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Best jobs for Secret IDs?


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14 hours ago, archer said:

 

They'd have to think to do it. Shhhhh.... :D

 

How many people in the world have had their voices recorded at some point? How many of those various recordings would VIPER be willing to go through in order to hope to stumble across some secret ID? How many of those recordings are of high enough quality to be worth even trying to analyze it?

 

I have recognized some actors solely because the voice sounded familiar and it caused me to dig a little further, but I was more poking at the many other ways we suggest some secret IDs would be hard to maintain when the source material commonly suspends disbelief and allows that secret ID to be maintained.

 

Back in his first appearance, R'as Al Ghul figured out Bats was Bruce Wayne because his company was the only one to which he could trace every tech item Bats would clearly need - "a hole I'll plug".  How many people would it really take to outfit a cave complex with the tech and buildout in the BatCave?  Two guys maintaining day jobs are going to be a long time on that basement reno project!

 

When Man of Steel rebooted Supes post-Crisis, Lois noted that Clark was really buff, but the weights in his apartment were pretty similar to the ones she uses - he didn't realize since they're all about as heavy as paper clips to him.

 

We can dig into what, realistically, "should" happen (on both sides - really, Clark could not determine appropriate weights for a buff human male?  They DO mark how heavy the blasted things are, right?; WayneTech spends all that dough on Bruce's sideline activity and accounting, and the IRS, never picks up on the money leak?), or we can follow the lead of the source material.

 

Like every other genre trope, if the GM makes it a losing proposition for players to follow it, players just won't follow it.

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Fiction writer, Composer, Graphic Artist.  Anything where you work from home or at least alone and don’t have to account for your time as long as the work is turned in on schedule.

Congressman.   No one actually expects you to be there anyway.....

Strippers usually have to work on a set schedule. The painters usually come along right behind them and if the paint isn't already stripped, the painters have to wait.

  • 1 month later...

  A 9 to 5 job works fine if if you can function without a normal amount of sleep and your superhero career consists of stalking the night to slap muggers and terrorize drug dealers.  But for the default Champions character who is an on-call member of a superteam that responds to crises as needed what you need is a job with flexible hours.  Youtube personality.  Freelance journalist.  Tax accountant.  Web developer.  Private Detective.  Owner of a small business who has employees to cover for their absences and nobody to answer to.  

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Anything you can do at home...and a job that suggests odd hours helps.  Obviously, powers and skills come into play, but note that they may well be real income sources.

 

--freelance software designer

--artist, sculptor, potter

--writer, nowadays, when you don't need a publisher, agent, etc.

 

There are a few that might link to power sets:

 

--metal manipulator:  there are several options.  High-end knives.  There's a market for serious swords;  the best fetch several thousand a pop.  Watches...beautifully hand-finished steel pieces can easily get into 5 digit range.  There's a specialized skill here worth mentioning.  Railroad-grade pocket watches frequently had fired enamel dials;  they're formed by melting glass or ceramic powders in a kiln.  Extremely delicate, tricky, high loss rates.  The skill never died...but it's been undergoing a renaissance.  Enamel dial makers are specialized artisans.  Even a simple enamel dial can take a $1000 watch up to...call it $1300-1500.  
 

--stone manipulator:  gem cutting and polishing.  The trick here is establishing the connections to get the supply in the first place, as this is a small world, and you're talking about extremely valuable materials so trust is essential.  But if your powers let you split, cut, facet, and finish with extremely high quality results and yields, this can work.  

 

--my favorite:  carbon manipulator.  Covers diamond cutter, since diamonds are pure carbon.  But almost all fibers are carbon-based;  cotton is 90% cellulose, which is C6 H10 O5.  Wool is similar;  it also contains fatty acids...with are carbon-based.  Kevlar includes some nitrogen...but that's it.  So...on the side, as a cover?  High-end clothing.  By appointment only.  For your team, if the GM allows?  Armor maker.

 

Lessee...some others...

--the main character in Drew Hayes' Corpies is a freelance restaurant/bar consultant.  This suggests things like food critic.

--security consultant/analyst.  Here, I'd want a power set that doesn't suggest I can exploit the systems I help with.  But, this is a nice complement to hero work.

