NO EVIL SHALL ESCAPE MY DICE
By 'John Jones, the Manhunter from Marathon, IL'
Call him crazy... crazy for feelin' so lonely... at martianmanhunter2(at sign) juno.com or docnebula(at sign)gmail.com
Read more of his insane ramblings at www.angelfire.com/ny3/docnebula/index.html
Long, long ago, when I was younger and slimmer and doubtless much less wise, I mused for a time about setting up a more or less comprehensive RPG that would include as many characters and concepts from my favorite science fiction stories and universes as I could possibly manage to cram into one coherent continuum. It was an impossibly ambitious goal; in fact, it was stark, staring madness, and after I filled around 60 notebook pages with reasonably detailed notes regarding exactly how the phasers and transporters from Star Trek actually worked, what all those buttons on Space Ghost's wristbands really do (with a side note in the "Space Ghost" section to the effect that either the Romulans had stolen their cloaking technology from the Phantom Cruiser, or, more likely, the Phantom Cruiser was a hijacked Romulan warship and Space Ghost was a damned car thief), whether Brother Eye's genetic optimization rays would work on anyone, or only on someone as substandard physically and mentally as Buddy Blank, and, well, a whole bunch of other really anal, geeky stuff from more obscure SF books and sources most of you have never heard of (I had 11 pages of stuff taken from James Gunn's THIS FORTRESS WORLD, for example)... well, I had what the psychologists call a 'moment of clarity', realized I'd completely lost my mind, and abandoned the entire project.
60 pages in, and I hadn't even scratched the surface; hell, I hadn't even managed to fully define Star Trek's various alien races as yet... in fact, it was the sudden awareness that I hadn't even begun to define alien races, and beyond them, robots and androids (both absolutely essential ingredients in a comprehensive pop culture SF RPG) that really brought me back to Earth with a resounding mental crash. This was the kind of project that would eat entire generations alive. I tossed that notebook in a drawer, shook myself off like a sheepdog escaping from a fully automated carwash, and went about my business.
That was back in, I'm going to guess, 1983 or thereabouts. I have very little material remaining to me from that era, mostly because, although (or perhaps because) I'm an ardent pack rat and tend to save everything (especially documents), at some point around 1987, I was moving from one apartment to another, and I simply decided to pitch two dresser drawers full of papers I rarely or never found any practical use for, as opposed to packing them and moving them one more time (I've moved a lot in my life, rarely by choice).
Of course, I've cursed and kicked myself early and often for that idiotic choice many hundreds if not thousands of times since then, since among much other detritus, I threw away several of my college era sketchbooks containing drawings by big name comics pros Kurt Busiek and Scott McCloud, who weren't big name pros at the time, and a big pile of preprinted character sheets from my other various college era RPGs, many of them filled out and used by the aforementioned Kurt Busiek to run various characters, and containing hilarious (if not very politically correct) little in-jokes, like one where he had cut out the word balloon from an illustration of my character, the Red Tiger, saying "Great Friendly Oysters!" (a Busiekism Kurt had ascribed to the character in a short, 2 page feature he'd drawn and lettered himself as a joke) and taped in another set of dialogue, that caused the Crimson Catamount to now be snarling "So what if I'm gay?!?"... much of which, I'd assume, would be worth a chunk o' cash to avid and stupid (and perhaps homophobic) Kurt Busiek fans on E-bay these days.
Prior to last weekend, I'd have sworn blind, and bet you a double decker Checkers cheeseburger, too, that the aforementioned "Murphy's Planet" (where anything that can go wrong, will) RPG notebook had gone in the dumpster with all those stacks of character sheets, high school and college era sketchpads, frayed, decal covered Organizer binders full of awful short story fragments I scribbled by hand in 9th, 10th, and 11th grade, broken cassette tapes I never bothered to get around to splicing together again so I could listen to the various 'favorite songs' I'd recorded off the radio back in the late 70s (as I recall, there'd be a whole lotta Abba on those tapes, which is certainly not something I'd want to actually preserve any evidence of into the modern era, thank you very much), and, you know, a whole bunch of other stuff that future historians will one day curse me resoundingly for dropping into a landfill somewhere instead of preserving for the 22nd Century Memorial Museums dedicated to that Great And Noble Man, um, me. (Yeah, right.)
I'd have sworn it, and I'd have bet you on it, and I'd have been wrong and lost the wager, because last weekend, while I was hunting through a couple of big boxes of the various papers I've accumulated SINCE the Great 1987 Detritus Purge (they're in my bedroom closet) for something entirely different and unrelated, I found (you saw this coming, I'm sure) The Notebook.
And paging through it, and alternately cringing from my callowness (the section where I spend four pages trying to define how The Force works is really, well, cringe worthy) and chuckling at my amazing wit (Space Ghost as car thief still amuses me, as does a note I made a bit further as to just what uses Jase most likely puts his own invisibility aura to while Jan is in the shower), I came to the last five pages, which, of course, is the section that inevitably led to my abandoning the project, when I realized that I hadn't even begun to adequately define, like, billions of alien races that players would want to run, and promptly gave up on the whole thing before my head exploded like an extra in David Cronenberg's weird but interesting movie SCANNERS.
That section is about the Green Lantern Corps. Specifically, the last note I have on the last page, boxed off by itself, is: "Vulcan Green Lantern?"
It was at that point that I abruptly realized that, in a comprehensive SF RPG campaign containing elements of (at that point, written down in the notebook) Star Trek, Star Wars, Battlestar: Galactica, the DC Universe, the Marvel Universe, Space Ghost, and at least a couple of my then-favorite SF space opera novels... I had a LOT of alien races to define. And although in 1983 I was not as familiar with the gamer mentality as I was to become in the ensuing 18 years or so, I still knew damned well that if I didn't define them, then that was all my potential gamers would want to run, and if I defined every single fictional alien race ever depicted in the history of speculative fiction but one, then that one would be the only one any of my gamers ever expressed any interest in.
At which point, as I say, my head threatened to explode (I remember this all so clearly now) and it only got worse when I realized (back then) that in fact, the next project I'd planned to tackle in the notebook was a set of rules for generating android and robot player characters.
So I pitched it, and somehow, I know not how, it survived the Purge of 1987, and aren't YOU all glad it did, eh?
Okay. And now, a word, if not from, then for, our sponsor. Last night, I shot off a rough draft of the first part of this article to my long time editor and good buddy Steve Tice, who, in addition to being a fine editor, is also a first class human being and real swell guy. (Hey, he laughs at my jokes; that's enough for me.) Steve came back, reasonably promptly, saying he liked the basic idea of the article, but he felt the long stream of consciousness introduction about the Lost RPG Notebook was mostly unnecessary, and all the technical stuff about gaming, and the numbers and rules I used to define the Green Lantern concept so it would be, in my opinion, playable in an RPG campaign, were kind of dry and not really central to the concept, either.
