Monday, June 29, 2015

Memetic Shticks

Here’s another place where we are seriously diverging from Classic Traveller. The psi-powers as writ just didn’t fit the world we were using (I really didn’t like the ‘magic’ feel to them when everything else, saving the Jump drive, was fairly hard SF). Memetics and Biomods fill that gap, as both are newer twists on super-human powers in SF stories.

Our Memetics are a combination of hypnosis, meme theory carried to an extreme and a galactic human linguistics code touched on in Frank Herbert's Dune, John M. Ford’s Princes of the Air and turned up to 11 in Neil Stevenson’s Snow Crash (and other places). People with the proper training are able to influence or even control humans, implant suggestions, erase memories and similar feats of mental prowess.

Like Bio-Mods, Memetic shticks require Meme point spends for more powerful uses. There is no Memetics action skill so trying to use it in combat has the standard bridge skill in combat rules unless a Meme Spend option says otherwise.

I'm at a crossroads here and would love some feedback. The setting as we've written it has something like these, and the literature is rife with instances of it, but I don't know where to settle on these mechanically. The one shtick I have below is too damn versatile, while making it a different shtick for each command feels too nitpicky. 

Any suggestions, please kick them my way. I have time as no players have these or any way to get them, save for Kris' Naval officer with his Command Presence shtick with his has Guns and half Memetics and is easily understood. But eventually I'll need to have something. 


You were trained in the centuries old art of subvocal manipulation and in the high speech of the nobility. Make a Memetics skill vs. the target’s Mind to make commands that have to be followed in the short term. Mooks must follow your specific instructions for the scene while named characters have to be re-attacked every few minutes.

Meme-Spend: 1 point to use this in a combat situation. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Biomod Shticks 2

Continuing from last post. I don't have as many Biomod Shticks as I'd like (there are 14 Guns shticks, 15 Blade shticks and only 9 biomods) so I'd love it if people could make more suggestions. I'm wondering about borrowing from Scalzi's Old Man's War series with the photosynthetic skin or inflammable blood but the former isn't too much of a game advantage and the latter feels too derivative. Camouflage Skin is also of limited utility unless people spend a lot of time skyclad. I'm open to suggestions.


Information Node

True experts in Bridge skills have accessible information bundles in their brains, updated wirelessly when they enter a space with a new update (it also stores the last 3 updates, so no worries about being hacked with bad data) and stores personal experiences in their specialty. This biomod lets you ignore any penalties for a single Bridge skill, and gives you photographic recall inside that skill.
Bio Spend: 1 point to immediately intuit a key piece of information on any puzzle in your field. You can either ask the GM to provide it or develop it yourself as a new plot point/future plot hook with GM approval.

Muscle Modification (Marine, Army, Resources 100)

You large muscle groups have been upgraded to produce greater bursts of spring strength. Each shtick boosts your Body score by 2 for any lifting, jumping or damaging factors.
Bio Spend: 1 point spend to lift, shift, move or break anything. You can shift a space ship, lift a grav car off the ground, throw a human several yards, bend steel bars, pry open doors, whatever.

Physical Rewriting (Resources 400)

The truly wealthy and decadent have bio-mods that give them incredible control of their bodies. They can reduce or reverse their physical aging (though neural degeneration caps human lifespan at 125 years), change genders, change hair, eye or skin pigmentation and various other feats. These are all slow processes – it takes weeks to change apparent age, 6 months to a year to alter gender, days to change pigmentation – but the miracle is they can be done at all. With this biomod you can engage in these tricks, but also gave a +3 on any roll to resist Seduction attempts or the negative effects of drugs.
Bio-Spend: 1 point to reveal how much older you are than you appear – for one scene you gain any Bridge skill at either a 10 or 1 point lower than any PC in the scene with that skill.

Never Misses (Navy Officers)

Navy Officers can be trusted to have a gun on the ship because they will never miss when they pull the trigger – this biomod linking their hand to their eye insures that. If you fails in a guns attack they simply don’t pull the trigger. This still takes 3 shots (even if you were trying for a snapshot) but no round is fired.
Bio Spend: 1 point to make a 3 shot attack that hits the target with an outcome of 5. Regardless of how ridiculous the shot is it will hit and either drop a mook or do a lot of damage to one named opponent.

Sensory Shift

This biomod lets you control how your brain processes sensory information. The baseline use is shutting off your color vision to enhance your nightsight and distance vision, so you can see in the dark with 20/5 vision, and reducing your ongoing pain sense to avoid imparement. In addition to these basic effects, each Stick gives +2 on any Mind check to perceive things, and a -1 on Imparement caused by pain
Bio Spend: 1 point to automatically have detected an ambush or other surprise that just occurred. Tell the GM your intentions right after any damage is rolled and we’ll rewind as you explain some heightened senses reason why you saw the attack coming.

Resistant Skin (Army, Resources 100)

Your skin automatically redistributes kinetic energy, acting as armor vs. guns and blunt attacks (blade damage isn’t reduced). Each shtick gives 2 pts of armor vs. these attacks.
Bio-Spend: for 1 Bio point and 3 shots you can eliminate the damage from any attack that pushes your health loss past Imparement. You instead lie ‘dead’ for those three shots before you tear open your shirt to reveal your armored skin and get up to keep acting.

2.3.2 Healing

A was implied above, biomods help explain the (normally for Feng Shui cinematic conceit) insane amount of damage named characters can take. It also explains the healing rules – as long as the PCs get to a medical facility more or less alive they are 100% healed by next session. Isn’t modern medicine wonderful? 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Biomod Shticks 1

This is where we really start veering off from Classic Traveller. A core fact of our setting is that the medical technology has advanced beyond what is in the CT setting with its enhanced pharmaceuticals and low passage sleep, developing the sort of biological modifications that one sees in the Culture novels. Many of these are constrained by law and money – some biomods are restricted or hellaciously expensive – but they are not considered creepy or weird. Another aspect of memetics at work – guns are socially avoided but sticking pieces of vat grown technology into your brain is A-OK!

More than accepted, it’s almost required: people in IMTU operating ‘standard’ tech level have a biomod that give them conscious control of their reproductive system; anyone with a history of being in a dangerous career have a boimod that speeds clotting, constricts blood vessels, tones down shock and otherwise keeps a body alive (if not out of pain – that’s still a useful reminder to stop doing what you just did!), which explains the cinematic health to weapon damage ratio for heroes, while Mooks don’t have them.

