Friday, September 5, 2014

American Ninja Cowboys - A Supers Setting

"American Ninja Cowboys" is the working title while I figure out what the game is all about.  I'm sketching out a campaign setting that draws inspiration from The Last Airbender, Legend of Korra, Naruto, Inuyasha, and sundry Miyazaki films - and puts similar elements in a fantastic, wild west North America that feels like an endless frontier.  Those anime titles are the sources the kids are familiar with - essentially fantasy settings with super powered characters that can fly around and shoot things and use amazing magic powers.  It's an intriguing alternative to super powered settings I've done in the past, which always used the modern world.

I'm placing American Ninja Cowbowys in a mythic (future) America, long after a cataclysm merged the spirit world and the mundane world and civilizations are rebuilt anew, albeit widely spaced across western North America.  Gigantic spirit animals lumber across the wilderness, and the early survivors drew guidance and wisdom from relationships with totem animals  in the years after the destruction.  I'd like it to have a Native American vibe - there are powerful totem animals like Coyote, Raven, Bear, and Snake.  There are mythic locales across America, places like Lost Mesa or Devil's Tower or the Ghost Town, where frightening or numinous experiences await the bold.

Youngsters in the setting that are gifted at channeling power from the spirit world are trained from a young age by the Five Nation as guardians and protectors - they're the Jedi Knights of FFA (future fantasy America).  Any of the typical power sources in a super hero game can be made to work fine for this kind of fantasy game.  There are monsters and mutants and demons from beyond the spirit world, too - for instance, everything east of the Mississippi is in the Scarred Lands, the Land of Tears, and westerners avoid the forbidden zones.  Somewhere in the Scarred Lands sleep the Four Great Beasts of the Apocalypse.

It's a bit liberating how totally gonzo a super hero setting can be imagined.  You can freely mix Gamma-World style super weapons (liberated from the Land of Tears, of course) with gigantic Kaiju style monsters, martial arts combat, and characters with amazing powers.  Human society is organized into the five great nations, but there is a subversive "6th Nation" made of criminal masterminds and super villains that manipulates them all.

My biggest decision right now is around naming conventions.  I really enjoy anime and the fantastic Asian sounding names - something like "Raikage" sounds much cooler than "Lightning Shadow".  But I'm wary of cultural appropriation and misusing Asian or Native American sounding names insensitively.  I also need to come up with a good name for the guardian characters in the setting.  Functionally, they'll be a lot like Jedi Knights in the Lucasverse - people with extraordinary powers that act as protectors and agents.  Do I borrow Asian sounding names like Bushi, Samurai, or Shinobi, or European names like Knight, Agent, or Hero?  How about Rangers and Sheriffs?  FFA (Future Fantasy America) is going to have places like Tree City, Star City, and Wind City, I could get behind hero group names like Tree City Rangers - sounds like a sports team.