Who Burns Brightest

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OK, so it's official - I'm trying to bodge together a Supers game.

Campaign Name: Who Burns Brightest?

Some details about the world background:

There have always been a tiny number of exceptional people, who lived beyond the normal lot of mankind. In the past they have delved into ancient magics, bargained with or even merged with spirits, or been transformed through trial, ordeal, or rare bloodlines. As man mastered his environment, explored the sciences, and pushed the limits of knowledge. Men of Science, standing head and shoulders above common researches, periodically appeared - but their advances are usually lost when they die, lacking an heir with the proper mental capabilities to comprehend their insights and continue their work.

"Supers" seem to pop up in the population at a ratio of about 1 "super" for every 200,000 regular folks, emerging from all walks of life and all nations. In North America it seems for every super who takes up a role as a civic defender, another withdraws from public life completely or disappears inside government organizations, and five immediately try to make a buck from their abilities (legally or illegally). It's unknown how many "supers" never discover or never reveal their powers. These trends change from culture to culture, however, and to complicate matters further supers in general are a mobile lot.

A few benchmarks - the Ottawa Valley has an usually high number of known supers, at 10 (most of which are working for the government or the military). Toronto has 12, the entire province of Ontario has 63. New York City alone has over 40, with a superteam of 6 - Long Island Luminaries.

A prominent difference between our world and this world is the idealized version of the modern USA. The country looks something like what it might have been if you projected forward from the late 80s with an optimistic eye - the tech boom didn't boom quite so hard, but people didn't make nearly as silly, poorly-researched investments, and when things eventually calmed they didn't so much "burst" as "gently settle down".

NASA launched landers to Mars in 92, 95, and 96', and started production on the new line of Shuttles in '98. The ISS is much further along in construction, and Virgin Airlines have been running their tourist trips to space since 2006. Mortal men went back to the moon in early 2007 (an international mission, largely co-operative) although the trip was largely symbolic, it helped refine several technologies necessary for the eventual trip to Mars. Supers, of course, have been farting around in space erratically for the last two centuries, but few have traveled significantly beyond the near-Earth environment. There's just not much to look at for an individual unless you're uncommonly interested in rocks.

There was an attempt to hijack planes and crash them into the WTC towers and the Pentagon in Fall 2001, orchestrated by extremist mastermind Al-Amir (formerly known as Usama bin Muhammad bin 'Awad bin Laden, now a costumed super villain). UA175 was thwarted at the last minute by the supergroup Long Island Luminaries, with a dramtic mid-air interception. The existance of the second jet directed at the WTC (AA11) was discovered by Luminary The Mentat successfuly piercing the mind shield of one of the suicide agents, and it was also successfully brought down with only two fatalities amongst the hijackers. Al-Amir is still at large.

Jane's All the World's Superhumans

Jane's is a line of books on various sorts of military equipment: aircraft, warships, and so on. When it became clear that the increasing population of superhumans was going to be a factor in global politics, the publishers of Jane's recruited a team of researchers to collect information on them. Their first guide came out in 1970, followed by annual updates. In 1980 a second guide came out, and since then new releases have become more frequent.

Jane's lists all superhumans and aliens who operate in public, as heroes, villains, or mercenaries, along with any nonpowered adventurers who have costumes and code names or who are members of powered teams. Their information includes a recognition guide based on appearance and visible powers; a career summary; and as much as can be determined about the super's special abilities, including maximum strength, mobility, sensory abilities, and attacks and defenses. The book isn't cheap – a new copy costs $2,000, with annual updates priced at $400 – but nearly all superteams and research-oriented heroes have copies, as do military forces and intelligence agencies throughout the world. Many now prefer the CD edition offered with a 10% discount, and searchable. It is well known to be incomplete and not entirely accurate, but generally any publicly encountered super will be well described in at least general terms.


