The year is 2013, President John Edwards has just won his reelection, and you have superpowers.
You live in fabulous Bayport, NY. In some worlds this is a small town like many other small towns on Long Island; in yours it is a decaying industrial city of a hundred-thousand souls (and twice as many people, HA!).
Plagued by organized crime, ground under the boots of vicious corporations, "protected" by an ineffective police force held together by corruption and graft, Bayport is the perfect city for an up-and-coming superman to make a name for themselves.
The first supermen were veterans of the Great War. They were regarded as urban legends by the people of the era, who still received most of their news from weekly papers, until Boltcutter arrived on the scene. He was as fast as an automobile, and hit harder! Nothing less than a bursting shell could pierce his skin! He could clear a city block in one leap! With his sidekick Concrete Lad (who gained his powers by falling into liquid concrete) he fought Hitler, Mecha-Hitler, Ultra Mecha-Hitler, and the Son of Capone. As more supermen appeared on the scene, and Boltcutter grew in renown, vigilantism was effectively legalized at the federal level by the passing of the Othello Act. Thus was born the second generation of superheroes.
As the Cold War between the first- and second-world continued into the 70s, supermen became more and more essential to the effort on both sides. They likewise became more popular, and many supermen of the period were made into household names by their media presence and pop culture appearances. But as this was happening, the world became darker. What defenses are there against a man who can read your mind as he walks by you in the street? How do you fight someone who can predict your decisions before you decide them?
Obviously, with supermen. More and more emphasis was placed on individual people (and their individual caprices) to ensure the defense of the nation, industries rose to capitalize on what powers they could, countries became more reclusive, more secretive, and less trusting, and the walls closed in.
By the 90s, when Boltcutter died, the future wasn't what it used to be. Supermen were corporate assets, or arms of the military-industrial complex (to whatever degree those were different things). World governments were paranoid and hostile. Urban areas were swarming hives of violence and degeneracy; rural areas were scarred by industrial exploitation, super-powered feuds, or open war.
By 2013 things are looking grim. In America major corporations operate almost entirely outside of the law. Times are hard for the common man. Most people live paycheck to paycheck, or meal to meal. There are still opportunities in the world, but it just seems like there's less than there should be, you know?
Well, in the end it's like Boltcutter II (CEO of MEGA®️Weapons) likes to say: "Shit into one hand, wish into the other, and see which hand fills up first."
Hey That Sounds Cool, How Do I Be A Super Guy?
I'm glad you think so and I'm glad you asked. The main concern for being a super guy is having super powers, which I will now explain:
The powers of a superman fall into eleven categories: Brawn, Durable, Martial, Think, Perceive, Create, Shift, Fly, Zap, Weird, and Ace. These categories exist "in-universe" and are used by supermen-hunters to calculate how expensive their hits will be.
- Brawn is those powers related to physical strength. PCs with Brawn 1 have strength scores of 18.
- Durable is those powers related to physical robustness. PCs with Durable 1 have constitution scores of 18.
- Martial is those powers related to physical skill and ability. PCs with Martial 1 have two scores of 15 of their choice.
- Think is those powers related to knowledge and mental fortitude. PCs with Think 1 have intelligence scores of 18.
- Perceive is those powers related to senses beyond or besides human norm. PCs with Perceive 1 have wisdom scores of 18.
- Create is those powers related to the permanent creation of matter.
- Shift is those powers related to a non-human form, whether permanent or changed into temporarily.
- Fly is flight, whether through levitation or jetpack feet or giant metal wings.
- Zap is those powers related to the projection of force, whether through telekinesis or laser-eyes or fire breath.
- Weird is those powers related to ignoring rules. This includes invisibility, intangibility, self-teleportation and things of that nature, but also many powers which don't fall under any other category.
- Ace is those powers related to changing the rules. This includes reality-warping, mind control, powers which affect other powers, and most other things really frightening to consider.
I Didn't Understand That At All, And It Doesn't Sound Fun?
Yeah I know, I have not thought of a good way of presenting it. Perhaps "an eleven-category descriptive (not prescriptive) point buy system for generating supernatural abilities of roughly equal power, compatible with your basic d20-like games, with a Worm flavor." It is fun though.
What If You Had Some Examples?
That's a surprisingly good idea, voice-which-follows-me-and-ceaselessly-complains. Let's look at some examples of past characters:
Foresight — one-sigma. Perceive I, Zap. A nursing student by day, his costume was spare scrubs with hundreds of googly eyes hotglued on. Played up a "precognition" angle, but his powers were the ability to perceive time much slower and to project spasm-inducing nerve-rays from his eyes. Combined, these made him seem like a kung-fu master. Also used his powers to cram studying in between superhero exploits.
Barrietta — one-sigma. Fly, Zap. Explicitly described to me as "that one girl from Young Justice with the forcefields". Technically had the power to create damage-absorbing forcefield fences, but only ever flew around and shot at people with a normal gun.