A skill of 12 is unmodified human maximum so anything past that is training + biomods. These might be information nodes inside the brain, reflex boosts, programmed combat tactics or anything else you want to define to explain how you’re modded up past human limits. As I said, biomods are everywhere and not at all creepy.

The biomods listed here are ones that are combat worthy or enhance character skill. Some have legal implantation restrictions (so if the PCs have them it just means they were implanted at a time in their background when they could have them) or Resource costs (again, PCs spent money they had at the time to get these) – restrictions and costs are plot hooks if the players want to add them in play, not true barriers to having the mods turn up.

Some biomods have aspects with limited uses per session – Bio is an aspect of their Meta stat, and refreshes per session. Like all Meta uses Bio points let the players edit moderate parts of the setting or activate significant powers.

2.3.1 Biomod List

Adrenal Control (Resources 50)

This biomod lets you control your adrenal reactions. Short form is this gives you a +3 on any Mind check to resist fear, anger or shock – in game speak that’s Intimidation checks and Death checks – and people’s inability to rile you gives you a +1 on your own Intimidation and Gambling checks when the situation warrants it.
Bio Spend: 1 point to pump your adrenal system into high gear, gaining a +3 Body for the remainder of the Scene. You are tougher, stronger and harder to hurt. If you want to you can bump this to +5 Body, but you’ll have 3 impairment that reduces 1 per scene as you recover.

Blink Speed Forensics (Marines)

You can analyze a crime scene (and make your first Investigation roll) in seconds and record the results for review later (for a second Investigation roll) in the ongoing investigation.
Bio-Spend: When reviewing the data in a later scene 1 point of Bio will let you find any significant clues or plot points from the crime scene.

Human Lie Detector (Marines, Law Enforcement)

Your senses are attuned to various nuances in speech, tone, stance, facial expression and so on that make you impossible to lie to. You will always detect straight up lies and have a +3 on Investigation rolls to see through more complex Deceits.

Bio Spend: with 1 point you can immediately allocate blame for a complex event based on body language, speech patterns, etc. You must be able to interview the people involved, either in a group or individually. 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Blade Shticks 2a

Continuing the look at new Blade Shticks. I also want to note that all of these can be, at player decision, be done as barehanded styles, or with other weapons. After the first session our Scout Scientist with the Air School favored Savate-style kicks as his descriptions where his long legs make up for the blade reach, while our Scout Scrounger with the Earth School uses a crowbar as her weapon of choice. The Water School Scout Captain is a more traditional fencer, while the Marine Incursion Leader with both Water and Void school training alternates between unarmed and a katana style blade. It's all good for Niche Protection

2.2.3 Earth School

This is style is all about strength and toughness, and unlike the others favors blades wielded with two hands, often in large strokes.

Earth Stance

While in Earth stance damage done to you by people with a Body greater than yours (or, for guns attacks, a Mind lower than your Body) is reduced by 2 per strike. Each Shtick past the first reduces your effective Body for this calculation by 1.

Earth Strike

This is a heavy swing designed to crush through armor. It is a 4 shot attack that ignores the targets armor and light cover. Your sword can cleave through ceramic armor, wood, and even the thin metal of spaceship walls. If the base damage of the attack is 12+ it drops Mooks on an outcome of 4+. A second shtick means you can penetrate heavy cover, and a base damage of 11+ lets you drops Mooks more easily.

Earth Mastery:

This is the ultimate attack in the Earth style, a total focusing of strength on an opponent. It is a 6 shot attack which, if successful, both ignores Armor and means your opponent cannot use Toughness to reduce the damage. Given how long this takes to do it is best to use it at the end of a sequence and hope that it ends the fight.

2.2.4 Water School

This style works best against groups, turning the opponents’ numbers against them.

Water Stance:

While in Water Stance add one to your Defense for each opponent attacking you in Martial Arts, with a minimum of +1. The more foes attacking you, the harder you are to hit.

Water Strike

This circular form lets you redirect opponent’s attacks. As a 2 shot active dodge you can make an Martial Arts attack roll at -2 for any attack that misses you. The damage done is based on that attacker’s Body. If they are the only target in range the attack hits them as you slam them to the ground or into walls. If there is someone else nearby you can target that foe for damage based on the opponents Body plus the damage for their weapon. Each shtick past the first reduces the penalty, till at 4 shticks the redirects are at +0.

Water Mastery

When you make a successful Martial Arts attack against an opponent you can, on your next shot, make an attack against a different foe. This continues as long as you keep hitting people, have new foes to hit or reach the end of the sequence. Start your next sequence at -3 initiative.

2.2.5 Void Style

This style is about movement and momentum, and keeping an unpredictable, acrobatic profile.

Void Stance

Each Shtick in Void Stance gives you a +1 Martial Arts for any movement related stunt, and also a +1 on defense against Guns attacks. You become a fast, acrobatic, impossible to predict target.

Void Strike

Those inside the Void can arm themselves from others. If you make a 3 shot martial arts attack specifically disarm someone a successful attack means you take their weapon and have a +3 to attacks made with it against that foe. Alternately a 2 shot Martial Arts maneuver will let you impressively reach and grab something you can use as weapon that gives you +1 to all attacks with it for the fight.

Void Mastery

This is a fast, momentum based attack that sends the opponent flying, or wrenches them into a painful or deadly contortion. Make a 4 shot attack that, if successful, sends both you and your opponent flying a number of meters equal to the outcome of the attack in addition to the damage done. The GM determines where you end up when you go flying, and we guarantee it will be inconvenient. Alternately both of you slam to the floor and both take additional damage equal to the Outcome.

2.2.6 Melee Attack Damage

·         Punch, chop, small club: Body +1
·         Kick, Knife: Body +2
·         Staff, Club, BodyBlade: Body +3

·         Sword, Spear: Body +4

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Rogues Gallery 3

Since the blog had a request I'll continue the thought on how a Team Based Rogues Gallery works. (After all, I did indicate that there would be a card for it).

Obviously the team's rogues gallery needs to have members who are potent enough to challenge the whole team. It is also highly unlikely to have a single theme, especially if it is an Avengers or JLA style game where some of the team members have their own books and rogues galleries and some don't. The standard elements of a team Rogues gallery are:

Rogues United: this is a villain team made up of members of the A-List or Own Book Heroes rogues galleries. The Masters of Evil, the Injustice Gang, and other similar organizations are good examples of this. Each Villain is as powerful as their counterparts, but sometimes there are fewer of them then there are team mambers and sometimes they wildly outnumber the heroes, depending on the story. They generally act to destroy the hero team out of enmity with their primary foe.

