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San Angelo: Young Heroes

February 28th, 2018

Young Heroes

This material was originally developed in 1999 or 2000 as a proposal for a supplement to Gold Rush Games’ San Angelo.

Some quick background: Immediately before pitching this book, I had written Days of Terror, a campaign supplement for Dream Pod 9’s Heavy Gear RPG that followed the same format as The Paxton Gambit. Basically, it was a micro-setting supplement focused on one very specific topic and paired with the detailed overview of a related campaign. At the time, I was really enamored of the format and thought it would catch on with other game lines.San Angelo: City of Heroes - Gold Rush Games Young Heroes was an initial pitch for a similar line of supplements for GRG.

Don’t bother looking for Days of Terror. I wrote the whole book, but the project was canned due to the poor sales of The Paxton Gambit and A New Breed for DP9. Young Heroes didn’t even get off the ground. As I mentioned when archiving my review of A New Breed, these days I’m considerably less enamored of the format, primarily because the “milestone” approach they use fails to provide the type of specific prep work (like stat blocks) that I think are actually the most essential elements of value in a published scenario. Ideas are cheap; execution is everything.

On the other hand, sometimes one man’s ideas can still inspire others to do great things. I certainly experienced that when Martin Tegelj took my idea of the Temporal Masters and transformed it into a fully developed Doctor Who campaign. In the case of Young Heroes, I had actually developed a complete campaign outline as part of the original pitch. That’s what I’m going to be sharing below, but since it’s almost two decades old I’m also going to be peppering in a few thoughts on how my older and wiser self would change things up to make for a better campaign.


College Campus

Young Heroes was designed to be a supplement for college-age superheroes in San Angelo. My points of inspiration were the first fifty issues of Amazing Spider-Man, the early New Mutants comics, the second Avengers team (the one with Captain America trying to forge Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, and Quicksilver into a cohesive whole), the late-’80s JLA (Batman trying to make a roster of second-stringers work), an incredibly obscure (but also wonderful) comic called The Fly from the Impact Comics line, and, oddly, Kurt Busiek’s Thunderbolts (which doesn’t really feature young heroes, but does feature new heroes trying to prove themselves). These days I would add stuff like Bendis’ definitive run on Ultimate Spider-Man, Kirkman’s Invincible (although the latter ends up being a bit more cosmic in scale than what I was aiming for here), and Spider-Man: Homecoming.

What about the micro-supplement part of the book? Well, I certainly hope it would have value if the full book had ever been written. But in outline form it doesn’t really offer anything of note unless you need to be told that a book about college-age heroes would feature information on the colleges of San Angelo, the neighborhoods around those colleges, stock faculty members, local musical groups (The Atlas, Jungle Beat, and the Mississippi Sirens, along with Sarah and the Peacekeepers; at least one of these would have secretly been superheroes), coffee houses and other hangouts, and the like.

This would have all been gazetteer-type stuff. These days, I’d have tried to figure out a more sandbox-style approach with material being presented through much more utilitarian chunks of content. And I’d probably also be looking at some kind of mini-game mechanical box that would strongly model the balance between classes, jobs, and superhero adventures. (Really try to capture that “Peter Parker madly juggling to keep all the parts of his life in the air at once” vibe and push it into hard, mechanical choices that would help drive the narrative.)


First off, and probably most obviously, I’d start by revamping the whole thing into a properly node-based scenario design. Perhaps not a node structure that was heavily bifurcated, but definitely one with a bit more flexibility and dynamic potential. In 1999, I was still trapped within the limited model of linear campaign structure, even though I was beginning some limited experimentation with non-linear scenarios. (Formally stating the Three Clue Rule to myself was, if I recall correctly, still a year or two in my future, too.)

Scenario One – The Birth of Legends. The first scenario is designed to bring the PCs together. A string of daring robberies has been plaguing businesses in the college area for about a week now, with the pace slowly increasing. The cops have caught a couple of the perps – all classmates of the PCs – but all of them claim to not remember the crimes. Plus, none of the stolen money or merchandise has been recovered. The PCs become involved when one of the robberies is carried out right under their nose (either while they are all “conveniently” in the same place or separately, but at roughly the same time). They, of course, capture the perps – who are just ordinary college kids who seem to be acting in some sort of trance. Eventually it’s all traced back to the Psychotropper. He’s been lacing the pizzas being delivered from the university Masked Bandit Pizza with his special drugs. The PCs face him and his “Zombie Horde” down and deliver him to the police. The important thing is that the PCs end up working together to solve the problem.

This is a very weak hook. “Bunch of heroes all respond to the same crime and team-up” is a staple of the genre, of course, but leveraging 4-6 PCs into the proper location, expecting them all to respond appropriately to the villains, and then fall into line for a campaign-long team-up as a result is awkward. It can work, but you’re relying heavily on the metagame expectations of “you’re all PCs, so you’re going to team-up” rather than having that emerge organically from the immediate circumstances.