However, although it pains me to do it, because he's a mensch among mensches, an Ubermensch, if you will, nonetheless, on this one occasion, I have to disagree with the Steverino. In the past, I have written Martian Vision articles on comic books, and on gaming, (and even on HIGHLANDER and BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, but that's by the by here) and to my mind, what this article represents is a sort of marriage of the two. You got your comic book stuff here (holding up left hand) and your roleplaying game stuff over here (holding up right hand) and then you put it altogether and you've got this whole new thing. Bippity boppity boo. Or, it's a floor polish AND a dessert topping. Or, you got your chocolate in my peanut butter. Whichever baby boomer pop culture reference waxes your slats better, amigo.
Beyond this, as many would have told you back in the bad old days when I was still being published in CBEM, I do not write these things to instruct, enlighten, or educate. Frequently my facts are wrong, my historical citations are erroneous, the things I ascribe as being said by Alan Brennart or Mike Gold are instantly fervently denied by either worthy in frantic, desperate sounding emails, and always, always, always, my opinions are outrageous and obnoxious.
The best I can hope for with one of these things, as far as any hypothetical audience goes, is to inspire, beyond an emotional reaction, a thoughtful one. The worst I hope for, though, is to entertain. And, honestly, in looking back over what's written so far, it seems to me to be entertaining. I've had fun writing it (so far), and I think other people might have fun reading it.
So, while I am second to none in my respect for Steve Tice, and I will, out of that respect, go through this and tighten it here and there, I'm not going to drop all the dry, geeky RPG references and simply turn this into an article on the rather unbelievable Silver Age excesses of the Green Lantern concept and how we could best correct them for a Modern Age audience.
Would that be a better article for the stuck up comics fan who never has played in an RPG (or used to, but doesn't any more, and won't admit they ever did) and who thinks that, because of that, they're somehow superior to those of us who did and do game? I'm sure it would. However, to my mind, this whole notion of one strata of geekdom taking on airs and believing itself innately more noble than some other strata of geekdom is... well... troublesome.
Except for live roleplayers. You know, the ones who actually dress up as their characters in badly hand sewn capes and walk around in empty warehouses or campus class buildings acting out roleplaying scenarios with really cheap props. Those guys are badly in need of an unreality check, which is to say, hey, fellas, if you're going to look at some pot bellied weenie in a cloak and bad pancake make up and pretend he's a vampire, and then pretend he's biting you and then pretend you're pounding a stake through his heart, why don't you just sit around a table, roll dice, and eat pizza while you do all that pretending in the first place? I mean, geez.)
So, while I realize I run the risk of alienating one subsector of geekdom by including references to another subsector of geekdom, well, that's the chance I'll have to take.
Also, and perhaps this is a reason that all the potential readers I've just offended will find more palatable - it would be pointless to write an article detailing the various silly and unacceptable excesses of the Silver Age GL, and how to correct it for a Modern Audience, because DC already knows it, and has done it. In my opinion, they knew nothing and corrected it horribly, but that's just my opinion, and apparently, the modern abomination calling himself Green Lantern sells better than Hal Jordan would (or that's the perception among the DC hierarchy). As far as I'm concerned, given the gabbling dolts DC allows to write Green Lantern these days, I'm just as happy it's a truly rotten character being so badly written. Had Ron Marz spent several years screwing up Hal Jordan, I would have long since died from a toxic overdose of my own bile. As it is, if DC ever comes to their senses and brings Hal Jordan back, they'd better let Kurt Busiek or Tom Peyer write the stories, or I'll have no interest in them. (NOTE: In the years since I first wrote this, Hal Jordan has been brought back, and instead of Kurt Busiek or Tom Peyer, DC put Geoff Johns in charge of him, and that's even better.)
Now, then, having made it clear that yes, I'm going to continue to write this strange, weird DC Two In One combination of an article about both comic books AND roleplaying games, let's get on with it.
Here's a thing about gaming: if you're an RPG GM (Role Playing Game Game Master, which sounds repetitive and stupid when laid out like that), and you run superhero RPGs, then you're of one of two broad schools: The "Sure, Why The Hell Not" group, who wouldn't so much as blink if some 13 year old showed up to play in your game and demanded to be allowed to run the Classic Silver Age Superboy except without any lame vulnerability to kryptonite or magic, or the "You Must Be Insane, This Is A ReeeeeeeaLISTic Game" crew, who doesn't even much like superheroes, who only runs superheroes because that's what his friends like and want to play, and who gets nervous when someone wants to play a character slightly more powerful than, say, Killer Moth.
Or, you might be like me (or like I used to be, I don't do superhero RPGs any more, because people my age are too grown up to game -- the putzes -- and the kids that game these days are into incomprehensible Image type superheroes I find revolting) and fall somewhere in the middle... not deranged enough to let people actually run unstoppable Kryptonians (or Captain Marvel, Jr., which one guy I used to know always wanted to run, because, he claimed, he really liked the costume) who, in the hands of reasonably sensible gamers, will always use their superspeed to beat all opposition into guacamole before said opposition can finish the first syllable of their opening death threat... but not so alarmist as to insist that all 'superheroes' and 'supervillains' in the campaign be little more than, in the immortal words Steve Englehart once put into the mouth of Captain America, 'costumed athletes'.
Back when I ran superhero RPGs, I generally tried to make things work. Oh, I learned through dreadful experience (after others had already told me, but I didn't listen) that you just can't let players run superspeedsters because, ironically, they slow the game waaaaaaay down , and I also learned the hard way that letting Andy Gillespie run Thor, the God of Thunder, is a REALLY BAD IDEA, because no matter what happens, he ALWAYS creates a space/time warp vortex around the adventuring party with his hammer and then summons a colossal monsoon-like thunderstorm to wash the bad guys or other opposition away, and it gets really old, plus everyone else gets wet.
(And for those of you who don't get the 'superspeed slows the game down' thing, consider the following:
DM: Okay, you all turn the corner and see three big purple robots gathering up the unconscious bodies of the X-Men...
CAPTAIN BOOGIE BOARD: I inundate them in a sudden psychokinetic tidal wave!
FLAMING SKULL: I blast them with all the arcane powers of Hell at my command!
ULTRADWARF: I rip Steelboy's right leg off and throw it at them!
SPEEDWEENIE: Okay. First, before any of them do that, and before the Sentinels can even respond to our presence, I run around each robot at Mach 5, vibrating my hands in such a way as to completely disassemble their molecular structures.
DM: Uh... okay... um... roll 3d6.... Er.... 450 times.
ALL: (as Speedweenie's player picks up his dice) Oh, for God's sake.
See? It just doesn't work.)
