Superheroes: Do they just wait around for trouble?

edited March 2009 in Game Design Help
So I'm working on a project where the PCs are superheroes (kind of). They have a base and snazzy uniforms and a Trouble-Alert screen and all that.

But what's the deal with this situation -- do they just hang out at the base until someone calls with an emergency? Maybe they go out on patrol sometimes and spot trouble as it happens. Either way, it seems like they're reactive. The bad guys are the ones who initiate the action.

I know some of you have played lots and lots of Supers games (I'm looking at you, Storn). Is this reactive mode of play the norm? Are there other ways to set up a classic superhero team situation that lets the team be more proactive?

Of course, I have my own ideas about how to address this, but I'm very keen to hear from people with actual play experience in Justice League style games.
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Comments

  • If you're going for a traditional supers game, then the answer boils down to, "Yes."

    If you're going for a "people with superpowers" game, then the answer is, "They're just as reactive as regular people, maybe more so if they know what's going on thanks to their powers."

    As far as I'm aware, there's no superhero game I'm aware of that postulates the heroes being proactive. Heroes who get "proactive" tend to wander into vigilante/villain territory pretty quickly.
  • Unless I had a character who had a very obvious goal, I would have to throw a lot at my players to just keep up with the craziness that was already on their character sheets. I always wanted to know what their characters did in their downtimes, but playing those scenes out was never really that gratifying. A downtime stat, similar to BW's instincts would be kinda cool actually.

    But yeah, generally my players would rely on me to react to. That's why more and more I think it would be better to have one of the players be antagonistic to the others. It's pretty tiring when the gm is the only one being proactive.
  • Hmmm...

    I didn't stay in base, monitoring anything. I, as a player, was out to change the world. And doing so has ramifications to respond to.

    My GM was very good at coming up with ramifications...so there was a constant organic flow into the next adventure.

    But how to generate that in a game from the get-go? I'm not sure.

    At the end of a 15 year long game, my main PC (I did have several and that help keep the world fresh for all of us)... was terraforming Mars and spoke to Presidents and Premieres. His power politically far outreached his actual superpowers. Of course, having an alien invasion in the next 10 years called for a lot of coalition building.

    I was never so interested in punching stuff as I was interested in power, and what can you do with it. I was more like Ozymandius than a typical Avenger. I wanted to change the world for the better. And yes, sometimes I came off as the villain.

    So my suggestion, go the Dogs in the Vineyard route... give 'em a shit load of power. They are arbiters of justice. period. Justice League circa Kingdom Come.... and you won't have folks sitting around in bases waiting for the next crises... they will be out starting their own.
  • In comics they are usually very reactive. Often when they are proactive, things lead to very dark places! And when they are usually reactive, their existence leads to even more for them to react to (super villains) and they enter a vicious cycle where the question becomes are they really making a difference. Strangely the characters that are trying to change the world tend to be the super villains. Even those with good intents!
  • Superheroes are like cops with spiffy outfits, more interesting powers than just guns and judo, and a heaping helping of legal ambiguity.

    Question: Are cops reactive?

    Answer: Sometimes, perhaps even mostly. But it's not like crimes are all as cut and dried as catch the bad guy in the act and deal with them. Sometimes you've got to investigate, track down leads, collect bobbleheads. You've got to figure out whodunit, and where they are before you can go nail them. Maybe you've even got to find evidence for court.. As Lex Luthor points out in Superman Returns, the boy in blue was good at catching bad guys, not so good at showing up for court.. And unless you're the killer sort of vigilante, the word of a superhero isn't always going to be good enough to convict a criminal and put 'em away for good. That's reactive, but it's proactively reactive, rather than passively reactive.

    Also, you may have a personal agenda. Maybe you're out to shut down organized crime, as in Batman Begins. It may not be because of a specific incident, just because it's the right thing to do, and the cops are helpless to do it themselves. Maybe you know that the Villain of Vaudeville is up to something, and you need to stop it BEFORE it happens.
  • Post-60s comics tend to depict superhero reactiveness as more of a coincidence brought about by their circumstances, mind you - most superheroes are not so much intentionally non-committal but just ignorant or committed to a personal life that they wrench away from only when lives are in danger. This comes down to the same thing, of course, but the writers have had the same problems with the formula that we do now. Earlier comic book superheroes were much more clear in being stalwart champions of the status quo; Superman would literally just sit and wait for the president to call him to action, that sort of thing. After all, why do anything in a world that is already perfect, except for enemy action?

