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Galactic Champions-eque material?

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OK, I'll bite. (I've derailed enough threads in my day...) :)

On 2/13/2018 at 11:01 AM, RDU Neil said:

With your explanation, that Superboy and Monel are still godlike, even vs. magically advanced technology of the future... well then I really want to know why a) anything at all is a challenge for them? Why do they need a Legion when they are so unstoppable?

Powerful isn't the same as unstoppable, let alone godlike. In most "Earth-bound" superhero settings, conventional military forces aren't normally a big challenge to powerful superheroes. But in large numbers, they can still wear the heroes down until they run out of END. And there are always specialty units with advanced/heavy weapons that are powerful enough to at least get a few good licks in. (Sure Superman could take out a tank battalion with ease, but he also knows if he does it's just a matter of time until someone breaks out the kryptonite.) Even if none of that exists and military forces are no threat at all to the supers, well there are still super Bad Guys, or else what's the point? A galactic game has even more possibilities because of different tech levels; the PCs may be able to punch through a Xenovore ship with ease, but try that against a Malvan ship and they're going to get spanked.

 

On 2/13/2018 at 11:01 AM, RDU Neil said:

b ) why haven't those powerful characters become galactic rulers, since nothing can stop them... benevolent gods?

Again, powerful isn't unstoppable. But that aside, maybe because they're wise enough to realize that might doesn't make right, that power corrupts, and that benevolent dictatorships rarely stay that way for long. To use the classic example, Superman doesn't take over the world because he recognizes that just because he has the power to force others to do his bidding, doesn't mean he has the moral right to do so. He believes that democracy, while far from perfect, has proven a far better method of improving the human condition than any autocracy ever tried. And more practically, he knows that if he tried, every other super in the world would join forces to stop him, and even he's not THAT powerful.

 

There's already a genre term for beings who think their powers give them a right to dictate how everyone else should live - they're called supervillains.

 

On 2/13/2018 at 11:01 AM, RDU Neil said:

c) why isn't society not vastly more weird and warped if such powerful beings existed...as people worship them, institutions and societies grow up around them... or d) how is the Legion allowed to exist I the first place, what keeps them in check, and if they have the power to keep them in check, why do you need a Legion?

Those are fair questions, but they're not exactly new: they've been explored in numerous comic titles, mostly awful Iron Age drek and Zach Snyder movies. If that's what you want to play, fine, but I find them extremely tedious myself.

 

On 2/13/2018 at 11:01 AM, RDU Neil said:

It all spirals into "This just doesn't make sense."

 

Social order would collapse and change into something unrecognizable in very short order if metahumans were real, especially if Superman or that level of power in a single individual actually existed.

[shrug] I could poke the same holes in just about any fictional world, including yours. It's all just a matter of what assumptions you make, and what things you're willing to handwave in order to play the kind of game you want.

 

On 2/14/2018 at 6:31 AM, RDU Neil said:

So many genre conventions are immediately called into question by the mechanics of Hero... the rest start to fall, if you think even remotely critically about them.

I've found exactly the opposite: quantifying things like that put limits on things. "Am I strong enough to rip open a tank?" [checks the numbers] "Nope, I guess not." "But the Hulk can do it!" "Well, I guess you're not the Hulk..."

 

On 2/14/2018 at 6:49 AM, RDU Neil said:

I get this argument, but to me that is a really limited view of what "hero" means.  Is a hero only the one who supports the status-quo of a mid-20th Century America? What about the hero who fights for the disadvantaged members of society who are being abused by a corrupt law enforcement system? Take that to the level of a god-like character of Superman or whoever... why isn't he a hero for overthrowing 40,000 years of human "civilization" that only exists by having an expendable workforce to exploit, and instead ushers in a era of peace and prosperity for all under a benevolent dictatorship? Seems pretty heroic to me.

Again, the whole point of Superman is that he has faith in humanity to find their own path, and he's read enough history to know that by becoming an autocrat he would inevitably become autocratic and tyrannical. He sees his primary job as preventing other supers from trying exactly that trick.

 

Honestly, RDU Neil, I get your points, and if that's the game you and your players wanted to play, fine. But as far as I'm concerned, your "hero" became a straight-up villain by the 3rd paragraph when he decided that he had the moral right to force his beliefs on other people.

 

Huh, actually defeating and overthrowing your "hero" sounds like a solid concept for a GC campaign... :eg:

 

On 2/14/2018 at 6:49 AM, RDU Neil said:

And yes, when it comes to the science, there isn't a need to have it all detailed out like true physics, but being extremely consistent (like Star Wars is not... I rather groan at all the absurd inconsistencies in Star Wars 'science' all the time)... where as B-5 (great show... terrible acting... but great show) really worked hard to be internally consistent with its demonstrations of science and super-science. It doesn't have to be perfect, but the effort needs to be there.

