In this world there have always been, throughout history, people who have been willing to put their lives in danger for the greater good. Examples from the past are Tarzan, Sherlock Holmes, The Lone Ranger, Zorro, and others. Not all of them have been strictly human, some were what had come to be known as "heroic". Larger then life persons with abilities that seemed beyond the realm of most people have appeared in history, more so then in our world. With time it became apparent that these people were becoming more common. They were still not in sufficient numbers to cause anyone any alarm. They were fascinating, and they made for great reading.
As civilization changed, so did the nature of these "heroic" persons, and how they fit into society. It wasn't as often that "bad" people turned out to also be "heroic" in their abilities. The 19th century changed that, and "villains" began to appear to challenge the heroes, and everyone else as well. Among the things that separate this world from ours is the existence of magic. Magic in our world may or may not exist, but in the game world it is very real and has a very tangible presence in the world. Along with magic is the existence of super-powers. These two things are possible because of a special "thing" that exists in humanity that makes the use and existence of these things possible.
The special "thing" that makes it possible for humans to wield high-magic, and possess tremendous super human powers lies in a small cluster of DNA found in what is commonly referred to as the X chromosome, the very same chromosome that helps to determine the sex of a child. Two X-chromosomes indicate a female, while an X and an Y indicate a male child. This particular detail wasn't really understood until the 1970's, so up until that point it was just presumed that there were more female heroes and superheroes than male because of population density. Once the secret of the X chromosome was discovered, then everything that had begun in the early days of the 20th century started to become clear.
This new discovery also gave some interesting light on history, like why there were always more tales of witches then warlocks, and why some of the most powerful figures of antiquity were female. The females of the species were genetically pre-disposed to be bold, courageous, and possess strength of will beyond what most considered "normal".
With the "thing" being present in the X chromosome, females had twice the chance of having "heroic" genes then men did. Once the greater potential of this gene began to pop up in the 20th century, this made for more "superheroines" then "superheroes". The world didn't seem to mind, and in fact they seemed to accept these "heroic" women fairly easily. It was obvious that they were superior to "normal" women, and therefore worthy of more respect. This didn't do much to change how women in general were treated, because most women hid there super heroic identities anyway, so most men probably never even realized they were giving lip to a woman who could lift a tank.
Now, something happened in the dark times of the past that took most of the magical strength from our world and locked it away, which made for some very quiet times. This situation was reversed in the late 1930's, and that made for some very interesting and loud times indeed.
After 1919 the population of paranormal persons began to increase dramatically, bringing them to the attention of almost everyone in the US and other industrialized nations.
During the 1960's several of the major universities begin to actually study magic, and by 1970 some of them even offered a degree in paranormal and mystical studies. Miskatonic University in Massachusetts had been studying and teaching magic since the middle of the 19th century and in 1964 they made these studies known and available to anyone who can pass the entrance exam, a major change from their old style of finding students.
During the 1970's the study of psychic phenomena began in earnest, and spread the awareness of this particular area of super heroic powers to the general population.
Since the 1960's there have been several books, TV shows and movies about super heroic persons and superheroes. They take the same place in our culture as the hard-boiled police dramas do. There is an entire line of romance novels, which deal solely with super heroic persons and their private lives and loves. Some daytime soaps have managed to include a super hero character or two, but this is often difficult so the medium has the smallest influence of paranormals in its story lines.
As mentioned earlier, it is possible to study magic in college, but to master anything but the most mundane skills one has to have the talent, and to become truly powerful you really need that special "thing".
This means that there are people out there who can cast magic spells, but don't think this is common. The equivalent would be like finding someone with a Masters Degree in Ancient Arabic Pottery.
