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A Sunny Place for Shady People


assault
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I’m trying to gather some ideas for a smallish town set in a superhero world. The idea is that it can be used as a starting environment for a campaign.

My initial inspiration was Happy Harbor, the small town near the original base of the Justice League of America. For the town itself, some soap operas could be relevant. The Australian soap “Home and Away” is a good example.

So far then:

It’s named Sunny Bay. Its population is “fairly small”. It’s on a coastline, near a larger city. It has at least one beach where people surf.

Nearby is a mountain with a cave complex concealing a major supervillain lair. It would make an ideal superhero base once cleared out.

There is an undiscovered underwater city off shore.

There is either an abandoned lighthouse or old mental hospital which is believed to be haunted. Someplace creepy, anyway.

A retired supervillain lives in the area. How long will it be before he is pulled back into the game?

VIPER or a similar organization has a small facility in the area, associated with the Nest in the larger city.

Aside from resident villains/threats, it is periodically visited by the Crime Circus, the occasional biker gang, UFOs, time travelers and the like.

Anyone got any suggestions or comments?


 
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I will explicitly and shamelessly draw inspiration from Champions Universe examples for my suggestions. :P

 

Let's say that Sunny Bay and its environs have long had a reputation for unexplained phenomena: strange voices on the radio, UFO sightings, grotesque animal corpses washing up on shore, etc. The reason is that it holds a "dimensional nexus" to other universes which bleeds extra-dimensional energies into ours, distorting reality. The nexus sometimes sucks in the unwary, or spews out intentional or accidental visitors from other realities. It also promotes the origin of a disproportionate number of superhumans. These phenomena have drawn various paranormal entities and factions from elsewhere in the world, either instinctively, or deliberately to study and try to exploit the effect of the nexus.

 

If you have access to the Champions supplement, Hidden Lands, its chapter on Sunday Pond, which has its own nexus, provides examples of how this would have affected the populace and how it might be used. I would suggest locating the nexus in or near the Sunny Bay lighthouse/hospital.

 

Another book that could be useful to you is Champions Universe for Hero Fifth Edition, which includes a good amount of history and description for the small town of Haynesville, Kansas (which wasn't reprinted for Sixth Edition). Nearby to Haynesville, McLaughlin AFB appears all but abandoned, but is actually a site for top-secret government research, sparked by the appearance there of America's first superhero. Sunny Bay might have a similar naval base in its vicinity, studying the area's unusual phenomena.

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I've reviewed the stuff on Sunday Pond and Haynesville. Interesting, but not quite what I am looking for.

 

I'm not sure I want as blatant a weirdness magnet as a nexus. If the PCs base themselves there, even for a while, they will be magnet enough.

 

I forgot to mention the other influence sitting in the back of my head - the old DnD module B2 The Keep on the Borderlands.

 

Essentially I am trying to create a basic sandbox for Champions games.

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Hmm... TBH using The Keep on the Borderlands as a reference may not be most apropos to the supers genre. Modern America doesn't really have a "borderland," i.e. a largely-unexplored wilderness on the edge of civilization, with hostile and dangerous inhabitants. Nowadays you need to get well away from major population centers to find anything like that. For an extended "dungeon crawl" like KotB in supers, you'd need the sort of extensive villain base that's easiest to justify in true wilderness areas.

 

Happy Harbor was really only significant because the Justice League, and later Young Justice, made it their home base. Either the heroes went elsewhere for their adventures, or their enemies came there specifically for them. In the comics large cities tend to be where most "supercrime" is focused, due to wealth and resources; and such an environment is more accommodating of frequent and diverse super adventure. If Sunny Bay is near a larger city, that's where most of the action will naturally gravitate to.

 

IMHO if you really want Sunny Bay to have long-term potential within itself, some kind of "weirdness magnet" would be necessary. Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Sunnydale would have been pretty boring without that Hell Mouth, or Smallville without kryptonite and buried Kryptonian artifacts. ;)

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Perhaps something to draw major villains in from the city, like a university with a prominent research facility.

 

As a port town adjacent to a big city, it might be considered safer to bring in certain types of valuable cargo rather than risk a city full of super villains.