What I’d probably do today is break up the initial beats of the campaign into a number of micro-interactions that would all end up pointing the PCs towards the Psychotropper’s antics from different directions. Because the different angles of approach allow the players to quickly see many different facets of the problem, this immediately creates magnitude. It also, in my experience, creates really interesting and unexpected initial interactions between the PCs as their vectors all converge on each other. One such micro-interaction might, in fact, be a couple of the PCs being at the same place at the same time and teaming up to follow their leads (but only a couple). For the others, I would try to tie the situation more intimately to the PCs and use the scenes to simultaneously begin putting pieces from their social lives and backgrounds into play. Using Tales from the Loopstyle elements to character creation in order to generate a detailed network of connections and then implicating their friends will immediately make the problem meaningful. (These connection networks could also feature in that “balance your lives” mechanics I mentioned earlier.)

Scenario Two – A Common Thread. While busting some petty crooks the PCs are suddenly confronted with mystic firepower. Each of the crooks is carrying a business card on their person imprinted with an apparently random set of five numbers and letters. As they mop things up despite their surprise, the Bard shows up on the scene: A cache of mystic artifacts was recently broken into and he’s been trying to track them down. The PCs are drawn into his investigation, but as they draw near the source of the weapons the crooks they have just caught are consumed by mystic flame. At the end of this scenario the PCs meet Sylvia Inverse. Sylvia was the superhero Lightning during the early ‘80s. She was crippled in a fight with the Reaper in ’85. Sylvia then became an industrialist and is now a billionaire. She has been searching for a group of young heroes who she can sponsor as a team. The PCs came to her attention through their recent actions.

Something that may not be entirely clear from this text is that this was meant to be what I think of as a “Shiki-style” campaign. Shiki was a campaign for Sengoku (another Gold Rush Games RPG, actually) which featured four scenarios which were notably separated from each other by large spans of time. The idea was that Shiki would provide the epic backbone for a long-term campaign, with the GM weaving other scenarios into the spaces between the campaign scenarios. Same principle here. Particularly during Act One, the idea was that the GM would include a number of other “generic” superhero scenarios as the PCs established themselves as local heroes.

Scenario Three – Traitor Unknown. The PCs are taken to see their new headquarters, located in a secret sub-basement of the skyscraper which houses the local branch of Sylvia’s company. They are also introduced to the other two members of the team – Circuit and Starsong. Their tour is interrupted when the monitoring equipment picks up a news report of a bank robbery involving high tech weaponry. Breaking up the robbery the PCs will find cards identical to those found on the mystically armed crooks in the last scenario. This time they succeed in tracking the shipments back to a central source, but as they move in for the final figurative kill they find the base abandoned and evidence that one of their own sent a warning.

NPC members of the team. Always risky because many people have had poor experiences with them. And I, as a GM, hate the hassle of running them and frequently feel like I’m screwing it up because I forget to pay enough attention to the NPC party member to make them truly feel like a member of the party. If I was running this campaign today I would probably (a) try to conspire with one of my players to take on the role of Circuit (the true traitor) and (b) see if I could find a co-GM or another faux-player willing to take on the role of Starsong (the false traitor) while also disappearing for several sessions (as described below).

Scenario Four – Our Foe, Ourselves. This scenario starts with the official announcement of the team’s formation – a major media event. Later, while Starsong is on duty, the monitoring equipment intercepts a police call to a warehouse where strange energy weapons are being used. The team dispatches at once, but when they arrive they find the warehouse empty and undisturbed. This pattern of “phantom messages” repeats itself a few times… each time while Starsong is on duty. Finally a similar call comes in while Circuit or one of the PCs is on duty, but this time the call is real. The PCs encounter a group of red-hooded crooks calling themselves “Servants of the Scarlet Sect”. The PCs fight them to a standstill, but then they disappear just as cop cars arrive. The “Servants” don’t appear on the security tapes – only the PCs wreaking havoc; all sorts of technological equipment is missing from the warehouse; and a security guard is found murdered in a backroom.


Scenario One – The Shattered Dream. The team suddenly finds itself a fugitive from justice. Sylvia Inverse believes their version of events, but since her connection to the team is known she is under strict surveillance and can do little to help them. Most of this scenario will be played out in the PCs’ secret IDs as they live out their lives on campus, talking with friends – some of whom support the new team, some of whom despise it. In the end the PCs are forced to take action when the Mad Bomber tries to blow up the school. Just as they finish putting the kibosh on the Bomber, they are suddenly confronted with a new problem: The Justice Foundation has shown up to take the fugitives into custody. Cliffhanger ending.

For maximum impact, this scenario requires proper setup: The campus relationships need to be established and they need to have some real stakes to them. In the near future I’ll be talking about the “exposition drip” technique you can use to make sure these elements are properly introduced before you need them to fire on all cylinders. The other thing to look at here is properly establishing the tension between the safety of remaining safely hidden in their civilian identities and the responsibility they feel to right wrongs. The scenario would probably play best with a sequence of temptations, each forcing the players to make hard choices about their priorities. (And also inviting them to find creative, clever, and/or stealthy solutions to problems in order to avoid exposing themselves.)