Schemer and recruits: this is another villain team made up of a single smart/clever/plan oriented villain and the people he's hired/made/conned into attacking the heroes. This is superficially similar to a Rogues United situation but other than the schemer the villains may have no connection with the heroes at all prior to their first encounter. The Frightful Four is the best example of this - the Wizard and Paste Pot Pete were Human Torch villains but Sandman and their rotating cast of 4th members? No reason for them to be there. This means the Schemer is likely to have a couple of rotating slots to keep the encounters fresh.

Only you stand to stop me: this is the villain somehow convinced that if the heroes were out of the way (and just this one band of heroes) the world/country/city would fall before his might. Now, depending on the hero group this might well be true, but it means the villain's motivation is pretty clear. Now, they might be obsessed with winning in a straight up fight, or turning the heroes to their side, but the upshot is a single powerful villain (likely backed up with hordes of henchmen) need to defeat the team.

I WILL CRUSH YOU: Very similar to the last one, this is predicated on a particular hate for the team by the villain, who is again likely pretty tough and has an army of minions (or in this case perhaps deathtraps).

B-Lister Villains Unite!: Each of the heroes who only appear in the book have a single personal enemy - likely good for arriving to harass them and through extension the team - who holds the aspects of a rogues gallery of they had one. However sometimes those B-Listers join forces in a team that really only ties back to the Team book. This makes the conflict more personal than a Rogues United. And there's nothing that says these villains have to be weak, so the threat they pose can be real - the A- and B- List division is only about who has their own books - Captain America Villains are not more powerful than Wonder Man foes just because Cap has his own long running book.

That's what I have immediately. More may come to me, but if the team has a real theme (the FF are all explorers) then use the themed rogues galleries from an individual hero. The types of villain that teams face as a whole are pretty static. This is why its important to have the individual rogues galleries to draw from

Friday, June 19, 2015

Blade Shticks 1a

After the flaws of the first pass at Blade Sticks were made clear I tried again. The new design is five schools, each of which provide concrete advantages but each are tailored to be better in certain situations. Each of the five schools has 3 levels – a stance, a strike and a mastery – where you cannot take the strike without having the stance and cannot claim mastery without having the strike. Some shticks can be taken multiple times for increased effect.

In addition, you cannot use the strike or mastery unless you are in that stance. It is assumed that if you see a fight coming at all you will instinctively adopt a stance, so as soon as you take your first action you also adopt your stance (or the stance of your choice if you have more than one) as a 0 shot action. If you have more than one school changing stances for them is a 1 shot action in-fight.

There are 5 styles:
·         Air style emphasizes subtlety and minimalism, throwing foes off balance.
·         Fire style is about speed, either in a single attack or overwhelming defenses with a flurry of blows.
·         Earth style is about strength and power; minimalizing damage to you, maximizing it on your opponents.
·         Water style is about turning your opponents against each other. Best used against groups.
·         Void style is about movement and acrobatics. Best used against guns or in low gravity.

These have pretty basic designs: Stances are defensive; Strikes are better than normal attacks that carry with them some penalty so they aren’t the only thing you ever use. Mastery is a seriously kick ass move that has some penalty, usually a larger one. Mastery moves tend to be fight-enders, so strangely enough they cost less the longer you’ve been in the fight. This doesn’t mean you can’t use them on your first shot, but it will cost you more to do.

2.2.1 Air School

This school relies on a series of small movements – attacks, feints, dodges, and so on – that increasingly throw your foes off balance. Once the foe’s defenses off, you finish it.

Air Stance:

When you’re in the Air Stance any opponent who attacks you with Martial Arts, successfully or not, picks up a -1 on their Martial Arts until they spend a shot recovering themselves. This either slows them down as they have to recover or makes them progressively less effective. Each shtick in Air Stance adds 1 shot to the recovery time.

Air Strike

By making a 3 shot attack you can distract your opponent rather than injuring them. If successful the opponent gains 3 Impairment for a number of shots equal to your Outcome.

Air Mastery:

This is a very clever feint that looks like a smaller attack until it becomes deadly. This adds +4 to the Outcome of an already successful attack. Unfortunately the feint leaves you off balance, and you are at a -3 on your Defense for the remainder of the sequence (so use it on shot 1!)

2.2.2 Fire School

This school relies on speed, both in single devastating attacks or flurries of smaller ones.

Fire Stance:

Each shtick you have in Fire Stance adds +1 to your initiative. This is added to the first combat sequence unless you declare you’re starting in a different stance – complete and total ambushes are actions outside the first sequence, so Fire School people are usually the first to hit back.

Fire Strike

This is a flurry of small attacks against one or multiple targets. Each shtick lets you reduce your damage by 2 points to increase your Martial Arts by 1 point for the attack.

Fire Mastery

A masterful, super-fast strike that your opponent can barely see. Add the difference between your Martial Arts and the opponents Reflexes to the Damage, but the strain of the attack costs you 1/3rd of the health that would take you to a Death check. This is a 4 shot attack due to recovery time. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Gun Shticks 3

Coming back to this for a minute, I did work out some gun mechanics - I wanted to keep things clean and simple, but also didn't want to use the reload and concealment rules from Feng Shui 2E, as those emulate a cinematic style that doesn't quite apply to the gun sparse universe we're building.

Before we start listing out the various future Gun models here are the basic terms for guns
·         Small Handgun: 8 damage
·         Medium Handgun: 9 damage
·         Big Handgun: 10 damage
·         Really Big Handgun: 11 damage
·         BFG: 12 damage
·         Small Shotgun: 10 damage
·         Combat Shotgun: 13+1 damage
·         Medium Rifle: 13 damage
·         Heavy Rifle: 13* damage

* Note that all attacks with a base damage of 13+ drop Mooks on an outcome of 4+, but heavy rifles do that one better, dropping Mooks with an outcome of 3+. Note that this stacks with Carnival of Carnage, but it always requires an outcome of 3+ to drop a Mook – you can’t have CoC2 and a Heavy Rifle and drop mooks on an outcome of 1+. Instead CoC2 means that in your hands any gun is as good as a heavy rifle when clearing out the riff-raff.

