Are you experienced? Have you ever been experienced? Some of the following paragraphs discuss things that your character probably should do in order to be a successful superhero. But your character’s not necessarily going to know these things at first. Some are obvious, but others aren’t so obvious. You may want to make a few mistakes as you start out, until you gain the experience that comes with a few hard knocks.
Why do you need a secret identity? Ask Mick Jagger. It’s nice to be able to get around without having people mob you. More importantly, you need to protect your friends. Many villains will have no compunction against taking revenge on those who are close to you. And, your secret identity gives you a chance to rest, and get away from a particularly nasty super villain.
In order to protect your identity, you need to change your appearance. The easiest way to do this is with a costume. Costumes serve two purposes. They hide your identity, and they make you easily recognizable. If you’re slugging it out with a costumed villain on the streets of New York City, the police are much less likely to arrest the both of you if you are wearing a flashy, superhero costume. If they recognize who you are, they may even help you. Costumes also identify you to other heroes, making it easier to get their cooperation as well. Finally, your costume identifies you to the public. Can you imagine the panic that would result if an anonymous stranger suddenly burst into flame in their midst?
If you really don’t want to wear a full facial mask, use a Lone Ranger mask. It’s not perfect, but it does cover the most important parts of the face.
Okay, so you need a costume. What makes your costume both hip and functional? First, you need a mask. Preferably a full face mask. If you hide your face, you’ve hidden most of what people use to identify you. Make sure you can breathe, speak, see, and hear through the mask.
Of course, if you can fly, there’s nothing like a cape to add a bit of dash to your take-offs and landings. A cape can be the difference between the front page and the recipe section.
It’s probably best to stay away from capes, unless you can fly. Capes can be grabbed onto by villains. They get dirty. They’re hard to sit down in, and unless you happened to be posing when someone takes your picture, they look pretty stupid, too.
Hair is also important. If you have a distinctive hair style or color, hide this. Beards and mustaches can make masks nearly useless. If you use hair correctly, though, it can be invaluable in changing your appearance. Wigs, fake beards and mustaches can drastically change what you look like. Don’t wear these aids as a superhero: in an all-out battle they are far too easy to lose. Instead, wear them in your secret identity.
Be careful. Both glasses and contacts have an annoying tendency to fall out in a real fight.
Glasses are great. If you wore glasses before you got your powers, keep them, even if you don’t need them anymore. If you do still need them, use contacts or goggles in your superhero identity, and glasses in your normal life. Because of the stereotypes surrounding glasses, wearing glasses will change your appearance drastically.
The basic idea is to look different as a superhero. Anything you can do to change your appearance will help. If you have a power that can do this, use it. The effect must be permanent, and not dependent on concentration. It will not do to return to normal every time you are knocked out or surprised.
If you can, disguise your voice. A face mask that covers the mouth can muffle your voice slightly. If you are a good actor or impressionist, change your voice when switching identities. It helps to be more dramatic as a hero, anyway. Make sure that your new voice sounds convincing, and make sure that you always use it as a hero, and never in your secret identity.
If you use uncommon expressions (such as “Wild, man!” or “Righteous Ducks!”) make it a point not to use these in your heroic identity. You may even want to make up some unique expressions to use as a hero. Not only does this help keep your secret identity, it makes the parents of all your little fans a lot happier when you don’t swear and cuss all the time.
Gloves, of course, are a necessary part of any costume. Fingerprints can identify almost anyone.
Remember, chance and human nature are on your side. Villains who know you as a hero will find it hard to connect you with your normal personality, unless you unwittingly help them. Likewise, the thought that you could be a superhero will never occur to your friends and relatives, unless you make them suspicious. It is up to you to make sure that others simply have no reason to make the connection between your two (or more) identities.
If you can appear in both identities at the same time, do it. A little Generate Self or Speed can go a long way towards protecting your identity.
Vacations are nothing but trouble for super heroes. Your friends are going to get awfully suspicious when Captain Avenger shows up in Tahiti at the same time that you do.
Be careful where you appear. You have one built in disadvantage. You cannot appear in both your secret identity and your heroic identity at the same time. Do not compound this problem by appearing as a hero everywhere you happen to be as a normal. You don’t always have to change into costume to combat crime. Many powers can be used quietly and quickly, without arousing suspicion. Use a little imagination.
When friends and relatives get into trouble, and you must save them, try to do so surreptitiously. Not only will extended contact with people you know tend to make them suspicious, others will recognize that you are paying too much attention to certain people. Villains will be able to get at your friends and relatives without even knowing who you are!
If you can mislead people who are searching for your identity, do so. If you can fly, or run at high speeds, choose one part of the city, and often appear from that part of the city. People will come to think you live in that area. If you usually swoop down from the northeast when confronting villains, people will eventually come to assume that you live in the northeast part of the city. Tricks such as these are not hard to develop, and can be tailored to your skills and powers.
