Metahuman Motivations


Experts in metahuman psychology have profiled hundred of super-powered individuals over the years. What follows is an overview of the most common metahuman motivations these experts have discovered.

Motivation Descriptors

Upholding the Good

Superman: A textbook example

Individuals motivated by upholding the good are governed by the need to ‘do the right thing’. They are deeply concerned about their fellow man and will do everything in their power to promote the common good, preserve order, and make the world a better place.

They almost always work within the law because they feel lawlessness breeds its own problems. Even without superpowers, this individual will ‘fight the good fight’.

Responsibility of Power

The Flash: A textbook example

Individuals guided by a responsibility of power believe in the precept that ‘with great power comes great responsibility’.

Although similar in some ways to individuals that uphold the good, those motivated by a responsibility of power are less idealistic and more flawed but more likely to seek a balance between the obligations of their civilian lives and their self-imposed commitment to aid others.

Seeking Justice

The Batman: A textbook example

Individuals that seek justice maintain that ‘the system’ is flawed and that it is up to them to ensure that justice is served regardless of who stands in their way.

Frequently, such individuals are vigilantes because their single-minded pursuit of wrongdoers often forces them to cross the lines of legality. Their motivation is typically shaped by some early childhood trauma, usually involving the loss of one or more family members. Although some of these driven, often grim, individuals draw the line at taking the lives of criminals, others do not.

Unwanted Power

Cyborg: A textbook example

Individuals governed by this motivation found themselves in a position where power was thrust upon them, often painfully on both physical and psychological levels. They believe that normal life is no longer possible and, consequently, they try to make the best of their situations until such time as their abilities can be removed or neutralized.

They are usually moody and feel an underlying hatred of themselves and their special circumstances. Although they avoid human contact as they consider themselves to be ‘freaks’, they in fact strongly desire the acceptance of those around them.

The Thrill of Adventure

green arrow
The Green Arrow: A textbook example

Individuals governed by the thrill of adventure are motivated by the adrenaline rush of being a part of the metahuman community. The will actively seek out circumstances that are dangerous to themselves or others and will not hesitate to put themselves in harm’s way even if they have no superhuman abilities.

They often rush into battle with little forethought, which often makes them liabilities for whatever team on which they serve. They are also unresponsive to authority figures, often to the point of open hostility. Their greatest character flaw is that, because their emotions are close to the surface at most times, they can easily be emotionally manipulated.

Personal Agenda

Raven: A textbook example

Individuals with a personal agenda are usually involved in metahuman affairs almost incidentally. Their primary concern is to achieve a specific, very personal, goal.

These goals often differ greatly from person to person. Such goals range from trying to prevent a particular event from coming to pass, attempting to achieve a particular result or reaching a particular destination. These individuals are often secretive and will not hesitate to manipulate others if it serves their ends.

Seeking Vengeance

The Scarecrow: A textbook example

Simply put, individuals seeking vengeance are dedicated to avenging a wrong done to themselves, their friends or their family. In most cases, such wrongs are traumatic, often involving the death of a loved one. However, there have been reported cases where these ‘wrongs” are in fact trivial slights and may even be imaginary. Hence, the propensity for those governed by this motivation to suffer from deep-seated psychoses.

The targets of these vendettas may be a single individual, an organization or even an entire community. Regardless, individuals motivated by the need for revenge will dedicate themselves to the destruction of the person or people they hold responsible for their pain. In the case where an amorphous group such as a government body is held responsible, such individuals will continue their crusade even if the organization is too large and powerful to destroy.

Personal Gain

booster gold
Booster Gold: A textbook example

Individuals motivated by personal gain don costumes for personal reward. Most often, such rewards are monetary but fame within a specific community is also a strong component of this motivation. However, these individuals could also be attempting to gain respect or attract companionship.

For villainous metahumans, this motivation commonly expresses itself as pure greed or even a lust for power. Heroic metahumans desiring personal gain see what they do as simply a business, often performing heroic deeds for a price or even selling their skills and powers to the highest bidder.


Thanos of Titan: A textbook example

These individuals have adopted the philosophical position which argues that the world (or universe) and, especially sentient existence, is without objective meaning, purpose, comprehensible truth, or essential value. Such individuals generally assert some or all of the following: there is no reasonable proof of the existence of a higher power, morality is a fiction, and secular ethics are impossible: hence, life has no truth and no action is preferable to any other.

