Setting idea for a '70s supers game, feedback please

mrlost

Hi I'm Lost
RPGnet Member
Validated User
#1
Prolog:

July, 20th 1969 the day the world changed. The day that the Americans made history. The day they awoke the sleeping giant. The day that everything changed.

Approximately, half hour after arrival on the surface, the crew of Eagle lander encountered the Alien, which was captured on video. Moments later the transmission was terminated, and NASA was unable to reestablish contact with the lander. In the wake of this encounter panic gripped the world, characterized by fear and awe of the broadcast.

A week later the lander broke apart upon re-entry in the upper atmosphere and pieces fell to Earth. EDIT They came down across Europe, but for the most part landed in the Atlantic and Indian Ocean.

Since that fateful day, the contaminate has spread far and wide. Although relatively rare on Earth, the substance is believed to exist in great quantities on, or perhaps, in the Moon. Anyone who encounters it, risks infection, which often bestows strange primal powers governed by the unconscious mind. The Id if you will.

These strange powers usually only manifest when the individual is under stress or in immediate danger. With effort, humans can learn to a modicum of control over these powers but few other animals are able to use them at all reliably.

Since the properties of the contaminant have been discovered, the United States and the Soviets have become even more focused on claiming the Moon for their respective side.

Some few individuals have already learned to harness the strange abilities bestowed by the contaminant, of these many have acted out of fear, lust, or greed but few have dedicated themselves to nobler pursuits, most notably peace and love.




In truth the contaminants can be thought of as tiny shards of the Alien, each one while small functions as a powerful psychic amplifier and contains a small protomind. When introduced into a living host, the host's mind over powers the protomind and is in turn granted access to the psychic amplification powers of the shard. Exposure to shard itself which is an Alien biological contaminant can cause debilitating illness among some members of the population, while others seemingly adapt or ignore the substance entirely. In these latter cases it seems as though the contaminant actually disguises itself as part of the host's biology which makes removal nearly impossible.

Attempting to remove a shard from a living host often triggers the onset of their powers, as the body often perceives surgery as an attack on its systems. Thus Empowered humans often suffer from a lack of modern medicine, as attempts to operate on them trigger their defensive powers.

Upon death, especially violent death the shard can reanimate the corpse. This occurs almost immediately after a violent death. The corpse is actually little more than a puppet telekinetically manipulated by the shard's protomind but in some cases an imprint of the hosts personality is instilled on the shard's protomind. In cases where violence was the cause of death the imprinting is certain and the personality always seeks out its killer to return the favor. Afterward the shard usually begins a process of necrosis.

Although not currently suspected by the few groups on Earth that are studying the Empowering phenomena, when several shards are in close proximity for long periods of time they construct an sympathetic field, and their hosts abilities tend to manifest more strongly and for longer periods. And unless the network is broken, the shards protominds fuse into a singular hive mind which can influence the actions of its hosts, these hives have one overriding goal: survival. Beyond this they some wish to join with other shards while others want reconnect with the Alien which they all know is imprisoned in the moon, and while still others are driven to scientific pursuits to understand and master space travel.

These hive minds often take on personality traits of their host bodies, and can be quite possessive of those host bodies. Recognizing that if one should die violently its protomind would be ejected from the network and likely go on a killing spree attempting to destroy its killer. They also tend to resist joining with more established hive minds, perceiving the joining process in predatory terms. They would rather consume new protominds into their network than be devoured and reorganized into another network. The wish to rejoin/be devoured by the Alien is actually the last remnants of a mental command that the Alien imposed on the parasitic scout that infected one of the Astronauts with: "Find the means to release us and return to be absorbed."

The setting of the game is the early 1970s, the Vietnam war is in full swing, Nixon is president, and super powers are becoming rare but still real. People are still afraid of Communism etc.

A few setting conventions:
  • killing people may be bad because of societal and social consequences but killing other Empowered is worse because they reanimate and hunt you down caring not at all for those who get in the way.
  • Super villains don't rob banks, they knock over third world dictatorships, in fact the dichotomy between heroes and villains is more a media/political issue that an actual difference. Likely according to Pravda all American Empowered are Capitalist Villains, while the press tends to come down on overly sexual heroes especially gay or lesbian ones.
  • Furthermore there aren't a lot of shards to be had, and they remain dormant until their host is in a life threatening situation. Its only after repeated incidents that someone is able to exert conscious control over the shard/contaminant, and even then they find themselves to be prone to fulfill their basic primal urges without thinking.
  • Finally, groups of Empowered are always more powerful than individuals. Joining a group makes everyone stronger, breaking up the group weakens everyone. Groups are defined by prolonged proximity and can be broken up by prolonged absence or the death of a member.

