|NOTE: This is roughly the original introductory text which I gave to my players for this campaign.|
My campaign may be simply described as "a realistic Champions game" or "Wild Cards without jokers". That is, while it does have paranormals and overtly dramatic conflicts between them, it takes more after recent, serious comics (i.e. Watchmen, The Question) rather than the flashy mainstream ones. Powers have a single (but currently unknown) source; current technology is clearly defined ("gadgets" can generally be patented and mass-produced); and NPCs have lives and minds of their own. There are no skin-tight costumes; no (known) paranormal-creating experiments that mysteriously cannot be repeated; no known telepaths or other world-altering paranormals; and paranormals are not pop stars of stage, screen, and (especially) comic book. (I am, however, using silly names to promote remembering that the late Jerry Shocken was, in fact, Mobius the space-twisting tactician.)
1) PARANORMALITY: The first paranormal was discovered in Liverpool in 1923, after which eighteen more appeared in England between '29 and '53. After Analog in '53, almost all new paranormals appeared in North-Eastern America, now totalling about fifty. There are exceptions, however. (The estimated total number of paranormals ever range between 70 and 160.)
Paranormals generally gain their powers at a point between the ages of 12 and 26. They show few similarities of background other than their area of origin, and that they share certain personality traits which one could call "PC-ishness". To be precise, paranormals all seek out the unusual and unknown, and rarely walk away from a problem once they find it. They tend to be exceptionally comptetant, above-average (at least) in characteristics and skills, and they stay rational under the most trying circumstances (i.e. combat). Finally, they all have genuine intelligence and personalities, tending away from insanity and fanaticism. Few would be considered "villians" -- although equally few work entirely within the law.
Paranormals are not so universally popular as one might believe. They generally have secret identities and avoid the limelight -- which is often equated with crosshairs. They sometimes tend to deal among "their own kind", and tend to receive criticism as a whole for what one of them does. Finally, they rarely take well to being ordered around, and strongly edge towards independence and even anarchy.
Powers generally are narrow in concept but extremely open and versatile within that. For example, Spectrum has Opacity Control. He is able to turn himself and others invisible, see through walls by making them transparent, cause darkness over large areas or just people's eyes, and form various screens and lenses out of thin air.
Almost all paranormals are about equal in power. There are few (if any) master villians, annoying sidekicks, and godlike NPCs. Estimate 250 to 300 points in Champions terms -- although I, for one, know that this means nothing. What makes them important to the world is a combination of dedication, intelligence, and powers rather than outright world-altering abilities. Probably the most significant powers are the clairvoyance of Hangman and the hypnotic powers of Mesmer. There are relatively few "bricks" or visibly non-human paranormals, while there are a lot of energy manipulators (Opacity Control, Catalytic Control, Image Projection, Sonic Generation, etc.).
As mentioned, there are exceptions to the "common" rules of paranormality. Monolith gained his powers at age 43. There are nine "immortals" born in 634 A.D. There are a few magicians who appear to have learned powers. There are two characters who claim to have come from another dimension. Lastly, there are a number of exceptional normals: a genius who revolutionized physics at age 19; an ex-FBI agent who now heads a gang of paranormals; etc. If you want to play something like this, talk to me.
2) HISTORY: We start in 1948, when the U.N. began sponsoring the Parapsychological Studies Institute of London, after paranormals proved their effectiveness in WWII. PSIL was run largely by and for paranormals, serving as more of a training ground and meeting place than a research center. This, however, got paranormals to monitor and deal with each other to a fair extent, although it did not do much to reassure the rest of the world. After this, paranormals were generally liked, as many had fought in WWII and some were doing useful research (Black Box, Analog) and other benign functions.
However, a number of things happened to tarnish their reputation. In 1952 a paranormal with nuclear manipulation abilities appeared in Middlesbrough, with disastrous results that ended in his death. In 1963, the paranormal Hangman was forced into community service for invasion of privacy. In 1964, Spectrum made a daring robbery of a bank which he (along with the other members of the security firm) had been hired to protect. Finally, in 1969 the press discovered shady practices of a paranormal squad in Vietnam.