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Old 06-17-2016, 10:56 PM   #1
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Join Date: Feb 2011
Default Capebusters -- brainstorming a single-setting game

Usually in superhero fiction, the supers are, well, heroes. The uniformed goons who try to hunt them down for being different are, naturally, villains.

Let's take a moment to consider the gentlemen in the black helmets. These men were given cheap guns and cheaper armor, and they were told to fight gods. Did they flee? Did they waver? Did they even ask why? No; they do. And die.

This is ripe for horror adventure. There are, of course, levels to this. Hunting down 'mutants' for capture or elimination is a superb introduction, as an 18-year-old with four levels of altered time rate and no real skills is a nice challenge for low-level PCs. Move up the ladder and focus on seasoned supers who are otherwise around the same power level, salted with really weird young mutants with high scores, for a more challenging adventure. The demigods make for great bosses, as do merely mortal top-line heroes such as you Starks and Wanes.

Nearly divine foes with supernatural durability, your Kal-els and Thors, they serve a better role as a force to be avoided, a reason to do things stealthily, to clean up the casings. You don't tug on Superman's cape, you don't spit into the wind, etc., because when Superman does show up, the game is over. Unless, of course, you happen to bring kryptonite bullets....

So the questions are:

1.) Who's got some ideas for supers from [100] to [500]? Interesting as foes, not too complex to GM?

2.) How do we make the PCs sympathetic without making the mutants/supers/heroes outright monsters? The feeling should be a strongly medium grey morality, something that allows for some player-driven characterization. That way it hurts more when their squishy human gets pulped by a super-strong teenage girl.

3.) Part of 2, what's some thoughts on the political setting of this sort of game? Presumably it's mostly modern?

4.) Anyone run a high-turnover one-session or short campaign? What's some ideas?
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Old 06-17-2016, 11:10 PM   #2
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Default Re: Capebusters -- brainstorming a single-setting game

This sounds very fun. You could even use the Monster Hunters series if you wanted, just change "monster" to "supers" and you're good to go. But I like the idea of making it something closer to horror--which would probably

Have you read the Reckoner's series by Brandon Sanderson (the first book is Steelheart)?

It might be good inspiration for this game. Avoiding spoilers, it's set in a world where all supers (called Epics) are evil, and they've already destroyed society as we know it. The heroes are the mere mortals who try to assassinate them despite their nigh-invulnerability.

Originally Posted by PTTG View Post
2.) How do we make the PCs sympathetic without making the mutants/supers/heroes outright monsters? The feeling should be a strongly medium grey morality, something that allows for some player-driven characterization. That way it hurts more when their squishy human gets pulped by a super-strong teenage girl.
If you turn the dial a little towards realism (getting punched through a wall will likely kill you, etc...) and emphasize the importance of giving everybody a fair trial (innocent until proven guilty, and so on), every superhero starts to look like a dangerous monster.

Just because you have powers, doesn't mean you should have carte-blanche to commit assault--especially if your powers essentially amount to a concealed deadly weapon.
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Old 06-17-2016, 11:40 PM   #3
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Default Re: Capebusters -- brainstorming a single-setting game

I don't have specific ideas, but curiously enough I was thinking of the possibilities of a Lovecraftian horror campaign where the horrors were supers. It seems like it could have potential.
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Old 06-17-2016, 11:49 PM   #4
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Default Re: Capebusters -- brainstorming a single-setting game

From the supers game I'm currently running:
TK 10-15 + compartmentalized mind (TK only) + TK talent 4 = someone with excellent, and subtle, manipulation skills. Your PCs might have a hard time even figuring out who's responsible for it. Couple that with Judo, lockpicking, and a touch of "I deserve what I can take because I'm a super". Toward the 300 point range you can increase the TK to the point that you can pull off TK Neck Snap, but that might be too lethal and unfun for the players
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Old 06-18-2016, 01:06 AM   #5
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Default Re: Capebusters -- brainstorming a single-setting game

3), on politics: The rough premise behind Marvel's "Civil War" could easily form the basis of such a game. World powers decide metahumans must be controlled; metahumans don't wish to be controlled. Plausible and sympathetic arguments before and against can be made: "This is what they do before they round you up"; "civilian control of military-level force is crucial for developed civilizations," etc. The players can have either government imprimatur or dubiously approved civilian/vigilante backing.

Ideas for powersets to fight:

Invisibility is a classic. Very hard to track down, easy to escape if you're not careful. Throw some enhancements on it to make the super's ability even easier to access, give them some skill with a pistol, and you have a dangerous hit and run assailant that needs careful tactics to fight.

Force constructs, with a lot of scope and power but a gadget limitation. Yes, he's a Green Lantern expy -- but your nation's government has no truck with someone claiming law enforcement powers within your borders that are independent of the nation's laws! If they refuse to desist from their (from your point of view) vigilantism, so be it.
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Old 06-18-2016, 02:48 AM   #6
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Default Re: Capebusters -- brainstorming a single-setting game

Bonus points for Jim Croce lyrics. ;)
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Old 06-18-2016, 05:37 AM   #7
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Default Re: Capebusters -- brainstorming a single-setting game

Read Marshal Law, if you haven't already. "I hunt heroes. I haven't found any yet". All supers have a single origin in Marshal Law, a super-soldier serum that varies enough to grant many different types of powers, which, at the end of a war, leaves a lot of traumatized and badly-socialized young men (female supers, like soldiers, are significantly less than 50% of the total) with powers to be integrated back into society and it goes...badly.

