Although the concept of the superteam has existed for decades, most of them fit a limited number of archetypes. This section will include about a dozen archetypes commonly seen in comics from the golden age to the modern age. Each description includes some general notes, possibilities for bases and vehicles, and ideas for what kind of challenges they will face.
While some of these teams may be unique in the game world, many of them are a mold that will fit several teams at the same time. No team will probably fit exactly within these guidelines, but the archetypes do give a basic idea where the team begins and where they have to go from there.
All In The Family
They didn’t come together because of their powers; they were already together when they got them. While many team archetypes (notably Rebels With A Cause and The Next Generation) will have a type of family bonding, this team actually is a family. Mother, father, brother, sometimes a son or daughter, or even an extended family encompassing cousins, uncles and aunts, in which case the team may be more like a widespread army. This team is more often than not a sanctioned team, closely knit and well-respected, if not as appreciated as the World’s Greatest Heroes. However, it might be a hidden clan of heroes for whom superpowers are the family secret.
Since the team usually includes younger members of the
family or at least college-age members, they will want to be located somewhere
near schools and other bastions of normal society. Most family teams are
housed in ordinary looking skyscrapers or houses, albeit with numerous
hidden defenses and high-tech gadgets.
Their vehicle tends to be something whimsical, such as a flying bathtub or rocket-powered pogo sticks. The vehicles are modular designs, so that each team member can break off from the group transport to move alone, possibly at slower speeds or with less defense. Since one member of the family is usually the genius responsible for their powers, the vehicle will be powerful and high-tech. Some family teams may not even have transportation at all.
These teams will split their time between world-shaking menaces, dimensional invasions or would-be conquerors and more mundane threats to the family, such as marriage troubles or a rebellious teenager. Having your son rebel is more dangerous when he has a powerful energy blast to use in venting his frustration! Their power level can vary, but is usually closer to the high end, supported by any number of impressive gadgets.
Disadvantages common to the team will include a Hunted who covets something the team has (their powers, their knowledge, possibly their family harmony), a Psychological Limitation of looking out for each other no matter what (Common, Strong) or a Reputation as people to come to when weird things happen. One ability this team tends to have is the ability to mind link; probably not an actual telepathic power, but a reflection of how well these teammates know one another. They may have any variety of equipment, depending on whether they have the traditional supergenius member. Force field belts, personal flight devices, teleporters, any of that kind of thing would be entirely possible.
Being the bad guys is hard. You always lose, no matter how much power you’ve gathered or how brilliant your plan is. Add that to the hatred of most of society and the doubt about yourself that comes with it, and it’s no surprise that villains sometimes see the light and reform. In some cases, they’ll be taken in by their old adversaries, trained with a watchful eye, and may become members of that group. Sometimes, however, the only people who will trust them are people who’ve worked the same side of the law with them: other villains.
These teams usually are not terribly popular with the public, as they will be suspected of running some kind of scam. Ironically, this means they have to be twice as pure as the other heroes to prove themselves. An ex-villain team will hardly ever have accidental deaths on the part of their foes, civilian casualties or excessive property damage. They can’t afford it, if they ever want to be accepted. In addition, these teams will most often be made up of villains who never got along when they were fighting heroes. Their only common bond is that they are trying to reform, and their disparate personalities may have them at each others’ throats a lot of the time. It takes a strong leader to make an ex-villain team work.
Headquarters for an ex-villain team is usually something
pretty economical. A run-down warehouse, a rented office, or even one of
the members’ homes isn’t out of the question. A bunch of ex-robbers working
out of a lush mansion begs the question, “Where did they get their money?”
In a similar vein, they won’t have much in the way of automated defenses.
Nobody wants a well-armed group of ex-supervillains operating in their
On the other hand, vehicles for such a team can vary wildly. They may have second-hand motor scooters, or they may use Captain Evil’s Eviljet, now converted into the Goodjet. However, like their base, it probably won’t be well-armed. No heat-seeking missiles or particle cannons for this team’s transport.
Power levels will depend on the level of campaign heroes. It can be assumed that these guys took on the heroes at one point, so they should be able to present a credible threat. When they “went hero,” they may have lost some of their confidence and experienced a drop in power and ability. On the whole, however, these teams tend to deal with the superheroic or four-color type of threat. Villains in Dark Champions rarely reform, being a more hardened sort of bad guy.
