View Full Version : Superheroes for people who hate superheroes?

01-23-2011, 11:35 PM
I've never been a big fan of the superhero genre, but I'd like a pretext to test-drive Mutants and Masterminds 3rd edition (and maybe Icons or Truth & Justice), so ...

What sort of world contains super-powered individuals who aren't standard spandex-clad do-gooders? Over the years I've come up with some half-baked ideas:

Elementals: Some humans are attuned to an alchemical element, either Eastern or Western. This connection grants powers related to that element. (E.g. The Earth-Attuned have great strength and regenerate when touching natural earth, the Water-attuned see and hear anything in the vicinity of water, etc.) With great power comes a responsibility to protect their element and the environment at large.

Guardians of the Last City: Humans, aliens, and creatures of folklore coexist uneasily within the high walls of a massive self-sufficient city. Superhuman Guardians patrol the walls, ready to defend the Last City against ravenous undead and eldritch horrors prowling outside.

Hearts of Heroes: In 1998 Karen Manning, an American archaeology student in Greece, unearthed an irregular black stone, about the size of a fist. Its polished black surface reflects light oddly, as if lit by alien stars. By accident she fell upon the stone, which sank through her flesh as if she were made of water, and lodged near her heart. The stone gave her incredible powers of flight and energy manipulation, and a magenta force globe surrounding her body that hid her identity. Under the name Ultragirl she upheld truth, justice, and the American way, until government paranoia drove her underground. She passed the stone to a less idealistic successor, who after a long struggle gained amnesty in return for not toppling the government. Yesterday, Ultragirl appeared in your home and offered you an irregular black stone the size of an egg ...

Any other ideas? Some ground rules:

No spandex or underwear on the outside.
Comic-book mashups of magic and science need justification.
The world is not black and white, just shades of gray.
Life is not fair, nor always just, no matter how hard people try.

01-24-2011, 09:43 PM
I dunno check out the comic Irredeemable, their world's Superman has finally had it and becomes the world's most powerful villain. The rest of his team try to discover why, and try to stop him.

If that's not your cup of tea, something like The 4400, or No Ordinary Family, or Paragons, or...ugh..Heroes. That's people not wearing 'spandex or underwear on the outside' but still having powers.

01-25-2011, 04:50 AM
Thanks for the suggestions, but I'm looking for a superhero world based on a central premise. The 4400 is close; Irredeemable, No Ordinary Family and (IIRC) Heroes never really explain what superpowers are or how/why they exist. The Green Ronin supplement Paragons sounds vaguely interesting, but I've bought way too much game stuff lately.

Right now I'm looking for inspiration in White Wolf's Aberrant, Terry Moore's comic Echo, and Legends Walk from Silver Branch Games (in the same space as WW's Scion).

01-25-2011, 09:52 AM
Well that's the fun thing, you can explain why the powers exist. ;) Oh there is also Rising Stars, the comic.

01-26-2011, 06:56 AM
I thought the book series Wild Cards had a pretty interesting concept for why super powers existed.

Spoiler below for those who haven't read the series, you've been warned.

Basically, a race of aliens who want to win the war on their home world come to Earth with a retro virus that re-writes DNA, humans are similar enough genetically to them that the virus will work on us as well. If I remember correctly, the virus does one of four things to you, gives you a basically useless power, turns your skin blue, or something very mundane, which is called drawing a Deuce. Deforms you horribly physically, anywhere from contact against your skin causes you to bruise, to looking like a monster, which is called drawing a Joker. Kills you in some horrible fashion, from turning into a puddle, to burning alive, which is called drawing the Queen of Spades or turns you into some very powerful individual who can fly, blast energy from your hands, etc, which is called drawing an Ace.

That's the cards aspect of the title. Don't remember how many books are in the series, but it's edited by George R.R. Martin and the first group of books, are the best. Last I checked on the books there were 2 different series, but there could be more by now.

You can find the first book here (http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Wild-Cards-1/George-R-R-Martin/e/9780765326157/?itm=2&USRI=wild+cards). Wikipedia entry for the series is here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wild_Cards).

End Spoiler

04-01-2011, 12:31 AM
Some ideas I've been playing with:

1. Colonists on the Moon discover that the moon dust gives "super powers" to a small minority of humans exposed to large amounts of it over many years (i.e., those who live on the moon -- the effect is too week to make exporting this moon dust to other planets feasible). The PCs work for an organization set up by a Lunar billionaire to establish "Truth and Justice" on the moon and in the solar system. Costumes are trademarked, but are made of a flexible armor colored to make the character recognizable. Also:

1A. A race of aliens has established a trading post on the moon. Sale of alien weapons to humans is strictly controlled, and any alien weapons that are sold to humans are bio-engineered to the specific human who is the licensed owner. (This justifies possession of "super equipment", and makes sure that it can only be used by the person who has invested the power points.)