    Looking at the deconstructed post-80s superhero, on the other hand... seems to me that these guys are often pretty active. Of course not in any constructive way, but they do take more of an interest in attacking their enemies first. The enemies are also not just citizens who become crooks when they commit a crime, but actual dictators, terrorists and other evil people who already were evil and attackable long before the story started. A modern superhero story might actually start with the heroes attacking the villain. Quite different from the classical form.
  • I think maybe some superheroes are there to set the world right. In these situations they only get proactive when there's something wrong with the world.

    So as an alternative, preventative heroics? I find the idea interesting. "There's nothing wrong now, and by the might of my arm I'm going to make sure it stays that way!"

    Astro City had a super heroine who established schools for women to help foster a community and social reinforcement for self-dependence. It was kind of an attempt to set right social injustice (marginalization of women), but it sheds some light on the issue for me.

    For some reason sci fi comes to mind; stories of "brave scientists" coming up with inventions that prevent great catastrophes from ever happening.
  • I once attempted to update (and to story-game-ify) the classic TSR's Marvel Super Heroes game. I don't remember the specifics without dredging up my files, but basically you could get Karma by describe any attribute in action "between the scenes." Use your Fighting to spar with a young neophyte hero, use Agility to save a puppy lost on the freeway, display your Strength at a charity meet-and-greet, and so on. The color result + the amount of details you used would be added to your Karma. Or something like that.

    In other words, to be a "proactive" hero, you don't have to be mighty overlords like the Squadron Supreme or Ozymandias. Sometimes you just need to patrol the city to make sure no kittens are stuck in trees.
  • edited March 2009
    It really does depend on what kind of superhero story you're doing.

    Your traditional Golden Age heroes were very much reactive when it came to crimefighting: they waited until a supervillain pulled a heist, and then they sprang into action. Investigations, for the heroes that actually did them, were very straightforward affairs that ended when the villain was caught. As far as what they did when they were sitting around waiting for a villain to strike, well, that never came up. A villain always struck. And if one didn't, Jimmy Olsen would dutifully run out and get superpowers and need to be restored to normal, or a natural disaster would occur and only a superhero could save the people endangered by it, or whatever. The point was, the superhero only really existed in order to set things right, and so things were always needing to be set right.

    Silver Age heroes were also very reactive, dealing with whatever villain or crisis popped up on their radar that month. Investigations could occasionally be more complicated -- weeding out double- and triple-crosses, a little bit of following up on things after the bad guy was caught -- but only rarely. One of the big differences in this era, I think, was that sometimes the hero didn't have any crisis to deal with other than internal ones, such as romantic entanglements or secret identity problems or self-esteem issues. Silver Age heroes could be very proactive about preventing, or more often causing, trouble for themselves, even while remaining strictly reactive towards crime.

    When all the deconstructionist takes on superheroes started to really take off, the most popular thing to poke at was the idea that your high-octane heroes would start using their powers to proactively reshape the world as they wanted it to be. Between comics like Moore's Watchmen and Ellis's The Authority, you can see the general outline those stories followed: with great power comes great megalomania and a lot of morally dubious utilitarian posturing.

    Even recent stuff like DC's Identity Crisis and Marvel's Avengers Illuminati/Civil War tends to go that route. Having enough power to really change the status quo generally means that you will fuck it up and make things worse rather than better if you ever actually use that power. Real, substantive, world-improving change comes from the vast population of ordinary people doing the right thing of their own free will, not from a few godlike individuals forcing the right thing on everyone. This is a wonderfully idealistic and very American sentiment, which is why it keeps coming back, I'm sure. (I'm not familiar with comics from other countries, so perhaps the moral could be different somewhere else?)

