My current ideas for an Incredibles RPG campaign largely revolve around events post-Incredibles 2.
From this point forward I will be referencing elements from both The Incredibles and Incredibles 2 so if you have not yet seen the sequel [or the original for that matter], first and foremost, what the heck is wrong with you? Second, please go do so before reading the rest of the posts this month as there will indeed be SPOILERS.
"And call me when you get back, darling. I enjoy our visits."
Edna Mode, The Incredibles.
Oh you're back!
The basic premise of my campaign is that since Superheroes are now legal once more (SPOILER!), the PCs would be a new group of Supers protecting another fictional city nearby to the locations we see in the films [such as New Urbem, Municiberg, Metroville, etc.].
I will go more in depth on the subject of the Player Characters in an upcoming post. Here and now I want to talk about the world/universe of The Incredibles and the ideas and implications the films have inspired in me.
I feel like this will be a good opportunity to not only explain my concepts for running an Incredibles campaign but also a look into how I deal with Intellectual Property based games in general (which is something I do fairly often).
Note that while there have been video games, comics, and other 'expanded universe' merchandise for the IP, the only elements I consider canon are the films themselves and the added features on the DVD/Bluray. That doesn't mean I might not borrow ideas from these other sources. Simply put, the information they provide is to be considered apocryphal for the purposes of generating my campaign.
Finally, this is a work of fan fun and love.This is not an official product and does not claim to be affiliated with any official license. This project in no way seeks to profit or otherwise benefit from Disney, Pixar, Brad Bird or any related entity. This is the personal project of a fan of the Incredibles movies having fun making up ideas for a game so he and other fans can enjoy themselves.
Please don't hurt me Mr. Mouse.
What makes the setting of The Incredibles unique and/or special?
Atmosphere, Theme, and Tone
I find the Incredibles particularly interesting as a Superhero Comic Book fan as it embraces many of the classic tropes while turning a few of them on their ears.
The problems with capes, being sued for damages caused by crime-fighting, and the like are post-modern deconstructions of the traditional Superhero genre. In most instances I dislike that immensely but here it works.
Why? Because the final message isn't 'Superheroes are Childish and Bad and you are dumb for liking them'. That's what the 90s wanted you to believe and between you and me the 90s can go *ahem* itself. The problem is so many people believed that sad, sorry message that they're still producing Superhero stories with that idea in mind (I'm looking at you DC Cinematic Universe. I am not however looking at your movies any longer).
No, the final message of the Incredibles is that being a hero is a great thing to be, it's awesome to fight against evil, and teaming up with family and friends to vanquish wrong doing makes it even better!
For the most part, the heroes appear very Silver Age but on closer inspection I would say they are actually Golden Age. This is apparent in their simplified costume designs and names that don't always line up perfectly with their powers and appearances.
They remind me less of the Golden Age heroes of Timely/Marvel Comics and National/DC, who went on to get revamped in the sixties and become more popular than ever, and more like the plethora of heroes created by third party companies. Some of these characters were popular for a time but many were flash-in-the-pan heroes that saw only a few appearances before...hmmm...before disappearing.
The Parrs are the exception, reappearing after a long hiatus and getting new, more 'modern' costumes and becoming Silver Age in the process (as Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl, along with their kids, form a team akin to the 1960s Fantastic Four).*
There are a great deal of James Bond and Cold War era Super Spy elements in the series in addition to the overall Superhero motif. Most villains have gadgets and technology as opposed to superpowers. Syndrome has a secret, volcano base and gun toting minions in high-tech flying vehicles. Mr. Incredibles Incredimobile resembles one of Q's cars for James Bond more than it does the Batmobile.
What does this mean for the tone and atmosphere of the setting? Well, it would seem that our heroes are one part Costumed Crusader and one part Secret Agent, investigating the nefarious plans of eco-terrorists and world conquerors as often as bank robbers and monsters from the deep. Personally I love the idea, as some of my favorite old comics combine the two genres of Supers and Spys such as Wally Wood's T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents.
I definitely hope to instill a bit of that cold war espionage feel to the adventures I run for an Incredibles game.
Now, I'll finish with theme.