More than most teams, Hunted and Watched disadvantages
are natural. Watched by the authorities and their former enemies, and Hunted
by their former allies. Supervillains tend not to look kindly on those
who will now rat out their buddies. A Reputation is almost essential, as
“ex-villains.” Contacts in the underworld go nicely with this kind of team.
Their main edge over other teams will be their intimate connection with
the underworld, letting them catch cases before the other heroes even get
a hint of them. Since they aren’t much of a team at the beginning, they
will tend not to have common equipment or skills.
These heroes would be the first string if not for their age. They were the premier hero group back in the Golden Age, fighting the Nazis and Fifth Columnists. Theirs was an era of “gee whiz” and happy endings, despite the evils they faced. Now, they’ve got more experience than any other heroes out there, and they’re not willing to just sit out the fight, no matter that the Super American has to use a walker to leap into combat now. Usually, these heroes are well respected by everyone else, recognized as the “grand old masters” of the superhero set, but they may be the targets of some well-meaning overprotectiveness from younger heroes. At any rate, they’ll probably spend most of their time dealing with old grudges, as their villains won’t have retired either.
During the war, the Golden Agers probably had a nice base set up by the State Department. They might still have it, but more likely it was dissolved after that and they have to operate where they can. Usually, this will mean the home of one of the members, although a rich member of the team might have purchased a facility strictly for the team. Being from a more trusting age, they won’t have automated blasters and motion sensors. Instead, they’ll probably have a polite assistant to greet people and perhaps a young security guard who idolizes the team to deal with anyone who refuses to leave when asked. Because they operated during the war, most of the team will have ridden along on army transports, and they won’t have a special vehicle to get around in now. It’s strictly personal powers or cab rides for these heroes.
Power levels tend to be in the low range, able to handle low-powered villains but not the highest level master villains. Their villains tend to be gimmick-based rather than power-based. Rather than Dr. Destructor the armored wonder, they will have faced Evolvo the super monkey. Their foes were quirky and unusual, but more often than not relied on armies of goons to do their dirty work. Now that they’ve aged, the foes will stick to this method even more, meaning that Golden Agers fight a lot of front-line, pure human troops or thugs.
This team will usually have a strong Reputation
and Contacts with the Justice or State Department. Combat levels and other
shared skills are an absolute must, given the experience these heroes have.
Their Hunteds will mostly be old foes looking to settle an old score. Equipment
will be at a minimum, perhaps team radios at most.
In any world where heroes are common, the established world powers are going to want their own. Much like nuclear proliferation, superhuman proliferation will usually result in each government having their own national team. These teams can be small, tight combat units, publicly acknowledged and heavily hyped, or larger teams of operatives kept secret and used on covert missions against superhuman enemies, foreign and domestic. In most cases, the team will chafe at the amount of control their benefactor is attempting to place on them, and almost all government teams eventually break away from their home country.
Superhumans sanctioned by the government, with badges and powers, would make people extremely nervous if they were floating high above the Earth. In general, a public government operative team will be based in a brownstone or office building, perhaps even on a military base. To avoid charges of government excess, they will rarely have bases built specifically for their needs. A covert group will likewise often operate in a facility built for other purposes, secretly operating out of a military base or prison where they can train and stay. Their transportation usually is the best their governments have to offer, a high-speed spy plane or heavily armed combat helicopter. In most cases, it won’t be terribly unique, easily replaced when foreign powers shoot it out of their airspace.
Power levels vary, but most government teams can be given a hard time by well-armed heavy troops. This is almost necessary, as they will sometimes be going up against military troops, normals with high technology, to serve their national interest. Superhuman teams will usually have been created specifically to be their opposite number, and when a master villain rears his ugly head, the government team will usually let the World’s Greatest heroes handle it. In many cases, specially armed and armored agents will back up government teams, allowing them to enter into small military actions and not feel totally outnumbered.
