The Potential

Super-powered characters first emerged publicly in the 1860’s. At first they were mostly mutants. Mutants have obvious physical deformities as well as unusual powers. They were shunned and feared – and burned at the stake or stoned when feasible. An arms race of a sort began. Humans experimented with mystic and scientific means of enhancing their own prowess to become human champions against the mutant threat. Governments and business interests got involved. As the general definition of what was normal and what was weird blurred and expanded, all manner of uncanny characters came out of the woodwork, including aliens and mythological creatures that turned out to be quite real. To this day, mutants are generally seen as the bad guys. Super-powered characters that are not mutants are collectively known as champions. It is undeniable that champions, at least as often as mutants, are unsavory or out and out villainous. Great power does that.

Civilization has teetered on the edge ever since the turn of the 20th century. Great nations have difficulty maintaining a monopoly on force when an individual could spontaneously develop the ability to single-handedly hold off a small army. The Confederate South broke off from the Northern US successfully. Their victory proved to be for naught, as a mutant slave who called himself Black Moses led a successful slave revolt across the South using his powers of teleportation to organize everywhere nearly simultaneously. What would be recognizable as the US has been broken up into the Northern US, the Confederate States, The Negro Collective (which coexists uneasily within the Confederate States), and individual western regions. Many of the most valuable centers of natural resources are under the control of Imperial Japan. Texas is a sovereign nation(inevitable!). Most of the remaining southwest is part of Mexico, and the northwest and midwest is a sparsely inhabited frontier inhabited by hardy white settlers under the nominal rule of the Northern US as well as native Indian tribes. Nazi Germany never fell, in part because of it’s wholesale and enthusiastic courting of mystic and quasi-science champions. At the same time, its empire never reached the size it did in our time, in part because it actively antagonized mutants. Mutants did not take to gas chambers lightly.

In Asia and Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union is great, powerful, and rotting from the inside out from corruption. Nevertheless, it has the most powerful military in the world and actively recruits mutants and champions. Even the most hideous mutant feels like a rock star in the USSR if he or she has sufficient power. China and Japan are locked in a grinding war of attrition. Nominally, the USSR backs China and the Northern US and Canada back Japan, but the outside interests are fine with letting China and Japan destroy each other.

Places that have always retained a connection to their mystical or magical traditions have become nexuses of mystic power. Giants walk among the cannibals of Papua New Guinea. Shamans of the rainforest are as likely to crush a bulldozer with animate vines as to flee from the technological monster. The Outback of Australia is a vortex of interdimensional power. Only the most centered of the Aborigines are capable of visiting Uluru (Ayer’s Rock) and returning to the mortal world, and even they are changed forever by the journey.