From Mutants and Masterminds to Icons and even some of the Fate Worlds, there are a lot of options out there for running a super powered RPG. Most of these games say they're for running Super Heroes, but I prefer called it a Super Powered game because depending on your players and what they want you might not be running a Super Hero game - no matter what you thought going in. Today I want to talk about this, and some questions you should be asking when setting up to run a supers game.
What Type Of Supers Game Are You Running?
Surprise surprise, it's this question first - and it always will be. It's not enough to tell people you want to run a game of Mutants and Masterminds or Icons or whatever the super powered game dujour is. You need to be more specific most of the time. Why? because players love freedom, and given a system with super powers you might have 2 people make super heroes straight out of the pages of Marvel and DC. However, you could have others want something more like the Authority. Someone else wants something like the Boys. And someone else thinks it'd be great to play a mutant who needs to hide their ability while being hunted by some sort of sentinel analog that is looking to wipe out people with powers.
Simply put, and especially with super powered RPGs, you need to discuss the type of game you want to run. If you want to run Super Heroes, you need to make sure everyone is on the same page with that. Teen Heroes is different from super heroes too btw. Yes, you can have a teen hero in a normal super hero game, but a Teen Hero campaign has different expectations than a non-teen super hero game.
Silver Age, Iron Age, Modern Age?
What type of feel are you going for with your supers? The silver age was very straight forward. Heroes are good. Villains are bad. Heroes and the law get along. You can trust the government. You can trust heroes. Villain plots tend to be a bit more wacky and out there, or just straight forward in going for the world.
The Iron Age turns that on its head. Everyone is in trench coats with spikes and leather. Heroes use guns. People like the punisher that are ultra violent and kill become popular. A lot of heroes have their powers from a dark source, or otherwise have a doom clock ticking over their head. The world is darker too. Everything is gritty. People get beaten up. They bleed. They get battered and bruised. This is where you get heroes like Spawn, Cable, Deathstroke, Bloodgun, and other people with names like that.
The Modern Age - and this might be two ages now for all I know - is back towards the Silver Age in a lot of ways, but without fully going back to trusting everything. You have super heroes like Superman, Spiderman, and such but they're not necessarily always in league with the government or others, even if they are doing the right thing - or what they think is the right thing. The modern age has a lot of questions to ask heroes about what it means to be a hero, to wear a mask. It also has darker stories of people posing as better than they are, or heroes doing horrible things for what they feel are good reasons.
Are secret identities going to be a thing you deal with in your game? They can be a lot of fun to deal with, and there are always things to add drama like threatening to reveal a hero or someone who knows the secret. Some players don't like it though. The Avengers don't have secret identities, and that's fine. Spider-man does, and that's fine too. If you're not going to deal with secret identities, then that's fine. If you're fine with a mix, that's fine too. But some worlds that GMs want to run for don't work too great without them. That Sentinel Survival game with mutants isn't a great time to be advertising who you are and where you live, right?