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Reality Ensues / Wild Cards

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Wild Cards depicts comic-book style superheroes in a realistic world, where they often run up against human politics, human prejudices, and simple real-world physics. Because the defining event in the story was an accident, the superheroes here more often than not don't possess the Required Secondary Powers that keep comic-book superheroes from just being a danger to themselves and others, meaning many Aces have stock superpowers with completely logical downsides.

  • Golden Boy has Super Strength and Nigh-Invulnerability, but he's still an adult human man of average size and weight. When he tries to stop a moving car, a much-heavier object in motion, inertia knocks him flat on his ass.
  • Envoy has a Compelling Voice that can make anyone who hears him do what he wants them to do. But the effect wears off when he leaves the general area. Nobody trusts him, not even his own government, because nobody can tell whether they're agreeing with him of their own volition or not. When he's Hauled Before A Senate Subcommittee due to some political missteps, he's able to talk his way out of it...and is promptly dragged back in front of them, this time with anti-superpower countermeasures in place, and this time with every Senator in the room suspicious and hostile toward him. It does not go well.
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  • Brain Trust can telepathically absorb the knowledge of any nearby mind. The government decides to use her as a "backup copy" for their finest scientific thinkers. The problem is that she doesn't just absorb people's knowledge, but their entire personalities. This means she's basically got an entire university's worth of scientists rattling around in her skull...and it takes every ounce of her willpower to keep them from fighting amongst themselves. Gradually all these other personalities subsume her own, and she loses her mind.
  • Kid Dinosaur can shapeshift into any dinosaur he wants to be, but he can't change his overall body mass. So he can be a T-Rex, but the T-Rex can only be about four feet tall.
  • Another shapeshifter manages to overcome Shapeshifter Baggage by being able to convert energy to matter and vice versa. She needs to be as far away from populated areas as possible when she shifts back into a woman, because the sudden change in mass actually causes a small nuclear explosion.
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  • Water Lily develops a secondary power where she can cure Jokers through sex. She promptly has to go into hiding, out of fear of being gang-raped by desperate mutants.
  • Peregrine is a Winged Humanoid who can fly. The wings are a non-functional placebo for her telekinetic self-levitation powers; an adult human woman simply isn't built for actual flight.
  • The "Burning Woman" was a character only mentioned in passing, as a Wreathed in Flames human who has no control over or immunity to her powers: she was in constant, unbearable agony, not able to die or turn it off. She spent her days on a street corner begging passersby to kill her. It's implied that Tachyon finally euthanized her.
  • The Sleeper has an abnormal mutation which causes him to hibernate for weeks or months at a time, then awaken with a brand new form and new superpowers. After waking up he binge-eats to replace stored calories. And by the end of his waking cycle, fear of going to sleep and waking up a hideous monster (which does happen) turns him into a paranoid amphetamine addict.
  • A minor Ace with electricity-based powers has terrible personal hygiene, because he's not immune to his own powers, and can't bathe himself properly without risking electrocution.
  • Several Aces are giants. They're also crippled; their huge bodies can't support their own weight.
  • Tachyon comes from a long-lived species; over a period of forty Earth years he barely ages. By Takisian standards he's still a young adult. This also means that emotionally he's still a young adult. He's in a situation way over his head and he lacks the emotional maturity to deal with it in a healthy way: he drinks too much, he sleeps around, and he abandons his responsibilities frequently. He can also barely disguise his disgust with the victims he's treating; he's been brought up in a society obsessed with selective breeding and genetic engineering, and seeing these people as anything more than mistakes that should be euthanized is a challenge for him. His allies on Earth regard him as flighty and unreliable at best, dangerously out of control at worst.
  • Many Aces are also defeated by simple human politics. When the Red Scare of the 1950's begins, the House Un-American Activities Committee turns its microscope onto the American superhero community, and many are undone by the proceedings. Such was the case of Black Eagle, one of the first ever Aces. A war hero even before he became a superhero, he did a lot of good both at home and abroad. Unfortunately, he was also a black man in the pre-Civil Rights Era. Which would have made his life hard enough, but add to that his radical political leanings and his scandalous personal life, and you have a perfect storm for the blatantly racist elements of the HUAC to pounce on. He is publicly disgraced and imprisoned, then forced to live the rest of his life in exile.
  • Due to how superpowered individuals are handled in-universe (government registration, team sponsorship, etc.) Secret Identities are the exception rather than the rule. Aces are treated like celebrities, so they have neither the need nor the inclination to pretend they're someone else, and Jokers have such obvious physical mutations that they couldn't even if they wanted to.
    • One of the few heroes who does maintain a Secret Identity is Badass Normal vigilante Yeoman, a Green Arrow / Punisher Expy whose Weapon of Choice is a compound bow. In the course of investigating Chrysalis's murder, private investigator Popinjay manages to work out Yeoman's true identity - Vietnam veteran and former lover of Chrysalis Daniel Brennan - through simple deductive reasoning: the level of skill with a highly-specialized weapon that Yeoman demonstrates implies that he's got very specific combat and military training - and furthermore, he's most likely not an Ace, since someone with superpowers wouldn't bother with a mundane human weapon, let alone one requiring such an investment of time and training to use as effectively as Yeoman does. From there, it's a simple matter of delving into Chrysalis's social circle to find someone whose background lines up. Unless a superhero has the power and/or resources to thoroughly cover their tracks - which is next to impossible - there will always be some kind of evidence or data trail left behind, and given time and motivation, any reasonably-competent detective can figure it out.

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