Thursday, October 19, 2017

Superhero '44 Second-edition Revised

I've been working on a fan-revision of Superhero '44.

I'm naming it "Superhero '44 Second Edition Revised" or SH44SER. It combines my home brew rules from twenty-thirty-and-forty years ago with most of the original writings of both the first and second edition rules. After closely scouring those early writings, I can see why I became a software engineer and why Superhero '44 in its tone is very different than most other superhero role-playing games today. I think the only one that comes close to capturing the tone (actually surpassing it) is Arc Dream's God-like RPG.

Unlike in my campaign where I eventually evolved the setting into an intra-galactic hero story, I'm trying to narrow things down in this current effort to the roots; the world of 2044. Maybe this will inspire a new generation of gamers to start where I did, but with the better tools; go further than I did.

Here's my take on the seminal event of the background provided within the first edition rules. It becomes the foundation of the psyche of the survivors of the world in 2044. I'm at about 130 pages right now of mostly rules. I'll illustrate it myself where I can. I've also been working on maps and play-aides.


The Great Conflagration

Nobody was quite sure how this started; it could have been the USA, Russia, China, or any of the other larger countries. Some suspect it was a flawed electronic signal at a submarine near the Pacific shores of Los Angeles. Others think it was anarchists. Still others believe it was coordinated by networks of, maybe poorly programmed, rogue computer algorithms.

A bit of insanity occurred for a while for the first few minutes as witnesses in the controlling government bodies saw the military reports of swarms of inbound and ICBMs (inter-continental ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads) came their way. It didn’t matter how the war started because the solution from the humans was apparent; take out your enemies before your nation is too disrupted to respond. So devastation was set loose into the skies in the hopes that retribution would occur. Some of the smaller countries in flawed rapid-fire decision-making chose to join into the fray and pre-emptively launch their own attacks against their legacy enemies before they themselves became annihilated.

This continued for six days. At least one frothing clergyman got it right and predicted this as The Great Conflagration. Hell on Earth.

The Six Day War unleashed megatons of radioactive horror upon each of the major cities, control centers, and military bases of the world. Energy production, business centers, and agricultural centers were also hit with bombs falling from the sky. Electronic circuits were fried, people and other living things were blasted into atomic dust, and cities were leveled into rubble. Hardest hit was the Mainlands; the member nations of the UNSC. Most of the smaller island nations were spared, but at least one missile struck each capital of those with the largest populations. Modern society collapsed as their infrastructure became degenerated through the destruction and radiation.

Out of seven billion souls, two hundred million were lost in the Great Conflagration. The worst was yet to come.

The Fallout

After the Six Day War, the fallout both literally and figuratively completed the awful devastation. It took 5 additional years of turmoil as people scrambled for food, shelter, medicine, and some semblance of structure. Paramilitary groups formed, some aligning with the previous governments but most running amok as gangs of bandits. All during this time, deaths from radiation overexposure rose and birth defects and premature births increased. Many groups of people fled to the wilderness and began to hoard resources such as water, wood, and access rights to hunting in the wild. Some of the governments, with help of the remaining military, and in collusion with the paramilitary groups; these began to restructure society through violence in order to quell the amazing mayhem and disorder each society was experiencing. Despite their best efforts, it is estimated that nearly 2 billion lives perished in the war’s aftermath as the radiation took it's toll. Disease, illness, and famine was ever present and greedy.

Some of the remaining smaller nations were able to quickly secure their borders with surges in volunteerism, but many of those began to form dictatorships and took this period of disorder as a license to conquer their less organized neighboring nations. The madness was a bit less in the larger nations of the world as they were distracted with influxes of survivors desperate for refuge. Members of the original powerful nations did their best to mitigate problems by sharing resources, information, and manpower. Short-wave radio and foot-messenger networks during these years became very critical to coordinating information. There were several large clashes between strongholds lead by ideological cult societies, and then things calmed down for what it seemed a very long time; months, maybe because the records aren’t clear nor intact from these dark days. The economies of some of the countries began to rebuild, but the distribution of wealth, access to medical help, and access to simpler things like clean water, nutrition, or clothing was still disparate and unequal.

