Help me make "Supers" make sense.

edited March 2012 in Story Games
So this weekend we will be playing Microscope to build our "Supers" world for a MHRP game we will be playing.

It seemed like a good idea.
Here is my problem.

Super heroes do not make sense to me, never have. I am a nerd and enjoy those types of stories, but I have never got how that world would work. Yes I know I should suspend my disbelief for the sake of fun and story, but there is just way too much belief being suspended. Why isn't everyone a super? How do buildings get rebuilt so fast? I mean in most super hero stories I have read, the heroes would be the greatest terrorist threat the world has ever seen, if they existed in our world.

Since we are making our own world, help me with some conceptual ideas on how to make one that works.
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Comments

  • There's a whole subsection of supers which rewrites the conceits of superhero comics so that they can pretend to realism. Since you're working with Microscope, I think your questions are more directed at your fellow players than us, then. It would be really bad for us to give you some great tips and pointers that they reject.
  • edited March 2012
    Pointers and Tips would help for me.

    I stopped reading comics 15 years ago, as I got old enough to actually think about what was going on. I do not even know where to start, but I want a challenge.
  • edited March 2012
    I don't want to repeat what JD said or be unhelpful, but wouldn't Microscope play be about finding out with your players how they make sense? If you're just looking for some possible ideas:

    - the next stage of human evolution: superpowers come about as helpful and unhelpful mutations in human DNA
    - super-advanced technology: individuals who have access to more advanced levels of technology use it commit evil acts or stop it
    - alien intervention: whether directly or indirectly, contact with aliens has caused humans to develop powers (and either the aforementioned mutations or advanced technology) which causes superhero-like beings to arise
  • edited March 2012
    Unfortunately, your priorities are kind of fundamentally at odds with the entire superhero genre, which is fundamentally unrealistic and mythic. The big thing about superhero settings is that you can have two but not three of superheroes, internal consistency, and a world that looks anything like ours.

    The traditional Marvel/DC style universe has 1 and 3, at the cost of just handwaving away or deliberately ignoring any of the logical effects of decades of superhero activity (Mr. Fantastic has had a flying car since 1963, but that technology never made it out to the public at large, the public doesn't believe in alien life even though Galactus and the Skrulls have invaded publicly, multiple times, and so on). The other direction, as seen most famously in Watchmen (and the Godlike supplement for Wild Talents), is to actually let these things have consequences on the world, and basically turn things into an alternate history.

    It sounds like you might be happiest going the alt-history route. There is kind of a way to cheat this; if your PCs are basically the first superhumans that exist, you can get a grace period where the world has not yet been wrung out of recognizable shape by superhuman activity (and some superhero comics go this way; even Marvel and DC started out that way, really), but eventually you're either going to have to be comfortable with the world making big changes, or just handwaving things. Since you're using Microscope for setup, you're going to hit this point even faster, since there's nothing stopping you from jumping up and down the timeline.

    If for some reason your group can't go alt-history, but you still want at least some fig leaf for why society hasn't been totally distorted, there's always the McGuffin route; some piece of handwavium physically or socially prevents superpowers from acting globally. White Wolf's Mage presupposed that public disbelief prevents magic from working or makes it backlash horribly (so supers/sorcerers duel in the shadows conspiratorially, and the nature of their own powers is such that public evidence can never exist and destroys anyone who acts on a vast scale), and DC Comics' explanation for why Superman didn't kill Hitler is that the Nazis had a magical artifact that instantly brainwashed anyone with superpowers who entered Axis-held territory.