The themes I'm hoping to infuse into a campaign of the Incredibles certainly run parallel to those established in the films; family, compassion, being true to one's self, and refusing to give up in the face of adversity.
I'd like to additionally explore some of the ideas touched upon by the second film; should we uphold the law if the law is unjust? Are we [becoming] slaves to technology? If Superheroes exist, will we just assume they'll save us and not try to save ourselves?
Honestly, that last one doesn't make a lot of sense to me. People in dire situations will always try to survive them as best they can. They have to hope, to believe, that they will find a way out of their predicament. The idea that a police officer, fire fighter, or Superhero will show up isn't something the endangered person automatically assumes. It is something they hope happens. It is something they will try to make happen by contacting the proper authorities. It would be great if help arrived, but you can't bank on it.
From the Superhero's perspective, they don't want that person to have to go it alone, to face odds too heavily against them. If you have the power to help people, to provide hope and possibly remove someone from danger, you will do everything you can to make that happen. To me, that's what being a Superhero really means.
Look and Feel
The Incredibles is clearly set on an alternate Earth in which the early 1960s not only has Superheroes but also a very distinctive appearance reminiscent of the modernism/futurism of the period between the late 1950s and early-to-mid 1970s.
The architecture and graphic design throughout both films is a perfect example of a 1960s that didn't quite exist in the real world. As noted above, the look of the world matches the super spy vibe underlining much of the action.
In fact, I feel like the world of The Incredibles has stylistic anachronisms that remind me of Batman: The Animated Series. Whereas Paul Dini and Bruce Timm's Gotham is both art deco and modern - a 20th Century with a more 1930s aesthetic - Brad Bird's Metroville and Municiberg are akin to a 50s and 60s that had access to 21st Century engineering techniques and materials.**
It doesn't end with the look of things. You'll notice that the technology and lifestyle of the 50s and 60s is likewise a big part of the setting. You see older style coffee shops, diners and luncheonettes with stools and counters. There have to be malt shops, theaters only showing only one movie at a times (dig those matinee prices!), and the multi-floor department store is all the rage in the big cities!
Television is in it's heyday, as seen in Incredibles 2. The Screenslaver warns that we've become addicted to screens but you'll notice 'he' never mentions computers or cell phones. Games shows are mentioned but not video games. Cordless phones are seen but only in the homes and offices of the very wealthy.
Running the Incredibles setting is like running a period piece; Superheroes on the set of Mad Men.
While I would personally want to avoid siting specific dates, I would recommend keeping track of campaign events and history, as a timeline for Superhero activity is a key point in the Incredibles world. A major plot element is that prior to the two films, Supers have been outlawed for the past 15 years.*
This is also important to tract who is alive and who is dead. Several heroes were killed by costume related mishaps (NO CAPES!) prior to Superhero activity being outlawed. Many more were killed by Buddy Pine, aka Syndrome, and his mechanical menace the Omnidroid.
If one is very observant, you will see that not all the Supers of the glory days are dead. Oh, no. It's quite clear that the Parr Family aren't the only survivors of that bygone era. Additionally, it's unclear what became of the villains of the era, as we know even less about the bad guys than we do about the good guys.
I will go into a bit more detail about the status of various characters in a later post.
Whoa. That's a lot off the top of my head. I apologize if this reads a bit like a stream of consciousness but frankly, it sort of is. I will be back soon with my thoughts on the Supers themselves and their role as Player Characters in what I hope is a more organized fashion.
Until then...NO CAPES!
Come back soon darling. I enjoy our little chats.
*Although I would personally not want to set exact dates to things, my theory on the Golden Age nature of the original heroes is largely based on a year noted on the front page of a newspaper in the first Incredibles film.
Bob Parr reads that Simon J. Paladino, aka Gazerbeam, has gone missing in a newspaper article dated 1962. If one subtracts 15 years from that date you'd get 1947, the later part of the Golden Age of Comics (which ended around 1950).
**My thoughts regarding the visual appearance of the Incredibles world are from observations as well as insight from The Art of The Incredibles and The Art of Incredibles 2 by Chronicle Books. I highly recommend them, especially the second one, as it gives a good deal of information on the thoughts that went into making the much anticipated sequel.