Not all alien invasions are violent, full of pyrotechnic special effects &/or CGI, such as The War of the Worlds and Independence Day. Sometimes the aliens do come in peace, rather than shooting to kill. They may be just passing through the solar system, like the Vulcans in Star Trek: First Contact. Others are fleeing or hiding from humans (The Six Million Dollar Man‘s “Straight on Til Morning” episode and Zenna Henderson’s The People novels). The third type, the focus of this article, are immigrants, who are trying to live side by side with the Humans. This was seriously explored in the Alien Nation movie and TV series and for laughs in the Men in Black movie franchise.
Mutants and Masterminds also gives players and GMs plenty of material for arcs and standalone adventures about alien refugees and immigrants (along with classic alien invasions). Several Second and Third Edition sourcebooks feature the Lor, descended from “pure” and altered humans seeded onto other planets by the Preservers. (Now, the Lor, on the other hand, believe that Humans are descended from one of their lost colonies.) One or two Lor made it to Earth decades ago, such as the original Star Knight of Freedom City, A’lan Koor. In the present day, Daedalus helped some Lor escape Star-Khan’s conquest of their stellar republic, inviting them to live on Earth’s Star Island.
The current arc of Stormbreakers–the Friday Night Skype Emerald City Knights campaign–centers around those Lor refugees. The Stormbreakers* first encountered the Lor in the ECK module #6, “Into the Fire.” Several Lor, including the mentat El-va, were pulled back to Earth along with the team before the destruction of Magna-Lor. El-va has since become an important NPC ally to the team, as well as a Relationship Complication for the team leader, Mayfield. When, months later, El-va decided to visit the Star Island Lor refugees, the PCs, as well as NPC team doctor Matt Burke, were happy to go with her and aid the other Lor. In fact, Donovan Morningfire’s PC Spider-Man** and his friend Bubblegum Girl agreed to help Daedalus with his latest project, a new Lor settlement on Europa.
While at Star Island, my PC, Yule Queen, became friends with several Lor musicians, picking up the basics of a Lor musical instrument. Music must be a universal language, because it resulted in a fast friendship between Yule and those Lor. Upon the team’s return, she learned that Stormbreaker patron Max Mars was planning to help sponsor a permanent Lor settlement in Emerald City. The harpist/superheroine became one of the settlement plan’s biggest supporters and offered to personally sponsor her new friends if they wished to remain on Earth. When the Emerald City enclave was formally opened, Yule was one of the main speakers.
Yule’s speech resulted in consequences–read, Complications–for her personally. Her acknowledgement, not for the first time, that she was one of the infamous Stormers (a super created by the Silver Storm), brought out the worst in a heckler–who didn’t fare very well. The Yule Queen proclaimed, hand upraised and surrounded by a sparkling ice cloud, that she was “The Silver Storm’s Silver lining!” and dedicated to protecting all the citizenry–human, Lor, metahuman–from all threats, including rogue Stormers.
This was one of my best moments in a social encounter! Then, she and the NPC Dr. Burke all but outted her secret identity of Maryn Forrest! There were also implications for the campaign arc here as well. I didn’t find out until post-session, but GM Ogehn had decided to conduct this like the Change Attitude mechanic under the M&M 3e Persuasion skill. The overall attitude of the listening citizens went from negative to neutral/slightly positive.
But the arrival of the Lor in Emerald City was not quite as positive for all the Stormbreakers. While Spider-Man himself supported them, as I mentioned above, it meant more trouble for his secret identity. Peter Reilly’s relationship with his closest family was chilly & contentious due to his “college internship” at Stormbreakers sponsor MarsTech. Peter’s uncle did have an excuse of sorts there, since his wife was hospitalized in the aftermath of a clash between the Stormbreakers and some heavy-duty supervillains. His aunt and uncle’s discovery that the internship involved working with the Lor, on top of finding out he was involved with a minor meta-human thief (Bubblegum Girl), worsened things to the breaking point. At least they don’t know who Peter really is…Even if his beloved uncle turned out to have feet of bigoted clay…
So, while there may not be pyrotechnics, bodily harm, and mayhem in peaceful “invasions,” there is still the possibility of damage–to emotions, relationships, reputations. As fellow-player Empty Bacta Tank pointed out to me, when I talked over the possibility of harpist Maryn Forrest becoming publicly-known as the Yule Queen, secret identities/double lives in the comics can be allegories of life as a closeted gay. The parallels are not lost on Yule/Maryn, whose brother is gay. She has already seen firsthand with him the good and ill she may face. And we know, all too sadly, how human gays and immigrants are often feared and hated.
*In our campaign, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, the Emerald City superhero team is named Stormbreakers. The campaign started long before Green Ronin used the name for an official organization.
**Yes, our Emerald City has it’s own friendly neighborhood Spiderman.
Credits: Thanks to Dono for allowing me to link to the Spidey stats on his blog and to Empty Bacta Tank for fact checking on Stormbreakers events.
Freedom City Second Edition, Green Ronin Publishing, © 2006
Emerald City Knights, Third Edition, Green Ronin Publishing, © 2013
Cosmic Handbook, Third Edition, Green Ronin Publishing, © 2015