Paragons is a campaign setting closely resembling our own world. Unlike many superhero settings, which explore how human history would have been different if superpowers existed throughout the entirely of civilization, Paragons tries to look at what our society would look like if superhumans appeared only in the past few years and had the power to shape our world away from its present course. Characters should be as realistic as possible, with human motives, backgrounds, and connections. They, as a rule, shouldn’t be the billionaire playboys of traditional superhero media.
The mood of the Paragons setting is gray-scale without traditional superhero ethics regarding right and wrong. Characters can freely act less than heroic – but every decision carries with it consequences.
Normals and Paranormals:
Until several years ago, the existence of post-humans was mere speculation and the stuff of myth. With the appearance of a highly organized group of post-humans carrying out a series of bold criminal activities, the public, law enforcement, governments, and the scientific community had to acknowledge that the world was changing. This organization, simply known as The Eleven due to the code names of the criminals (ranging from Mr. One to Mr. Eleven), pulled off previously unimaginable robberies, scams, and even violent attacks in their construction of a criminal empire. Only with the creation of a post-human UN-backed team known as Vanguard were The Eleven imprisoned or killed. At the same time, the collapse of The Eleven seems to have involved infighting and the mental instability of at least one member (Mr. Six). Mr. Six’s mental breakdown and high-profile fight with police outside of Evanston, Wyoming left hundreds dead and stands as the most visible evidence of the threat that paranormals pose.
The existence of post-humans is now a matter of common knowledge. Individuals with superpowers, known as “paragons” or “paranormals,” however, are hardly accepted by the general public as the saviors of mankind. Some strange cults have in fact popped up, claiming that the paragons of the present age are in fact mankind’s future, but they remain marginalized in mainstream society. The general public and the government representing it usually views paranormal activity with great suspicion, though private individuals sometimes try to replicate the “breakout” events that trigger the awakening of paragons.
On the global stage, Vanguard retains a positive reception from the world at large. Serving as a parallel institution with Interpol, the team features a roster of a few dozen paragons and thousands of support staff and normal agents. Strict background checks ensure that recruits are stable and that few negative public relations incidents occur with the organization. Despite the safeguards, much of the American public views Vanguard with lukewarm support even when the agents operate on American soil.
Masks and the Law:
In the United States the experience of The Eleven and the recognition that humanity now possessed a threat from individuals who could be walking weapons of mass destruction, fueled the passage of the nationwide Paranormal Registration Act. Under the law, all paranormals must register their name, powers, address, and other personal information to local authorities. Many paranormals choose to hide their identity, wearing masks and resisting the Act, however, viewing it as an unfair violation of their privacy or a civil rights issue. In addition, both anti-vigilante laws and harsh anti-mask court rules discourage costumed vigilantism.
Mind reading, mind control, and similar powers are illegal to use on others. Likewise, use of paranormal abilities such as energy projection is generally categorized under aggravated assault in most of the USA. Information obtained from mind reading, pre-cognition, post-cognition, and similar exotic sense is not admissible in a court of law, nor is appearing under a costumed persona valid legal testimony. As such, many vigilantes do not view the legal system as an effective means of protecting society against paranormal criminals.
For its part, the US government operates a Paranormal Regulatory Agency out of Washington DC and a handful of smaller headquarters. Answerable only to the Secretary of Homeland Security and the US president, the PRA is well funded and seeks to monitor, study, and sometimes contain paranormals who violate the law or pose threats to society.
Religion and Paranormals:
The appearance of paragons on the public stage has led to two small yet active religious movements.
The Church of Jesus Christ, Paragon – Centered in Manhattan and led by an Eastern Orthodox archbishop named Theodosius, the para-Christianity movement views paragons as evidence of the accuracy of Old Testament stories. They believe that paranormals are the saints and martyrs of the present age and that their function should and will be to benefit mankind. Theodosius seeks to guide paranormals to godly uses of their abilities while halting selfish use of superhuman power.
The Holy Church of the Seven Thunders – Based in Wyoming, the Seven Thunders is a sect led by Luke Butler. Claiming to be the host of divine revelation, Butler argues that paragons are demons in human form and that paranormals only exist to direct adherents away from the true faith toward cults and idol-worship. The sect is highly militarized and sees its purpose as warning the faithful against the threat of the diabolical paranormal threat. The faithful have seen their support of Butler confirmed when paranormals have attempted to kill the sect leader, which has happened several times. According to reports after the events from police, witnesses, and the church itself, Butler appears to be completely immune to any threat from paranormals.