Today I’ll be looking at the superhero option for the Cypher System and going over what I plan for the demo game I’ll be running under this variant of the rules. The Battle for Neopolis, as I’m currently dubbing it, will be built with characters of second or third tier fighting against the minions of a supervillain, showing mob rules and the use of GM Intrusions by way of innocent civilians and well-meaning civil defense forces in addition to the genre-specific rules like power shifts.
For Neopolis to work for me to really run anything in it that isn’t a straight ripoff of existing superhero fiction, I need to have at least a rough idea of the world and how it works, so we’ll start there, going from the point of divergence from the world we’re used to and building on how that divergence changed things.
Step back to 2012, when the fears of some ancient apocalypse were looming across the minds of those in the civilized world. Most understandably joked about it and found the idea funny; those that took it seriously prepared as best they could. None of them were really prepared for what did happen at midnight on the winter solstice, though, sweeping around the world from midnight touching the Rift Valley in Africa.
The Horizon Breach is what it’s called now; a strange dark rip that always sits on the western horizon, like someone took a club and smashed a piece of the horizon. It isn’t visible from space; the astronauts on the ISS didn’t see it until they returned to Earth, and so most nations are aggressively planning space missions to evacuate as many people as they can if the Horizon Breach changes. There’s a proto-colony on the Moon, just a dozen people, serving as a trial run for long-term occupation and preparing the way for lunar cities. No one talks about the fear of the Breach following if enough people make the trip.
Still, despite the alarming sight of a jagged, dark hole in the sky, nothing seemed to come of it at first, and once the initial panic died down people got on with their lives for a time – until the first public metahumans emerged. The Horizon Breach is clearly connected to these people and their unexpected – often unwanted – superpowers. From the first – the man known now as Atlas, even if he only answers to his birth name – to the newest, metahumans seem to be here to stay.
With this fact comes the inevitable fact that some people, given any form of power, will seek to use it solely for their own advantage, while others will seek to use it for the advantage of all. While many people who have powers either try to hide them or use them in simple, everyday ways to make life a little easier, there came the inevitable would-be tyrants and those who fought against them. With those came the media nicknames, drawn at first from comic books and stories and then spun from imagination.
The culmination of the Horizon Breach aftermath came when the figure called Harbinger arose and tried to claim the middle of North America as their personal domain, declaring that those without powers weren’t welcome while all who did would be welcomed with open arms, as long as they obeyed the rules. Harbinger’s powers were great, and the number of people who flocked to Harbinger’s flag were enough to keep the world’s most powerful military at bay.
It couldn’t last, and in the resulting power struggle much of the middle of the continent was wrecked by metahumans with incredible powers (or unexpected uses for less impressive powers). It took the deaths of many metahumans to end the fighting, with Harbinger having simply disappeared during the struggle.
This is the resulting world; metahumans continue to manifest, the Horizon Breach remains in existence, and Neopolis has been constructed in the middle of the wrecked portion of the continent as a combination of containment zone and symbol of alliance between the normal people of Earth and the metahuman populace. Each district has their own group of metahumans, often with the type of power determining where they settle; the normal people who choose to live in the city can expect to be protected by any metahuman who wants to continue to be regarded as a lawful citizen rather than a menace to be put down.
Of course, there are still metahumans who seek to conquer, and some even succeed. One such has been successful enough in creating a cult dedicated to himself in the southeast that he’s now coming to declare himself the god-king of Neopolis, with everyone to bow down before his might.
And that’s where the players will come into the situation; anywhere from two to six people, each with their own superpowers and power shifts, when the metahuman calling himself Archangel comes to Neopolis, with an army of fanatical servitors, conjured minions, and his own phenomenal level of personal power to call on.
Characters will be a mix of metahumans who are ‘out’ and ones who moved to Neopolis in the hopes that their powers would be ignored or could be blamed on other people; either way, a genuine supervillain moving in on the town with intent to conquer means that everyone has to pitch in or else have a power-mad would-be godling move in and take over.
The demo game will have three phases; the first phase is an encounter with the first forerunners of Archangel’s army, who are happy to show up and start preaching the word of their leader to anyone listening if no one interferes, and even happier to get violent if someone does interfere. Stage one involves enemies who are numerous but not a real challenge to metahuman heroes, to give players new to the Cypher System a chance to get familiar with their powers.
Phase Two is when the conjured minions show up; nebulous beings of light and lightning, they could almost look celestial if it weren’t for the way they happily join in attacking anyone who looks like they’re resisting, using blasts of light and crackling claws of electrical energy to do so. This is where mob rules will show up, as well as where the players will need to start worrying about collateral damage to the area. Subtle cyphers will be made available that can provide things like friendly support from local police or other heroes, among other things.
Phase Three is, essentially, the boss fight; Archangel was a normal person until he manifested a whole suite of powers that made him decide he was personally invested with divine power and a mandate to rule the world in the name of his ideals of what is or isn’t right. Now, able to fly, project powerful beams of energy, call down area-effect lightning strikes, and protected by a shining aura that provides armor, he’s a menace to everyone in Neopolis and needs put down, fast, before the fight does enough damage to the city to make military intervention in the form of anti-metahuman squads turn up!
Characters will include (but not be limited to) a Tough Adept who Needs No Weapons; an Impulsive Warrior who Bears a Halo of Fire; a Swift Explorer who Blazes With Radiance; a Strong Warrior who Defends the Weak; and a Kind Adept who Works Miracles.
Once I have Archangel and his minions developed, I may do a post about them, along with the metahuman superheroes themselves.