Supers in such a setting, tend to be impulsive because they don't fully understand let alone control their powers. They are primal and passionate, sexual beings that may mean well, but don't often act well. While it may be possible for a few to repress these base urges it won't be easy, and at height of a stressful situation they often lose control. Their instinctive influence over the shard allows them to use a variety of comic-book super powers that are actually combinations of telekinesis and projective telepathy. For instance one could create a wall of green bricks that is really just a telekinetic force field that is surrounded by a telepathic illusion it looks like green bricks to onlookers but its invisible to photographs and video. The same goes for shape-shifting, invisibility, flight, super-strength, and outrageous costumes. None of their powers work while they are unconscious, nor do they function while they are asleep. They can't see through walls but they could sense minds, etc. Furthermore they can't break the laws of physics, if one flew into outer space he'd eventually suffocate even if he was surrounded by a forcefield.

Lastly there aren't a lot of them. Perhaps enough of the original parasite survived reentry for there to be at most 313 shards spread over the Earth, usually in the vicinity of one of the many Apollo 11 crash sites, though since several of those were in the ocean most of the shards are currently lost to Human society. Perhaps ninety landed on the planets surface, and of these they are to be found across Europe, not the Americas, and not the Soviet Union. Still several are in the hands of NASA which recovered as much of the reentry vehicle as it could, some few are in the hands of Soviet agents, and most have already joined with a terrestrial life form of some sort, be it a human or otherwise. As each campaign progressed it would be filled with its own community of supers. And yes, even animals can manifest super powers, its just rarer for them to have any control, though its more likely that a hive mind would be able to exert more control over their less sophisticated minds. This would open the door to all kinds of animal threats such as the Gorilla overlords often seen in 1970s comic books, or giant squid and Godzilla like monstrosities.

The shards themselves are small in size, no larger than the head of a pin, and often seem to glow brightly in the presence of living creatures without actually giving off light. Until introduced into a living host either through implantation or simply physical contact they resemble tiny flakes of amber. Once introduced into a living host they psychically mimic the surrounding biology becoming difficult to spot without the use of complicated computerized video equipment (which hasn't even been invented yet).

What do you do? Well you could try putting a stop to the worlds problems. End the Vietnam War, bring peace and free love to the world, combat injustice and poverty. Stick it to the Man, fight other Empowered, and try to get along in the Empowered community. You could try to live a regular life, hiding your abilities. You could even try to take over the world.

I don't know, I think it sounds cool. Sort of Bronze-Iron age comics certainly. I could certainly use a bit more editing.
 
Last edited:

mrlost

Hi I'm Lost
RPGnet Member
Validated User
#2
bump for the afternoon crowd. Come on people its a setting with Superheros from the Id, and zombies tack real issues. Its bizarre!
 

Eurhetemec

New member
Banned
#3
It's an interesting idea, and has a lot of potential. The only thing that seems a little odd is the detail you go into about how the shards interact when they're near each other, yet there are only 90 across the whole world? It's extremely unlikely that any of them would ever have found anyone else to interact with. I'd consider upping that number by an order of magnitude, myself.

I'm impressed with the way it also creates a reason to group, and a reason to not kill other shard-ees, too.
 

Silverlion

New member
Banned
#4
One thing to do even if you don't up the number of infested, is to give the protominds a desire for connection to others. This explains the "superhero group" phenomena, why people with powers tend to be social and find fellows to work with.

Also since the protominds are influenced by the hosts ID, that might explain why superheroes and villains come in conflict. The social need to belong driving them to want to meet subconsciously, but at the same time the ID, the personality that conflicts creating a dissonance between the protominds, making them want to subsume the conflicting protomind into its "network", in other words, conquer and coerce to change sides. Since the human mind is stronger it prevents this, but not the initial and reoccurring conflicts of the unrecognized drives.
 

mrlost

Hi I'm Lost
RPGnet Member
Validated User
#5
It's an interesting idea, and has a lot of potential. The only thing that seems a little odd is the detail you go into about how the shards interact when they're near each other, yet there are only 90 across the whole world? It's extremely unlikely that any of them would ever have found anyone else to interact with. I'd consider upping that number by an order of magnitude, myself.

I'm impressed with the way it also creates a reason to group, and a reason to not kill other shard-ees, too.
Yeah, well the intention was to have the number be really low but dump them in a handful of places across Europe (which isn't usually the focus of super hero comics) so that you'd have a few intial areas where people gain super powers. They aren't spread out evenly over the whole world, instead they landed in close proximity to the various pieces of the re-entry vehicle.

There are more out there to be found but they aren't immediately available to Humanity. Requiring either expeditions to the Atlantic Ocean & Indian Oceans or a return to the Moon.

One thing to do even if you don't up the number of infested, is to give the protominds a desire for connection to others. This explains the "superhero group" phenomena, why people with powers tend to be social and find fellows to work with.

