by Roger E. Moore
Much has been written about how agame referee can put together a detailedand seemingly realistic campaign worldfor fantasy role-playing games, but littlehas been said about setting up campaignworlds for games using costumedheroes. Why bother? Two of the majorheroic role-playing games on the market(the MARVEL SUPER HEROES and DCHEROES games) come with their ownevolving universes, based on comicsfrom the two respective companies.
But what if you are using one of theother heroic game systems, such as theCHAMPIONS, VILLAINS &VIGILANTES, or SUPERWORLDgames? A number of referees simplycopy the Marvel or DC worlds (or both)and install them, complete with theirrespective heroes and villains, into theircampaigns. This is rather like makingevery fantasy campaign an exact copy ofMiddle Earth which is frequentlydone, but doesnt say much for onesoriginality.
The campaign universe you create foryour own heroes and villains can be justas good as any other. The comic bookspoint out that there are millions of alter-nate and parallel universes; your cam-paign is simply one of them. Below aresome considerations that can enlivenand deepen your heroic campaign,giving it realism that can make it last.
One caveat: This article assumes thatthe campaign you are running is similarto (but not the same as) the currentcomic-book universes. Unusual cam-paigns based upon alien, magical, orlost-atomic worlds will have to be dealtwith in another article, though some ofthe guidelines given here would alsoapply to them. Campaigns not based inor around North America will also bedealt with elsewhere.
How many non-player heroes and vil-lains are there in your campaign? Forthe sake of argument, it helps to assume
a general ratio of one super-poweredcharacter coming to life for every onemillion citizens in a particular countryor region. This proves to be a very con-venient figure; by this reckoning, theUnited States of America should have232 super-powered heroes and villainsof every sort. This compares nicely withthe numbers of heroes and villains fromthe major comics worlds.
The 1:1,000,000 ratio is fine, but itimplies all sorts of surprising things.Canada should have 24 super charac-ters, Australia 15, New Zealand 3, andthe United Kingdom 56 (5 of them Scots-men). Also, by this reasoning, the SovietUnion should have about 270 super-powered characters, and mainlandChina has 1,008! Okay, you could have acampaign in which Chinas super-forcedominates the world, but for now, wellfocus on North American campaigns.
Super-characters can usually be classi-fied into the following individual cata-gories: trained athlete, inventive genius,altered human, natural mutant, mythicbeing, technology-augmented hero,artifical being (like robots and androids),sorcerer, alien, and assorted non-humans. It stands to reason that moreadvanced nations have a better chanceof having heroes and villains who usepowered armor and other high-techdevices. Heroic training programs wouldbe better funded, and better communi-cations and transportation would bene-fit the development of super-groups.Money is power, and money meansmore super-types.
Mythic, legendary, sorcerous, andalien characters could still appear fromunderdeveloped countries, joined by afew highly trained geniuses, detectives,athletes, and a rare hightech hero orvillain, perhaps produced as part of asecret government project. Underdevel-oped nations often have poor medicalcare, which would affect the survivalrate of both heroes and villains. Onewould thus expect that few super-characters would come from theseplaces, perhaps only one per five or tenmillion people.
An almanac gives a clearer picture ofwhich countries would be consideredunderdeveloped. With references to aNorth American campaign, Haiti usuallyappears to be the worst off, and coun-tries like Trinidad and Costa Rica seemto be doing rather well, though they arenot in the same economic league asCanada and the United States. Mexico,with its high population, should havemany super types, whether oneconsiders it underdeveloped or not.
In any nation, political considerationscould also affect the appearance ofsuper-characters. An anti-governmenthero might be quickly captured andkilled by the armed forces; an anti-mutant government might kill off allpersons with strange powers. Develop-ment of these aspects of the world areleft to the referee to resolve.
D R A G O N 7 7
Using an almanac listing various coun-tries and their populations, the followingtable was developed for determining thenumbers of super-beings in the vicinityof North America. Each country is listedwith the number of millions of peoplewho live there, equal to the number ofsuper-powered characters who wouldalso live there (based on the 1:1,000,000ratio). As noted above, underdevelopedcountries might have fewer heroes andvillains than these numbers indicate.