--CAD/CAM programmer and related.  Architect had crossed my mind, but there are serious issues there;  an architect has to spend significant time with customers and general contractors.  BUT, the plans are now built on a computer...so your cover's the guy who does that part, in the back.  Extends to all kinds of CAD/CAM and 3D printing applications.

 

 

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I don't think it would be hard at all for a Bruce Wayne type to hide what he's doing.  The IRS isn't going to be digging through the finances of WayneTech, looking for secrets.  The company will issue reports to its stockholders, but they aren't handing dollar amounts of research spending to the government.  And anyway, how would an IRS agent know how much money should be spent on some R&D project?

 

"August 12th, one point five million dollars for bat-themed supercar... hmm... wonder what that could be for..."

 

Realistically, even if they did dig really deep, they'd just see money for a compact jet engine that got scrapped because the military contract was cancelled or whatever.  Prototype destroyed in accordance with laws governing classified material.  One auditor (or even team of auditors) is not going to be able to dig through a company the size of Microsoft and piece together which cancelled projects could create Batman's gear if you put it together in the right way.

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In my own head-canon, superheroes have several layers of protection for their secret IDs.

 

At the top level, you've got other superheroes.  They can fill in for each other, or use their resources to provide somebody assistance in setting up and maintaining their ID.  Remember that time when Batman saved Bruce Wayne on national television?  Or when Clark Kent interviewed Superman live on TV?  It's really handy to be friends with the Martian Manhunter.  And Bruce has really good accountants and tax lawyers on his staff who will help you legitimize some of that extra income you make on the side.

 

At the next level, you've got close friends who know you're a superhero.  They cover for you when you need to leave work suddenly, or they will say "oh yeah Bill was over at my house last night".  They go out of their way to prevent people from wondering why you disappear all the time (as opposed to people investigating who Amazing Man really is).  This is your Alfred.

 

Then you've got friends and acquaintances who may suspect, but don't care.  They could very easily put two and two together, yet they never do.  This is your Jimmy Olsen/Perry White/Commissioner Gordon type.  They are actively not curious about the hero's identity, sometimes even ignoring obvious clues.  They know Amazing Man, they like Amazing Man, and if Steve Stephenson just happens to run to the bathroom right before Amazing Man appears (every single time), well a man's bathroom business is his own.  Some of these people may be local authorities who would be the ones most likely to interact with the hero on a day to day basis.

 

I also think the best source of protection for superhero secret identities are the supervillains themselves.  Why would the government be so fired up about uncovering Superman's secret identity, shouldn't they be worried about stopping Brainiac?  Or where will Metallo strike next?  No, let's devote all our time and resources to digging up dirt on the guy who saved that busload of kids and then fought off an alien invasion.  Riiiiight.  The problem I always had with this "government vs the superheroes" thing (including superhuman registration) is that supervillains don't become less active when you do that.

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I'd also note that Secret ID is a complication.  If you are designing your Secret ID to avoid any complications, something is wrong.  Tony Stark often faced "do what is good for you and your company, or save the world from the Threat of the Month" challenges.

 

That needs to be mixed with the appropriate level of suspension of disbelief that people seldom notice Clark Kent is never around when Superman shows up, and that a pair of glasses so readily disguises him, but if there are no complications, there is no Complication.

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3 hours ago, Hugh Neilson said:

I'd also note that Secret ID is a complication.  If you are designing your Secret ID to avoid any complications, something is wrong.  Tony Stark often faced "do what is good for you and your company, or save the world from the Threat of the Month" challenges.

 

That needs to be mixed with the appropriate level of suspension of disbelief that people seldom notice Clark Kent is never around when Superman shows up, and that a pair of glasses so readily disguises him, but if there are no complications, there is no Complication.

 

A lot of Tony Stark's "Threat of the Month" challenges used to be saving various branches of his company from a variety of threats. Concealing his Secret ID was excusing himself from meetings, ducking his secretary, and making it to whatever place he stashed his armor.

 

Then the writers took away the original "Stark International" and the focus of the comic moved away from Tony spending a majority of the time in his comic book protecting his own company.

 

He seemed to spend more time protecting is Secret ID when he was spending more time around his various DNPC's (including his company) than he did later.

