|Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) believes he's Spider-Man's "best friend"|
You only have to look at how fandom operates in the 'real world' to see that in a world where superheroes (and villains) really existed, fans would be a major part of a hero's life.
There's not much to recommend the travesty that is The Amazing Spider-Man 2, but it does have a pair of sub-plots that speak to the idea I'm suggesting might make interesting ideas to explore in your superhero RPGs.
First up, we have the clichéd nerd Max Dillon who becomes obsessed with Spider-Man after the hero acknowledges his presence, when saving him from a flying taxi.
Dillon ends up being transformed into a supervillain, and when Spider-Man apprehends him, his previous adoration for the web-slinger flips to hatred.
A less dangerous, but (to me) more entertaining variation on the "fan who claims to be hero's friend" idea is the "fan who claims to be the mother of the hero's child" (an idea I came across in one of the extra features on Superman IV: The Quest For Peace of all places).
In this scenario you pick a player-character hero - the more virtuous the better - and then have some random, trailer trash (or the local equivalent) show up, either directly at the hero's door or, better, in the press or on TV claiming she is the mother of the hero's love child!
Her story is vague and her evidence next to nothing (she has trouble even describing the character accurately - "he said he was Startling Man, but didn't look like he does on TV"), she is more a nuisance sub-plot than anything.
The key to this storyline is the woman's motivation.
- Is she deranged or deluded, and just needs help?
- Does she genuinely believe the father of the child is the hero?
- Is she simply after cold, hard cash?
- Or is it something more sinister (perhaps she's a pawn - wittingly or not - of the hero's arch nemesis?)
You just have to skim through this recent Buzzfeed article to see the elaborate stories fans will concoct about the objects of their adoration, from innocent "shipping" to wild conspiracy theories.
The impact on a player-character of this kind of attention can range from simple nuisance to full-on 'Max Dillon', but it could also affect other areas of their social and business life (depending on the strength of their secret identity, their non-super employment etc).
|The Amazing Spider-Man 2|
Swinging back to The Amazing Spider-Man 2 for a moment, we also have the little kid who Spidey rescues and later, dressed in his Spider-Man costume, stands up to the armoured Rhino because the real, heart-broken, Spider-Man is nowhere to be found.
I love this idea of a little kid idolising a character so much he gets into a sticky situation by trying to emulate his hero, and it's up to the real superhero to fly in and save the wee nipper.
Or you could have a fan that hoards mementos and memorabilia (genuine, replica, or outright fakes) pertaining to the hero, like Ray 'Piranha' Jones in the recent second season of Luke Cage (see clip below)
How do they go about building their collection? How far will they go? If their funds run out do they resort to crime? Do they even start creating scenarios that would require the hero's engagement, so they can then swoop in and profit from the aftermath?
In our new age of social media, again as addressed in Luke Cage, fans will also want to pose for selfies with their heroes (often at inconvenient times) and may even track their locations via apps on their smart phones.
An app designed to let fans know where their hero is (by collating location data from selfies, Instagram etc) might be seen as a boon to her admirers, but it's also a very useful tool for her foes - whether they want to find her for a fight or to avoid her so they can commit some nefarious deed.
|The app tracking Luke Cage's actvities|
And if that fight doesn't go in the player-character hero's favour, his ass-whooping is going to be difficult to live down. Because it will be online forever!
Of course, that works the other way as well.
Such videos will end up having a major influence - in Villains & Vigilantes rules mechanics' terms - on a character's Charisma boosts and penalties, reflecting how the pubic at large perceives him.
A canny, moneyed, hero could, then, employ an agent or a public relations firm to manipulate, or massage, his online presence... to keep a rein on any negativity and ensure he gets the best publicity out of any good deeds he's involved in.
Again, not every hero will be comfortable with this approach to image management, whereas some will live for it, existing only through the perception of others.
|Luke Cage posing for selfies with his admiring public|
Keeping the press - and general public - on the hero's side should be crucial.
If you've been running a reasonably straight-forward campaign, and the player-characters have been behaving like true heroes, then they should have a good working rapport with the local media, be it news web sites, radio, television, newspapers etc
But what happens when suddenly that news outlet is purchased by someone more interested in making money than reporting the truth (see also the last season of Aaron Sorkin's peerless The Newsroom)?
|Superman IV: The Quest For Peace|
We're not talking the Weekly World News here (as that has its place in a campaign anyway), but a media outlet that once supported the heroes in their crusade now turning to salacious scandal (such as a superhero's "love child") based on hearsay and tittle-tattle.
Out go the professional, fact-checking reporters and in come the untrained 'citizen journalists' armed with camera phones and gossip...
Finally, let's not overlook the fact that in the real world, some people are far more interested in the bad guys than the good guys. So, what's to say this doesn't happen in the universe of your superhero campaign?
A supervillain could attract his own (unofficial) fan club, who then start engaging in copycat crimes, providing alibis for him for when he's arrested, or going to great lengths - like the example above - to hunt down mementos of his crimes.