Monday, July 20, 2015

The Best Superpower

So Terry and I are currently planning more Mana, Commentary, and Carnage. So look forward to that on some wild Monday in August (September?).

I was thinking about this io9 article about the best superpower. Alright, it's the superpower that would make you basically unstoppable.

That's worth thinking about "basically unstoppable" could be the unyielding ability to produce North Face jackets and ugg bootsThe Juggernaut's power is literally being unstoppable. Doom is unstoppable because of his iron will. The Purple Man can bend almost any person to his will. Wolverine and Deadpool are really, really hard to kill. I'm sure there are DC examples.

What one power could make a person as omni-potent as Doctor Doom? As influential as Zebediah Killgrave? As immortal as Deadpool?

I'd like to pitch an NPC named "Meme." He's a metahuman. He can always connect to the nearest server and he is always online. He's adorable, like a puppy dog who is always spouting memes. He loves Family Guy, but hates Chris Griffin. He can make you stop getting spam. Forever. None of his friends ever get Rickrolled. In one adventure he does some computer stuff for the player characters. They move on and he's just a colorful character in the society of the game world.

Months later they find an amnesiac woman with metahuman powers. She can manipulate water and seems harmless. With their help, she remembers some of the traumatic events that gave her amnesia. They can't ID her, but they can set her up to get assistance from an organization which helps train or employ metas, especially ones getting back onto their feet for various reasons. As they leave, someone turns on Family Guy and she says she loves that show, but she can't stand Chris Griffin.

The next big plot to raise its head is an attempt to outlaw telepaths. A state representative from Virginia is pushing hard to monitor telepaths. It's getting a lot of media attention, but she handles it well. In the process of trying to stop the bill, the players learn that she is quite tech savvy. Regardless, the representative rises in national prominence. In some of her lighter interviews she jokes that she actually does like Family Guy, but isn't a big fan of Chris Griffin.

Eventually, she becomes a national figure and a broad, vague anti-telepath law is passed. Most telepaths simply move overseas. One that remains, Thinky, tries to get in contact with them, but is killed by federal authorities while "resisting detention." The PCs can uncover the fact that Thinky had met several people with the same mind as the senator. Not the same personality, but the same mind.

The PCs do the PC thing: expose the senator has a metahuman. They get her to drop her guard, start a big meta throwdown, and friggin' kill her. Even if they don't kill her, as she's taken away a disappointed supporter or aide pulls out a gun and puts her down.

Time passes. With the presumed mind-hopping metahuman killed, the PCs get on with their lives. Whatever politician benefited most from their foray into politics becomes president. Those telepathy laws, despite being shown to be bad by the PCs, don't get revealed because of all this gee-darn-gawsh red tape. Seth Green leaves Family Guy amicably. 

Under the new president, crime drops. International relations smooth, with the exception of a few coalition actions against aggressive regimes. Net neutrality is enshrined in the 28th Amendment. Journalists and editorials hail it as a new era of bipartisanship. Family Guy is the most popular television program in the United States, with approximately 30 million viewers a week and rising.

But of course, not everyone is happy with progress. Acts of violence are committed, blamed on people who benefited from the way things were. Surprisingly, some of those are friends and allies of the PCs, who are asked to help stop them. When they're found, their friends claim they were just investigating the president. They think something is wrong with him and they're innocent people caught in a dragnet along with extremists.

The Centers for Disease Control puts out a notice; a meta has created a mimetic virus that causes paranoia and discord. Those who oppose the progress of the last few years have a disease. Worse for the players, it's a curable disease. Within a few days, their friends are released and distance themselves from their earlier behavior. They do not begin watching Family Guy.

They of course come for the players. All at once while they're apart in casual settings. A barista touches their hand. A lover caresses their face. A complete stranger starts a fistfight. With a touch, their minds are invaded with the presence of another; a presence that reminds them of a metahuman called Meme they met a long time ago.

The players resist, of course, and those who succeed well can pretend their body now holds a mental clone of Meme. Those who cannot pretend that well find themselves the subject of an attack by police, and possibly other metahumans. The survivors are aware the Meme is a metahuman who can create mental clones of himself in others.

They track back to where they met Meme the first time, and there they find clues about his obvious plan to copy himself into every mind on Earth and simply bring about world peace by having no one to fight with. The Family Guy creative team might be spared so they can continue to make Family Guy. Forever.

I'm trying to think of a way for players to stop Meme, but I can't. Maybe it's bias. Even if they get the first Meme, they can't be sure he never duplicated himself. If they discover him just a bit later than that, they'd have to interrogate every person alive on a regular basis to ensure he's not still lurking in someone's brain somewhere. Imagine an Appalachian Mountain Man wandering down from a mountain every few years to awkwardly shake the hand of a motorist stopping at a convenience store, then returning to the mountain with a DVD of the latest season of Family Guy.

Meme's biggest weakness is that he doesn't gain a magical knowledge of the person he's replaced, so he can't really replace a scientists without forking himself into a college student, earning that degree, then replacing scientists. So that mostly limits him to taking over individuals of power within power structures requiring vaguely-defined skill sets and no expectation of consistent behavior, so really just politics. People close to the replace person might become suspicious, but that's only until he can replicate again.

Presumably, he can't replicate himself immediately. It takes time. In White Wolf's Aberrant system, it would be the equivalent of spending a permanent point of willpower. So there is a mathematical limit on how quickly he can spread. It's expressed as 2n, but it's still limited.

Meme's clones only have the one power and they have to make their host a metahuman to have it. If they find a metahuman with powers, they keep those powers, but once large populations register as metahuman with no apparent powers, people might start getting suspicious. Also, their psychology between any two Memes is more similar the closer their fork. That's something that would be difficult to hide under close examination.

There's no telepathy; Memes do not know if another person is a Meme. Without a formal, traceable organization, there's bound to be some limited growth loss as independent Memes try to take over the same person. Although Meme could easily be immune to his own power. It might also be necessary for a password to be coined which confirms a successful Meme transfer or serves as a phrase/counterphrase before an attack.

The biggest drawback is the concept of forking. After a Meme clone is made, the progenitor and the clone will both begin living different lives. Starting from an identical set of experiences and knowledge, they will diverge as they experience different lives. Then they will each fork and the offspring of each will be yet more different from one another. 

If a fork of Memes were to take on a different agenda than those who follow the "original" Meme, they could use the same codes and passphrases established by the originals to re-clone into them. That is, unless Memes are immune to memes, in which case you could say Memes are immune to themselves and that distinction is suspended for a significantly different fork. 

If Memes are immune to Memes without exception, then things get complicated. They're bound to come into conflict, but their primary weapon, which is critically discreet, is now useless. They could either kill each other directly, knowing that they're designed to be hard to find and that random violence tends to draw attention. They could also use proxies, but that would require the creation of a social infrastructure designed to discover them just as easily as it discovers their opposing forks.

I don't like the idea of an original Meme or one Meme being a "higher generation" than another. However, if you hate me and want to see me sad, you could also say that previous generations of Memes can overwrite newer generations. It would create an interesting paradigm.

That doesn't even account for the biggest weakness of Meme. You might be unstoppable and unkillable, but what if you had to live on an Earth with no one but yourself? I'm not saying there was a Twilight Zone episode about that, but it was called "The Mind and The Matter."

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