It seems to take a lot of dice rolling to create a character in Men and Supermen. In the original rules, there was very little dice rolling. Players basically chose the powers that they wanted. I quickly discovered that this method did not work very well with inexperienced players, or even with experienced players who were not familiar with superheroes. But if you want to create a superhero without any dice rolling, do it. Create a concept, and put the concept into writing using these rules. The only limitations are the limitations that you and your Editor place on the character.
When you have more than one character to play, you can choose, at the beginning of each adventure/campaign, which character you wish to play for the duration. You’ll need the Editor’s approval, of course.
Remember, you’ll only need to create a character once. If that character dies, you may want to play a new character while waiting for the first character to come back to life (via Fate Points).
In most role-playing games, the guiding force behind what the players have their characters do is survival. Besides role-playing and wandering about the world, there is a real possibility that the characters will simply not survive the game session.
In Men and Supermen, survival is no longer a problem. Unless the character does something really stupid or incredibly noble, the player may very well never need more than one character!
So take care when creating your character. Make sure you are going to have fun playing this character, because it may be the last character you ever play. Creating a character is time-consuming, but you won’t be doing it very often.
What if they scheduled a fight and no one came?
Or even worse, what if you’re the only one who shows up in costume? Take a look at the Watchmen miniseries.
Also, you’ll need other crutches for your role-playing. Rather than worrying about survival, you’ll need to worry about other people’s survival. You’ll also want to worry about your character’s image to the public, (dark and dour, happy-go-lucky, noble) and you’ll want to make sure your character acts the way you want your character to be perceived. You’ll want to trade witty repartee with your partners, and more importantly, you’ll want to match wits with your enemies and thrill to the danger of life as a superhero.
“Now, I know Darth Vader’s really got you annoyed, but remember if you kill him then you’ll be unemployed.”
--Al Yankovic, Yoda
Savor a good enemy! Without the villains, your character couldn’t be a hero. What good is an ultra-modern headquarters, a masterful character conception, and a spazzed-out costume if there’s nobody to fight?
Retcon: verb: to retroactively change the continuity of a character or title.
All retcons must go through the Editor.
Role-playing and comics have a lot in common, and role-playing super heroes even more so. When you first play Men and Supermen, your main concern will be having fun, and that is as it should be. After a while, however, you may decide to take a more serious attitude towards your role-playing. What to do with all those merely fun characters you’ve been playing? Do what DC Comics did. Take them and update them. Retroactively change the continuity of your character. Modify the characters’ motivations, powers, and history. Make that campy crime-fighter darker. Take that female bombshell and turn her into a powerful statement on today’s society. Rewrite your entire history, or just parts of it.
A Player’s Work is Never Done
There’s a lot of work in creating a real comic book character. Just ask any comic writer or artist. Months can sometimes go into the creation of just one series.
Obviously, you don’t have months. You want to play tonight.
So, don’t worry about it. Take one connection--your parents, a sibling, or a roommate--and write a short, one paragraph description of that connection.
Before the next time you play, do two more. Keep your Editor informed, of course. Eventually, you’ll have all the connections you need.
Your character is not an island alone. Your character has friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors, most of whom are not super heroes. They have real jobs.
Your most important connections are your family. The game rules tell you whether your parents are still around, how many siblings you have, and how old they are. But they don’t tell you what your parents, sisters, brothers, actually do, where they live, and what their names are. That’s up to you.
You’ll also want to write down the names of your friends and coworkers at your workplace.
Maybe a few teachers, some extra-heroic organizations. You know. Are you a member of the PTA? Do you attend college? When you did attend college, what were you a member of? Who was your most influential professor? If you were a vegetable, what kind would want you be?
A Connections description should include the following:
1. What the person is like.
2. What the person does.
3. Your relationship with the person.
Connections can be described with pictures instead of words. People can be described with a simple picture showing them doing something. Events can be described in comic-book format.
That’s really all you need. If you want to do more, well, do it!
Mark Wattell (Father): Mark Wattell is a machinist at Westinghouse. He is a hard-working man who wants the best for his family. My decision to drive stock cars has strained our father-daughter relationship.
