The new TV season started (for me). Supergirl, Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, Arrow … nah, no pattern to what I watch at all.
Let’s work backwards. I’m going to rant about shows and point out how this is relevant to RPG play.
More than any other premiere, I just didn’t care what was going on. Arrow did the worst job of following up on the season finale, which is saying something for these shows. Is this because they don’t know how to do season premieres? I would say it’s because they don’t know how to do season finales. Do not have cliffhangers. Cliffhangers are for when you follow up with a new episode immediately afterwards, like a week or two afterwards. Cliffhangers work … when you give a damn what’s going to happen and can even remember what was happening. I have only vague recollections of what happened in the season finales, which has something to do with how not great the season finales were, as well.
What is enjoyable about superheroes? Right, as I said, antiangst. What do we get in TV? Wrongness. Angsty wrongness. Parenting issues. Yup, that’s why I watch.
Here’s what I want out of Arrow episodes: Ollie is working on his new trick arrow. Ollie has a date with some hottie who doesn’t know he’s green on the outside, when Nyssa shows up and keeps saying “Husband, …”. Secret identities are not for producing angst – comics actually tend to do a pretty good job with secret identities much of the time – secret identities are for humor and for those rare cases when you get inspired by the protagonist’s dual life. You know what show did a good job with SIs? Batman, ’60s Batman. There was some humor. There were times when supporting characters told Bruce or Dick about how great the caped crusaders are. Anyway, humor ensues with Ollie doing stuff while not giving away his greenness. Ollie wins fight at end with new trick arrow. Do not bog down legit superhero stories with tedious melodrama.
Was last season better? Sure. Was last season great? No. Was last season good? At times, but I got really tired of the endless losing by the protagonists. TV back in my youth was so different. It was episodic. Protagonists won all of the time, and we were satisfied. Nowadays, you take from the soap opera model of yesteryear and have losing, losing, losing.
RPG: Don’t do cliffhangers unless you plan on playing again when everyone can still remember what’s going on. Do not bring children into adult stories. Do not go to the same dumb well over and over again – just accept the conventions of the genre like how SIs are for the SH to have an internal monologue about how they will keep their secret while actually doing fun stuff. Get rid of fights that look generic – SH fights are cool because they emphasize the specialness of what the SH is doing in the fight, whether it’s cleverness, unlocking a new level, unlocking a new power. Have PCs win, often.
Legends of Tomorrow
In its first season, the most cringeworthy show (unless you hate the progressive politics of shows like Supergirl). At times, the most watchable of the four because it’s trying to be fun.
Season premiere’s problem: the fun is repetitive and too broad for me. I don’t enjoy the brofest between Nate and Ray. Nate’s character has often not been good and the bro-ing only makes Ray seem like a joke. Firestorm is completely wasted in every way virtually all of the time. The best moments still tend to be Canary, Heat Wave, Cold making amusing remarks. Then, LoT was about the less important proving they were important. The premiere just hammers on the lovable loserness of the crew. Few losers are lovable. Sure, I watched Gilligan’s Island, but I also watched TV on TVs that had dials, where one of them was black and white and I had to adjust its ears. I watched shows I hated, like I Love Lucy, because must show proper obedience to the tube.
There’s a huge time travel problem with the show. Not that time travel is done all that well in any show I can quickly recall, but let me give some props to Doctor Who for something. Doctor Who does future stories right, in that the Doctor and his companions can make the future better. LoT cannot make the future better the way they play it. All they can do is stop making it worse. That’s depressing. Have to fix things all of the time is not fun. Let the future not be a case of worse and worse options.
What I want to see from LoT: Mix up the character interactions as Stein is fine when he’s not interacting with Jefferson and the bro-down needs to chill. Stop pushing how much these SHs are losers. Stop focusing on fixing the time stream so it can be “meh” rather than catastrophic. Show more cleverness in the humor. Have Firestorm be an interesting SH, so bring on cosmic powered villains who can match his level in one-on-one contention. Have better gender balance so that we can have relationship stuff that isn’t so limited. Rip isn’t all bad but limit him so that we don’t feel the loser history of the group. Have Amy show up in non-catfishing mode looking good. Bring back villains doing their own thing because villains are way, way more interesting when they don’t just exist to be defeated (actually, this is hugely important for every SH show).
RPG: Villains can be cool. Let them be. Don’t go for the same humor over and over again, especially when it’s not nearly as entertaining as other, more clever humor. Don’t make the PCs seem like losers. Don’t make the PCs feel like their crusade is just one of keeping the status quo. Tell more personal stories rather than having to have spotlight time make everything groupful. Have serious fights, like Firestorm bleeding nuclear fire from half his body as he faces off against a godlike power.
