Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Strange City background


Assuming I have not just destroyed text while trying out an iPad app (which I have done twice now, in the vain hope of finding something useful that Blogger recognizes), here is the Strange City background information presented as a blog entry, rather than a PDF. I hope this will be easier to update than the PDF, and won't require jumping through hoops to read.


  • Mid-sized American city
  • Highest frequency of super-powered individuals in the world
  • Highest ratio of super-villains to heroes in the world
  • Yesterday, the city's superhero team, the Centurions, disappeared.


Strange City was founded in 1666 by Ezekial and Hepsibah Strange, and it remained a small (almost endangered) community for hundreds of years. The discovery of high-quality pitchblende in the 1950s changed that, and the city quickly mushroomed because of its new connections to the tech sector. (Strange Village became a city in 1961.) The city has two universities. Both are well-respected, though not at the very top of their fields; Enoch Strange is a world leader in dealing with the sociology of the strange and the occult. SIT has developed some amazing new technology but critics say it exists mostly to feed the city's hungry tech sector.

Residents are "Strangers," even though the motto for a long time was "There are no Strangers in Strange City!"


The city has districts:

  • The Mines is now the factory and warehouse district, although it was once the mining area. There are underground tunnels here and occasionally one will collapse.
  • The Office is the business and banking district.
  • The Flats is the slums and the poor housing.
  • The Coast is where the rich people live.

Other districts to be named as needed (the artist district, the theatre and entertainment district, and so on).


Like most North American cities, Strangers love their cars. Even if you don't have a car, you can get around, though.

Strange City has a rail system. It is mostly an elevated rail system because parts of the city are on a floodplain, but some sections are underground. There are also buses, taxis, and Karry, an electronic ride-sharing service that has disrupted the lives of taxi drivers.

  • There is violence between taxi drivers and Karry drivers.
  • A super starts “flight-sharing,” carrying people to destinations as part of Karry.


Strange City has two and a half television stations, a dozen radio stations, a daily newspaper, and two weekly newspapers.


Two of the stations are network affiliates. The networks do local news, but most of the programming is imported.

The half station is part of the educational process at Nugget College, a private institution in town. Its programming is entirely local and changes with each semester. Some shows have a continuity because students stay with them from term to term, but all of them change once in a while.

  • Annoying or sycophantic questions will probably come from reporters at the network affiliates; truly oddball shows and “events” will come from Nugget College as a student experiment.
  • A new reporter is looking to make a name and get hired by a bigger station somewhere.


There are three big stations whose formats change occasionally. They are currently oldies, talk radio, and country & western. They are owned by syndicates, and the programming is dictated elsewhere. The rest are small radio stations that cater to specialized tastes.

  • A talk radio hosts chooses to make vigilantes (or a vigilante) a convenient scapegoat for everything.


There are three newspapers.
  • The Bee is the daily, and is part of a chain. Leans conservative or Republican.
  • The Strange Times is a weekly with excellent investigative journalism. Founded in the early 1970s. Leans liberal or Democrat.
  • The Citizen Weekly is best known for its ads and its personals, though the personals are mostly online now. (Still, the Weekly’s Strange Happenings column is looked at by everyone from occultists to cat-loving grandmothers.)

  • The Bee sometimes hires someone who wants to make a name and move up. It is also an excellent adversary if someone wants to be persecuted by a paper.
  • The reporters from the Strange Times are likely to uncover things that someone doesn’t want uncovered.
  • The Strange Happenings column is an excellent way to spread rumours and news, and its pseudonymous author might actually be a super or occult master.


The two universities are well-regarded, but their names alone not going to get you a job, unless you're in their specialties.

Enoch Strange College

The much older of the two is the Enoch Strange College. It is a liberal arts collegis wit a reputation for turning out independent thinkers. Its specialty is the sociology of the occult, and its rare book library is the envy of universities this side of Arkham. There have been scandals — one of the professors founded a cult 5 but the place has been free of trouble for about fifteen years. (Of course, some would say that it's ripe for problems.)

State Institute of Technology

Despite the name, the SIT is no longer affiliated with the state college system, but it is a public college. (There is a move to change the name to Strange Institute of Technology.) The Institute deals with technical matters. Critics say that it exists primarily to feed the ravenous maw of the local tech scene and that it turns out drones instead of thinkers—but they are well-learned drones, for all of that. There certainly are professors whose experiments are on the cutting edge, and in fact a bequest from the Judas Strange Foundation requires experiments that are risky.