James Maxwell (Close Friend): James is a physicist at the University of Waterloo. His intellect often gets in the way of his emotions. We have dated occasionally, but I don’t like to go out with him. I think that sometimes he still wants to go out with me.
A friend of a friend of Professor Star knows the Enforcer in her secret identity.
Your character is dating someone whose ex-boyfriend once dated Molly Freebarten, alias the hero Dark Shadow.
In college, you joined the USD branch of Eta Phi Eta. In your senior year, you lost the Eta Phi Eta National election to someone from Cornell. You may never find out that he has become your best friend in the super-biz, Saint Squid, the Octo-Man.
Now that’s a connection to write home about.
The best connections are the obtuse connections between two or more heroes that may never be discovered. It has been shown that, on the average, every person in the United States is no more than 5 friends away from any other person in the United States.
When you read comics, you’ll see these obtuse connections all over the place. Fanboys thrive on them. Sometimes it’ll be a connection to a long-canceled comic. Sometimes it’ll be a connection to one of the writers of the comic, or to the main characters of another company’s comic!
When you decide to make a connection like this, be creative. Talk to some of the other players, and make connections between your character and their characters.
Your character is just a piece of paper. But it doesn’t have to be. You have the power to make your character live and breathe. On your list of connections, write down your character’s personality. There’s no need to make it too detailed. One paragraph will suffice. You’ll be expanding the description as you play the game.
When you create your character’s personality, keep in mind your character’s powers and origin.
Remember that origins don’t have to be extremely precise. This is comic book science, not real science.
How did your character gain super powers? Discuss this with your Editor. You might want to start the game without powers, playing through your origin in the first game session. If you do start the game with powers, figure out why, where, and how you received them. Your character may not know, but you should. Your origin should, somehow, take into account all of your powers.
Remember, don’t just write these events and people down and then forget about them. Use them. Make references to them when you play.
Your origin doesn’t just cover how your character’s powers were gained. It covers all the salient chapters in your character’s life. Think about your character’s personality. What kind of upbringing might have formed this person? Write down one specific event from your character’s childhood.
Look at your character’s skills and knowledge, and take these into account also. Does your character have a college degree? From what college? Does your character remain in touch with college friends and professors? If so, name one of each. Don’t worry about writing a description yet. You can do that later.
What is your character’s occupation? Make sure you take your character’s income into account. Now, does your character like this occupation? Is it fulfilling? What kind of co-workers are there? Name one. What kind of superiors? Name a superior, also.
Name one influential relative, or friend of the family. Often, an aunt or uncle fits in best here.
Who is your character’s best friend? Who does your character hang out with when not adventuring or working? Name one person.
Now, how were your character’s powers received? At birth? How did this affect your character’s upbringing? If the powers were recently received, how did this affect your character’s life, relationship with family and friends, job, and leisure time?
Finally, what are your character’s aspirations? What do you want to be doing in 5, 10, 20, or even 40 years?
When you know the answers to these questions, you will find it much easier to role-play and have even more fun. You will be much more involved with your character, and should even be able to give your Editor ideas for subplots to liven up the main adventures.
The Ten Part Plan to a Great Origin
2. Favorite Activities
4. Influential Relative
5. Best Friend
6. Influential Childhood Event
7. Old Friend
a) Hometown (Boy Scouts, Campfire Girls, Street Gang, etc.)
b) High School (Sports, Band, Clubs, etc.)
c) College (Sports, Fraternities, Sororities, Clubs, etc.)
d) Professional (Societies, Unions)
e) Recreational (Health Clubs, Neighborhood Sports, etc.)
9. Effects of Gaining Powers on the Character’s Life
10. Motivations and Aspirations
Many superhero groups are simply random collections of super heroes. This is fun, and a good way of doing things. However, it isn’t the only way. Superhero groups can have a theme. You’ll need to discuss this with the rest of the players to construct a real theme.
The Lugnuts, mentioned in the credits, were a Jazz/Hard Rock/Anti-Pop band who ended up getting in trouble with ROC.
Everyone might have to take a Knowledge Score in some form of music, and everyone in the group is in a band. You might decide that everyone should create heroes with Animal-based powers, Elemental powers, or Cosmic powers, and work that theme into your origin. Or, you might choose a religious pantheon of legend and play members of that pantheon.