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The Random Origin Table

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  • The Random Origin Table

    So, playing around with the Random Archetype Table in the Deluxe Heroes Handbook got me thinking about a companion piece to it. Comic book characters are a varied lot, and one guy with Fire Control could have several possible origins. Note that by 'origin' I'm referring to how he got powers, not necessarily how he got on the path to using them for heroics. This table might be fun to roll on if you're looking for ideas, or you could just pick one. The Fun Police won't come for you no matter which option you pick.

    Roll a d20 and see what you get!

    Origins

    1-2 - Mutant: You were born this way. You're hated and feared, etc. etc. You are the future of the human race. Probably. For some reason there are a whole freakin' lot of people just like you, which is why this origin gets two entries on the table.
    Possible Complications: You're a secret mutie, and have to make sure nobody finds out your terrible secret. You're an 'out' mutie, or you couldn't possibly hide your mutation - normal people react unfavorably to you unless they're rather open-minded.

    3 - Technological: You are Iron Man. Just kidding, you're (probably) not that cool. But you do get your powers from many incredible Devices, which you may or may not have built yourself.
    Possible Complications: You constantly tinker with your stuff, making it occasionally unreliable. You didn't build your stuff on your own, so if something goes wrong you'll need to track down the creator. You stole your stuff, and the rightful owner/creator wants it back.

    4 - Divine: Yeezus saves. Your powers come from the fact that you're a god. Or maybe you're just a non-specific supernatural entity that people think is a god. Either way, you have the power to smite the unworthy and bless the righteous. Will they raise temples in your name? Or do those temples already exist?
    Possible Complications: Your powers are tied to worship - you need followers to be at full effectiveness. Your ancient enemy is a supervillain working against you. People of other faiths consider you a blasphemer (God hates Thor!).

    5 - Supernatural Ancestry: See 'Divine' above or 'Supernatural Creature' below. You're part-awesome and part-human. The awesome part gives you great power. Hopefully the human part gives you great responsibility.
    Possible Complications: Your non-human ancestor has taken an interest in you - meaning you get drawn into their plans, like it or not. You have to deal with people who've got a beef with your ancestor (monster hunters, a rival member of their pantheon, etc.). You've inherited some of the supernatural weaknesses of your ancestor.

    6 - Magic: You gained your powers through careful study of mystical tomes. Hopefully you weren't asleep in Defense Against the Dark Arts, you'll probably be needing it.
    Possible Complications: Your family has had a rivalry with another family of wizards for generations, and you're no exception. Your family tree has something inhuman in it (or someone that became inhuman) and you might get drawn into their machinations. You've seen things not meant for mortal eyes and it's starting to affect your sanity (but I'm sure that wallpaper really is moving!).

    7 - Alien: You aren't from around here. But that's okay, your species has strange powers that humans can only dream of. Just remember not to get caught by the Men in Black or you might get deported. Or dissected. The dissection might seem worse, but you won't have to do as much paperwork.
    Possible Complications: You don't really 'get' human culture or emotions. You have a requirement that's hard to get on Earth. You have a weakness that's surprisingly common on Earth. You're being chased by a mysterious government conspiracy.

    8 - Extreme Training: Turns out all those Charles Atlas ads in old comic books were true after all! You've gained powers through a ridiculously harsh training regimen; super-strength from lifting weights, super-accuracy from practicing archery for hours on end, etc.
    Possible Complications: Your training regimen gives you little free time. Your drive and focus scare normal people, who you have trouble relating to. You've started to become arrogant and assume anybody could do what you do, if they just cared to try.

    9 - Drugs: They say drugs are bad. But in your case they're awesome! You got your powers from exposure to some kind of chemical, which may or may not require regular dosing.
    Possible Complications: Nobody knows the formula for your drug - if you ever lose your powers you're kind of hosed, and unsavory types might be after you to analyze your blood. You get your powers from 'that' sort of drug, with all the requisite legal and moral issues (Snooooowflaaaaaame!).

    10 - Construct: You are a ro-bot. You are here to take American jobs. Maybe. Whatever the case, you are all (or part-) machine, and your powers are various devices built into your body.
    Possible Complications: People treat you like hardware and not a person. Your machine body needs constant maintenance. Your robot brain needs beer. Your creator has a tracking device installed somewhere on your person...and he sends out people to bring you back. You have trouble understanding human emotions.

    11 - Supernatural Creature: You're the thing that goes bump in the night. You're a demon, or a vampire, or a werewolf. Or some other entity. A vampire that flies and shoots lightning bolts? Sounds legit, I'm pretty sure that was in a Vampire: The Masquerade supplement in the '90s or something.
    Possible Complications: You have a creepy obsession with a particular human. You have any number of supernatural weaknesses associated with your 'type', like an aversion to garlic or holy symbols. You're being hunted by an angel/monster hunter/whatever. You're an outcast from your kind.

