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Characters WITHOUT tragic origins...

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I thought I'd look at the current slate of player characters in my Champions campaign for tragedy-in-origin.


Circe - daughter of a mentalist with her own natural psionic powers.  Her grandmother died when she was young, so we'll call her origin semi-tragic, since she thought most of her life that it was natural causes (but has recently learned she was killed).

Honey Badger - son of one of the Norse Norns of fate, who disappeared shortly while he was still a baby.  I'd call it pseudo-tragic, as he didn't even know her, and her loss didn't directly shape his personality.

Maker - former NASA astronaut who got her powers due to an accident on the UNTIL space station.  Not really tragic so much as life-altering.

Malarkey - college student learning magic.  No real tragedy in his life.

Nexus - mystic whose brother disappeared when she was a child (though she did find him recently), mom committed suicide, dad has since disappeared.  Yeah, her origin is full of tragedy and drama.

Pops - scientist who gave himself powers.  No real tragedy in his life.

Shadowboxer - mutant who uses his darkness powers to help him as a PI as well as fighting DEMON.  No personal tragedies, though a kid he was hired to find was sacrificed by DEMON, so we'll call it semi-tragic for him.


So out of 7:

  • 1 with tragedy
  • 3 with semi-tragic events
  • 3 without tragedy



Malarkey?  Someone is a Liz Lemon fan.

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My current character, Fireflash, got her powers by being strapped to an experiment device by Argent, who had discovered that her genetic structure matched what they were looking for (she was actually interning at one of their front companies). When her powers manifested, she blasted out of the restraints and blasted every bad guy in sight - which fight was filmed by several bystanders on their mobile phones. The only aspect of this that was in any way tragic was that Argent had strapped her down buck naked. (3d6 unluck...)

Now she fights crime because it's pretty much impossible for her to be out of the public eye, and it's the right thing to do.

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Fury's parents were superheroes, she grew up on a supers base surrounded by Superheroes. Her powers manifested early (ie when she was a toddler), so she has always had powers and been around powered people. Her rolemodels all protected normal people and put supercriminals in prison. So when she got old enough she first joined a "teen" supers group then later transitioned into an adult supergroup. By then her parents and the team they were on, went off to fight crime in space. Keeping earth safe from aggressive aliens. So no tragedy for her.


Pretty much every other heroine that I have has tragedy or hardship in their background.

I guess that Metalstorm has a pretty tragedy free life despite being rebuilt by the nano machines she created and that were loosed on her. Once she was able to control her powers she lives a pretty normal superheroic life.

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It is not difficult to find characters without tragedy as long as there is one author or player who designed that character.

It all is about identification. Of course everyone can identify with his personal favourite fantasy.
The problem starts when you try to sell your character's story. And it gets worse when different artists start telling that character's stories.

Then it turns out that the flawless hero fantasy you like so much sounds "lame" to most other people. "Oh, so you are faster than a speeding bullet, stronger than a locomotive, and can jump buildings. Oh, and you are beating up bankrobbers and thiefs. Of course. Why not? Why shouldn't you? What could possibly go wrong? *yawn*"

"One day Mr. Perfect looked out of his perfect appartment's window on the perfect city of Perfectopolis. It was a perfect day. For crime fighting. Or whatever."

People can't relate to that. They are struggling, failing, trying, erring, and trying again all the time. They do not want to hear about somebody's perfect live. They can't identify.
Of course, it is nice for a change to hear that Brad Pitt (who is terribly nice and attractive) and Angelina Jolie (who is terribly nice and attractive) are terribly in love and treat one another terribly nice. And have seven kids adopted (who all are terribly nice and attractive). Sounds interesting for 1 minute. Then you switch channels for the guy that fell in a coma and worked his way back to being a human. Or the girl that ran through the mine field.

That is why perfect Doc Savage never got beyond pulp status, while Batman was an instant hit.