Raw jewels,  rare tech components, rare minerals/alloys only available from overseas are just a few things that could lure a super villain.

 

The military base and its research might draw or worse: create a villain.  Certainly experiments with dimensional barriers might draw the interest of the Empress and truly alien agents might show up to investigate. in fact, more human looking  agents of the Empress might have a semi permanent base here also investigating such strange phenomenon.

 

The haunted lighthouse might have a ghost who falls in love with a PC. Makes for an interesting contact at the very least.

 

Temporary dimensional portals might open from time to time, letting in dinosaurs and other large alien predators. The first such visitor could be an ankylosaurus eating in someone's garden. its sheer size may be a problem for the heroes.  Next elephants could start disappearing from the zoo with suspicious t-rex footprints nearby. play it right with a few clues and players could be freaked out by all of this. I wouldn't be afraid to beef up the dino to put a real fear of dinos in the players hearts.

---but the real questions is, are these portals opening on their own? or as a result of experimentation from the govt labs...

 

 

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As an alternate, the town could be the location for a training camp for VIPER or a weapons development facility for ARGENT.  The latter could bring various supervillains into town looking to purchase bleeding-edge tech, and give the heroes an overarching plot (Find the Super-Secret R&D Labs).  If the latter, have a good reason why ARGENT wouldn't want to relocate the R&D facility once the heroes set up shop.  Perhaps they built a prototype cold fusion reactor and can't easily move it or replicate it. 

 

Also I'll second Pizza Man's suggestion about a university with a prominent research facility.  Or it could be a major corporation's research arm, located away from the city for safety.  Or both (a private university and a corporation R&D, either connected or not).  Either / both could tie either directly or indirectly to an ARGENT R&D lab too.  Plenty of possibilities there.

 

I like the idea of an old mental hospital.  I'd have that be its own plot element, not tied to any of the above. 

 

The retired supervillain who lives in the area may be funding one or more of the above.  He could, for example, be the CEO or major shareholder in the corporation, with an estate on the outskirts of town. 

 

If not a training camp, the VIPER facility could be a private school for VIPER agents' kids, with behind-the-scenes training for would-be future VIPER agents.  Or a private boarding school for supervillains' kids, run by VIPER. 

 

 

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20 minutes ago, Lord Liaden said:

Guys, I realize I'm the one who was pushing the "nexus" concept :whistle: , but Assault did say he wasn't sure he was comfortable with using that, so don't feel you have to confine your suggestions to working with it, if you have other ideas.

OK, going with that, a small city encouraging new heroes could also encourage new villains. once they figure out that a hero team is here they would team up themselves. Cities (even smaller ones) have the resources that villains need.

 

This would also appeal to the remnants of DEMON. This was a group where the leaders all perished in a foiled mass summoning. Now the remnants (lead by low level types) are searching for a sanctuary. the groups have no loyalty to each other and are looking to rebuild to their former glory. One group has chosen Sunny Bay. Or worse, TWO groups are here and a turf war is under way.

 

VIPER has a low level nest here, used mostly for a reclusive hide out for when the heat is way too hot in the big cities. Even Viper super villains need a little R&R.

 

 

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Other ideas:

 

Sunny Day really is a retirement village for golden age and silver age superheros and supervillains of a more frendly persuasion. The existence of caves where the retiries placed there various supertech and mystical dodads and promptly forgotten about them are prime targets for new supervillains who wants a power up. Some even make there base in the caves.

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17 minutes ago, BoloOfEarth said:

I like the idea of an old mental hospital.  I'd have that be its own plot element, not tied to any of the above. 

 

You know you could play with this making it a really weird place, attracting a number of Magical based villains and groups.

The mental hospital  haunting are just the tip of the iceberg. The entire area is a supernatural hot spot.

 

Make maps/floorplans of the facility impossible as the walls/corridors/rooms change and move when the players are not looking.  players that sleep in the facility wake up strapped to an operating table facing a lobotomy. Escaping, they end up in a nightmarish parody world of the 1940's Sunny Bay...the only way out is to go back into the mental hospital. --are the people here real? or trapped souls unable to escape. Outside of Sunny Bay, there is nothing, this parody world ceases to exist, but it never runs out of food. Bizarre murders happen, pools of blood take months to dry up.  The people are haunted, despairing of any release - they know little more than the PCs.  The mental ward is universally feared

 

A top secret govt agency is trying to seal off and contain the facility, but containment breaches happen. and evil duplicates of the heroes emerge, but they only understand 1940's technology.