Also since the protominds are influenced by the hosts ID, that might explain why superheroes and villains come in conflict. The social need to belong driving them to want to meet subconsciously, but at the same time the ID, the personality that conflicts creating a dissonance between the protominds, making them want to subsume the conflicting protomind into its "network", in other words, conquer and coerce to change sides. Since the human mind is stronger it prevents this, but not the initial and reoccurring conflicts of the unrecognized drives.
Yeah, that was sort of the idea behind the hive minds in the first place, a reason for the various PCs to team up. Its even more interesting if as you suggest that it leads to them coming to blows.
 
Last edited:

Primordial Zero

New member
Banned
#6
This is more an Iron Age take on the 1970s than a Silver Age recreation.

However, I know I would play it. Your background intrigues, and the conceit of the shards to explain both teams and the tendency of superheroes and supervillains to move towards each other works well. This intensification of powers through proximity even explains why a supervillain might focus on one specific superhero as his or her personal nemesis, and it explains why the most powerful superheroes tend to have the largest rogues galleries.

The lurching undead superhumans seem perfect for introducing vampiric or zombie or even quasi-robotic villains into the campaign.

My one concern would be your comment about villains and heroes being the same. I would hope this is not just another of the multitude of games which do not acknowledge that there are genuinely good people in this world doing their best to help the world. I don't think that's what you mean by your comment, but it would be a concern of mine nevertheless.
 
#7
My one concern would be your comment about villains and heroes being the same.
That's my biggest concern with a lot of games any more.

I spend some of my time helping distribute to the needy and helping out at the soup kitchen, and I'm definitely not the only person I know who does that sort of thing.

According to most modern games, my friends and I don't exist. Some games even include lectures scolding there is no such thing as good or evil and calling it unrealistic and childish to assume any sane adult would use his or her powers or bigger-than-life abilities to help out other people.

It really frustrates me to have so many games claim I don't exist.

End of my little tangent.
 

riotgearepsilon

Grumpy Gus
Validated User
#8
That's my biggest concern with a lot of games any more.

I spend some of my time helping distribute to the needy and helping out at the soup kitchen, and I'm definitely not the only person I know who does that sort of thing.

According to most modern games, my friends and I don't exist. Some games even include lectures scolding there is no such thing as good or evil and calling it unrealistic and childish to assume any sane adult would use his or her powers or bigger-than-life abilities to help out other people.

It really frustrates me to have so many games claim I don't exist.

End of my little tangent.
Perhaps the point isn't that there are no heroes. Perhaps the point is that they are ALL heroes, yet even heroes can be thrown against each other by the tumultuous tides of politics and culture.
 

mrlost

Hi I'm Lost
RPGnet Member
Validated User
#9
Perhaps the point isn't that there are no heroes. Perhaps the point is that they are ALL heroes, yet even heroes can be thrown against each other by the tumultuous tides of politics and culture.
Thank you for summing up in two sentences what I was trying to with four paragraphs.


EDIT here are a couple of attempt to explain with examples:
What if one Empowered soldier decided that he was going to stand for peace by forcing the US to bring its troops home, the US media might paint the guy as a Communist sympathizer/villain especially if he used violence to achieve his ends.

Consider if he and his super team kidnapped Richard Nixon, flew to Vietnam to hold him hostage. Refusing to release him until Nixon agreed to their terms. Would they be villains or a heroes? Probably it would depend on whose side you were on, and what your agenda was.
 
Last edited:

Waiwode

(n)Ever Vigilant Eye
Validated User
#10
Thank you for summing up in two sentences what I was trying to with four paragraphs.


EDIT here are a couple of attempt to explain with examples:
What if one Empowered soldier decided that he was going to stand for peace by forcing the US to bring its troops home, the US media might paint the guy as a Communist sympathizer/villain especially if he used violence to achieve his ends.

Consider if he and his super team kidnapped Richard Nixon, flew to Vietnam to hold him hostage. Refusing to release him until Nixon agreed to their terms. Would they be villains or a heroes? Probably it would depend on whose side you were on, and what your agenda was.
Well, let's compare him to an Empowered who is reaching down into the planet and bringing water back to Eastern Africa. One is using "Ends Justify the Means" to achieve a goal. One is hurting nobody, helping millions of humans and animals.

This probably isn't the place to get into a big deep philosophical discussion, but any time that "Ends Justify the Means" gets trotted out, someone is going to see you as a villain. And rightfully so.

I think Gaming Poet's point is that there are genuinely good people whose lives and actions don't trod upon moral grey-areas, who can't be seen as villains from a different angle. The Irrigator, Soup-Kitchen Man, and The Veterinarian could form a team that aren't ever going to be battling down the streets of (insert city here) because violence is repulsive, and contrary to their goals.

Your soldier is a villain ... to Americans who have had their Head of State taken, or to anyone who thinks taking hostages to achieve a goal is unacceptable.
 
Top Bottom