Most characters are flat and one-dimensional. And they explode when someone else takes the character and starts telling why it is NOT cool to be Peter Parker, Bruce Wayne, Wolverine, Odysseus, or Rambo.
Everyone wants to have those powers. And everyone feels inadequate, weak, overchallenged. So we only identify with heroes who are struggling.
That makes the difference between envying heroes (which lasts a few minutes) and loving them (which lasts a lifetime). :yes:


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The Fantastic Four don't have a tragic Origin. I guess Ben's transformation into an Orange lumpy man was tragic, but the group's life was pretty decent after that. No verison of "My uncle died, so I must fight crime to make his death make sense" or any other thing like that.  The Xmen Fight crime to prove that they are "good people", but no real tragedy in thier origins. The new MsMarvel fights crime because she has powers and she's inspired by her idle (former Ms Marvel, current Capt. Marvel).

I suspect that Doc Savage wasn't popular in comics because DC and Marvel didn't have a licence to use him in a comic (until much later). So they made Characters that were "homages" of him. Doc is popular enough to spawn over 20 novels, he's been in Comic series though the years, He's currently being published in a comic. Superman has been a HUGE seller without being very relatable, and being superpowerful and good at everything. Batman while he has a tragic origin, he's still a millionaire playboy that dresses up as a bat to jump on the roofs of Gotham City. Also not very relatable.

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My characters kind of run the gamut.


Earth Girl fell into a volcano and got burned into ash before being brought back to life as an elemental crusader by the spirit of the planet itself. I suppose that's pretty tragic.


Kurzhaan the Conqueror tried to save his tribe from an encroaching ice age, and was given the ability to survive harsh winters via lycanthropy. Cue killing and eating most of the people he wanted to save before he got himself under control. He's lived so long and seen so much that past horror doesn't really influence his present actions, though.


Super Model's backstory is mostly thanks to Clonus with me filling in particulars here and there. As the former wife of a Superman expy, she was gifted with superhuman beauty and powers by alien technology, and has had a pretty charmed life before and after. A divorce is about the most tragic thing in her background.


Young Scratch's past is objectively a nightmare: conceived in Archimago's Zodiac Working, taken to Hell as a young child to be raised amidst eternal suffering with an eye toward joining its royalty, abandoning his destiny to fight evil on earth as a raised middle finger to Asmodeus. He wouldn't see it as tragic though, and most of his motivation comes from thrillseeking and teen(-esque) petulance rather than response to personal trauma.

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Young Miss Adventure. 


9 year old F.I.S.T. who's parents Captain Adventure and Amazing Woman are still alive and active heroes. Her strength and invulnerability are advanced for her age giving her parents comfort for the future. She's got her dad's smarts and her mom's powers. Happy girl who joined a teen super team because otherwise she tried to fix things herself. 

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The Blue Knight: A golden age hero. An archeologist who found a suite of armour (queen's english spelling intentional), he placed it on to stop a robber from stealing a priceless diamond, and discovered it had powers (originally thought to be magical, but later revealed to be...something else). No tragity. He fights crime because he is a good Englishman who loves his country, his god, and his girlfriend.

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In Aaron Williams' PS238 universe, the term is FISS - Flight, Invulnerability, Strength, Speed.


Those acronyms just seem likely to cause confusion. I don't think they would catch on.

I believe it's more Jargon within the Supers community in the PS238 world. I don't think that the general public is aware of the acronym. Considering how common FISS Supers are in that world it makes sense that someone came up with the term perhaps a bit derisively and then had the FISS supers reclaim the term as one of empowerment.

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I had a character who was third generation Japanese immigrant who was possessed by his samauri ancestor who was disgusted at how "lazy" the American culture made him.


Another character started out being a hanger on to a supergroup because his friend was a member. He went on to being part of the support staff (ie monitor duty and communications). Then when the base was under attack he cobbled together a suit of powered armor built from trophies the team acquired on previous missions (a Viper heavy blaster here, an alien power source there, etc) and became a full superhero from that..


I also had a mage who developed a new style of magic, technomancy, and became a hero to legitimize it.

