One of the funnest RPG campaigns I ran was MCU: Gotham, basically a police procedural drama set in Batman’s Gotham City. Now, thanks to the imminent release of Marvel Heroic Roleplaying and a misheard line on this week’s Castle, I want to run a similar game, set in the Marvel universe: Freakshow. Where MCU: Gotham’s villains were nicknames that the cops or press used for more-or-less ordinary criminals, the cops in Freakshow know that they’re not just dealing with men in tights. A simple bank robbery could just be a standard call, but there’s always the possibility that the perp can breathe fire. We’re talking more like Bendis’ POWERS comic book than Rucka’s Gotham Central.

Now, I haven’t been reading superhero comic books for the past five or so years, and even then I was in the DC camp instead of the Marvel one. Sure, I have general knowledge about the Marvel universe: anti-mutant sentiment, adulation of the Avengers and Captain America, the Daily Bugle’s portrayal of Spider-Man as a menace to society; Doom, SHIELD, Hydra (and its offshoots). But I never was immersed in the lore. Where I could rattle off dozens of obscure Superman, Batman, or Flash villains, I would have difficulty coming up with the like for Iron Man, Captain America, or Spider-Man. (Well, maybe Spider-Man – his iconic villains always struck me as lame.) When we ran the first episode of MCU: Gotham, I didn’t know who the villain of the piece was. The players and I came up with clues for the big reveal and, thanks to my Nerd-wise, I was able to search through the vast catalog of disfigured villains in Gotham City to come up with our antagonist[1]. If we ran the same thing in the Marvel universe? I doubt my Marvel-fu would be up to snuff.

I would like the game to touch on the whole mutant issue and what makes people admire She-Hulk, yet hate and fear Colossus. Sure, the public thinks the Fantastic Four are great folks, but why are they okay with this guy able to burst into flame and fly around? Weren’t they just trying to get all mutants registered and accounted for? And for that matter, what do the people on the street know about these guys anyway? What does John Q. Public know about Captain America? Does he know about the Super-Soldier formula, or is Cap just some well-respected walking symbol of the United States? With all the mutants out there, do people think that Spider-Man is a mutant? Here’s a guy that can stick to walls and excrete webbing[2]. Tell me that’s not a mutant.

Anyway, it’s cops in a world with godless mutants and heroes worth looking up to.

  1. In Primetime Adventures, the system we played MCU in, this was a great way to do this type of mystery. The basic concept is we’re all in a television series’ writer’s room, so everyone is contributing more-or-less equally (based on who gets narration rights). I get narration and we find out that there were chemicals involved; Joel gets narration and we know that the villain was disfigured in the past. We eventually get a solution that fits the clues instead of a predetermined villain with hopes that the players figures out the clues the GM doles out. []
  2. Sure, you and I know about webshooters, but in the world of Marvel comics? []

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