Such individuals may seek to terminate the existence of those around them, often brutally as the pain they inflict on others does not affect them emotionally. Their own lives mean nothing to them and, consequently, will take no action to preserve them unless they are attempting to extinguish life on a grander scale.


Akashic Records, The

The metaphysical basis for the occult abilities of postcognition and psychometry

Artist’s conceptualization of the Akashic Records as a vast library accessible only to mystics and mages

The Akashic Records are a compendium of thoughts, events, and emotions believed to be encoded in a non-physical plane of existence known as the Astral Plane.

The Sanskrit word akasha (ākāśa आकाश) was first used in English occult circles by Alfred Percy Sinnett (1840–1921), who, in his book Esoteric Buddhism (1884), wrote of a Buddhist belief in “a permanency of records in the Akasa” and “the potential capacity of man to read the same.” The notion of such records was later expounded by the founder of the Theosophical Society, H. P. Blavatsky, (1831–1891), who, in her book The Secret Doctrine (1888), referred to “indestructible tablets of the astral light” recording both the past and future of human thought and action although she did not use the term “akashic” in her description. In his book Clairvoyance (1899), C. W. Leadbeater (1854-1934) used the term Akashic Records as what a clairvoyant accesses to learn of the past of a person or thing.

There are many anecdotal accounts but no scientific evidence for the existence of Akashic Records.

The Existence of Superpowers

This entry discusses why people have metahuman abilities

A sequence from a popular comic book depicting an accident granting superpowers instead of taking lives

The question of how superpowers can exist at all has often been raised. Ordinarily, one would think that efforts to build powered armor would fail, and people struck by lightning while standing in a laboratory full of strange chemicals would. Yet, there are some individuals among us who can build astounding suits of hi-tech armor, and there are others who manifest superpowers from the most unlikely scenarios like fatal accidents involving radioactive contaminants.

In a nutshell, superpowers can exist because magic exists. Our universe is suffused with magic. Occasionally, as in the distant past, the level of ambient magical energies rises to the point where virtually anyone can cast spells or control mystic forces, and the gods themselves can walk among us. At other times, like the far future, the level of ambient magic ebbs to such a low point that only a small fraction of the population can practice it or use it. In such cases, superpowers simply cannot exist.

The level of ambient magic in our universe had remained quite low for several centuries prior to 1900. By 1938, it had risen to such a point that the Reichsamt fur die Sicherung volkischer Kulturguter (English: Reich’s Office for the Safety and Security of National Cultural Items) or RSvKg, a group of mystics working for the Nazis, were able to perform rituals that “forced” the level of ambient magic higher still. Their intent was to magically propel Germany to world dominance. What actually resulted was a situation in which superpowers became possible.

Due to the extremely high level of ambient magic around us, accidents that would normally kill or maim people sometimes lead to the manifestation of superpowers although this is extremely rarely. It also makes genetic mutations that create superpowers possible, and allows some truly gifted inventors to create technology the general public cannot understand, use, or reproduce.

What is important to remember is that, although magic is the reason why superpowers exist, this does not mean that the superpowers an individual has are magical in nature. For instance, the powers built into Defender’s armor are the result of sophisticated technology even though Defender’s ability to create such technology stems from magic. The superpowers wielded by the teenage heroine known as Blizzard are the result of a genetic mutation even though it is magic that made so beneficial a mutation of her genes possible. Unlike true wielders of magical forces like Witchcraft or Arcana, neither individual registers in any way as being magical or manipulating magical forces because their superpowers function in accordance with established physical laws.

Adapted from a text published in Champions Universe by Steven S. Long and Darren Watts. ™ and © Hero Games, Inc., 2002.

Archmage, The

A description of the office of the Archmage by Dean Shomshak.

Portrait of Branna (384 BC-865 AD), Gaelic sorceress and second female Archdruid, from the private collection of Arcana Arcanatis

The Archmage is not a person, but an office – the most powerful mystic on Earth, blessed with sorcerous gifts surpassing all others. At the death or retirement of each Archmage, his chosen successor gains the office’s awesome power, no matter where in the Multiverse either person is at the time.