Government teams almost always carry with them some level of moral ambiguity. For one thing, most of them draw a paycheck, which casts doubt on their heroism. For another, they represent the system, which most outlaw heroes and loners will fight against. If one of the superheroes of the world is set up by his enemy to look like a bad guy, it will be the government team sent to take him down. They’ll have to operate within stricter guidelines and if they’re wrong, they won’t be allowed to admit it because it would make their sponsors look bad. Government heroes usually don’t get along with other heroes, and even fellow sanctioned heroes may be nervous around the “state stooges.”
On the up side, government teams usually don’t want for anything. They’ll have team contacts with the government, full sanction from the government they operate with, and usually spiffy team equipment like communicators and armor. They will often be forced to train as part of their job, leading to combat levels usable only with the group. They will almost always have a group Watched (by host government) and might have a Reputation (Government Puppets) among heroes at large.
Heroes With An Agenda
Most heroes have a goal, such as ridding the world of crime or making the world a better place. This team states that kind of thing as their overt goal, but they have a covert agenda, one that the world might not look so kindly on. This might be something as seemingly benevolent as causing worldwide disarmament or something as sinister as taking over the world in order to run it better.
The overt style of this group will match that of All in the Family, Government Teams (either working toward a secret government agenda or toward their own – double agents, anyone?), The Next Generation, or even The World’s Greatest. Their methods, however, will more closely resemble that of Secret Warriors or Ex-Villains. Everything the public sees will be bright, public and popular, but most of their missions will be extremely secretive, to avoid anyone catching wind of the agenda.
This kind of team can provide for very interesting roleplaying and moral dilemmas. Especially since the reasons each hero has for doing things may be different. Some may be power-hungry and near-villainous, while others are so desperate to help that they’ll resort to desperate methods. Even better, some of the team members may not know about the agenda, instead thinking they’ve joined some other kind of team. This is especially true on The Next Generation or All in the Family, where a legitimate second-generation hero or family member would lend credence to the ruse, but might endanger the true plan if they knew it.
Bases, equipment and vehicles vary for these teams, although they will tend toward the flashy and more impressive. A high-rise condo in the middle of the campaign city is just as impressive as a satellite headquarters with high-tech defenses, although both are very different types of base. Personal jetpacks are also very impressive, but so is a stealth helicopter that transforms into a sleek car. Style is the key with this team; their tools are the magician’s lovely assistants, drawing attention away from the tricks being performed on the other side of the stage.
A required disadvantage for most members of this team is the Secret ID disadvantage, although it is a bit modified to become Secret Agenda (see p. 00.) Other than that, the true appearance of the team will set most of their abilities and skills. Follow the template for whatever team they are posing as.
Rebels With a Cause
This team operates outside the law, sometimes reviled by society, but they aren’t random outlaws; they have goals. This may be to combat a social problem, like prejudice against their own kind, or to bring down an evil institution that is masquerading as a benevolent organization. These teams range from barely superhuman to vastly powerful, depending on the strength of their adversaries. More often than not, they are feared and hated by the world they’re sworn to protect.
Because they operate in defiance of the law, the team will almost always have a secret base. It could be the sublevels of a plush mansion, an isolated cave in the mountains, a series of interlinked tunnels under the ground, or even a cloaked transport of some kind. Their transportation, if it isn’t an integral part of their base, will usually be something sneaky and easily hidden, such as a stealth helicopter or plane. If not that, they will probably use individual transports that allow the team to split up if capture is imminent, such as motorcycles.
Depending on their power level, this team may face a number of agents and normal criminals or powerful villains who operate in such defiance of society and the law that the heroes will stop them despite their similar place in the world. One common facet of the Rebels with a Cause is that they will often have characters “switch sides.” A longtime adversary might change his ways just enough to join up with the team while an ally, embittered by their long struggle, could betray the team and begin acting against their goals.
Also, there are a number of gray areas in this archetype, such that one group of Rebels may consider another group criminal, while the others consider themselves just as much heroes as the first. An example would be one group that thinks nothing of disobeying the law and running from authorities, but draws the line at killing their opponents, while a rival group has no problem with killing in combat if they have to. Psychological conflicts, where the players have to choose between compromising their ethics and losing a battle, are common with this kind of team. There will also be more internal strife between these teams, as each character may fall a little further along the spectrum than the others as far as ethics go.
