Recently, we’ve blogged about our WWII Supers campaign involving “The Atomicorps,” a sort of military unit of super-powered individuals (and, apparently, their sidekicks.) I planned a “Steal This Idea” column to give some baselines for forming your own Atomicorps today, and as I sat down to write it, I realized that I’d be better off recommending you steal the ideas we stole to form the Atomicorps.
The formula is simple: Start with some Golden Age icons, sprinkle on some modern-day interpretations of the reality of ‘supers’ in our world a-la Marvel’s “Civil War” story line or DC’s “Kingdom Come,” (optionally) throw in a healthy dose of homoeroticism, and you’ve got yourself a super team.
Steal This Idea: The Golden Age of Comics
History provides us the ideal “bad guys” in the Nazis. Sure, in today’s White Wolf gaming culture, it’s all the rage to play the bad-boy emo vampire or an antihero who makes the Punisher look merciful–but the Nazis are a bulwark of evil that most gamers won’t attempt to enshrine.
(Well, most gamers I play with. Normally, I try to avoid making overt political stances on this blog, but I’m pretty comfortable offending any readers who may happen to be Nazis.)
So, if we have the ultimate bad guys–not misunderstood, not tragic heroes in the wrong place, but instead just pure, unadulterated evil–it follows that we need some really good guys! We’ll explore how this gets fudged later (see the “Supers in the Real World” section for that), but your basic Golden Age hero’s fatal flaw should only be as dark as a CF bulb.
Embrace the superficiality! It seems limiting at first, but there is a liberation in getting into a character for whom right and wrong are clear concepts. Instead of exploring your character’s darker recesses, you get to explore the comical (almost slapstick) notions of how these titans function in society.
And that brings us to…
Steal This Idea: Supers in the Real World
Many modern comic series have explored how the military-industrial complex would actually respond to superpowered heroes. The recent Avengers movie focused on this tension: instead of just being some chums that got together to be the good guys, The Avengers are a government initiative put together by a Homeland Security zealot. And much of the political and law enforcement community isn’t entirely sure this particular “nuclear option” is the best way to respond to threats.
I’ve noticed that Chase’s GMing of our Atomicorps games has incorporated this theme, and it is a nice foil to the Golden Age do-gooder atmosphere. Unlike modern heroes who are nuanced and have their own complexities, however, the Golden Agers in this setting are utterly oblivious to the mistrust and discomfort around them.
Even surrounded by doubtful soldiers, Our Heroes know they are the right people at the right time, and their ethical judgement is best for the country.
Put these themes together for…
Steal This Mashup: The Atomicorps!
The Atomicorps are a stand-in for the atomic bomb. Unlike the gross nature of the bomb, however, the Atomicorps are prepared for surgical strikes… comparatively speaking. They’re called in when conventional weaponry just won’t cut it.
The US military is waging a PR war back home along with the boots on the ground in Germany. They must convince the American people that using supers to solve the world’s problem is a good thing, and they’re using comic books to do this. (We ran our Atomicorps games in Fate, and used the “shared story” aspect phase as a comic book).
This has the net effect of making the soldiers of the Atomicorps highly visible and admired… from a distance. It’s one thing for a conventional soldier to be gung-ho about a man who sets himself on fire to battle Nazis in a comic book, and it’s another to have that guy set himself on fire in front of you.
If you want an Official Handbook of the Atomicorps Universe, this roster is going to have to be close enough.
The Freedom Division is lead by Major Freedom, the product of a super-soldier program. Yeah, he’s got a shield that he throws. He’s backed up by Amerikid, a “normal” who seems blessed by superheroic luck, and who the Army keeps around because he’s good for getting comics into cereal boxes. This division is rounded out by Shell Shock (imagine if you will Reed Richard’s brain in Ben Grimm’s body).
The Star Division includes the ambiguously gay duo of Sunfire and Supernova, a human test pilot and alien invader who saved each others’ lives in a strange accident, and in the processed developed self-immolative powers (Sunfire) and fire-control/speed powers (Supernova). Rounding out the roster are a mashup of Green Lantern and Liberace called The Star-Spangled Soldier, and a Russian mystic known as Red Star (who may be insane, but knows more than any man should.)
Got any experience with alternate history role playing, or robbing multiple sources to patch together a setting that takes on a life of its own? Want to share your own ideas for Atomicorps heroes? Tell us about ‘em in the comments!