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6 hours ago, Hugh Neilson said:

I'd also note that Secret ID is a complication.  If you are designing your Secret ID to avoid any complications, something is wrong.  Tony Stark often faced "do what is good for you and your company, or save the world from the Threat of the Month" challenges.

 

That needs to be mixed with the appropriate level of suspension of disbelief that people seldom notice Clark Kent is never around when Superman shows up, and that a pair of glasses so readily disguises him, but if there are no complications, there is no Complication.

Yeah, but I think you're talking about two different things now.  In the game, a Secret ID won't be revealed to the public unless the player just absolutely blows it.  The purpose is to add another dimension of gameplay and give obstacles for the player to overcome.  Amazing Man isn't going to have his Secret ID busted by an IRS investigation or because somebody tested a hair follicle, because that would be a boring game.  That's not superheroey, so it won't happen.  But if we're talking about a "realistic" scenario where supers are hiding their identities, that's when you start wondering about how they file their taxes and which cell towers they're pinging.

 

Cool stories (and fun games) have different considerations than a realistic deconstruction of the genre.

 

Although, this discussion has given me an idea for a story/character.  What about some kind of "SecretIDs R Us" company that sets you up with good alibis, covers your tracks, and provides red herrings to investigators?  Nobody is going to investigate your Secret ID if they think they already know who you are.  I mean, of course Batman is secretly Mark Manchester, the Gotham PD detective who got fired for police brutality 10 years ago.  His wife got killed by the Joker, and he went on a rampage putting guys in the hospital trying to catch that clown.  He almost went to prison, but the DA declined to prosecute because of the circumstances with his wife.  Mark had a big fast car, knew some martial arts, and a bunch of SWAT gear went missing right before he got fired.  He still lives in Gotham, runs a gym, and disappears for days when Batman is away on Justice League missions.  Who else could it be?  I hear he's even got an under the table connection to a big company, like LexCorp, where he gets some of his really cool stuff.

 

Imagine being a really low-tier superhuman who gets hired to be Superman's "real identity".  You're about the right height and build, and you kinda look like the Man of Steel.  You're a construction worker in Metropolis, and you sometimes "accidentally" bend a steel bar or step out into the street and get hit by a truck, surviving unscathed.  "Wow I really got lucky there" as you leave a palm print in the hood of the vehicle.  You run off during disasters and come back to work with really lame excuses.  You tell government agents that you're definitely absolutely not Superman, and then place a call from your definitely-tapped phone line to a secret number and tell the gravely-voiced Batman-sounding guy on the other end that you're running late to the League meeting.

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Being Superman's "real ID" would be an invitation to get killed, should a real enemy of his target you.  (Altho they might not fall for the deception.)  

 

In Drew Hayes' Super Powereds books, a cornerstone point is that Heroes are licensed by the government;  such a license is extremely hard to get.  But Heroes are the cornerstone of the culture;  you've got action hero, sci fi, and high adventure all rolled together.  Support services have grown enormously.  One of them was, building a cover job, which might well indicate being on the payroll of the (very extensive) firm that actually built these covers, among many other things.  Through a shell, of course.  One of the more common themes in the current supers novels I've read, is the serious use of shell companies or other forms of corporate masking to hide ownerships of a LOT of companies, property, etc.  There was also legal support;  the laws recognized the extreme risk exposing the civilian ID represented, and accomodated that in ways that probably would draw serious criticism from both sides of the ideological spectrum.  So, TV coverage wouldn't be live-live;  at least, it'd be delayed long enough so unlikely events that might compromise the civilian ID would be censored.

BUT...if you got outed, you were outed.  

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Hayes also does a good job of recognizing the real issue:  if your ID is public, then 

 

--obviously your friends and family become targets

 

--less obviously, you lose the ability to act outside your hero persona.  ANYONE seen to be associated with you, becomes a potential target, or becomes a clear target for those trying to expose other Heroes.  The reason doesn't have to be malicious per se;  just figure how many gossip sites there would be.

 

So, in general...I'd argue Secret ID is the default, and is worth NO points, for the supers genre.  Public ID would be the problem, as it also creates a Social Complication in terms of dealing with other heroes.  Building the cover story becomes a useful part of the hero background.