2.1.3 Concealment

Guns have a Concealment rating. If you’re trying to hide that you’re packing heat (a great idea given cultural memetics) you need to make a Deceit roll. Once you have your total subtract the Concealment ratings of all the guns and ammo you’re carrying. Anyone with a Mind score less than that number can’t tell you’re packing. Make a single roll when you start trying to hide the guns and the GM will note it for comparison later. You always think you’ve done a good job at this until you get spotted, so don’t keep rerolling until you get a good roll. Trying that gives you the original roll -2.

·         Concealment 1: Small handgun, handgun ammo pack.
·         Concealment 2: Medium Handgun, rifle ammo pack
·         Concealment 3: other handguns
·         Concealment 4: folding stock longarm
·         Concealment 5: other longarms

1.1.4 Capacity

This is the number of shot you can fire before you have to reload. As a quick and easy counter-balance, capacity and reloading are linked to concealment.

Capacity is equal to 6* Concealment for most guns, or 9 for really big handguns& combat shotguns and 6 BFGs & shotguns. This means big handguns have the ‘best’ balance between damage, concealment and capacity in the handgun arena, but every gun has some advantage.

Reloading takes a number of shots equal to the guns Concealment.  Bigger, more damaging weapons take longer. Blame it on future gun tech, and that the guns have airtight seals and designs that let them fire in vacuum. Plus it makes smaller guns more attractive.

2.1.5: Guns of the Future:

With these rules in place I’ll leave it to any gun-toating PC to care about the specifics (such as a Callahan Full-bore Auto-lock. Customized trigger, double cartridge, thorough gauge, aka Vera) and I’ll write them up here. The first of which is a
 ·         SB117: This .22 pocket model from ScotchBonnet Firearms is designed to fit almost invisibly into a jacket pocket or carefully designed holster. While it doesn't have much by way of stopping power it is remarkably accurate for a weapon with its barrel length and is reliable in air pressures from vacuum to three times standard atmosphere. It's matte black finish keeps it concealed in the dark and gives it a subtle menace when it goes from being unnoticed to casually in your hand. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Most Wanted Wrap Up

That's finished! Thanks to the esteemed Mr. Hite for kicking me into gear for finishing that up.

The intent of the Most Wanted Conspyramid was, well, there were a couple. One was to apply some new gaming technology to some of the old classics.

Another was to specifically design parts of a campaign that would reward detective style heroes - Batman and others like him are really popular but a lot of the time the focus is on their gadgets and badass martial arts skills rather than their detective chops. Building a massive conspiracy into the campaign gives them an in play reason to exercise those skills. (This also makes these sorts of skill based heroes dramatically useful around their more powerful allies.)

Finally it ended up feeling like a cosmic campaign. Being able to have what look like three different level one node plot threads - the drug gangs and the crazy vigilante hunting them, the cluster of more standard super villain tropes and the 'lets have an honest misunderstanding first' magical streets wanderer feel like the usual super-hero kitchen sink stuff. Then as the PCs start working their way up things get connected more and more.

Hopefully there will be a few moments of "dammit, the MEDUSA guys are behind it" followed by "Holy Cow, Leo has taken over US Military Intelligence, Zodiac is trying to take over all of Africa" or "Oh Bugger, Motivator already rules the world." I would love the big endgame, the taking down of Motivator, to feel like the end of Promethea, Tom Strong, or Planetary, where the world really is saved, completely different and better.

Where Optimism Wins.

Wouldn't that be nice for a change?

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Rogues Gallery 2

Continuation of the Rogues Gallery list from yesterday....

6) Found Foes: You have an exploratory nature or something else that leads you to foreign countries or fantastic realms where you inevitably upset someone's evil plans and get them to swear vengeance on you. Their powers could be anything, and are likely quite potent. (Example: the Fantastic Four vs. Namor, Anhillius, Psych-Man, the Skrulls, Mole Man)

7) Neighborhood Watch: The old neighborhood (or country, or planet) hit everyone in different ways. Your foes are those who grew up in the same circumstances you did - perhaps with the same teacher - but turned out different. Their powers are likely similar to yours in the main.

8) Common Element: Your foes all share one common element - all animal based, all have mutated heads, all based on classic elements, all monster-related, all from children's stories, all madness - that makes them visually/stylistically similar but doesn't say anything about their motives or themes.

8.1) Animals: Spider Man vs. Doctor Octopus, Vulture, Scorpion, Lizard, Rhino

8.2) Facial Deformities: Dick Tracy vs. the Blank, Flattop Jones, Pruneface, Rughead and countless others (Plus see Detective Double, earlier in this blog)

8.3) Elements: based on air, water, earth, fire, wood, metal and perhaps storms?

8.4) Madness: Batman vs Joker, Catwoman, Mad Hatter, Poison Ivy, Clayface and lots of others.

8.5) Monsters: thematic versions of Vampires, Werewolves, Mummies, Re-animated men, ghosts, etc.

In any event the intent is for players to get a card that gives them inspiration for who their character is based on who they fight. I'm not sure how well it would work in practice but I'd love to hear ideas.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Rogues Galleries

Since I'm working a lot of scattered things at the moment I wanted to codify some ideas on Rogues Galleries. I am thinking of my Sticks Improv system for non-fantasy genres. In order to quick build super-heroes I want one of the stacks to be 'rogues gallery', roughly a third of which will be 'team only rogues gallery'. This both captures the distinction between heroes who work primarily with the team (Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, Wonder Man) and those who have their own books (Iron Man, Cap, Thor) and helps define aspects of the heroes who do have their own rogues galleries.

The rogues gallery (if referenced in play) should be 5 villains, at least 4 of which fit the theme. They could be interpreted in many ways - maybe the animal themed villains rely on technology (like Spider-Man's rogues) or they're all wixua masters/sorcerers in various animal styles.

Since the text has to fit on business cards I have to keep these as pithy as possible.

