Atlantis vs. Wakanda: Domain Play in Superhero RPGs

Given I've been thinking a lot about domain play lately, I had a passing thought this evening as to whether or not such play is applicable to superhero gaming - given I'm running an Icons game at present.

After a little reflection I realized it absolutely is. As seen by the image at the top of this post, superheroes and supervillains are often at the heads of nations and organizations.

There's a number of ways to realize this in play. At the most obvious there is the example of superpowered beings ruling over entire nations. You have Black Panther's Wakanda, Namor's Atlantis, Doctor Doom's Latveria, etc. The nation of Genosha has gone from a mutant-dominating apartheid state to a mutant sanctuary ruled by Magneto to being destroyed. Beyond nations are entities beyond Earth - Asgard, the Skrull Empire, etc.

One thing worth noting is the rulership of such nations tends to be a bit on the unstable side. All of the examples I listed above have their rulers deposed from time to time. Which from a gaming perspective is rather neat, as it invites conflict. And sometimes the ruler is pushed into certain courses of action he or she might not otherwise take due to the burdens of command.

There are also organizations below that of the nation. Rich superheroes like Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark often own companies. While the superhero group is essentially an adventuring party, in some cases the group goes beyond such a convention. For example, there was a period when Batman expanded his operations internationally. Some superhero teams evolve into much larger organizations. At their height the X-Men had a school, a black ops squad, a regular superhero team, etc. There are several different Avengers teams all operating simultaneously.

Unfortunately, very few superhero RPGs have rules designed to specifically handle such organizations. Off the top of my head, the only one I can think of is Grim War, a setting for Arc Dream's Wild Talents. It features an adaptation of the Reign RPG organizational rules.

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