The Purge

Even though a decade has since passed; the deaths still rose, as did the birth defects and miscarriages. Mothers and fathers prefered to dash their deformed newborns against the floor than to allow these short-lived mutations to join them in the squalor of a post-apocalyptic earth. And then many of the parents voluntarily joined their beloveds as well, such was the despair. Indeed, there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth.

A large majority of the paramilitary groups became less communicative, and in the middle of the larger countries where the groups had the most power there began a series of increasing tension with blow-out battles lasting a few short days each. The newly reformed secular government agencies with spokespersons pulled from the variously affected communities would try to calm the population. And each time this would be a ruse, or a poorly executed delivery on promises because only time can heal the ravages of war.

Soon, everywhere at once, this anger against the prevailing tattered institutions sprung up in surprise culminating with a violent Purge. It was bloodshed against the poor and deformed, and against the privileged and wealthy. Dissidents across the world sprung up with organized rebellions against their governments. Heroes were born and traitorous villains were recognized. Everybody cowered but nobody was safe. Fame was present but short-lived; names became recognized and etched in tribal memories as these groups tried to establish recognition before their bright-burning candles became subject to the winds of change. What little structure left in society, that which was scraped together from the ashes, seemed to being falling apart again under massive fires and the scattered piles of the dead. This took weeks and it seemed to be again the end of civilization.

The Agreement

The extreme violence only ended after many dozens of missives distributed through foot, road, and short-wave networks reached all parties. It was desperate, timely, and wonderful. People listened and learn, clearly recognizing the situation at hand. Soon enough, organized self-titled Adherents chanting, holding arms, with bullhorns and signs formed walking through each war-torn community risking their lives to deliver a single coherent message in all languages.

The message was peace on Earth.

In Terra Pax. 
el salam ala arad. 
yehi shalom al ha-aretz.
dharatee par shaanti.
Shìjiè hépíng.

This was the beginning of the Agreement lead by the Catholic Church and the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia. Other religious groups, depending on the regions of the world, also joined though the strong presence of the Church was the most felt. The Agreement was a long-term plan begun after the first bombs dropped; a contingency plan that should have never needed to be written or executed, first drafted in the late 1950s after several Jesuits became convinced that Nuclear War was not an option, and that mankind's whims would surely end the World. The message of the Agreement is that without Earth there is no future for the incubator of Man; that mankind could not prove itself worthy to God. The authors realized that they, with the great religious institutions combined, have the largest communication infrastructure upon the entire planet. In case something bad happened they would combine their efforts and help bring reason and hope back to the peoples of Earth. It was a long-shot plan, but the message was clear; no nation of man could hope to do this by itself without the steady strong hand guidance of God through His representatives. The goal was set; to rebuild the Earth with a new vision.

Voices of the Adherents

With the intervention of the two largest religious institutions in the history of world, even the criminals had something in common with the privileged; the goal of making the world better than in it was in the eyes of God. And this was the right time as no other time in known history. The Conflagration may have been God’s Lesson, or it may have been a mistake on the infant-like minds of Men; but it is an opportunity to rebuild. Therefore, for a time everybody tried to do better, and the pain experienced in life was a little less and the amount of hope and pride in works began to rise. The Agreement saw to it that the clergy had greater influence on the decisions of the newly reformed governments and their militaries.

Nearly four decades after the Conflagration every significant nation, even secular ones, has at least one subdivision of advisors, “Voices”; speakers the clergy of the Catholic or Islamic faiths. Critical decisions are made in deferment to those persons whenever it involves violence, punishment, media presentation, or social mores. Like all things before it; in many places this works absolutely well, and in others it causes more strife and friction than necessary.

The Agreement holds that all adherents will be treated fairly, and this is true; those places where the laws are severe and punishing to the peoples are visited with the greatest of all priorities. Soon, perhaps too soon or too frequently; there is often a regime change, an abdication, or a public apology offered to the peoples issued by whichever political entity is in power. Outsiders to these nations, those persons and observers which are not Adherents; they see nothing but the same problems as before the Six Day War. To them, having too much power concentrated in so few hands - the religious leaders - is bound to get the world broken yet again. For now, though; it is too early to tell. Society has begun to rebuild itself despite these worries.

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