    And then there's the Punisher, and all the other kill-crazy vigilantes from the '90s. Very proactive about killing the bad guys without waiting for them to do something bad first, very morally gray. Usually filed in the "their heart is in the right place, but they frequently go too far" category.

    Modern comics still tend toward the reactive crimefighting with proactive personal life, probably for the same reasons that deconstructionist stories paint proactive heroes as villains in the end. They do tend to be more comfortable with very complicated investigations requiring lots of proactive steps and with messy endings, though.

    In some genres (I'm thinking of the "superhero espionage" stories like DC's Checkmate or anything touching on SHIELD over in Marvel), proactive intervention is very much the norm. But in those cases, obviously it's an organization deciding to be proactive, and the battle lines are clearly drawn. Nick Fury fought Hydra and AIM and any other clearly identified terrorist organizations with snazzy uniforms; he didn't send SHIELD in to fight sovereign nations or keep the peace in wartorn countries. Within those boundaries, the good guys are always extremely proactive (as befits the espionage genre).


    In general, I have to confess that I like my superheroes to be reactive when it comes to crime. I admit, I totally buy the party line on where true, substantive, positive change must arise, and reject the idea that Superman or anyone else has the right, let alone the necessary skill and knowledge, to impose a "better" world on us. And as a child of the '80s Silver Age, I also like my superheroes to be a little messed up when it comes to their personal lives, and to have to deal with that. And as a modern comics fan, I like complicated mysteries and messy endings. Your mileage may vary.
  • Jon,

    Do research on firefighters. They have all the stuff superheroes have -- a base, costumes, "powers" (training) gear and vehicles, as well as a mandate for fighting "crime" (fire/rescue) and they spend their off-time at HQ waiting for the alarms to go off.

    Also: the Authority are pretty damn proactive as a superhero group.
  • In Golden Heroes, an old British superhero game, you could go on patrol. I liked that: the idea of superheroes patrolling the city.

    You could monitor communications, too, and see if you could pick up criminal activity.

    Graham
  • Building on what Storn said, I love the idea that a member of this team would have a side project, an investment in the community. So when you're not waiting for the red alert siren to go off, you're meeting with the city council, cutting a ribbon somewhere to open a school, giving the keynote address at a graduation.

    It's all stuff that makes you go "oh no, stuff I like is in danger. Young Salila who told me she wanted to be part of this team when she grows up. Now her school might be destroydemated and her with it."
  • The Marvel Universe Civil War was kicked off by a group of young supers (with a reality TV show) who were being proactive in finding and taking down a hidden group of supervillains. Those villains were really just rooming together and actually staying out of trouble and below the radar. When the young supers attacked their house - unprovoked - they pushed one of those villains over the edge and he blew up a significant part of the town - including a school full of children. That brought on the call for superhero registration and the resulting Civil War (which was a completely terrible story, all-in-all). So there's another significant example of any superhero proactiveness being severely punished in the fiction of the genre.
  • In the world of comic book publishing (as opposed to comic book style gaming), the regular monthly issues of the big-selling titles have to be about reactive heroes: They are all set in an evolving place that is roughly 'current-day-real-world-plus-superheroes', i.e. the Marvel or DC universes. If the superheroes could make a real difference and change the world, then the world in the comics would quickly diverge from the world outside the reader's collective front doors. That's bad for reader-identification with the setting, and bad for sales.

    If the Avengers or the Justice League go out and proactively use their powers to prevent the 9/11 attacks, or end famine in Ethiopia, or somehow enforce a peace deal in the Middle East, then the ramifications of that in the setting make it a very different world from what happened in real history in the real world. Some portion of the audience will lose track of the changes, or dislike the theorized ramifications as 'unrealistic', and stop buying the book. Plus, he continuity-checkers at the publishing house will have even more trouble keeping up than they do now...

    There are ways around this for publishers. They can set their stories in what is already an altered or separate timeline, one that doesn't have to conform to the idea of 'current-day-real-world-plus-superheroes', they can set stories in entirely fictional settings, etc. Their heroes can do world-shaking, world-altering fictional things, too. Galactus didn't eat the Earth in the late 80s, Doctor Doom didn't become world dictator any of the times he tried, etc.

