Love and the Single Superhero

Well, it’s February and Valentines Day approaches, so let’s get the show on the road with some talk about super-powered romance.

What’s possible? Well, this is a situation that has often bedevilled many gamemasters. In some cases, where the super powered characters are relatively normal as far as their physical being, sometimes that isn’t always the case.

What if a player decides his character wants to romance someone who wasn’t meant to be romanced? This is always a tricky situation, and it’s possible that the road to hell is paved with good intentions here. A hero could very easily lose his life or his secret identity to the highest bidder, etc, if the player isn’t particularly careful.

The key to keeping the game fun is going to depend on the player. If the player tends to dash headlong into situations, he or she may benefit from the three cautionary gamemaster rules. “Are you sure?”, “Are you really sure?”, and “Are you really, really sure?” Now, in most romantic situations, this means the GM sounds just like your dad, for a lot of us, and the player won’t listen at all, but nonetheless, your gamemastering obligation is fulfilled.

However, this is not the greatest danger that faces the superhero. The greatest romantic danger facing the superhero is a lack of suitable mates. I say this because, for the most part, the one thing that comics actually got right over the last twenty years is that with notable exceptions, superheroes have a really tough time dating and/or marrying someone who understands their lifestyle and intentions. (Barring One More Day, where Spidey threw the love of his life under the bus.)

In general, superheroes, like other groups of individuals, tend to date people who are most like themselves. Every so often you will get a hero who dates a normal (Superman, for instance), but this is fraught with dangers and a great deal of trouble. “Help, Help, Superman! Help!” Many heroes like the idea of constantly rescuing their girlfriends, but just as many think it gets old quick. For those who don’t, it’s a great idea to threaten their dependents, that’s what being a superhero is all about, If you can’t rescue your girlfriend from Doctor Squidd, then she will be in the clutches of his evil tentacles forever!

For the most part, superheroes in the comic books today have a tendency to date other superbeings. This is covered under two general parts.

1) Attracted to a superhero: Well, this isn’t too bad, except for the fact that their enemies are now your enemies and their problems are now your problems. This only goes so far, however. Example (From a really awesome Dave Cockrum graphic novel called “The Futurians.”) Avatar and Sunswift have been in love for 3000 years. However, Sunswift lives in the sun and is constantly on fire. As far as tragic romances go, this one pretty much takes the cake.

In a well-run game, this can get complicated. In the comics, Nightwing only has to fight the Gordanians when he’s dating Starfire. But really, that’s where the problems start. Just because Nightwing STOPS dating Starfire doesn’t mean the Gordanians have stopped watching him, plotting against him, and trying to beat him up. In a superhero game, characters can’t have writers fiat. They should choose their superpowered mate as wisely as a non-superpowered one.

2) Attracted to a supervillain: This road, oddly, is far less of a way to dusty death in the comics than it should be. For one thing, most supervillains are EVIL. As much as we all love redemption stories and believe in the healing power of love, if a villain gets his enlarged cranium from his rapidly increasing brain tumor (Thus expanding his mental powers), he may not be the best person for Intellectua to date. That alien princess who is promised to Warlord Zarkronn still should, if Zarkronn is the same species, be far more attracted to Zarkronn than the PC. A good number of these stories should end in tragedy, a fatality, or the epiphany that this romance was doomed before it ever got started. A good team of superheroes will attempt to talk the hero out of dating this powerful menace. Redemption is not an illusion often enough. Plus, it can always go the other way. “Why don’t you see my side, Captain Justice? You could rule the world with me! But you spurn me in the name of these naive fools who do not understand my greatness! Last night was great, but there is no way I’m letting you interfere with my plans. Now I’ll place you in this deathtrap, and if you die, I’ll cry, but that’s the price to pay for ruling the Earth!”

Romance should always be a complication in superhero games, be it the problems of fighting the supervillain and standing up your girlfriend, or dating Xorana, the Princess of the Underworld! Enjoy all of it. It’s what it’s there for.

  • Upcoming Appearances

    Heroicon, Decatur, Illinois, May 15-17

    Michael will be appearing at Heroicon as a Special Guest, where he will run games and appear on panels. All proceeds from this convention go to benefit troops overseas with games, both donated and purchased, sponsored by a group called Games for Troops. I know it's a trek. Come join me anyway.

    Nexus Game Fair, Milwaukee, WI, June 25-28

    Michael will be appearing at Nexus Game Fair as a Special Guest, where he will run games and appear on Panels.

    Gencon, Indianapolis, IN, July 29-August 2.

    Michael will be attending Gencon and representing Blackwyrm Games, where his latest products will be playtested and he will have at least one signing.