If you’re interested in stories that I first read, when I was introduced to these characters, there are a few trades of this period. They start with Under Siege (I’d recommend the Kindle edition, honestly), the story in which Hercules is beaten into a coma. That leads into Assault on Olympus, and then into Heavy Metal. The rest of the Dr. Druid story hasn’t been reprinted, which I think is a loss to our cultural history.
There are some really great Avengers stories that have been written since 1990, too. Sadly, none of them include Dr. Druid, which seems, to me, like a huge oversight. I’d recommend Kurt Busiek’s Avengers Forever, which is both a totally out-of-continuity story, and a love-letter to all of Avengers history. Busiek’s main-title Avengers stories are also some of the best. If you’re looking for others, there are a lot of options, but I’d start there. When I go back to re-read Avengers stories, I always start with Busiek (my Dr. Druid issues didn’t survive my many moves, sadly).
The “14-level build out” format took a long time and wasn’t, as far as I could tell, a big hit. As much fun as building a Dr. Druid PC was, I think that having opponents is more useful. The way that monsters are built in 5e is completely different from the way player characters are built. They use two different sets of rules, but with the same names.
I’m going to try something a little different, this week. The Avengers I’m building, Wasp and Black Knight, both require a little bit of house-ruling to make work, so they’re perfect for this experiment. The end result should be somewhere between a PC and an NPC, so if someone wanted to use them as a foe, they could, but if someone wanted to use them as a base for a PC (or argue about why they should be built differently, which is have the fun of building characters like this), that will work, too.
Although she started her career as a socialite, thrill-seeker, and sidekick and romantic foil for Ant-Man, she eventually became the Avengers’ leader and moral center. Wasp can shrink, fly, talk to insects, and shoot electrical blasts from her hands. While her skills are often used for infiltration and information-gathering, she is a fierce combatant, often taking down enemies many times her size.
Hacking the Wasp
The Wasp was an interesting character to hack. Using the tunder and the fey-touched feat, I was able to get her size down to tiny, and get her a fly speed. This was key, I think. I thought about Warlock for her, but Sorcerer gives her the most utility. She can use reduce to become even smaller, and continually shoot blasts. Her damage-per-round is low, but it’s consistent and effective. Her real utility, though, is out of combat. She’s a great face and an even better spy. Wasp was also an experiment in (N)PC building: she’s built using NPC rules, but with all of the features that she’d have as a PC. 5e doesn’t usually do that: NPCs and monsters seem to be limited to three or four abilities outside of their attacks, to give the GM less to keep track of. I think that’s a great design choice, but I wanted Wasp to look exactly as she would had she been built as a PC. She’s something in the middle: easy to drop in to a game as an enemy, but also easy to reverse-engineer as a PC.
Now, if the tunder/fey-touched doesn’t work for your game, it takes a little more doing. A forest gnome will give her speak with animals, which I think is important for talking to ants and wasps. She can reduce her size to tiny, which isn’t as fun as “smaller than tiny” (there’s no diminutive in 5e, yet), but is a start. I’d try to get boots of flying as soon as possible, and spam the fly spell on the side. I think that a natural ability to fly is more interesting, but I think that works as a PBH-only backup.
Writing her up in this format was a little more time-intensive than creating a normal monster, but much faster than creating a full NPC. I’m going to keep refining the process, and see if I can’t improve it more, for the next round.
I’m thinking more, now, about writing up Avengers villains as NPCs (I might start next month, with a couple of Avengers that have also been villains). What do you think? Would that be useful? Interesting?