    Actually, if you can get a hold of it, the Wild Talents rulebook (not the Essential Edition, the hardcover version) has a really great chapter by Ken Hite on superhero worldbuilding. However, it does not solve the fundamental "realism" problem of the genre, merely examines it and provides options for how to approach it.
  • You might also want to see the movie Chronicle, which just came out and might still be in theaters in your area. It was a remarkably believable exploration of superpowered individuals and how those powers exaggerate latent personality traits. The powers also scale up dramatically to the climax, so you can get a sense of the impact on the rest of the world. You often see the point-of-view of random bystanders, law enforcement and news footage, too.
  • Yeah, I want 1 and 2.
    I definitely do not want anything that looks like our world.
  • Why isn't everyone a super? Who says they can't be? There's a really great series called Top Ten that's about a city where everyone is a super. Even the bums living under bridges.
  • Posted By: thadrineSuper heroes do not make sense to me, never have.
    You are not alone, my friend.
  • edited March 2012
    I've never really groked the way superheroes develop in the DC Universe (aside from aliens and Batman), but Marvel usually tends toward the following: genetic mutation that only affects a small percentage of the population, with many of them being strange freaks of nature (e.g. Caliban, Worm, etc.); accidental, 1-in-a-billion-chance reactions to some strange chemical, mix of chemicals, or special radiation (Spidey, the Hulk, the Fantastic Four); intentional experimentation that has finally succeeded after who-knows-how-many failures (Captain America); cybernetic enhancements or robotic constructions that are decades ahead of their time, and not easily replicated (Iron Man, Constrictor); Gods; Aliens; or highly dedicated individuals who have trained themselves to be able to go toe-to-toe with superhumans (Punisher).

    ...yeah, I probably missed a few. But generally they'll fall in these categories, and that helps keep the superhero population relatively in check. Normal people can't just go get themselves doused in any old radiation and expect to get superpowers.

    And, when you think about it, superpowered individuals are the greatest terrorist threat in the Marvel universe, whether alien invasions, mutant incursions, Dr. Doom coming along and trying to conquer New York, Galactus trying to eat the planet, etc. The super heroes are the equivalent, then, of the soldiers and intel agents trying to fight the terrorists and extremists of the real world.

    Of course, trying to figure out the physics of it all is not worth the battle. It ain't gonna work.

    As for rebuilding buildings that get destroyed, comic after comic, a lot of comics really don't have explanations for that. Instead, I would reference the old supers RPG Underground. There, supers were all super-soldiers who now try to make it on their own, for better or for worse. Buildings would get destroyed so often, they actually would build them from giant, LEGO-like, prefabricated bricks. Knock down a building, and you can rebuild it fairly quickly. It also had a lot of cool stuff about side effects, as well as donating human bodies as food (okay, maybe not so much cool as weird).
  • edited March 2012
    Posted By: thadrineYeah, I want 1 and 2.
    I definitely do not want anything that looks like our world.
    Awesome. I don't actually think that's going to be hard, then! Assuming that the rest of the group is also totally on board with just following the consequences wherever they may lead (it's probably a really good idea to explicitly get that out in the open-- a lot of people specifically DON'T want that in their superheroes), just playing Microscope should get you where you want. The Palette step of Microscope is a really powerful tool for getting everyone on the same page before the game begins, and the suspension of disbelief clash only comes about when you disbelieve in certain genre conventions but don't actually get rid of them.

    If you want some specific pointers for directions a no-holds-barred superverse might go, definitely try and check out that chapter from the Wild Talents main book, and the Progenitor setting for the same game (I meant Progenitor and not Godlike in my last post, oops).

    I also got beaten to the punch on mentioning Underground, but honestly I don't think it's actually what you're looking for-- it's a dark-humored parody of superheroes and militarism, and not actually realistic. Top Ten is also fundamentally a parody-- it gets most of its mileage from putting totally unrealistic superheroes with into mundane police procedural storylines.

    On the other hand, the comic Planetary also plays around with the question of "why hasn't this world choked full of weirdness developed into something strange?" and comes up with the answer of "because the Fantastic Four are artificially stagnating technology for their own benefit and vanity, and have been secretly killing off or co-opting any threats to their secret rule".
  • edited March 2012
    Posted By: Joe McGuffin
    On the other hand, the comic Planetary also plays around with the question of "why hasn't this world choked full of weirdness developed into something strange?" and comes up with the answer of "because the Fantastic Four are artificially stagnating technology for their own benefit and vanity, and have been secretly killing off or co-opting any threats to their secret rule".
    Planetary is the reason why I felt that this could actually work for me. I wish Ellis would write more of it.
  • Posted By: thadrineHow do buildings get rebuilt so fast?
    Do they? What's the time frame between issues or story arcs? It's mostly not stated. Also, unless it's somehow key to the story or theme, having the heroes walk/fly past a the ruins of a previous supers fight is just a distraction from the story at hand. You can safely assume that the heroes either took a different street, or they passed that wreckage in a panel that wasn't shown.