Occasionally, you’ll want to trust someone with your secret. Some people even have a right to know. Spouses should be told. So should your parents, if you are living at home. In both of these cases, even the decision to become a superhero should be made in consultation with those affected. These people will be strongly affected by the decision. They can be sources of support when times get tough.
If you don’t tell your husband/wife or parents, you’d better be good at making excuses. You’ll need to explain why you’re consistently late for work or school, why you must cancel engagements at a moment’s notice, and why you must disappear for hours at a time.
You will occasionally feel the need to tell a close friend, or a lover. You probably shouldn’t. Not only must they be implicitly trustworthy now, they must be trustworthy years from now. And even if they can be trusted, they can still get themselves and you in a lot of trouble. If they feel you can rescue them, they might take more chances doing stupid things. Anyone who knows your secret identity will also try to contact you when they think you’re needed. This can be useful, but when one of your enemies realizes that this person has the ability to contact you, both you and your friend will be in grave danger.
You might even feel it necessary to tell the secret to government agencies or other super heroes. Government agencies should never be told. Everything they know is on file somewhere, and anyone with the know-how can access that information. And, just because the agency is friendly now doesn’t mean it will always be friendly. Leadership changes, legislation changes, and public opinion changes. Any one of these could put you and your loved ones in danger.
Super heroes, now, are another story. If you end up working with the same hero or group for a long period, you’ll find it useful to be able to relax with these heroes as friends. You’ll be able to invite them to your parties, and they will understand when you have to leave. They can cover for you; they know what you’re going through.
Back in character, now, get to know your powers. Sure, as player you know exactly what powers you have. But your character doesn’t. And even you probably aren’t quite clear on the limits of these powers. Practice using your powers at maximum and at less than maximum potential. In the field, it is often best to use attacks at half-strength or less, depending on who is being fought. You are not going to make brownie points with anyone--press, public, or police--if everybody you fight ends up either dead or maimed for life. Real heroes rarely need to kill.
Using telekinesis to fiddle around with the inside of a lock is a trick. Not only do you need to learn fine telekinetic manipulation, you must also learn lockpicking skills.
You’ll also want to practice tricks--special uses for your powers and abilities that may not be very obvious. A trick may involve more than one skill or power. Keep on the lookout for new and interesting tricks. When you want to do something, but don’t have the required power or skill, see if you can fake it with another skill or power.
A group of heroes is also occasionally referred to as a team, a squad, or more often, a pain in the butt.
At some point in your career, you’ll become involved with a group of heroes. Groups should make a point of practicing together. This way, everyone is familiar with what everyone else’s powers do. Groups should develop tricks, also. These tricks can combine the powers and skills of multiple heroes.
Special maneuvers should also be developed. Maneuvers are general, nonspecific plans for the group to follow. They work in many situations. By calling for maneuver A, or maneuver B, the leader can give instructions without informing the opposition. For example, if the group has entered combat with some villains in the downtown area at rush hour, the leader might tell the group to execute maneuver A. The group then knows to perform a series of feints and retreats designed to move the fight to a less populated area. This works much better than just yelling, “We gotta move the fight away from all these people!” thus reminding the villains that there are dozens of possible diversions and hostages just walking around.
Maneuvers should be limited to easily remembered, generally applicable instructions. Useful maneuvers can often be found by recalling what happened in a fight after the action is over. If someone must often repeat a set of instructions, those instructions are a candidate for a maneuver. Likewise, if a simple plan failed because the villains heard the leader yelling it out, that plan is also a candidate for a maneuver.
Choosing a leader can often become a popularity contest between the players. In a sense, this is realistic, since that’s also the way it works in real life. But even super heroes can die, and it’ll often be because of a leader who couldn’t lead, or who enforced an absolutely stupid plan.
Choosing a leader is a very important part of being in a group. Every group of more than three heroes should have a leader to make quick decisions when speed is necessary. The basic candidate for a leader must be able to think fast under stress, be able to command, and have a good public presence.
The ability to think fast is most important. It won’t hurt if your leader is also highly intelligent, but quick thinking comes first. The leader must be able to make important decisions at a moment’s notice. If plan A goes wrong, should the group switch to plan B? If the group is attacked unexpectedly, are they going to be able to deal with the threat? If not, the group must get out immediately, and the leader must find the best means of retreat.
This falls on the player’s shoulders. There’s no game mechanic that forces players to follow another player’s orders. Whoever plays the leader will need patience, persistence, and charisma.
Of course, all the intelligence and quick thinking in the world will do no good if no one follows the leader’s orders. The leader should be able to command, either through respect or friendship. The group must be willing to follow the leader’s orders.
Finally, the group will be interacting with the public, through innocents, officials, and the media. The leader will usually be the group member who communicates with the public, because people want to talk with the leader of a group more than they do the members. A leader with high charisma will greatly enhance these interactions. It is the leader who keeps the group on the good side of the local public, the media, and the government.
If you decide that you want to be leader, keep these things in mind. Do you want the responsibility of everyone’s lives on your shoulders? Can you handle that responsibility?