Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Bloodlines: A Supers Campaign Seed (Part Four)

This series draws from supers campaign I put together almost ten years ago, "Bloodlines." That focused on inherited super-powers limited to certain bloodlines around the globe. I'd originally pitched the group that they would be a moving superteam, hired to patrol the Midwest. That changed in mid-briefing when the Zero Moment occurred. This is some of the background I gave players before the game and a quick summary of the ZM. You can see the first post here which lays out the general concept. You may spot names and groups adapted from other sources, including Bill Coffin's Century Station.

Part Two: Bloodlines 1
Part Three: Bloodlines 2

Public Perception and Terminology
One of the real difficulties for parahumans, Bloodliners, supers, whatever you wish to call them has been the pendulum-like response to them by the public, the media, and the government. At times they've been seen as superstars and at others as genetic freaks that pose a potential threat to real humans. The last decade has seen a fragmentation and polarization of these attitudes.

There are many theories for why this is. The polarization of America following 9/11. The glut of superhuman movies and TV shows during the late 70's early 80's that are now being viewed nostalgically. An increased awareness of the implications of genetic research and the patent tensions between nations. The rise of the internet and the ability for information to be widely disseminated and responded to quickly.

In any case, parahumans today typically fall into one of several groups, at least in the US.

Government: there is and will always be a great deal of suspicion about the involvement of parahumans in the government, particularly as officers in law enforcement and information gathering capacities. The existence of the Parahuman Civil Service program has done little to alleviate these concerns in the public.

Political: some cross the line between government and celebrity to run as active politicians. Though there numbers are few, they are important. Most generally downplay their Bloodline status.

Celebrity: Probably the most accepted category of Bloodliner. It is also the most exposed and subject to the ups and downs of fame. However over the last two decades celebrity bloodliners have become more vocal about the private beliefs and politics, in some cases causing significant negative reactions.

Corporate: Many corporations actively seek out Bloodliners as employees and for projects. The response to these hires depends on the image of the corporation itself. Recently Microsoft spun off its own super division, Vision, in order to avoid further negative publicity. Family: In the case of some of the tighter Bloodlines, such as Braddock and Syzmanski, the Bloodlines work towards the development of the family company. Again here the reaction depends on the image of the family.

Private: Sometimes referred to wrongly as diaspora. These are people, in smaller positions, usually keeping their powers and abilities secret.

Super: Persons involved in private law enforcement and vigilante activity. The response to these groups and persons varies from area to area. There has been a rise in Bloodliners choosing these roles in the last five years, in part a response to a generation exposed to the ideas coming of age and in part and response to the political climate.

Anarch: Bloodliners who use their abilities for criminal ends.

Midwest Cities and Supers
Detroit: A town notable for a high crime level and as a cross road for gang members in the region. The Foundry is said to operate out of here. In the past, the racial situation here has created some problems. The Sentrymen had one of their last bases in this city. Also a border point with Canada which of course has looser restrictions on certain goods.

Indianapolis: One of the smaller of the Midwestern bumper towns. It is however in the center of some of the larger meth production areas. The presence of a variety of corporate HQs for smaller and mid-sized companies has meant that it has drawn White Collar crime. Redact is the most Anarch team that most recently hit the city.

Chicago: The most feared of Midwestern cities for both corruption and anarch presence. Most superteams avoid the area and it is believed that at least one government sponsored team that went in quietly was completely eliminated. Ravage and Synistry operate out of the city, and Chimera and the Shadow Margin have as well in the past. It also has become the place for lone anarchs to congregate to. Operations will not take place here.

Cleveland: A city of troubled inner-city neighborhoods and development at the edges in the wealthier areas. Cleveland has been notable as a gathering place for low-level diaspora with minor abilities who have floated into gangs or other pretty criminal organizations. Not really a site of major Anarch teams, but it does have a fairly competent police force trained to deal with Bloodliners.

St. Louis: The " Gateway City", the population of has been declining since the 1950s, as many have moved to the many suburbs in Saint Louis County , or to other parts of the metropolitan area. Like nearby Kansas City, St. Louis has a suprising number of corporate HQs. While no Anarch group is said to be based in St. Louis, a number have carried out attacks there and it possesses a largish number of independent heroes. For this reason it seems to have drawn the attention of Black Dawn who have made a series of attacks there in the last several months.

Kansas City: A widely spread out city that sits on the Kansas/Missouri border. It has a couple of major corporate HQ's there. The area includes a significant below-ground set of neighborhoods built into old mines and understructures. Team Tomorrow has a facility there which is said to be more for research than anything else. Pantheon may operate from the area. In the past they have hit the city three times in major events.

Milwaukee: A city living in the shadow of Chicago, Milwaukee has suffered a number of superhuman attacks from Chicago groups ranging outside and looking for ripe targets. The Milwaukee Art Museum was hit by Overrun a few months ago in a fairly spectacular raid that ended up in a running battle with a group of local independent heroes.

Minneapolis: In the 1990s, the murder rate and incidence of gang violence climbed in this city, almost entirely in poorer neighborhoods. The Phillips Community was particularly hard-hit. After reaching a record 97 homicides in 1995, the city gained an unpleasant nickname because of the violence: "Murderapolis." The term gained widespread use after The New York Times used it when reporting that Minneapolis had surpassed the per capita homicide rate of New York City. The murder rate retreated in the following years, but area residents often grow concerned that the nickname may make a comeback whenever there is an uptick in violence in the city. There are a number of fairly well-known independent Anarchs operating in the city as well as a potent local hero, Turing.

Cincinnati: Bordering three states, Cincinnati is said to be home to a number of low-key smuggling operations, including as certain human trafficking operations.

(I should note for those reading this that this was all a smokescreen to get them nervous about Chicago and misdirect them from the plot of the game.)

The Zero Moment
It remains unclear what caused the explosion that claimed the lives of dozens of superheroes. When the Anarch teams Ravage and the Sinistry, with a large group of independent agents attempted to gain entry to the main Lockdown facility in SD, they were met in force by Frontline, Vision and their own gathering of independent heroes. At some point during their confrontation and explosion of undetermined source and energy ripped through them, killing everyone in the area. An EMP shockwave soon after disrupted sensors and left officials with few clues. The deaths of so many prominent Bloodliners has left chaos in its wake.

GM's Comment: The Zero Moment was the kicker/starter for the campaign. Essentially the group was recruited and had been planning to be a kind of freelance Midwestern team. However, even as they were in their interview with the recruiter, news started to come over the wire about a titanic battle between several super-villain and super-hero teams, resulting the deaths of nearly all involved. This led them to head to Chicago which had previously been a dangerous super-villain stronghold in an attempt to finally restore order there. Eventually, the plot would wrap up at the end of the campaign when they discovered why the incident had happened.