I noticed on Drive-Thru RPG today that a new RPG product had come out based on the Legion of Super-Heroes comic book: the Future Heroes RPG. Future Heroes RPG is a role-playing system set in a future much like the LSH.
Instead of the United Planets, the action takes place in the Core Worlds. Where the Legion only had a few associated minor groups like the Legion of Substitute Heroes and the Heroes of Lallor, the Core Worlds appear to have numerous superhero teams.
I’ve just bought the product and been reading it tonight, but I like what I see so far. I haven’t had time to get into the nut-and-bolts of the system, but I like the setting material I’ve read before. I absolutely love the fact that there’s not one monolithic robot type or robot race, but several civilizations of artificial lifeforms which have evolved beyond their original parameters–or might have entirely different origins altogether.
Excuse Me While I Talk about Myself
In my main campaign, the subject of “biosynth” rights come up often in space adventures. You have the Biosynth Movement (peaceful), The Biosynth Revolution (terrorist), and a number of singular figures spread throughout the galaxy. They don’t mind being called androids, but they hate being called robots, and they prefer biosynth, which implies they are living beings, though synthetic. I can’t remember where that term is from, but maybe I came up with it myself (probably not). Point being, I like that the Future Heroes designer sees the proliferation of synthetic races as likely.
I’m reading through Future Heroes right now and I’ll give an update when I know enough to review it. What I liked is the fact Brett Fitzpatrick took inspiration from my favorite superhero team as a kid: The Legion of Super-Heroes. This is the second such RPG supplement I’ve seen inspired by the Legion, so I thought I’d give applause for both. I should mention I’m in no way affiliated with either Starbright Illustrations or Skortched Urf Studios–I just admire their work. I wish I had the guts to publish some of the roleplaying ideas I’ve had over the years, so I like to applaud those who do.
About The Legion of Super-Heroes
The Legion of Super-Heroes takes place 10 centuries ahead of present-day, in the 31st century (or 30th century back when it debuted in 1958). The heroes are teenagers, each with a different power, each from a different world in the United Planets.
The Legion members were introduced as friends of Superboy and, back in the early years, they often visited Superboy in Smallville of the 1950s. For years, the Legion’s comic title was “Superboy & The Legion of Super-Heroes“. Their story ran in DC Comics for over 50 years and they’ve had a title throughout most of those years, though the Legion universe has undergone at least 4 different iterations.
Why the Legion Was Great (for a Kid)
The LSH was great because it contained a lot of silly Silver Age humor (Matter-Eater Lad, Arm-Fall-Off Boy) and maintained that quirky sense of humor through most runs, but also had cosmic storylines, high-flying combat, a good deal of romance, a seeming cast of hundreds, and frequent tragedies.
Since the Legion tended to have between 25-30 active members, the membership was no stranger to casualties. Ferro Lad died saving the Earth from a Sun-Eater. Invisible Kid was crushed to death by a monster name Validus, the most powerful member of the Fatal Five. Both Tenzil Kem and Brainiac-5 went insane and were confined for months, even years. And since these were teens giving their all for the cause of peace and utopia, this added a certain extra pathos to the sacrifices.
I loved the huge cast. From what I’ve read of behind-the-scenes pieces, artists hated drawing the Legion, for the very same reason (too much work). One danger of the reading the Legion was, if you had a favorite obscure character, they might not be seen for many issues.
My favorite was always Ultra Boy (Jo Nah), because he had all Superman’s powers, but he had the limitation he could only use one at a time. That made him seem more human, somehow. It probably helped he was from the tough streets of the ghetto world Rimbor and never quite fit in. Brainy framed him for murder once and the other Legionaires wondered for what seemed like dozens of issues whether Jo actually murdered An Ryd or not. When he started to unravel these mysteries, he got amnesia and became a space pirate. I know his various trials and tribulations had me on the edge of my seat…for several years.
Love Live the Legion!
The original story lasted from the 1950s into the 1980s, when the Crisis on Infinite Earths played havoc with their continuity, since Superboy never existed. This led to revisions in which Mon-El replaced Superboy in much of the continuity. Mon-El was a longtime Legionaire from Daxamite, but otherwise a Superboy analogue. The comic, written by Paul Levitz for the better part of 10 years, continued until Keith Giffin took over with his Legion-War. This would be the first of two stints on the title, including his controversial (with longtime fans) “5 Years Later” era.
