Colors Explained

Part Two: The Basic Outline

When the system was ready and I sat down to think about the project that would eventually become Colors, it turned out that simulating superhuman powers in a live-action setting was actually not going to be my main obstacle. No, the biggest problem would be the scenario. I didn't just want to recreate live-action cliches in a different guise, but create a superhero story that could also be told in media other than LARP. The easiest way to write a live-action scenario is to put everything but the kitchen sink in it: to write the characters so that everybody is scheming against everybody else and nothing is as it seems, to put in a representative from every possible faction, to make sure that all the weird things that just might happen actually do, thus making sure that nobody gets bored ­ and incidentally, that no one has a clue as to what is actually going on. Sometimes this is fun, but I find that it leads to games that are very messy, infinitely confusing and often very hard to take seriously. In addition, it doesn't sound like superheroes at all.

Therefore I opted for a storyline that was very simple and straightforward. One team of heroes has just had a very hairy but inconclusive battle with its arch-enemy. Running away they meet another hero group, and manage to convince them to take them to a safe place where they can tend to their wounded. As these two factions who have no particular reason to trust each other try to get along, the arch-enemy of team number one also gathers his forces, locates his foes, and goes in to have a rematch, not particularily caring that his opponents might now have allies. That was all there would be ­ no traitors in any of the teams, no alien observers, no strange coincidences.

Obviously the game would be run on pregenerated characters, which was fine by me. The world around the characters was going to be a pretty standard "realistic" superhero world mainly inspired by GURPS Supers and the Wild Cards books (although the Colors universe seemed to have no aliens, hypertech or magic). Most superheroes were just celebrities: actual full-time crimefighters were very rare, superpowered criminals even more so. The year was set to be 1987, originally for reasons of nostalgia, but later on it turned out to be a very good choice as the game then didn't have to deal with cellular phones which were pretty rare at the time. The tone of the story would be grim and realistic rather than four-color: superheroes didn't lead charmed lives, and didn't always save the day. I wanted to have an interesting game, and to me that means anything can happen and anyone can win.

Concept art for the main villain, (C) Suvi Ylioja, 1997.

Decent basic idea ­ now to fill in all the gaps.

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