My Problems with Superheroes

In the next future I plan to write about superhero games, so it is perhaps time to spell out my fundamental lack of interest in role-playing superheros. In my life I have read my good share of superhero comics (mostly Marvel, mostly mutants). And yet, as I mentioned before, I have never felt terribly attracted to superhero RPGs, even though two decades ago I gave it a shot with the then-only superhero game in town in my native country.

My problem, to avoid misunderstandings, is with super-heroes, not with super-powers. The idea of playing a scenario or a campaign with superpowered characters sounds pretty appealing, in fact. Only, I would not make them comic-book superheroes. Demigods in a fantasy setting? Yes. Cosmic entities with a psychedelic space opera feel? Sure. Super mercenaries in action movie adventures? Perhaps. But not superheroes, not crime-fighters with stylized names and costumes, who honestly think that knocking out (but not maiming or killing, God forbid!) a bunch of small fry criminals every week makes any difference in the grand scheme of things.

In all fairness I think that everything Alan Moore put in Watchmen (and Snyder heavily underplayed in the movie) applies to the very concept of a superhero in general. What kinds of people would plausibly choose to be comic-book style vigilantes? Childish types, violent brutes and people with sexual kinks.

In a way, I suffer from a moral dissonance which is the opposite of the one often lamented about D&D: there, the stereotypical adventuring style (“murder-hobos”)  clashes with the assumption that at least some PCs are “good” and law-abiding, many of them are devout to peaceful religious cults etc. With superheroes, I cannot help finding the righteous and impractical attitude required by the run-of-the-mill superhero scenarios ridiculous or otherwise unconvincing, and I would be tempted the make the characters less “heroic” but more interesting. So yeah, if I really had to, I would rather play a campaign of super-villains. At least, their motives make marginally sense.


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