    While these things might matter in the exploration of a Microscope game, MHR is, as has been said, not a superhero game, but a comic book game. The comics don't worry about it, so neither should you for your MHR game. (You know, unless you want to.)
  • edited March 2012
    Posted By: thadrinePlanetary is the reason why I felt that this could actually work for me.
    I think you're on the right track then! I wish you and your group luck.

    Oh, and again, don't forget to use the specific tools Microscope has to explore questions! Like, if you really want to know "Why hasn't black market Iron Man technology revolutionized armed warfare", you have the ability to force that to be answered, either as a Focus, the question of a Scene, or by just clever naming of Events and Legacies. If internal consistency is your desire, then you definitely need to make sure these things get nailed down while Microscoping out your campaign's backstory instead of just leaving it implied.
  • Posted By: LudantoDo they? What's the time frame between issues or story arcs? It's mostly not stated.
    I would add that there was a time frame in which Metropolis had futuristic building technology that gave every building in the city evac slides/routes for people to run and would automatically rebuild. And that was awesome.
  • edited March 2012
    Assume gods exist, magic is real, and the ways of both are subtle.

    The rest kinda follows from there.
  • I loved the Wild Cards shared-world series that first came out in late 80s or early 90s; it supposed an alien virus (the "Wild Card") that killed 90% of those who contracted it ("drawing the Black Queen"), horribly mutated 9% ("drawing a Joker"), and to the remaining 1% gave some kind of superpower ("drawing an Ace"). It then proceeded to imagine the rest of the 20th century as if jokers and aces were real. It was pretty neat; I'm not sure how much is still in print, though I know there was a recent revival of the series with the timeline moved up to the present.
  • edited March 2012
    Posted By: thadrineI stopped reading comics 15 years ago, as I got old enough to actually think about what was going on. I do not even know where to start, but I want a challenge.
    I don't have the same suspension of disbelief issue because I approach some books at a mythological vector, but I appreciate and even share some of your critique of the bulk of the mainstream supers genre.

    Others are offering helpful ideas for your particular case.

    I just want to pop in with the reminder that comics >< supers, and while there is great stuff in every decade, by completely stopping reading comics 15 years ago you are missing a new golden age that started 10-12 years ago. I think you could find some books that you'd enjoy, books both realistic and not, inside and outside the supers genre that do nothing if not make you think.

    In the comics medium, much as with Microscope, there are worlds awaiting your discovery.
  • I've been reading Grant Morrison's Supergods which indirectly touches on a lot of this stuff. A few insights indirectly from Mr. Morrison:

    Superheroes are to some degree heir to the storytelling niche of legends and folktales. The idea of continuity caters to a small vocal audience, but they may not be the best way to just tell a supers story.

    This may seem obvious, but even within superhero comics the genres are limitless. It sounds like you're interested in the 90's/00's style reaction to Watchmen and The Dark Knight where heroes are cast into a realistic world. I'm thinking Stormwatch, The Authority, Ultimates, etc. I'm not sure those stories are really a great fit for supers, but that's my personal opinion. I would tend to go more towards the mythic end of the spectrum and just avoid questions about how this all works and detailed history.

    Now speaking for myself: the idea of 'realism' is like a virus in comics. At best it leads to a stronger bread (see Watchmen, Dark Knight) but 95% of the time it just kills.

    That said, here are a few tried and true comics solutions:

    The superhero cleanup/repair team, as seen in Irredeemable Ant Man. Sure those buildings get knocked down all the time but there are other superheros waiting to rebuild.

    Government sanctioned heroes, as in Stormwatch and The Ultimates. Superheroes are seen as a threat, but there are some working for the status quo too.

    Superheroes as government, as in The Authority. Superheroes may be hated by the reactionary world governments but what can they do about it, anyway?

    The supercity, for example post-Braniac Metropolis or Top 10. Superheroes for one reason or another end up in one area which is more or less resilient to their powers.

    One-source powers, a la New Universal. There is only one (or maybe two) sources of power in the world, usually unpredictable and limited. In New Universal it was literally a flash of light with unknown origins. Now some people have powers (and a few others have powerful technology that can stand up to them).