In the Star Wars game I just finished, the GM actually had a lot of fun simulating SW "physics." Space has a down, you see, which is why most planets only seem to be habitable in a very small zone, because if you move too far from the poles, you'll fall off. :rofl:

 

Again, it all depends on whether you want to play science fiction vs. space fantasy (Star Wars) vs. superheroes in space (GC). I'm not one of one of those gamers who thinks realism is a 4-letter word, or needs to be put in scare quotes. I've played plenty of "real world plus ____" games that were a ton of fun. But generally realism (or the lack thereof) should drive the needs of the story, not the other way around. especially in any kind of SF setting, where much of the world works however you want it to work. If you want to tell a story about superheroes who are powerful, but not godlike, who are strong enough to treat most conventional militaries as a mook fight, but there are still plenty of beings/things that can challenge them...then you just set your campaign guidelines accordingly. There's nothing wrong with the take you chose to pursue, but it's by no means the only valid take.

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Meanwhile, back on topic...

On 2/12/2018 at 12:07 PM, Cassandra said:

Quark the TV Series comes to mind.

Really? I have vaguely-fond memories of that show, but I don't recall it being particularly high-powered? What about it says GalChamps to you?

 

On 2/12/2018 at 1:48 PM, Steve said:

What kind of point level are you thinking of for the PCs?

 

If they have a patron, like being members of an organization like the Green Lantern Corp, that gives a slightly different feel than something more free-wheeling like Guardians of the Galaxy.

Both good questions; both TBD.

 

I kindof see two different ways we could go: either the PCs are established space heroes, possibly part of an existing organization; or they're Earth heroes who've been zapped into outer space and are trying to figure things out. Either could be fun, but two very different games. That's actually the first conversation I intend to have with my players.

 

On 2/12/2018 at 2:21 PM, RDU Neil said:

When I have played around with "Galactic" type games, I tend to see them come out in two different modes...

1) sci-fi super heroes, or...

2) new gods

A good distinction. Personally most of the new gods stuff never really appealed to me except as interesting one-offs, so I'm leaning towards the former. I've done high-level games before, so I'm not worried about keeping it balanced - you just have to make sure the advanced alien tech is 1) more powerful than Earth tech, but 2) not powerful enough to overshadow the PCs.

 

On 2/12/2018 at 4:11 PM, DShomshak said:

If you want "tongue in cheek," then use Harry Harrison's Bill, the Galactic Hero as a model for the space marines. (There will of course be space marines.)

Heh, there's one I haven't read in awhile - good suggestion!

 

On 2/12/2018 at 5:58 PM, dsatow said:

Currently printing, the Royals from Marvel is at the cosmic level.  Several of the last Justice League events and the Universe smashing event in Marvel are Cosmic level.  Though to be honest, I am kind of tiring of reading cosmic level crisis-es in comics.  They tend to constantly seem to tumble the power orders of each respective universe and add something to top it just for sake of topping it.

Yeah, particularly in mainstream comics, the constant cosmos-shattering events get tedious after awhile.

 

On 2/12/2018 at 6:54 PM, Steve said:

A lot of mileage could be had with a team composed of CU Empyreans from Earth wandering the galaxy looking for trouble. Maybe some of the other races in the galaxy have their own versions of Empyreans.

Nice idea. I'm probably not going to use the CU straight up, but I'll definitely be pulling bits from it!

 

On 2/12/2018 at 7:22 PM, Lord Liaden said:

BDH, do "relevant Hero books" include the Star Hero line? Scourges Of The Galaxy includes details and NPCs from the Church of the Infinite Dark, and a time-traveling future version of Tateklys, who would make fine foils for GC PCs.

 

From other games, I would suggest Rifts Conversion Book Two: Pantheons of the Megaverse from Palladium Games. Mythic gods from multiple pantheons wielding sci-fi ultratech, interacting with superhumans and aliens. Aliens and cosmic entities masquerading as gods. Ignoring the system, the book is a goldmine of innovative and bizarre ideas. Some of them are horrific, others quite comical. (Personal fave touch is the god Hermes' man-portable rail gun, which he calls "the Herminator.")

Yeah, I have all the SH books. Good suggestions!

 

On 2/13/2018 at 10:15 AM, massey said:

One thing I'd suggest to keep superheroes "super" is to steal something from the old Mayfair DC Heroes game....

I like that way of looking at it!  I plan to have a fair amount of variation in tech levels, so spaceships from Race X might be mook eggshells; ships from Race Y might be roughly as powerful as the PCs; whereas ships from Race Z can smack them around like chumps. I figure that will allow me to mix up the types of stories we tell.

 

On 2/13/2018 at 2:35 PM, DShomshak said:

At risk of immodesty, I'll suggest my Spells of the Devachan mini-supplement (available through the HERO store!)

I don't think I have that one...yet!