 

A ghost could follow the players back home to their base...pleading for sanctuary from the torturers in the hospital. The Ghost would be willing to watch the base and even become an honorary member. But the Mental ward does not give up its dead so easily. Hunters will emerge to track down the ghost  and any PCs who fell asleep in it. 

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19 minutes ago, steriaca said:

Other ideas:

 

Sunny Day really is a retirement village for golden age and silver age superheros and supervillains of a more frendly persuasion. The existence of caves where the retiries placed there various supertech and mystical dodads and promptly forgotten about them are prime targets for new supervillains who wants a power up. Some even make there base in the caves.

the next generation of super villains are inheriting the caves. taking the names of their grandfather villains.

The Spider is the grandson of a mastermind from the 40's. The original was one of the worst, killing maybe a million people in his day.  Giving up on his dreams of conquest, the original Spider retired to a life of peace, Still he tinkered in his cave lair.

 

His son, became a ruthless businessman and CEO of a tech company. Taking power the traditional way. His grandson however took after the Spider and inherited the Cave lair. combining his father's resources and new technology, a new Spider was born. He is now testing his battle suit in Sunny Bay. He does incorporate the original's emergency teleport for when failure at the hero's hands occurs. Learn from your mistakes, thats what Grandpa always said.

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Perhaps there could be a huge festival like the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally or Burning Man, something that swells the town's population to a hundred times its usual size--maybe more.  Streets crowded with people looking for a good time, vendors selling anything and everything that can be sold, big-name entertainers and those looking to become a big break--and plenty of opportunities for crime, super and otherwise.  Pickpockets working the crowd.  Con artists looking to score with their latest scam.  Petty thieves making off with vendors' cashboxes.  Bank robbers hoping to hit it big while all that fresh cash is still in the bank vaults.  Arch-enemies holding the town for ransom, threatening to kill everyone unless the hero comes so they can settle the score once and for all.  Mad inventors looking to test their new mass mind control weapon. 

 

Those are a few of the possibilities.  Hope that helps.

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The thread topic makes me think of either a retirement community or a, "safe house" for crooks, not a sandbox environment for novice superheroes. How can the two be combined? 

 

Until recently, the city was home to a retired criminal mentalist. He would use his abilities to subtly influence the criminals on the lam, "Don't plan your next job until you leave." Everything stayed quiet, and nobody had any reason to investigate. Now he's dead, and his influence has worn off. We've got a large group of crooks who are getting bored, thinking about trying something.

 

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A question: law enforcement.

 

Assuming a US model of law enforcement, how big would Sunny Bay need to be to have its own police? If it wasn't big enough, how would law enforcement be organized?

 

What ranks might be present, in each case?

 

In an Australian model, it might have a couple of sergeants and a few constables. The officer in charge might be a senior sergeant, or just the more senior of the sergeants.

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On 3/26/2018 at 3:33 AM, steriaca said:

Other ideas:

 

Sunny Day really is a retirement village for golden age and silver age superheros and supervillains of a more frendly persuasion. The existence of caves where the retiries placed there various supertech and mystical dodads and promptly forgotten about them are prime targets for new supervillains who wants a power up. Some even make there base in the caves.

 

While silly, I find this idea oddly appealing. Taking the Keep on the Borderlands analogy literally is amusing.

 

Maybe the area includes the swamp where the Legion of Doom has its headquarters.

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1 minute ago, assault said:

A question: law enforcement.

 

Assuming a US model of law enforcement, how big would Sunny Bay need to be to have its own police? If it wasn't big enough, how would law enforcement be organized?

 

What ranks might be present, in each case?

 

In an Australian model, it might have a couple of sergeants and a few constables. The officer in charge might be a senior sergeant, or just the more senior of the sergeants.

In the United States, it might be an unincorporated community.  If so, law enforcement would be the responsibility of the county sheriff.

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