    As gamers, we can utilize that last trick to good effect: The way for contemporary superheroes to be proactive is for them to be proactive about things that are entirely fictional. The heroes can proactively stop a supervillain (or a terrorist cell) from blowing up the Statue of Liberty, they can end the famine in a fictional country, or broker peace between two other fictional countries, etc. The things that they do can certainly be higher-profile news stories than any contemporary real news stories, so long as they don't upset the status quo of the parallel parts of their fictional version of the real world. Give the PCs news stories and hints of what is going on in their world, and if they become proactive about those things, it's all good.

    Of course, feel free to allow the superheroes to proactively save the world from global catastrophes like comet impacts and nuclear Armageddon. If that sort of thing happens for real, the fact that the history of your game has diverged unrecognizably from the history of the real world will be the least of your problems. :)

    --
    DainXB
  • edited March 2009
    I know in the games that I've played, it's as much about the interplay as it is about the villian's plot.
    There's as much player character bickering as there is good guy/bad guy punching.
    If ya look at the old Kirby/Lee stuff, specifically the Fantastic Four, sure you had bad guys, but their relationships effected the fights.
    One hand washes the other.
    There's typically so many dead ends that get generated in rpgs.
    Actions that have varying importance.
    It's a bit different than a story that's been combed over.
    But yeah, Jared firehouse analogy is pretty good.
    If I were doing a fire station rpg, you'd get resources for praise & blame that you'd use to fight the fire and rescue people.
  • Posted By: Jared A. SorensenAlso: the Authority are pretty damn proactive as a superhero group.
    Beat me to it.

    The Authority are the best example of which I can think of proactive super-powered people who are not technically supervillains or vigilantes. I hesitate to call them superheroes, as I think they are some pretty scary, murderous uber-liberals. And Warren Ellis obviously thought that was cool, since they never seem to have to answer for their hubris, despite that being the typical plot when superheroes try and take over.

    There's a lot of fodder for premise-focused play right there.

    Anyway, I think Batman is probably also a (genuinely) good example. There are plenty of his comics that involve him proactively trying to take down the mob and whatnot (Year One leaps to mind).
  • I, for one, welcome our new superhero overlords.

    Wait - no, I don't.
  • Thanks for all the replies, everyone. This is good stuff.
  • You could make an argument that many of the stories in Warren Ellis's Planetary featured the heroes proactively sticking their noses into various mysteries and stirring up shit. And in the latter half of the series, they definitely veer into proactive territory. Not really world-changing, though, in the sense of trying to make the world a better place by ending wars or helping people. More about grappling with the secret history of the world.

    The Authority actually did go proactive in terms of imposing change on the world, but the storylines--at least those of the first arc--were reactive, as the team fought off a series of over-the-top threats, usually after some massive, near-shark-jumping onslaught that required them to go out and beat up a million people. The world-changing stuff happened more in the background.
  • So like superheroes...

    The nature of a superhero is to be a person with special powers that are well-suited to beating people up.

    That means that, in order to get to use your cool powers, you need to find people to beat up. So the genre also demands superpowered villains, whose powers are also well-suited to beating people up, because otherwise the fight scenes would be kinda boring.

    But what if your power is you're super good at spatial visualization and analyzing structural integrity? Maybe then you become a super-architect, and you also show up sometimes when buildings are damaged to show people the best way to repair them.

    Or if your power is that you can perceive what's wrong with peoples' bodies, then you can become the world's best personal trainer or surgeon.

    Or if your power is that you can understand and argue anyone's point of view, simply by being present around that person (it's a special telepathy/supereloquence thing), then you become an amazing lawyer or diplomat.

    There's no point in sitting around looking for a fight, if your superpowers are actually useful in other contexts.

