Golden Age

The Golden Age (1938 - 1951)

The superhero archetype is first defined and the heroes who will shape the eras to come are created. It was a simpler time... A time of just causes and vengeance filled characters who had brightly clad costumes and spunky sidekicks at their sides.

Golden Age - Neptune CityThe Feel of the Golden Age

Many of our memories of the Golden Age are inaccurate as they are actually memories of recently written stories set in that era. Comic book writers like Roy Thomas and James Robinson have done much to recreate and sanitize the era. In the actual comics of the time, super villains were a relative rarity. The bad guys tend to be forgettable goons, evil scientists or deformed freaks. Most of the "Golden Age" villains we remember were actually created during the Silver and Modern ages and inserted into history. The more common villains were fifth columnists, mobsters and other "normal" opponents.The closest thing most Golden Age heroes came to fighting a super villain were the evil scientist -- not just the Luthors and Sivanas – but a multitude of genius crackpots who created colorful weapons of mass destruction.

Also note that many of the Golden Age heroes were not particularly averse to taking a life if necessary. Even Superman had occasion to knock off a ratzi or two. This having been said though, Golden Age heroes were not callous murderers – this wasn’t the Iron Age. Villains deaths tended to be, if at all possible, self-inflicted (usually accidental), and extremely ironic. Getting caught in one's own deathtrap is a good way for a villain to die. This was not a grim and gritty period, but people did get killed. Villains frequently killed wantonly and without reason but they also died grisly deaths, usually by accident or of their own making. Action and excitement were the most important aspects of the stories, and death is sometimes exciting. Rabid patriotism also popped up at this time, including the most negative aspects such as bad racist iconography and incredibly unsubtle racial stereotypes. Of course, just because most of the heroes of the era used ethnic slurs and insults, it does not necessarily follow that your heroes have to do the same. In the retcon stories (like All-Star-Squadron and The Invaders) the heroes have a more modern sense of ethics and morality.

Magic versus Science

During the Golden Age, what people knew about modern science was very limited and usually wrong. This means that, in the stories of the time, magic is at least as (if not more) common that meaningful science. What “high technology” is evident tends to be big, bulky, and unreliable. (The vacuum tube can be your friend.)

Golden Age Characters

Morality is typically very close to Black & White, although there is a sub-category of the Golden Age hero whose methods tend toward brutal – but even these heroes avoid actually killing or seriously harming the villains, instead using their extreme methods to frighten their opponents. At the start of the Golden Age period villains lacked actual superpowers, which means that the heroes are typically fighting either convention criminals or slightly Pulp-style masterminds. This period also includes World War II, so expect super-patriot heroes and villains after the first few years of the period. Teen sidekicks are unusually common in this period, and are quite appropriate as player characters.

Classic Power Origins for the Golden Age
  • Special training in boxing and gymnastics
  • Chemicals, particularly a serum or formula
  • Scientific accident
  • Magic
  • Learning strange powers in Tibet
  • Given or built a special vehicle
  • Radiation
  • Raised by animals
  • Alien
  • Robot

Character and power concepts tend to be simpler in construction. Complicated or unusual powers are uncommon, and many effective heroes are created with very few powers (or even just a single power). Many characters are relatively powerless, just athletic people with costumes and a usually gun-like gimmick. Female superheroes tend to get captured and tied up a lot. Golden Age characters also tend to have names that, by today’s standards, seem campy. Everyone one was Captain Something, Doctor Soandso, Mister Thisandthat, Adverbman, or Color Whatzits. Golden Age characters tended to lack depth. Many Golden Age characters in the comics were cardboard cut-outs with powers. (Bruce Wayne, for example, was a millionaire playboy who put a suit on and fought crime - nothing else.) In the Golden Age, the writers never bothered to go into *why* he did it other than the rather shallow response "oh... because his parents were killed by a mugger". They never actually delved into what precisely that sort of experience would do to a person. Now, this doesn’t mean that your characters must follow this convention, but don’t go so far overboard with detail that the mood is lost. Golden Age origins stories tended to be quite vague, with the actual sources of their power rarely explained or considered important. The most common power origins are random accidents with chemicals, visits to secret societies, usually in Tibet, and stumbling across an ancient magical artifact.
Character Build: 150 point base + 100 points in disadvantages

Note: Consider severely limiting the number and/or total value of limitations on powers.

Defining Events in Neptune City

In the early part of 1938, the Centurion appeared on the outskirts of Neptune City - appeared from 1000 years in the future. Upon realizing he could not immediately return to his own time he established a secret ID for himself. Shortly thereafter, forced to use his powers to prevent a disaster, he becomes the first super-powered hero. Although operating in a diminished power level due to the effects of his trip through time, he still possesses the power to be a significant force for good and so takes on the name Centurion (a thinly veiled play on word referring to his being from a different century). He has never revealed to anyone that he is not native to this time period, or what his true name is.

His presence; due in part to his "first superhero" fame, and in part to his level of power; will have a large influence on how superhero in the Golden Age comport themselves. Even the heroes who started as pulp-era mystery men eventually take on more heroic public persona due to his influence.