Most major metropolitan police departments have what is called (normally) The Phenomena Department, which deals in anything involving magic, demons, vampires, and those things classified traditionally as the occult. These officers have special training and equipment, and even sometimes magical skills which they bring to the field of magical crime. These units are almost universally referred to by other as the "spook cops", or "spook division". There is a weekly TV series, in it's third season, chronicling the adventures of a group of officers in the L.A.P.D. Phenomenon Department, fighting a war against demons from another dimension. The show, The Mystic Police, is very popular and is expected to run 7 seasons. Another popular show is about 3 sisters who are all gifted mages who fight evil. This offering is not nearly as popular, and relies more on the sex appeal of the three female actresses for ratings. Other shows of this nature are Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Millenium, and the X-Files, the later is very popular and deals with a group of magic using FBI agents chasing horrors across the US. A few fictional superhero-based TV series have appeared over the years, but none has been as successful as Paramount's syndicated "Suicide Squad," an hour long drama featuring five ex-government super-agents who travel the country helping people in trouble while dodging agents of their former employers and the super-powered pawns of fictional criminal agency "The Dominion.". Other fictional para-oriented TV shows currently on the schedule include; ABC's "Justice," an adaptation of the 1990 film; CBS's "Moonstone," about an L.A.-based flying martial artist, and "Shatter," about a cyborg corporate agent turned good; and Fox's "Chance," about a gadget-wielding super-genius who solves mysteries in a fictional East Coast city (it's filmed in Toronto).
Along with magic are or course, superheroes. As each major metropolitan police department has it's Phenomenon Department, so to do they have their Paranormal Crimes Division. This section handles the investigation of crimes involving paranormal criminals and vigilantes. The PCD usually has members trained in the use of advanced weapons and equipment designed to help even the odds in their fight against paranormal criminals. There are two long running TV shows involving these types of policeman, The New Dragnet which centers on the LAPD Paranormal Crimes Division, set in a different world then that of The Mystic Police. The other, in its second season, is simply titled PCD, and is set in New York City.
The PCD and the Phenomena Department usually work together (in real life, not on TV), and they are often partnered with each other in the field because so many magical problems have begun working with paranormals of other types and vice versa. With so many skills that overlap and equipment requirements it has just proven more effective for these units to work together. This is not only the case, as some areas are more prone to one type of crime then another, for example the NYPD has a large PCD, but only three officers assigned to it's Phenomena Department where as New Orleans only has two PCD officers, but almost 30 Phenomena Department officers.
Most of these TV shows use characters that are totally fictional, including the super-villains and monsters they depict, they do however have actors and stuntmen that have actual super powers. When this is mixed with modern computer animation and special effects it makes for a spectacular combination.
Since the 1970's there have been several people who have been gifted with "minor" super powers. They have often made a career for themselves in TV and film using these powers to simulate the powers of the characters in stories. This "cheap" special effects technique has been instrumental in making the "superhero" genre take off in the entertainment industry. These "gifted" normals are not common, but they are about as common as a "Main Attraction" kind of actor like Arnie, Segorney Weaver, Keanu Reeves, and the like.
Another area of difference is technology. Things have advanced more in this world due to the work of brilliant scientists, and even evil geniuses. In most cases research is driven by the goal of monetary wealth, but when you have persons of genius level intellect bent on world domination you're bound to have a few inventions for invention sake. As these geniuses are defeated and their plans unravel, the pieces of their technological empires become the property of governments, and then companies, and eventually become whole new products.
For game purposes assume that the general level of technology is about 5 to 7 years more advanced then it is now, so be smart and run all your games 5 to 7 years in the past. This is two fold, because you can use the real world current tech level as the game year tech level, and you get to use the events that happened in the news in your game!! Now obviously there will be elements in the game that are far more advanced then current tech. This will be covered in the Technology Section of the world book in more detail, but the above is a general guideline.
Since we've advanced the barriers of technology, and have had to deal with these evil geniuses and their plots, let's cover some of the major differences this world has from ours.
The space race didn't stall in the 70's, and there have been orbital labs and stations in operation constantly since then. Some are multinational, some are corporate (very few!), and some are top secret government facilities. Freedom 1, the multinational station proposed by the US in 1971 is still in operation, and is one of the largest facilities. It has laboratories, manufacturing facilities, and launch facilities for missions deeper into the solar system, planned for the near future.
The Hubble Space Telescope is in orbit, working fine, and providing detailed information about the cosmos.
The Space Shuttle has been replaced with the completely reusable space plane, which has been in service since the early 1990's, this issue was forced after the Challenger disaster in 86.
