrifying thing I knew - circus clowns. I didn't get to read the other PCs backstories, but bits came out. The Penguin developed his super powers after being bitten by a radioactive penguin, etc.

The Comedian was dead, having seemingly been drained by a vampire bat, then thrown off his balcony. So I loaded up my clown car full of the old superhero gang, and started the investigation. Much hamming-it-up ensued. Before the night was over, the Bat had also kidnapped my current sidekick Eddie "The Riddler" Nigma. Our attempts at a rescue were nearly blown by the psychotic showboating of a Scarecrow that clearly had elements of Rorshach in him.

Not that I can complain about psychotic showboating. At the scene of the crime, where the police rushed to the decision that The Comedian had killed himself, I did a little psycho showboating of my own. A pretty lengthy performance, the Joker wearing a little black pillbox hat and black veil, wailing like a bereaved widow. Eventually, when the police wouldn't do anything, I took matters into my own joy-buzzer-laden hands. "The mask is it's own protection", I told them, and then got in Commissioner Gordon's face. In fact, with a few good Taunt and Intimidate rolls to back it up, I managed to make the good commissioner pee his pants on Gotham TV.

Mechanics either were True 20, or were based on True 20. I haven't read True 20 in years, so I'm not sure how modified it was. But it was fast and simple, easy to grok and worked really well despite the frequency of opposed rolls. I just may have to go take another look at True 20, 'cause this was pretty sweet. I'm not used to anything d20-related having an elegant and robust set of social mechanics that use the same basic rules as the combat system, but it was a beauty the way it allowed for the confrontation with the Commissioner.

Did I mention this was LEGO Batman? Tim Beach, the GM, went above and beyond by making a set of awesomely intricate lego models for the various locations and vehicles. No doubt many of the vehicles were published lego models, but the most important bits were Tim's own creation. I wish I could show you The Comedian's apartment and the building it was part of. Fully detailed, with all sorts of tiny details like little lego faucets and toilet. It must have been weeks worth of constructing. It was an extremely cool prop - almost cool enough to make me regret that we were playing such over-the-top characters, I'm certain there were clues and details we missed because we were too busy riffing. We were chewing the scenery instead of analyzing it.

And then there was the scene at the Superhero Bar. He made this bar model, complete with "sidekick shack" out back. The bar had more than 30 figures in it - all outrageous and awesome. I could only identify about half of them. Villains from DC and Marvel, badguys from Harry Potter, one of the Emperor's Royal Guard from Return of the Jedi, Amelia Earhart for reasons that boggle the mind, etc. Mr Danger-To-Himself-And-Others (that's Doc Ok to you, kids) was the multi-armed bartender. We were holding a wake to remember our dear friend The Comedian. In the middle of the ridiculous wake scene, me standing on the bar trying to eulogize the deceased, the Batmobile crashed through the sidekick shack.

This lead to a watery chase to that falling-apart waterfront lab from Spiderman II (where Dick Grayson was holding poor Eddie Nigma hostage), then an aerial chase from there to the BatCave. In the midst of it all, I ended up leaping from Earhart's biplane onto one of Batman's flying toys. I managed to cling on to the outside, and made him crash. Meanwhile the rest of the group trashed the BatCave and beat up his Butler. Or maybe I was fighting the butler? It's hard to tell when they're wearing the same costume.

It was a delight to behold. A cornucopia of fun. So much going on, on so many levels. Thank you, Tim, for running the best game of a really good con.

1 comment:

Vampir said...

that does sound like a game made out of win...