Canada 24.4Costa Rica 2.3Cuba 9.8Dominican Republic 5.7El Salvador 5.0Guatemala 7.7Haiti 6.1Honduras 4.0Jamaica 2.2Mexico 71.3Nicaragua 2.6Panama 1.9Trinidad and Tobago 1.1United States 232.0*
* Includes Puerto Rico, which wouldhave 3.1 super-characters originatingfrom it.
There are some eye-openers in theabove chart. Most people will automati-cally think of America and Canada assuper-character homelands, but Mexicovirtually begs for heroic representation.A few heroes and villains would bescattered across Central America andthe Caribbean, and Cuba is the largest ofthese minor hero-producers. Do someparticular scenarios suggest themselveshere?
It was assumed that the followingcountries and foreign territories had nosuper-powered beings associated withthem, because of their low populationfigures: Antigua and Barbuda, the Baha-mas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, BritishWest Indes, Greenland, Dominica,Grenada, Guadeloupe, Iceland, Marti-nique, Saint Lucia, St. Pierre andMiquelon, and Saint Vincent and theGrenadines. Of course, if you want ahero from one of these places in yourcampaign, you can have one. Its yourcampaign, and Grenada would probablyappreciate the thought.
It is worthwhile to divide further thelargest countries into their variousmajor territorial possessions and states.Most Canadian super-powered charac-ters should hail from Ontario and Que-bec; most American characters ought tocall California, New York, Texas, Pennsyl
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vania, Illinois, and Ohio their homestates. Special heroes and villains couldcome from areas with low populations,such as the Northwest Territories,Alaska, and Wyoming, but these shouldbe relatively rare.
Particular ethnic groups should beaccounted for in any grouping of heroesand villains. An almanac reveals that youcould expect to find about 26.5 blackand 14.6 Hispanic super-characters inthe United States (excluding PuertoRico). Discrimination could alter theseproportions, of course. Male and femalecharacters would be equally repre-sented in all categories, unless you feelthat selective discrimination would alterthis balance as well. Religious and politi-cal factors in sorting super-types wouldalso be interesting to add.
Every group of super-powered heroesneeds a major metropolis to defend andto use as their main base. For a NorthAmerican campaign, all cities with morethan 1,000,000 citizens qualify for hero-group status, though they might nothave one in any particular campaign.Below are the major cities of NorthAmerica and the number of millions ofpeople there (as well as the number ofsuper-characters who might come fromthere).
CanadaToronto 3.0Montreal 2.8Vancouver 1.2
Dominican RepublicSanto Domingo 1.3
GuatemalaGuatemala City 1.3
MexicoMexico City 17.0*Guadalajara 2 . 4 *Monterrey 2 . 0 *
United States**New York City 7.0Chicago 3.0Los Angeles 3.0Philadelphia 1.7Houston 1.6Detroit 1.2
* Includes metropolitan areas.** Excludes metropolitan areas, ofwhich there are 29 in the United Stateswith populations greater than 1 million,including San Juan, Puerto Rico.
What can be done with these statistics?Think of the new heroes and villainsthat your campaign can acquire! Aztec,
Mayan, American Indian, and Eskimodeities, villains, and heroes can maketheir appearances. Voodoo sorcerersappear from the Caribbean, as well aspirate and conquistador figures fromthe Caribbean and Mexico. Communistcharacters from Cuba (as well as anti-communist ones) come into play. Thediversity of new characters may enrichany heroic campaign.
Heroes and villains from other uni-verses could, of course, be added to theabove. If you think a particular villainwho was slain in a recent comic bookdeserves a second chance to be bad, youcan simply declare that he popped intoyour universe at the time of his death.Perhaps a major hero or villain wascloned or duplicated by alien forces, andthe clone now resides in Pittsburg orHouston. Any doubled super-charac-ters should be in addition to the onesproduced by these statistics.
Note that these characters, as statedbefore, are also in addition to the onesthe players are using. Player character.heroes can come from anywhere theywish and shouldnt be bound by theabove statistics, which only serve toform a campaign background.
Though rather dry, these importantstatistics can lay the groundwork foryour super-powered hero campaign andhelp individualize it. Consider the fol-lowing scenarios, derived from theabove material.
Cuban super-characters attempt toinfiltrate U.S. Naval installations in theCaribbean, to sabotage or spy uponthem. They may or may not be helpedby allied super-characters from theSoviet Union or from other CentralAmerican and Caribbean states.
French-speaking heroes are contactedby a secret Canadian government pro-ject for work in foiling crime in Quebec.