In addition to those two (or three, if you count the Kryptonian thing) classic "Never Do This" entries for any superhero RPG GM, another constantly repeated word of advice by my college mentors was "Never let someone run Green Lantern".
To the overly anal, classic control freak Game Master, Green Lantern is a nightmare. (I by no means wish to imply with this statement that I myself am not an overly anal, classic control freak Game Master. It's just that, in my younger days, I was more willing to try to prove 'authority' wrong than I am now. It's not that I've learned to trust authority more, I've simply become lazier.)
Basically, he's a character than can do pretty much anything he wants, at any time, to anyone or anything. Oh, sure, there's that lame-o limitation regarding yellow, but there are a billion ways around that, not least of which is the simple expedient of (a) having the ring give you some sort of enhanced, radar like perceptions and then (b) having the ring project an energy globe all around you that blocks all visible light. Now the object/supervillain you wish to mess with is no longer yellow (color is simply reflected light; no reflected light, no color) and you can pretty quickly render it/him down to its/his component parts and reassemble it/him as a giant Habitrail, or, you know, Cher, at will. Hence, basically, Green Lantern, in the hands of a smart gamer (and say what you will about the subclass of geeks which I certainly belong to; most of us are smarter than the average bear) is that worst of all Game Master nightmares, The Character Who Can Do Anything. And therefore, one simply cannot allow a player to run Green Lantern in any reasonably sensible, or even hugely deranged and illogical, RPG.
There's also another factor here that doesn't matter in comics, but is very important in RPGs: player whining. Which is to say, if you let someone run a character who only has one weakness (Kryptonite, or fire, or yellow, or being bound by a man, whatever), then what that gamer is thinking is, "Okay, my fill in the blank weakness will hardly ever show up, and I will rule!", despite the fact that in every published adventure of the character he's running that this guy has ever read or even heard tell of, that particular weakness always shows up at least once.
What this means is that, if you let someone run a Green Lantern, and then some giant space troll shows up to eat the space station that the adventuring party is living on, and the giant space troll happens to be yellow... you, as GM, will never hear the end of it. "Oooooohhhh, I SEEEEE," sneers your Green Lantern player, "this giant space troll JUST HAPPENS TO BE YELLOW! RIIIIIIGHT! BY COINCIDENCE!" Then he'll look at you like he just caught you kissing his girlfriend in the kitchen when you were both supposedly just out there getting more Pepsi, and, honestly, it's enough to make you reach for your taser.
(The above situation arises from the curious psychological context of an RPG. Gamers don't want a GM to treat their PCs as merely characters in a story being written by said GM, and I don't blame them, I don't like that either. Players, ideally, want their characters to be treated as real people, living in and interacting with a real world. However, where one cannot rail at God, or the Fates, and reasonably expect any sort of answer or action in response to said complaints, in the real world, players can and do rail at the GM, who, after all, is sitting right across the table from them, and they can and do expect a response, and, ideally, favorable action, from him or her, as well. So a typical gamer is in a peculiarly smug position: they insist that they characters be treated with the utmost realism, when that 'realistic' treatment is favorable, and yet, when something happens that they don't care for overmuch, they immediately start bitching and complaining about it, expecting the GM to suddenly take on the role of impartial author and reach in and alter the storyline to something that suits them better.)
All of this is generally why Characters Who Can Do Anything Except For One Crucial Weakness should be avoided like the plague in most if not all roleplaying games.
Well, I'd forgotten all about it, but apparently, back in 1983, I took that as a challenge and set out to find a way to make it possible for someone to run a Green Lantern in a reasonably sensible and somewhat limited superhero/SF RPG. Silly effing me.
We'll get back to the problems of The Omnipotent Player Character In Roleplaying Games in a moment, I'm sure. However, right now, let me diverge and, to the great relief of Steve Tice at the very least, talk about comics for a few paragraphs. Why, you may wonder, is the Omnipotent Supercharacter In Comic Books a problem?
Basically, they're boring.
As far as commercial fiction/superhero comic books goes, omnipotent characters have generally been rare since the end of the Silver Age, mostly because, after Marvel reinvented the superhero comics genre with Lee-Kirby's stunningly innovative Three Dimensional Superhero Continuum, The Superfolks Who Could Do Anything fairly quickly became a commercial liability for DC.
Omnipotent characters tend to fit into the 'gosh wow' category of superhero comics, where the stories get bought based on an interesting cover, and read for the simple thrill of seeing something amazing or astonishing in four color, six panel pages. Superman moving the Earth on his shoulders, the Flash suspending a car full of bank robbers on a whirlwind, Green Lantern picking up a building in a big green energy hand coming out of his ring, Wonder Woman somehow managing to find and properly manipulate the controls in an invisible plane... all of it was 'gosh wow' stuff, and all of it got left flat at the starting gates by the mid 1960s by nearly every superhero comics fan over the age of 10, because Marvel was producing 'gosh wow' comics that had real characters with real personalities doing real seeming things, while simultaneously keeping giants with hockey sticks on their helmets from eating the entire planet Earth.
You see? DC was still giving us that same old 'gosh wow' stuff we'd been seeing since that first Superman cover where he's picking up the car and bashing someone over the head with it while bullets are bouncing off his chest, while Marvel was giving us 'gosh wow' stuff featuring characters we could actually identify with and care about.... and, since those characters were decidedly not omnipotent, that we could also somewhat credibly worry about, too. The Hero Who Can Do Anything is always, always, always going to triumph over Sinestro in the third to last panel of the story (since in the last two panels he has to say something cute to his utterly platonic romantic interest and then wink at the audience), but we had no such assurance when reading the early adventures of Spider-Man or the Fantastic Four.
In fact, one of the essential elements of Marvel's success is the limited scope of its heroes' powers. Even Thor and Dr. Strange display human vulnerabilities; they can't just move the Moon out of its orbit in order to cause a convenient eclipse that will drop Nuclear Man into a coma; no, they have to work for their victories, and often, when a Marvel superhero in the early Silver Age emerged triumphant, it was over a villain who had clearly been defined as being more powerful than he was, and it usually required the hero to exercise their brains as well as their vast Kryptonian biceps. In fact, comics was one of the last entertainment mediums to fully embrace the notion of heroes who had to struggle to overcome their obstacles and opponents. TV and the movies had long known how boring it would be to create protagonist characters who could easily defeat any adversary, but superhero comics had since the 1940s and throughout the 1950s been simple adolescent power fantasies (generally coupled with even simpler adolescent morality plays) where sensible plotting and interesting, credible characterizations were never essential as long as you could show your audience something really cool instead. Virtually all the Mort Weisinger era Superman stories, for example, were plotted around the 'gosh wow' concept, with Weisinger soliciting (and listening to, and following) the plotting advice of eight year old readers who thought it would be neat to see Superman grow to 100 feet tall in one story, and have the head of a rat in another... but that era was dying in the late 60s in comic books, and such 'gosh wow' plots... or, rather, scenarios... would never have had a place in even the most absurdly deranged superhero RPGs.