 

On 2/13/2018 at 2:47 PM, steriaca said:

Othoe it has more of a fantasy feal than anything else, have you thought about Masters of the Universe ?

I hadn't, but yeah there could be some good material there.

 

Thanks again, all. Keep it coming if you have more ideas.

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To paraphrase from Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court: Heaven must be the perfect place to be, because it has the perfect absolute dictator running it. But a mortal tyrant, however wise, however moral, will eventually die. The likelihood of someone of equal character succeeding him/her is vanishingly small. Simply taking over because you have the power to, is setting up a system ripe for corruption and exploitation by whoever succeeds you. Superheroes recognize that to have a system that's inherently just and fair, that will endure beyond the life of any one person, a people have to build it themselves, in their own image, not have it imposed from above.

 

That doesn't preclude superheroes fighting against an unjust, oppressive system. The Golden Age of comic books essentially depicted that. Lots of comics since then have shown superheroes combating government corruption, social inequality, and the like. But they defend the classic ideals of America -- individual liberty, the rule of law, equality for all, government by and for the people, strength used to protect the weak -- because they believe that at their core, those ideals are worth fighting for. It's the system that can be twisted, and sometimes needs to be corrected, not the ideals.

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20 hours ago, Lord Liaden said:

To paraphrase from Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court: Heaven must be the perfect place to be, because it has the perfect absolute dictator running it. But a mortal tyrant, however wise, however moral, will eventually die. The likelihood of someone of equal character succeeding him/her is vanishingly small. Simply taking over because you have the power to, is setting up a system ripe for corruption and exploitation by whoever succeeds you. Superheroes recognize that to have a system that's inherently just and fair, that will endure beyond the life of any one person, a people have to build it themselves, in their own image, not have it imposed from above.

 

I don't buy this. If a benevolent leader managed an era of peace for fifty plus years, would you say it wasn't worth it just because MAYBE afterwards, it goes to shit?  That is like saying, "Don't bother trying, ,it all falls apart in the end." What if they could create a moral and just society for a century... a millenia? Isn't that worth the risk of MAYBE it being corrupted somewhere down the line? 

 

And simply put, you are putting words in my mouth saying they would "force" their way on society. (Except that all humans who try to lead are, in their own limited way, FORCING themselves on us, so how is this different?) If a superbeing provided a new way of governing... "Live under the rules of my new society and you will benefit beyond all comprehension!" Sounds like a great political promise... and holy cow, what if she actually delivers? How is that different than today's politics in a democracy? How is this not rule of law and strength being used to protect the weak?

 

I'd say that a hero is lesser for not even TRYING to make the world a better place, when they have the power, insight and ability to possibly do so? 

 

And what if she builds a powerful and peaceful and welcoming nation, but those who choose to live outside this society risk the long term viability of the planet with their continued abuse of resources, pollution and industry, which she has offered a better solution to? What if her new nation publicly supports the forcible annexation of the violent, destructive neighbors "for the betterment of all?" including trying lengthy negotiations and peaceful rapprochement? When do the reckless "individual liberties" of some, infringe on the right to be safe from threat for others? 

 

By the way, individual liberty and equality for all intents completely incompatible, as neither is a natural state, and both require a level of social enforcement diametrically opposed to the other. 

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And I would add, that democracy, by its very nature, has always held the seeds of its downfall and rise of tyranny within it. From Plato and Socrates on, this has been discussed... but is that to say that we shouldn't even TRY to bring about a democratic society, because we know it is doomed to end in tyranny?

 

(A decent recent article that raises this point... http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2016/04/america-tyranny-donald-trump.html )

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I don't have tome to read the thread (and don't know when I ever will, so I don't know how relevant this is to, well, anything. But Aristotle, back when he invented political analysis, saw that every political system contains the seeds of its own downfall.

 

All possible political systems, he said, fall in 3 categories:

1) Monarchy: one person rules.

2) Oligarchy/aristocracy: A small group rules (small relative to the total population, anyway).

3) Democracy: Every citizen rules. (Leaving aside how you define "citizen," which can make the system Not Democratic At All by modern standards.)

 

Monarchy is good because authority is clear and decision-making swift... if the monarch is competent and dutiful. But no matter how good a monarch is, there's no guarantee that successors will be competent, too. Eventually, you get a monarch who is stupid, evil, lazy, or otherwise damaging. Get enough, and the system collapses.

 

Oligarchy is good because the weight isn't all on one person. But the ruling junta members will eventually fight each other as they try to seize sole power and become a monarch. Their infighting will tear society apart and the system collapses.

 

Democracy is good because any policy has the support of a majority of citizens, there's a bigger pool of talent and ideas. It has the strongest connection to the populace. But people are easily swayed by demagogues and lack the discipline and self-control to see the big picture and the long-term benefits of short-term privation. They do dumb, self-indulgent things, vote in a tyrant, or otherwise cause the system to collapse.

