That’s Axis Plural FYI!
So after posting one and then another and then another post on axes of design, I decided to share the ones for Origin, the world where the masked vigilante known as Nobody works and lives. Here they are, starting with the four from Wild Talents which covers the world of Origin as a whole.
Red 3: History is not immutable. Though great inscrutable forces push the fate of nations ever onward, every now and then great men and women step forward to change the world irrevocably. These changes are never just good or bad. Sometimes they do not make very many ripples in the skein of fate at all. Either way, superhumans are closely entwined with the course of history. Science and technology are a good decade ahead of our universe, maybe even two decades in some fields, but extremely radical change or progress is prevented by social inertia. Society’s tastes usually have to play catch up if they don’t reject the change outright. (A cell phone? What am I, a stock broker?) The really freaky stuff is relegated to black budget military projects, cutting edge corporate firmware and private super teams. Public and privately sponsored superhumans cooperate and compete at the highest levels of power, but only under strict supervision and never for their own agenda. Superhumans who pursue the mundane fields of politics, science or economics are met with resistance or at the very least suspicion by the common folk, though a popular former hero turned mayor or governor isn’t unheard of. The smart ones are content to run the show from the shadows, lobbying for this or that policy or manipulating the market through covert deal making and hyper smart trading algos. Anyone who rocks the boat too much is shown the door or labeled a villain if the powers-that-be need a scapegoat to justify their latest agenda. In this world of mystery and conspiracy, being the power behind the throne is more amenable to the ambitious superhuman than taking over the world. History can change, but it takes a great amount of super effort to do it and an even greater amount to make it stick.
Yellow 2: Superhumans began as a chaotic mess of possibility. Anyone from any walk of life could be super. WWI simplified matters, pushing the superpowered into military or government service. After the war, one could count on them being soldiers, adventurers, vigilantes or entrepreneurs depending on their background. After the rise of the superhero and WWII, superhumans had no choice but to either walk the straight and narrow or be forced to contend with mundane and superpowered law enforcement. Nowadays, the situation has settled somewhere between the two extremes and superhumans can be found in a variety of professions. Most get jobs with the government or esoteric corporate gigs. The rest are evenly split between superhero/vigilante, mercenary, professional muscle and criminals. Very few get “normal” jobs and depending on their power set can be highly discouraged from doing so by the authorities. (Atomic Man in Accounting? Just down the hall, Agent Johnson. Look for the glowing cubicle.) The most stable and unchanging superhuman profession is of course, the superhero. People change and superhumans change even more so, but there is still a continuity of purpose that unites civilian crime fighting through the decades. Public perception of superheroes has shifted like every other demographic, but if one decides to punch evil while wearing a cape, there are stereotypes and expectations that come along with it. Even so, superheroes have to keep up with the times like everyone else lest they risk fossilizing into relics. They must work hard not to look dated or corny as tastes constantly evolve. Celebrity hero culture is endemic in society these days and the race to stay relevant takes up more and more of superheroes’ time as they chase endorsements, to the point that most super teams are regarded more for what they wore at the latest gala fundraiser than what super-threat they stopped that month. Heroes get old and retire or join consulting firms. The new generation adapts to fashion trends and the latest tech. One way or the other, the world of the super and the mundane constantly interact and affect each other and nothing stays static for long.
Blue 2 (secretly 3): The truth of this world is shrouded in mystery and kept hidden from the general public either by the powers-that-be or by more sinister forces but it’s not like they have to try very hard. Sure, people can fly or destroy tanks with their mind beams. Sometimes someone with a vastly inhuman intellect will invent a flying car or fusion power. Yet all of these have a place in the world. They make sense to people and fit neatly in little boxes next to space travel and heart transplants and otherwise don’t have much bearing on their day to day lives. Perhaps it’s a matter of distance. After all, a super soldier fighting mummy suicide bombers in the Middle East or a so-called “magical” superhero guarding an ancient hell gate are just as unreal and inaccessible to the average joe as, say, an astronaut or the pope. In the end, the world may be weird but it keeps on spinning. Of course, if one were to scratch a little beneath the surface, the true strangeness of the world would begin to take shape around them. Strangeness is the key, for there is more in this world than the paradigms of man can easily handle. Luckily for the secret masters of Earth, what the mind can’t handle, it handily ignores. It’s easy to assume that if flight and super strength are possible, then people would be more inclined to believe other fantastical claims. However, skepticism abounds. Truly magical heroes are seen as delusional psychics or hoaxers. The gods don’t meddle with mortal affairs or if they do, their agents on Earth don’t seem to effect church numbers all that much. Aliens are a matter of science fiction; even if something visited our planet in the vanishingly distant past they’re not buzzing around now. The headlines can be surprising and upsetting to the public but it pales in comparison to the wonders that await those who need only the courage to look. Mythological creatures, life after death, alternate earths, all these and more wait to be discovered by the intrepid, the insane, and the brave.