The SIT campus is on the edge of town. It has a complex maze of delivery and steam tunnels underneath it that make it well-suited for criminal lairs, but the criminals in question are usually creating or growing dope.

  • The Judas Strange Foundation requirement justifies some of the (frankly unscientific) experimentation practices in the comics.
  • SIT is where PICA and PRAT send captured supervillain devices; it's also where other proto0villains go to steal the gadgets they need.
  • It turns out that a group of supervillains are taking some of the technology courses to try and understand their (stolen) technologies. After they fail the midterms, they decide that kidnapping the professor is what they need to do.


There are other schools and colleges in the area. The best-known is Nugget College, a vocational college that teaches electronics and media presentation.


The city has a super-group, the Centurions. Its most prominent member is Quantum Strange; his principle foe is K-Osprey (who sometimes spells it Chaos Prey). As the campaign begins, the Centurions go missing.

In the last few years, though, the Centurions have taken to fighting global or even interstellar threats, and the business of protecting the city largely falls to the Parahuman Reconnaisance and Tactics team and vigilantes. PRAT is always willing to bring out its big weapons, and Lt. Karpinski has a somewhat adversarial relationship with the local vigilantes...possibly because they tend to deal with the problems before PRAT can. (They never refer to themselves as PRAT, by the way, though everyone else does. In the police force, they're Strange City Parahuman Reconnaissance and Tactics, or SCPRT.)

There is an unusually high number of supervillains in Strange City: they outnumber heroes by between 15:1 or 20:1, depending on the definitions used. Enoch Strange's sociology professors have been working on why, but they haven't come up with a reason why there even are supervillains. The conservative press claims that having powers makes you a supervillain.

As a powered person yourself, you know:
  • There is power suppression technology that works on most supervillains most of the time. (In ICONS, treat it as a Power Nullification rank 9.)
  • The federal government agency that deals with superhumans is the Parahuman Investigation and Corrections Agency (PICA). (They also hate their nickname.)
  • Medical care with no questions asked is available from the Abattoir, from Dr. Chimera. The Abattoir moves from time to time, but someone usually knows where it is (a difficulty 3 task for a known super). Dr. Chimera rarely has the most up-to-date equipment, but it knows its business. Dr. Chimera can handle trauma from violence and has a comprehensive knowledge of the effects of various superpowers. Some have wondered why Dr. Chimera’s has never been raided; those who wonder too loudly disappear.
  • There is a supervillain prison outside the city—the Black Rock Prison. It is administered by PICA but the actual day-to-day operations are contracted out to a private company. (Black Rock will have a riot and the private company will be replaced when I come up with a cool place to have the replacement prison.)
There are a couple of places that are regarded as neutral ground. Generally, no one steals there (largely because there isn't anything worth stealing) and they are places to have a talk. The existence of places like this are one reason why the police force has a guarded relationship with vigilantes. One of the places is a bar; the other is a vegetarian cafe. The third place is medical.
  • The bar is Free State, a country & western bar in the Mines district.
  • The vegetarian cafe is Home on the Grains, over in the Offices district.
  • The medical place is the Abattoir. Dr. Chimera and its staff do not allow fighting on the premises.


Known Heroes

Characters are ones that I have come up with. If you don’t like them, don’t use them. Player characters are not in this, yet.

Magnificent Centurions
The Centurions are the original superheroes who now handle mostly global or even interplanetary threats. They consist of whomever you need, but you can start with:
  • Quantum Strange, a powerful wizard-like figure who controls the very power of quantum reality. Quantum Strange is the de facto leader.
  • Black Aster, an environment controller who can shape things to her will. She can control the weather or shape the wall itself into a fist that grabs you.
  • Heartbreak Kid, a mentalist who is best at manipulating emotions. (The “Kid” hasn’t aged in ten years.)
  • Blue Streak, a speedster. (Evil twin or alternate personality called “Mean Streak.”)
  • Shadowguard, a vigilante who plans for everything.

(The existence of five heroes implies the existence of about a hundred villains.)

Team Qualities
  • The Premier Team (With Premier Problems)
  • Been There, Done That
  • “Carry the Standard!”
Adam Silverback
Intelligent gorilla. Polymath. Lives in a compound in town under PICA/military supervision. He's not a weapons or technology guy, but anything else...