Talk is about how they are trying to bring the fun back. What you probably need is to bring Harrison back because he was the reason season one started off amazing, well, sure, there was also the fun that Barry had.
Repetitive. That’s how it felt, which just made Arrow that much more of a slog because I had already gone through the been to the speedforce, done the speedforce.
Was there anything in the premiere that was enjoyable rather than tolerable? Danielle can look good, but it requires effort – Killer Frost tended to look way better, for instance. Don’t do the white t-shirt look. I know, this is rather specific to my interests, but I’m kind of the one writing. Felicity would be so much better on this show, if possibly only for a while. I’m having trouble remembering anything I liked about this episode. Barry may not act emo, but change the haircut so that I can forget his emo days. Cisco is so much cooler than Vibe – a little bit of Vibe goes a long way.
What I want: Interesting power interactions between superspeed and the villains’ powers. Superspeed is a hugely problematic power because you are a god and speedforce type superspeed is even worse because you can alter reality pretty … quick. The villains have to have a plan to counteract. Speed on speed was obviously overdone and got really boring much of the time. Bring back the fun of things like Barry and Caitlin hanging out. Iris should hang more with Cisco, perhaps. Contrast the ridiculous power level of superspeed with the mundane. I enjoy more the idea of superspeed food runs than much of the drama. I kind of liked the police force being a character – give them more to do besides getting wrecked – not talking about giving Joe more to do. Joe can be good but also just seems redundant a lot of the time in preaching same old, same old. Stop forcing the season to be all or nothing, which is not a premiere problem but a general problem in the past.
RPG: You can tell fun stories with powerful characters, but it requires thought. Even if you put thought into it at first, it’s hard to avoid the trap of going to the same well over and over because that’s thematic or mechanically viable. Supporting characters can be fun, but they need to breathe. Mix PCs up. Don’t forget your setting.
Angsty Kara. Yeah … Season two started off Class 1000 strong. Why? You know who the best character in Supergirl is? Clark Kent. No, not Superman. Superman is aight. Clark is fun. Now, sure, can’t have him take over the show. Instead, have Kara embrace Clark [uh, just cousins, it’s cool].
Of the four, I probably enjoyed Supergirl more, but that could be because it came first, and, rather importantly, it’s season finale didn’t end like the other shows. There was the least amount of undoing everything that happened, though angry Girl becoming less angry Girl was kind of pointless doing/undoing.
Even Arrow because it’s a DC SH show, but especially the other three need to get more cosmic. Evil businessman is tired already. Foreshadowing was fine.
Want: Clarkbar? I guess not. Karabar … hmmm … mmmmm?!? Actually, Kara was pretty tolerable at times when she was at CatCo until the whole whinefest about how Kara wasn’t important began. Lena. Lena and Kara. Not Lena and Supergirl, that just seems a painful path. Lena and Kara shopping, golfing, working out … Alex having interesting things to do rather than dwell on how stuff affects her relationship or on fights I don’t really care about. Maggie getting back to having some of the fun Maggieness, which probably means hanging out with the boys. Find all of the funny things Supes has done in stories and make more use of that, as I find Kara’s SI the most annoying except … it’s hard to explain, there are times when she’s being reserved at CatCo or wherever that she’s pleasant. How about more singing? Do cool things with powers, since you are a god that can do it all, might as well do goofy power stuff for entertainment value. Date Ollie, at least twice.
RPG: While some similarities to Flash in that you have godlike PCs, even more than Flash, need to think through how using powers can be fun and not OP or repetitive. If given godlike PCs, focus on the soap opera, especially a soap opera you can have with a Lena or a Maggie, who both seem like they just want to cast off the angst and have fun. Jimmy was Supes’ sidekick, maybe have actual fun sidekicks. Don’t make your PCs unpleasant for melodrama purposes. Realistic emotions is better than arbitrary wild extremes. Foreshadow NPCs. Change the qualitative nature of challenges so that the focus isn’t on power but on how cosmic powered PCs face cosmic level challenges through interesting resolution.
Most of all, do crossovers. Take advantage of characters not burdened with their same old tiresome problems and give them a wild party of SHing … or have them date each other. Green is so much more pleasant when he’s hanging with Red. Green and Alien should hang more often. LoT is a bit of a problem because of number of characters, but I also like the supporting characters mixing it up, so it’s not that much different. Canary and Nyssa making sarcastic comments while Green and Alien are working together – that’s unobtainium. Firestorm and Martian going full on (please not against Kryptonited Supes but like an actual villain) against big bad. Guest star some Wonder because who wouldn’t want more Wonder?
RPG: Give the world enough depth that other characters interact in interesting ways with it. Maybe players have multiple PCs who mix things up, like an Ars Magica troupe.
Well, here’s to hoping I’m more invested in second episodes.