"Classic superheroic". Classic supers are the most often portrayed in comic books, and in recent films such as X-Men and X2. Theyíre powerful enough not to worry much about ordinary street criminals, though an organized crime boss might find ways to threaten them. Most of their missions involve fighting villains, with the odd natural disaster or alien invasion for variety. The resulting "battle of the titans" *traditionally* involves lots of property damage but miraculously no bystanders being killed. Showing off cool powers is one of the big payoffs of this type of campaign.


"Cinematic". One step closer to realism than four-color supers, the cinematic mode follows the conventions of recent genre films, such as Batman Begins or X-Men. Many comic books now are also written in this mode! Motives are treated somewhat more realistically, and heroic codes of behavior are less exaggerated. In particular, cinematic heroes may use deadly force in emergencies, and villains seldom hesitate to do so. Important characters still die only for dramatic reasons - but large-scale battles or catastrophes may kill bystanders accidentally. The level of disregard for natural laws is similar to that in a four-color campaign (characters may shoot beams of "laser light" from their eyes, using perfectly normal organic eye lenses - AND are still able to see from the same eyes - AND don't have to provide kilojoules of energy for the laser by eating a pound of butter for every laser blast fired).


Characters will be 1500 points. We are using the Multiplicative Modifiers rule from Powers (see end of message). Players are responsible for creating characters that *can* work in a group. Ideally, you should be an established supergroup, but failing that PCs should at least be familiar enough with each other that you will co-operate rather than hitting each other in the head. If you want to go through the obligatory fight sequence before teaming up, as a sort of "burn in" for the PC and to get familiar with how your character works, that's cool. Please communicate with each other while creating your characters.

Respect other PC's "role" or "niche". If two players are creating characters that appear to fill similar roles, discuss amongst yourselves. Note that if you're both comfortable with the idea, I don't mind it at all (a party full of blasters is quite easy to plan for).

Valid sources of powers:


Inborn features (unique to you or part of your racial makeup) and mutations. Medical science can detect and analyze these traits, and - at higher tech levels - add or remove them through genetic engineering, implants, or surgery.


Powers that originate from the "inner strength" of martial artists and yoga masters (also known as ki and prana). Disease and similar afflictions can sometimes weaken such abilities - for instance, by throwing your yin and yang out of balance.


Nonbiological implants in biological characters, as well as all abilities of cyborgs and robots. Sensors can detect and analyze such traits, and certain high-tech/supertech countermeasures might be able to neutralize them.


Talents that draw upon magical energy, or mana. You need not be a wizard yourself; this category includes such lasting sorcerous effects as personal enchantments.


Advantages that originate from the power of the mind. In most settings where psi powers exist, there are drugs, gadgets, and specialized anti-psi powers that can detect and defeat them.


Abilities enabled by invoking spirits. You only seem to be the focus of the effects; in reality, invisible supernatural beings are doing your bidding. Obviously, if the spirits cannot reach you, your abilities do not work.


Generally speaking, origins are wide open. Alien from another world, intimate connection with the totem animal identified on your vision quest, built equipment based on decoded plans written by Leonardo da Vinci or Heron of Alexandria, secret scientific experiment from a corporate laboratory (or a mad scientist), years of hard training driven by thoughts of revenge, spent two decades on a mountain in Tibet contemplating your navel until you became one with the cosmos, signed up with a cult promising to teach you massive psychic powers in exchange for all your money and worldly possessions and it actually worked...

Specifically outlawed are divine origins. No gods, children of gods, messengers of gods. That said, you can be empowered by a powerful supernatural being that your character believes to be a god, angel, or demon. In general, your source will be listed as "spirit", although the force could have granted you access to any of the sources. Keep in mind, however, that if you design your character this way that your character must not be fully "in the know" about the entity that empowered them, and will not have a reliable ongoing relationship.

Also specifically outlawed is "I have powers because I'm a mutant." Being a mutant is perfectly acceptable, but you have to explain what mutated you. Accidentally ingested the wrong combination of obscure amazonian toxins? Zapped by abandoned Atlantean technology? Cosmic rays? You inherited your unusual biology from your ancestors on a forgotten island in the Pacific ocean, unknown to the modern world? Mother was frightened by an elephant while she was pregnant and now you are THE ELEPHANT MAN?

