Author Topic: Victim of Circumstance  (Read 6359 times)

Flawless P

  • I walk between the rain drops, tommy gun and katana in hand
  • *****
  • Posts: 1024
    • View Profile
Victim of Circumstance
« on: January 11, 2013, 12:02:17 PM »
After the newest episode, I started thinking back to some of my super heroes and it made me want to discuss this with the forums.

It's so true.

All of it is true.

So many accidents!

I have Flux, my shapeshifter character. He was experimented on and developed powers and forgetting large parts of his life in the process.

Although the flip side of that is that I have a billionaire mutant who's only power is hyper intelligence. He uses that power to create super androids to protect the world but he refits the android design to make it a suit of power armor. So he's not a victim of circumstance at all.

My players in my Wild Talents game are mostly comprised of this "victim of my powers" trope.
42.7% of all statistics are made up on the spot.
If you can't fix it with duck tape you haven't used enough.
I intend to live forever -- so far, so good.

Gogmgog

  • Slayer of the Dread Gazebo
  • *
  • Posts: 4
    • View Profile
Re: Victim of Circumstance
« Reply #1 on: January 19, 2013, 01:44:34 AM »
Did your billionaire mutant consciously give himself hyper intelligence?  If not, then he's somewhat a victim of circumstance, isn't he?  And then what makes him heroic is the fact that he chooses to do heroic things with the power that he has.  I think this is the crux of the genre.  It DOES create an intersting game dynamic if you explore the 'gifted power' vs 'sought power' dynamic, but in most every heroic story, the focus is on what one does with the power that one has.
That said, you could sure do fun things in a campaign where some PC's were quite powerful by accident, and so hadn't worked through all of the moral ramifacations of super-heroism; and some obtained their powers intentionally, and before doing so had develped clear plans on how to use their powers.

crash2455

  • I walk between the rain drops, tommy gun and katana in hand
  • *****
  • Posts: 766
  • #1 Brovine
    • View Profile
    • The Drunk and the Ugly
Re: Victim of Circumstance
« Reply #2 on: January 19, 2013, 07:02:15 PM »
Also it's worth mentioning that Greg Stolze's more recent superhero roleplaying settings are entirely about characters who were victims of circumstance.  In Progenitor, the only way you can have powers is if someone with powers used them on you.  You could actively seek this out and ask for it, I suppose, but it's a bit of a gamble.  In "Better Angels," though, it's completely beyond your control.  You have superpowers because an angel or a demon is possessing your body and granting them to you.

Really, "victim of circumstance" or "subject to forces outside their control" describes a lot of comic book superheroes as well. 

Superman: affected by the earth's yellow sun
Spiderman: bitten by a radioactive spider
Green Lantern: was chosen by the ring
The X-Men: Born this way
Doctor Manhattan: blown apart at a molecular level and learned how to affect all matter
Etc. . .

As far as I know, there aren't a whole lot of comic book stories about people who just wanted to become superheroes where that wasn't the central focus.  Watchmen and Kick-Ass both detail this idea, though it's worth noting that anyone who wants to get superpowers seems to be unable to actually get them. 

A few notable exceptions to this rule include Iron Man and Captain America.

Teapot

  • I dream in graph paper lines
  • ****
  • Posts: 264
    • View Profile
Re: Victim of Circumstance
« Reply #3 on: January 19, 2013, 10:56:48 PM »
Nope, Iron Man was forced to build his suit in a cabe by Viet Cong or Terrorists or whatever.

I suspect that if you were to search American culture you'd find something about wanting power making you unfit to have it. You might find these theories around many elections and going back to Plato. Then you'd see comic companies realizing that Will to Power Man isn't resonating with the audience.

Unless it's a kung-fu comic, sometimes with magic, Dr Strange kind of looked for power, a bit, if you squint.

crash2455

  • I walk between the rain drops, tommy gun and katana in hand
  • *****
  • Posts: 766
  • #1 Brovine
    • View Profile
    • The Drunk and the Ugly
Re: Victim of Circumstance
« Reply #4 on: January 20, 2013, 02:19:09 PM »
I suppose also Captain America's origin was more because it backed the themes of patriotism: He didn't seek out superpowers, he volunteered for a dangerous procedure because IT HELPED AMERICA

Teapot

  • I dream in graph paper lines
  • ****
  • Posts: 264
    • View Profile
Re: Victim of Circumstance
« Reply #5 on: January 21, 2013, 12:05:25 AM »
From the big two I can only think of a few people who wanted/tried to get their powers:

Booster Gold (who went through many arcs where he learned about how hard powers are)
Tim Drake kind of showed up and said "I wanna be Robin."
Hardball from The Avengers camp thing bought his and went through many learning curves.
Steel built his suit but kind of felt he owed Superman more than he wanted an awesome flying suit.
Manhunter (Kate) looted the evidince locker for super gear, but she was kind of hunting criminals she thought had escaped justice.
The kid with the lightning from Avengers Academy didn't want his powers but kind of uses them for profit/fame and is being sent after Booster Gold in the "Must learn that heroing is srs" path.
I think Dr. Strange was looking for something, not sure if he wanted magic or not.
I'm sure there are a few others but it's really rare.