(See? Here we are, back at the RPG stuff again. I'm sneaky.)
This is because roleplaying games are, at base, an entertainment medium without an audience. Like a sporting event where no one is allowed to be in the stadium except players and the referees, a roleplaying game is entirely interactive, and everyone involved is an active participant. This means that 'gosh wow' plots tend to get pretty boring pretty fast, because for one thing, your players aren't looking at Curt Swan artwork, they're just imagining what the GM describes for them, and second, if they aren't being challenged by what is being presented to them, they'll go to sleep on you. Third, while any single player may enjoy finding themselves unstoppable for brief time period, the remainder of the players will generally get bored watching him do it, and fourth, if you let your entire adventuring party be omnipotent, then after the initial 'we can do anything' thrill wears off, the game becomes considerably less exciting than playing DOOM with all the cheat codes (because it doesn't have the cool graphics).
This is complicated by the fact that most players don't understand this, and even if they have it explained to them, they don't believe it. Like comic books, roleplaying games are, to a large extent, adolescent power fantasies, and roleplaying gamers are often there out of frustration with their extremely limited and extremely mundane real lives. They want to get in there and bash some heads, kill some monsters, grab some treasure, and blow some shit up, and they don't want any stinking city guards, guardian gnomes, or giant fire breathing lizards to get in their way.
I can illustrate this best from my own experience as a gamer, in campaigns where it eventually became clear that my character simply would not be allowed to die no matter how stupid or unlucky he became, as opposed to campaigns in which I quite often lost player characters if not in every session, then generally, around once a month. In the first campaign, after the third miraculous save contrived by the referee to keep my PC alive when he clearly should have died, I pretty much lost all interest in the game. There was no tension. The referee was a very active sort who had no compunctions about taking a direct hand in the campaign if he felt things weren't going correctly; he had his scenarios plotted out and if you departed from the path he intended you to follow, he'd put you back on it in no uncertain terms. I couldn't die, and as long as I stuck to his prearranged script, I could accomplish pretty much anything... but with no real risk involved, I got pretty bored.
In the second campaign, on the other hand, my attention was pretty much permanently riveted. I knew my characters could die, and almost certainly would die, and it could happen at any time, unexpectedly, out of a clear blue sky... a random encounter could suddenly turn deadly, and certainly, I and every other player in that game knew that if we went looking for trouble, it might well be the last trouble any of us would ever get into. The notion that you can lose your player character at any moment, and that it's not only possible but actually likely during this particular mass melee, is one that hones your interest and keeps you on the edge of your seat, believe me.
When you're playing in a campaign like that, what you long for is, in fact, omnipotence (whether you think of it in those terms or not). You're nervous all the time, and all you can think of, really, is improving your character's odds of survival and competence at the various feats and tasks that will keep him or her alive. A more proficient character has a better chance of surviving combat and various other deadly trials, and honestly, you spend a great deal of time thinking of what skills to buy, hoping for a chance to maybe get a slightly better weapon, or some kind of magic item that will increase your chances of continued survival. You want security; some gimmick, skill, ability, or device that will give you a certain amount of certainty that, if it all goes bad this week, your character will have a good chance of getting out alive.
Now, the tricky part for a good GM is to know that this is what their player characters want, and not give it to them. And this isn't sadism or cruelty, it's simply good Game Mastering. Why? Because if you give your players what they want... an assurance that their characters will never be defeated or killed... all the fun will go out of the RPG for them.
It's similar to what I was saying about comics. Marvel gave us at least the illusion that their characters could die. It involved us as an audience on a level that the DC characters, who were all utterly flawless and, for the most part, completely invincible, never could. The Silver Age DC characters had simply never been beaten, not ever, in any way.
Beyond an assurance that our character can't be killed, what players also want is overall versatility, flexibility, and competence in virtually any imaginable situation. We all want to be the star and the center of attention, constantly, all the time. In any roleplaying group, generally the crucial skills (or, in a superhero RPG, the crucial powers) get divided up... you have your good fighters, your thieves, your mages (or, your superstrong bricks, your sneaky martial artists, and your flying energy blasters). Life, or a good RPG, offers a variety of challenging situations, and different characters get to use their different skills to help the team get through those different problems. But reading a comic is one thing; you don't really care if Batman comes up to pick the lock in this panel, because Superman will get to fight the giant robot on the next page, and Green Lantern will get to save the whole team when the room is flooded with poison gas on the page after that. An RPG is a different matter; there has never been a gamer born who didn't grit their teeth and feel aggravated when a situation came up that their player character had no pertinent skills or abilities to deal with, and somebody else's player character did. It's annoying, and it makes every gamer long for, in addition to the security of invulnerability, the warm feeling of being useful, even vital, in any conceivable situation.
All of which means that Green Lantern is a gamer's wet dream of a character, and if you tell him he can run Green Lantern if he wants to, he'll jump on it with both feet... and if you haven't found a way to impose some sort of realistic limitations on the character, not only will the player himself not have much fun, but neither will any of the other gamers.
Besides the fact that Green Lantern is a Character Who Can Do Anything (a pretty common condition for DC heroes of the Silver Age, but one which GL took to the most extreme possible degree), there are other problems with GL from a Game Master standpoint. (All of these problems are attractions, of course, from a player standpoint.) Green Lantern's ring protects him from all harm, not only when he wants it to, but automatically. (This, by the way, wasn't true back then - in a 70s JLA story by Len Wein, for example, Hal Jordan slips on the soap in the shower, knocks himself unconscious (idiot), and his power ring goes blithering off to find John Stewart so he can answer the JLA emergency signal instead --- but it's true now, and is a major problem, both for GMs and writers of the character.) He can, apparently, fly at translight velocity, but only ever does so in space. He can apparently use his ring not only to create things out of glowing green energy, but to modify the state and shape of existing things, as well (such as when he makes temporary doorways in solid walls so Green Arrow and Black Canary can leave a room, or something). He can also use his ring to teleport both objects and living, sentient beings, but again, he only ever does this for purposes of plot convenience, and never seems to think of doing it so that he can get from Coast to Central City without having to actually fly across the intervening air space. He can, despite more modern reports to the contrary, create working complex objects and artifacts that he himself does not comprehend the physics of. More subtly, his energy constructs seem to ignore many, if not all, laws of physics, provided GL wants them to. For example, when he whips up a green glowing motorcycle for himself, it doesn't fly, it zips along the roadway (although we'd assume it could fly, if he wanted it to) going VROOOOM and exuding green exhaust (!). If he creates a big cake platter for the rest of the JLA's non flying members to stand on while he transports them to a distant location so they can battle Starro, the big cake platter apparently weighs nothing, can support an enormous amount of weight itself, and flies, if he wants it to. When he puts a bubble around his fellow, air breathing JLAers in outer space, said bubble apparently provides them with warmth and a breathable atmosphere. He has, at various times, made functional 18 wheel trucks, giant fans, blow torches, and refrigerators, among many other artifacts.