  • Posted By: shreyasSo like superheroes...The nature of a superhero is to be a person with special powers thatare well-suited to beating people up.That means that, in order to get to use your cool powers, you need to find people to beat up. So the genre also demands superpowered villains, whose powers arealsowell-suited to beating people up, because otherwise the fight scenes would be kinda boring.But what if your power is you're super good at spatial visualization and analyzing structural integrity? Maybe then you become a super-architect, and you also show up sometimes when buildings are damaged to show people the best way to repair them.Or if your power is that you can perceive what's wrong with peoples' bodies, then you can become the world's best personal trainer or surgeon.Or if your power is that you can understand and argue anyone's point of view, simply by being present around that person (it's a special telepathy/supereloquence thing), then you become an amazing lawyer or diplomat.There's no point in sitting around looking for a fight, if your superpowers are actually useful in other contexts.
    Agreed. Your heroes, if they wanted to present a good face to the city, could be doing something like rebuilding houses or perhaps in a friendly competition with another hero team nearby. More or less though, if you're fighting villains it's going to be normally reactive. I did have a character in a super hero campaign with shapeshifting and martial arts that went on patrols (or as he put it "Pit-Trolling") looking like an easy target for criminals. If one took the bait, he'd beat the crap out of them, take their stuff (which he referred to as fines- mostly cash money and trophies) and then call the police for pick up. It was his major source of income and something to do when super villains weren't rampaging across the city.

    Somehow, this wasn't viewed as a good thing by the other members of the team he was on.
  • ...was his code name "Entrapment"? :D


    I always had a warm place in my heart for non-combat superpowers. Back when mutants were all the rage over at Marvel, I'd keep an eye on the ones whose powers were useful in ordinary life (instant comprehension of all languages, anyone?) even though, well, nothing interesting ever seemed to be done with those characters. Because the books they appeared in were about the fighting, naturally -- you have to work really hard to fit a noncombat character into that kind of story, and even when you do it's obvious you're just shoehorning him in.

    Sometimes, though, they'd try out a different sort of book. District X, for example, featured lots of mutants who were just ordinary citizens trying to get by in the mutant ghetto of NYC. That was an interesting concept while the book lasted.
  • Jamey pointed out to me, though, that all the powers I listed are easily turned toward the standard 'being a thug' superhero behavior. Like, doctorguy can punch you in the ulcer.

    The main difference is in the characters' worldview. Do they choose to be thugs, or do they choose to do something good?

  • edited March 2009
    In my long-running "World of the 400" Champions campaign, the 2/3 of the world's 400 superbeings that wanted to change the world got called supervillains, and the 1/3 that wanted to protect the status quo were superheroes, which is pretty standard.

    I've thought about doing a campaign where the superpowered PCs are proactively trying to change the world, and a very tricky bit is that the GM and players need to be on a common page about how the world works, if there's going to be cause and effect (typically, with GM as black box). A Marxist and a Libertarian are going to have very different approaches to "end world hunger".

    Clinton Nixon's Face of Angels attempted to do world-changing but I've never played it so can't say how well that worked.

    I suppose one could do pro-active without world-changing scope, but once superbeings are thinking of what they want to do, rather than just stopping others from doing things, it seems a teensy tiny step to messing with the normals, not just other paranormals.
  • Posted By: John HarperAre there other ways to set up a classic superhero team situation that lets the team be more proactive?
    First you have to figure out how to block Doctor Manhattan's ability to see the future...
  • Thank you, Shreyas! You said what I was trying to say above-- that being a proactive superhero doesn't mean becoming The Authority. A proactive superhero uses his superspeed to distribute food to the needy, his x-ray vision to inspect old buildings, his power ring to filter polluted lakes, his shape-changing to entertain children's cancer wards, etc. etc. In other words, pretty boring comics books, however well-intentioned. Perhaps there'd be a way to use them as springboards into other adventures, but by in large such stuff doesn't have the mythic scope and epic conflict that superhero stories are really all about.

    By the way, at the risk of making a tangent, I don't think this would work either, based on a discussion my friends and I had regarding what it would take to create a truly Global Golden Age, without any science fiction-ish elements to it (meaning no Star Trek replicators or anything.) We were growing quite frustrated by the fact that it all seemed to come down to a one-world government, but that in and of itself was something we agreed is just about as science-fictiony as anything. There always will seem to be some faction that would rather favor autonomy even if it means unequal distribution of food/water, shelter, medicine, education, etc.
  • Man, can you imagine a young Superhero trying to get into college...

