How to Build a Super
Through the years I’ve been writing Super Powereds and Corpies, I’ll occasionally get the same question from people: what are the rules in my world for building a Super? This usually comes from the folks who are using it as a setting for role-playing, or occasionally someone doing fan fiction who wants to stay as true to the source material as possible. Since Year 3 came out, the pace on that has picked up, so I decided it’s time to write a blog detailing the rules I use when building Supers in the SP/Corpies world.
As a note: several of these rules only apply to Supers. Powereds are not treated quite the same, as by the very definition of their existence they work somewhat differently. Powereds I make on a case-by-case basis, so it’s harder to detail them here. But Supers, Supers have rules, and the first is:
Supers Only Get 1 Power
There will never be a case of Superman syndrome in the SP world, and by that I mean someone who can fly, punch hard, and also comes with heat vision and freeze breath. No matter how powerful the Super, they are all born with only a single ability. Now, with that said, the way they use those abilities can frequently be multi-faceted. Take Violet, for example. Density control is a single ability, but by virtue of training and gaining great control, she uses it to replicate flight. Or Camille’s ability to give and take damage. Both are aspects of her single power, which is absorption.
That said, some of the facets of a power can seem like, and actually sort of are, minor abilities in themselves. That’s because, in the SP world:
Supers Are Protected From (And Capable With) Their Powers
To illustrate this idea, let’s look at Sasha Foster. In Year 1, when she fights Jill Murray, it’s established that she, like all super-speeders, also has enhanced durability. While that might seem like a contradiction of the first rule, her durability is in fact just an aspect of her super-speed. Since running at high speeds would injure a human who was able to do it, her body is tougher than normal, which allows her to use her ability. That’s what it means when I say Supers are protected from their power. Someone who can coat themselves in fire is flame-proof. Someone who can run super-fast is durable enough to not be shredded by the speed.
Moving on to the capable section, this is easier to look at using Mr. Transport. He teleports across giant distances, to any place he’s been, but things in those locations are going to change. People will be walking by, architecture might shift, yet never once does he materialized inside another person or object. That’s what assumed capability means, he can use his power without injuring himself. Whether his ability shuffles him to an unoccupied area, or he’s momentarily able to peer through space to choose his spot, might vary from teleporter to teleporter, but they all have that function built in to their abilities.
This is, as you can imagine, part of why I made the point above that Supers and Powereds are built on different sets of rules. Though there is one part that applies to both of them, and that is:
No One is Invincible
There is not a single character in the SP world, hero, villain, or otherwise, who can’t be defeated. Titan is weak to powers he’s never faced. Globe can be bested by those immune to his power or with the ability to neutralize them. Zero can be defeated through mundane means. You get the idea. When I build a new character, one of the first things I ask myself is how they can be beaten. If the only answer I can come up with is Zero, then I tweak their abilities. I’ve said it before; the best way to build characters is like you’re making them for an RPG. Balance is always key. No one should be unstoppable, no one should be unbeatable. Some are tougher than others, sure, but I try to build a few fatal flaws into every one of my characters.
Sometimes this turns out to be a good thought exercise, since in trying to beat a new character, I come up with other powers I can use down the line. And that’s one thing I’m big on, a big palette of abilities, because:
Every Power, Except One, Is Pretty Much On the Table
I love variety, and I love that in a world where powers come randomly, there’s all manner of abilities that might pop up. Useful or not, they exist, and it’s up to the person who gets them to make the most of it. That said, I’ve always known one was going to be off the table since the get-go.
Simply put: there is no time travel in the SP world. I’ve just seen too many stories I really liked go way off the walls when time travel was introduced, and that ignores all the plot holes and questions they drum up. The closest I’ve come to it was someone who can look ahead, and even then I was careful to point out that she can only see the most probable futures, nothing is certain. Time stopping is another matter, as seen by the fact that I included Mr. Stop, but moving around in the time stream is a whole other kettle of fish.
But, after saying all that, I feel like I should drive home one last point:
This Only Matters As Much As You Want It To
Remember I said at the outset that sometimes people ask me for this info because they want to do something as true to the world as possible? That’s really cool, and it’s why I did the blog today, but it’s important to remember that I’m the only one who actually has to play by these rules. Fan Fiction is obviously not cannon, which means they’re free to put their own spins on things as they see fit. And if you’re running a game with SP as the backdrop, that’s awesome, but the backdrop might not mesh perfectly with whatever mechanics you’re running.
If these are helpful to you, kickass. If you prefer to do things your own way, that’s kickass too. I’m just putting them up for those that want them. No matter what, the most important part of any game or project is that you enjoy the doing. For me, these help me keep consistency in the world. Work with whatever rules makes things the most fun for you.