Scenario Two – Fugitives of Justice. This scenario opens with the conclusion of the battle with the Justice Foundation from the first scenario. The PCs should manage to extricate themselves from the situation. Cavalier - Justice Foundation (San Angelo)Later, the PCs are tracked down and attacked by the Foundation once again, but this time with the twist that it was the Scarlet Sect who lead them to the PCs. Evidence after the battle seems to reveal that Starsong betrayed their location. While they are in the middle of dealing with that situation, members of the Scarlet Sect suddenly appear as if out of thin air in the midst of the PCs. They kidnap Circuit and disappear.

Planning superhero campaigns is tricky because traditional superhero plots tend to turn on the specific outcomes of big, show-piece fights. Assuming/predetermining the specific outcomes of fights is a really easy way to double stamp your passport to Railroad-land. But if you try to AVOID doing that, you can end up with narrative structures which AREN’T driven by big, show-piece fights, and then your traditional superhero campaign doesn’t feel like a traditional superhero narrative.

Regardless, I would definitely try to avoid doing, however, is having the exact same fight twice in the same scenario and assuming a specific outcome for each fight, despite the fact that there seems to be little utility in HAVING two separate fights. I’d take a look at Principles of RPG Villainy and have the PCs hunted by more than just the Justice Foundation.

Scenario Three – Hostage! With Circuit gone and Starsong fleeing under suspicion, things are going badly for the PCs. The only good news is that Sylvia has been keeping a covert eye on their monitoring devices, and during their last encounter picked up an odd electronic signature from the Scarlet Sect – she thinks it may be what allowed them to cloak their presence in the surveillance cameras… but she’s going to need to get more readings. At this point they are contacted by a shadowy figure calling himself Mastermind, the figurative head of the Scarlet Sect. He offers the PCs the chance to join the sect.

This is not actually a scenario. It’s literally two phone conversations. I probably would have figured that out when it came time to actually develop this campaign.

Scenario Four – Our Hopes Fulfilled. At worst its a trap; at best its an offer designed to damn them all. But the PCs are encouraged by Sylvia to take the bait. It pays off: During a climactic battle with the Justice Foundation (again lured into the situation by Mastermind’s manipulations), Sylvia Inverse gathers enough data on the signals to decode the original tapes – revealing that the Sect members were on them all along. Mastermind manages to escape, but the PCs have the evidence they need to clear their names.


Scenario One – The Siren’s Song. The PCs are approached by Sylvia, who claims to have traced the signals to a specific warehouse. But it turns out to be a trap. They manage to save Circuit anyway when Starsong reappears to save them, and he suggests that they test Sylvia to see if she’s really a clone. It turns out that she is. Although she professes her innocence, the PCs probably aren’t buying it – and she’s forced to flee.

Scenario Two – The Island Realm. Meanwhile the PCs have figured out where Mastermind’s real base is – on a small island in the Pacific. This is the lead up to the big wrap-up: Fists fly and powers boom. It turns out that Mastermind is the original Lightning, who was driven insane by her injury. The Sylvia who the PCs have known is a clone, but she’s been living Sylvia’s life.

Reviewing my notes from 1999/2000, this is one of the major core ideas of what I wanted the campaign to accomplish: Create an atmosphere of suspicion, paranoia, and false identity. Implicate their boss as being a cloned impostor. Have them run a test and discover that she IS a clone – oh my god! And then have the big reveal where it turns out that the clone is actually the good guy and is, in fact, a more faithful preservation of the original’s personality before their mind was broken.

What’s missing here, however, are some key exposition drips: Sylvia’s accident needs to be narratively incorporated before the big reveal. The possibility of a clone (or multiple clones) being involved needs to be set up so that the accusation against Sylvia is a payoff instead of a random curve ball. It would also help to clearly set up how the PCs can test for a clone before they need to do it here.

Scenario Three – The Final Hour. And here’s the big wrap-up: Fleeing the island, Mastermind returns to San Angelo – planning to seal the city away from the outside world using her technology. The PCs have to get inside the city, and then defeat Mastermind once there.

Pacific Islands - Satellite Footage


San Angelo: The Argonaut Society

February 26th, 2018

The Argonaut Society

Famous Fantastic Mysteries - September 1945

This material was originally developed in 1999-2000 as a supplement for Gold Rush Games’ San Angelo. This book was supposed to be part of a line of GRG projects that were going to support the eminent release of Pulp Hero. Unfortunately, Pulp Hero got massively delayed and wasn’t actually published until 2005, so the project got killed. I’ve done some minor reworking of the original pitch document here to present a setting that could be easily used with Pulp Hero, the Trinity Continuum’s Adventure, or any number of other pulp adventure RPGs.

One thing I would recommend: The original material was written to be compatible with the extant background elements of the Argonaut Society described in the history of San Angelo. If you were actually going to run this material, I’d recommend ditching the existing roster of Argonaut members and their exploits, rewind the timeline, and set up the PCs as the core of the Society, with their globe-trotting expeditions slowly uncovering the secret history of Atlantis and Lemuria.

