Editor's Note: The following is a revised update to a thread I first posted to this forum years ago. Since that time I've identified several other setting-based character origins meeting the criteria I set out below. However, the limit to the number of letters/characters I can put in one post here, left me unable to simply add them to my main list. Therefore the simplest course seemed to be starting from scratch with a new thread.
The Champions Universe, being inspired by the major mainstream comics companies, embraces the full range of classic super character origins you see in those comics: mutagenic accidents, genetic mutation, radical scientific inventions, mystic martial arts, aliens, spellcasting sorcery, gods and supernatural creatures, cosmic entities, etc. However, there are a number of origin concepts, described in the Champions Pen and Paper books, that IMHO are pretty original and distinctive to the setting, but don't require characters to have unusual backgrounds to fit them. I thought it might be helpful to the community if I outlined a few of my favorite unique origins here, which someone might find useful for their own Player Characters.
Feel free to post inquiries about any of these, or suggestions for additional origins.
Alien Gene-Tampering: Superhuman powers resulting from aliens mucking with Human DNA is a well-established comic-book trope. On Champions Earth the Qularr are one likely candidate. The main reason the Qularr invaded Earth in the first place was so they could study the Human genome on a large scale, to understand why and how Humans manifest superpowers with greater frequency and average power than nearly any other species, including the Qularr. They hope to engineer that capacity in themselves. At least one experiment along those lines has yielded a super-powered hybrid, although by accident. It's highly likely other similar experiments are being conducted by Qularr currently on Earth, or perhaps on Humans kidnapped and brought back to Qularr space.
What virtually no one knows is that one reason Humans do manifest powers more often, is because that genetic potential was placed in them by incredibly ancient and advanced aliens called the Progenitors. Two million years ago the Progenitors advanced the evolution of Humanity's ancestor species to the next stage of sapience. Half a million years ago they experimented on Homo erectus, creating the first of the ageless superhuman Empyrean race. Champions Universe suggests they might also be responsible for the creation of the Birdpeople of Thaar twelve thousand years ago.
In any case, the Progenitors still exist, continuing their experiments and periodically monitoring the progress of past ones. It's not unreasonable to assume that they would do some "followup" work on Human DNA.
You can read much more about the Qularr and Progenitors in Champions Beyond.
Coruscations of Power: In the worldwide accidental cataclysm which devastated the alien planet Ashraal centuries ago, and gave birth to the awesome cosmic villain Xarriel, discreet bursts of energy from the main explosion were cast across space and time, emerging in random locations in the space-time continuum. To date at least five of these "coruscations of power" have appeared on or near the Earth in recent years, and affected humans in their vicinity, creating the supervillains Photon, Stareye, Sunspot, and Vector, and the superhero Victory.
The coruscations can manifest as bursts of light from space, but in the past have been mistaken for solar flares or lightning storms. Powers induced by them can, but not must, include various forms of energy projection, flight (usually very fast), mind-affecting abilities, enhanced physical strength, speed, and durability, and the ability to survive in hostile environments (even space).
Xarriel is fully detailed in Champions Beyond, while the other villains mentioned are in the Champions Villains trilogy, and Victory in Champions Universe.
DEMONic Experiments: One of the classic superhero origins is the person unwillingly subjected to villainous scientific experiments who uses their newly-gained powers to escape. In the CU quite a few official supers came about that way, particularly due to actions by VIPER and ARGENT. But DEMON, the worldwide supernatural villain org, often conduct their own magical analogues to scientific research, which have spawned magical superhumans.
One official villain, named Riptide, was a young runaway girl before a member of DEMON found her and turned her over to his Morbane. The Morbane attempted a magic experiment to bind the girl to a water elemental, hoping to create a strong but mentally pliable minion. But Riptide's crazed fear at what was done to her was now backed with elemental powers, enabling her to force her way to freedom. The supervillain now called Morningstar was the result of a tactic that DEMON often uses since it became estranged from the rulers of Hell: forcing a summoned demon to temporarily occupy the human body of a DEMON Brother, giving the Brother a measure of demonic power but with the human personality in control. For unknown reasons, Morningstar's possession proved permanent. He fought DEMON's enemies for some time, under enchantment to ensure his loyalty, until a battle with magical heroes severed the control spell and returned his free will. Morningstar left DEMON to become an independent supervillain. (Both characters are detailed in Champions Villains Vol. 3.)