    Those are all solutions if you want 'realism' but I'm not sure that's the game Marvel is really meant to play. In a lot of ways you're not playing Superheroes anymore, you're playing the reactionary deconstruction of superheroes. But hey, your mileage may vary.

    My personal approach (since you asked for that, right? ;) ) would be to read some un-apollogetically superhero comics and, if I like them, play Marvel. If I don't, maybe the game I actually want to play is something else. Suggestions: All Star Superman, Invincible, Ultimate Spiderman, Wolverine and the X-Men, New X-Men, Daredevil (the current Mark Waid one), Astonishing X-Men (Whedon). Out of all of those only Invincible spends much thought on the superhero aspect and even then it pretty much goes with "there are enough superpowered people of all stripes that it evens out" approach.
  • Start small.
    Build relationships.
    Don't build a world. That's my advice.
    That and steal from Alan Moore.
  • I'm not going to give you my answers, because that's what you and your players figure out. But I'll give you answers from the genre.

    Why isn't everyone a super? Because it takes extraordinary circumstances to be super. Like being the survivor from another planet. Or so bent on revenge that you dedicate your entire life to self-improvement (and, I suspect, were also fortunate enough to have great genes that make it possible). You got a super-serum and the formula was destroyed and can't be recreated. You got hit with the right amount of radiation/chemicals/experimental spiders/cosmic rays that either can't be duplicated, or have so many variables that it's almost impossible to duplicate.

    How do buildings get rebuilt so fast? Because the writers ignore the damage. Because buildings don't get damaged that often - big battles are often damage free. Maybe a smashed window or light pole, but the buildings don't take significant structural damage that would take a long time to fix, they're usually about as damaging as your average riot. Because there are super beings who work in construction. They don't have powers useful in fighting threats or heroism, but they can fix the Chrysler building in 24 minutes flat. Because the heroes themselves lend a hand after almost every fight. Or, they don't: Stories don't take place in the same part of the city. It took months to rebuild that neighborhood, and we just didn't tell any stories there. People put up with it because the costs out weight the damages (imagine how bad the city would be if Superman ignored the 300 foot tall robot of desctruction). Or people don't put up with it, and you're right, heroes spend a lot of time fighting the establishment and angering the general populace and forces of the status quo. Or further, the heroes are seen as outright threats and actively hunted. Laws are passed to register them, chemicals and machines are created to try and remove their powers permanently, and most people wish they'd just go away for good. Maybe they are terrorists by any government definition, because they are working against the governments and trying to make the world a better place for the common person (i.e. They are the 0.000000001% and they've made it their goal to make it a paradise for the 99% - or at least, what they think is a paradise).

    Wild Talents is a great supers RPG, even if you use MSHRP, there's a big section on figuring out how your world might work. It covers variables like:
    History: Do histories shape history and society, or do they cancel each other out and end up being invisible?
    Society & Roles: Do superbeings fall into hero and villain roles, or do they take up other jobs, maybe even becoming celebrities and creating entertainment genres?
    Weirdness: Are superpowers the only weird thing, or is there other stuff, and how weird does it get?

    That section is written by Ken Hite and it's well worth the cover price. I'm not familiar with microscope, but this could give you a framework to start with, or give you and your players a whole host of potential answers so that you can forge your own path.
  • Posted By: thadrinePlanetary is the reason why I felt that this could actually work for me. I wish Ellis would write more of it.
    Posted By: sageGovernment sanctioned heroes, as in Stormwatch and The Ultimates. Superheroes are seen as a threat, but there are some working for the status quo too.

    Superheroes as government, as in The Authority. Superheroes may be hated by the reactionary world governments but what can they do about it, anyway?
    Yeah, if you haven't already, definitely check out Ellis' other superhero stuff, especially his run on Stormwatch and The Authority, which takes the ridiculous power possessed by superheroes actually demonstrates its profound effect on the world.
  • A word of caution: I don't think Planetary is really superheroes. The Authority, Stormwatch, and The Ultimates are part-superhero at least, but still not what I get the impression Marvel is really designed to do.

    I've tried to play Planetary before with a superhero ruleset (Mutants and Masterminds, actually) and it was a horrible disappointment. So much of what makes that series tick is the big ideas revealed a bit at a time, there are some issues where there is not real conflict or action. Planetary is totally a Microscope game though, that's a great fit. I'm just not sure that the Planetary world has room for the Marvel superheroes adventures to follow.

