Adventure Seeds From Superhero Comics

I love superhero comics. It’s one of my favorite genres, with one of my favorite mediums, and they work together like peanut butter and chocolate.

Lately I’ve been playing around with stealing borrowing ideas and storylines from comics, and I’ve found it to be a great source of inspiration. You don’t want to play out the whole stories, of course, but often there is a good situation that is a powderkeg of overlapping and opposing factions. Set up the powderkeg, give the PCs a reason to get involved, and play to find out what happens.

Here are some examples that I’ve put together:

Arcane Dreams

One day, a mysterious energy falls upon a region with several villages, who all share the same dream of an ancient horror or indescribable emotion. Most people are shaken but unharmed, but several have been magically altered, embued with arcane powers beyond their ken. Some have been physically transformed. Others died in their sleep. Chaos ensues.

Some people, with powers beyond their control, have caused horrible accidents and great devestation. Others have grasped some portion of their new abilities, and are using them to better their own station, at the cost of the unpowered. Some untouched folk have fled as refugees, or started demon hunts, or organized resistances. Some have been driven mad.

Hooks

  • A relative or otherwise friendly NPC to one of the PCs is affected by this.
  • The PCs accidentally unleashed this energy in the first place, by dabbling in things best left undabbled-in. Will they try to right their wrongs?
  • An established enemy of the PCs is behind this, and is using the town for their own ends. What ends might those be?

Outlawing of Magic

The local upper class has been rallying for some time about the dangers of magic users. The clerical orders have sensed the changing winds, and joined in with the local government, to be allowed to continue their good work, rather than spend their limited energy fighting political battles. The mage’s college, however, is having none of it. “First they’ll say that experimental potions are too dangerous, next thing you know they’ll be outlawing necromancy!”

This has been boiling for a while, when suddenly the King/Queen/Other official is assassinated in the night, and all evidence points to magical means.

With this tipping point, magical restrictions were quickly introduced. Practicing magical arts in any form has been strictly forbidden within city limits without a permit, which are granted only for fulfilling “necessary and useful acts for the public good” (or, of course, for the personal uses of the wealthy and elite). Healing is limited. Those with known magic have been outfitted with a magic-dampening collar, to be removed only when they are useful. And for those not deemed useful? Well, the library from the mage’s college still burns with phosphoresent light, reminding everyone of the price of disobedience (and also, nobody knows how to put the fire out).

Some of the religious orders have rebelled and gone underground. Magical rites are a strong part of their culture, and not easily given up.

Still, even within the magical community, there is disagreement about whether or not this is a bad thing. Magic is now in high demand, and those willing to submit to the restrictions can make good money. And the public in general believes wizardry to be dangerous and unethical, tolerated only as a means-to-an-end (thanks to a broad propaganda campaign).

Hooks:

  • PCs need healing, but are denied for flimsy reasons. Rumor is, though, that if they go underground they can find someone willing to perform the rites.
  • PCs need to enter this city for some unrelated reason, but magic detectors have found them and now the militia wants to collar them (only for the duration of their stay, of course). How badly do they want to stay?
  • PCs have a job smuggling contraband into or out of the city. Any kind of magical artifact is contraband here - this could be a religious order sending away treasured artifacts for safe-keeping, a poor family needing a magical potion, a rebel mage who needs one last ingredient before their schemes can come to fruition, or an important ruler who doesn’t want anyone to know about their addiction to magical hallucinogens. Will they keep the contract? Will they get distracted by the plights within?

Prison Break

A prison containing the most dangerous criminals in the realm just failed. Someone, somehow, managed to get every last prisoner out and free. Now escapees are roaming the countryside, causing problems and quickly banding together to have a chance to get out (or get even).

But here’s something the public doesn’t know — this wasn’t just a prison for criminals. It was also the prison for something much more powerful that can’t be contained by mundane brick and stone. The rituals required to release it are not well known, and would take some time, but while the prisoners were breaking out and the guards were distracted, something else moved in and has put up traps and magical wards to prohibit anything coming in to the prison. Those in the know are fearful that someone is trying to break the seals within, which would spell an even larger disaster.

Hooks:

  • Someone suspiciously powerful is desperate to get those prisoners back in prison (or in the ground). One group in particular they want taken care of, and they’ll pay obscene amounts of money to see it done. Why would they even be involved? What do they have to hide?
  • Word spreads of a group of prisoners who have taken over an entire town. But when the PCs arrive, they haven’t really taken over, they’ve just settled down to honest work, and the townsfolk have taken them in. Why were they imprisoned in the first place?
  • One of the PCs is a known thief, and who better to break into a prison than a thief? The PCs could be hired to forge a way in - maybe with full knowledge of the mess that they are getting into, maybe with some flimsy cover story.

What Else?

Taking situations like this from existing media, changing or adapting some of the circumstances and then letting some players loose on it is a time-honored tradition. I hope that this inspires you to start mining for adventure seeds from your own collection of stories, superhero comic books or otherwise.


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