1) Dark Reflections: Your foes are the same as you, only on the other side. For example, if you're a inventor for your country they're inventors for rival countries, or inventors who work for any country; if you're a combat badass wandering the west, so are they.  (Example: Iron Man vs. Mandarin, Crimson Dynamo, Titanium Man, Justin Hammer, Melter)

2) Ideological Opposites: You represent a particular ideology or national identity and your opponents represent opposing ones, or threats to yours. Their powers could be anything but not more potent than yours, and in at least some cases they're similar. (Example: Captain America vs. Red Skull, Batroc, Tarantula, Flag Smasher, the Secret Empire)

3) Thematic Obsessives: All of your foes are obsessed with mastering something specific to them, and that obsession has led them to crime to fund that obsession. Their crimes aren't (necessarily) themed, just their methods. (Example: the Flash vs. Captain Cold, Captain Boomerang, Heat Wave, Rainbow Raider)

4) Masterminds and Cats Paws: You have one or two mastermind-type foes who have built allies to use against you over the years, many of whom are now free agents. You're likely very physically capable, and the cats paws may resemble your powers. (Example: Thor vs. Loki & Enchantress + Absorbing Man, Wrecker or the Executioner)

5) Invaders and Thieves: You are the protector of a country, planet, pocket dimension, etc. Your foes are those who would plunder its resources or usurp its leaders (who might be you). Their powers could be anything but not more potent than yours, and in at least some cases they're similar. (Example: Aquaman vs. Ocean Master, Scavenger, Black Manta, Stavors Markos, Admiral Strom)

Friday, June 12, 2015

Most Wanted Conspyramid 8: Witches and Witch Hunters

This last piece of the Conspiracy details the on the ground battles of the war between the Witch Cults and the Men with Green Gloves. This is where the PCs are most likely to encounter the magical war.

Level Thee Node: Witch Hunter General
Mother Superior: Margret Mary Stevenson found her crusader’s arguments and began her witch hunts quite seriously (if derangedly), but was eventually approached by Motivator in one of her disguises and redirected to proper Crusader beliefs in targeting invaders of the West. In this she became the Witch Cult’s attack dog against the various agents of the Men with Green Gloves. She spends her time hunting, finding and killing Asian mystics, chi-wielding martial artists and other possible foreign agents. Does your hero group happen to have any of those?

* No changes in character sheet.

If the players are nosing around here it’s because they’re taken Dragonhand or Tengu’s claims seriously, or by interacting with them, coming to Stevenon’s attention and looking like the sort of people she targets. Stevenson will watch from a distance, gather information, find ways to weakness detect and then call out isolated heroes and pummel them. She doesn’t ambush per se, but picks the times to openly attack that are worst for the PCs, preferring one on one duels where her invulnerability won’t get swamped. She keeps her flight power very quiet, waiting until no one can see her before rocketing to or away from the PCs location.

If that doesn’t work she’ll try to reason with the other PCs, playing it off as the usual heroic confusion – her psionic ability to appear on everyone’s side helps here – and actively shares her intel on the criminal organizations that Tengu and Dragonhand are connected with, recruiting the PCs as allies to the cause. She’s fervent and completely dedicated and this might work for a session or two. Until she shows up again with another blood stain on her mace for bashing some Vedic mystics head in. Then the PCs will have to go after her in earnest, including back tracking her funding, which leads them to UCL Crypto.

Level Two Node: Martial Artists on the Run
Dragonhand, Tengu: Both Daniel Han and Tamishi Kageuski are in the US because they are on the run from Asian magical/criminal gangs. Whether this is true or not – they might be witting or unwitting agents of the Men with Green Gloves - Motivator doesn’t believe in taking chances and they, like all other Eastern magical practitioners must die. To this end both are being chased by the agents of the Witch Cults, plus Motivator’s agents through MEDUSA which include Shadowjack’s orginization in addition to their own backstory enemies. What limited aid they do get comes from regular old criminals who want their services and from the unaligned Voodoo and Bruja practitioners.

* No changes to Dragonhand, increase Tengu’s level to 3rd
* Tengu’s E increases to 15, add a second spell, an audible illusion that lets him speak through someone else’s mouth, and a third that lets him summon the spirits of those who died in the air (or from falling) to answer questions or scout areas for him.

If the players are nosing around here its either because the GM decided to jump start this part of the plot for some wixua goodness, they discovered Shadowjack’s standing orders to hunt and kill these guys or a conversation with Mystico led them to track one or more of these guys down to discover more about the secret war. Both Dragonhand and Tengu will be deeply suspicions –they are criminals, performing crimes to survive and have no reason to trust the PCs – and reluctant to talk about the secret war. Neither knows a ton, but they do know there are balanced forces from Asia and Europe, and that the European group is the aggressor. They’re just collateral damage.

If the players are unable to earn their trust originally, they’ll have a second chance as once either is jailed there will be repeated attempts on their lives, their cases will get remanded to SHARP where they will vanish into Tartarus and potentially die in custody. If the PCs are already interested in their case this sort of behavior will keep their attention – especially if they have a dogged public defender who keeps raising the concerns to the heroes.

Both men suffer from the problem that they require magical artifacts and daily rituals to keep their powers. Depending on how things play out the PCs might need to sneak into SHARP holding cells to get the artifacts back before they vanish into Dominator’s custody. Alternately they’ll have to protect a pair of now non-powered informants from attacks on several different fronts.

Level One Node: Wanderer With Secret Lore
Mystico: Mandrake Hayes is kind of like Dr. Ricard Kimball crossed with John Constantine. If either men were voodoo priests with alcohol problems. He travels from town to town, hunted and haunted by the mistakes of his past, trying to help people along the way. You see a lot of strange stuff on the road, and when he’s at least a little sober Mandrake is a damnably intelligent, perceptive and well-read guy. He’s also part of a magical tradition that has nothing to do with the East v. West war that dominates this farthest left column of the Conspyramid, which makes him a good go-to guy for the heroes needing to find out what’s happening without tiping their hand.

* I should be telling you to reduce his level to 2, but I won’t because he’s not so much an enemy as a misunderstood protagonist. It will probably only take a single conflict for the heroes to realize that he’s kind of on their side. Sort of. I would recommend changing his side to Neutral or maybe Good.

If the players are nosing around here one of three things happened: 1) they encountered Mandrake and had a perfectly normal first meeting misunderstanding with voodoo priest and his pet zombie. 2) they’ve already heard about him and are coming to him for intel or 3) they discovered in the Coss Station files that their modified cadaver muscle implants are in part fibers from Mystico having once been hired by them to reanimate corpses and think that’s really creepy. (It also means he can use his Animal Control to control Bandit, and anyone else carrying around that semi-bionic tissue.)

He’ll answer their questions as best he can – including pointing the PCs at Dragonhand and Tengu as other magical types he’d encountered and got to know on the road who are in a spot of bother. Mystico likely knows everyone in the magical streets scene, but these are the ones that tie back to the plot. He has no real reason to fight the PCs, so will skip town rather than do anything else.