Black 3: It would be easy if bad guys were bad and good guys were good, but the world is not so simple a place to morally quantify. In fact, imposing so rigid a view on things can easily lead to innocent people dying and the guilty getting away scot free. The fact is, people defend the less fortunate and lend a hand in a crisis, but also turn on each other and fight over the most meager of scraps or idiotic of causes. The diversity of philosophy, moral code, and ideology is vast but despite this, folks will tend to agree on what constitutes good and evil, even if the details don’t always match up. Criminals and supervillains have as varied a number of motivations for their actions as everyone else. Crooks steal because of need or greed. Serial killers can be soulless monsters or victims of their upbringing. Nothing is just Black or White, even if the very idea of superheroes encourages the public to think this way. Superheroes do kill, but it is a necessary evil and not a decision made lightly. Supers that rack up a body count too quickly will soon find themselves on the wrong side of the law and more importantly, public opinion. Even the darkest, grittiest vigilante knows to keep their act relatively clean, lest the FBI’s SCORE team, the Nationals, or any number of super groups start to take notice. The line between dark crusader and super serial killer is very thin.
And now another six axes to round out the list. These cover Jet City specifically as the world of Origin is a varied and diverse place.
Community 4: It’s a fact that when you’re super, you tend to deal with other people that are super, even if you’re not strictly a hero or criminal. A strong sense of community exists among the powered as a result. Jet City in particular is quickly becoming a safe haven for the powered in the Pacific Northwest, lending a sense of solidarity to superhumans and their supporters. Secret clubs, underground clinics and super speakeasies, as well as black markets, super tailors, and specialized construction and demolition crews are popping up everywhere, expanding to service the needs of the new clientele. It’s not a parallel economy by a long shot as superhero numbers don’t even come close to equaling superhumans, let alone baseline humanity. But even so, the supers of Jet City are, for now, a tight knit community that rely on each other when the chips are down.
Exposure 4: Not hidden, not quite exposed. Superhumans are a poorly understood phenomenon, despite being scientifically verified for over a century. Even with readily available studies and research on the superhuman condition, it takes a certain bigness of brain (to put it lightly) to really understand how superpowers work and scientists not of the “super” persuasion often find they can barely keep up. Hell, the rest of the world is just now getting to cloud computing and touch screen phones, technologies that were invented by super scientists half a century ago! Science based heroes are widely accepted by society while magic based ones are looked at with derision and disgust. Laymen don’t believe magic exists, so people who call themselves mages must be liars or madmen, leading to further misunderstanding of the superhuman condition. Increasing complexity combined with lack of understanding keeps the super just hidden enough from the “normals” that exposure doesn’t just shoot straight to 5. As with everything in Origin, an air of mystery and conspiracy keeps things from being straightforward and simple.
Relations 3: In the world of Origin, superhumans come from all walks of life and can be equally feared and trusted. Superheroes, especially ones that are time proven or government vetted, come from a position of authority and are easily trusted by the public. But, they are still fallible and when they mess up, they mess up big time. Mask Laws and the politics of regulating superhumanity changes as the tide of public opinion ebbs and flows. In the days of McCarthy, superheroes were held to a higher standard while supercriminals were doubly condemned. In modern times, opinions of superheroes and superhumans in general are as diverse as the people who have them, but there is still a cynical eye kept on those spandex wearing weirdos after the EXTREME RADICAL run of 90’s superheroes.
Enforcement 3: Ever since the Terror Attack at the 1972 Munich Olympic games and the North Hollywood shoot out in America, police forces around the world have been racing to keep up with ever more violent and radical superhuman assailants. Gun control measures don’t work when the gun in question is your mind’s ability to project cosmic flame. While Superhero registration is common, Superhuman registration is distasteful in the Western World, although the practice is becoming more common with immigrants and underrepresented minorities. Most police forces have access to long guns, riot gear and armored vehicles, but they are keen to let registered supers handle a dicey situation when the need arises (less paperwork and less chance of serious harm or death? What’s not to like?). As superhero numbers continue to drop while superhuman numbers rise, police militarization continues apace, for the specter of a superhuman revolution forever hangs over the heads of those in power.
Vigilantes 2: Let’s face it, being a vigilante, an agent of justice operating outside the law, is a dangerous business. Most don’t last a year. The reason for the high turnover rate comes down to training and resources. People brave or crazy enough (or both) to become a masked crimefighter might not have a background in combat and tactics to make it on the streets. If they did, they’d probably be in the military or working private security. A vigilante with enough resources or superpowers at their disposal will end up becoming a legit superhero before long anyway. Superteams and government scouts don’t like leaving talent on the table and will be as persuasive as they need to be to scoop the up-and-coming hero. Those that don’t graduate to the superhero life live on borrowed time.
Criminal Activity 4: Crime is on the rise, big time. As criminals get wise and decentralize, they are also getting much more creative with black market superhuman resources in evading the government’s sight. Not to mention that with superhero numbers at 50 year lows, organized crime and street gangs are making a comeback in Jet City. Whole districts are owned by criminal cartels and the entrenched city bureaucracy have a silent agreement with the heads of organized crime to look the other way if they agree not to make any trouble.