The Superhuman World
The first known teams of superhumans were military in nature, formed during both World Wars, though these were generally dissolved when peace was achieved, or shortly thereafter.
Beginning in the 1960s, a multitude of independent superheroic teams have been formed in the United States, but few of these have lasted for very long. The Champions of Los Angeles lasted from 1979 to 1981, making it notable for being one of few superhero teams lasting over a year.
The only publicly known superhero groups currently active in the United States are the Avengers and the Fantastic Four, both based in New York City; both groups occasionally venture across America to deal with threats, and possess vehicles to enable them to respond relatively quickly (within an hour or two) across the United States.
Less well known hero groups are the Defenders, who keep a fairly low profile, and the elusive mutant group called the X-Men (whose goals and loyalties are uncertain).
The highly technologically advanced U.S. organization SHIELD can respond very quickly to emergencies, but generally refrains from involvement in crimes not threatening national security.
Numerous groups of supervillains form frequently, only to rapidly disintegrate from dissent, and this generally only occurs when cooperation in a single profitable goal seems to be an attractive idea.
The Brotherhood of Mutants (usually called “Brotherhood of Evil Mutants” by the media) is an exception – though membership have changed, it has existed since 1969, and remains a serious threat, especially since they share a violent and subversive ideology.
Another well organized team is the Serpent Society, though like most supervillains, they do not follow an ideology, but are more mercenary in attitude.
The Frightful Four and the Masters of Evil are also lasting teams (even though membership seem to vary through various incarnations), though these generally mostly focus on their arch enemies (the Fantastic Four and the Avengers, respectively).
Numerous other small groups, such as the Wrecking Crew, seem to mostly stay together but generally do not pursue any large scale plans.
Three large organizations threaten not only U.S. national security but world peace. These are:
AIM (Advanced Idea Mechanisms), HYDRA (meaning of acronym unknown), and ULTIMATUM (Underground Totally Integrated Mobile Army To Unite Mankind).
Even though SHIELD does not have international jurisdiction, governments usually extend such enforcement powers to deal with threats from these organizations (excepting China, the U.S.S.R., and a few other nations who are generally reluctant to cooperate with SHIELD).
Individual superhumans: there are hundreds of active superheroes and supervillains around the world (although the concentration is by far the highest in the United States), but most of these do not threaten the safety of the world or a nation. Research into superhuman abilities have produced the “Wyndham-Zola Scale”; a very general classification system for evaluating the power level and danger posed by a particular superhuman.
In order of increasing threat rating:
ALPHA – minor threat.
BETA – regional or national threat.
DELTA – international threat.
OMEGA – global threat.
The distinctions between Beta- and Delta-level threats are often unclear and frequently debated – some authorities consider them Delta-level threats for this reason. Similarly, some have argued that there should be a “beyond” classification (above Omega), for threats that are effectively unstoppable, but the overall view is that it would be both defeatist and meaningless, since it would be impossible to measure such a threat.
In 1970, the publication of an extensive list of threat ratings assigned to specific superhumans resulted in a long series of superpowered duels over these ratings, and full listings of individual classifications are no longer made available to the general public.
With the notable exception of New York City (often called the “Superhuman Apple”), most urban areas in the United States typically do not have resident superhumans that would exceed ALPHA-level threats, though since the more powerful superhumans are also usually mobile, this will vary from time to time.
(more details on campaign events, individuals and groups to come in later posts)