Multiplicative Modifiers

Normally, enhancements and limitations are purely additive: add them together and apply the total modifier to advantage cost. For instance, +10% and +10% in enhancements and -10% and -40% in limitations come to -30%, so ability cost is 70% of advantage cost.

Under this rule, treat enhancements and limitations as "psudo-multiplicative". Total the enhancements and apply them first. Then total the limitations (reducing any total over -80% to -80%) and apply them to the result.

In the above example, the net +20% in enhancements would increase ability cost to 120% of advantage cost, and then the net -50% in limitations would reduce this to 60%.


By default, characters will have the limits under I-Scale Hero. For 100 points, you can instead use the limits listed under D-Scale Hero. This 100 points isn't a "tax" or a "balancing" cost - the abilities are fairly priced. What you're buying for 100 points is a pact from the GM that the game world will generally not be prepared for D-Scale Heroes. You have the surprise value of packing more force than any one normal human can ever carry into a single body. While nobody really expects a 14 year old girl to be able to toss heavy tables, blow open doors, or knock out fully grown men, they generally DO plan for people carrying guns, possibly wearing body armor like Kevlar, and know a single person can carry hand grenades, tear gas, pepper spray, pipe bombs, etc. and plan accordingly.

Folks don't generally expect human sized problems to be able to apply more force than that. You're buying surprise value.

Note: Items near the upper ends of limits should generally have limitations like Takes Recharge or Limited Uses that stop you from just using your Über-Attack all the time. You will be able to blow the top off of these limits by using Extra Effort. Characters planning on using Extra Effort should buy some Will and lots of FP, or an Energy Reserve for "stunts" only, -10% discount - can only be used to power Extra Effort, improvised use of powers, "defaulting" one power to another, etc etc.

Also note that unlimited, unconditional FP regeneration will be looked at a little funny, especially in combination with lots of abilities that have Costs FP slapped on them. It's not going to be forbidden, but your character will be picked at extra hard for munchkin potential.

I-Scale Hero - 0 points.

Heroes at this level are comparable to well equipped infantry forces.
Maximum dice of Innate Attack or basic swing damage (for TK and for regular ST, and any other damaging effect): 15d.
Maximum DR: 50.
Maximum Extra HP: 100 (this can be bought on top of whatever HP you get from Strength naturally).
Maximum Injury Tolerance: Damage Reduction factor: 1/10.
Maximum level of ST with Super-Effort (see Supers p. 24): +10 (+100). (Total maximum ST = 120)

Misc items:

Rapid Fire Attacks: An attack with a Rate of Fire of 2-5 should have a maximum of 10d damage.
An attack with a RoF of 6-15 should have a maximum of 7d damage.
An attack with a RoF of 16-30 should have a maximum of 4d damage.
Maximum RoF is 30.
Area of Effect: Maximum radius of area effect powers is 32 yards (5 levels of Area Effect enhancement).
Abilities with Armor Divisors over 3 will have half the normal dice limits.

D-scale Hero - 100 points.

Heroes at this level are comparable to tanks.
Maximum dice of Innate Attack or basic swing damage: 150d.
Maximum DR: 500.
Maximum Injury Tolerance: Damage Reduction factor: 1/100.
Maximum level of ST with Super-Effort: +16 (+1,000). (Total maximum ST = 1,020)

Misc Items:

Rapid Fire Attacks:
An attack with a Rate of Fire of 2-5 should have a maximum of 100d damage.
An attack with a RoF of 6-15 should have a maximum of 70d damage.
An attack with a RoF of 16-30 should have a maximum of 40d damage.
An attack with a RoF of 31-50 should have a maximum of 10d damage.
An attack with a RoF of 51-100 should have a maximum of 7d damage.
Maximum RoF is 100.
Area of Effect: Maximum radius of area effect powers is 1024 yards (10 levels of Area Effect enhancement).
Abilities with Armor Divisors over 3 will have half the normal dice limits.