All of this is stuff that is illogical, contradictory, and impossible to quantify or adequately define in any sort of internally consistent and reasonable rules structure. Therefore, one has to somehow either explain the times you've seen GL do these things away more or less logically, ignore them by saying "well, they never really happened" (something we all do for some Green Lantern extremes, like the story where he creates, for reasons passing understanding, a giant green creature that has thought balloons and everything and which then wanders off to threaten Coast City after GL gets distracted and flies away... every GL writer and editor since then has just sort of shuddered and said 'nuh uh, didn't happen' about THAT one), or... come up with something creative.
What I chose to do, I find by perusing my long ago notes, was simple and, at least to me, at this late remove, seems rather brilliant:
I chose to allow players to run A Green Lantern if they wished... but NOT Hal Jordan.
This is a very useful distinction. Not surprisingly, Hal Jordan is considered to be a legendary Green Lantern amongst the other GLs of the Green Lantern Corps. (I say 'not surprisingly' because Hal is an Earthling, and the comic is written for Earthlings, and what do you expect, John Broome is going to try to sell his audience a character who is considered a reliable, average, mediocre Green Lantern? Especially when all the other Green Lanterns are, like, sponges with tentacles and crap like that? No way, Jose! Of course the Earth Green Lantern kicks ass, he's human, dude!)
By saying, 'sure, you can run a Green Lantern, but you can't run Hal Jordan', you immediately allow yourself to set up a rather sneaky precedent for totally denying your annoying I Want To Be Omnipotent Gamer from doing whatever his heart desires at the most inconvenient moments. The most reliable (and annoying) aid to all truly anal gamers, The Reference Book, (namely, every published comic book in which a Green Lantern appears and does something) is hereby invalidated. Sure, your GL can say he wants to create a huge sentient monster and send it to eat the entire Klingon homeworld, and sure, he can haul out GREEN LANTERN #26 and point out where Hal Jordan whomped up a whole horde of obviously self aware, green glowing midgets to dig him a swimming pool and mix him a martini while he sat and watched them do it, but that don't mean jack, because you, the astute GM who thought ahead, can now say "Yeah, but that was Hal Jordan, the BEST Green Lantern who ever lived, who did that. Your little alien crab Green Lantern doesn't have the vaguest idea how to make dwarfish plumbing contractors. Ha, ha."
In game terms, what I did was two fold: first, I set extremely high difficulty ratings on even some of the most basic energy constructs Green Lantern is seen to casually create in the comics. For example, a big horizontal energy disc, such as GL commonly creates to transport his fellow JLAers around on, was a difficulty 24. To put this in proportion, a normal range of Willpower, like any other human statistic, runs from 2 to 20, with an 11 or 12 being considered average. Thus, if a gamer has to roll off his character's Willpower, which will usually be something in the high teens (the Guardians would be expected to recruit candidates with reasonably high scores in this area, after all) against a 24 to create even the most basic shape imaginable, well, chances are, he's not going to be doing too much too often.
However, I didn't want a crippled, ineffectual Green Lantern, just a consistently defined and somewhat reasonably limited one that a player could get some sense of accomplishment out of running well. Therefore, I also created a list of basic visualization skills that Green Lanterns had to master if they wanted to improve their visual imaginations enough to make a variety of useful shapes and forms with their power ring, and also create a basic list of those shapes and forms and assign them difficulties, which would be rolled off against the Green Lantern player character's Willpower. I also defined the tensile strength of a glowing green energy construct as being in direct proportion to the Green Lantern creating its' willpower, as well. Thus, a Green Lantern player character could, if he wanted to, attempt to master the skills of Three Dimensional Geometry, Physics of Light Refraction, Energy Articulation (for making big green hands), and various others, and for every experience point put to the study of these skills, I would allow him to effectively add to his Willpower when attempting to perform certain feats with the GL ring. Thus, a Green Lantern character could, if his player wanted him to, specialize in Basic Geometrical Shapes, or big green hands, or making things invisible, or what have you... although, most likely (at least, what I anticipated) was that as a Green Lantern character became more experienced, he would eventually master all these things. (Under this system, it has to be assumed that Hal Jordan either has a great many useful visualization skills - given that he was originally a test pilot, and has since then had a lot of different jobs, this isn't that much of a stretch - or is simply possessed of superhuman levels of Willpower, which, again, isn't that much of stretch, since he is a legend in the Green Lantern Corps, and therefore, we can assume he's far superior to the average GL at something significant to the task of wielding a power ring effectively.)
I also created a reasonable set of physical parameters regarding the actual green energy that a Lantern manifests through his ring - how strong it is, what temperature it is, what it can reasonably do to affect the physical environment of a GL, and more importantly, what it can't do. I've already mentioned that I assigned the tensile strength of various solid energy artifacts to be derived from a formula based on the creating GL's Willpower, which made sense to me. I arbitrarily decided that unless a GL chose otherwise, all artifacts created by his ring would be at local room temperature, and if he wanted to make one hotter or colder than that for some reason, I'd add a pretty big difficulty to the roll. I decided that if a GL wanted to make changes in the molecular composition of something - i.e., creating a temporary egress in a solid wall that would go away as soon as he stopped concentrating on it - he'd better either be a molecular physicist or have the willpower of a god.
Most importantly, I also arbitrarily made a few rulings that directly contradicted what we'd seen in the comics. However, when I did this, I didn't simply say "the comics are wrong" or even "the comics are inapplicable, this is how Green Lanterns work in MY RPG". I'm not entirely above doing that if I have to (I redefined Kryptonians quite a bit for this RPG because it was absolutely necessary, for example) but when I can, I prefer to keep things as consistent with their source material as possible. Therefore, I tried to find the seeds of explanations within the actual published Green Lantern continuity to use to explain many of my arbitrary re-definitions. What I mean, hopefully, will become evident as I list what I re-defined, and how I explained it.
One of the worst ideas ever enacted in the GL concept, in my opinion, is that the power rings are, to a certain extent, self aware, and capable of autonomous action. Said action can range from something as simple as carrying on expository dialogue with the ring's wearer, which as a reader I find annoying and as a GM I find appalling in its potential for abuse, to automatically protecting a ring wearer from any and all harm, whether the ring wearer knows its coming or not, which as a reader I find completely obnoxious and as a GM I find simply unacceptable. So I simply stated categorically that in this particular roleplaying campaign, power rings could not talk, could not think, and could not be pre programmed to seek out a new wielder if, by some bizarre and obviously plot mandated series of circumstances, its current wearer managed to die. If the Guardians wanted their rings back, or put into other hands, then they'd have to do it themselves, dammit.