What he won’t do is get involved in some damn cosmic war, but he makes a great replacement PC with a broad knowledge set if someone’s character is removed from the action, or if the players befriend him he’s a wonderful dus ex machina as they start facing the higher levels of the Witch cults.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Most Wanted Conspyramid 7: Top of the Heap: Motivator

Anyone whose read Most Wanted has to know Motivator would be behind everything. It’s her style. Adding this final column to the Conspyramid brings a secret magical war into the mix.

Level Six Node: Motivator
Motivator: Karen Frost is exactly as presented in the book – power hungry genius telepath with a penchant for cruelty. She is gunning for subtle world domination and the only people really opposing her are the circle of Tibetan monks, the Men With Green Gloves, the ones who once trainer her before seeing th evil in her soul. To that end the Men with Green Gloves have constructed a network of Asian magical powers to stand against her. Motivator, in contrast, has taken control of an international criminal cartel that steals the very best in weapons for her to improve on, and taken control of the European Witch Cults and their entire magical apparatus. The PCs will likely have to team up with Fu Manchu to see victory over her.

* The only change required is that she has, through training, expanded her Emotion Control to Love and Trust.

If the players are nosing around here they have likely realized either that a) Virgo of the Zodiac is just one of Motivator’s many cover identities and she has been pulling Leo’s strings since the beginning or b) that the Grand Mother of the Witch Cults is, well, another one of Motivator’s man cover identities and she has been pulling their strings for a decade or more. Neither one is terribly comforting. Motivator has potentially been underestimating the PCs, right up to the point where they either deny her major assets in her war or they ally with the Men in the Green Gloves she’ll take the , er, gloves off. This means revealing and attacking their secret IDs, arming their opponents with their detected weaknesses, turning whatever assets are left from her organization against them. It should quickly feel like their world imploded.

If that still doesn’t work she’ll turn her mind and emotion control directly on them, making them fight each other as much, as often, and as publically as possible. This battle, if it happens, should almost be a campaign ender, as it will take a lot for the heroes to recover from what she will put them through personally and in the public sphere. If they win, however, the shadow of her mental cruelty will be gone (the Men with the Green Gloves will see to that) and the world will instantly become a kinder, gentler place – plus the ‘end of Planetary’ scenes where the authorities start distributing the miracle inventions in her vaults to the world.

Level Five Node: The Witch Cults of Europe
Samhain, Nightmare, Mountain Man, Jaws: The cults teased at in Samhain’s background are real and extensive, and these two men act as their agents. Neither are truly in the upper echelons – a circle of mystics who get most of their power from slow, coordinated rituals. They can change the world, just not a Super-Hero Pace. This means creating their own agents – Samhain and Nightmare (who now has a magical rather than mutant origin).
* Increase both to Level 10
* Training for Samhain is another +1 with knives. A to 12 and I to 15
* Training for Nightmare is E to 12, A to 15 and +2 to Emotion Control attacks.

If the PCs are nosing around here it means they’ve made the Virgo to Witch Cults connection or they have worked they way up from University College London. In either even the Witch Cults will target them back, using Nightmare to capture one of the heroes and replace them with a homonculous to lead the rest of the team into a trap. That trap is exiling them to Hell, which out to be fun to escape from.

If that doesn’t work, the Witch Cults will make a deal with at least one hero, promising something good for a devoted NPC if they make a simple arrangement to go away. Or alternately they will explain the nature of the shadow war against the Asian magical forces, and taking out the Witch Cults would leave the West defenseless. They will definitely play up the yellow peril aspect and it’s true that without the Witch Cults Europe would have fewer magical defenses, but since the Witch Cults are the ones on the Offense….. If none of that works then it’s showdown time, where the PCs have to race against their agents (and whoever is left of the Virgin Antiquities monsters) to stop them from casting a spell that erases the PCs entirely.

The super-villains at this level are pawns of the cults, but powerful, dangerous ones that know how to be patient. Everything about them is either delaying tactics or distraction/kidnapping.

Level Four Node: University College London Cryptozoology Department
Mountain Man, Jaws: Both of these monsters are unchanged from their original conception, save that they have been located, tagged and are now magically controlled (as needed) by the UCL Cryptozoology department, founded and funded by agents of the Witch Cults of Europe. The control is subtle and, in most cases, the commands are indistinguishable from their normal behavior. The PCs would need to have a magician on hand to even think to look for the evidence of control.

* No changes to either villain

The UCL Cryptozoology Department is very obscure and staggeringly well-funded due to several quiet bequests. The staff are a dedicated branch of the Witch Cults specializing in control rituals that let them place commands on the creatures they find, tag and release back into the wild. Often times these are what we today call super-humans, but no matter – a monster is a monster, and UCL Crypto leashes them.

If the players are nosing around here its because they either made a side entry into the conspiracy by finding one of the leashed monsters, detecting their leash and tracking it back (unlikely) or they managed to backtrace Mother Superiors support and funding (more likely). UCL Crypto will present a superb false front when the PCs look into them, and have a standing cover story inside their records that, when uncovered, will direct the PCs to an Asian criminal organization in London, a way to make the PCs switch target conspiracies and get the Men with Green Gloves against them.

Looking into UCL Crypto’s funding finds the bequests date back to Murray and Frazier’s heyday in the 20’s. Of the still extant families that set them up they are seen as an embarrassing but difficult to unravel testament to their kooky ancestors, and all will point to articles in the 1970’s in the conservative press mocking them for funding Nessie hunts. The magical work that created the funding was done nearly 100 years ago and has vanished with time. To get higher up the chain the PCs have to realize the witch cults exist at all and flip one of the 13 members of the department.

If the original distraction doesn’t work the UCL Crypto people will sic a monster on a nearby community as a distraction, aid the heroes in driving it off with their specialized knowledge and set themselves up as an allied agency. Monsters are monsters after all, and they’ll find ways to leash the PCs too. If all else fails they’ll just disappear, using a magical ritual to shift to the Black Forest in Germany, which can be traced back to the Witch Cults  – it’s best if you can have a mini-arc with the UCL Crypto people sending the heroes after various monsters first.

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.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Most Wanted Conspyramid 5: ARIES and its spawn

This half column indicates the other advanced tech experiments and deniable agents that Eagleton is running out of the MEDUSA branch.

