Draw Maps, Leave Blanks for Supers
Posted on Mon Dec 21 2015 -- sssc supers
This is more discussion about the Super-Sheriffs of Sagan
City game, found online here.
Today I want to talk about how I applied the principle
of "draw maps, leave blanks" to the superhero
One of my players says this: "I was just thinking…
there could be times when this super mitochondria appeared throughout
the ages of human history, which could explain ancient
gods or heroes or mysterious beings, etc."
I was overjoyed. I proceeded to run down some of the
posts that Villains Victorious ran through last year,
making the case for exactly this. I'll do one
better — I'll pull the list from TV Tropes'
page on the Fantasy Kitchen Sink:
- Fairies — discussed here. An "Arcadia" or "other
world" can be a shared hallucination, modulating
participants' super-abilities to affect the real
world in return.
- Ghosts, Mummies, Zombies — discussed here. Zombies, skeletons, mummies, liches,
and ghosts are all explicitly discussed.
- Vampires — has a representative here.
- Werewolves — has a representative here.
- Sea Monsters — discussed here as a world conquest tactic.
- Giant Worms — encountered on Gaia, here.
- Superhuman Mutants — a core part of the
- Aliens — discussed here. The PCs of the game have
actually encountered one alien race, who are just as much
colonists on Gaia as the humans.
- Time Travellers — this is the only one I missed,
due to how scary it is. However, it's possible
for teleporters to travel in time as well
- Espers — another core part of the setting, for some
value of "esper".
- Angels — has a representative here.
- Demons — no characters self-identify as demons,
though Father Freak is sometimes referred to as
- God, Jerkass Gods, Evil Gods, Lazy Gods — no provable
gods have made an appearance, though the groundwork
for how they would function is given here, and it's suggested the Egyptian
pantheon were supers here.
- Eldritch Abominations
- Precursors — a possibility for aliens as discussed
- Magic — discussed here, but not conclusively demonstrated.
- Psi — no special psychic forces exist, though gravity
manipulation and other powers cover many psychic powers.
Telepathy in particular is discussed here.
- Chi — discussed here. Mr. Big concludes that "chi"
as a unique force doesn't exist, but many powers
attributed to chi are still possible for supers
What do many of these things have in common? That the setting hasn't committed to them.
They're possible, but nothing in the game hinges on magic,
religion, aliens, or time travel being real.
The "map" of our setting, then, is what's
possible. And the "blanks" on the
map — the spots that players can fill in as
they wish — are what's real. If nobody's
particularly interested in exploring religion, for example,
then Illumina and Father Freak can remain "just supers"
or mysteries. If someone wants to write an alternate
history where the Illuminati is a thing and has
been conserving the blood of Christ, the unified
power origin is ready for that. If someone wants to play
a super-vampire, I can do that today.
Why is this important to me in a superhero game? Because
what you leave in, or leave out, helps define the tone
of the game. Sagan City has a
sci-fi feel right now, with some personal mystical journey
stuff mixed in, so I've plugged in aliens and space
travel, but no magic, no religion, and no psychic powers
or shared-hallucination fairies (yet). A different
game, with a different tone, would plug in different
Fantasy Kitchen Sink elements.