I loved the Keith Giffin Era of the Legion (his second run on the title), but many fans hated it. Within the first 5 issues, Keith Giffin destroyed the Legion’s timeline…twice. In one issue, Mon-El had his final reckoning with the Time Trapper, a cosmic manipulator villain who acted as a foil for (and limitation on) the Legion’s and Superboy’s frequent travels through time.
But the next issue, the Trapper’s demise meant Mordru had no counterbalance and became all-powerful, so a cabal had to destroy that timeline and retcon Glorith into the universe as a replacement for the Time Trapper. It was great stuff, even though it went downhill after Giffin left the title. By the time Zero Hour destroyed the 35-40 year first run, I was giving up.
Since then, the Legion has been given several chances, always using their teenager status to try to appeal to new audiences. All of the later incarnations had their moments, though none had the charm of the original. Jim Shooter, who wrote the Legion when he was 16 years old (DC didn’t know that) even returned a couple of years ago after 40 years off the title to write a storyline or two. The latest Jim Shooter stories were for the universe where teens and adults were at a state of virtual civil war…not meant to keep the old-timer audience, since we’d now identify with the older generation in that rift. Whatever, Long Live the Legion!
One Bit of Legion Trivia
The appearance of X-Men mainstays Storm and Nightcrawler were designed by Dave Cockrum, an artist on the LSH between 1972 and 1974, but he designed them for the Legion of Superheroes comic. When Cockrum left DC Comics to work at Marvel Comics, he took those designs with him and helped Len Wein co-create Nightcrawler and Storm (and also Colossus) for the 70s revamp of The X-Men–I’d say the most successful revamp of a comic title in the history of comics.
As you can tell, I love the Legion of Super-Heroes, so I’m happy to see my favorites receive some love from RPG game designers.
About Starbright Illustrations and Brett Fitzpatrick
Starbright Illustrations has 10 other gaming supplements downloadable in pdf or print-on-demand on Drive-Thru RPG and RPG Now. Below are the 10 other supplements from Starbright that are available.
- Extreme Future 2nd Edition
- Realms Second Edition
- Mecha Clash
- Realms Area Guide 1, Metrax
- Realms World Map (Hyrope)
- Extreme Future Galaxy Politics Map
- Spaceship Owner’s Manual – Fuwalda
- Deep Space Encounters
- Mecha Flash
I’ve found Deep Space Encounters to be useful when brainstorming ideas for my pseudo-futuristic ideas. I mainly GM supers adventures these days, but it’s cosmic supers, so they get into space a lot. Extreme Future I’ve also used, though I’d like to run a campaign using the system. I’ve never bought Realms, but if my old sword-and-sorcery gaming group ever gets back together, I’ll be buying this pdf.
Skortched Urf Studios
Skortched Urf Studios has over 200 role-playing supplements found on Drive-Thru RPG and RPGNow. While I don’t have all of these supplements, new arrivals are automatically emailed to me when they’re released. I often end up buying these products. Psi-Watch is a modern supers setting inspired by the original run of Image Comics. Galaxy Command is old school 1970s space opera.
Otherverse America is one of the oddest game settings you’ll ever find. It’s set in the eary 22nd century, where an Abortion War is taking place in a divided America: the pagan Choicer Nation (pro-choice) versus the fundamentalist Lifer Super-Nation (pro-life). wow! Black Tokyo is only for mature audiences, since it’s based on Japanese hentai with elements of anime and manga. D20 Decade and Thinking Races are just some of the series of excellent setting material, while I got a lot of use out of Cruel Evolution.
- Psi-Watch Unlimited
- Galaxy Command
- Otherverse America
- Black Tokyo
- D20 Decade: The 1980s
- The Thinking Races Series
- Cruel Evolution
But the supplement I’ve used the most was Guide to the Known Galaxy. The concept of the life-chain I find fascinating and I’ve used at some length in one of my campaigns. The history of the True-Gray and Half-Gray I find fascinating. The bizarre history of the Third Pantheon and the strange primal worlds revolving around the Phallus I’ve raided for ideas…a lot. The author at Skortched Urf is clearly some kind of pagan, so this is a far departure from the Legion of Super-Heroes. But I can see where he’s coming from.
Anyway, I sound like I’m shilling, but I simply want to support creators who take inspiration from the same stories that stoked the imagination in my childhood.