Had I ever actually run the campaign, I anticipated potential protests; after all, I myself cannot begin to count the number of times I've seen Hal Jordan have long expository chats with his goddam idiotic power ring. (I always find it excruciating when they show him doing this; he's talking to his jewelry. I mean, come on now.) As I like Hal Jordan very much as a character (in fact, along with Hank Pym, I'd have to rate him as one of my favorite comic book characters of all time), I didn't want to take the easy way out and simply say he was nuts (although, for long moments, it was tempting, and I could see where Alan Moore gets some of his weirder ideas) so instead, I simply fell back on my previous assertion, with a slight change: maybe Hal Jordan's power ring can talk, but YOURS can't, Skippy, so just shut up about it.
I have this boxed off in the GL pages of the notebook too... 'power rings have different abilities depending on past wielders???' So, as it would turn out, while Hal Jordan's ring has, over the past several millenia roaming the universe on the finger, claw, tentacle, or other manipulating appendage of its various wearers, somehow developed the ability to carry on conversations with its wearer, this is not something that all power rings possess, and it certainly isn't something that any player character Green Lantern's power ring will possess, because it annoys me, and beyond that, it's generally a bad idea for a player character to have a device whereby they can inquire directly of the GM for information regarding a scenario and get an answer. If the device's information is always reliable, then the scenarios become too easy and the players become lazy and bored, and if the device's information is not reliable... well... see Player Whining, well above.
There's a beauty in this idea that I can now, from this distant remove, after nearly two decades of experience gaming, begin to fully appreciate. If each ring has been somewhat conditioned and individualized over long usage - and there's no reason they shouldn't be, since they're pretty much indestructible and they respond to the will of their wielders, which you'd expect would be a quirky thing in and of itself - then each ring might well, in and of itself, have its own particular strengths and affinities already built in when a new Green Lantern is issued it. (Of course, this necessitates setting up another set of tables for generating the possible random capacities of your GL's power ring, but I already had a table for random super powers, so most of that work was done.) And this would also go a long way towards explaining how Hal Jordan does stuff that I'd just as soon define as impossible, or at least, very difficult, for a PC GL (Player Character Green Lantern, come on now, pay attention), because Hal has Abin Sur's ring, and Abin Sur, apparently, was also a legendary Green Lantern, so we can expect his ring to have had a lot of asskicking potential programmed into it already.
There's nothing in established Green Lantern continuity to indicate that this is true, but similarly, there's nothing to discredit it, either, and I think it's a cool idea.
Other rulings I made were equally arbitrary, and I tried equally to support them somewhat with GL continuity. Power rings would not automatically be able provide life support in space for indefinite periods in my campaign, and I supported this by pointing out that Abin Sur came to Earth originally in a space ship, which would seem to indicate that not all Green Lanterns could casually navigate the far reaches of the Galaxy in their long johns. This seems contradictory, since, as pointed out above, Hal Jordan has Abin Sur's ring, and he's the poster boy for marathon galactic flights while protected only by a green glowing aura... not to mention casually whipping up protective environments for his buddies, as well, without even thinking about it much. However, a bit of further thought and another explanation presents itself: for whatever reason, Abin Sur seems to have been an... er... overly cautious... Green Lantern (big scaredy cat), which can also be seen by the fact that he did indeed wander around in a space ship instead of just whipping around the Galaxy in his skivvies like many GLs do. It's not that he couldn't generate life support auras with his ring; he could, in fact, he may have been the first person to figure out how, because, you know, he's SO cautious. However, he doesn't trust the ring not to fail him at some disastrous juncture, so he travels around in a space ship as a back up. Looked at this way, it makes perfect sense that Hal Jordan's ring can not only support him in space, but casually whip up life support modules for 30 or 40 other people at random, too. And, again, just because Hal's ring can do it, doesn't mean YOUR ring can do it, buddy.
One aspect of Lantern lore that baffled me badly at the time was how the GLs manage to get around the universe as quickly as they do, and yet, never seem to manifest similar superspeed while actually fighting crime. The actual reason for this, in the comic books, is that superspeed, used intelligently, will wipe out virtually all opposition before it knows the hero is even in the same quadrant of the galaxy with it, and worse, in the DC Universe, superspeed is the Flash's schtick, anyway, and all other heroes are politely invited to keep their grubby little paws off. This means that Superman and GL can generally only use their superspeed for things like interstellar travel... but it doesn't help a GM who is trying to define the actual powers of an actual Green Lantern in a sensible and hopefully, playable, fashion.
My notebook indicates that I'd already decided that most interstellar travel in this particular campaign would be handled by what I called 'starpaths', which were basically lines of gravitic force between stars which, when properly engaged, would allow material objects to transcend the limitations of lightspeed. I have, in the GL section, an underlined question - 'GLs use starpaths too?' - and, giving it some thought now, I think I'll nod affirmatively at that.
There are no indications in the comic books, of course, that Green Lanterns actually do employ any such arcane method to cross vast distances, but all that means is that no GL has ever said anything like 'well, here we are in the gravitic pathway between Sol and Sirius, using our rings to transcend lightspeed as is only possible in these narrow, non-Euclidian corridors'. And in point of fact, there is quite a lot of contradictory stuff in the comics on this subject, much of which arises in Steve Englehart's always interesting run on the series, back in the mid 1980s, in which, in succeeding stories, he established that GLs normally commute to Oa in 'energy twin' form because of the vast distances, although the Guardians, because they're so spiffy, can actually transport physical objects across those vast distances instantaneously. This was an interesting dichotomy for Englehart to attempt to insert into the GL tapestry, but it is, unfortunately, one that is directly contradicted dozens if not hundreds of times in other stories, and one I have to ultimately (sadly) reject. However, those stories were still somewhat in the future when I was defining GL for my RPG, so they didn't matter then... and I point them out now to show that there is some confusion and contradiction on this issue, and therefore, I feel justified in coming up with my own explanation.
The long and short of it is, Green Lanterns don't really have 'superspeed', through their rings or otherwise. They make use of a natural phenomenon called 'starpaths' that allow them to fly between solar systems at translight speeds. Doubtless this is a technique that is taught to every fledgling Green Lantern so they can get to Oa, and around their sector of space, when they need to... and it occurs to me that with a little tweaking, this could explain why John Stewart spewed the 'energy twin' nonsense... because Katma Tui hadn't gotten around to training him in detection and navigation of starpaths (or thought he wouldn't be good at it) and so had taught him a less demanding method of interstellar transit, instead.
