Thursday, September 4, 2008

Mythic Eighties America: 4-Color RPG

I love the spirit of Four-Color "Golden Age type comics and pop culture. Theres just something about the idealism and the black and white outlook on the world that appeals to me. I guess it is that I am so saddened by the tension and cynical apathy I find amongst young and old Americans.

When thinking on a setting for a Four-Color RPG (using the 4-Color System), I was not entirely sold on running a WWII game, as historic rpg's are hard to run. Then it occurred to me that the time of my childhood, the 1980's also had its four-color feel. People back then were trying to get past the lingering horrors of the Vietnam war, and to ignore the threat of Nuclear Holocaust. So folks immersed themselves in media hype and escapist movies and television, leaving the deeper social commentaries for another day.

Note: Please bear in mind that I do NOT think the setting presented below is the TRUTH! It is an idealized and fictionalized version of the attitudes of 80's America. Remember this is a "tongue in cheek" setting, so play it up and have fun!

The eighties was an era of sparkling ideals and Cold War politics. Regardless of the truths of foreign policy and growing environmental disaster, American culture was optimistic, energetic and produced some of the best movies and weird television yet. Below are some major players that those in the “Super” business will know about.

Land of the free, and home of the brave, the America of the Mythic 80’s was a land of high ideals, optimism and loads of sparkly pop culture icons. America stands for the best that the human spirit can accomplish, and its military, its heroes and its foreign policy is the best in the world.
Still, even in the Mythic 80’s America has loads of villain types. Super villains a-plenty have risen out of America, some of whom are the results of ill-advised super soldier programs or other weapons. America still has its share of rotten eggs, even in the Mythic 80’s.
Inspirations: The Greatest American Hero, Commando, Captain America, Superman.

Americas greatest ally, and producers of great Rock n’ Roll. The spy network of Britain is incredibly effective and advanced, combating Communism and injustice all over the world. A great many British superheroes are in operation, though most answer directly to the Royal Family.
Inspirations: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John le Carre, From Russia With Love and Dr. No (James Bond films), Captain Britain (a favorite of mine).

The Evil Empire of the U.S.S.R. is a major villain in the Mythic 80’s. Producing all manner of super technology, cunning spies and loads of super villains of every type. Super Soldier programs are pursued regularly in Russia, some of which has been tested during the 1976 Olympics.The Russians of the Mythic 80's are all slavishly devoted to the spread of Communism, Atheism and insulting America.
Inspirations: Red Dawn, Rocky IV, The Incredible Hulk (70's version) and The Abomination.

Rising technological power that is extremely rich. This nation seems intent upon buying everything in the U.S. with their vast wealth. Despite acting like a huge corporation rather than a nation, Japan is still quite focused on a drama rich version of the Samurai/Ninja code. Ninja clans still exist here and are very powerful in the realms of underworld politics and sorcery (see Kiyo Assassins belwo).
Inspirations: Tokyo Pop, Black Rain, The Silver Samurai.

SOUTH AMERICAN DRUG LORDS: South American nations produce enormous quantities of Cocaine and other drugs, exporting them to the US. A great many super villain types find employment and safe haven in these countries, including a fair number of Nazi super-scientists and Russians.
Inspirations: License To Kill (James Bond), Commando.

The other nations can be lumped into Europe and Everywhere Else, with little concern. These nations are mere backdrop in the Mythic 80’s, existing as little more than scenery. Most heroes in the Mythic 80's will be "passing through" these places, taking little note. Some of these nations are actually supported by one of the nations presented above, and thus will have a version of that nations attitudes.
Inspirations: Delta Force, Smileys People, Alpha Flight, Madripoor.


SUPERHERO INTERVENTION ASSOCIATION: The SIA is an effort of the US government to organize the efforts of its Superheroes. Supers wishing to join must register their secret identify (if any) with the SIA, after which the super will gain the full cooperation of the government. Failure to register can lead to a super being considered a rogue, though not necessarily a villain.
Supers working with the SIA are not employees of the government, but are expected to pitch in during times of crisis such as natural disaster, alien invasion or rampaging super villains. Think of it as a superhero National Guard.
Inspiration: S.H.I.E.L.D., Justice League of America.

KIYO ASSASSINS: Ninja clan of tremendous influence, and producers of several potent and deadly super villains. This order has dominated much of the Japanese criminal underworld, and has its hands in all of the worst sorts of dealings. Asian style demons and witchcraft, as well as terribly effective assassins.
Inspirations: The Octagon.

Nazi super villain organization under the leadership of the mysterious super scientist The Harvester. These villains are the worst sort of criminals, and prop up neo-Nazis and hate-criminals all over the world. It is believed than these villains hold secret bases all over the world, particularly in Antarctica.
Inspirations: Education for Death, Triumph of The Will, The Red Skull.


Earth has been visited by a great many beings from Out There somewhere, whether from other planets, dimensions or timelines. These can be slobbery monsters, half-men, greys or regular-looking humans, but they all have something strange about them.
Inspirations: The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension!, Dr. Who (Tom Baker version), The Brood, Celestials, Darkseid, Sooo many others.


A wide range of supernatural creatures come and go in the setting. From ancient gods and goddesses to all manner of trolls, elves, demons, dragons and others frequently make their appearance. Whether of not these beings are actually who and/or what they claim to be, or whether they are actually aliens or supers is largely irrelevant.
Inspirations: Asgardians, Vampires, The New Gods.

This setting will work just fine for any superhero game, and should present a powerful sense of black and white morality.

Have fun!
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