    (Just to clarify: I love Planetary, Microscope, and Marvel Superheroes. They're like garlic, peanut butter, and beans: I love them all individually and in some combinations, but not all at the same time.)
  • As has been said, Microscope seems a good fit for exploring all of the questions you have about superheroes.

    I haven't run MHRP yet (next week!), but I don't know that it is a good fit for that exploration. MHRP's whole purpose is to simulate the media that you've said you do not enjoy.

    Part of me wants to say that Sorcerer would be a cool way to explore various super-heroic premises, but honestly I haven't' played that, either.
  • edited March 2012
    Posted By: sageI've been reading Grant Morrison's Supergods which indirectly touches on a lot of this stuff.
    That is such a great book, I just started it myself.
    A word of caution: I don't think Planetary is really superheroes.
    It is more a commentary on superhero comics than it actually is one, yeah. But it seems pretty clear that while Seth wants superhumans, he's not at all in love with the baggage of super*heroes*, as a genre. I don't think that's really a problem, as long as everyone at table is clear on the difference betweeen the two. I've been in two extremely disappointing games of Necessary Evil that were pitched as superheroes (well, semi-reformed villains), but the setting is really about a fairly grim guerrilla war that basically has nothing at all to do with superheroes or supervillains.
  • Yeah, and my thought is, based on my reading, that Marvel is about Superheroes, not just people with superpowers. You may be fighting the system to do a game that's not tights and capes.

    I guess that's a question for the OP: do you really want Supeheroes or is it more superpowers?
  • Well, the OP was talking about Microscope, not Marvel, but I do have to say that every time I hear someone say "I don't GET supers/comedy/Lovecraft/international espionage in 1912 but I'm gonna be in a game about it, help me out", I hear "I'm gonna be in this game I am not going to like at all, but I don't think I'll be miserable enough - please flagellate me a little more before it starts"
  • The OP was using Microscope to build a world for Marvel. I'm just expressing concern that the world being made won't match the presumptions of the Marvel game.
  • Posted By: JDCorley...but I do have to say that every time I hear someone say "I don't GET supers/comedy/Lovecraft/international espionage in 1912 but I'm gonna be in a game about it, help me out", I hear "I'm gonna be in this game I am not going to like at all, but I don't think I'll be miserable enough - please flagellate me a little more before it starts"
    Yup. No amount of discussion is necessarily going to make the OP like superheroes.

    I think he's basically stated what would be required for him to be interested in the subject of supers. In a way, I don't know what's going to come out of the Microscope play. Some of these questions seem asked and answered.
  • Brave New World did an interesting job of looking at what would happen in an alternate history world where superfolks existed starting from a certain point in history.

    And I really liked the way they combined universal origin story with individual origin story. There was a big event that unlocked the possibility of being superhuman. But for each individual person, that potential was only unlocked during a near-death experience. So every super had a big significant event that was part of their origin and how they came into their powers. As a big fan of individual origin stories (I've always hated the Xmen because they don't have them - except Wolverine) I liked that a lot.

    Figuring out whether you're going to have a universal origin story or individual origins (or a clever combination thereof) is one of the things you're going to need to address in your Microscope session.
  • Rising Stars was very similar to the set up of Brave New World. I remember it being compared favorably (or BNW being compared unfavorably to be more accurate) but Rising Stars started to kinda fall apart towards the end, I think.

    In Rising Stars, there was an "event" that basically changed every in-utero fetus in a certain area into superbeings, which didn't become apparent until some point in childhood. The government rounds them up and so they all grow bonds together during school years. That part is told through flashbacks, as the story picks up with the revelation that some (all?) of them are being targeted for assassination. It explores a lot of their social connections, as some of them have clearly A-list powers and others do not. Along with BNW, it certainly seems like a good model to look at, and the first trade collection is a solid buy.
  • Brave New World? I have to assume you're not talking about the Brave New World (Huxley)?
    Posted By: Jason MorningstarPosted By: thadrineSuper heroes do not make sense to me, never have.
    You are not alone, my friend.

    Oh, lord, no!

    I'll join your bandwagon.