    "It says here that you're strongly involved in community service, but it doesn't give any specifics..."
  • What do they do if there's nothing to react to?

    If I was running a Supers game (which would never happen) my Heroes would doctor crime for themselves to solve to prove their worth.

    They'd be the LAPD on crack.
  • Posted By: agonyWhat do they do if there's nothing to react to?
    They bluebook. I assume there are months where Spiderman, Batman, etc don't do jack but patrol - they just don't make it to the comic page. When it is showtime, they need a conflict to make us care. One of the best Batman comics was him doing a bunch of small-time crime fighting that kept interrupting his desire to get a good's night sleep. When he finally got done, he went to sleep and it was a satisfying story arc.

    When you are at the table, there should be a conflict or a choicepoint, but it doesn't always have to be a crime. It is possible the conflict is to make them chose which Candidate to endorse in an upcoming Mayoral election. Give them two decent choices with some idealistic differences (or make it a "lesser of two evils" choice) and watch the character development and drama happen as they hash it out.

    On the political front, have them deal with protesters, groups who do not think what they do is good for society, obsessed fans and copy-cats, etc. It is all good story fodder.
  • One solution is to have a precognitive character or predictive computer which enables the characters to be proactive.
  • Minority Report, anyone?
  • Most of my good points have already been taken (The Authority, Civil War, etc.).

    There have been some comics that directly take this on. If you get a chance, read Grant Morrison's first arc on JLA (I'd loan it to you, but I think my copy is in NM). It revolves around what happens when the reactive JLA are upstaged by an alien superteam who are proactive. (In general I'd recommend all of Morrison's JLA, some of my favorite supers comics of all time). Waid's Kingdom Come is also a great case of taking traditional heroes and making them proactive.

    To drill down a bit, it seems like most traditional heroes don't have a particular agenda to further, for the most part. Superman and Batman, for example, want to make the world a better place, which isn't a very actionable goal until something goes wrong. Superman in particular is sometimes cast as a force for the status quo. Wonder Woman on the other hand at least has a bit of an agenda (presenting her culture in man's world). The X-Men (depending on the writer) can be pretty proactive. Morrison's X-Men go out into the world and promote mutant equality, Whedon's X-Men wait around for big flashy missions.

    Taking this into speculation, since it sounds like this would be a game, maybe have each character or the team as a whole have an agenda, something along the lines of BW/Mouse Guard beliefs? Go with the same guidelines and you quickly narrow down the kind of story you want: since it has to be something that leads to action, you throw out the JLA and the Avengers and push the story towards X-Men and The Authority.
  • Addendum: Of course I forgot my whole reason for bringing up Morrison's JLA. The first arc ends with the main characters considering the aftermath of the story, asking themselves why they aren't more proactive. Superman sums it up by saying (rough quote from memory) "We're not here to push humanity forward, we're here to catch them when they fall."
  • Good call, Sage. I have the whole Morrison run on JLA. Some of the best comics, ever.
  • You might also look at Milestone Comics, DC's "black" comics imprint of the 1990s. Much of it revolved around young gangs who gained powers through a failed attempt to eliminate them. Suddenly your supers were the very people you didn't trust and whom you feared. A lot of the storylines revolved around the gangs trying to reclaim their neighborhoods, with some treating them like kingdoms and other trying to provide food and water and shelter for the slums where they grew up.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milestone_Media

    Some very cool ideas there.
  • Posted By: sageSuperman and Batman, for example, want to make the world a better place, which isn't a very actionable goal until something goes wrong.
    Actually, I disagree re: Batman. Batman is pro-active in his own milieu, because Gotham City is so horrible. The status quo in Gotham City is that the mobsters run the town, the crazies mangle the helpless and the cops do nothing about it, and if Batman doesn't do something, the status quo will remain.
  • Batman doesn't have much of a social program, though, which makes him a solidly conservative sort from that perspective. Even if he might be changing things locally, he isn't offering anything particular to replace the status quo - his allegiance is with the machinery of state; whatever they say goes, he's just a tool to accomplish that. In that regard he's just like Superman, they just work in different environments.
  • Which doesn't really change the point Jason was making. Batman doesn't have to wait until something "goes wrong." His is a very proactive program. He's actively seeking out the disease and eliminating it. You're right in that he's not trying to fill the vacuum he's making.. He's trying to allow the system to reassert itself into the areas that have been overcome by crime and villainy.

