Preview: Parahuman

By: Ross Green
Reporter for the New York Daily Times

Parahumans have always been with us, though we haven’t always noticed them.  In the ancient times we revered them as gods or demigods.  In more recent times, we view them as celebrities.

Parascientists classify parahumans into several rough groups.  The exact cause or mechanism by which one becomes a parahuman is unknown, with a few exceptions.  What makes one person able to shoot lightning from his fingertips or bounce bullets off of her chest while most people go through their lives never experiencing such abilities?  This random factor is known as the Parahuman Uncertainty Factor or P-Factor for short.  What follows is a description of the various parahuman categories, though certainly some blurring occurs.

[SIDEBAR:  Parahumans
The most common use for the word “parahuman” in the real world refers to the mixing of human and animal DNA to create a sort of hybrid.  However, the prefix para-can also mean “beside,” “resembling,” “beyond,” “apart from” and “abnormal.”  All of these meanings can be applied to humans with super powers.  As a result, the word parahuman in the game world has evolved to refer to any human that displays super powers.

The Immortals
Arguably the first, and inarguably the rarest, of the parahumans are those known as the Immortals.  We know them today by the names Gilgamesh, Enkidu, Osiris, Hercules and a host of other names attributed to gods of legend and embodied forces of nature.  A few of them are even still around today, some claiming to be well over 3,000 years old.

The Immortals are a mysterious lot.  Where did they come from?  How did they become parahumans?  Most scientists studying the parahuman condition tend to lump the Immortals into a subset of the Born.  Certainly, all Immortals are Born, but not all Born are Immortals.

What facts there are regarding the Immortals tell us that they are extremely difficult to kill.  Many have the ability to heal at several times the normal human rate of health.  Many others’ bodies can reform from even the most destructive forces brought against them or regenerate even the most delicate of bodily structures.  Many Immortals also exhibit other powers and abilities, and some are also Mystics as well.  Even an Immortal that has lived only three or four hundred years might have skills far surpassing those of the common man.

If rumor is to be believed, there were once many more immortals in the world, dozens in fact rather than the scattered handful one finds now throughout the world.  Where these other Immortals, who were known by names such as Isis, Zeus and Athena, none can say.

The Born
The Born are the most common parahuman in the world today.  The Born come about their powers by genetic fluke; they are born with them.  Most don’t exhibit their powers until their early teenage years or even into adulthood, though with many things parahuman there are definitely exceptions.  There have been recorded cases of the Born manifesting their abilities as young as 2 years old and as old as 69.

Most of the Born have minor abilities, such as the power to change their eye color or the ability to produce a mild electric shock.  Through practice and experience, these Born learn to channel their powers, allowing them to perform greater and more powerful tasks.

Though many Born have other Born in their family trees, the process of being born a parahuman seems completely random.  The world’s best geneticists have been unable to pinpoint or predict when and how   Additionally, some parahumans born of lineages with such abilities in their lineages share similar powers, while others develop powers wildly different than their ancestors.  Again, this is something that is not understood by parascientists.

The union of two parahumans, especially if one of those parahumans is Born, often (but not always) results in a parahuman offspring, leading parahuman scientists to believe that the so-called P-Factor is a recessive genetic trait.

Most Born voluntarily register their abilities with the government, as this gives them protection under the Curstain-Selven Act of 1921.

Some parahumans develop an affinity with so-called magic or mystic forces.  These Mystics generally come into their powers in one of two ways; intense training or pacts with otherworldly beings.

Those who come into their powers through training often form into covens, groups or colleges depending on the background of the group into which the potential Mystic joins.  Some Mystics are able to only grasp the most rudimentary of magical skills and spellcasting, while others are capable of wielding immense, world-shaking powers.  Here, again, the P-Factor rears its head.  Many potential Mystics never learn so much as smoke and mirror, sleight of hand parlor tricks.

Even rarer than trained Mystics are those that strike pacts with otherworldly beings.  In exchange for some sort of servitude, sacrifice or gift, these beings grant the pact-Mystic capabilities, ranging from superhuman powers to spellcasting.  Despite the dark connotations, not all pacts are made with demons and devils; some create pacts with so-called higher beings and gods, perhaps the fabled Immortals, pledging to serve the forces of light in exchange for parahuman abilities.

A few Mystics are born into their spiritual and mystic heritage.  These Mystics tend to blur the line between the Born and Mystics, though they are generally considered to be Mystics.

In their quest to pinpoint and find the elusive P-factor, parascientists have unwittingly created a fourth type of parahuman, the Experiments.  Super-soldiers, cyborgs, accidental exposure to cosmic radiation and even artificially-intelligent robots fall under the Experiment category.  If it involves a parahuman created in any way, shape or form by human hand, the parahuman is categorized as an Experiment.

Aside from the Immortals, the Experiments are the rarest category of parahuman.  The origins of the Experiments are thought to stem from research done just prior to, and during, World War II.  The first verified Experiments are the Third Reich’s Iron Cross, a parahuman group of super soldiers that lead to the retaliatory creation of the Allies’ Parahuman Program, which gave us such iconic parahumans as Patriot.

Aliens aren’t, strictly speaking, parahumans.  They’re not humans at all.  The world as a whole has been aware of the existence of alien races since the early 1800’s, though some cultures such as the Dogon of Africa have been aware of star faring races for much longer.

The main alien race that humanity has had contact with are the Clatishians, a race of beings that appear much as humans.  Apparently, according to the Clatishians, Earth is in the Claitish Empire, a space empire that spans entire galaxies and includes hundreds, if not thousands, of inhabited planets.  Of course, the inhabitants of Earth didn’t exactly agree.  See the section on the Clatishian War below for more details.

[tags]RPGs, Mutants & Masterminds,Parahuman[/tags]

3 thoughts on “Preview: Parahuman

Add yours

  1. I really like the modern take on the Superhero game. This game seems like it could go down a dystopian path very quickly, and that’s appealing to me. I don’t know if that was your intention, but that’s the vibe I got. Any time I see Supers and Science thrown together, I get a feeling that the apocalypse is impending. It’s good stuff.


  2. Tracy: There is definitely a dystopian element. It’s somewhat subtle, but definitely there.

    Tyler: I’ve never checked out the Paragons setting. Now I’ll have to avoid it lest it influence me. :-p This setting is an evolution of a comic universe I’ve had in my brain for a very, very long time (circa mid-80s, when I was just a wee lad that wanted to write & draw comic books).


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