Elevator Pitch: Dark Age Super-Heroes

Category: Cussin' In Tongues
Created on Thursday, 18 May 2017 Written by Steve

First, off, the Hex Gen Con schedule is up on our web site. Our games (especially Hobomancer) tend to fill up quickly, so register early if you want to make sure you get a spot. I'll be running 4 Cinemechanix playtests at GenCon this year, including one about today's topic: Shitty 90s comics. I just finished updating Team Force Alpha 37 to the newest version of the Cinemechanix playtest rules, and this week instead of a new post I'm sharing the whole Elevator Pitch. You can download Team Force Alpha 37 from my website and get the current playtest draft of the core rules (v1.3) by joining the Cinemechanix playtest group on Facebook. 

Here's an excerpt: 


Super-powered heroes have been around for most of the 20th Century. It started with the mystery men of the interwar era, who meted out justice from the shadows in dark alleyways and foggy city streets. During World War II, they were replaced by brightly-clad heroes who fought for truth, justice, and American way at home and overseas during the war and through the 1950s. Things got trippy in the 60s and the consciousness expansion experienced by many super-heroes encouraged them to tackle social and political issues. This new activism, coupled with the general sense of mistrust and malaise of the post-Watergate era, led to a backlash which gave rise to the gloomy, grim, and generally dickish super-heroes of the 1980s. Now it’s the 1990s, and things are about to get EXTREME!


In Team Force Alpha 37, players take on the roles of the anatomically improbable super-heroes who burst from the pages with teeth clenched and guns blazing to kick off the Dark Age of Comics.   

The Ficton

Team Force Alpha 37 is set in a standard “much like our own, but much weirder” super-hero world, but it’s a darker, grittier world than the super-hero settings of earlier eras. It’s a world of urban decay, rampant crime, vast conspiracies, and corrupt institutions.


Team Force Alpha 37 is made up of very powerful characters, so their adventures can easily span the whole world and beyond, but their headquarters and primary area of operations is Detroit. As the crime-ravaged rusting husk of a once-great city, Detroit provides the perfect backdrop for the ultra-violent adventures of a Dark Age super team.  

Ficton Rules

  • Style is everything and action-packed badassery should be the top priority in every story. Substance is for wussies and Englishmen.

  • Everyone is cynical, filled with rage, grief-stricken, out for vengeance, or just kind of a dick. The character’s bad attitude is often due to some past trauma. Players are welcome to develop their characters’ tragic pasts, but shouldn’t feel compelled to do so. The veneer of character depth is all that’s really important. Things like self-examination and emotional catharsis just waste time that could be spent kicking ass.

  • Heroes should have few or no moral qualms about killing the bad guys. Or anyone who gets in their way. Or anyone who looks at them funny. Or puppies.  

  • Hero and villain names should be tough, kinetic-sounding, and poorly spelled. The 90s is no place for Professors and Lads, but violent or dark names that in earlier times would only be appropriate for villains are now perfectly acceptable for heroes.

  • Male heroes are ridiculously muscular, have enormous veins, and are often (in the words of Grant Morrison) “crisscrossed with a bewildering, non-functional tangle of straps, pouches, buckles, harnesses, and leather garter belts.” Scars and other minor disfigurements are common, as is stubble.

  • Female heroes are also anatomically improbable, with tiny waists that in our world would cause their spines to snap under the weight of their enormous breasts. Their costumes tend towards the stripperific.

  • Very few heroes have secret identities. The need for them is alleviated by the fact that the characters in Dark Age comics rarely have meaningful relationships with normal humans. Normal humans (especially lovers) may be part of a character’s tragic past, but within the scope of the game his most mundane friend is probably a grizzled black-ops agent with a cybernetic head.

  • Heroes with no or low-power superpowers make up for it with guns. Lots of guns.

  • Most weapons are ridiculously, impractically large.

  • Most super-powers are supernatural or technological in origin, and are typically gained through some Faustian bargain with an entity or organization that is at best amoral and probably outright evil.

  • The world is filled with shadowy organizations, evil corporations, and highly secretive government programs.


  • Comics of the 1990s (especially by the creators who founded Image Comics)

  • The Creators Universe trading card set by Dynamic (1993)

  • The films of Zack Snyder


Recommended Reading: The “Image Versus Substance” chapter of Supergods by Grant Morrison


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Elevator Pitch: Dark Age Super-Heroes .
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