Wednesday, May 5, 2010

What if evil won? A Supers Setting Idea. Part 1

Since the Hopeless Gamer posted stories about horror and super heroes yesterday and the day before, I decided to combine the two into a heroes setting for my article today. (Actually, I already had the idea to make this post, and apparently karma sent a message to HG that he should write an entry or two that would make it appear as if we had a plan for these posts.)

On Free Comic Book Day, I picked up Empire:

Without spoiling the plot, Empire is a one volume graphic novel asking what would evil do if it won or was about to win? In this case, winning means conquering the world. The greatest superhero is already defeated when the book begins. Every "super" works for the "bad guys." This book is reminiscent of 1984, especially the parts surrounding control of information, and part Necessary Evil for Savage Worlds. Keep reading to learn what makes this setting actually tick like a time bomb.

Three systems instantly come to mind for the supers setting, Necessary Evil (above), Mutants and Masterminds and Icons (forthcoming). I would probably choose Necessary Evil or Icons as I am more familiar with those two product than Mutants and Masterminds, but I wouldn't rule it out. Another idea would be to use the New World of Darkness system to play the fan-created Genius: The Transgression rules. Genius would give a distinctly Steam Punk atmosphere and can easily be used to set up a game like Girl Genius where an evil overlord rules the world. Finally, I would consider Dread an interesting choice to run this type of scenario as a one shot. Instead of handing out the secrets below, you would build the motivations into the questions used to create the characters.

The Characters: You are not heroes; you are part of the force attempting to take over the world.

The Conflicts: No major heroes/superpowers exist except for those supers that are a part of the conquering empire. Foreign militaries, minor heroes, mechs, etc. are the main opposing forces; the real threat exists within the Empire itself. Trust no one and watch everyone. Evil doesn't tend to work well with others. Is someone in your group a traitor or informant? Are your underlings trying to take your position? How powerful are you really? How can you become more powerful? Are you becoming so powerful that the Overlord feels you are a threat? Do you try to conquer before help arrives to steal the glory for yourself? These are just some of the many questions that can exist in such a world.

One Shot or Campaign: I would run this game as a one shot adventure much like the Call of Cthulhu adventure Curse of the Yellow Sign: Act 1 Digging for a Dead God. In that game, each character had a secret that would change the way the other characters interact with that character. (Nazis in a jungle with the Yellow Sign = betrayal and death).

Secrets: The GM has at least two ways of setting up the secrets. First, the players could create their characters with background information and forward that to the GM. The GM could then pick various secrets (maybe calling them "missions" or "goals") and assign them to the characters. Second, the GM could simply hand out the secrets to the players at game time. The difficulty in running this game is to have the characters work towards some scenario goal even though the real fun lies with how the characters interact with each other. Some ideas for secrets:

Number Two - you are the second in command and have been with the Overlord since the very beginning. If anyone is trusted in this regime, you are. Your goals are to root out any and all traitors or those aspiring to take the throne for themselves. You couldn't care less about those trying to advance to a higher position so long as they aim lower than your position. The fact that you are #2 is public knowledge, but your goals are hidden.

Number Two (alternative) - same as the previous goal except you feel you know the Overlord's weakness and want to take your rightful seat as the ruler. The GM should make up a weakness and whether or not it really is a weakness (don't let the player know if it is real or not)

Closet Hero - You have worked hard to infiltrate the Empire and find your way into a position of power. Your goal is to prevent as much evil as possible and take out as many of the others as possible without getting caught. Transferring plans to the remaining holdouts is a secondary goal.

Crazy - You couldn't care less about who you fight for so long as you can destroy. You try to keep outwardly calm, but blood frenzy takes hold of you in the heat of the moment. You most often will fight for those who are stronger (or appear stronger) than you, but only if they are careful about not insulting you. You are not opposed to coups if the offer is presented. You background is military and you often lead charges into the bloodiest fighting even if no one charges with you. You have one weakness that you believe you have kept hidden by killing anyone who has found it. (GM should pick a weakness that goes along with the character concept).

Information Officer - You control video, print and sound recordings of the empire. You know or pretend to know the secrets of those around you. (which secrets the information officer knows is up to the GM). You have used this knowledge to help you move up through the ranks to your current position and will use it again if you can. You passed the Overlord's weakness along to #2 through many layers of subordinates as you are not sure of his allegiance. (GM should decide if the Information Officer knows whether this is a real weakness, a fake one, or if he is working with the Overlord to test loyalty)

Veteran - You have been with the Empire for almost as long as #2. You feel that he has your place in the Empire and are looking for any advantage you can get to take over his place, but must be careful as you know the long connection between #2 and the Overlord.

General (military) - This mission should be yours. This empire should be yours. The others only respect power. You have been gathering like minded individuals to your cause. Your military knowledge and leadership is unparalleled. If can get others to join with you, the Empire can be yours, but you need to know if the Overlord has any information.

That's it for part one, check back in one week for part 2. Feel free to post any comments about this setting so far.

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