 

So every society is screwed, right?

 

Well, maybe not. Aristotle concluded that the way to avoid each mode's inevitable self-destruction is to have all three modes at once. If the monarch is bad, he can be curbed by the oligarchs or the people; if the oligarchic power-brokers start infighting too much, the people and the monarch can knock their heads togather; if the people are led astray by a demagogic tyrant, the oligarchs can withdraw the support of key institutions or the monarch can chop the demagogue's head off.

 

Which is how modern democratic republics operate, notably including the USA. (The Founding Fathers had classical educations; they knew their Aristotle.) Mixed government still isn't a sure-fire key to avoiding political self-destruction, but it does provide some checks against simple forms of self-destruction -- if the populace has the sense to stick with it.

 

Dean Shomshak

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11 hours ago, RDU Neil said:

 

I'd say that a hero is lesser for not even TRYING to make the world a better place, when they have the power, insight and ability to possibly do so? 

 

 

Are you saying that the only way for a hero to try to make the world a better place, is to take over?

 

To steer this discussion back to the thread topic for a moment ;) , this is exactly the premise of the official Champions Universe villain, Istvatha V'han. The "Empress of a Billion Dimensions" conquers whole universes, but actually desires to rule them well. Being both ageless and super-competent, she's been able to institute a number of reforms over her conquests which have really made her subjects' lives measurably better in a number of ways. Peace is firmly imposed. Crime is rigorously opposed, and corruption zealously rooted out. Discrimination by race, gender, or religion is not tolerated. Education and health care are generally improved, and enhanced technology and trade opportunities usually translate to economic gains.

 

But any form of criticism or dissent against V'han and her regime would undermine her authority, so are ruthlessly suppressed. Any society which won't submit to her rule is subjected to whatever level of force is needed to bring them to heel, up to and including mass extermination. V'han is the target of numerous assassination attempts, and not being truly immortal is very aware that one will succeed one day. Having concentrated both the mechanisms and the popular image of rulership in herself, she's at a loss to know how to make a smooth transition of power after her death.

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12 hours ago, RDU Neil said:

And simply put, you are putting words in my mouth saying they would "force" their way on society. (Except that all humans who try to lead are, in their own limited way, FORCING themselves on us, so how is this different?) If a superbeing provided a new way of governing... "Live under the rules of my new society and you will benefit beyond all comprehension!" Sounds like a great political promise... and holy cow, what if she actually delivers? How is that different than today's politics in a democracy? How is this not rule of law and strength being used to protect the weak?

 

 

That slogan is the rallying cry of every dictator and demagogue throughout history. It's almost literally the promise made by the current American President. So far he's demonstrated two great political truths: It's a lot easier to make such promises than to carry them out; and once someone is ensconced in power, it's really tricky to remove them, whether or not they deliver on their promises.

 

But the policy changes championed by Donald Trump are relatively minor compared to the overall pattern of American society and government. How do you think the public will receive a proposal to make sweeping changes to the way they govern themselves and live their lives? And if the majority don't accept such changes (IMO very likely), what choice would there be for a super who sincerely believed in them, than to apply them by force?

 

I also think we have a problem of definition with "rule of law." It literally means, "the law rules." Law stands superior to any government or political figure. It's the final deciding authority over what is allowable, what is right. It's not, "rule of whatever law the person in power chooses to create or support." And yes, representative governments have mechanisms in place to change laws. They're typically pretty involved for anything important, and don't allow individuals to change them arbitrarily.

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5 hours ago, Lord Liaden said:

 

Are you saying that the only way for a hero to try to make the world a better place, is to take over?

 

No, but it is certainly one way. And by taking over, why not become a candidate in the government process and work your way up in the system? Every person who does so does with the intent of changing the system to the way they think is better... why is that "taking over" and not "becoming a leader?"

 

5 hours ago, Lord Liaden said:

To steer this discussion back to the thread topic for a moment ;) , this is exactly the premise of the official Champions Universe villain, Istvatha V'han. The "Empress of a Billion Dimensions" conquers whole universes, but actually desires to rule them well. Being both ageless and super-competent, she's been able to institute a number of reforms over her conquests which have really made her subjects' lives measurably better in a number of ways. Peace is firmly imposed. Crime is rigorously opposed, and corruption zealously rooted out. Discrimination by race, gender, or religion is not tolerated. Education and health care are generally improved, and enhanced technology and trade opportunities usually translate to economic gains.

