West End Games D6 Superheroes
The DC Universe role-playing game was published in 1999 by West End Games, the people responsible for such licensed titles as Star Wars, Men in Black, and Xena: Warrior Princess. Designed by Fred Jandt and Nikola Vrtis, this superhero roleplaying game used six-sided dice to resolve all combat rolls and skill attempts, and the setting was firmly rooted in the works of DC Comics. Characters visiting Metropolis were likely to encounter Superman, while those making the trek to Gotham City could expect to be given an intimidating welcome by Batman.
Just prior to the release of the DC Universe roleplaying game, West End Games filed for bankruptcy and merged with Yeti, a French subsidiary of Humanoids Publishing. While a number of supplements were released for the game and impressive artwork filled its pages, DC Universe never caught on. It’s been years since any new products were released, although the core rules and supplements can still be purchased online.
Rolling Dice in the DC Universe
DC Universe uses the Legend System, a modified version of West End Game’s D6 System. Dice totals are not added up. Instead, any roll of 3 through 6 counts as a success. In order to succeed at an attack or a skill, the player is called upon to roll a certain number of successes. One of the dice is also designated as a “wild die.” This means that each time a 6 is rolled, that die can be re-rolled and the number added to the success result. However, if a wild die comes up with a one on your initial roll, then you may have to suffer through a critical failure or complication.
DC Universe Powers
All the DC Universe powers have a base cost, and spending this number gives you the power at a level of one. If you prefer a limited version of the power, you can choose the specialization base cost instead. In order to properly utilize your powers, you’ll also need to buy skills. Flight, for example, would require the Piloting (Self) skill, while a character with an energy blast would also need to be proficient at ranged attacks.
Powers are broken down into the following categories:
Within these categories, almost any power you can imagine can be duplicated. Magic is included under the manipulation heading, although a later supplement goes into even more detail on the subject.
Powers can be taken as written, or you can choose a specialized version of the power to make it more specific. Light manipulation, for example, is a broad power, while the ability to blind someone is a more specific (and limited) form.
DC Universe Characters
The core rulebook recommends that players create original characters. However, there will obviously be those who would prefer to skip the character creation process and play Batman, Black Canary, or even Plastic Man. If your players fall into the latter category, the basic DC Universe rulebook has a number of popular DC Comics characters within its pages, including Flash, Captain Marvel, Green Arrow, and Supergirl. Villains are also included, such as Deathstroke, Darkseid, Cheetah, and the Joker.
Characters fall into one of five power levels. Each level of power has its own dice pool to put towards abilities, and this also determines the maximum level at which a power can be purchased. Lower power levels may also restrict players from buying certain superpowers. The lowest power level includes street-level heroes such as Batman, while the highest power level is reserved for powerhouses like Superman and the Flash.
DC Universe Products
DC Universe didn’t exactly take the gaming world by storm, but a total of 14 products were released by West End Games. As is common with an out-of-print game, available copies can fetch a steep price at Amazon, eBay, or other online retailers. I searched for a reliable PDF version of the game, but none existed. If you’re looking to own the entire collection, here are all the items you’ll want to buy:
DC Universe Roleplaying Game – The core rules, this 256-page book allows players to create their own heroes or step into the tights of such legendary do-gooders as Superman, Batman or Wonder Woman. Profiles are included for a number of DC heroes and villains, as well as a tour of the DC Universe and two adventures (one featuring Robin and the other set in Metropolis).
Gotham City Sourcebook – This 120-page supplement covers Gotham City, the frequently embattled home of everyone’s favorite grim crime fighter, Batman. All the important people, places, and organizations of Gotham City are included, as well as detailed stats and write-ups for everyone from Nightwing and Catwoman to Joker and Two-Face.
Metropolis Sourcebook – A 96-page supplement that includes optional rules, tips for creating advanced equipment, how to build a super-hero city, and a pair of adventures that feature some of Superman’s most dangerous enemies. All the major people, places, and organizations in Metropolis are also inside, including write-ups for Superman, Lex Luthor, Lois Lane, and S.T.A.R. Labs.
Directive on Superpowers: A Guide to Metahuman Powers in the DC Universe – A 144-page expanded guide to superpowers, written from the perspective of a covert government agency. Players will learn how to use hero points and character points with their superpowers, as well as new methods for determining the starting cost of a power. Enhancements and limitations are also included in a revised form.
Agent Manual: An Overview of the DC Universe’s Department of Extranormal Operations – Presented as a classified document, this 80-page supplement includes file forms for metahuman operatives, mission logs, and a wealth of information on the DEO (including personnel, headquarters, and equipment).
JLA Sourcebook – The members of the JLA are profiled alongside their most notorious villains, and the supplement also includes stats for their headquarters and the members of Young Justice.
JSA Sourcebook – Members of the Justice Society of America, past and present, are included, as well as the roster of Infinity Inc. This 208-page release also features data on World War II, plus stats for the teams most lethal foes.
Magic Handbook – If you want to play a sorcerer, this guide walks you through all the necessary steps. The various arcane forces are examined in detail, as well as those who manipulate them. Over 60 heroic and villainous magic users are included in this 128-page supplement.
The Daily Planet Guide to Metropolis – Includes all the best restaurants, hotels, laboratories and other businesses in Metropolis, the adopted city of Superman. Written as a travel guide featuring narration by those who live and work in the city. This 144-page supplement also has more write-ups for notable residents.
The Daily Planet Guide to Gotham – Written as a travel guide by the Daily Planet newspaper, this clever supplement details a massive number of locations in Gotham City. If you’re planning on setting your DC Universe campaign in Batman’s home city, this 144-page book is a must-have. Descriptions of locations are provided by characters who live and work in Gotham City.
Hero Dice – Hits and misses can be recognized by the color of the dice. Each set comes with one wild die and 5 standard hero dice. Fans of the Justice League can also purchase a set of JLA-themed dice.
Metropolis City Set – Both the Metropolis Sourcebook and the Daily Planet Guide to Metropolis are collected in one set.
DC Universe Roleplaying Game Box Set – The core DC Universe rules are included, as well as the narrator’s screen and book, and a set of hero dice. A full-color poster of some of DC’s most famous heroes is also part of the package.
Narrator’s Screen – Gaming sessions will flow better thanks to this screen with all the modifiers needed to run an adventure with the DC Universe rules. The included book also contains advice for how to create adventures, as well as additional advantages, non-player characters, and several scenarios.
DC Universe wasn’t the first superhero role-playing game to feature characters such as Superman and Batman, and it hasn’t been the last. (DC Heroes was the first, and DC Adventures is the most recent.) The d6 system does make it easy to learn the rules, and the abundance of supplements will provide players with hours of four-color excitement. While DC Universe reviews were mixed upon its release, fans of superhero gaming may still want to give it a try.
See also: Godsend Agenda, because it also uses the D6 system.