    (Although I do enjoy some of the X-Men movies, if I try really hard not to think too hard about what's going on.)
  • Brave New World the underrated Matt Forbeck superhero RPG.
  • I don't think it's possible to play Marvel and maintain/care about internal consistency without some weird meta-conceit. You could go all Matrix on it and say that supers are liberated minds while normals accept the programming, and the environment is a program that refreshes. Or you could say that gods take special interest in supers, and meddle to whatever end you desire. Or make it paradox spirits, for supers violating consensus reality (they're all mages, they just don't know it!).

    But I'm assuming that Marvel does need a somewhat recognizable world in order to be enjoyable. If you disagree, then hey, just take whatever you think would happen on an earth full of supers and make it so. I'm guessing some government would fight them and lose, paving the way for all other governments to treat any powerful enough group of supers like a political entity. I think Marvel actually did this, with Russia declaring war on Magneto.
  • edited March 2012
    Repairing buildings the Marvel way: Damage Control.

    image
    --
    TAZ
  • When Doom....DEFAULTS
  • Damage Control was the cleanup team from Irredeemable Ant Man too, I think. Probably time to reread that one.
  • I always had the thought that battles royale, particularly between teams of heroes and villains (or monstrous individual villains), were really quite rare from the POV of the general population. But that's all we read, every issue, so it seems like the cities are just getting blown apart week after week.

    But like...an actual public showdown might be as uncommon as a domestic terrorist bombing. Then The Man/big media/bloggers/whomever step up, decry the violence, and we end up with things like the institutionalized mutant bigotry in X-Men.

    What I think I've never seen in print is a general public whose attitudes have shifted in response to the presence of somewhat-more-common-than-OK-City supers' destructiveness. That, to my mind, might look like growing up in Beirut or Bosnia. But straight-up, non-experimental DC/Marvel style supers stories seem to rely on the general population looking and acting just like the real world, only the damage doesn't matter, the politics don't matter, widespread public sentiment doesn't (really) matter. It seems important to genre conventions that the world never change, because it provides contrast and context to what we're supposed to be paying attention to: the big fights.

    I think it'd be super (!) interesting to see a story that's basically about normal people in a world dealing with the fallout of superbeings going apeshit on each other, and the supers are never even really characters. More like...forces of nature, I guess. Has that story been told in print? I don't follow nearly enough titles to know one way or the other.
  • Posted By: Paul B
    I think it'd be super (!) interesting to see a story that's basically about normal people in a world dealing with the fallout of superbeings going apeshit on each other, and the supers are never even really characters. More like...forces of nature, I guess. Has that story been told in print? I don't follow nearly enough titles to know one way or the other.
    First was Marvels, then Astro City. A bunch of indies, too.

    In general, superheroes have been deconstructed every which way, so much so that we already went through a short reconstruction, and are now back into reconstruction, all through the last 20 years. My personal guess is that sooner or later synthesis has to kick in, the ever-shorter periods of de/reconstruction possibly cannot continue as alternating trends. Although it would sure be interesting to see the superhero comic where every other issue is de/reconstructive.

    Oh, I guess Star Man did that already. Well.
  • Astro City! I remember that. Yeah.
  • or steal from what Alan Moore stole from.
  • "The Incredibles" comes to mind, as well:
    "Supers"–humans gifted with superpowers–were once seen as heroes, but collateral damage from their various good deeds led the government to create a "Supers Relocation Program", forcing the Supers to fit in among the civilians and not use their superpowers.
  • edited March 2012
    Posted By: thadrineSuper heroes do not make sense to me, never have.
    Thradine: here's my suggestion on this.

    1. A tiny number of people have extraordinary powers, either from a shared "origin event" or uniquely bizarre circumstances. Superhumans. [This is the part where I really have to do some heavy lifting to suspend my disbelief.]

    2. Of those superhumans, some decide that they're going cash in by any means necessary. If no bullets can harm you, and you can fly faster than a jet fighter, why not just do whatever the fuck you want, and who cares about the consequences? Super villains. (Not every superhuman would behave this way, but for most it's probably just one really bad week away.)

