Wednesday, February 9, 2011


I once said that aside from Star Trek, Star Wars may be the game I've run most often. Looking back, that may not be true. It may well be Superheroes if you consider the genre and not any one particular system. It was most certainly superhero comic books that got me into gaming in the first place.

Though I have never before run a Golden Age Superhero campaign, I have run a number of Superhero campaigns in non-standard settings. Recently, while I was reminiscing with a few friends about these old games, I thought it might may a fun post to mention them. Here are but three...

SUPERS: 1889

Using a heavily houseruled/homebrewed/kitbashed version of GDW's Space:1889 game, this short but memorable campaign focused on the first superhero team the world had ever known (a point of continuity I've kept throughout many later Supers campaigns). The team consisted of a number of unusually gifted individuals operating under Queen Victoria for the purpose of protecting the world from a German mad scientist and his army of steampunk robots powered by quasi-mystic crystals from Mars. The campaign's background was original though I borrowed librally from the Space:1889 game, Marvel, DC and other sources.


Run with the DC Heroes RPG by Mayfair Games, this campaign was set in the 30th century of the Legion of Superheroes, my favorite comic book superteam of all time. The premise was, in celebration of the Earth's freedom from a Dominion invasion and to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the formation of its unified world government EarthGov, a reformed Vidar (aka the villain Universo) assembled a team of superheroes he called the Justice League of Earth. Vidar explained that the Legion has to protect the entire United Planets and that's not only a lot of work but they can't be everywhere which is how the invasion of Earth by the Dominion occured.

Vidar's JLE was designed to emulate the famous 20th and 21st century Justice League teams and consisted of heroes from all over the planet. From Japan, Talon Guard, the team's bird of prey themed Batman who resembled the heroes of Battle of the Planets/G-Force/Gatchaman. From Ireland, Balefire, a descendant of Alan Scott/Green Lantern and Jade who possessed mystical green flames he could shape into virtually anything. From Kenya, Radi Roho, 'The Lightning Spirit' who possessed the superspeed of the Flash but could also read the speed force to determine information about objects in motion. From an unknown African nation (a mystery to be revealed later in the campaign) came Nubia, whose physical abilities, combat experience and skill with melee weapons resembled none other than Wonder Woman. Finally, from the good old U.S. of A. came Maximum, a half-Daxamite, half-Human hero with a powerful secret who represented the one and only Man of Steel - Superman!

It was eventually revealed that Universo intended to use his mind control powers and hidden devices in the JLE's ear plug communicators to turn them into his personal army. Talon Guard figured it out and freed Maximum seconds before the latter pulverized the former. Maximum than used his secret weapon to reach the rest of the team and free them or fight them as needed with Talon Guard going after Universo himself (until the rest of the group could catch up). Maximum's secret? His Human side. Family name: Freeman. As in Freddy Freeman, Capt. Marvel Jr.. When Maximum says, "CAPTAIN MARVEL", a bolt of lightning and a crack of thunder transform him into Max Marvel. Plus Daxamite. Yeah baby.


A Gamma World game originally run by a friend but which I took over half way through because he was starting to run out of ideas and had difficulty with 'where to go' with Gamma World. I've had this issue as well with Post Apocalypse settings. Sometimes its hard for story oriented GMs to find a focus or purpose to a Gamma World campaign.

My idea once I took over what my pal had already developed was that it seemed clear to me he was trying to determine who was at fault for the current state of the planet. I also thought he was hinting at some epic event as the cause or at least the catalyst. Furthermore, we had found an ancient device the was receiving messages from the Moon. So my thought was...

There was a Crisis on Infinite Earths and nobody won. Everybody lost. Gamma World is the way it is because an infinite number of parallel Earths merged and not quite correctly. Its also why mutants abound and many have superpowers. Our main enemy had been a robot mastermind who reminded me of Brainiac or Ultron.

I decided that the villain was indeed an arch-nemesis of the original heroes of one of the Earths who was the only real survivor from the time of the Ancients (i.e. the time of superhero comics). On the Moon, unbeknownst to the PCs, was the headquarters of 'The Protectors', the primary superteam of the old world. Its own AI was attempting to contact any member it could by communicator (and had been trying this for hundreds and hundreds of years). Eventually the PCs find the ruins of a 'Batcave' like base belonging to another long dead hero and use its intact rocketship/plane to reach the HQ on the Moon. There they are assumed to be various heroes by the base's damaged AI and healed and repaired by it, against their will and not completely correctly (new mutations, powers altered or adjusted, etc.).

Ever run an off beat Supers game? Tell me about it.

Up, up and away,

Barking Alien


  1. In GURPS I once ran a low-powered supers game in a D&D style world. One character was similar to Iron Man's clunky original suit (alibet magically powered), then their was a dark avenger of the night like Batman or the Shadow. Maybe there was an archer with trick arrows.

  2. Very cool. My primary D&D campaign setting, noted in a number of older posts and comments elsewhere, is essentially a medieval version of Justice League Unlimited. :)

  3. I love the 1889 idea - it sounds like a good way to work in some steampunk with a BUT WAIT THERE"S MORE approach. I've owned the original game for 20 years but have never been able to run it though I wrote up a campaign and presented it as "Cowboys on Mars" with a more American focus. I even tried combining it with Deadlands (Cowboys, Zombies, and Martians - who can resist that?) but no sale.

    I love the GW idea too, but then I have a big soft spot for it anywy.

    I'm less familiar with DC than I am Marvel and I'm a lot less familiar with the Legion than the League so I don't get some of the references but I'd play it!

    One of my more memorable campaigns got off to a false start. My "Miami 2000" campaign (back when that was still in the future) opened with the traditional bank robbery and one of the PC's was "The Rose" a flying female super with a ranged killing attack (her Thorn Blast) and a code against killing. First round of the first session she swoops in and blasts poor Pulsar (the villain from the main Champions book) and kills him outright. She spent the rest of the fight curled up in a little ball as I advised the player on some possible changes she might want to make to her character.

  4. I never got very far with supers games, mostly because I like 4-colours, and all my players seemed to be Iron Age fans... The most offbeat premise I had was to have the heroes meet during auditions for the official UK government-approved, business-sponsored superteam (this was back in the early 90's); naturally, they failed the auditions and put together their own second-string team...

    Space 1889 was a wonderful setting, crippled by a very clunky system. I'm rather excited about the new Savage Worlds version (even if it is a lot more pulpy) and hoping to run some later this year. Luckily, we have a strong steampunk community in this area!