    Superman is working in a relatively stable environment. Day to day, the situation is acceptable. Sure, there are minor crimes that he'll stop if he can, but nothing that actually requires him rather than just letting the cops do their job. His situation is tenable until something changes, at which point, he works to reestablish the status quo. Batman's situation is untenable. He works to upset the status quo, and allow the theoretically pre-existing system to come in and stabilize things in his wake.

    Their goals, in relation to "the establishment" are the same. Their goals in relation to their respective environments are not.
  • edited March 2009
    double-post. Iraqi internet, more S-G problems, or some combination of the two.
  • Right now, at this exact moment, there are no crises erupting.

    Things for beefy or athletic heroes to do:
    -construct disaster-relief homes
    -help in avalanche prevention efforts
    -sandbagging and flood-relief efforts
    -help in the construction of major civil initiatives, like new subway lines
    -run advanced training exercises for the military (U.S. Navy Seals... Heroes. Trained By Heroes.)
    -join the SWAT team on a very important raid
    -win Ultimate Fighting Championship
    -clean up from all the demolished buildings from the LAST crisis (seriously, there's huge amounts of collateral damage all of the time)
    -patrol dangerous and seedy areas of the city
    -if you know the location of a nemesis' lair, bust in and get the drop on him

    Things for psychic, investigative or genius heroes to do:
    -discover the origins of your powers, investigate what made you the way you are
    -try to track down the hidden lair of a nemesis
    -root out corruption and sin at the White House
    -support the police in tracking down organized crime kingpins
    -support the police/military/other with interrogation
    -create solutions to major economic, political and social problems
    -run training exercises for the CIA
    -psychiatric support for a captured super villain (only a super could get inside the mind of another super!)

    Things for gadgeteer heroes to do:
    -create high-tech military equipment (Iron Man does it!)
    -upgrade the team's gear
    -work with engineers on designing the city's new automated rapid transit system
    -design controlled-blast explosives to help with mining, avalanche prevention efforts, etc
    -run training exercises for climbers, spelunkers, search & rescue teams and other groups that require highly specialized equipment knowledge
    -design contraptions to help infiltrate nemesis' lair.

    So, in general:
    -Help with major civil projects (constructing new things, disaster relief, revitalizing the system)
    -Being vigilant watchdogs (patrolling, rooting out corruption)
    -Take a hand in training military, intelligence, search & rescue and civil "heroes"
    -Track down, prepare against and break into the bad guy's lair, thus bringing the fight to him
  • Fantastic list, Joe! Thanks.
  • Posted By: Eero TuovinenBatman doesn't have much of a social program, though, which makes him a solidly conservative sort from that perspective.
    Oh, the Batman milieu is an exaggeratedly hyperconservative situation. Criminals routinely "get off on technicalities", "squeal" about their rights, and only a strongman (a super-rich industrialist, that should be the giveaway right there) can protect people.
  • To add a few things to Joe's list:

    Go to college
    Attend ballet and music recitals for the children in their families
    Work at a paying job
    Visit their elderly relatives
    Go to sports games, or other social entertainment venues
    Date that nice girl/guy they met at the grocery store

    All of these are public services when you're a superpowered hero, because they help keep you grounded, remind you why you don't just smash through any bank in the United States, or build moon lasers.
  • Posted By: JDCorleyPosted By: sageSuperman and Batman, for example, want to make the world a better place, which isn't a very actionable goal until something goes wrong.
    Actually, I disagree re: Batman. Batman is pro-active in his own milieu, because Gotham City is so horrible. The status quo in Gotham City is that the mobsters run the town, the crazies mangle the helpless and the cops do nothing about it, and if Batman doesn't do something, the status quo will remain.