 

Sounds good to me (except for the entire premise of "conquers whole universes" since that puts things on a power level and scale beyond human comprehension and thus impossible to game... unless you reduce the idea of a "universe" down to something simply mirroring a scale humans can understand... except with spaceships. )

 

5 hours ago, Lord Liaden said:

But any form of criticism or dissent against V'han and her regime would undermine her authority, so are ruthlessly suppressed. Any society which won't submit to her rule is subjected to whatever level of force is needed to bring them to heel, up to and including mass extermination. V'han is the target of numerous assassination attempts, and not being truly immortal is very aware that one will succeed one day. Having concentrated both the mechanisms and the popular image of rulership in herself, she's at a loss to know how to make a smooth transition of power after her death.

 

Here is where it goes villainous, when it doesn't have to. You can write four sentences that scream "villain" or you can write four sentences that say "Hero trying to make a better reality."   i.e. "V'han realizes that not everyone agrees with her, but has created systems that allow for dissent and criticism and even opting out of her rule, as she realizes suppression will only build resentment. Being immortal, she engages in lengthy processes of negotiation and providing benefits to new societies, knowing that five years or five thousand, they will come around to realizing the benefits of her rule. V'han is the target of numerous assassination attempts, because there are always those who would destroy anything they can't control, but she has over a billion succession plans in place to cover eventualities that might actually remove her and has taken steps to allow the system to operate without her direct rule, allowing for it to evolve to something even more than she has already created."

 

Nothing I wrote is any less ridiculous than what was already written, it just makes for less of an action adventure game, because she is just not so bad.

 

Honestly, some being powerful enough to 'conquer universes" would be operating on some level of quantum consciousness at least, and be so far beyond empires and ruling or any human scale concept of society, probably merging with the substance of reality itself and shaping possibilities, not imposing some grandiose version of tin-pot dictator. This is why "scale" of science fiction matters to me, in that significant enough advances and technology to really expand through our universe, let alone multiple universes, that it would be beyond petty baseline human concerns or even comprehension. You have to stick to a much more 'realistic' scale and level of tech in order to make things fit baseline human concerns.

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6 hours ago, Lord Liaden said:

 

That slogan is the rallying cry of every dictator and demagogue throughout history. It's almost literally the promise made by the current American President. So far he's demonstrated two great political truths: It's a lot easier to make such promises than to carry them out; and once someone is ensconced in power, it's really tricky to remove them, whether or not they deliver on their promises.

 

That slogan is basically every political promise, ever. Yes, dictators use that, as Trump is doing now, to consolidate power and harm any who stand in their way. It could also be a legitimate offer from someone who can actually deliver.

 

Quote

But the policy changes championed by Donald Trump are relatively minor compared to the overall pattern of American society and government. How do you think the public will receive a proposal to make sweeping changes to the way they govern themselves and live their lives? And if the majority don't accept such changes (IMO very likely), what choice would there be for a super who sincerely believed in them, than to apply them by force?

 

You act like the pattern of American society and government has been consistent and steady and a matter of linear advancement. Hardly. Most of what you and I know as "American" is a result of significant political/policy changes over the mid-20th century that forced change on the oligarchs of the 20's and "force" a middle class into existence. I think we are both of an age to have seen how fragile that system is, how violent the resistance to it can become, and how quickly it can deteriorate. And every leader rules by force in some ways. Duly elected leaders like every president rely on governmental authority, backed by the threat of force, to enact change. A hero wouldn't have to just upend everything over night, but might actually have a better chance of enacting long term change for the better.

 

Quote

I also think we have a problem of definition with "rule of law." It literally means, "the law rules." Law stands superior to any government or political figure. It's the final deciding authority over what is allowable, what is right. It's not, "rule of whatever law the person in power chooses to create or support." And yes, representative governments have mechanisms in place to change laws. They're typically pretty involved for anything important, and don't allow individuals to change them arbitrarily.

 

I understand your definition, but you make it sound like the "law" is some kind of pure, perfect thing... but the law is an imperfect set of attempts to transcribe behavior, written by people with agendas, interpreted by people with agendas, enforced by people with agendas, and therefore just as good or bad as anything else humans make. Laws change, and there is no need for the hero to "change the laws arbitrarily" if they are popular enough within the system and can rally support, then they could change things over time.

 

And IMO, there are plenty of people who would follow a leader who offered real change, on the progressive side or the conservative side. We clearly see those willing to follow our current Cheeto-In-Charge right down the authoritarian hole, while overtly promising anti-democratic and fascistic policies... why would you feel a hero (or heroes) of power who offered an inclusive, progressive alternative would be "worse" and therefore, suddenly, they are a villain now? Is Superman, at the end of Kingdom Come, heading down a villainous path when he puts himself on the UN Council in order to work within the system? He certainly wasn't a legal representative of any nation?

 

Conquering isn't the only way for a "person with power" to become a leader who shapes and changes the development of the world.