Usually, this kind of team will have trained intensely together, focusing on combat, so combat levels usable only with another member of the group wouldn’t be out of line. A group Hunted, usually law-enforcement types, is almost required.
No one knows that this team is fighting for them, but if the team were to quit, everyone would know that the war had been lost. This type of team is fighting a foe so dangerous or horrific or well entrenched that the normal populace doesn’t even know about it. An ancient mystical cult controlling society, a hidden government conspiracy or parasitic aliens who can move among us are among the possibilities. Secret Warriors will usually be found in a campaign centering on X-Files or Lovecraftian style “trust no one, the truth is too horrible to contemplate” adventures.
Because their war is secret, these heroes usually operate that way. Many of them will not use costumes, although codenames are a must. Their powers will usually be of the quieter sort, mind control rather than explosive energy blasts, or invisibility rather than growth. In all likelihood, no one will know the group even exists except for a few trusted allies in high places. However, this trusted ally may provide them with the weapons and equipment needed to fight the war.
If the enemy is high-tech, such as well-armed black operatives working for the government or aliens with futuristic off-world technology, the heroes will generally use that type of technology against them. A home that has hidden features such as teleporters, matter creators or mindwipe devices may be needed to deal with the technology brought to bear against them. Their vehicles will be overtly simple, motorcycles or cars or helicopters, but will have systems which let them run faster, quieter and more powerfully than normal technology would. If the enemy is magical, the team will generally use magical headquarters such as a remote mountain location or ancient ruins and magical transport (flying carpets or gate spells) to get around.
This can be a tough campaign to run, as the adversary has to be both enormously powerful and also concealed. This will require players willing to stretch suspension of disbelief or a GM who can create a frighteningly plausible conspiracy; hopefully, a bit of both. It will tend toward the grittier side of role-playing…heroes who are unwilling to kill their foes, when their foes don’t answer to the proper authorities, may become quite frustrated. Likewise, master villains are hard to come up with, other than making them higher-ranking members of the secret enemy.
The Secret Agenda (see p.00) disadvantage is a good one for this group, as is a Psych Lim: Hunting Secret Enemy. Stealth, Shadowing, Security Systems and other “sneaky” skills are going to be near universal amongst the team. Having a well-connected or wealthy Contact is the norm, possibly even the person who started the group when he discovered the truth about the enemy. This can lead to group Wealth if the backer is rich and concerned enough about the war. On the flip side, their enemies will almost certainly be aware of them and Hunting them.
When younger heroes feel they are getting no respect from their elders, they will often gather together as a group to prove that “we can do it too!” Because they have been crimefighting since they were in short pants (literally in some cases), these teams are often formidable despite their young age. In addition to the problems of being a superteam, this archetype has the added feature of teen angst, with team members dealing with dating, school and other unique problems of being young. While they may not have much respect from their elders or authorities, the most common reaction the team will face is condescension, not fear or hatred.
The type of base this team has varies. Almost every teen team contains one ward of a millionaire, allowing him to funnel his sizable allowance into building a crimefighting stronghold. However, being young, these heroes will most likely not be cooped up in some stuffy old mansion or trapped millions of miles above the Earth, far away from pizza delivery and dance clubs. Instead, a common base of operations is a renovated warehouse or specially designed base in the center of the campaign city where groupies can easily find them. Transportation will often be “cool” motorcycles, jet bikes or fast cars. Flight-worthy transport isn’t common among these teams, and if they do use it, it will most likely be borrowed (or stolen) from their older mentors.
These teams usually fall in the mid-range of power levels. They may fight street crime in the opening sequence, but their usual threats will be menaces that give their mentors a bit of a hard time. While they probably won’t fight the major supervillain types, they will deal with their top right-hand men. They’ll deal with sinister, well-armed organizations. In all likelihood, they’ll have a rival group of teenage villains, perhaps sponsored by a crooked teacher, or perhaps brought up on the streets with none of the advantages the heroes had. In almost all cases, some of these teenage villains will be simply misguided, and the fights may turn into something more like a schoolyard rumble than a fight to the death.