The flux radiation caused by the creation of singularities did not result solely in the creation of superhumans. Their ability to wildly effect the laws of nature and make the improbable probable, stretching through time itself, has lead not only to the creation of supers, but the realization of some of the wildest fantasies. In the world of San Angelo not only can men fly and women learn the ways of sorcery, but the pyramids truly possess mystic powers; Atlantis sank beneath the ocean waves millenia ago; dinosaurs and woolly mammoths still roam in forgotten valleys; and enclaves of ancient civilizations exist unto the present day, preserved in isolation. To explore these strange and wondrous places, the improbabilites of flux radiation have also created a group of elite explorers – the Argonaut Society.

The men and women of the Argonaut Society captured the hearts and minds of a generation. They were the best of the best when it came to exploration in the modern era. Their membership boasts an amazing number of World Records and major achievements. They were the first to scale some of the tallest mountains in the world, the first to make contact with ancient tribal societies, the first to uncover the most spectacular archaeological sites ever discovered. These exploits, particularly by their founder Tyler North, imprinted them in the memory of millions.

But there is another side to the Argonaut Society, a side which the wider public remains ignorant of even to the modern day: The exploration of the fantastic; things which dwell only within the pulp literature of the real world. To understand how such things could exist it must be understood that there was an age of prehistory, driven by the pre-effects of flux radiation, in which mankind achieved heights of technology and mysticism which was both superior to our own science and also alien to our way of thought. This Age of Advanced Prehistory (as members of the Society came to refer to it) lasted a millennia and ended with the sinking of Atlantis beneath the waves.  The great civilizations of Egypt and Babylonia, thought by most to be the dawn of western civilization, were actually nothing but the dim remnants of the proud Atlantean and Lemurian civilizations.

The Age of Advanced Prehistory continues to affect mankind down to the present day. The mythic Camelot truly existed, made possible through the wizardry of Merlin – one of the few Atlanteans to survive to the modern day. The Bermuda Triangle is nothing more than an effect of the sunken continent of Atlantis. Magicians trace their heritage back to the Egyptian Priests of Na’toth.


Atlantis and Lemuria: Atlantis and Lemuria were the hegemonic powers of the Age of Advanced Prehistory (also known as the Atlantean or Lemurian Age). The continent of Atlantis was found in the modern day Atlantic; the continent of Lemuria in the Pacific. They were the greatest civilizations mankind has ever known and the vistas of the world were spread out beneath them. But they were also the greatest of enemies, and their conflict would end their millennia-long hegemonic rise and return the world to primitive darkness. Atlantis and Lemuria both slipped beneath the waves of the sea, reduced to ruin. The majority of their citizenry were placed in some form of suspended animation, although some used their science to adapt to life under water and served as caretakers to the rest. The citizens of Atlantis would be briefly awakened (historically speaking) by the Argonaut Society, allowing for some Atlantean heroes to make an appearance during the Golden Age. Both Atlantis and Lemuria, however, are on the verge of awaking entirely from their 5000 year sleep; prophecies gleaned from their crystalline time-viewers have posted the date of their rise to 2012.

The Lost Valley: On the continent of Antarctica there exists a lost valley of creatures whose time upon this world was supposed to have ended millions of years ago. It is certainly possible that members of the Argonaut Society successfully reached this place before Tyler North’s fateful (and final) mission.  As for North’s true fate following his disappearance, the Society has never been able to determine it. The icy entrance they originally used to gain access to the Valley collapsed, and no other entrance has been found.

Forgotten Civilizations: The Argonaut Society has discovered enclaves of several ancient societies, often found among inhospitable mountain valleys or the depths of primeval jungles, but also sometimes within stable time pockets established by Lemurian dimensional scientists for as-yet-undetermined purposes. These prominently include Mayan, Incan, and Tibetan socities (including the one destroyed by a volcano in 1928).

Fantastic Adventures - March 1947The Ruins of Camelot: The legends are true. Arthur, son of Uther, did arise to the throne of Camelot with the help of the mysterious wizard Merlin. Merlin was a son of Atlantis who survived its destruction and Camelot was his attempt to bring that wonder back to the world. Morgan Le Fey, on the other hand, was a daughter of Lemuria and attempted to seize that dream from Merlin and Arthur – resulting in the destruction of it all. As a result of their final mystic battle the ruins of Camelot slipped partially out of this reality. Now it reappears, from time to time and in various locations.

The Bermuda Triangle: The Triangle is the result of forgotten Atlantean technology. The Argonaut Society attempted to understand the phenomenon better after they lost one of their own to it. Although they regained their missing member, they were unsuccessful in powering down the machinery behind the Triangle.

Egyptian Pyramids: Pyramids were one of the architectural trademarks of the Atlanteans and Lemurians, and their influence can still be seen in some of the great stoneworks around the world. Egypt, in particular, was a place many of the Atlanteans fled to (just as the Mayan and Incan civilizations were born from the refugee movements of the Lemurians). The Egyptian Pyramids are centers of power and the Great Pyramid (which wasn’t built by Cheops at all, but was a remnant of Atlantis itself) contains many hidden passages in which ancient secrets are kept.

