Monday, June 8, 2015

Most Wanted Conspyramid 6: Zodiac

Continuing from the last post we’re adding another column to the left, which means another story element in the Conspiracy. This time we’re adding the international criminal cartel Zodiac. Adding this column changes the tenor of the MEDUSA column because now Alexander, while still rueful about his errors, was suborned by Zodiac. (Exactly how this happened tells you a lot about Leo: if Alexander was framed/tricked into killing another innocent that’s one thing; if we postulate a Zodiac member named Aquarius with Revivification and Leo showed up, beat Trickshot to death, had him revived while he had a cup of tea and beat him to a pulp again to prove a point that’s another.) With crooks below him, Alexander also has to provide technology and intelligence to Zodiac – and the threat from them might explain why he’s willing to own up and possibly face prison time rather than implicate further up the chain. This change also means Vindicator is running another asset in ARIES: Advanced Research Institute for Engineering Sciences.

Zodiac obviously has a 12 person membership, but only three are ‘permanent’: Leo in charge with Virgo (a Greek heiress with both emotion control and the odd ability that people near her have flashes of brilliance and insight) at his side and Crossfire/Sagittarius as his enforcer. The rest change over time: Gemini has been a pair of twin martial artists, a man with double normal human stats (akin to previously detailed and Blog Favorite Detective Double) and a man who could create temporary duplicates of things with a touch; Cancer has been woman with biological armor and a man who built aquatic war machines. As GM feel free to add in any villain you want with Zodiac chrome to fill out the team.



Level Five Node: Zodiac
Leo the Lion: President Doctor Leopold Lions III: The dictatorial kleptocrat of Simtawala has been a thorn in many hero’s sides with his schemes for personal power or vengeance for perceived slights. This is just a cover, playing the stereotype as he advances his greater plan of theft of US technology and power to make his nation superior to his neighbor and unassailable. From there comes his true goal of claiming continental dominance – this goes to make him a top rate Dr. Doom rather than an off label one.

One note here: the original Most Wanted Leo is the second kleptocratic president for life of Malawi, which is depicted as suffering from armed conflict and revolutions that sent he and the prior president in and out of the country as they seized and lost power. Malawi’s a weird choice for this because their president for life didn’t face armed rebellions, pushed money into infrastructure and stepped down after a national referendum. Not an angel, but not Leo either, and Malawi currently has democratic rule that’s less corrupt that others. Hence it’s becoming a generic fictional African country: Simtawala (a contraction of the Swahili words for Lion King).
* Increase level to 15 and age to 50.
* Training increases I to 21, Unarmed Accuracy to +3.
* Feel free to give him several high tech devices stolen or perfected by his agents.
* Increase US Security Clearance to 10 due to intelligence assets.
* As a ruler of a country, Leo has enormous resources, but it’s not a high tech wonder country like Latveria and Wakanda so it’s mostly limited to conventional weapons. Still, if pressed he can produce a security detail of mooks, and if attacked at home has an army.

If the players are nosing around here it’s because they’ve penetrated fairly deeply into the conspiracy: both Trickshot and Crossfire are very hard to turn for very different reasons. Things get really sticky at this level – if they have fought Leo before it’s been him in his cover identity of two bit dictator who flees his foiled schemes into his Embassy and claims diplomatic immunity (in fact the GM is encouraged to arrane such a meeting if at all possible prior to this point). The discovery that large swaths of the US military intelligence community, never mind corrupt police forces and criminal gangs are under his direct control will be a bit of a shock. The PCs may well underestimate his resources. If the PCs are only workin their way up one direction of this he will obviously blindside them with the other – he knows the full reach of his organization so even something as small as a Nicotines crime spree to distract them is entirely within his ability to command. Or using corrupt cops to legally go after their DNPCs. Or having Crossfire and Virgo directly recruit Mirage to set a murderous Ebony Angel on one of them. He’ll maneuver all of his chess pieces around to harry, distract and destroy the heroes.

Being super-heroes they might go all law abiding, breaking the news of the corruption to the press or the government. Leo would continue to work indirectly against them with deniable assets, while buying off people through Simtawala’s considerable shadow assets. He will be loathe to see the MEDUSA network go but will cut it loose much quicker than he would abandon Crossfire, who he can just relocate out of the US until the heat does down. But eventually he’ll try to destroy the heroes for that, and no more mister nice Kleptocratic dictator.

If that doesn’t work he’ll lure the PCs to an international incident attacking him in Simtawala, where they’ll have to face a modest army armed with advanced tech, including units carrying blaster rifles. Weapons will be tailored to the PCs weaknesses, and as many members of Zodiac as there are PCs will be there for the boss fight. Taking down Leo and Zodiac would be a hell of a campaign high point.

Level Four Node: Zodiac’s US Assassin and Spy
Crossfire/Sagittarius: Christine Friday lost part of herself in Simtawala, but gained a bond with the country’s future ruler. She and Leo had been on-again, off-again allies for years before they solidified the partnership with the formation of Zodiac. Friday doesn’t have complex plans or enormous life goals, which makes her a great ally for Leo. She also has a great relationship with Vigro, whom she bodyguards when the Greek Heiress is in the US, seeing her as a little sister.
* Increase level to 12 and age to 34
* Training increases E, I and S to 18, A to 24
* Feel free to expand her special weapon ammunition.

Zodiac’s US operations rely on both key assassination (which Crossfire handles) and cultivating high tech assets. This node is just them, Thelma and Louiseing around the country killing people and cultivating ‘friendships,. They are friends with (and indirect control of) Vindicator and might be able to perform an intervention with her infatuation with Vibron that’s messing up her life.

If the players are nosing around here it’s most likely through Madam Frigia – Vindicator doesn’t see them as being players so much as friends, so PCs would really have to dig to make that connection. Friday does have occasional meets with Alexander to pass along orders (Leo doesn’t work with Alexander directly); that’s a highly antagonistic relationship as Crossfire is dying to try her cops against the legendary Trickshot. They might also just interrupt one of Crossfire’s perfectly normal assassinations.

In either event Crossfire does the same thing – go to ground, disappear, perhaps pick off one of the PCs later. Virgo will just vanish, ghosting out of the country – for various reasons she is almost impossible to catch and is functionally a non-combatant.  If the PCs catch Crossfire she’ll be very difficult to flip but it doesn’t matter as it is an open secret that she’s a Zodiac member. Her being involved in a massive conspiracy implicates Leo as a matter of course.