QuickreleasePersonalitY

  • I am worth 100 points in GURPS...ladies
  • ***
  • Posts: 232
  • if you see your self on the road, kill it
    • View Profile
Re: Victim of Circumstance
« Reply #6 on: January 21, 2013, 03:16:20 AM »
howzaboot:

Batman

Ozymandias
The Comedian
Nite Owl

Tom Strong
Greyshirt



Captain Canuck

Axel Brass
John Stone

Belinda Gates
pretentious i am
lest pretentious i become

Teapot

  • I dream in graph paper lines
  • ****
  • Posts: 264
    • View Profile
Re: Victim of Circumstance
« Reply #7 on: January 21, 2013, 08:55:28 AM »
Batman, Punisher etc are driven by personal tragedy. They didn't want to be heroes, they were going to therepy/acting out. They much more represent vigilante justice as a cultural value, the noble revenge idea beloved by audiences everywhere. In their case they didn't get bitten by a radioactive mugger but still only turned to their crusades after a big event.

I'm gonna get all squiggily and point out that Ozymandias may not count as a super hero with the city wide murder and such as well that Captain Canuck got his powers by accident. Axel Brass and Tom Strong are less super heros and more Pulp heroes much like Doc Savage

I'm not saying no one wanted their powers, and the further you go from mainstream US super heroes the more likely you are to find people who wanted it. But the whole culture thing is huge about good guys don't set out to set themselves above the common man.

Even in more meta works like Empowered and The Boys, most of the heroes type people didn't ask or go out looking for their powers as much as got them by chance.

crash2455

  • I walk between the rain drops, tommy gun and katana in hand
  • *****
  • Posts: 766
  • #1 Brovine
    • View Profile
    • The Drunk and the Ugly
Re: Victim of Circumstance
« Reply #8 on: January 22, 2013, 12:31:30 PM »
It could be argued that Batman Beyond is at least a combination of victim of circumstance and active seeker. Terry whatshisface happened onto the batcave, found Batman's future suit, stole  it and decided to go fight gangsters until Wayne forced him to use it responsibly.

Teuthic

  • I am worth 100 points in GURPS...ladies
  • ***
  • Posts: 129
  • of the Bleak Cabal
    • View Profile
Re: Victim of Circumstance
« Reply #9 on: January 22, 2013, 03:01:59 PM »
I'd actually say that Batman Beyond is a straight aversion of the trope; while he did find the batsuit, he was not coerced into fighting crime. An undercurrent of the whole idea is getting the power forced upon you somehow, maybe not against your will, but you don't have any say in the matter; You have to pick up the magic hammer or die, the radioactive spider bit you, you have magical genetics, etc. Terry had the choice of walking away once he found the batcave; he could have done nothing. Instead, he stole Batman's suit; he's a prototypical Base Raider.

SageNytell

  • I dream in graph paper lines
  • ****
  • Posts: 435
  • We're the Tusken Sound Raiders... start the rave.
    • View Profile
Re: Victim of Circumstance
« Reply #10 on: January 22, 2013, 03:12:53 PM »
Look, if we're going to be that nitpicky the only character in superhero comics that I can think of that meets this definition of 'not a victim of circumstance' is goddamned Lobo. He's got special powers because he's an alien, doesn't need someone else's sun to get powered, is the last of his species because he decided to kill all the rest for kicksies...

It's a common trope for a reason, it's about the inspiration of a normal person to become something more through a profound personal experience, and these tend to be traumatic.

Teapot

  • I dream in graph paper lines
  • ****
  • Posts: 264
    • View Profile
Re: Victim of Circumstance
« Reply #11 on: January 22, 2013, 10:44:56 PM »
I'll go back to Booster Gold as a proto base raider. He stole high tech goodies and ran off to fight crime and make cash.

Steel while not a raider did build power armor to fight evil.

Tim Drake more or less choose to be Robin because Batman needed one.

The Question is kind of neat in that he was doing the vigilante thing to get stories and indulge his love of beating people. Then Shiva beat him to death, brought him back to life and sent him to a mentor. After, he still did the look for stories thing.

Doom. Right now he's a hero with the FF. And he sure as hell willed himself into power armor and mystical might.

I think one reason it's rare is the status quo thing in major comics. That "newer" stories are more likely to feature people looking for power as a hero. There is also the Hero Cycle, Campbell's ghost has a hold on identfying a favored story shape.

The other problem is that so many of the heroes come from being born that way. Mutants, Gen-active kids and such.

Gorkamorka

  • Oregon Trail 13 Superstar
  • *****
  • Posts: 646
  • Let me GURPS that for you.
    • View Profile
Re: Victim of Circumstance
« Reply #12 on: January 23, 2013, 02:43:58 AM »
In Warren Ellis's Authority about half the characters were victims of circumstances and about half decided to become superheroes.  The Midnighter, Apollo and The Engineer all used someone else technology to voluntarily transform them self.
« Last Edit: January 23, 2013, 03:22:21 AM by Gorkamorka »
Gorkamorka (Fridrik)