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Legion of Liberty Design Notes: Superhumans and History

One significant worldbuilding challenge for Legion of Liberty was deciding how much the existence of superhumans would have changed history. Early on, we decided that superpowers were confined to the New World, meaning that they would have had no significant effect on European history until 1492. Afterwards, however, would the history of colonization have gone in a different direction if the Europeans were facing native superhumans?

  Some of the answer to this dilemma came from the power levels of the campaign. The superhumans in Legion of Liberty are relatively low-powered compared to classic comic book heroes. Alone or in small groups, they are formidable, but by no means a match for a regiment of musket-wielding infantry. Further, the history of European colonization of the Americas is full of native groups siding with the Europeans for their own purposes. As an example, Cortes would have had a much more difficult time conquering the Aztec Empire had client states of that empire like the Tlaxcala not sided with Cortes as a means of (they thought) obtaining their independence. Of course, the history of colonization is also full of examples of the Europeans double-crossing their native allies as well.

  As a result, we decided that European colonization would have proceeded more-or-less as it did historically. The one significant difference was the conscription of superhumans, which in Legion of Liberty is common to all of the colonial powers. While superhumans are not decisive on the battlefield, they have a significant psychological impact on morale for any side fighting against them. It’s one thing to face a line of men with muskets just like you; it’s another thing entirely to be blasted with lightning from a woman flying fifty feet over your head.

  The conscription of superhumans into European armies made it unlikely that most historical figures of the American Revolution would have been superhumans. A few, however, notably Paul Revere (the Silver Speedster), could have bought their way out of conscription. Purchasing your way out of the draft is less bizarre than it might seem to modern ears – at the time, commissions as officers in the British Army could also be purchased, and, at least theoretically, all of the regular army soldiers were volunteers.

  The forces that drove the American Revolution were therefore the same with or without superhumans: the British crown’s attempts to impose more burdens and greater order on colonies that had previously been left more or less to their own devices. The addition of conscription of young superhuman men and women simply adds another causus belli to the list of grievances raised by the colonists.

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