 

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And bringing this back to SF gaming... do you watch The Expanse, or read the novels? To me this is one of the best series out there in terms of "human scale" science fiction that really begins to address these hard questions. The idea of introducing supers into that level of technology would be really cool, because the fragility of space craft, harshness of space-life, etc. Now, four-color supers have "super-science" and force fields and energy weapons, etc., that undermine this type of world building, but you could find a happy medium between them. (I'd like to think that is what I was going for in my own gaming world, long before the Expanse was a thing... a mix of hard-sf and fantasy supers... not easy, but fun to try.)

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On 2/21/2018 at 6:41 PM, massey said:

Just because a dude is really strong and is also nice, that doesn't mean he knows a damn thing about governing a country.

 

This has always been my complaint about stories set in the future of DC or Marvel—older versions of the superheroes always seem to be feudal monarchs of either conquering empires or their own banana republics. Now, Black Panther and Wonder Woman actually have the makings of good heads of state, but most aren't suited to calling the shots for a team of 5 to 7 like-minded superheroes, never mind millions of people with complex economic, ideological, and administrative issues.

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Finishing what I started before, the only social/political system that provably *doesn't* self-destruct is the hunter/gatherer band, which was humanity's (and pre-humanity's) sole form of social organization for at least a million years. On the one hand, this system owed much of its stability to the external constraint of next to no technology. Once somebody figures out agriculture, you get atom bombs in a comparative eyeblink. At least, we did.

 

I suspect (though I have no expert opinion to back me up here) that we are subtly gene-programmed with attitudes adapted for hunter/gatherer life in small bands, and the further we get from that lifestyle, the more unstable our societies become. Take away the physical and social technologies built to support them, and society quickly regresses to the primordial mode of tiny communities, all intensely suspicious of each other and prone to attack each other at the drop of a hat. See the Central African Republic, Congo or the rest of that neighborhood, for instance.

 

Shifting gears to Istvatha V'han: One of the more subtly creepy moments in Brave New World is where the World Controller explains that experiments have been made to create a better society with greater human dignity... but they all failed. The Brave New World, with all its horrifying inequities, is the best that humanity can ever achieve -- or at least, it is the only system found that keeps humanity contented and at peace with itself. Contnentment, he admits, might not sound like a very inspiring goal. But you might feel differently when anthrax bombs are falling around you.

 

Istvatha V'han could easily make a similar argument. Having traveled through multitudes of universes, seeing multitudes of societies at every level of developments, she has seen what works and what doesn't. And authoritarian, imperial rules has the best track record for keeping the largest number of people living in peace and prosperity for the longest period of time. It's just basic untilitarianism: the greatest good for the greatest umber. PCs are unlikely to be in a position to challenge her based on their own experiences.

 

I hope at some point to contribute something actually relevant.

 

Dean Shomshak

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1 hour ago, DShomshak said:

I suspect (though I have no expert opinion to back me up here) that we are subtly gene-programmed with attitudes adapted for hunter/gatherer life in small bands, and the further we get from that lifestyle, the more unstable our societies become.

 

We'd almost have to be.  After all, you've got to survive hundreds of thousands of years of being a caveman and hunting the mastodon with a sharp stick, before you can develop anything like civilization. 

 

A lot of the things we frown upon today (racism, bullying, sexism, etc) make perfect sense in pre-civilization hunter gatherer land.  You want to pick on the weak and drive them out of your tribe.  Somebody who is too weird, they're probably showing genetic traits you don't want in your group.  People who look too different (skin color, whatever) probably came from a long ways away.  They probably carry diseases you don't have resistance to.  Being accepting of guys with different skin color didn't work out too well for the American Indian.  As far as women go, you want them breeding as early as possible, so there's probably going to be an age disparity between them and your men (bigger, stronger men get first choice of the most fertile women).  This will generally lead to them taking subservient positions.

 

Now, today we have the technology and the social structures that we don't have to live this way.  Better communication and safer travel show us that we're way more similar to other people than we are different.  Better medicine means that encountering a new group of people isn't necessarily going to cause a super-plague.  More food means less incentive to slaughter a competing tribe.  This is only possible once you've gone beyond hunter-gatherer stage.  But our basic animal instincts don't evolve like that.  Our primal nature is still that of the caveman throwing the rock at the stranger.

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On ‎2‎/‎23‎/‎2018 at 4:26 PM, Matt the Bruins said:

 

This has always been my complaint about stories set in the future of DC or Marvel—older versions of the superheroes always seem to be feudal monarchs of either conquering empires or their own banana republics. Now, Black Panther and Wonder Woman actually have the makings of good heads of state, but most aren't suited to calling the shots for a team of 5 to 7 like-minded superheroes, never mind millions of people with complex economic, ideological, and administrative issues.

 

I would agree, which is why we see them as feudal monarchs or leaders of banana republics... where strong men have often demonstrated an ability to rule. Whether or not that rule is good and just... well...