Level Three Node: Advance Research Institute for Engineering Sciences: ARIES

Madam Frigia: When Francine Curry was captured in the PCs territory (ideally by the PCs well before they uncovered the conspiracy) she was taken into SHARP custody. There Roy Alexander and Madge Eagleton found her and (with a little shove from Virgo) Eagleton pushed hard to have Curry moved to her custody where MEDUSA could set her up with a lab. Once again in possession of the position and respect that she had lost years ago Curry produced in spades, with her cryogenic and life support technology being critical for Cross Station and her business expertise letting her asset run deniable high-tech assets for MEDUSA. Of course she lacks even Eagleton’s faulty moral compass so her assets are straight up criminals that know enough to occasionally take targeting orders.

* Modify Ht. Attack so it applies only to her ice powers, but also her Intelligence score. She is the target of Virgo experimenting with her powers to make people smarter and now has an I of 21

If the players are nosing around here it’s because they have backtracked from Cross Station’s records (most likely) or have found the buried linkage between Shadowjack’s secret ID and ARIES. The institute is, on the face, exactly what it claims to be – a high tech think tank focused on life support systems for medical and space use and the study of ultra-low energy environments (i.e. cold and dark). The staff has some good jokes about this – they have the “Ice” labs and the “Dark” labs, which have been in reduced use since the accident that made Shadowjack. 90% of the staff are also exactly what they appear to be, and they hold Curry in a certain awe – she’s brilliant, her work is the cornerstone of this, and if she’s a little cold, well, big deal. Her cover identity is government provided and very solid. It will take a lot of infiltration, research, hacking or super-powers to uncover direct criminal activity that ties ARIES to the deniable tech assets or back up to Zodiac. It would be easier to trace funding and product deliveries to trace their support to MEDUSA and their output to Cross Station. Once they have that it might blow Curry’s cover but unless they find the ties to Shadowjack or Zodiac there’s nothing actionable, just morally questionable.

If the PCs go after them anyway Curry will counter with a calculated fury – she’s finally got what she deserves and these idiots want to take it away from her? HA! Frigia is a clever, dangerous adversary, and will call in some support in the attack from Vindicator and Sagittarius in sniper positions.  This is a great opportunity to change the facts on the ground in your campaign because if the PCs lose Frigia will pack them in cryogenic suspension chambers that won’t suffer a dramatically appropriate malfunction for months or years.

Level Two Nodes: Jacks of Shadows
Shadowjack: Jack Shelton, rather than being a college student, was working at ARIES when his black ole machine went haywire. Seeing him as a powerful tool Frigia supported his dark side, setting him up with the remnants of her own criminal enterprise. Now Shadowjack runs Jacks of Shadows, a large criminal consprtium of up and comers, and with carefully-funneled-to-make-it-look-like-he’s-stealing-it-from-his-old-boss technology supports a handful of high tech super villains on whom he calls for enforcement or when he’s given targets by Frigia (which he has learned not to question). In addition to technology he can smuggle them into Cross Station for medical work if they really need it, making him an all-purpose agent and fixer.

* Change level to 5: he’s a solid player in the underworld now
* Training raises his C to 12 and S to 15
* His bullwhip is pretty weak for a special weapon; feel free to modify it to something more potent. Personally I made it a Gravity Control device in the shape of a whip, where contact will increase or decrease target gravity, invert them sideways for a bit or do a ton of knockback. He has gravity studies in his origin so it fits.

If the players are nosing around here it’s because they’ve either backtracked from Cross Station or found some evidence that his contract super-humans are working for him. While it’s possible that they are just investigating his crimes it works a little better if his huge gang is so slick that the PCs only learn of it when they start nosing into his activities. If the PCs are nosing around Shadowjack will make a run at their base (if they have one) trying with his stretching and darkness powers to sneak in and investigate them, or will otherwise try to steal possessions or information.

Even if this doesn’t work his power set it makes it very likely he’ll get away. That means the heroes chase him back to his base, which is exactly what he wants – he’s operating in a relativelt run down building that he stuffs to the gills with his goons. This situation should feel like The Raid: Redemption where once the PCs are in the building it’s a fight until you can fight no more against endless streams of mooks, except in pitch darkness and with gravity playing tricks on them.

Level One Node: Deniable Tech Assets
Beekeeper, Boogeyman, Snowblind: Shadowjack has at least three supervillains on contract. He provides them with what they need to repair their tech and access to medical facilities at Cross Station, as well as paying contracts and legwork/prep for their own heists and actions and in return they do favors him him that come down the reporting tree from Frigia. Some of these are deniable back ops things for Eagleton’s branch of MEDUSA and some of them are, if the top levels of this column are in play, from Zodiac for their theft of inventions and weapons, kidnapping or blackmailing of scientists or just killing people. None of the three of them know and none of them care. In Boogeyman’s face he doesn’t need Shadowjack to fix his tech, bht the prospect of the people at Cross Station fixing his face is pretty powerful.

* No need to make any changes to these three - by my earlier design they should be levels 1-2, but I think it works better if Shadowjack is pulling in people of varying levels.

If the PCs are nosing around here in a conspiracy sense it means they’ve made some connection between any one of these three and some percentage of their actions that lends itself to a political or espionage level. It’s less likely that someone will dig into where and how they repair their technology or get medical help (unless Brian Michael Bendis is running the game), but the GM can use any entry path he likes, and the players might well decide to investigate everything if they’re truly detective characters.

Shadowjack, if he starts to realize there is trouble, will try to lay low – he’s much more likely to have one of these guys give him up then he is to convince them to go after the PCs with murder in mind. They’re just not that sort. They’re also not crazed and easily targeted like Od or Ebony Angel, and are smart enough to know when they’ve been sacrificed. So Shadowjack’s best play is just to vanish and trust them to do the same. If they ask he’ll even get them to tickets to escape, which might be what gets him.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Most Wanted Conspyramid 4: Vindicator's Fiasco

Trickshot trusted some interesting people and funded an interesting project. The lower part of this column in the Conspyramid definitely tells its own Cohen Brothers story of bad decision making, but it is linked enough to the Buzzard’s Boys nodes for them to be part of a single narrative.

Level Three Node: Top Asset Runner and Asset

Vindicator and Vibron: Madge Eagleton was Alexander’s best post villain recruit. Vindicator, burned by the mob and now a free agent, saw Alexander’s sincerity and took a chance. She changed sides and started running assets for Alexander’s organization – she’s charismatic and perceptive as hell and made it work for a while. Unfortunately for Mr. Alexander her morals are still very loose, has an ‘victory at all costs’ mindset, so her assets have freer rein than they ought. (if you want, make her pistol have a paralysis setting like Bandit’s, which makes her more of a threat to the PCs).