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Domino, my sorceress character runs a second-hand bookstore specialising in mystical/mind/body/spirit literature and has a reputation for being able to get you anything. Of course, she’s also the scion of one of the richest families in the Bay Area, so it’s not like she *needs* a job, but she enjoys the work and the clientele. 
 

(I do confess, I haven’t thought through the practical logistics of this, I just thought it sounded thematically appropriate, not merely a cool idea.) 

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15 hours ago, unclevlad said:

Being Superman's "real ID" would be an invitation to get killed, should a real enemy of his target you.  (Altho they might not fall for the deception.)  

 

 

Well you wouldn't want everybody to know it.  Then it's not secret anymore.  Your average Joe on the street shouldn't necessarily know.  You've just got someone throwing off the trail of investigators.

 

I think having a low-tier superhuman pretend to be the secret ID would also give him much better survival odds.  The question of supervillains targeting the hero's secret ID also brings up the subject of how many of the genre conventions you're emulating.  In the real world, criminals don't actually target cops at their homes.  In the comics, supervillains trying to find out the hero's real identity is more common, but that identity is protected by genre conventions.  So we'd be going somewhere in the middle, real enough that you have to take active and creative steps to hide who you are, but still comic book enough that villains swear vengeance on heroes.

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18 hours ago, unclevlad said:

Hayes also does a good job of recognizing the real issue:  if your ID is public, then 

 

--obviously your friends and family become targets

 

--less obviously, you lose the ability to act outside your hero persona.  ANYONE seen to be associated with you, becomes a potential target, or becomes a clear target for those trying to expose other Heroes.  The reason doesn't have to be malicious per se;  just figure how many gossip sites there would be.

 

So, in general...I'd argue Secret ID is the default, and is worth NO points, for the supers genre.  Public ID would be the problem, as it also creates a Social Complication in terms of dealing with other heroes.  Building the cover story becomes a useful part of the hero background.

 

I like having the option of a hero having neither a Secret ID nor a Public ID. People just don't really care who the person is out of costume or they assume that his costumed identity is his only identity without thinking about it too hard.

 

I think that's appropriate for a Brother Voodoo kind of character who isn't important enough in the grand scheme of things for people to bother about his identity and who can disguise himself effectively by taking off his ridiculous costume.

 

Protecting a Secret ID is an effort. Having a Public ID is an effort. 

 

Insignificant Man waving goodbye to his family as he's off to another adventure...not so much effort.

 

 

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On 7/11/2020 at 11:12 AM, Hugh Neilson said:

 

Back in his first appearance, R'as Al Ghul figured out Bats was Bruce Wayne because his company was the only one to which he could trace every tech item Bats would clearly need - "a hole I'll plug".  How many people would it really take to outfit a cave complex with the tech and buildout in the BatCave?  Two guys maintaining day jobs are going to be a long time on that basement reno project!

 


  This concept goes back Even further than that. I remember as a kid watching the old Batman TV show,  Egghead figured out the whole “Batman has to be a rich guy” thing.  

  He even had it down to three suspects based on height, build, and athleticism. He narrowed it down because one was left-handed and the second had a pronounced French accent leaving Bruce Wayne as his choice.

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45 minutes ago, archer said:

 

I like having the option of a hero having neither a Secret ID nor a Public ID. People just don't really care who the person is out of costume or they assume that his costumed identity is his only identity without thinking about it too hard.

 

I think that's appropriate for a Brother Voodoo kind of character who isn't important enough in the grand scheme of things for people to bother about his identity and who can disguise himself effectively by taking off his ridiculous costume.

 

Protecting a Secret ID is an effort. Having a Public ID is an effort. 

 

Insignificant Man waving goodbye to his family as he's off to another adventure...not so much effort.

 

 

 

That kind of approach is also valid, particularly for a super who doesn't make that many enemies, and is popular in his area.

 

massey:  you've also got the indirect attack on the hero, through his friends/family.  How many times did Lois Lane get used as bait for Superman?  Or Jimmy.  Spidey was terrified someone would attack Aunt May, so the presumption becomes...yes, some of the villains probably would do it.