Inter-team conflict and relationships should play a big role in the Sidekicks United team. It wouldn’t be a teen team if one of the members wasn’t in love with (usually dating) one of the others, or if the serious brooding teen sidekick didn’t argue with the fun-loving spunky teen sidekick. As a result, the team usually won’t be as closely drawn together as some others, at least at first. Group Hunteds or DNPCs aren’t likely, as most of the team will have lives divergent from the others when they’re not crimefighting together. Later on in their career they may train together, but early on about the only common limitation is either a Reputation as “not ready for prime-time players” or a Psychological “hates being talked down to” limitation. When this team matures, it may move more into The Next Generation, Rebels With A Cause, Government Team or even World’s Greatest archetypes.
Strangers In A Strange Land
Not only do they fight evil; they fight misunderstanding. This team comes from somewhere…else. It might be another planet or dimension, another time, or simply a remote location on Earth, but the common theme is that they aren’t used to modern society. They have banded together not only to help others, but to help each other cope with this strange new world they find themselves in. More often than not, there are other, less-friendly visitors who came over with them, and they will have to fight them to make sure the world doesn’t get the wrong impression about their place of birth.
These teams are generally from a higher technology level, either the future or superscientific planets. They might come from the past or from a hidden city that eschews modern technology, but in general they will have high-tech bases and means of transportation. Their base may be a bit odd, providing the only “comforts of home” they can get. It will likely be alien in nature, although its outward appearance may be a normal bastion of society (nightclub, home, coffee bar, etc.) Their may simply travel using powers the group possesses, but if they have a vehicle, it will usually be something like a starship, flight-capable dimension-ship, mobile time machine or whatever else they used to get to modern society. However, in order to reinforce their “outcast” position, the capability used to get them here will always have burned out when they arrived.
In power level, these teams tend toward the higher point values, and moreover, higher number of team members. Having three aliens stranded is for some reason much rarer than having a command crew of ten to fifteen who survived the crash of their starship. Likewise, explorers from the future rarely send back one or two members, but a whole support team.
There are two ways the team can go as far as training and familiarity. One way is the purposeful travelers, which assumes they came to modern society on purpose and their mode of getting back simply broke down. These groups will usually be well trained, their skills and powers complimentary to each other. They are fish out of water, but they were sent here to do the job they are doing. The other way is the stranded crew, people who were fleeing something or on their way somewhere else and just crashed or settled for the campaign world as a last-minute destination. They will tend to have personalities and abilities that don’t mesh quite as well.
Psych Lim: Wants to get home is a common team limitation, as are Distinctive Features, given that Strangers tend to be from places where cultural norms are different. A Phys Lim: Unfamiliar with culture is also pretty much required, although deliberate travelers might wish to avoid that one. However, in most cases the team will have high-tech equipment that came from being aboard whatever vessel brought them here. Commonly, communicators, weaponry, medical kits, sensors and other equipment along those lines will be made available to the entire group. A shared multipower (see p.00) isn’t out of the question.
The Next Generation
The World’s Greatest
This is the creme de la creme of the superheroic (or villainous) world. The strongest, the smartest, the best, all brought together to make their enemies tremble with fear. When this team shows up on the scene, the crowd cheers and the authorities fall over themselves trying to help them.
The World’s Greatest will usually be based in some kind of exotic locale. An island owned by the team millionaire-industrialist, a satellite captured from an alien race or a sprawling mansion located in the heart of the campaign city and riddled with high-tech defenses are all good bases for The World’s Greatest superteam. Their vehicles may not be vehicles at all, especially if their location is remote; they may just use teleportation technology or superspeed pneumatic underground transport. If they do use vehicles, they will probably be fast and sleek, able to get the team all over the world (perhaps the galaxy) within minutes of a disaster.
Teams of this magnitude will not be playing out session upon session of stopping bank robberies, unless Godzilla is robbing banks. Their villains will be powerful, world-conquering types, often with an army of followers powerful enough to take on a lower-powered superteam by themselves. Threats to reality and the entire galaxy are not too much to expect.
Common team perks and disadvantages could include a Reputation which allows everyone to know their weaknesses (from tabloid stories alone), a Hunted who has been defeated by the team time and time again, and Contacts with powerful people often in need of help, like the U.S. President or United Nations Security Council.