Twilight (part 1)

The meek did not inherit the Earth.

Welcome to the Twilight of the age. In the early 2000s, the governments of the world slowly collapsed and various social institutions crumbled in the face of accelerated social change. Almost by default, the superheroes took over. While the duties were unwanted and unasked for, the superheroes have become a new feudal royalty, offering a government and civic authority to those under their province. The world’s citizens find themselves in an upheaval more abstract and bizarre than any period, yet every bit as violent as the worst social and civil revolutions. As their institutions disintegrate in the wave of change, they cling to the various superhero clans who represent the only anchor of stability in this rapidly altering world.

Twilight of the Superheroes is a near urban legend, a pitch given by Alan “Watchmen / V for Vendetta” Moore. A very full version of it can be found on the web (such as here).

[The goal] is to create a storyline that lent the whole superhero phenomenon, the whole cosmos and concept a context that was intensely mythic and we extracted from the characters involved in it their last ounce of mythic potential, aiming at coming up with something that cements the link between superheroes and the Gods of legend by attempting something as direct and resonant as the original legends themselves. One legend in particular will be the main thematic drift of the storyline, this being the Norse legend of Ragnarok, twilight of the Gods.

I bring Twilight of the Superheroes up because I got a very unusual, and kinda neat email earlier this week. A gamer and seemingly cool dude named Sam sent me a note that read, in part:

So I’m GMing a superhero RPG based around “Twilight of the Superheroes”, the story proposal by Alan Moore. In the proposal, Moore talks about the idea making for an awesome superhero RPG setting, and I tend to agree; on the other hand, the actual plotline presented in the book doesn’t easily lend itself to gaming, given that it’s basically “Everyone follow Constantine around. Check out how awesome he is!”

Sam Googled Twilight + RPG and lo and behold he got a hit on me – because a few years ago (c2003) I co-wrote and co-ran a con scenario directly inspired by this. And Sam wanted to know if I had any notes that I might be cool to share. I’ve thought about using this blog/thinger to post some old game ideas. I don’t have as deep an archive as I probably should, but this is a good push to revisit that idea.

So I’m going to do up a few posts on our Twilight game, and try to put the files up for anyone who is interested. Back in 2003 I was in the thick of Silver Age Sentinels, The Authority RPG adaption, and the Amber community with Mark MacKinnon. It was a good time with the horizon bright and full of potential. And we (Mark & I) approached Ambercon as a challenge in game design. When the big mega-games worked, it was the fine wine of role-playing (or at least a hearty European beer). When they didn’t, well, it was still a weekend with great friends.

A year or two previously, our pal Prestor John had run the fantastic “Gods” game at Ambercon. It was the end times. We were gods from any and all pantheons. It was based in the Mt. Olympus Casino in Vegas. It was awesome.

So Mark and I riffed on the scope of that game. Ambercon was becoming a place to experiment with other diceless stories. We wanted to run a superhero game, and were fairly taken with The Authority and Planetary view of “mature superhero stories.” I can’t remember if I dug up the Alan Moore Twilight document from my files, or if Prestor John recommended it to me (his knowledge of mythology, and the occult, and superheroes is invaluable), but as soon as we read it we knew it was the perfect cornerstone.

We decided to blend the Marvel & DC Universes to have a greater pool of iconic characters. And we needed to use recognizable characters to get the players into the game more quickly. That’s one of the great things about the Amber DRPG and Ambercon — if you are playing an Amber game, all the players have a common basis of knowledge, and many of the characters exist from game to game (either as NPCs or even players, in many cases, when they play Zelazny’s “Elder” Amberites). As long as the players in our superhero game were playing Superman or Spider-man or Captain America, and NOT Batroc the Leaper or Speedball, it would be a short cut for getting into the meat of the game.

And we roped Prestor John in to help script the story, and to play as a “directed NPC” (not quite a GM, but more “scripted” than a player; consider him directly tied to the plot, and then given fairly free reign). John brought his “Dr. Deimos” mad-scientist to the game, and we spitballed from there.

In future posts I’ll try to explore the game from a few different angles. Feel free to poke me if there’s anything you’d like to know more about.

One Response to “Twilight (part 1)”

  1. Jesse Scoble » Twilight (part 2 - Players) Says:

    […] Earlier this week I started discussing the Twilight of the Superheroes game I co-wrote and co-GM at Ambercon US 2003. We designed the game as one of the “big event” games for the con. 2-3 GMs, anywhere from 10-16 players, 2 slots (ranging from 8-12 hours). The “big event” games tend to have primo locations, such as use of the VIP Suite at whatever hotel we’re based at, and are run a bit “free form.” They aren’t LARPs in the traditional sense, and costumes are rare if ever used, but players are encouraged to move around the space, to break off into small groups, to live it up a bit, as it were. We also – assuming the space is big & primo enough – tend to designate different parts of the game room as different locales. So one year we ran a game where Rebma (the underwater reflection of Amber) was key, we used the master bedroom as Rebma, the en suite bathroom w/jacuzzi as the queen’s quarters, and the main living room as Amber, the outer hall as the sky city, etc. […]

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Posted in General on September 19, 2008 by Jesse
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Jesse Scoble

Jesse Scoble is a writer, story editor, and game designer in no particular order.

He has won awards, written a Western Horror script, worked on computer games & pen&paper games, contributed to more than 30 titles, and makes a mean mojito.

Currently he is a freelance writer in Montreal, QC.