Another villain in the service of DEMON, Professor Samedi, was a minor DEMON member, and lackluster musician, before his Morbane had him try to play an enchanted fiddle the Morbane had acquired. Samedi found he could cast several potent spells with the fiddle's music, but it changed him physically, making him look almost skeletally gaunt; and changed his personality, to more actively, confidently malevolent. So there's precedent for a Morbane to have one of his disposable minions "test drive" a magic item. Perhaps a given item would change the wielder's personality in a more positive way. (Prof. Samedi is detailed in DEMON: Servants Of Darkness.)
Department 17: Since World War II, the United States government has researched ways to safely and reliably create superhumans, as well as to more effectively control them, with few successes. Their efforts have often resulted in severe, even fatal physical and mental side effects to their subjects, and produced as many supervillains as superheroes. During WW II the US military set up the Haynesville Project for this purpose, at Fort McLaughlin (now McLaughlin Air Force Base) near the small town of Haynesville, Kansas. After the war the Project was declassified and officially shut down, and McLaughlin AFB appears nearly abandoned today.
This was a ruse. The Haynesville Project was never shut down. Still secretly based at McLaughlin, what is now titled Department 17 is the Defense Department's hub for research into superpower generation and superhuman control. Under its current director, General Clarence Smith, it conducts a wide variety of research involving drugs and chemicals, radiation treatments, genetic engineering, and other exotic methods. Much of the Department's current research focuses on refining the Cyberline procedure used for PRIMUS's Avenger program. The Department's scientists are also very interested in investigating any reports of new manifestations of superpowers.
General Smith might go to great lengths to keep 17's existence and activities secret. He's also used some "creative" accounting to keep his department funded. Department 17 is described on Champions Universe p. 138.
"Divine" Intervention: In the Champions Universe, all the gods and demons of myth and religion that humans still remember actually exist. Although very powerful in their home astral dimensions, a metaphysical barrier called the Ban prevents them from manifesting on Earth with their full power. But there are a few ways divine beings can create lesser-powered Earthly agents to champion their causes.
One of these ways is to infuse some of their power, and sometimes personality, into a deserving human host, creating a superhuman reflecting the qualities of his or her patron deity. Quite a few official Champions heroes and villains have been empowered in this way. In keeping with comic-book origin conventions, their empowerment typically comes under unusual and dramatic circumstances, often at a key turning point in the life of the hero. For example, the first Johnny Hercules was given an amulet by an "apparition" of Zeus when the circus he worked for toured Greece, containing the "Hercules Force," the power of Hercules as a demigod which he abandoned when he became fully a god. The Nigerian hero Ogun gained power over metal after being beaten near to death by criminal thugs, when he received a vision of the Yoruba god of the forge of the same name.
Ogun is thoroughly detailed in Champions Worldwide, while the current Johnny Hercules is featured in the PDF book The Hercules Force, available from the Hero Games website store. Much more on CU gods and the Ban can be found in The Mystic World.
Empyrean Heritage: For hundreds of thousands of years, the immortal superhuman offshoot of humanity called Empyreans have existed alongside their human cousins. While they maintain their own city of Arcadia in Antarctica, hidden from human discovery by advanced devices, the majority of Empyreans choose to live incognito among humanity. The general population is ignorant of their existence; only a few superheroes have been trusted with the secret, although the Lemurians know of Arcadia and have been enemies of the Empyreans for many millennia. A few Empyreans have acted as superheroes or villains in the modern era.
Empyreans sometimes have children by humans, who are always either normal humans or full Empyreans. These children may grow up unaware of their true heritage; but the Empyreans' leaders scan the world for any new Empyrean offspring, and when they discover one induct him or her into their society. But individual Empyreans can follow whatever activities they like, provided they don't reveal their race's existence to mankind.
All Empyreans are ageless, physically superhuman to a greater or lesser extent, and can fly. They can manifest a wide range of mental or energy powers, although the type and degree varies based on innate ability and the interest a given Empyrean has in developing specific powers, usually related to their preferred pastimes. The Empyreans and Arcadia are extensively described in Hidden Lands.
Golden Age Legacies: In the real world the earliest comic-book superheroes appeared starting in 1938, and continued to be created over the course of World War II. Champions Earth's first actual superhumans also began to appear during this period. Most of those heroes eventually retired, to be replaced by newer generations; but often those newer heroes were inspired by their predecessors, in many cases even to the point of adopting their code names as an homage. Most such "legacy heroes" were either the relatives or proteges of the originals, or sought their blessing to carry on their names. However, certain lineages originating in the Golden Age have been particularly fertile in continuing to produce new heroes to uphold the family tradition.