Stone Circles: The stone circles of England – the most famous one, of course, being Stonehenge – were actually built by the Druidic traditions and have some important connection to stellar motion. The Druidic traditions were a confused ideological mix of primitive superstition and Atlantean technology and mysticism. Although the Society has had several interesting run-ins with the circles they’ve never been successful at completely understanding their secrets.

Center of the Earth: While exploring the Tibetan steppes explorer Tyler North came across local legends of a forgotten tribe which lived beneath the surface of the mountains. Although North knew that many such legends are nothing more than rural superstition, he also knew (from personal experience, no less) that they often had a grain of truth. He returned later that year with a group of dedicated society members. Passing through a maze of caveworks which seemed to descend ever deeper into the subterranean world, North and his band of explorers eventually emerged into what appeared to be the hollowed out center of the globe in the middle of which floated a small sun – a world at the Center of the Earth.

Amazed by this seeming contradiction of modern science North spent over a month exploring the strange and amazing cultures found there. Eventually he discovered that he was not truly within the Center of the Earth, but the center of some other planetoid which was somehow linked to our Earth through various subterranean passages. All of this was powered by the great tree Ygg, which served as some form of mystical conduit between our worlds. North was planning a future exploration to this place to learn more, but after his disappearance the plans were postponed. World War II permanently set them to one side.

Far Side of the Moon and Mars. Although the details remain unclear, the Atlanteans and Lemurians did seem to possess some form of travel between the stars. They formed habitable zones on both the far side of the moon and the Martian surface.

TOMORROW: Mysterious Artifacts, Strange Creatures, and Secret Societies!



Go to Part 1

San Angelo, like the rest of the world, is very different in the year 2070.

The most noticeable change, of course, are the two arcologies which now dominate the area. These massive structures were erected by the massive conglomerate corporations which came to dominate the world economy in the aftermath of the war. They are controlled ecologies, designed in response to the worsening conditions of the outside world. Like the gated communities of the late-20th century they are the result of those with power and resources wishing to control the environment in which they live, free from the influences of those people and things which they consider to be “negative”. Like the corporate towns of the 19th century they are a way for companies to exert massive amounts of control over the lives of their employees.

San Angelo - PhotonIn the early part of the 21st century Stephen Bow – also known as the supervillain Photon – succeeded in taking over Eclipse Industries. Bow proved adept at charting a course through the turbulent times and succeeded, through means both legal and illegal, in guiding Eclipse Industries to a preeminent position in the global marketplace. After swallowing up many other regional companies, Eclipse Industries was one of the pioneers of the arcology concept. Initially the idea was sold as a public works project designed to reclaim the urban areas which were disintegrating under the economic and population pressures placed on it. Later Bow would take advantage of his political ties in a time of increasing destabilization to put Eclipse Industries in place as the sole owner and authority over the arcology – cementing the company as a preminent power in the region. Bow died in 2050. The company is now run by his son, Christopher. Christopher inherited his father’s superpowers and adopted the moniker Neutron when supers began to reappear.

During this same time the only company which came even close to keeping pace with Bow and Eclipse Industries was Orion Labs, run and operated by Franklin Colt. As the local economy slowly disintegrated Colt found himself forced unwillingly into a position of direct competition with Stephen Bow, a person he considered contemptible. He had little choice, however, because without the continuing strength of Orion Labs – maintained primarily through Colt’s adeptness at landing military contracts during the war – Eclipse Industries would have quickly beome the sole corporate interest in the area (a trend which was being followed in most of the urban centers around the country). Colt eventually even embraced the emerging arcology concept – due to his influence, however, the Orion Arcology remains the largest member of the ANAA, primarily because of the miles-long park and nature rehabilitation area which runs down its center (known as Central Park). Colt supposedly died in 2012 during an accident in his laboratory. Unknown to all except a select few, Colt’s research was an attempt to expand on the work of Hal Revette. An accident in Colt’s experiments caused the instability in the singularity which would eventually cause it to collapse. His son, Laurence, took over the company. Laurence made some bad choices during his tenure and lost controlling interest of the company, which is now run by the board of directors. Laurence was killed under mysterious circumstances in 2067. His daughter, Elizabeth, is attempting to retake control of the company, which has broken down into several different factions which are largely unaware of what the others are doing.

Orion Labs (not the same one, but a cool logo)

Elizabeth, for her part, was the one who reopened her grandfather’s research into Revette Singularities as a potential energy source. In 2064 she succeeded in creating a stable singularity which could be harnessed for energy production. Much to her surprise, however, this action resurrected her grandfather – who had been saturated with flux radiation and captured in a pocket dimension during his accident. So far Franklin’s existence has been concealed, but he is secretly helping Elizabeth to retake the company. Franklin is also helping his granddaughter in another way: He has the ability to channel flux energy directly, but only through a secondary host. With his help, Elizabeth has assumed the identity of Sunflare.


