Saturday, December 16, 2017

Setting Material I'd Like To See

SYSTEM: Almost any superhero setting

Over on the ICONS Facebook group, I started listing setting material that I'd like to see for a superhero game. Obviously, these ideas might not apply to a game with a very different setting, but are assumed for a Big Two kind of environment.

Warning that this might be highly idiosyncratic and others won't care.

For this post, I've collated them and added reasons why they'd be player-facing, rather than just cool setting details...because if the players can't interact with them, they're better off as one-line descriptions that you can steal for your games.

I mean, I'm going to write these if no one else does, but it would be much easier for me to just buy them. :)

  • The religious group that quite literally worships supers, though they've had a schism: most think that supers are blessed by God, and the others think that supers are gods.
  • Nine Realms I picked nine out of a hat: the idea is multiple descriptions (somewhere between three and ten). None of these are huge descriptions—maybe a half-dozen pages, plus some npcs. They fall into two groups: The PCs might go there, or the realm might launch an invasion.

    Places the PCs might go:

    • So you'd have the three hells as one realm
    • the Astral Plane (if you can find a way to make it interesting: you can make the Astral Plane also the realm of the Lost Dead Souls)
    • the Dreamworld

    An invading force:

    • Urbtech, the realm of computers and logic, where magic doesn't work
    • a dimension that, like a shark, must conquer other worlds or fall to the rot within
    • Maybe an invading dimension random generation chart

  • The Darwins is the organization that helps people who have just discovered their powers; it helps them get adjusted, learn to master them, and integrate back in the larger society. But some people suggest that they have a hidden agenda. Like maybe they're behind some accidents that cause superheroes? Maybe they're rooting for the mutants to take over. Maybe they're trying to foster human-mutant cooperation, but like the famous intervention experiment in the 1930s makes things worse.
  • Hoodlums is a chain restaurant decorated with a superhero/supervillain motif, where all the waitresses wear skimpy versions of costumes, and which has a structure that leads to a certain number of them having supervillain groups on the payroll.

    The inspiration for Hoodlums is a friend of mine (James Nicoll), who included this gem in a bit of backstory for his character, a villain turned hero who at one point discovered that the heroes don't care if you've clearly labelled the porn featuring actors in their costumes as "a parody" and beat you up anyway. Which, combined with thoughts on sexism in comics, made me think of a restaurant that quite literally uses and institutionalizes that sexism.) The real question to me is how to make it player-facing. Oh, you can drop stuff in as a setting detail ("We went to Hoodlum's last night") but how do you make it personal for the players? Well, if their costumes are on display without their permission; if someone else is using their Hoodlums costume while committing crimes (I mean, no one is going to think the player did it, but it still looks bad). Maybe a particular restaurant is a front for, as James had, pornography using the player characters' costumes. (That could be very trigger-y or, with the right players, it could be funny: imagine playing out the discomfort when you discover that your cis hetero hero is a gay icon, and that the actor wearing your costume has starred in a successful series of films.)

  • One Percent An action group that is trying to paint supers as being the actual privileged as opposed to people who just have most of the money. Clearly funded by a group of wealthy people whose private motto is, "Being rich is the best superpower."
  • The place or person who handles medical needs for heroes/villains/vigilantes, which may or may not be the same as provides medical needs for mutants or aliens. This is mostly a practical need, but it might tie into the database mentioned under "Supers fight club," below.
  • The Ark, a living facility for supers with special needs for living, started by some member when he or she realized that the available choices were a government institution. With help from some acquired lost Thulean gold, the Ark was built. If there are diplomatic relations with the Atlanteans, they might rent part of it out with water as living space. Other rooms contain red sunlight generators, maybe gravity generators if your tech is wobbly enough, atmospheric containment and such-like. The kitchens are a nightmare.
  • Supers fight club, but I’m trying to think of an angle that isn’t Roulette or Unlimited Class Wrestling. The intent is to give players an excuse for fights and fight training. Tying it in with some kind of “heroes database” would be useful, because then you have a rationalization for bad guys who know your player character “tells”. If it's set up as coercive, maybe the players could rescue someone from it, or from an abusive manager. It might be where newcomers and has-beens go, the former to learn, the latter to recapture a bit of fading glory.
  • A list of gigantic world-ending threats that the other (NPC) heroes in your setting have to deal with, so your players have to deal with the threat that's "only big."
  • I have been thinking of a hero group. They're in a band. (This was partly inspired by seeing the Good Lovelies in concert last night.) Tickets sold with a disclaimer because there is a non-zero chance of a supervillain attack during the concert. I don't think they'd do a lot of superheroing, but they've done a bit, and accumulated some bad enemies. Heh—you could drop individuals into a campaign by introducing them after the band has broken up. And someone is trying to kill them...a celebrity stalker or a cape killer? (This might be better done as an adventure.)