Watchmen Companion by Daniel Greenberg and Ray Winninger

details
Title: Watchmen Companion.
Writer(s): Daniel Greenberg, Ray Winninger & Frank Plowright.
Artist(S): DAve Gibbons.
Publisher: DC Comics.
Format: Hardcover.
Release Date: December 24th, 2019.
Pages: 200.
Genre(s): Comics, Science-Fiction.
ISBN13: 9781779502391.
My Overall Rating: ★★☆☆☆.

To read first:
Watchmen by Alan Moore.

thoughts

If there’s one comic book writer who genuinely revolutionized the comic book industry for the better, it’s the legendary writer Alan Moore. From Batman: The Killing Joke to V for Vendetta, he has accomplished the impossible through captivating story-telling brimming with contemporary ideas that continue to challenge us as individuals. However, his relationship with DC Comics deteriorated due to creator’s rights and unaccredited royalties led to his disassociation from one of the largest comic book publishers.

During the process of creating his most quintessential story, Watchmen, he also worked with role-playing game creators Daniel Greenberg and Ray Winninger and developed the only Alan Moore-sanctioned prequel in the form of game modules. Expanding the mythology and universe of the Watchmen beyond the graphic novel, this was the only way for fans to learn more about the characters of the past and their repercussions on society that led the world to take a stance on superhero vigilantism.

What is Watchmen Companion about? This prequel companion consists of two game modules, Watchmen: Watching the Watchmen and Watchmen: Taking Out the Trash, as well as the heavily-extensive Watchmen Sourcebook. This volume also includes an insightful introduction by Ray Winninger, issue #17 of The Question which features the Watchmen graphic novel within the story, a Who’s Who collection of pages for the Watchmen characters, as well as additional art by illustrator Dave Gibbons.

The first biggest mistake made here is calling this Watchmen Companion. It might indeed be the only Watchmen-related content that actually has Alan Moore’s blessing and contribution but it isn’t exactly a direct companion to the original graphic novel. In fact, the writers of the game modules and sourcebook were in direct contact with Alan Moore before he even reached the halfway mark issue in his twelve-issue classic. Their brainstorming allowed for some original and fascinating details to characters like Captain Metropolis that never made it into the original story. The benefits coming from this latest release is thus found in the possibility for hardcore fans and rare role-playing gamers to get their hands on the Watchmen modules and sourcebook that have been out-of-print for a very long time.

The second biggest mistake was the absence of crucial components to actually be able to play these modules. Any innocent fan picking this up will, unfortunately, have to already possess a rulebook, a pair of dice, an Action Table, an Action Wheel, cards, and any other elements to actually be able to make any use of the highly-praised modules. If anything, this makes it clear that this companion is only for those who aren’t beginners in the world of role-playing games. Based on my research, the best option is to hunt down a Mayfair Games DC Heroes boxed set or a similar set with similar components to be able to play this.

Besides these shortcomings, this deluxe edition companion volume does offer some truly fascinating descriptions of characters and events that help better grasp the universe in which is set the original Watchmen story. While the Question issue #17 isn’t anything extraordinary and a simple and exclusive nod to the graphic novel that used to be published by Vertigo Comics (which means that it used to be outside the DC Universe), the additional artwork by illustrator Dave Gibbons offers some truly exciting and insightful never-before-seen material that allows readers to revisit these characters under a different light (you’d be surprised by what Rorschach was supposed to look like under his long jacket, for example).

Watchmen Companion is a reprint of two Alan Moore-sanctioned prequel role-playing game modules and a sourcebook that might not be as accessible to every fan out there as you’d hope for it to be.


EXHIBITA
Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for sending me a copy for review!

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14 comments

  • Huh. I’d never heard of the DC roleplaying game or these modules. I do find it interesting when companies or creators try to present their material in multiple formats, though I’ve rarely taken advantage of them (the only case I can think of was playing a Lord of the Rings role playing game for a couple sessions in college before going back to our typical D&D sessions). But it’s too bad this isn’t enough to actually make use of the modules. That might be fine if it were advertised as such. Or was this never intended to be playable but instead as a piece of DC and Watchmen history?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I never looked into the role-playing games with actual cards, figurines, maps, modules, and whatnot. I always thought that it wouldn’t be something for me and that I’d always largely prefer classic board games (e.g. chess) and video games over them. It’s only much later (this past couple of years) that I understood that there’s a lot of fun to get out of them, with the right people, and with the right game. Apparently, the DC RPG stuff was quite popular and these Watchmen modules were a nice hit (not as huge of a hit as the graphic novel itself though). I feel like it’s just a collectible at this point and that only hardcore fans/players can really make use of it hahah

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  • Well, RPG Companions essentially are what you describe here, it’s a kind of sourcebook that goes into the details of the world, designed for people already familiar with the game system. It’s also a marketing strategy, average system is not playable unless you have a couple of books 😉

    It could be interesting to actually play a superhero RPG, I never have…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yep, this turned out to be more of a collectible item than anything else. Hardcore fans who are already accustomed to RPG games will be able to make better use of it while others will only be able to enjoy the details of the world and characters without following a typical story-telling structure hahaha

      Liked by 1 person

  • That’s definitely very disappointing. I don’t understand why they would release this without the proper materials to support it. Does it at least come with a warning on the book itself? I mean otherwise I think that it’s definitely not done in a proper way. I own several games myself, and expansions pretty much always come with a warning not playable without this or that. It’s too bad though, as the book looks pretty decent. Glad you at least got some worth out of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I imagine they don’t have the rights or material to offer all the other standard components needed to play it; since the whole RPG set used to be a Mayfair Games propriety. It’s why this turned out to be more like something you’d get like a DLC to a video game, something new to try with all the equipment you own for other modules. And yep, at least anyone can still appreciate what it has to offer in terms of detailing the world and characters. 😀 Thanks for reading, Michel!

      Liked by 1 person

  • You introduced me to a totally new concept for me here Lashaan! I had no idea the DC role-playing games existed but now I am all:” Duh! Of course they do!”. That being said I am sorry it was such a disappointment for you!

    Liked by 1 person

  • Wit…what’s a..gaming module, though??!! I am confused! 😦

    But I REALLYYY like this title – Watchmen: Taking Out the Trash xD xD xD AND THAT QUOTE THOUGH! LOved it, Lashaan. BUT..I am STILL confused – is it…like….a comic book?

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s confusing, right? That’s pretty much what people will have to expect when picking this up. Modules is like… the “story” that you use for the RPG game. It tells you all the characters, all the stories, all the universe stuff, telling you how everything evolves. 😉 It’s not much of a comic book actually. But it’s a “companion” to the Watchmen graphic novel in terms of building on that story’s world and characters. 🙂

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