Capes, costumes, secret identities are the common tropes of the superhero genre. But there are people who think that adult men and women clad in skintight spandex suits with masks and fancy capes just look silly. Recent superhero movies have done away with skintight suits in most cases (and replaced them with leather suits for example) and the superhero cartoon “The Incredibles” gave us a lot of arguments why capes are just evil!
So, can you pull of a superhero campaign without some of the most common superhero tropes? Sure. Look at the superheroes TV show “Heroes“. There you have people with incredible powers but no capes, no costumes, no secret identities, no silly names. In my opinion the premise of “Heroes” could make a great base for a superhero campaign.
Most (if not all) characters have the same origin. Let’s just go the X-Men/Heroes route and they all have some genetic mutations that give them super powers. Call them mutants or homo superior, whatever tickles your fancy. Another possible origin could be super powers that are caused by nano bots in the supers’ bloodstream (like in the computer game “Deus Ex”). Whatever it is it should be grounded in natural science. No magic, no aliens, no gods!
Superpowers are real, there are heroes and villains, but the majority of the world has not taken notice of them. Most supers keep their powers secret in fear of being repressed by normals or not to become a guinea pig for ruthless scientists who want to find out the secret of their powers.
It’s the world as we know it
You don’t need to make changes to the world as we know it. Everything is pretty much the same, there are just a few people starting to dicover their emerging powers. Perhaps add in a secret organization that controls supers (like the Company in “Heroes”)
If I would start a Heroes-inspired campaign I would probably use Mutants & Masterminds 2nd Edition. A good starting power level would be around 5 or 6. During the campaign you of course can rise that level as it suits the story.
Grey is better than white As we’ve seen in Heroes, most “heroes” have their bad sides. No one is 100% perfect like most Golden Age heroes. The player characters should have some flaws too. Let even the villains have some redeeming qualities.
Not everyone is super A PL 5 or 6 campaign should allow you to add people without any super powers to the team. It could be someone like Hiro’s friend Ando or Dr. Suresh, the scientist, who is trying to find and help these special individuals.
It could also be interesting to let the players create their characters without any powers first. So they start like normal humans and the GM grants them some powers during the first adventure. So the players have to find out what their powers are first.
The character concept should always be viable without the powers. Nathan Petrelli from Heroes for example was (and still is) a politician first before he even knew about his flying ability, Sylar was a watchmaker, Hiro a corporate employee, Clair Bennett is still going to school. Keep that in mind when you create characters. A superhero that is focused on his super powers alone without any other skills is not recommended for that kind of campaign.
I am still trying to convince my gaming group that we should do a superhero campaign. Perhaps if we go the “Heroes” way, I can win them over. 🙂
Note: The ChattyDM is hosting this month’s RPG Blog Carnival. The topic is “Super Heroes in RPGs” and this post is my contribution.
No, this post is not about RPGs, but about blogs, the RPG Bloggers Network and feed readers. I’ve noticed that the vast majority of my readers are referred to my blog by our network’s main site. And only a few have subscribed to my RSS feed. So, why should you subscribe?
You won’t miss any articles
When you check out rpgbloggers.com irregularly you probably miss most of the articles. When I go to our network’s main site I usually skim through the topmost articles and check out if there are any new posts in the “featured” category. If it’s a very active day in the network a lot of interesting posts have probably been pushed to the second page already.
But I’ve already subscribed to the RPG Bloggers Network Feed! Why should I add yours too?
Reading the rpgbloggers.com feed is like drinking from the firehose. When you subscribe to my feed and the feeds of other RPG blogs you like, you not only get the full posts in most cases, you also get to read posts that are NOT related to roleplaying games. Some of the network’s members write about a lot of other interesting things that you’ll miss, when you just read the rpgbloggers.com feed.
But don’t I need an expensive feed reader software?
No, of course not. Although they are quite a few commercial feed readers there are a lot of free alternatives. There are several web-based feed-readers available. You can for example use Google Reader or Bloglines. Or you can add a feed to you personalized Google page or to your NetVibes page. If you prefer a desktop application, use FeedReader3 or search on your favorite search engine for “Free feedreader”. Or, if you use the Opera browser, you can use the excellent built-in feed reader!
I hope I have you convinced by now. So, what’s the next step? Subscribe to my blog’s RSS feed using the method of your choice! If you need the feed’s adress it’s
The people who followed my Dungeoncraft articles may already have guessed that the Iron Kingdoms setting by Privateer Press was one of the major inspiration for Asecia. In the beginning IK started as a trilogy of adventures that later even spawned the miniature games WARMACHINE and HORDE. IK consisted of the beforementioned trilogy (the “Witchfire” trilogy), the IK: Character guide, the IK: World guide, two Monsternomicons and several smaller sourcebooks. IK was using the d20 System License, so you probably won’t find many copies in stores nowadays.
But alas there hasn’t been any new releases for the IK campaign setting for quite some time now and Privateer Press recently announced on their forums that they will not release an updated version with D&D 4th Edition rules. But they can’t sell their existing material because the d20 System license is no more. The only way to reprint the books would be to make them compliant with the OGL, which in my opinion would be no impossible task.
But if you ask me, I am sure that Privateer Press is focussing on new projects and the IK campaign setting is more or less dead. With WARMACHINE, HORDE and the new Monsterpocalypse they have three miniature game lines. And I don’t believe they have the manpower or will to reinvigorate their roleplaying game line.
And although I own lot of the IK books I haven’t run more than the first part of the Witchfire trilogy. When I’ve concluded our current Pirates of the Spanish Main campaign returning to the Iron Kingdoms could be one of my possibilities. BUT shall I run it as it was intended (using D&D 3.5), shall I try to convert it to D&D 4th Edition (my group really likes the new system) or is converting the setting to a completly different system like Savage World, True20, GURPS, whatever the way to go?
Deep in my heart I still hope that Privateer Press will surprise us with their brand-new IK roleplaying game that perhaps even is compatible to their miniatures line in the future. But I doubt this day will come. So what would you do, if you were in my shoes?
A Roleplaying Games blog
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