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Some of my convention characters that seem to fit this thread.



Narwahl: Got his powers after getting careless investigating a crashed UFO

Kraken: Received his dive suit by his navy to extract said character.

Catamount: A Sheriff's Deputy who received an alien armour after stumbling upon a rescue mission of an alien family who crashed on Earth.

Red Falcon: A Russian Air Force pilot who volanteered for a FSB experiment.

Millennium Girl: A teenager kidnapped by aliens and "left on the shelf" for 1000 years and re-awakend by the same aliens with cryonic powers.

Trailblazer: Submitted herself to extensive genetic enhancement to become a sort of "space scout".

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The Specials (2000 Movie)


The Great Strobe - Fell into a vat of Chemicals and gained Light Powers.


Minute Man - Fell into a vat with his brother The Great Strobe and gained Shrinking Powers.


Ms. Indestructible - Inherited Power of Indestructible Body.


Amok - Granted Anti-Matter Powers from Supervillain.


The Weevil - Inherited Insect Powers.


Power Chick - Mutant Metamorph Power.


Deadly Girl - Accidentally received supernatural powers after she killed a demon.


Alien Orphan - Alien Metamorph.


Nightbird - Mutant Bird Powers, but can't fly.


U.S. Bill - Mutant Superhuman Strength.


Eight - Eight bodies sharing one Mind resulting from a CIA experiment.


Mr. Smart - Inventive Genius

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heroes of mine without a tragicish backstory is The Englander a detective with super intuition peak human abilities and remarkable resilience gifted by a gem from the scabbard of Excalibur. He inherited it from his grandfather who was given it by the original WWII Englander before he died. So other than his grandfather dying of natural causes no tragedy.


Special K I. A sikh Granted power by mystical artifacts the five symbols of the Sikh faith. no tragedy there just a religious obligation to protect the innocent he did start adventuring during a campaign of terror by Super powered neonazi football hooligans which might count. Special K II is slightly tragic as he replaced his older brother when he died saving the world from a millennial doomsday cult but he was more interested in the fame girls and action.


Godiva the go go diva didn't have much tragedy other than the painful transformation when alien crystals impregnated her skin giving her light powered super strength.


None of the Brittanias where tragic being the focus of the zeitgeist of British-ness the britannia off wwI probably had the most traumatic origin gaining her powers whilst driving ambulances during the somme offensive.


The ambassador is not that tragic a Victorian era diplomat sent to an obscure South Pacific island for the sin of preventing a war the foreign office actually wanted to happen. He gets abducted by aliens who have been using the same native population as test subjects shortly before the island is destroyed by a volcano. He manages to become a galactic force for good as an expert diplomat from a world with no agenda he brokers peace on a number of alien worlds and is part of the reason aliens don't invade more often.

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I have created several characters without tragic backgrounds, but I understand your point.  I am amazed at the number of starting characters who lack either family or friend.

I call it a mix of laziness, and meta-game efficiency. It is much easier to just say a character doesn't have any family or friends than it is to invent and flesh out family and friends for your characters.

We've all seen way too many movies and read too many comic books to want to subject ourselves to the problems of having a DNPC. And in the mind of the Power-Gamer, Contacts (though useful) are just Character Points you can't control and that the GM can take away from you, who would want that?

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I doubt it actually had a wide release I'm sure it made it's money back with DVD and broadcast sales. Much like the writers next super hero movie Super only made $400k box office but was the studios biggest video on demand release and of course his most recent Super hero movie was another cult classic guardians of the galaxy that only made $773 million lol.

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Excellent responses all 'round, thanks!


The group I played with most often in college was apparently a morose and sullen bunch (at least in part -- they seemed pretty well adjusted  :winkgrin: ). Our character origins frequently included the loss of a loved one (or at least their maiming) through accident or intent.


I don't know that it occurred to anyone to go the "being a hero for kicks" route. If it had, I've no doubt one or more of the players would have arranged for an in-game "accident" for that individual for having the audacity to be so annoyingly chipper.

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