Slugger — one-sigma. Brawn 1, Martial 1. Wore a baseball uniform and carried a composite baseball bat. He lasted for one session before his fellow heroes zapped him with a brainwashing ray they stole from a cult leader and then tried to beat him back into normality with a wooden bar stool, killing him.
Snakecharmer — one-sigma. Martial 1, Zap. Raised in a circus, was a master of throwing knives and juggling and could control light metal objects at a distance of a hundred feet or so. Used a length of razorwire as a telekinetic grappling tool. After being shot by a cocaine cartel, Massive Damage rolls took his leg off and the player quit in a huff.
Sinkeda — two-sigma. Brawn I, Durable I, Martial II. Could run on walls for 30' at a time and threw big knives with +8 to-hit. Costume was a doofy sweater and a champion belt, both lined with hidden pockets/holes for the dozens of knives he kept strapped to his body.
These are examples from the lower bounds of power, appropriate for level-1 PCs and their enemies. Here's an example at the other end of the scale:
Supercarrier — four-sigma. Brawn III, Durable ב, Martial I, Weird. Hits like a train, difficult to kill like a train. He can "hold on" to air and swing around like an acrobat. Jumpruns very fast. Smashes.
"Hits like a train" sounds like hyperbole, but it is not. Supercarrier weighs well over one-thousand kilograms in his socks and can accelerate to 200mph over the course of forty feet. His blows do not crush you; they aerosolize you. One shoe goes this way, one shoe goes that way, and the rest of you is reduced to a rapidly expanding cloud of damp particulate matter. Poof.
He wears an additional two-thousand kilos of tungsten-steel armor. This is not to protect him, because he is a Durable ב. He shrugs off any weapon that a human being can operate. The weapons that threaten Supercarrier are the kind which are launched by a human, or by two humans with two separate keys and a big red button. The armor is just to give him more inertia and a place to slap a bumper sticker that says I DON'T BRAKE FOR LAWYERS.
Like many carrier-class supermen, he wears a long-range GPS tracker in case he falls into the ocean so he can be recovered with a big crane like a chunk of the Titanic.
Supercarrier can't fly domestic. He needs to be chunked around like a payload, and there are special silos in Kansas to fire him up on the tip an ICBM. Think of him like a fifth branch of the U.S. military: Supercarrier isn't as versatile as, say, the Marines, and can only be in one place at once, but he could kill as many Marines as he could catch and they probably wouldn't have any way of stopping him.
Combat and Such
I'm going to end this post in an unorganized sprawl of miscellaneous rules, so buckle up. These were written for 5e originally; characters get one "action" and one "bonus action" every turn. All ballistic weapons have exploding damage dice (if you roll maximum damage, roll the dice again and add the sum).
Recoil (noted RX, where X is the value) is the minimum strength mod required to effectively use the a gun. If your strength mod is too low, you suffer a to-hit penalty equal to the difference. Ignore recoil if the gun is mounted securely, -1 effective recoil for a long barrel and a stock, -2 for holding the gun in two hands.
All guns cause a ricochet on a natural 1. Roll a d6. On a 1–4 no one is hit, on a 5 the shooter is hit for 1d4, and on a 6 a random person in the area is hit for 1d4.
Magazines and speed loaders cannot be refilled during combat.
Light, medium and heavy are as in standard GLOG (⅓ 1d6 damage can be thrown, 1 slot 1d6/1d8 damage in one or two hands plus strength mod, 2 slots 1d10 damage in two hands plus strength mod).
Automatic guns expend 1d10 rounds in an attack with +1 to-hit. You can expend another d12 rounds for an additional +1 to-hit. They reload as semi-auto.
Double-Barreled weapons have two barrels each holding a shell. You may fire or reload a barrel with an action or bonus action. Firing both barrels gives advantage to the attack.
Long guns cannot be used in melee range.
Pocket weapons have no encumbrance cost. Advantage in melee range.
Revolver weapons reload from a speed-loader with an action. If you don’t have a speedloader, you can reload 1+[dexterity mod] chambers with an action.
Selective weapons can be treated as automatic or semi-auto.
Semi-Auto weapons fire once on an attack, and reload from a magazine with a bonus action.
Some armor grants bonus Armor Class making you more difficult to hit, others grant Damage Resistance applying a penalty to every damage die, others just give you Ablative Hitpoints and are wrecked before your actual hitpoints are touched.
- Club, $2, light
- Folder Knife, $5, light, pocket
- Brass Knuckles, $15, light (+1 to-hit in melee, can't be thrown)
- Baseball Bat, $20, medium
- Hatchet, $30, light (1 slot, +1 to-hit with thrown attacks)
- Machete, $20, medium
- Sledge, $30, heavy
- Maul, $50, heavy
- Battleaxe, $300, heavy
- Glock 9mm, $300, 1d6, R1, ammunition, semi-auto 10, 20/60.