Eye-Site Station is the NSA orbital communication and command center, in operation sine 1991, it is regarded as one of the most advanced orbital facilities ever built.
Lighter Than Air craft made a comeback in the 1950's and have been in service in a variety of roles, most notably of which is as "sky liners" with regular passenger service to every major city. Most of these are of the rigid hull design that was popular in the 30's, but using non-flammable gases for lift and either turbo prop engines or jet engines for propulsion. Some of the more luxurious models even have a hanger for small planes to ferry passengers to the ground or visa versa without having to land. Most can be refueled in the air by other specially designed dirigibles, and this makes long range flights possible without stops. Appointments on sky liners are usually a cross between cruise ship and luxury train. Dining rooms, sleeping quarters, a movie theatre, exercise rooms an observation deck and lounge. These are often more bargain priced then a cruise by ship, since they have less "things" to do, but are favored by those wishing to "get away" from the bustle of modern life.
Air travel also includes the trusty jetliner, which has evolved to about the same thing it is today. There are more SST aircraft in use, as the technology has been more available, and people are more willing to put up with it because it's quieter then it is in our world.
VTOL has made a big impact on military aircraft. The Osprey VTOL plane has entered service in most military agencies, and in some civilian applications as well. Mainstream use of improved alloys, have affected all areas of construction and engineering making cars safer, buildings more earthquake resistance and just about every construction project cheaper.
The personal computer entered the home in the 1980's and has grown in popularity and power since. The Internet is there and almost to the point where it's standard with your phone service. Cellular phones, Digital PCs units, the palmtop computer, and those things that we see in the late 1990's were developed and introduced in the late 80's and are in their present forms by the early 90's.
Energy weapons are in use by certain elite police and military forces, but are illegal for civilians to posses. Mass production of these weapons is still not a reality, due in part to the cost for certain "rare" elements involved in their construction.
Armor, lightweight police armor and heavy infantry military armor are made of space age ceramics and exotic fabrics. These are expensive and difficult to get on the open market but can be acquired. They offer protection far superior to traditional kevlar with greater weight and flexibility characteristics.
Powered armor is a technological arena that many companies have tried their hand at, but few have had any real success. The government has been working on the problem since the 1960's. The only reasonably priced, effective variety is the US Mandroid Armor System. Designed in 1968 the system uses ideas and technologies, which were cutting edge then. For it's time it was a wonder, going from drawing board to construction, testing, and then mass production in 5 years. Between 1973 and 1990 suits of Mandroid Armor have been used by the Army, Marines, FBI, CIA, National Guard, Police, and even other nations. The system has been upgraded and improved over the years to keep up with refinements in technology and improved weapons and defense systems. When the NSA was assigned the task of managing all US paranormal activities they formed a division of Strike Operations, which uses the Mandroid in field operations.
US involvement with Megacide, a criminal Ultra-Terrorist organization which has managed to field a fine flying battlesuit, has sparked the NSA to fund a project aimed at producing a flying battlesuit which it can issue and use in the field.
Science isn't all weapons and battlesuits, it's medicine and alternative energy, and improved crop yields and saving the rain forest as well.
Gene therapy makes it possible to correct several genetic defects early, determine the sex of a baby, eye color and even improve the chances of the child having paranormal abilities (there are no guarantees however).
The universe is a big place, but so far it appears that we are alone in it. There have been no revelations by any aliens, to addresses to the UN General assembly, and thankfully no ultimatums to surrender the planet. The governments of the world have agreed to look to the heavens, and are spending a tidy sum to listen to space, but they say that aliens have never contacted us. Like our own world, this world has plenty of people that claim this isn't the case. Time will tell.
In this world, both John F. Kennedy and Senator Steve Rogers (Captain America) were killed by Lee Harvey Oswald in Daily Plaza in Texas, or maybe not. It all depends on whom you ask.
Atlantis, Lemuria, and the face on mars are still mysteries. We're gearing up for a mission to Mars, but that's still a few years away.
Aging has still eluded science, but they're working on it.
Jimmy Hoffa is still dead, and still missing.