World Building 101: Start with a system.

Awhile ago someone asked me where I got my ideas for Wearing the Cape, and I had to think about it. Not that I didn’t know the answer, but it’s a bit of a story. Comics came first, of course, but the core idea–a socially realistic superhero world–came from a game. A role-playing game (RPG) to be exact.

I started with good old Dungeons and Dragons, but discovered GURPS (the Generic Universal Roleplaying System) while in high-school, and I was off to the races. There were (and still are) three popular roleplaying settings–fantasy, science-fiction, and superhero–and GURPS did all three. It was also one of the first RPGs to branch out into mythic and “reality-based” roleplaying, and it even brought in works of science-fiction and fantasy so that players could create characters and adventure in worlds they had read about and loved. Just some examples:


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That’s right, they wrote world-books for Diskworld and Star Trek, among others. Geeks around the world rejoiced. But what really interested me was their superhero supplement–when I found it my love of comics and love of role-playing games came together hard.

GURPS Supers not only had all the rules needed for recreating the superpowers of all my favorite comic-book heroes, it had a thoughtful chapter on playing superheroes in the “real world” and an example setting. It asked the questions: how would society react to real-life superheroes? how would the law handle them? how would superheroes effect law-enforcement, research, diplomacy, war? And just how many heroes would die in those superhero battles that seem to happen all the time? (Answer: lots.)

GURPS Supers didn’t try and answer those decisions definitively, but it gave good hints and lots of food for thought. I made a lot of notes back then, and the world of Atlas, Astra, and the Sentinels first took shape as a superhero campaign for players to adventure in. I wrote up character-sheets, created institutions, teams, supporting characters and villains, and sketched out a basic timeline describing the Event and how history changed afterwards. It was a lot of fun. Too bad I never got around to refereeing a gamer group in the setting. The Atlas Campaign never happened (sigh), and my notes went in a box. But then something happened to breath a second life into my old hobby.

Stay tuned…

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About George

I am a reasonably successful self-published author ("successful" means I can pay the bills and am highly rated in my Amazon category), former financial advisor (writing is more fun), and have something in common with Mitt Romney and Donny Osmond. Guess.
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