Another ability Hal has demonstrated that frankly wreaks utter havoc if not tightly defined and controlled in any RPG, and which GL never employed intelligently anyway, was the power ring's apparent capacity to teleport objects and people from one place to the next. We never had the vaguest indication of how Hal (or the Guardians, or other Green Lanterns on occasion) managed to do this - were they converting the teleported people/objects into energy and blasting them across space and time, were they opening warp holes, were they just, y'know, doing magic, or what... and it was only ever done as a lazy plot contrivance anyway, but still, it was done often enough that I didn't feel comfortable just saying 'no, that's a mistake, power rings can't do that'. What I did instead, according to my notes, was the following: 'ring teleportation/apportation - only on objects GL can see or knows exactly where they are to some place GL has been before, and only if GL has used his ring previously on those objects and has their energy signature. Not FTL' which means, basically, if a Green Lantern is going to teleport himself or someone else, or bring something else to him from a distant place without it traversing the intervening distance, he has to have used his ring to affect it in the past, or he can see it now and is sending it to a place he knows and has been. 'Not FTL' means the ring basically converts the teleported object or person into green ring energy and beams them somewhere and then reassembles them, and is limited by Einsteinian considerations, namely, speed of light.
Then I slapped a difficulty of [58 + (lbs/10) + miles/100] on it and forgot about it. A GL would have to have a pretty high WP to teleport himself, much less himself and someone else, at an average difficulty of around 75 for the first hundred miles or so.
One particular capacity of power rings that I simply had to rule a no-go was this utterly insane concept that power rings automatically protect their bearer from harm. I can't be sure, but I think that was an Englehartism, as well, and whether it was or not, it's a truly, spectacularly bad idea, in terms of a comic book character (since it removes nearly all capacity for putting your hero in mortal danger, and makes it unnecessary for him or her to think up clever ways to save their own lives from peril) and an intolerable one for any kind of reasonable GM, since while your players may think they want this kind of security blanket, the truth is, if they get it, they'll get bored fairly quickly.
There was no way I could do this consistently with the GL comics, since it's been established over and over again since at least the mid 80s that the Guardians have programmed this capacity into each and every power ring and that's IT, buddy. (And, mind you, I'm not saying that, realistically, it doesn't make sense for the Guardians to do that... given, in fact, that they deliberately went out and recruited a corps of interstellar cops who don't feel fear - other than the ever paranoid Abin Sur - it's an extremely intelligent thing for them to do. I'm just saying, from a thematic and dramatic standpoint, it's a lousy idea, and from a gaming viewpoint, it's intolerable. ) Once again... if your players feel complacent in their invincibility, they'll get bored, and that's a bad thing for any RPG. It's like playing DOOM in God mode; you get sick of it pretty quickly.
What I could do, however, would be to state that while Abin Sur certainly did try to program his ring to protect him from all danger automatically, no matter what (the big weenie), and so Hal Jordan has some of this protection (and John Stewart had it, while he was wearing Hal's ring), it has certain inherent problems, such as, the rings themselves have no real sentience and no real sensory apparatus other than that of their wielder, and are pretty much limited to whatever their bearer wills them to do at any given time. Thus, a ring really can't protect its wearer against anything the wearer is unaware of, no matter how much Abin Sur wants it to.
Furthermore, the Guardians doubtless thought Abin Sur's automatic protection feature was a nifty idea, so they copied it and programmed it into all power rings, but it still has the same basic limitations as I've listed above: the rings are limited by the will of their wearers, and can't really do anything unless their owners are aware of it. I suppose the rings could constantly monitor their wearer's metabolic function and immediately put up a forcefield if they detect that their wearer has been harmed... but they couldn't prevent the damage in the first place, if it happened fast enough. So, yeah... the rings do, more or less, automatically protect their wearers from harm, but the feature has a lot of flaws in it. I could live with that.
Beyond that, virtually any established GL capacity that a GM really doesn't want a player to have in a sensible, internally consistent RPG continuity can be dealt with this way: either it's something Hal Jordan can do and you can't, or it's something Hal Jordan's ring can do and yours can't. I would anticipate players bitching a little about this, but in general, a good GM can get around this by offering a trade off... a sort of 'okay, your ring can't support you in adverse environments for longer than an hour, but on the other hand, it has this cool built in capacity to control the behavior of felines' (God knows why).
Which also brings us to the point where I gave up in despair:
Some GLs, as best I can remember, do have actual natural 'super powers' that derive from their alien natures. A couple of GLs, I believe, have been established as having telepathic powers, and I seem to recollect one who could generate lightning bolts with its antennae, or some such. Naturally, this is exactly the sort of detail that the avid superhero comics fan and gamer will fixate on, wanting nothing more than to be able to pore over a vast spiral bound notebook full of potential alien races that can be run as Player Characters, to pick out the one that has the 'bitchinest' natural super powers. And I was aware of this then, as you may recall me previously mentioning that the final despairing question in the notebook was 'Vulcan Green Lantern?'
(Bear in mind, I was probably thinking of creating an NPC - Non Player Character, meaning, a character in the RPG who is run by the DM, not a player - who was a Vulcan Green Lantern, not worried about a player building one. A Vulcan Green Lantern would doubtless be extremely strong willed, not overly imaginative, amazingly anal about honesty and social responsibility, and have some native telepathic abilities, all of which would make him a truly annoying NPC to have show up every once in a while to investigate whatever the PCs were doing at the moment.)
I have no objection, in principle, to the idea of alien Green Lanterns. In fact, given that I won't let people run Hal Jordan, I have to accept them, I suppose. And the concept that some of these aliens (realistically, every one run as a PC, if I let them) will have 'alien powers' doesn't overly trouble me. It's not like I have to let someone run a Daxamite, or Lobo, with a power ring. (I have little doubt that, had I ever run the campaign back then, someone would have wanted to run a Daxamite with a power ring, but I would have ridiculed them relentlessly. However, a Klingon with a power ring, or a Wookie with a power ring, would have been kind of cool.)
At the time, the notion of coming up with a sort of 'monster manual' for aliens, including stat ranges, appearances, natural abilities, and weaknesses, for something like hundreds of races was frankly appalling. And it still is, but these days, I have enough experience to cheat. Instead of detailed write ups, I'd make very terse notes, like 'strong' or 'telepathic' or 'aquatic', and leave it go at that.
I also, being the kind of person I am, had a whole paragraph which reads as follows:
'Masks - all GLs, even alien GLs that do not really have faces, seem to wear masks, except Tomar Re. Why? Masks are visual representations of anonymity. GL's mask shouldn't keep anyone (esp C. Ferris) from seeing his secret ID, so masks probably actually blur facial features or otherwise make GLs unrecognizable. Guardians specify this as part of uniform to enforce isolation and professionalism on GLs. No personal relationships, no preference - GL is above such things. Tomar Re's native society does not recognize individual or they all look alike so no mask needed???'