Urban areas outside of the arcologies have come to be known by the term “out-towns”. In most cases these areas have been almost wholly abandoned by the corporate interests within the arcologies, except insofar as they are either necessary to provide necessary supplies, serve as markets, or act as potential threats. The dynamics of the inter-corporate interplay between the Orion and Eclipse Arcologies, along with several other factors, means that the out-towns of San Angelo are a little more rife with activity than might otherwise be the case. The one thing both arcologies can agree on, however, is that the out-towns cannot be allowed to descend into complete chaos. Corporate Security forces (known as CorpSec), therefore, are the law of the land. CorpSec is only concerned with maintaining the law insofar as it supports the corporate interests. If you’re poor and without anything of value, going to CorpSec is probably a waste of your time.

The area known as Old San Angelo during the late 20th century is now a ghost town living in the northern shadow of the Eclipse arcology, seeing only the briefest glimpses of sunlight. The sole residents are the biker gangs known as the Rovers. Although these gangs are often thought of collectively, in truth they are composed of many different “clans” – sharing a common cultural base, it is certain, but also possessed of wide divergences, allegiances, and interests.

San Angelo 2070 - The Shacks

On the other side of the Eclipse Arcology, just south of the old city border, is the area of town known as the Shacks. The Shacks were originally the site of the tent camps which are formed up at the end of the Third World War. Since then some formalization has taken place – the tents have been replaced largely by wooden shacks and shanties of various varieties – but the overall living conditions in this wide expanse of slums is downright primitive. Common conveniences such as plumbing and electricity are absent from large expanses of the area.

Nestled between the two arcologies are the Shadows. This neighborhood retains many of the original buildings which would have been found here in the San Angelo today. Although little new building has taken place, the Shadows are possessed of some technological sophistication – largely due to the fact that they are home to the most of the San Angelo underworld of 2070. The old Riverfront remains as part of the Shadows, but has sunken to new levels.

During its construction the Eclipse Arcology displaced the residents of Chinatown, which has ceased to exist. Most of the members of this community ended up moving to Poverty Gulch, whose residents were generally moving into the new arcology. This area became known as Little China and inherited the spirit of Chinatown; a reputation which it maintains to this day.

Where the old Government Center and East Side neighborhood stood is now Hightown. Here can be found those corporate interests which are still independent from Eclipse Industries and Orion Labs. Such areas in other North American communities are generally composed almost strictly of branch offices of other arcologies which have an interest in keeping close relations with the local companies, but in the case of San Angelo several subsidiary megacorporations have managed successfully over the decades to play the interests of Eclipse and Orion (as well as others) off each other, maintaining their independence.

In the 2050s Eclipse Industries created the Out Towns Housing Project (OTHP) in an effort to gain some control over the chaos of the out-towns by creating tightly controlled housing projects. Brackett Park became the center of this project. The old buildings were razed and largely replaced with clone-like apartment buildings which resembled nothing so much as rows of concrete blocks. Although the OTHP still ostensibly exists, it is rife with corruption. The entire project has become a disaster, in many ways attracting specifically those types of individuals whose behavior was supposed to be discouraged and controlled by the effort.

Most of the rest of the city is a patchwork of various sorts, with two important exceptions. The University area has become a heavily guarded compound – maintained primarily so that corporate brats can take advantage of its facilities. The La Vista neighborhood, on the other hand, has become the ritzy area of town. Executives who want it and can afford it have purchased massive estates in the area, which is tightly guarded by a special security force.


The urban areas which previously surrounded San Angelo have been largely deserted. Individual farmers or organized collectives occasionally attempt to make out a meager living on the rural land, but they are constantly harassed by roving bands of raiders. North America has turned inward onto itself – the rural areas abandoning themselves to the urban centers and the urban centers, in turn, abandoning themselves to the corporate arcologies. A few notable exceptions should be noted, however.

The Oro Dam has become the central headquarters of the Undergang. The Undergang is an anti-corporate militia army of sorts. Although it would be nice to think that they are united in their Undergang Memberopposition, they actually spend almost as much time fighting amongst themselves over what their true goals are than they do fighting corporate interests. Some believe that mankind should be removed from the face of the world entirely; others want to retreat to nature; some embrace terror tactics and others do not; a large group (with the majority of control) imagines a return to the glory days of the United States of America when a constitutional government ruled over all (what their particular version of those glory days might be, however, tends to vary wildly as well). Whatever their differences, however, Undergang is united in their hatred of the corporate arcologies and well organized enough to produce their own counter-propaganda and similar efforts. The Undergang is also notable for their formation of the Low Riders, a group of “lawmen” who attend to those who CorpSec ignores.

The Canfield Indian Rancheria has become a land unto itself. Following the aftermath of the Third World War it became a gathering point for many local Indian tribes. Since then it has gained an enclosing cement wall with constantly manned guard posts. Few outsiders are allowed inside the walls. Those that do enter and return speak of a highly communal, cooperative society – but one which is wary of letting the chaos of the outside world within their walls. The residents of Canfield are extreme isolationists.

