The Irregulars II: Below the Streets, Above the Sky
The Campaign Setting
The campaign is set in the Modern Age, where there is a great deal of wonder and strangeness, but superheroes are subjected to the realities of the modern world. Poverty, crime, corruption and suffering remain, a contrast against the backdrop of cosmic beings and intelligent robots. Super-heroes are all over the world, but Freedom City has the highest population. Bizarre, paranormal events and daring robberies are regular occurrences in the city. On an average day, citizens can look up in the sky and see numerous heroes flying overhead or in odd contraptions, a giant floating head hovering over the city or two ant-sized alien species having titanic battles in a donut shop.
The Social Setting
Superheroes are sometimes referred to as “supers,” “heroes,” “capes” or “Boy / Girl Scouts.” The proper, scientific term is “metabeing” or “metahuman;” however, those born with extraordinary abilities or have unusual features are referred to as “mutants.” Generally, true mutants are feared, partly due to their reluctance to register themselves, and also because they operate covertly and avoid public attention. The city is structured to accommodate the strangeness: air traffic control takes fliers into account, buildings are constructed to handle damage from superhero battles and to facilitate greater movement for fliers, speedsters or teleporters, and small energy converters are placed throughout the city to absorb excess energy from heroes or villains. These are only a few of the features found within Freedom City. The citizens of Freedom City have become accustomed to seeing superheroes running amok, so most heroes may only receive a second look from the locals, unless the hero is famous. Unfortunately, some locals will converge on heroes if they are engaged in a crisis of some kind, although some citizens have learned to give heroes a wide berth in these situations. Because there are so many heroes and villains in the city some costumed do-gooders have trouble getting publicity or credit for their deeds. A challenge for heroes is the attempt to find their place in a city swarming with other superheroes.
The Cultural Setting
Superheroes have been known to endorse products, appear in major films or television shows, run for office or operate a business. Reality shows are very popular these days. There have only been a few supers allowed in public office, and those with mental powers are strictly forbidden to enter politics. Cults or religions formed around heroes (or villains) are not unheard of anywhere in the world. The local fashion sometimes emulates superhero costumes, especially capes and masks during the autumn season. Even those with extraordinary powers have become famous musicians, painters and writers. Local businesses will either be named in reference to superhero culture or provide goods and services to those with “special needs.” There are university departments devoted to the cultural or scientific study of superheroes.
The Legal Setting
The police have a special STAR Unit to handle super-powered criminals, as well as an AEGIS detachment downtown. The Department of Metabeing Affairs (DMA) mediates federal and state involvement in superhero activity. Officially, it’s illegal for citizens to don a costume and take the law into their own hands. However, some heroes can register themselves, or, they can they fight crime only within the boundaries of Freedom City if they appear to be performing good deeds with minimal damage. In the past, heroes could operate without much interference from the authorities, until the Moore Act banned superheroes from the city. When the ban was lifted, a compromise was made. Heroes now need to register with the DMA, which requires a written exam and an evaluation of the hero’s powers and abilities. Applicants are required to reveal their civilian identities. Registered heroes are given a card that not only verifies their registered status, but also contains a tracking device. The registry issue is hotly debated at the federal level, and everyone has taken a side.
The Historical Setting
Since time memorial, there have always been heroes. They have appeared in legends from all over the world, using their formidable skills and abilities to fight injustices and rescue the innocent. Robin Hood, The Scarlet Pumpernickel and Zorro are just some of the examples from history. Heroes possessing powers are strictly a 20th century phenomena, although people have demonstrated remarkable talents in the past. The dominant theory on the origin of superpowers points to the increase in experiments in nuclear technology may have sparked random mutations in the human genome, since high levels of radiation has been released into the soil and the atmosphere. This theory is still being debated, and even religious cults have sprung up with their own explanations. However, there is no cohesive argument as to why there are more superheroes operating today, or why extraterrestrials or extradimensional beings are appearing more frequently since the previous century.
A Brief History of The Irregulars
From America’s Unknown Heroes: A History of The Freedom City Irregulars, 1775 – 1979. Dr. Benjamin Simmel, Freedom City University Press: 1986.
Throughout American history, there have been instances when the federal government has recruited civilians with unique skills or abilities. Britain has a long-standing tradition of using the same practice, especially during the height of their colonial rule, when they had access to many individuals with unusual talents. Although historians have some difficulty in pinpointing the exact year in which the original Irregulars formed, there is a general agreement that the group’s first appearance was during the American Revolutionary War. American generals, noting the numerous successes Britain had experienced from recruiting outsiders for military operations, decided to search for civilians who could contribute to the war. Several civilians from the Thirteen Colonies were enlisted, particularly those whose skills and abilities were suited to confronting the British naval fleet, who dominated the Atlantic coastline during the war. Another version of The Irregulars appeared again around 1880 and was active until 1905. There are currently no sources to verify who the members were or what kind of activities they conducted. The Irregulars appeared again thirty years later, although there is some evidence to suggest the members went underground during their hiatus. Moreover, The Irregulars were to slowly become public figures. The group became a prominent feature in newsreels during the Second World War, although the government denied their involvement because of the ban on using superheroes on the battlefield. When Germany broke the ban in 1938, the Allies secretly allowed groups like The Irregulars to enter the European and Pacific theatres. After the war, the members of the wartime Irregulars vanished from the public eye. There are rumors that the group confronted an Axis menace that decimated the team, but there is very little evidence to support this theory. A group of heroes established in Freedom City were operating in the late thirties with the same name, and it is believed that this group was the domestic version of the team working overseas. This “branch” of The Irregulars remained active until 1979, and had an even greater public presence than earlier incarnations of the team. A major feature of the group was the emphasis on maintaining an outsider status. In the group’s early years, the members were considered unfit for military duty: they were too undisciplined, had radical ideas or belonged to a marginalized social group. The tradition carried on to World War Two, in defiance of the Liberty League’s apparent patriotism. The Irregulars were known to accept women, gays and non-whites into their ranks, spoke out against injustices perpetrated from both sides of the war, and embarked on missions that were considered unpopular or unglamorous.