A smaller notation is also interesting: 'Lantern Law???' This refers to the fact that although the GLs seem to be interstellar cops, we never get much hint of exactly what code of laws they enforce, and as far as I know, there is no reference anywhere in GL continuity to any sort of structured interstellar ordinances that all of them have agreed to follow. In fact, there are GL stories in which Hal Jordan gets in trouble for assuming that an alien GL and the society he lives in has the same values as Hal himself does, which seems to strongly imply that Green Lanterns, in fact, enforce the prevailing local laws in whatever sector of space they happen to be in, or, conversely (and even more unpalatably) they rigorously enforce their own provincial customs and laws throughout their sector, regardless of the how applicable the latest Supreme Court ruling may be to the lifestyle of a Quaarlian prawn-beetle.
To me, it seems self evident that Green Lanterns are space cops - they leave planetary law enforcement to planetary authorities (while making an exception for their own homeworlds, which you'd expect, and any other world in their sector where the planetary government has acknowledged a GL's authority) while enforcing a very basic set of universal laws out in space - piracy is bad, interstellar war is bad, genocide is bad, recruiting a GL's girlfriend to be the Queen of Zamora is bad, etc, etc. They also act as a sort of Interstellar Red Cross with power rings, pitching in to help when a sentient race is threatened by some sort of cosmic disaster. We've never seen (as far as I know) anything that clearly establishes this (I don't believe a GL has ever been put on trial by the Guardians, or flatly suspended, for violating the Prime Directive), but on the other hand, the Guardians did take Sinestro's ring away from him when he took over his native world and ran it as a cruel despot, so apparently, they do have some sort of Code of Professional Ethics ("wear your mask, don't schtupp the rookies who have a crush on you, don't take over planets, enslave their populations, and extort goodies from them, and no bald or short jokes, please"). It only makes sense to me that in addition to a Lantern Code, there would be somewhere a codified Interstellar Lantern Law that all the GLs would agree to universally enforce.
I think all that's self evident, and just goes to show you the kind of stupid detail I fret myself about.
Having come near the end of this thing, I'd like to say that if anything in this particular work has been construed by any reader as being in any way critical, derogatory, or derisive towards the concept of the Green Lantern Corps, or Silver Age Green Lantern Hal Jordan, it was unintentional and you're inferring it wrong. I love Hal Jordan and I love the Green Lantern Corps and those little blue bald bozos the Guardians, too, and I think the world in general, the world of superhero comics more specifically, and the DC Universe itself, became much poorer places when first the GLC, and then Hal Jordan, departed them all, apparently forever. (I'm aware that Hal Jordan is, supposedly, now the Spectre. I simply don't acknowledge it. In fact, I don't acknowledge any post Crisis GL continuity; it's just easier. Nobody did anything worth acknowledging with the character after Crisis, and many did much that makes me want to cry, scream, and choke them to death in that same period, so all told, I just prefer to close my personal books on Hal Jordan with him getting his ring and his title back in the middle of Crisis, and leave him there.)
I don't think I've really done much that could be construed as criticism of the Silver Age GL concept anyway... at most, I've tweaked a few things, maybe suggested a few ideas that straighten out some of the more excessively enthusiastic story details... and even where I've done that, I hope it's clear I've done it with love and admiration. Hal Jordan was and is a truly remarkable creative entity, and the Green Lantern Corps itself was a brilliant, seminal, astonishing concept that worked so well and took fire in the collective imagination of fandom so furiously that it shone like a supernova in the backdrop of the DC Universe for over 30 years, surviving generations of mediocre writers and editors, and inspiring generations of fans and aspiring pros. Oh, sure, I don't deny that it was clearly inspired by E.E. 'Doc' Smith's 'Lensman' series, but it was still an astonishingly original, and still largely unimitated, creative concept for superhero comics. Green Lantern was one of those characters, and the GLC was one of those concepts that, despite the fact that no one could really remember a time when it had been well written since the original writer and artist had left, years and years before, and no one ever seemed to really get a handle on it, or find a good direction for it, or do anything really memorable with it, still, it was a staple of Fan Favorite Characters and Fan Favorite Concepts lists for over three decades.
Eventually, tragically, Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps were brought low by lousy writers, vision free editors, a new generation of subliterate, overstimulated, inarticulate, near insensate comics fans, and a corporate sensibility that reduced all heroism, nobility, excellence, and tradition to a mathematical formula comprised of target audiences, market shares, circulation figures, and dollar signs. And, since Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps no longer exist, nothing I've written in this article can really have any application to the modern travesty that DC currently publishes under the title 'Green Lantern'. Which makes this article obsolete and pointless from the POV of a comic book fan, I suppose.
From a gaming standpoint, let me say that, even under all these annoying rules, restrictions, and goddam arrogant GM rewritings of DC continuity that close off some of the more utterly outrageous capabilities of a GL, a power ring is still a damn handy thing to have. It lets you fly, provides you with life support, gives you the capacity to manipulate objects at a distance, create solid objects out of nothing and control them remotely, and if all else fails, fire off a darned good energy blast, too. With a little creativity virtually every superpower listed in the Champions system can be somehow duplicated with a power ring, even if only at low levels or temporarily. My limitations may keep a Green Lantern from effectively being a god, but they won't keep him from being effective.
Heck, I'd love to run a Green Lantern, even... or especially... under these rules. Anyone got a campaign I can play in...?
* * * * * * * * * * *
John Jones, the Manhunter from Marathon, IL, is a pseudonym, which you'd think nearly anyone could have figured out without being told, or spending weeks tracking down obscure postings on various websites in order to piece it all together as some sort of brilliant deduction. Whatever the case, and whoever I actually am, I do want to make clear here that when I was talking about generations of mediocre writers and clueless editors who followed John Broome and Gil Kane on GREEN LANTERN, I was not talking about Steve Engelhart, who, other than Broome, was probably the only solidly good regular writer ever assigned to Hal Jordan in the three decades he had his own comic. Nor am I referring to Englehart when I speak of writers and editors who killed Hal and the Green Lantern Corps; that distinction in my mind belongs to Andy Helfner and Ron Marz. Despite my minor quibbles with some of his continuity revisions, I think Steve E.'s first eight or so issues of GREEN LANTERN are the best the series has ever been. I do, however, deeply protest the post Crisis metamorphosis of the book into GREEN LANTERN CORPS, and I especially revile the character of Ch'p. Still, those first eight issues... the last eight issues of the actual, Silver Age GREEN LANTERN title, in my opinion... are superb, and if you haven't read them, you really should.