In the winter of 1939 Kiril Lenskii was a young officer in the Soviet army serving in his country's war against Finland. Badly wounded in an attack that wiped out the rest of his unit, and overcome by the severe winter cold, Lenskii collapsed unconscious over underground caverns which released strange gasses. As they entered his lungs his body began to change. He awoke to discover that not only was his body healed and stronger than before, but he was now immune to the cold, and could even create intense cold, snow, and ice over limited areas. Given the code name, General Zima ("winter"), over the course of World War II Kiril Lenskii became the Soviet military's leading superhero, and remained so for many years.
The three sons of fisherman and former naval sailor Morimoto Takashi (by a mysterious woman who may have been a supernatural spirit) were each born with extraordinary abilities: enormous strength and durability (Ichiro); incredible speed (Jiro); and probability manipulation (Saburo) manifesting as phenomenal luck for himself, and phenomenal misfortune for his opponents. The three young men were recruited by the Japanese government to fight their country's foes, first China in the 1930s, and later the Americans and their allies during WW II. They were among Japan's most prominent superhuman champions during and after the war.
Each of the three Morimoto brothers had more than one superhuman offspring, while all seven of General Zima's children developed super powers. Today there are over two dozen "super" members of the extended Morimoto family, and descendants of General Zima, active in their respective homelands. It would be reasonable to expect a few of their relatives to have emigrated to other countries at some point.
Although the histories of these characters don't explicitly state it one way or the other, there's no reason to assume superhumans from their lineages necessarily manifest the same types of powers as their ancestors. The mutations of all three original Morimoto brothers were radically different from each other; while General Zima's origin implies his abilities resulted from his body adapting to a specific environment.
The full write-ups for General Zima and the Morimoto brothers appear in the latest edition of Golden Age Champions (for Hero System Sixth Edition).
Hzeel Biomatter: Champions Earth has experienced several alien invasions in the past, and of course is currently dealing with renewed intrusions by the Gadroon and Qularr. What no one on Earth knows yet, is that another aggressive species, the Hzeel, also have the Earth in their sights. These short, blue-skinned humanoids have scouted Earth for nearly two decades, wanting it as an advance staging area in their war against the Dorvalans (Ironclad's race).
At least two Hzeel scout craft have crashed on Earth and been discovered by humans. One of these was salvaged by Roger Warwell, aka the Warlord, and its technology became the basis for his own weapon designs. Hzeel technology is partly biological, and can have radical unpredictable effects when it comes in contact with human tissue. Two humans, the solo supervillain Howler, and the Warlord's minion Warcry, gained superhuman vocal powers when Hzeel communications devices were implanted in their throats (this happening spontaneously on contact in the case of Howler).
The effect also extends to tissues from Hzeel themselves; VIPER's staff supervillain Oculon gained his powerful eyebeams from eyes from an Hzeel corpse transplanted to his sockets. (Hzeel don't have eyebeams, they're the result of interaction between the two species' biologies.) Anyone using recognizable Hzeel materials would undoubtedly be of interest to both the Hzeel and the Warlord.
The Hzeel have a whole chapter in Champions Beyond. The other villains mentioned are in the Champions Villains trilogy, except Oculon who's written up in VIPER: Coils Of The Serpent.
Kelvarite: This mysterious, green-glowing extraterrestrial mineral has been found in meteorites from several falls. It's a powerful source of energy, but is extremely unstable and prone to explosion when disturbed. Some people who have been bombarded by radiation or fragments from exploding kelvarite have gained superhuman powers, typically (but not exclusively) superhuman strength and durability, and some type of enhanced movement capability, e.g. super-running or -leaping, flight, or teleportation. They also acquire a susceptibility to radiation from other samples of kelvarite. Known superhumans with this origin include the solo villains Tachyon and Thunderbolt II, Dr. Destroyer's servant Meteor (all in the CV trilogy), and the African superhero Gazelle (in Champions Worldwide).
Large organizations such as the US government and UNTIL have secured all the kelvarite they can find, but sometimes lend samples to research laboratories. Other kelvarite meteorites remain to be discovered. However, what no one is aware of is that what they call kelvarite is actually impure samples, which is why it's unstable. Pure kelvarite doesn't resemble the impure mineral, and is extremely rare on Earth. Its energies respond to the will of intelligent beings in physical contact with it, allowing them to wield formidable energy-projection powers. (It isn't obvious that the power comes from the kelvarite itself.) The only pure kelvarite discovered so far was made into rings worn by the three men who have used the superheroic identity, Meteor Man.