The Archmage’s chief power is an effortless facility with spells. An Archmage does not need the chants, talismans, potions, magic circles, or other paraphernalia used by most sorcerers. He casts spells by will alone. At present, only supermages such as the likes of the horrific Takofanes perform magic with such effortless ease. An Archmage also gains an extended lifespan. Archmages live for centuries, until they encounter something able to kill them or they voluntarily step down and once more age at a normal rate. (The Eternal Tulku may have become immortal before he became an Archmage.)

The Archmage wields tremendous authority over the spirit world. He may call on any power within the Inner Planes. He can invoke the light of God to burn and banish demons, or the fires of Hell to chastise angels. He can borrow a pagan god’s mastery of nature, or the urban magics of Babylon. Ghost, ghoul, and god all find the Archmage summoning the power most baneful to them. Invaders from the Outer Planes encounter an even greater threat: the Archmage can curse them through the power of Earth’s four great spirit-realms, to render the Inner Planes deadly to them.

Over the centuries, the Archmages accumulated many of Earth’s greatest mystic artifacts and relics. They employed some of these magical treasures; others, too dangerous for human use, they locked away to keep them from unwary hands. According to occult legend, a being called Thanoro Azoic initiated the line of Archmages, longer ago than anyone now can say. “Azoic” means “no life”: some mystics believe Thanoro Azoic came from another plane before life existed on Earth, and guarded the planet for eons until the first human wizards became powerful and wise enough to assume his burden. Other mystics believe the First Archmage bore some connection to the mysterious Nagas who taught mystics and heroes long ago. Most sages opine, however, that “Azoic” must be a mistranslation of some other word or name.

After Thanoro Azoic, the line of Archmages has broken twice that mystics know. The first time happened in antiquity. This interregnum lasted more than a century. The Hellenistic magus Thestor restored the line of Archmages after a quest to find Kryptos, the cosmic personification of secret knowledge. Thestor’s grimoire, The Krypticon, became the most treasured possession of succeeding Archmages.

Seven more Archmages followed Thestor: four men and three women, from all around the world. The office returned to Europe in the seventeenth century with the accession of the Russian mystic Bohdan Stanislavski. The Circle of the Scarlet Moon murdered Stanislavski in 1908 in a magical cataclysm, which destroyed most of the arcane artifacts the Archmages had collected for centuries, such as the world had not seen in millennia. Stanislavski lacked an heir as his apprentice had died fighting an Edomite horror in Africa a few years before.

Many contemporary mystics dearly want to restore the office of Archmage and regain humanity’s greatest safeguard against supernatural danger. Unfortunately, everyone who definitely knows the secret of doing so can’t or won’t talk. The serpentine Nagas, whose knowledge of the mystic arts has no equal on Earth, remain silent for their own inscrutable reasons. Perhaps they think it’s useful for humanity to lack one clear mystic authority or perhaps, as some mystics whisper, these ancient entities no longer care what happens to the world.

The retired Archmage called the Eternal Tulku once knew, but he slipped into senility long ago. Perhaps someone can learn the secret of anointing a brand-new Archmage during one of Tulku’s rare moments of lucidity. Regardless of the general mystery surrounding the process of accession to the position of Archmage, mystics know the following:

  • A future Archmage shows great mystic mastery even before his anointing. Specialists and dabblers need not apply.
  • Documented Archmages followed every major style of sorcery – Hermetic ritual magic, Taoist wizardry, shamanism, and more except for alchemy.
  • Moral requirements seem lax. Although an Archmage’s duties include refereeing conflicts between the spirit powers and defending the Earth from supernatural invasion, not all of them have been exactly heroic. A few mystics quite seriously believe that Takofanes the Undying, considered by some the most evil and powerful villain on Earth, is an Archmage from remote antiquity who rose from the dead and reclaimed his power.
  • A prospective Archmage must learn the spell that curses invaders from the Outer Planes. Any sorcerer could learn the Quaternion Banishment, but the mystic must first receive gifts of power from the gods of Faerie, Babylon, Elysium, and the Netherworld. For more than a thousand years, no one except apprentice Archmages ever filled this requirement. Mystics who hope to anoint a new Archmage – or take the office themselves – strive to rediscover the Quaternion Banishment and obtain the necessary gifts of power.
  • On the other hand, a nascent Archmage may not bind himself to any single god or spirit. The Archmage speaks for all humanity in the quarrels and councils of the gods. To do this, he must remain neutral – receiving power from gods, but not becoming beholden to them.