    Well, we don't see that reflected much in the comics after Year One type stuff. Post Year One, it's a weekly breakout from Arkham. I really can't think of any notable Batman stories that start with Batman doing something, every Caped Crusader tale I can think of starts off with somebody bad doing something bad. So in concept, yeah, Batman wan'ts to clean up the city. In execution, that means waiting for Calender Man to break out of his nice padded cell.

    And, just to comic book nerd out for a moment: currently in Batman, Gotham's been more or less cleaned up. The entire leadup to R.I.P. starts with Batman basically not having a lot to do and relearning how to be Bruce Wayne.
  • edited March 2009
    I don't know.
    I love that superheroes are kinda incapable of livng healthy productive lives.
    I mean they fight bad guys, I don't need 'em to build highways, fuck I can do that.
    I don't picture Sherlock Holmes as being a great housekeeper.
    Superheroes are fuck-ups.
  • I take it back, well some of it back.
    One of the best sessions I've played in was when our team(the Renegades)played the Avengers in softball.
    It was a close one, but we won!
    So yeah, I could see how a softball team or a bowling league would be fun.
  • Posted By: Nathan HI mean they fight bad guys, I don't need 'em to build highways, fuck I can do that.
    That's actually a good point. Yes, Superman can go out and build infrastructure and deliver the mail and carry medical supplies to Africa, but so can a team of ordinary people with no superpowers at all. Yeah, Superman can do it all by himself, but it's not like the job can't get done without him. On the other hand, when the giant death-robot comes stomping into the city, only Superman can punch it into outer space: you could get every citizen within the city limits together, and they won't be able to do shit to a giant death-robot. It looks like a job for Superman...no others need apply.

    So given that, is it even remotely responsible for superpowered dudes to focus their attention on doing things that normal people can take care of? Shouldn't superheroes try to guarantee an immediate response to the emergencies that only they are capable of dealing with, instead of doing stuff that ordinary people can handle just fine on their own?

    And if Superman decides he wants to work construction whenever there are no giant death-robots to punch (he's got a giant death-robot detector, so we all know he'll be there when one shows up), how many ordinary construction workers just lost their jobs? Yeah, whoopee, we just got that bridge built ridiculously fast and with only one worker on the payroll, that's wonderful...but how badly fucked does the economy get when one guy can do the work of hundreds, only faster and better?

    So show some responsibility with your great power, superheroes! You want to help and you don't think fighting crime is enough? Then go fucking donate to charity, or cure cancer, or whatever else soothes your conscience: as long as you can do it without stealing jobs from ordinary people who need to pay their mortgages, we won't have any problems and we won't need to bust out the Kryptonite on you.
  • Unbeknownst to us all, several superhero leagues have been avidly lurking in this thread. Lately, they've been getting excited by the turn of the conversation, thinking they might be able to be more productive members of society, rather than just ultra-violent superfreaks. (I mean that in the kindest possible manner, all you lurking superheroes) They've been purchasing hardhats and workmen's T-shirts for their physical heroes, and having their mental heroes investigating city infrastructures and the various medical sciences.

    Then along comes Accounting for Taste, and blows it all out of the water for 'em. Your uber-rich heroes are already giving to charity. The ones with working schmoe jobs can't afford it anymore than a non-superpowered working schmoe. Of course Superman doesn't want to take Union jobs, and Dr. Genius doesn't want to put the Harvard graduating class of 2009 to work at McDonalds.

    I hereby dub thee Crusher of Dreams.

    (But hey! You guys can still follow my advice. Go to college. Date, have kids, visit your families and be social.)
  • Man, if I could just figure out what part 2 of my evil plan is, I WOULD RULE THE WORLD.
  • edited March 2009
    In my superhero game, the heroes all had jobs. The mentalist was a cop. The power armor guy was a pilot. The tank was a forest ranger. The fire/ice guy worked at the IcyHot factory. The anarchist sharpshooter... hmm, I'm not sure what he did. But yeah, typically they're doing their regular jobs until trouble strikes.

    Superman, proactive or not, spent most of his day as Clark Kent, reporter. Bruce Wayne throws parties, runs his business.
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