 

I honestly have a hard time seeing any other outcome, barring a true, singularity style paradigm shift in technology... any other outcome of super-beings existing that wouldn't lead to a re-shaped society very reminiscent of feudal structures, where baselines would ally with/support/follow/serve the metahuman best able to keep them safe from all the other metahumans. The "good" supers would be doing their best to protect and provide and create a stable, inclusive (often opposed concepts) society within their sphere of influence. The "bad" supers would be forcibly ruling those they could and destroying what they couldn't, and looking for opportunity to remove rivals from the game. Most would fall somewhere in between, usually believing that their way was the best way.

 

Baselines would simply get swept up in this new, degraded, warlike political structure. It is what you would expect if there were powerful beings who tended to solve every problem with a punch or blast.

 

Is anyone reading Lazarus? (One of the greatest comic series every written. Greg Rucka/Michael Lark, Image.) His near future world is one fractured into warring "families" who have risen to power as old nation states have fallen. I would see the same thing forming around supers and groups of supers who form alliances, rather than around wealth and technological power of human oligarchs.

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One thing that GC brings in is the possibility of worlds where everyone is superhuman compared to baseline Humans. How does that affect galactic politics?

 

Transhumanism notions can be explored more fully in such a setting.

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2 hours ago, Steve said:

One thing that GC brings in is the possibility of worlds where everyone is superhuman compared to baseline Humans. How does that affect galactic politics?

 

Transhumanism notions can be explored more fully in such a setting.

I tried to like this, but I'm not allowed.

 

I've always wanted to really get into "post-uplift" or "transhumanism" in a supers game. Flirted with it, but never got to dive really deep.

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Hey, I finally thought of something relevant! (And have a chance to post it.) A few things, in fact.

 

 

There's been a bit of talk about “Supers Vs. Starships.” I see two possible solutions to this issue, one general and one specific.

 

If I understand the perceived conflict, the question is: How can supers matter in a setting where space battleships carry weapons of tremendous power? One shot from a battleship’s main laser or bogon torpedoes or whatever, and a hero or villain becomes ionized vapor.

 

One suggested solution is that high-end supers are so powerful that even the most powerful mundane-tech weapons might not kill them, so the sort of institutions that build space battleships don’t even try. I don’t like this proposal. Either you’re pruning back the SF in order to protect supers, or you’re pushing the power of supers so high that you make all other beings mere set decoration. Or pets. You can tell a story in which only a handful of the people in the universe matter — they are the gods, and everyone else just tries to cope with their conflicts and tantrums, a la Zelazny’s Creatures of Light and Darkness — and those can be great stories, but in many ways you are short-changing the space opera side.

 

I’d suggest that it’s less a matter of power differential and more one of where weapons systems can go. You can see this even in mundane modern warfare such as Afghanistan: Tank guns can turn humans into gobbets of charred meat, but you can’t carry tank guns on house-to-house searches for insurgents. Much less battleship main guns or even heavier weapons. Or as one pundit observed during the Kosovo conflict, a jet plane armed with the biggest, smartest bombs can’t do diddly to stop one man cutting another man’s throat in a ditch. Heavy weapons are only useful in certain kinds of fights, against certain kinds of enemies.

 

That will be the same in a space opera/superhero hybrid setting. The reason Superboy hasn’t been killed by a space battleship is not that he’s more powerful: It’s that you can’t easily get a space battleship in a position where it can get a clear shot. And Superboy won’t be just hovering there in space like a dummy waiting for the big gun to fire.

 

Battleships are great for shooting at other battleships, or at cities or other big targets. They are not so good for shooting at small, highly mobile targets. For that, you send out the TIE fighters (or appropriate setting analog). Who are agents. Procede as with any other battle between supers and agents.

 

The second reason is specific to the superhero genre. The above argument doesn’t rule out building a special battleship with the maneuverability and targeting to take on Superboy… but for the same price, a government can fund a project to create an Omega Crystal — the greatest, yet most compact, power source known to galactic science! — and use it to power a battlesuit, or a robot, or something, that can engage with Superboy directly and, you hope, win. Or find a telepath you hope is loyal and enhance him with ultra-advanced psychotronic brain implants. Or cyber-enhance your greatest commando. (Continue list indefinitely.) In short, create another super with appropriate space-opera trappings.

 

From a story POV, the advantage of these two related approaches is that you aren’t forbidding any stories in advance. Maybe someday you’ll want to do Superboy Vs. Battleship, and make each a credible threat to the other. You just need to work a little harder to set up the situation. Maybe Prince Evillo decides he *will* pay for a battleship mobile enough, with weapons accurate enough, that it can fight Superboy. Or maybe the Dark Circle lures Superboy into a trap where a battleship can shoot at him, and the challenge is to escape the trap.

 

Dean Shomshak 

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Then again, it might be more useful to BDH if we examine existing settings that mix space opera with super-powers. How do they set the balance between tropes and elements? I’m not that familiar with the obvious paradigmatic cases, Legion of Super-Heroes and Green Lantern; I’ll leave those for other people. Instead, I’ll look outside comic books, at the Lensman series by E. E. Smith.