Beyond these minimal requirements, everything else is conjecture. Skilled astral voyagers search the Upper Planes for the elusive Kryptos. Scholarly mystics seek letters from old Archmages, memoires by mystics who knew them, and any other text that might give more hints.

Originally published in The Mystic World: A Setting Book for Champions by Dean Shomshak. ™ and © Hero Games, Inc., 2004.

Mindscape, The

Learn about the mysterious realm of pure thought called the mindscape

Artist’s  rendition of the mindscape as a plane of malleable mindstuff

The mindscape, mental plane, or world of thought, refers to the macrocosmic or universal plane or reality that is made up purely of thought or mindstuff. In contrast to Western secular modernist and post-modern belief, thoughts and consciousness are not just a byproduct of brain functioning, but have their own objective and universal reality quite independent of the physical.

This reality itself constitutes only one gradation in a whole series of planes of existence. In most such cosmologies and explanations of reality, the mindscape is located adjacent to the astral plane but below the higher spiritual realms of existence.

Telepaths can consciously project their thought-forms into the mindscape in much the same way that sorcerers can project their astral bodies. However, with sufficient training or natural ability, a telepath can also draw the thought-forms of others into the mindscape against their will. Because it is the depository of all human thought since the beginning of the species, the mindscape is inhabited by not only sentient embodiments of psychological archetypes forming part of the collective unconscious but also by all manner of imaginary and mythological creatures, some of which are powerful enough to injure or even kill the unwary traveler.

Astral Plane, The

Learn about the subtle realm inhabited by a variety of spirits called the astral plane

Astral Plane
Artist’s rendition of a journey to the astral plane in the astral body

The astral plane, also called the astral world, is a plane whose existence was first postulated by classical, medieval, oriental and esoteric philosophies and mystery religions. It is the world of the celestial spheres, crossed by the soul in its astral body on the way to being born and after death, and generally said to be populated by angels, spirits or other immaterial beings. In the late 19th and early 20th century the term was popularized by Theosophy and neo-Rosicrucianism.

Plato and Aristotle taught that the stars were composed of a type of matter different from the four earthly elements – a fifth, ethereal element or quintessence that they referred to as the aethyr. In the “astral mysticism” of the classical world, the human psyche was composed of the same material, thus accounting for the influence of the stars upon human affairs.

Such doctrines were commonplace in mystery-schools and Hermetic and gnostic sects throughout the Roman Empire and influenced the early Christian church. Among Muslims, the “astral” world-view was soon rendered orthodox by Quranic references to the Prophet’s ascent through the seven heavens. Scholars took up the Greek Neoplatonist accounts as well as similar material in Hindu and Zoroastrian texts. By the 14th century, Dante was describing his own journey through the astral spheres of Paradise.

According to occult teachings the astral plane can be visited consciously through astral projection, meditation and mantra, near death experience, lucid dreaming, or other means. Individuals that are trained in the use of the astral vehicle can separate their consciousness in the astral vehicle from the physical body at will. Although human dreamers regularly visit the harmless lower astral planes, only trained wizards are able to visit the higher astral planes, which are inhabited by powerful and occasionally dangerous entities.

Shekinah, The

Learn about the divine feminine principle as conceived by Qabbalists

Artist’s rendition of the Shekinah

Shekinah (Biblical Hebrew: שכינה‎‎), is the English transliteration of a Hebrew noun meaning “dwelling” or “settling” and denotes the dwelling or settling of the divine presence of God and his cosmic glory. Shekhinah is equated to the dwelling place of the divine presence to the effect that, while in proximity to the Shekhinah, the connection to God is more readily perceivable.

The concept is similar to that mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew, 18:20:

Where two or three are gathered together in my name there am I in their midst.

Some theologians have connected the concept of Shekhinah to Parousia (Greek: παρουσία), the English transliteration of a Greek noun meaning “presence”, which is used in the New Testament in a similar way for “divine presence”.

Qabbalists view the Shekhinah as the divine feminine principle, a belief which distinguishes Qabbalistic literature from earlier rabbinical literature. According to scholar Alan Unterman in his book Dictionary of Jewish Lore and Legend:

In the imagery of the Kabbalah the shekhinah is the most overtly female sefirah, the last of the ten sefirot, referred to imaginatively as ‘the daughter of God’. … The harmonious relationship between the female shekhinah and the six sefirot which precede her causes the world itself to be sustained by the flow of divine energy. She is like the moon reflecting the divine light into the world.