A rough idea of what the campaign setting is like, subject to some revisions and modifications of course. Basically an outline of the backdrop, but it won’t necessarily stay that way, and it left certain things out (the possibilities for psi powers for example).
A Note On Meta-Humans
Deltas – The Industrial Age
In an odd stroke of coincidence, the emergence of meta-humans came out of the death and misery of the Great War. First it was a dying Scot who watched his body stitch itself together before his eyes; then came the Frenchman who found he could turn himself incorporeal, then the Prussian Landser who could unerringly sense enemy artillery barrages and the placement of mines. While the rise of these so-called supermen displayed their newfound powers on the battlefield, they had little impact on the war, arriving too late in 1917; their greatest impact was in the Armistice, where Germany was prohibited from employing these supermen in the military, to the point of forced extradition of meta-humans to neighboring countries.
But their impact, both cultural and political, grew rapidly. These people and their strange powers retained an air of mystery; physiologically identical to humans, no scientists could pinpoint the exact cause of these senses and abilities. The press dubbed them Deltas, akin to triangular arrowheads bursting into the world. And they became a pop-culture phenomenon, dominating mass media with characters both real and fictionalized. Shadowhawk, the millionaire playboy who used his wealth and prowess to fight crime, dominated the pulps, while comic books became an overnight fad following the creation of Superior, an orphaned European war refugee raised from infanthood by honest hardworking Midwesterners, who discovered his amazing powers in puberty.
With the fame (and infamy) of these Deltas saw the rise of costumed vigilantes replicating the actions of their famous and fictional brethren; some Deltas used their powers as means to get ahead in life, while others formed vigilante organizations to enforce the law. Some fear and apprehension followed in the wake of the Delta Age, for while the Deltas were mortal, their strengths and supernatural abilities put them miles above the average police officer. With the rise of Deltas in Chicago’s gangland during the Prohibition years, Eliot Ness contracted a patriotic Delta named Minuteman to aid in the war against crime, thus beginning a long lineage of government-sponsored meta-humans. Their impact continued to expand over the decades: it was the super-genius billionaire Doctor James Horatio Winter, of the Winters Foundation, who helped bail out the government during the Depression after all.
The first use of militarized Deltas came during the minor Chaco War between Bolivia and Peru, which left the already barren Chaco Boreal a burnt-out wasteland. But it was the Italian invasion and occupation of Ethiopia that brought combat Deltas to the popular eye; despite condemnations from the League of Nations, Deltas began cropping up in every major military, with more powerful or populous states using their Deltas against their smaller, weaker neighbors. The Soviet invasion of Poland in 1920 would have succeeded if not for the intervention of the British; the Chinese and Spanish civil wars were rife with bloodshed.
This was taken to its logical, and deadly, extreme when it was revealed Germany had secretly built up an army of Deltas, the occult-fueled mad scientists of SCYLLA, which it unleashed on an unsuspecting Poland in 1939. The British, having guaranteed the safety of the East European states from both Germany and Russia, leaped to their defense and sent in the Freedom Five; the entry of France and Italy triggered the bloodiest, most brutal war in the history of mankind. The United States declared war after a surprise attack obliterated Pearl Harbor, and an ill-advised invasion of the Soviet Union bogged down Hitler’s Germany in a two-front World War.
The end came after almost five bloody years: a blinding explosion over Tokyo, a surprise and accidental explosion of an American bomber pilot, leveling the city and triggering the next development in meta-humans: the Gamma Age.
Gammas – The Atomic Age
What exactly happened in that B-29 none can say, but reports indicate its copilot began to exude some kind of energy, panicked, and eventually created an atomic explosion powerful enough to cause shockwaves felt as far away as Los Angeles and Moscow. That kind of power had never before been seen in a Delta; while the news of the Japanese capitulation on the decks of the USS Missouri made the headlines, scientists and officials watched the steady uptick of a new breed of Deltas… who harnessed a new breed of power.
Scientists dubbed these people Gammas, first to capitalize on the growing popularity of atomic science, then in the realization that the power and diversity of meta-humans were increasing with each new generation. This second generation of meta-humans displayed a wider range of skills than Deltas; the depth and range of abilities was greater, as was the variety of appearances, these powers shaping their mortal shells.
The Gammas had their impact on the Atomic Age much as the Deltas had influenced the War Years and Depression, but it was the Gammas whose actions would change the face of the world. The United Nations was formed with its own contingent of Gammas called the Judicators, the first international league of meta-humans; while supposedly a diplomatic corps, their goal was the cessation of hostilities between UN member states by any means necessary, in order to prevent another round of World Wars.
Tension between the United States and Russia, the US and China, and later China and Russia, caused the breakdown of the league on its large-scale mission. It was, however, quite effective in brokering peace agreements between the Arabs and Isrealis, keeping the Middle East demilitarized in return for an expansive project to make the deserts bloom once more. The great political chess board froze; as long as nations continued to play by the rules of the United States and Soviet Union, not rocking the boat, they were allowed to function without interference. Some attempted a third way; de Gaulle’s European Community, for example, and the Non-Aligned Movement of third-world nations. Mutually Assured Destruction, a harsh reality in the age of militarized Gammas, kept the Cold War going while preventing all but the closest of close calls.
Betas – The Mutant Age
Most people would not have been able to explain what a “mutant” was prior to that fateful day in November of 1963; following the Kennedy assassination, “mutant” had more of a negative connotation in American parlance than “Communist.” The president’s term had been a tough and divisive one; his deployment of Gammas to Vietnam is still debated to this day, as was the use of Gammas during the great Space Race to terraform Mars and Titan. But the death of an iconic American individual, polarizing or not, brought the American people closer together than anything else in the 20th Century. Within weeks, the Mutant Registration Act had passed through Congress, making it clear that there was no place for Mutants in President Johnson’s “Great Society.”