Finally, Lakeview was the site of the last major showdown of the Pogroms. The supers who refused to either quietly disappear or surrender to government forces made their final stand here. Much of the town was destroyed in this final confrontation and was never rebuilt.

Today San Angelo has again captured the heart and mind of the world as it has resumed its role as the center of superhuman activities. The supers are idealized by many around the globe as the bright hope of the future (although some of those hopes have been dashed with the assassination of Savior). The Neo Justice Foundation has its main headquarters in London, the capital of the new League of Nations; but its primary field branch is located in San Angelo and they are often seen in the city. The New Liberty Corps, rumored to have been founded by a super who somehow survived the pogroms and all the chaos which followed, has become the hometown team, so to speak. The Rogue Squadron also makes San Angelo their home, but are still generally mistrusted by the general public. Although many supers have appeared elsewhere, San Angelo has been home to the largest number of appearances – a fact no doubt connected to the fact the new singularity is being secretly maintained by Elizabeth Colt in the Orion Arcology.

The Third Age of Heroes has come to the world and a new light has appeared upon the horizon. The question which must be answered is whether that light will be embraced… or snuffed out.

San Angelo 2070

February 24th, 2018

San Angelo - City of Heroes

In 1998, the sadly defunct Gold Rush Games published Patrick Sweeney’s excellent San Angelo, a wonderfully detailed superhero city supplement for Hero. (You can read my 1999 review of the book here.) For a very long time, I was under the impression that this fantastic supplement had become completely unavailable. But I recently became aware that it is, in fact, available through DriveThruRPG in a version adapted for Mutants & Masterminds and the Action! system. That discovery, in turn, caused me to go digging through my archives and dig out the proposal I wrote for a San Angelo 2070 supplement back in 1999 or 2000. That project ended up going nowhere, but the proposal was quite detailed and I think you might find it of interest.

My goal with San Angelo 2070 was to combine the superhero genre with the techno-corporate elements of cyberpunk to create a setting which would evoke Marvel’s 2099 comics, the various mutant futures (such as Days of Future Past), and Machine Man; a number of DC’s Elseworlds titles; the then-recent Jack-in-the-Box storylines for Kurt Busiek’s Astro City; and similar supehero fare. However, I also wanted the setting to possess the strengths of San Angelo itself — a living, believable, detailed setting where the supers aren’t the only important characters.

San Angelo 2070 takes a look at the future of San Angelo. A future plagued by famine and war, this is the future which Ren Westlake and another mysterious time traveler fled in order to return to their past, our present. This future is merely one possible future for the world of San Angelo – Westlake and the other time traveler may introduce changes which will completely alter the outcome of history – but it is a fascinating one which time travelers might visit or in which an entire campaign might even be set. The heroes of the late-20th century are gone, their memory fading amidst the famines, wars, and plagues which have cursed this dystopian future. Their successors are nothing but a dawning hope.


2002. NATO and the UN intervenes when the small eastern European country of Haradika invades the neighboring nations of Salavar and Tehtan and engages in a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the ethnic populations of Salavs and Tehts.

2004. The Salavar Peace Accords fall apart when a rogue superhero assassinates a Haradikan official in the name of the Salavan Liberation.

2005. NATO San Angelo - City of Heroessucceeds in overthrowing the Haradikan government with the help of the Justice Foundation. A regional government is put into place, but it is subservient to UN command.

2007. Haradikan nationalists, having raised their anger to a fever pitch by inciting the global domination over their homeland, declare themselves a sovereign nation once more. A newly resurgent Russia sides with the Harads, along with Syria. The so-called “Syrian Initiative” is soon joined by a hodgepodge collection of Middle Eastern nations. The world begins to draw lines.

2009. After two years of tense international relations the Haradans reveal a new development. Spurred on by the humiliation of their armed forces seven years earlier by the Justice Foundation they have engaged in a series of secret genetic tests, creating an elite force of uber-soldiers: The Haradan Saviors, supers loyal to a Greater Haradika. After several months of propaganda touting their new heroes, the Saviors begin a genocidal purge of the ethnic Salavs, earning the moniker “Haradan Savages” by those on the opposing side.

2010. Hesitant to engage a superforce, the world pauses as the Salavs are slaughtered. American superheroes succeed in destroying the research which created the Haradan Savages. Without the threat of new uber-soldiers being produced, the world finally responds. World War III ensues.

2013. After three years of war Haradika and her allies are losing badly. They engage in a limited nuclear strike, bringing the war to an end, but wreaking havoc on the global environment and creating vast stretches of radioactive wasteland. The superpowers are no more – Russia has been broken in half (roughly along the line of occupied territory); China has fallen into disarray, ruled over by feudal warlords; Europe has endured much during the war; America suffered heavily from the nuclear strikes, rendering it into a much more provincial place. Soldiers returning home from the war bring with them the First Plague, a biological virus with a prolonged incubation time.