 

I do agree that there has to be a high degree of suspension of disbelief with regard to this.  The difficulty of systemic cover-ups, be it broad (a la Vampire:  The Masquerade) or narrower (individual secret IDs) just becomes enormous when cameras are ubiquitous, when information can be correlated so extensively (ever review your own credit report?) and when there's interest to do so.  Don't forget that bad guys have hackers too.  In this context, attack is easier than defense, so normally I'd say, piercing the ID is much easier than protecting it...but that's why we have to invoke suspension of disbelief, as long as the character gives us reasonable cause to do so.  

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3 minutes ago, Greywind said:

In the Batman sourcebook by Mayfair, there was a list of everyone that knew (at that time) who Batman was under the mask. There was also included all the people that could easily figure it out if they wanted to.

   
    Once you’ve got the Batman/Bruce Wayne thing worked out you also have all the Robins, many of the Batgirls, possibly Oracle, taking out the Birds of Prey, Nightwing and thru him all of the Titans who don’t already have public ID’s. 
    Bats is the lynchpin.  A smart and ruthless villain with one piece of information using Bat villains as muscle could conceivably wipe out a major cross section of effective opponents and cripple the heroes tactical thinking capabilities with out ever tangling with Batman himself.

    Identity Crisis part II...

    

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On 8/19/2020 at 10:21 AM, archer said:

 

A lot of Tony Stark's "Threat of the Month" challenges used to be saving various branches of his company from a variety of threats. Concealing his Secret ID was excusing himself from meetings, ducking his secretary, and making it to whatever place he stashed his armor.

 

Then the writers took away the original "Stark International" and the focus of the comic moved away from Tony spending a majority of the time in his comic book protecting his own company.

 

He seemed to spend more time protecting is Secret ID when he was spending more time around his various DNPC's (including his company) than he did later.

 

Ugh.  Stark had the silliest, most pointless Secret Identity of any superhero ever.  "I'm not Iron Man.  I'm Iron Man's boss and inventor!"  Yeah.  Sure.  That'll stop people from going after you for stuff Iron Man does.  Way to divert the law suits, subpoenas, vengeance-crazed supervillains and disgruntled protesters.  Truly you are a genius, Tony.  

 

As for Secret Identities, well not every character who has a Secret Identity actually has it as a Complication.  TV's Barry Allen has one, but puts no effort whatsoever into keeping it secure.  It's convenient that the public doesn't know who he really is, but not a matter of great concern when someone joins the dozens of people who already know.  Captain America had one, but the threat of exposure never actually came up so far as I know.  Even when it is a Complication, it's not one that should necessarily make it impossible to hold down a job.  

 

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I would think any independent contractor or work for hire person would be suitable. 

  • Independent Journalist/Photo Journalist selling stories to major publications.
  • Private Detective/Security Analyst
  • Criminal
  • Stripper
  • Day Worker
  • Uber/Lyft driver
  • Home Decorator
  • Personal assistant
  • etc.

 

Part time jobs could also be flexible enough, but miss too many assigned shifts and that would be bad.

 

That said, any job might be fine if you had need not sleep or only sleeps x hours a week.

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1 hour ago, dsatow said:

I would think any independent contractor or work for hire person would be suitable. 

  • Independent Journalist/Photo Journalist selling stories to major publications.
  • Private Detective/Security Analyst
  • Criminal
  • Stripper
  • Day Worker
  • Uber/Lyft driver
  • Home Decorator
  • Personal assistant
  • etc.

 

Part time jobs could also be flexible enough, but miss too many assigned shifts and that would be bad.

 

That said, any job might be fine if you had need not sleep or only sleeps x hours a week.

 

Strippers usually have to work on a set schedule. The painters usually come along right behind them and if the paint isn't already stripped, the painters have to wait.

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5 hours ago, dsatow said:

I would think any independent contractor or work for hire person would be suitable. 

  • Independent Journalist/Photo Journalist selling stories to major publications.
  • Private Detective/Security Analyst
  • Criminal
  • Stripper
  • Day Worker
  • Uber/Lyft driver
  • Home Decorator
  • Personal assistant
  • etc.

 

Part time jobs could also be flexible enough, but miss too many assigned shifts and that would be bad.

 

That said, any job might be fine if you had need not sleep or only sleeps x hours a week.

Archer's joke about strippers aside, there's the other problem with being a stripper - you can't wear your costume under your work clothes.  At least, not for long...

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