I've tried, many times, to create a superhero storygame that I could enjoy beyond the simple level of "Pew, pew, I smash the bad guys!", but none of my designs have quite clicked, and I've eventually come to realise that part of that is due to superheroes in fiction being largely reactive. For example:
- In Fantasy, you get handed a quest, whereupon you devote yourself to following & resolving it.
- In Cyberpunk, you get a job or mission (or devise your own for money/revenge/etc.), plan it & execute it.
- In Urban Fantasy/Horror, you're fighting to protect your own life from the intervention of other forces.
Generally, most RPGs put you in a situation where your characters are personally threatened and have to find a way through, OR you have to plot & plan just to make a living, OR you walk away from your everyday lives and throw yourselves into completing a 'quest.' Superheroes just seem to wait around until they're needed, whereupon they suit up, win the day, and then go back to waiting for the next crisis.
I like superhero fiction as much as the next person, and I love a little ZZAP-WHAM-SWOOP action, but I really like the story side of RPGs a lot more than the action side: I'd rather have both in my gaming, but if I can only have one, then I'll have the story, please. This leaves me with three choices for designing a supers storygame, as I can see it:
- Leave it: just accept that I can't have it both ways and walk away. I can inject a little story by emphasising the mundane lives of the heroes, but that's all.
- Make it epic: have the PCs drop their everyday lives and commit to a 'quest', like a classic, title-spanning, multi-part comics event.
- Don't be heroes: this is the option I find most tempting, which is to flip it around and have the players portray the bad guys. By this, I don't mean the cackling, maniacal psychopaths, but the people who have an agenda that runs counter to what's held to be socially acceptable and the skills to do whatever they feel is necessary to carry it out. I'm thinking more 'Green Peace' or 'Anonymous', or Ghost from Ant-Man & the Wasp.
Anyway, ramble mode off and feel free to tell me what I've missed.