  • Polymath genius
  • Under military protection
  • Still a gorilla
Dr. Ghost (Dr. Andrew Wassermann)
A beginner at this hero thing. In his secret ID of Dr. Wassermann, he is an oncologist with a clinic in the city. Phasing, Density increase, healing, affliction.

  • Doctor with Hippocratic oath
  • Good Samaritan
  • In love with villain

Known Villains

Agent of Chaos
A nihilist villain, named but not developed.

A group of villains who got their powers from explosions.

Cruncher (Francis leTourney)

A very strong tough guy, with extra strength when he's squeezing or crunching things.

  • To survive, give out more than you get
  • Revenge for, well, everything
  • Cares for crippled sister


Transformed into a plant person, Epiphyte (also known as Caroline Flow, as the Lady of the Glade, as Sundew) lives in Isley Park, and has a rough deal with various criminal activities, who deliver to her people they want killed. The police tend to avoid the park, which is officially closed at night.

  • Eats her prey
  • Now a plant, not a person.
  • This is her home

K-Osprey (Thabiso Lincoln)

The madman genius who has killed, but who always manages to find henchmen. Lots of Strangers know someone whose life has been touched by K-Osprey. His origin is a mystery. He might have been an experimental subject for one of the various create-a-superhuman programs; he might be born a mutant. Flight (wings), gadgets, some innate damage resistance.

  • Stochastic mastermind
  • Madness is liberating
  • If all else fails, smash it

Lucky Strike (unknown)
Lucky Strike got her name from her lucky breaks. She’s a thief, and a good one. She is best known for her luck, but the gadgets she carries and improvises are also well known. Gadgets, Wall-crawling, Leaping, Gadgets, and an uncontrolled probability control.

  • Thief with a heart of gold
  • No man is good enough
  • Grudging respect

Mr. Bland
A supervillain with supremely practical evil plans, some of which are legal.

Rebound (Karl Groenveld)
Reflects the attack back at the attacker; if a "good" power is used on him, like Healing, he can reflect back the harmful version of the power. (This is an extra.)

  • Child to protect
  • Hates cops & authority figures
  • Hurts you because he can

Silver Prism (Brendan Li)
A fellow with "quantum silver blasts." Not a goood person, but someone who keeps bargains. Invisibility, force field, Energy Drain aura.

  • Bully
  • Show your status
  • Connected in the criminal world

Twitch Kid (Owen Carmichael)
Handsome, born to wealth, built armored suit to regain family’s lost fortune by force.

Vampire Squid (Harlan Cornell)
A creepy little fellow with tongue tentacles that can wrap around a victim and suck out his or her life. The victim is stunned by the act of wrapping them up often stuns the victim. (In game terms, after a page of Binding, start draining Stamina until death.) The two tongue attacks can happen separately, but target gets Determination point if one happens without the other.)

  • Creepy in looks and deed
  • Light attacks do +1 degree of damage
  • Addicted to “feeding” and “flavour” of person


Parahuman Security, Incorporated
A small security firm that hires parahumans as security guards, usually by organizations that expect to have to deal with parahuman invasions. (There isn’t money to hire PSI for the university labs, though.) Buildings are generally set with alarms, and three-person teams head out (the third person stays in the truck). Team structure depends on the powers available, but PSI doesn't like to break up a team that works.

Because powers are relatively rare, PSI has had to be quite egalitarian in its hiring. Color, creed, sex, or criminal record don’t matter as much as whether you have a useful power. It is notable as a place where ex-cons can get work, once they have a Certificate of Rehabilitation from the government.

Here’s one successful team.

  • Stalker (River “Eyes” Glimpt) Fixes “third sight” on one of the team and reports back if there’s any unusual problem. Unlike the other two, Glimpt has a criminal record, arrested for being the eyes for a criminal gang for a couple of jobs. Qualities:
    • Parahuman security guard
    • Working stiff
    • Something to lose
  • Padlock (Dwight Celenza) He can bind things up. The binding doesn't last long, but it usually lasts long enough to get the target into the van, which usually is proof against a lot of powers. Qualities:
    • Parahuman security guard
    • Working stiff
    • ?
  • Scope (Mackenzie Ney) The one who finds things. Qualities:
    • Parahuman security guard
    • Working stiff
    • ?
Standard Supervillain Minions
There is an employment agency that makes them available. Its owner, Carmine Childress, always refuses offers of work from known supervillains, but the thinnest of excuses will work. His cousin is a real estate agent who finds these people lairs.

  • Normal guy
  • If I lose, the boss’ll kill me