The Batman Role-playing Game was released in 1989 by Mayfair Games in an attempt to cash in on the popularity of Tim Burton’s Batman movie. The 192-page softcover book was written by Jack A. Barker, Greg Gorden and Michael Stackpole, and it used a scaled down version of the DC Heroes system (although it did introduce advantages, drawbacks, and greater information on gadgets). Everything you need to run a Batman campaign is included, from character creation and combat to gadgets and NPCs. Of particular interest were write-ups and stats for the Caped Crusader and his many friends and enemies, including Batgirl, The Joker, Robin (Jason Todd), Riddler, Poison Ivy, the Question, Ragman, and Nemesis.
The premise is that Batman has assembled a team to help fight crime in Gotham, and this group is made up of the player characters (with the option for one of them to play Batman). The rulebook even has an adventure in the back that allows players to be taken under Batman’s wing before hitting the streets to stop the latest mad plot by the Joker.
The MEGS (Mayfair Exponential Game System)
Both the Batman RPG and DC Heroes used the Mayfair Exponential Game System, also known as MEGS. Each character has nine attributes, and these are broken into Physical (Strength, Dexterity and Body), Mental (Will, Mind and Intelligence), and Mystical (Spirit, Aura and Influence). The attribute score for an average person is 2, with each number doubling the effectiveness of the attribute (a person with a Strength of 3 is twice as strong as someone with a strength of 2).
In combat, your Dexterity attribute is rolled against the opponent’s Dexterity attribute on two 10-sided dice. If the attack is successful, damaged is determined by comparing your Strength to their Body attribute. Rolling a pair of ones results in a failure every time, while rolling doubles allows you to roll again. Each character also gains Hero Points, which can be used to improve rolls.
The Batman RPG on PDF
While DC Adventures from Green Ronin can be purchased online in PDF form, the same can’t be said for DC Heroes or the out-of-print Batman Role-playing Game. If you want to team-up with Batman or the other heroes of Gotham, you’ll need to buy a physical copy of the game. When I searched for prices on out of print copies, prices for the Batman RPG ranged from $0.99 to $11.20 on eBay, while Amazon offered new copies starting at $3.95 and used editions for $0.59.
Just make sure to pay attention when searching for Batman Roleplaying products online. Amazon included two separate listings for the product, with one starting at $100 for a copy of the Batman RPG softcover rulebook. Since that’s a difference of about $96, it pays to shop around.
Batman RPG Games
While it was released as a standalone module, no additional material was published for the Batman RPG. However, since its rules were compatible with the DC Heroes game also available from Mayfair, all of their adventures can be used with the game. This opens up a wider spectrum of options for those wanting to role-play in Gotham City, and here are some recommended products:
Justice League Sourcebook – Includes write-ups for the most popular members of the JLA, including Batman.
Wheel of Destruction – The Joker has kidnapped Commissioner Gordon, and now he’s threatening to destroy some of Gotham’s most notable landmarks. As Batman, it’s up to you to spring into action and stop him.
Night in Gotham – An in-depth look at the various threats that menace Gotham City once the sun goes down.
Deadly Fusion – This adventure includes a deadly confrontation between Superman and Batman, with the fate of the world hanging in the balance.
Hardware Handbook – Lots of gadgets and gizmos for a DC Heroes campaign.
Batman Sourcebook – Even more information about Batman, Gotham City, and the Dark Knight’s various friends and enemies.
Batman RPG Online
There is no online version of the Batman Role-playing Game. If you’re interested in playing a Batman video game, your best bet is to rent either Batman: Arkham Asylum or Batman: Arkham City from your local video store. Both of these best-selling games are available for all major platforms.
Another option is DC Universe Online. This MMORPG allows players to choose an existing DC Comics character as their mentor, and Batman is among the many options. Both Metropolis and Gotham City are available as starting locations for your online superhero.
Batman RPG Review
Most modern reviews of the Batman RPG are positive, but this may be as much for the sake of nostalgia as anything else. During its original release, the game failed to set the role-playing world on fire, and it became just one of many products affiliated with DC Heroes. However, fans of the game point to the fact that the MEGS system is easy to learn, and Batman devotees will be delighted by all the attention paid to Gotham City and its assorted denizens, both good and evil.
While it’s really just a reiteration of DC Heroes, the Batman RPG offers players the chance to focus on Batman, Gotham City, and all the excitement that comes from a campaign filled with masked vigilantes and deranged criminals. Everything you need to play is included in this softcover edition, and players interested in expanding their campaign can always pick up a copy of DC Heroes or one of its many expansions.