2014. Although most of the Savages were killed during the war, one of them, having been driven insane, goes to London and engages in a massive killing spree. Thousands die. Combined with the horrific consequences of super activity during the war this event triggers the Pogroms – a systematic attempt to rid the world of unlicensed supers. Unbeknownst to anyone the singularity which had fueled the second age of heroes was becoming unstable and would soon collapse.

2017. A cure is finally designed for the First Plague (still known as the Great Plague), but this is only followed by more hardship. Food reserves established during the war run out and failing agricultural lands throughout the world are no longer capable of providing food for the population. Africa, in particular, is struck by severe famine.

2020. The Pogroms come to an end – supers are, for all practical purposes, eliminated from the world.

2021. A combination of global population declines and scientific advances allow for the problems of famine to be mitigated, but not entirely. Massive war debts and the decade-long degradation of industry has bankrupted almost all of the nation states. As a result regional governments gain increasing amounts of authority, particularly in the United States.

2025. The international community has broken down. Tribal warfare plagues Africa; Europe has engaged in multiple border skirmishes; Russia has disintegrated into a set of squabbling political ideologies; China is ruled over by feudal, anarcho-communist / pseudo-capitalist warlords; South America has been severely depopulated by continued famine; North America has regionalized with the national governments of Canada, Mexico, and the United States becoming increasingly weaker. The UN continues to exist, but less than half of the nations are recognized as current members. Into this chaos came the Second Plague. Developed as a biological weapon somewhere in China no one is even sure which brushfire war it was unleashed during, but was soon out of control on a global scale.

2028. Corporations in America develop a cure to the Second Plague, but negotiate sovereignty in exchange for it. A weakened United States government collapses within the year and corporate arcologies became the supreme authorities of the land. The UN is disbanded.

2032. A mutated strain of the Second Plague incubates in the African jungles. The Third Plague devastates Africa before burning itself out.

2039. The Alliance of North American Arcologies (ANAA) is formed. While not being a true government, it does provide a central decision making body through which corporate cooperation can be forged.

2042. The Northwestern League of Russian States launches an imperial campaign to reforge the lost glory of the Russia’s heritage.

2046. The remaining Russian States form the Eastern Russian Alliance (ERA).

2047. ANAA invades South America to secure natural resources. Although they meet with some success at first, the campaign quickly bogs down.

2052. Led by Saudi Arabia the remnants of several Muslim nations join together to form the Confederation of Arab States (CAS).

2055. The Northwestern League of Russian States renames itself the Russian Empire as it recaptures over half of the land once held by the Soviet Union. The Ukraine, one of the few European powers with any strength left, enters an alliance with the ERA, opening a western front in the Russian Wars.

2056. CAS overruns Israel.

2058. The Chinese Warlord Su Ling begins a campaign of conquering in an attempt to unify Southeastern Asia.

2060. Su Ling attempts to invade Japan. Japan repels the attack and several non-Chinese states align themselves with Japan in order to repel Su Ling’s imperialism.

2061. The Asian alliance against Ling formalizes itself, becoming the the Asian Freedom Force (AFF).

2062. Su Ling forms an alliance with the ERA to fight against Russia. The world is perilously close to a fourth World War.

2063. Ren Westlake, after spending close to a decade forging political and military ties among South American and African states, attempts a military coup designed to bring an authoritarian government to the world. Westlake sees himself as a savior to a world gone mad and this vision of a return to order over the chaos of modern reality appeals to many. Despite this the European, North American, and Asian powers all unite against this threat and Westlake’s force is quickly decimated. He finds himself, practically overnight, transformed from savior to fugitive. In his flight he finds a prototype time machine and uses it to return to the year 1988 in the hope of “making things right”.

2064. Ironically Westlake’s legacy changes the world, just not in the way he anticipated it. Although Su Ling threatens to renew the violence of the Asian and Russian Wars he finds little or no support from other nations, making it a hopeless cause. An uneasy peace settles over the world. In North America research into alternate energy sources leads to the creation of a new singularity.

2065. Su Ling finds himself deposed by a group of his mandarins who no longer wish to pursue his overtly violent agenda. Su Ling, in a fit of pique, launches his nuclear arsenal. He is stopped before he can completely to succeed, but missiles are already on-route to commit massive destruction. A hero appears and stops the missiles. Although he comes without a name he is quickly assigned the moniker of Savior. Under his guidance and inspiration a League of Nations is formed, uniting most of the European, North American, and Asian powers.

2066. A group of young heroes known as the Rogue Squadron appears. Unlike Savior they don’t capture the hearts and minds of the world’s people, but other supers begin to appear soon afterwards.

2067. The League attempts to expand its membership to include the CAS, but rogue elements of the CAS sabotage the arrangement. The world balances on the thin edge of war, but the intervention of Savior pulls everyone back from the edge.

2068. Savior creates the Neo Justice Foundation, an elite group of supers attached to the League.

2069. Savior is assassinated. Everyone in the League blames everyone else and peace totters on the edge of oblivion.

2070. The current year.

Go to Part 2: The Future of San Angelo



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