 

The Lensman books pretty clearly privilege space opera over superheroes. Or, at least they have clearly separated areas of applicability. The Lensmen have super-powers, but these are limited to telepathic effects. Their powers don’t obviate the need for space armor and blasters, let alone starships or the ridiculously powerful star system-scale weapons such as sunbeams and planetary nutcrackers. (Look 'em up.) OTOH, mortal technology cannot perform telepathic effects — and those effects can scale up to galactic levels, until the final battle is a telepathic assault by the entire Lensman corps against an entire species of Pure Evil... which even the mightiest technological weapons of the setting could not do.

 

Does anyone else have examples of how settings juxtapose space opera and superheroics?

 

Dean Shomshak

 

 

 

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Random thoughts:

GC/Champions Beyond is a great starting point.  The Terran Empire materials for Star Hero may also be helpful.  Alien Enemies from 4th Edition, METE from 3rd edition, the mystic/dimensional sourcebooks(a lot of overlap between dimensional entities and cosmic beings).  The Advanced Players Guides may be helpful for emulating some of the more outrageous cosmic powers.  

--Genre stuff from comics--Thor, Silver Surfer, Rom, Dr. Strange, Avengers(Thanos, Korvac, Kree-Skrull war), Capt. Marvel(all versions), Exiles, Thanos, Warlock, GOTG, Annihilators, etc.

--Transhumanism, Posthumanism, species uplift, etc.--all pretty good.  The Progenitors from Champions Beyond may be a good example of what posthuman "gods" might look like

--various ethical issues--sufficiently advanced robot labor may be disturbingly close to slavery for some; Telepathic species may have a complex rationalization regarding use of their powers against others; etc

--Dark Space is hard to get a hold of, but if you want a space opera with Lovecraftian elements, it's good.

--Silver Age Cosmic, Bronze Age Cosmic and Iron/Modern Age Cosmic are very different from each other

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Re supers and starships, why do we have commando teams when we have tanks, aircraft, and missiles? Because some situations require a more subtle, stealthy or precisely-targeted approach. Also, military force takes time to mobilize and deploy, whereas a small group of supers can be dispatched almost immediately.

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19 hours ago, DShomshak said:

Hey, I finally thought of something relevant! (And have a chance to post it.) A few things, in fact.

 

 

There's been a bit of talk about “Supers Vs. Starships.” I see two possible solutions to this issue, one general and one specific.

 

If I understand the perceived conflict, the question is: How can supers matter in a setting where space battleships carry weapons of tremendous power? One shot from a battleship’s main laser or bogon torpedoes or whatever, and a hero or villain becomes ionized vapor.

 

One suggested solution is that high-end supers are so powerful that even the most powerful mundane-tech weapons might not kill them, so the sort of institutions that build space battleships don’t even try. I don’t like this proposal. Either you’re pruning back the SF in order to protect supers, or you’re pushing the power of supers so high that you make all other beings mere set decoration. Or pets. You can tell a story in which only a handful of the people in the universe matter — they are the gods, and everyone else just tries to cope with their conflicts and tantrums, a la Zelazny’s Creatures of Light and Darkness — and those can be great stories, but in many ways you are short-changing the space opera side.

 

 

Not necessarily.  Supers don't have to flex their muscles and be able to bounce anti-starship weaponry off their chests to make mega-starships impractical.

 

What happens if Menton gets on board the Death Star?  I'll tell you what happens.  Menton gets a shiny new Death Star, that's what happens.

 

Menton meets Stormtrooper.

M: "I am an important Imperial Commander.  Take me to the nearest shuttle hangar, now."

S: "Yes sir!"

 

Menton meets Shuttle Pilot.

M: "I am an important Imperial Commander.  Take me to the nearest Star Destroyer."

SP: "Yes sir!"

 

Menton meets Star Destroyer Captain.

M: "I am an important Imperial Commander.  Take me to the Death Star.  This is a priority one mission from Lord Vader himself."

SDC: "Yes sir!"

 

 

 

You don't even need high levels of Mind Control.  Lots of powers can be starship killers if you use them correctly.  Desolidification, Invisibility, Teleportation, Missile Reflection, Clairsentience, sufficiently large Darkness, Images, Summon, Tunneling...

 

Lots of powers can screw over a big ship.  Imagine if The Vision hitched a ride on the Millennium Falcon when it was being chased by the Imperial fleet.  The Falcon flies close to a ship, Vision activates Desolidification and flies from the Falcon to the Star Destroyer.  He then kicks up his Density Increase and now you've got a 30 PD/ED, 80 Str brick running around inside the ship, fighting a bunch of normals.  Think about what somebody with Telemechanics could do.

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