|Yet again, art by Mike Cagle|
In Superhero 2044, Donald Saxman crafted a setting not so much to emulate the comic book source material, but to establish an environment that would plausibly allow the existence of costumed crimefighters with superhuman abilities. More so than the actual rules, it is Saxman's setting that defines the game. Readers are treated to eight pages of setting description even before character generation is addressed – that's more than one-fourth of the game's page count (excluding the Gamescience appendix).
The location is the island nation of Inguria and the year – of course – is 2044. Information is presented in the form of an excerpt from the 2044 edition of The World Almanac. Ingurian history begins in 1824, when “Shanter Island was discovered...by the English...” Presumably, the South Pacific island was uninhabited but there is no information as to how the most prominent feature, Mount Inguri, was named. Anyway, the island was used as a coaling station, eventually was acquired by the United States, and occupied by the Japanese during the Second World War. After the war, Congress granted Shanter Island independence.
Page 2 of the rules tells us, “During the periods from 1982 to 1989, the construction of a modern spaceport from scratch turned the island into an urbanized center of commerce.” The spaceport closed after “the six-day war in 2003” and reopened in the '20s. By that time, Shanter Island had joined “the World Peach Council” (sic). “In 2029 Shanter Island renamed itself Inguria and joined the New Whole Commonwealth of Nations,” which meant adopting the 'NWC Pseudodollar' (Pd) as its official currency.
The war allowed for mutations that are a staple of the genre, but it also brought about the Science Police, “charged with preventing world war.” As part of its purview, the Science Police suppresses all forms of atomic power. As Saxman told us last month, he changed the Science Police to an “organization called CURBIT” to avoid the ire of the entity now known as DC Comics. (Personally, I would have gone with 'Science Patrol' or 'Science Rangers,' because nothing says awesome quite like “Science.”) Speaking of science...
By 2044 many inventions or engineering ideas which are now only dreams are perfected and several completely new concepts and materials are available...The major change is the accumulator, which is essentially a very efficient battery...[Also,] computers have become nearly sentient...and are much more reliable. Access to computers is universal and cheap...Saxman wrote Superhero 2044 in the '70s – before Al Gore had invented the Internet – so his speculation about computers is interesting. Saxman correctly forecasts the advent of 'computerized journalism.' Home access to the “computer net” costs 250 Pd per month; given inflation, this might not be too far off the mark for 2044. A “Fully mobile unit,” however, is backpack sized and can only be rented, not owned.
Inguria has a population of 243,000 (including an enclave of extraterrestrial 'Formians') and occupies 523 km². Its major industries include “Tourism, space exploration, undersea metals, [and] fishing.” Various organizations “of special interest to the superhero” are represented on Inguria:
- Association of Technical Arts: The ATA has “free computer and testing services for anyone they consider deserves them.” Otherwise, “The ATA will hire out its facilities to anyone able to pay their exhorbitant [sic] rates.”
- The Hunter Club: This exclusive organization offers “wide services to its elite members. These include an allowance, computer use, hospitalization, liability, referral and a research center...near limitless benefits.” At any given time, there are only fourteen members and officers and sixteen associates. Becoming a member is a bit tricky; a character must be nominated by a member, then must survive various tasks.
- Köln Institute: The Institute is “a training school dedicated to the development of the perfect human.” Alumni are entitled to such services as “free dorm space, half-cost insurance, no-interest loans...free training [and access to]...Research equipment.” Alumni are expected to abide by a code of ethics and donate a tithe.
- Uniquex (pronounced “uni-kyu”): “this organization conducts training, categorizing, and recognition of Uniques and Unique powers. It will buy Unique germ plasma of proven merit.”
- Inguria Protection and Service Program: As a result of the demise of the Freedom League (see below), “the government found it necessary to encourage crime fighters to emigrate to Inguria.” The program provides a monthly stipend of 200 Pd and free hospitalization to heroes who (1) register, (2) patrol at least twenty-five hours per month, (3) cooperate with the authorities, and (5) maintain sufficient scores in the Location and Prevention handicap categories.