The other one to look at is Aberrant. The games tend to focus on the "early stages", with the first supers appearing in 1997, but they had a future timeline mapped out that was not pretty at all. The rule of law become a society's weakness rather than a strength when super-intelligent people can use the legal system more effectively than any baseline; high level supers with water and earth control can and do rearrange the environment as they see fit, and ignore baseline scientists on the grounds that their power lets them perceive what is necessary directly (and perhaps they're even correct!). And those are the defensible ones - technokinetics controlling the Web, and spy satellites, and using them according to private whim. Perhaps you've heard of "SWATing"? Suppose an obnoxious young troll-boy can control machines enough to call in an airstrike on someone he doesn't like? Bringing back the dead (and Why We Don't Do That) is a viable supers adventure for certain types of super. Democracy fails when telepaths make legislators enact the laws they want; you can't vote the bastards out because the telepaths will shrug and control the next one too. And we're STILL dealing with the merely self-absorbed, not the genuinely malefic. And the genuinely malefic definitely exist. The world of Aberrant gets more and more terrifying until a world-changing event in 2060, and an Aberrant game set even halfway to that point, in 2030, makes most cyberpunk games look positively cheerful and optimistic. The Directorate is a secret organization of baselines trying to find a key, perhaps genetic or retroviral, to supers expression and "cure" it (and they have to be secret, because the supers and their puppet governments would crush them), but that leads to a lot of human medical experimentation without informed consent....just some ideas. Capebusters who believe in democracy and the rule of law, and really understand what supers are going to do to those ideas, can be scary, creepy fanatics and yet still be the lesser evil, depending.
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Old 06-18-2016, 11:02 AM   #8
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Default Re: Capebusters -- brainstorming a single-setting game

On foes who aren't monsters:

An emerging super who can't control their ability can be just as scary as an outright monster, particularly if they are a psi of some sort. This yields sympathic characters on both sides while casting powers in a negative light.

The selfish, not evil, route has been suggested. This doesn't leave quite as much sympathy in place, but its quite doable.

Capebusters could focus mainly on lawbreaking Capes: bank robbers, murderers, gang leaders, and so forth. For some nice grey, give the supers more laws to follow, and mix in some cases that amount to giving superman a speeding ticket. And let the supers be good guys, or at least neutrals, if they follow the law, but keep them well away from law enforcement.

This requires adding a core assumption to the setting, but giving most powers nasty side effects on those around them can motivate capebusters. A human-torch type who can't turn himself off. folks who leak radiation. A telepath who gives nightmares to everone in his neighborhood. some of these people will remove themselves from society out of duty, but lots of others will try to stay out of custody.

Actual Supers:

Xerox (Samantha Wright):
ST 9 HP 9
DX 12 Per 11
IQ 10 Will 14
HT 11 FP 15

Duplication 1 (Construct), Mindlink, Telesend (self only, long range), Perk: dupe suicide, power talent 3, High pain tolerance (dupe only)

Stealth - 13
Forced Entry - 13
Search - 12
Acting - 10
Brawling - 14
Streetwise - 11

Xerox can produce a copy of herself. A copy that is totally and utterly disposable. She started off using her ability for pranks. She ended up with a habit of both illegal drug use and fairly brazen theft habit. The Dupe vanishes if she ever looses telepathic contact with it. She's not a killer by nature, though if she decided to start killing she would be very frightening.
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Old 06-18-2016, 11:31 AM   #9
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Default Re: Capebusters -- brainstorming a single-setting game

Now, this is a supers setting I would actually play.

The themes, there, might be, "Power doesn't necessarily corrupt, but it does magnify what exists"; "The road to hell is paved with good intentions"; and the Ring of Gyges problem -- "The ability to act with impunity inevitably means one gets consumed by one's own appetites."

Miracleman by Eclipse Comics is an obvious reference, here, although others have been mentioned:

I also remember an alternate title in which the superheroes were basically take-offs from the Justice League, but the "Superman" equivalent lost his humanity and became a nightmare. The plot was obvious -- how do people who are not Superman, take down an evil, tyrannical Superman?
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"Some days, I just don't know what to think." -Daryl Dixon.
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Old 06-18-2016, 11:33 AM   #10
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Default Re: Capebusters -- brainstorming a single-setting game

You can also possibly take inspiration from Garth Ennis's The Boys: A corporation developed a drug which grants super-powers which they tried to control via contracts and publicity. At first things go okay, but other corporations and the politicians they control have opposed the integration of supers into military service. And what happens when the more powerful supers decide they can do anything and don't need to do what their corporate sponsors tell them to do?
"But mom, I don't wanna go back in the dungeon!"

The GURPS Marvel Universe Reboot Project and its not-a-wiki-really web adaptation.
Ranoc, a Muskets-and-Magery Renaissance Fantasy Setting
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horror, supers

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