StarGuard, my group’s Icons campaign is not intended to go for a long time and I want to squeeze every last drop of fun out of it. So like a sucker, I’ve cooked up a convoluted plot that I’m hoping keeps the world of StarGuard spinning.
As you may have read, I have a group of freaky outsider-ish supers who fight crime as part of a failing reality show. It seems like a good set-up for a short game. After a year of Runequest II, I thought playing something lighter and whackier would be a good palate cleanser for the group before we jump into something else that may run for a while. As such, if I want any kind of larger structure, I figure I have to launch them into it and see where it goes.
I should also say that the RQII campaign I ran was a big old sandbox game with the players largely driving the plot (mostly by forcing NPCs to react to their craziness) and I’m not sure if that is going to work as well with Icons.
So where do I want this Icons game to go? Somewhere near Watchmen as rewritten by Peter Milligan, Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick.
Let’s face it, the world is a mess: The economy is in ruins, the government seems hopelessly enthralled by corrupt corporations and the very institutions that should protect the average citizen seem destined to repress them. If you want to make a real hash of it, I figure just add super-heroes.
The ‘A’ plot moving in the background of the campaign is driven by Professor Fantastic, patriarch of the Fantastic Family of adventurers and now the CEO of FantastInc. Enterprises. Being the smartest man on the planet, and a bit of an ass, Prof. Fantastic sees that the world is screwed and wants to do something about it. And it needs to be something slightly more indirect than attempting to conquer the world like his nemesis Doctor Dystopia.
“The Worse the Better”- Nikolay Chernyshesky
Prof. Fantastic wants to rule the world, or at least America, but he plans to wait until the population is ready to ask him to take control. So, using his vast fortune and a host of cut-outs and dummy corporations, Prof. Fantastic has contributed vast sums to politicians who will keep pushing the developed world to the brink of collapse while also investing in corrupt corporations and encourages them to behave unethically.
In a similar vein, he has also encouraged the growth of the police state in the US while doing his best to encourage other arms of his empire to expose corruption and incompetence wherever they find it.
The net result is a record lack of faith in public institutions and no clear vision on how to fix them. That leaves just one other symbol of hope that Prof. Fantastic needs to be sullied before he can confidently sell the world his vision of the future: Super-Heroes.
And that’s where StarGuard comes in. StarGuard is part of Prof. Fantastic’s plan to make heroes look as bad, corrupt and inept as the rest of the institutions he’s targeted. With one-hand, he practically gives the show away for free (and covers massive legal fees while doing so). With the other, he secretly backs those who want to sue the team and helps spread leaks and unflattering footage.
In time, he’s sure that an incident will occur that escalates the situation to the point that heroes are viewed as, at best individuals who need to be strictly controlled or, at worst, a threat to public order. Frankly, as a GM I have no doubt that my players will provide such an incident. It is at this point that he plans to come in with his scientifically constructed ‘New Way’ and save the world from itself, while simultaneously becoming its master.
What the PCs can do
Since this game is intended to be a fairly short one (I’m envisioning it dying sometime in January or February) I can’t be subtle about this. I am peppering my players with clues and hooks that will lead them into learning about the plot. From there, they can decide to expose it, join it or rub up against it in some other, crazy way.
On the other hand, my players may entirely ignore this hook and go in another way. Which is fine, but I will make sure that Prof. Fantastic’s machinations are moving in the background the whole time. Knowing my players, they actually may be cool with being part of a mastermind’s plan of global conquest.