Emerald City Knights
The world of Emerald City is one very like our own. It has many of the same places, the same languages, and the same history, but it also has many differences. The main one is the existence of super powers and heroes or villains possessing such powers. Such people have existed since ancient times, though the civilizations of the past often called them “demigods,” “wizards,” “demons,” or other supernatural labels. There has been a significant surge in the numbers of these colorful characters since the turn of the 20th century, and the numbers increased yet further after World War II.
Starting in the 19th century, it became common practice for heroes and villains alike to mask their identities in order to avoid retribution for their actions, either from their enemies or from the local authorities. The 1920s and 1930s in America saw these masked vigilantes become known as “mystery men,” while the post-war era dubbed them “superheroes.” Some cities (such as Freedom City on America’s east coast) have many heroes and villains, while some (like Emerald City on the west coast) have none that are known publicly.
There have been periods where costumed vigilantism has been more or less acceptable in various parts of the world. One notable time was during the period of the Moore Act, from 1984 to 1993, when it was actually a federal offense to perform acts of vigilante justice in costume. The act was nationally unpopular, and was repealed in the wake of the Terminus Invasion of 1993, when the world’s costumed population—hero and villain alike—banded together to save the world from a deadly incursion from another reality.
Every hero and villain has something that makes him or her extraordinary. Whether a genetic mutation, magical abilities, or training that pushes the bounds of human skill, there are nearly as many origins of super powers as there are people possessing them. Some of the more common origins of superheroic ability are discussed below.
There have always been people who were “born different,” but the quantity and power of such individuals has been growing steadily since the discovery of atomic weapons. While there is little solid scientific evidence linking radiation and super-powered mutations, the anecdotal links are widely accepted as fact. These “mutants” frequently carry deformities along with their powers, and even heroic ones are often hated and feared by the people they seek to protect.
Magic is real, though it is a power that few can even begin to claim to understand. Magical beings—creatures almost human but suffused with magic—have existed since time immemorial, as have sorcerers, mortal men and women capable of wielding magic to alter reality in various ways. The magic-users of ancient times also sometimes crafted powerful artifacts, objects of magical power with abilities that did not diminish over time—and in a few rare cases, grew more powerful. A magical hero could be a descendant of a mystical race with inborn powers, the inheritor of a legacy of magic, a sorcerer, or even just the latest wielder of a magic item.
While scientific thought has progressed largely at the same rate in the world of Emerald City, there have always been geniuses who were ahead of their time. These “super-scientists” are often capable of creating wondrous devices whose workings seem almost magical, but which are simply based on scientific principles not widely understood by the community at large. Frequently, the inventions of such people are so advanced that no one else can adequately maintain or repair them, making their inventions singular wonders rather than industrial advancements.
Super-science heroes and villains can further be divided into heroes who gain their powers through scientific means (like a super-soldier serum or experimenting with one’s own genes) and those for whom science and invention are their powers (like an engineer who wears a suit of power armor or a villain with a mind-control helmet).
Sometimes known as “psychic powers,” abilities of the mind are often poorly understood by modern science. Efforts have been made by major governments to pin down the exact nature of psionic ability for over fifty years, and some limited successes have been made in training, refining, and inspiring psychic talent. Still, psychics are something of a wild card.
The universe works in mysterious—and occasionally maddening—ways. Some heroes or villains are the focus of various cosmic-scale entities or principles, from being a living embodiment or order or chaos, to being the former herald of a world-eater, to just being a human who somehow bonded with a black hole. Cosmic powers are often inexplicable and just as often quite amazing to behold.
Humans are beings of nearly limitless potential. Even “normal” people who push themselves to their physical and mental limits can often go toe-to-toe with traditionally super-powered individuals with nothing but skill, talent, and a healthy dose of luck. Physically and mentally conditioned heroes and villains can frequently pull off almost supernatural feats through sheer determination.