Ask the Defenders: Game On!
Years ago, my pal Calamity Jon Morris came up with an occasional series called Ask the Defenders, the conceit being that Marvel’s infamous superhero ‘non-team’ of the 1970s was actually an aggregation of dysfunctional, if highly entertaining, personalities who featured into a sort of workplace sitcom. Jon and I encouraged our readers to send in questions about daily life in a highly atypical super-team environment, which the Defenders would answer. Recently, Zak Smith, brilliant artist and creator of Playing D&D with Porn Stars, penned a terrific piece about what the X-Men’s RPG habits might be like; this inspired me to
completely rip him off pay homage to his idea with the following ASK THE DEFENDERS: GAMING EDITION.
Beast: “One thing that we just can’t seem to get past is Namor. He’s around a lot in the winter and feels cooped up, so he tries to get in on our games, but he just does not understand the concept of role-playing. We’ve explained it a hundred times but he always ends up creating a ‘character’ who’s the super-strong, flying, half-breed emperor of an undersea kingdom. Then he asks how many points he needs to win.”
Wasp: “A while back, we got really sick of the regular campaign Beast was running, because Stephen was the party’s leader…”
Hellcat: “He played a sorcerer. Real original, guy.”
Wasp: “…and he always mansplained the rules to Clea, even though they’ve had tabletop RPGs in the Dark Dimension since the 1600s. So we started our own Lady Liberators group.”
Andromeda: “That went pretty well for a while, but Valkyrie always wanted to play a male character, and he would always aggressively hit on Jan’s characters.”
Wasp: “She’d get all innocent, like, ‘What, am I not playing it right? He’s a man! You know how they are!’ And then she’d do that nervous laugh and ask what ‘I’ was wearing.”
Hellcat: “Plus, Moondragon would never play a character with an INT of less than 19, and she’d do deliberately crazy shit to get the rest of us in trouble. We rescue a princess, and five minutes later, Heather throws her in a pit.”
Moondragon: “I know that princess was going to betray us. I have a 20 Intelligence!”
Wasp: “Anyway, we tried to get another Lady Liberators thing going, since Andromeda is really into FIASCO, but she lives with Red Guardian, who chain-smokes Kools and eats nothing but White Castles and saltines with hot sauce and sardines on them, so nobody really wants to go to their apartment.”
Nighthawk: Professor X never wanted to run a game with us. He’d do it with the X-Men because most of them look up to him, but we kinda razzed him, so he always told us the only real game for an intellectual is chess.
Iceman: The thing is, though, he was so bad at it! Like, real bad.
Gargoyle: I personally saw Ghost Rider beat him at chess. On three occasions.
Iceman: And Ghost Rider makes race-car noises when he plays…
Nighthawk: …and he calls every move ‘castling’. One time he threw a bishop from the roof into the bodega across the street and yelled ‘CASTLED LIKE A MOTHER FUCKER!’. It was amazing.
Iceman: And he still won that game! Professor X pretended to have the flu for like two weeks after that.
Dollar Bill: Forget about this role player jive, you guys! Computer games is where it’s at! Have any of you ever played SIMON?
Hulk: HULK NOT UNDERSTAND. HULK FRIEND PETER NOT SMALL. PETER TALK ABOUT HAMMER, PETER NOT HAVE HAMMER!
Spider-Man: No, look, big guy…I’m not really a dwarven priest. I’m pretending to be one! For the game, remember?
Angel: I don’t know why you keep letting him play. He’s never gonna get it.
Black Knight: Listen, boys, pay attention. I need to know what you’re going to do about the hydra.
Hulk: WHERE IS HYDRA? HULK WILL SMASH HYDRA.
Black Knight: You can’t smash anything. You’re still under the sleep spell, remember?
Hulk: HULK NOT ASLEEP! HULK STILL AWAKE!
Spider-Man: Right, but you have to pretend you’re asleep. Like we talked about. It’s like…if you’re in a play, get it?
Angel: When is he going to have seen a play?
Spider-Man: Shut up, Warren.
Moon Knight: Let’s see…Silver Surfer will only ever play an obnoxious, stuck-up, rulesy paladin, and if he ever gets hurt, he talks about how much better gaming is on Zenn-La. Devil-Slayer only joins in if we’re playing Pathfinder, because it has Inquisitor as a base class. Hawkeye won’t join in our ‘faggy nerd shit’, so his gaming is limited to spending $200 playing air hockey at the annual excursion to Dave & Busters he makes us do for his birthday. The Interloper always wants to play, but he does that thing where he laboriously describes every action, including opening his backpack, at the top of his lungs, in character.
Wonder Man: Yeah. He means well, but Christ. And Scarlet Witch tries to get into it, but you can never trust her die rolls.
Moon Knight: Manslaughter is strictly an assassin, all day, every day. One time we did a Krynn campaign and he played a Kapak.
Wonder Man: With a little triangle patch over its draconian eye, and a little purple bow tie around its draconian neck. You know who’s surprisingly down to clown, though?
Moon Knight: Daimon Hellstrom.
Wonder Man: No fucking lie. That dude will run anything. He rolled up a female gnome cleric with the lowest INT and CON possible and played the shit out of her, got her up to like 9th level. I like to have him around just to do NPCs.
Moon Knight: It’s probably because he has a performing arts background.
Gargoyle: It’s because his father invented your accursed game, idiots!
Ms. Marvel: One year, after the Christmas party, a bunch of the Defenders for a Day got together and decided they were going to form their own gaming group and really show us how it was done. It was a total disaster.
Clea: They made Stingray the DM, and he would only run World of Synnabarr…
Ms. Marvel: …which turned out to be a bit of a blessing, since both Prowler and Jack of Hearts wanted to run F.A.T.A.L.
Clea: Tagak the Leopard Lord insisted on rolling up a different character for each of his leopards, so the party had 28 members.
Ms. Marvel: Hercules would only play himself, and Black Goliath wasn’t really into it so the rest of the group made a character for him called “Black Hercules”. Still, it was better than the fantasy football league the Guardians of the Galaxy tried to do.