    12 - Accident: You got your powers from some kind of industrial accident. Let's be honest - lightning/radiation/whatever doesn't work that way. But you've turned out mostly okay, and now you've got cool powers from the deal. Screw OSHA!
    Possible Complications: I lied - you also got cancer or something from the accident. Somebody knows about the accident and is very curious how you managed to survive.

    13 - Pact: You struck some sort of bargain with a higher power, or possibly a lower power. As long as you do their bidding you're empowered to do their work on the mortal plane. Hopefully their goals align with yours.
    Possible Complications: Their goals don't align with yours - whoops! The enemy of your patron has it in for you. The enemy of your patron has empowered a mortal of his own - now you've got a rival.

    14 - Martial Arts: You know kung fu. Not only are you good at punching and kicking things, but all that contemplation of your inner nature has granted you supernatural powers. Sky's the limit here - you got so good at karate that you can shoot fire from your hands? Sure, let's go with that.
    Possible Complications: You're a legendary badass and people come from all over trying to test themselves against you. People want to steal the secret of your style. Your martial arts instructor turns out to be a supervillain, and you know for a fact that he's better than you. You've lived a rather sheltered life punching trees and meditating, making you useless in many social situations.

    15 - Artifact: No, it doesn't belong in a museum. You gained your powers from some kind of artifact, whether alien or mystical. You'd better hope the previous owner is dead, and/or that nobody else wants it.
    Possible Complications: The previous owner isn't dead and he wants his Thingamabob back. Other people want the Thingamabob and are willing to kill for it. The artifact turns out to have a mind of its own, and it might range from embarrassing to outright dangerous. Picking up and using the artifact granted you membership in a group and now you have to follow its rules, like it or not.

    16 - Psychic: You have psychic powers. That means you don't have Fire Control, you have Pyrokinesis. It's better because it's Greek. But not too Greek (see 'Divine' for that).
    Possible Complications: Using your power gives you headaches or nosebleeds or something. Your brain is mighty but your body is physically crippled somehow. You require drugs to keep your powers in check. You have the strangest urge to grow huge and destroy Tokyo.

    17 - Partner: Partner, I choose you! You don't have any powers of your own, but somehow you're holding the leash for something that does. Just remember that if you own Godzilla you're responsible for cleaning up his messes.
    Possible Complications: Your partner is unbelievably dangerous and scares normal people - as well as the authorities. Your partner has an agenda of its own and you may or may not be part of it. Your partner doesn't fully trust you and might not always obey your commands.

    18 - Mystery: You don't know why you can do what you do. You just do. How Zen!
    Possible Complications: Somebody knows how you got your powers and they're very interested in capturing you for study. Your powers have a massive hidden drawback to them that will come back to haunt you later. You don't really know your own strength yet so you often overdo things and cause lots of collateral damage.

    19 - Grant Morrison: I give up. Let your freak flag fly here - it doesn't have to make sense, just so long as it's entertaining.
    Possible Complications: You (the player, and not the character) earn a Hero Point if your Complications make the GM go 'wtf?'

    20 - Roll twice, take both origins: You are a special snowflake. You have multiple power sources, like a Mutant who's also gained Technological powers. Just remember that if your character wears a trenchcoat and carries paired katana your GM might pelt you with dice. And you'd deserve it.
    Possible Complications: ...seriously?

  • #2
    Re: The Random Origin Table

    For a more comprehensive look at random origins, there's always the Central Casting series, but it's been out of print for a while, paper copies are expensive, and the author got a lot of flak for including items such as homosexuality and S&M as sexual deviations.
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    • #3
      Re: The Random Origin Table

      As a Morrison fan, I approve #19 most of all. I like this.
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      • #4
        Re: The Random Origin Table

        Originally posted by Sangouki View Post
        14 - Martial Arts: You know kung fu. Not only are you good at punching and kicking things, but all that contemplation of your inner nature has granted you supernatural powers. Sky's the limit here - you got so good at karate that you can shoot fire from your hands? Sure, let's go with that.
        Possible Complications: You're a legendary badass and people come from all over trying to test themselves against you. People want to steal the secret of your style. Your martial arts instructor turns out to be a supervillain, and you know for a fact that he's better than you. You've lived a rather sheltered life punching trees and meditating, making you useless in many social situations.
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        • #5
          Re: The Random Origin Table

          I've had players who were absolutely, totally stumped on what sort of character they wanted to build usually from too many ideas, not too few consult the Random Character Generation Tables from Palladium's Heroes Unlimited.

          I wouldn't touch Palladium's rules with a 1d20' Mega-Damage Capacity Pole... But they do write a good set of random percentile tables!

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