1B. A gate leading to "Utgard" has been discovered. Utgard is a world where there are giants and dragons and wizards. This justifies fantasy elements.

1C. Supernatural powers can also be justified via the various mystical traditions of Earth, although these have not all been confirmed by 21st Century science.


2. The PCs live in the 43rd Century, and work for an organization called the Third Legion. The Third Legion is essentially a galactic peacekeeping force. Legionnaires start their career wearing uniforms that denote their class and rank, but after achieving a certain rank are then allowed to wear whatever they want. Because this is so far in the future, anybody who wants "super powers" can have them by buying the cybernetic/nanotech enhancements and training in their use. Also, some planets have wizards and other "fantasy" type characters, most of which also have advanced technology as well.

3. The PCs come from various walks of life in the early 21st Century, when for some reason, some people start gaining supernatural powers, represented by the D&D classes. Why this occurs is unknown, but may be related to a "magic field" that, like the earth's magnetic field, sometimes grows or diminishes in strength.

4. It is the 17th Century and, while some people are using the new science to cause fantastic things to happen (packages that explode, wagons that drive themselves etc), others use the old supernatural abilities. But in order to avoid prosecution by the authorities, they put on masks and disguises.

04-01-2011, 03:14 AM
Another possibility, inspired by Wick's "The Flux" and recent Power Girl comics:

After the death and rebirth of the universe (http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/product_info.php?products_id=87226), utterly unnoticed by the great mass of humanity, a few powerful beings failed to change. They remember other universes, in which dragons flew over pre-human castles or atomic rockets explored the stars, in which priests of the Red Moon Goddess fought barbarian tribes of the Storm God or unholy things lurked in the streets of a Victorian Empire that never ended. In this new, dull reality of cars and cell phones and smog, these beings hold onto some or all of their former abilities. Let's call them Remnants.

Not being native to this world has its drawbacks: reality tries to eliminate everything that doesn't belong, particularly if it regularly performs the impossible. Sometimes the universe nullifies one of their powers at a critical time, or fate decrees a cruel and potentially lethal mishap. Moreover, mortals and other Remnants strongly remind them of old friends, old lovers, and old enemies, in changed circumstances yet essentially the same person they knew in the World Before; these dopplegangers, in turn, have no memory of any past association. Occasionally a Remnant meets a doppleganger of himself, a strange and unsettling mirror of themselves as an ordinary mortal or a Remnant from another reality (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alternative_versions_of_Supergirl).

Remnants, with powers undreamed of in this dull universe but no real ties to it, adopt the guise of "superheroes". Somehow the hokey names, gaudy costumes, and simple morality helps Remnants blend in; perhaps it's the recent fad for costumed vigilantes, or decades of conditioning through comic books and movies. Secret identities as ordinary humans serves a similar purpose: day jobs and rent/mortgages integrate them into the current reality, and not using their powers for long periods averts whatever cosmic force wants to erase them.

04-25-2011, 07:20 PM
"Superpowers" are simply the next stage of evolution for the human race utilizing telekinetic, psionic, and other physical and mental powers of manipulation of energy and matter. Certain individuals have advanced genetically beyond humanities current level, through constant mutation, gene manipulation, time travel, or alien science intervention.

Such individuals are not welcome from influential governments and corporations that ares trying to preserve the Human race. Those chosen few find themselves living on the fringe of trying to do what is right for this dysphoria future.

04-28-2011, 10:33 PM
So I am wondering are you looking for gamers or just wondering how to explain superpowers in your world?

04-29-2011, 12:22 PM
Really I just wanted ideas. As it turns out, my regular group decided to try M&M3, so (Emily Litella Voice) Never Mind.

05-03-2011, 10:45 AM
Really I just wanted ideas. As it turns out, my regular group decided to try M&M3, so (Emily Litella Voice) Never Mind.

Is M&M3 actually out yet or are you using the DC Superheroes book?

05-03-2011, 11:19 AM
The GM has a physical copy of the non-DC Hero's Handbook, and the PDF has been on DriveThruRPG since the end of 2010.

08-13-2013, 11:56 PM
If you want powers without heroism, just run a Dungeons & Dragons campaign using M&M.

Or run a World of Darkness rip-off uisng M&M.

Or run a zoo crew parody of Star Trek plus Babylon 5 plus Space Academy using M&M.

If you're not going to run superhero, you might as well not run superhero.