- Glock 10mm, $800, 1d8, R2, ammunition, semi-auto 10, 30/90.
- .38 Special, $200, 1d6, R1, ammunition, pocket, revolver 5, 20/60.
- Colt .45, $400, 1d8, R1, ammunition, revolver 6, 30/90.
- 20-gauge shotgun, $250, 2d4, R3, ammunition, long, double-barreled, 60/180.
- 12-gauge shotgun, $350, 2d6, R4, ammunition, long, semi-auto 5, 60/180.
- M1911 (.45), $500, 1d8, R2, ammunition, semi-auto 7, 40/120.
- 10/22 (.22), $200, 1d4, R2, ammunition, long, semi-auto 20, 80/320.
- Armalite (5.56), $600, 1d6, R3, ammunition, long, semi-auto 15, 80/320.
- Derringer (.22), $200, 1d4, R4, ammunition, pocket, double-barreled, 10/30.
- Stungun, $50, 1d12 non-lethal Lightning, DC 18 con save for no damage, 20/60
Accessories and Gadgets:
- Speedloader, $10
Allows one to reload a revolver quickly in combat. Same price for any revolver.
- Magazine (handgun), $20
- Magazine (long gun), $30
Ditto, “long gun”
- Mounted Laser Pointer, $20
Increases effective range of a gun by 10', visible to others.
- Holographic Sight, $300
Increases effective range by 50%.
- 7x Zoom Scope, $300
Swap around effective/maximum range.
- 100 feet of rope, $15, ⅓rd slot
Some rope. Nice nylon stuff, holds a ton.
- Grapnel, $20, ⅓
A big spiky hook thing. Attach it to a rope to climb buildings.
- Flashlight, $10, ⅓
Bright light to 30', dim light to 60'.
- First-aid kit, $20, 1
Heals 1d4 HP on a successful skill check, or 1 HP on a failed check. One use.
- Handcuffs, $50, ⅓
Like standard manacles.
- Football pads, $200
+1 AC, can be painted in your colours easily.
- Calling card (200), $5
Branding! Leave your logo at the scene of your brutal beatings.
- Booze, $2–20
Gives you a point of drunkenness.
- Street clothing, $20, 0 or 2
Full set of non-suspicious clothing.
- Dark clothing, $20, 0 or 2
Full set of dark black and brown clothing. Advantage on sneak checks while in darkness, hard to explain if people catch you.
- Bulky clothing, $30, 1 or 2
Full set of heavy clothing in multiple layers. +1 AC, -2 to sneak or climbing checks.
- Snowboarding helmet, $40, 0 or 1
Kind of makes you look like a dweeb.
- Airsoft mask, $15
Conceals the face. You can put a logo or something on it.
- Fencing helmet, $50, 0 or 1
Hard to hear things while wearing it. Conceals the face.
- Set of lockpicks, $80, ⅓
Lets you attempt to unlock standard locks with skill. Locks have varying DCs
- Binoculars, $150, ⅓
Eight-times zoom. Very handy for spying.
- Pack of cigarettes, $10
Contains 20 cigarettes. You receive a +2 bonus on any skill check made while smoking. Make a DC10 Constitution save against addiction when smoked. If failed, the save can be made again at the end of a long rest.
- Trailcam, $150, ⅓
Records video and audio when it detects motion. Admissible in court.
- Spray paint, $2
Mark your territory, or spray people in the eyes.
- Rat poison, $10
When ingested, pass a DC18 Constitution save or take 2d6 poison damage from internal bleeding. Acts within 10 rounds.
- Crowbar, $15
A crowbar. Advantage on Strength checks where the crowbar could reasonably help. Counts as a Club.
- Lighter, $3
- Knife-proof gloves, $50
Definitely makes you look badass.
- Skiing gloves, $100
Your unarmed attacks have +1 to-hit and damage.
- Bulletproof Vest, $500, 1 or 2
+2AC, DR1, 8AH against ballistics. Bulky and suspicious.
- Gascan (2 gallon), $3, ⅓ empty 2 filled
Can hold other things than just gasoline. Not too suspicious when carried around in daylight.
- Gasoline (gallon), $5
Bring your own can.
- 50 feet of duct tape, $2
Some tape. What do you want me to say?
- Ballbearings (1000), $70, 1
1000 stainless-steel ballbearings. Hit someone with them, or spill dangerously.
- Flaregun, $100, 1
A flaregun. 10/30 range.
- Flares (10), $20, 1 slot for 10.
Some flares. Deal 1d4 damage if they strike somebody, set things on fire, make a lot of light and a little noise.
- Green laser, $15
A laser pointer, colored green. Can be used to signal allies or distract enemies. Functions just fine in daylight.
- Walkie-talkies, $30
A pair of walkie talkies. Comes with a recharging stand. The battery is good for a few hours and the signal is good for two miles. Not secure.