I’ve been going on about super heroes for a little while now, but it’s been comics and TV series, so how about we talk Super Hero RPG?
A few weeks ago, in the middle of my Justice League binge I had an idea for a new RPG campaign, one in a super hero world. The world is of my creation but to make things interesting for the players, I would mix it, at their choice with either the Marvel or DC universes (or, hell, both).
The campaign’s name is Mantles, and it takes place in a future where Super Heroes are almost all gone, retired or dead. New heroes come out every day, but few make it past their first year in the business. Most heroes in this future lack the moral code of their predecessors alienating any potential mentor who could take them to the next level.
This is a future where—if the DC universe is part of it—Bruce Wayne is now reaching the end of his Batman career, desperate for someone to take over and continue the legacy—Terry MicGinnis isn’t around yet. Superman’s still is but he’s mostly a forgotten legend, a hero people see once in a while to take out a really nasty threat, but hurrying back to his home to recharge his ailing internal batteries. The sun doesn’t shine as it used to and he doesn’t recharge as well either.
But if the new super heroes, the players, manage to make a name for themselves and prove to be more than simple vigilantes, but true heroes, they might get the attention of the old heroes, of those retired or hidden, and should they choose to, they can take on their mantle and continue their legacy.
In Gotham, they might take on The Mantle of the Bat and bring justice through fear, or they might choose to follow in the footsteps of Captain America and take on his mantle—if they choose Marvel.
It’s not just super heroes with legacies. There might be a Jester out there looking for a new son, someone to teach the finer techniques in bashing a sidekick’s head in with a crowbar. And even the Dark Gods of Apokolips might be looking for an heir, someone to mould in their dread image!
There are also original super heroes and villains with mantles of their own, the legends of this world of mine…who don’t really exist at the moment because this entire campaign is in early stages still. I have thought of a few already, but I need to figure out the tone for the campaign still, because some of my villains make Jigsaw look like a kindergarten teacher and I don’t know just how dark I want this place to be.
But the players also have the choice of ignoring the Mantles completely, to instead keep their identities and forge new legends, new mantles and legacies.
I had the idea for this campaign not just because of my current super hero binge, but also because in comics there is a common pattern between all the different publishers and it’s how much they protect the mantles.
Think of how many times someone has taken someone else’s name, how many times the mantle has gone to a new worthy hero. Now think how many more times the mantles revert back to their original owners, how inevitably the status quo resets. In the world of comics changes are never permanent, and Mantles seem affixed to their original bearers. This is partly due to different writing staff over the years but also the fact that popularity of a character drives super hero comic book business and every creative decision.
So I want to make an adventure where these changes are one of the central themes, how a simple change in bearer can grant the super hero mantle a new life and new stories.
I’d be lying if I said that was the only reason though. I want to let my comic book fan players live out some of their dreams in the game.
Imagine you’re fighting against a villain and when things turn dire, Batman shows up, an older and somewhat clumsier caped crusader. But his presence is enough to make the villains falter and they leave. Before you can do or say anything, he offers to train you, to mold you into the next Batman.
How cool is that?
At this point, I don’t know when we’ll play this one. There’s still a lot of work to do on the world building, as I want my heroes and villains to be strong enough to stand side by side with the DC or Marvel ones without them overshadowing my creations too much. I also need to figure out the system we’ll use to play and what benefits the mantles provide should a player earn one of them.
And there’s also the upcoming Shadowrun game, which I’m really excited about!