    3. The police can catch a killer with sustained effort; the DEA can bust a drug conspiracy with sustained effort; the CIA can drone-kill a terrorist with sustained effort. Who do you call when somebody mind-controls all of Allentown, Pennsylvania and tells them to commit mass suicide? Or steals Fort Knox? Or transmutes Mayor Bloomberg into Mayor McCheese? The regular authorities are slow, clueless, and possibly corrupted. Somebody is going to try to solve those cases, and quickly, because it's an emergency. Super heroes.

    4. So the deal is that if you're a superhuman, your very existence is severely screwed up by the presence of other superhumans! There are assholes running around blowing stuff up, and other assholes running around as the self-appointed police, with all the problems associated with vigilantism and posses in the Old West. Meanwhile regular people fear you, admire you, mock you, and lust after you. If you ever want to live a normal life, you're going to have to strive like hell for it. Go!

    (This doesn't get you to silly costumes, secret identities, or super hero code names, but it's the beginning of a pretty solid sandbox I think.)

    It looks like Marvel Heroic doesn't especially stress crime-fighting or world-saving. All of that stuff depends on how you've written your Milestones. If you want to earn XP for getting rich and having three-ways, go for it. Eventually, someone is going to start messing with you--how far will you go when pushed?
  • Posted By: Paul BI think it'd be super (!) interesting to see a story that's basically about normal people in a world dealing with the fallout of superbeings going apeshit on each other, and the supers are never even really characters. More like...forces of nature, I guess. Has that story been told in print? I don't follow nearly enough titles to know one way or the other.
    The Marvel comics miniseries "Front Line," that was part of the Civil War event, was a little like this. Reporters digging around for the truth amid the cataclysm.

    The inciting incident of Civil War, actually, is a great example of superhero shenanigans A) causing a horrifying death toll ( the most unbelievable thing for ME about comics is that all those buildings are somehow always uninhabited) and B) precipitating a commensurate response from the public and the government.


    So, the the first Microscope game I played had a premise along these lines. We used one of the seed concepts in the book: "Costumed superheroes fight crime, subverting the rule of law." The starting era was "The night no one remembers," after which many people discover they have superpowers. The ending
    period was "Civilization collapses into tribes led by superbeings." So there was our answer to "can superheroes exist and have the world still look recogizably like our own," at least in the long run. We never explored this end of the timeline really, and never established any hints as to how far in the future this would occur.

    The events and scenes we actually played were situated mostly in the 30s and the 80s, being the first, optimistic superhero boom, and the rise of government-deputized superbeings, respectively. We were definitely inspired by Moore, not to mention Busiek (Astro City). And a little nod to Lovecraft: superheroes secretly all derive their powers from a strange underworldly source lurking under the sea. In the 40s this intelligence takes control of the supers and causes them to rampage mindlessly across Europe.

    We had a suffragette heroine leading a march and getting gunned down by National Guard troops. The dashing gentleman hero of the 30s ruining his career by coming out as gay. The future first openly super President of the United States confronting his blackmailer before going public about his power. An Oklahoma City/Waco-type incident which sparked the push for a Superhero Deputization Act. A mysterious organization called The Club moving behind the scenes to keep a lid on what they know about the malevolent source of superpowers. It was great fun and hit all the right deconstruction notes.

    Just a datapoint, a model to show one way this could turn out, and a damn fun story to tell.

    Peace,
    -Joel
  • Warren Ellis' Mavel series newuniversal is interesting -it depicts a completely mundane world in which a four or five people suddenly gain superpowers.
  • edited March 2012
    Yep, the New Universe thing was done in the eighties. I'm not sure why it didn't take?
    I liked DP7. It was kinda ahead of it's time... for superhero comic books anyway.
  • If you're curious, one Marvel character is already a member of the World Newton family; Steve Rogers(Captain America)and Buck Rogers.
  • To get back to the original topic:

    If you don't 'get' superhero comics, go to your used bookstore or comics shop and pick up some of those thick black and white reprints, like the Essential Avengers or Legion of Superheroes Archives. Bing-read until your brain leaks out of your ears, or you have an origin like Flaming Carrot!
  • Posted By: John Powellor you have an origin like Flaming Carrot!
    Huh?
  • Flaming Carrot's origin is literally "read thousands of comics in one sitting and went insane". The book is pretty much "what if David Lynch tried to write superheroes," though Lynch didn't direct the movie.
  • Yikes! Thanks.
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