While the exact genetic triggers which cause a person to be born a meta-human are still unknown, Mutants were different: it’s easy to see, under any microscope, the drastic changes the mutant body has undergone. Even on a cellular level, Mutant physiology was warped and twisted; some had bodies made of liquid metal, while others had their forms warped and twisted, gaining tentacle arms, leathery wings, even bestial traits like extended froglike tongues or fur. While it’s true these same kinds of physical changes affected previous meta-humans, and that not all mutants were hideous, these deformities cropped up in higher degrees and frequencies in Mutants. Mutants—-more properly called Betas—-were determined to be some kind of off-shoot, a Neanderthal line of dead-end genetic mutations, nature’s failure to improve on existing perfection. While Gammas were popular figures, as the Deltas before them, Betas were seen as problems; some meta-humans distrusted them, fearing their replacement, while the sheer randomness of a Beta’s generation was cause for concern alone.
Mutants might have remained a pitiable and derided offshoot of meta-humans had it not been for the actions of the Fellowship of Mutants. This splinter group is led by a mysterious Israeli mutant who spent years trying to peacefully promote mutant-human interaction. As the situation worsened, he saw the oppression of his Jewish ancestors reflected in his mutant brethren, from the South African Apartheid to the American South’s anti-mutant “Jim Crow” laws, and something snapped within him. The “mutant message” changed overnight: mutants were not second class citizens to be abused, not pitiable genetic offshoots but genetic successors, the inheritors of a new Earth. If mankind would not abide mutants, mutants would survive without mankind; move over, homo sapiens, homo superior is here. When attempts to meet with President Kennedy were denied, extreme action was taken.
The meaning of this message, and the Fellowship’s goals, was clarified in the destruction of the President’s motorcade. Mutants were placed high on most-wanted lists, even those unaffiliated with the Fellowship. When some mutant members of meta-human groups, both private operators and US Government operatives, were targeted, the role of meta-humans continued to erode. After the so-called “Bicentennial Battle” between aging Delta Paladin and criminal mastermind Fenris caused the destructive disappearance of downtown Chicago in a radius some 25 miles from the Sears Tower, the United States outlawed meta-human law-enforcement.
Remaining capes—-vigilante or government agent, Gamma and Mutant alike—-were driven underground. Internal strife within the superpowers—-mutant witch-hunts, paranoia, bordering on civil war within China—-took the focus off the world stage and national ones. The Judicators were disbanded, and in their wake, the all-human unit ARMOR (Allied Rapid Metahuman Operations Response) was created.
Alphas – The Modern Age
The government lockdown on meta-humans could not be sustained indefinitely; there was a need for meta-humans acting as agents of their government. Without meta-humans, global politics were collapsing into chaos. Acting unopposed, border wars broke out, and rogue states began to arise, following in the wake of the Iranian Revolution. A series of terrorist bombings crushed a once-booming Japan, resulting in an economic downturn and in a series of unpopular, short-lived governments. The Soviet Union struggled to retain order in the face of secessionist republics, holding the Union together on the backs of their Rocket Red powered armors. And the Judicators were unable to prevent new bloodshed in the Middle East, nor the race riots in South Africa, nor the rise of international crime and criminal meta-humans.
World order all but collapsed when an intergalactic war between two alien empires arrived in our galaxy, with an infinite number of alternate Earths appearing in the heavens for weeks. It was the self-sacrifice of many Gammas and mutants that saved all the worlds from the unknown dooms of paradox. People realized, too late, that they needed the assistance of super-powered beings.
But the seeds of distrust had been sown; the Mutant Registration Act became a foundation of the legal system dealing with meta-humans, causing Gammas to wonder if they would be next. What is the world coming to, many asked, when the Chinese and Soviets treat their meta-humans better than Americans? The move back to licensed meta-humans, much less open leagues, has been slow and uninspiring; numerous capes spent most of the 1980s hiding in the shadows, waiting to see that this was not some trick to capture the remaining capes. It’s a cultural and political wound that America is only beginning to heal. Still, heroes young and old are forming new leagues and re-forming past ones, struggling to keep truth and justice alive.
As a stop-gap measure during this transitional period, a secretive organization has been formed somewhere in the US. Its mission is to recruit eligible candidates from the penal system—-vigilantes, criminals, mutants… villains—-and use them as a secretive strike force across the globe. Unaffiliated with any government, it performs the dirty jobs that need doing… or so go the rumors. Unsubstantiated rumors have attached any number of deeds to this unnamed group, everything from the Chernobyl disaster to the Asian economic collapse. News of this group continues to live and breed only in supermarket tabloids.
The era is a chaotic one. The Middle East is alight with decades of pent-up hostility. The Cold War continues to dominate geopolitics, the three-way struggle between China, the Soviet bloc, and the US (with its limited allies, mostly Britain and its former Commonwealth). Japan and Southeast Asia are in the middle of an economic crisis; the European Union has finally paid off, an economic boom has the faction launching its own space program, with new space elevators erected daily. The Americans and Soviets are struggling to claim tracts of Mars before the other. Deep-space probes on Pluto have seen no activity from either the Skell or Dreeg empires, though scientists are slaving to design defense mechanisms and weaponry in the case of a future Crisis.
It is into this world that the next generation of meta-human has emerged to. Called Alphas, their moniker represents a new beginning, hoping to escape the flawed past of meta-human mistrust. The ranks of Alphas include everything from humans with heightened abilities, further Mutant strains, newly-created cybernetic organisms, even a limited number of extra-terrestrial—-and even extra-dimensional—-beings who hope to make Earth their new home.