Recently added minor hero Jeffery “Vibron” Mathers as an asset. In a happier story his innocence would have saved her. Instead she’s spending more time in bed with him than doing her job and then making cocky decisions – such as the Bandit op that netted Madge her disintegration pistol - to keep him engaged. Mathers is young, brilliant and self-centered; how this plays out is anyone’s guess.

* Increase Vindicator’s level to 8; Vibron is unchanged
* Increase Vindicator’s A to 15 and I to 14; Vibron is unchanged
* Give her a security clearance of 14

If the PCs are nosing around here it’s either because they’ve back-tracked from Bandit’s bad raid through the Cross Station to the people who ran it, or because they’ve cottoned to what’s happening with the prisoners at Tartarus, the superhuman containment facility that’s the home base for Psi-Phon’s Freakshow. Tartarus is where Vindicator selects possible recruits (who have since been shipped overseas unless you add the next column to the Conspyramid).

While Alexander is comfortable playing out a lesser charge, Eagleton isn’t – if the PCs come for her she will hit back. She’ll get deep into MEDUSA files and do field work in disguise trying to suss out secret IDs. She’ll send Vibron to scout out their bases and break into their computer files. She’ll use her natural skills and charisma to approach them to look for weaknesses. She’ll maneuver to bring Stigmata after them, or activate a bionic cadaver program from Cross Station. She’ll free Bandit if he’s in custody and send him to do something high profile and visible outside the country, so the players can chase after him in a Fast and the Furious side quest to buy her time.

If all else fails she’ll try to pick them off one at a time and store them in the same off the books holding facility the Freakshow would have used. In the end she’s not even above killing them.

What she won’t do is involve Alexander. She may undo everything Alexander worked for but she won’t implicate him in attacking super-heroes. Which means that if the PCs climb the pyramid this way they have a better chance of catching the level 4 node unawares.

Vibron, for his part, is a bit player. He’s 22, lazy in the way of naturally brilliant people, has an older, beautiful super-spy lover and thinks life is just cool as all hell. It’s not until things are about to fall apart that he’ll apply his intellect to the problem and either commit to helping Eagleton, skip out himself or take her to a hidey hole in La Paz.

Level Two Node: Cross Station

Stigmata: John Harker was an asset runner; reporting up through Eagleton he was in charge of Cross Station super-human creation. Cross Station was the remnant of the MEDUSA project that Frank Kmilek mind into a robot body, code named Stigmata. Alexander re-activated the project to see what it could do with more advanced technology, including synthetically altering cadaver muscles and grafting them back onto living humans and other feats suitable for a modern Prometheus.

Harker, seeing Eagleton lose her focus over Mathers and facing an aggressive cancer diagnosis, realized things were falling apart. He ordered the lab to put his brain in Stigmata and promptly went chiroptera-guano nuts. Cross Station is scrambling to decommission while the Stigmata Vampire hunts them.

This is a level two node because if the PCs find it early they can recover quite a bit about MEDUSA, the Cross Station projects (and people further left on the Conspyramid if they exist). Alternately, if they debrief Harker through his vampire psychosis he’s a wealth of information.

* Increase Stigmata’s level to 3; he is a former field agent. Increase is age to 55
* Increase I to 13.
* Harker had a Security Clearance of 17, but he can hardly access it now!

If the players are nosing around here it’s because Andromarkin has given up Harker as his handler, the heroes have used powers to ID Cross Station as where his operations took place –Or– the PCs have been called in as super heroes because there’s a freakin’ indestructible robot vampire on the loose.

If the former. the PCs will have the Cross Station person they’re interrogating yanked out a window and killed by the freakin’ indestructible robot vampire, which will derail their initial investigation. If they’re present because of the freakin’ indestructible robot vampire their search for him will be hindered by the people at Cross Station, and Eagleton, performing a cover up as they go.

If they get in his way often enough, or if any of them are beautiful women, Harker might decide to target them as well as his original victims. Vindicator ultimately knows Harker well enough to direct him at the PCs or some other target, with only a small chance that Harker will realize she’s a beautiful woman.

Level One Node: Hotshot Deniable Asset

Bandit: Bonn Andromarkin is significantly re-tooled. The accident did a lot of muscle and skin damage, replaced at Cross Station with synthetically modified cadaver tissue. His Ht. Str. and Speed Bonus are ‘bionic’ muscles, his Invulnerability from bionic skin and his Heightened Expertise comes from imbedded perfect balance and control (extend the bonus to any saves vs. A for super-Parkour)
* Reduce level to 2: Bandit is just starting out.

If the players are nosing around here it’s because Bandit has just committed another high profile crime. The PCs may have directly witnessed it and failed to catch him, have been alerted by the media or called in by their police contacts. In any event this node is meant as a likely Conspyramid entry point – Bandit stole his super pistolsin a daring daylight raid - leaping off the top of a bridge through the windshield of the transport van below, rolling through the van, grabbing the carrying cases and exiting out the back at high speed. Eagleton set this up to get herself a Disintegration Gun.  

Harker set up this op and then ‘moved in’ to Stigmata so Andromarkin is operating freelance. This means high speed, high stakes, low violence crimes that hopefully you can string out as long as possible.
1) The pistols theft, which the PCs can’t prevent so best to have them investigating it afterwards.
2) A second flashy crime that the PCs reach in time, but he likely will be able to escape with the surprise of his paralysis pistol (or EA appears, see below)
3) Another flashy crime where before the PCs can seal the deal Ebony Angel shows up, hopefully buying Bandit time to scarper. EA has been tracking Bandit, having him on her conspiracy board as someone who Buzzard’s organization brought back to life in their side deal with Dracula. As usual, she’s nuts but not far wrong.
4) A final crime where Bandit is out of tricks and the PCs finally corner him. Of course if they catch him in an earlier crime no harm, no foul, just move forward – though perhaps have EA show up and accidentally free him while trying to question him.

Once he’s captured they’ll find he kept two pistols but the remainder are gone, passed along to a buyer. Eagleton will tell Anexander the Op went south, and Alexander will lean on Cooper to clean it up. SHARP shows up to thank the heroes and ‘take over’ the missing gun investigation. This shouldn’t feel like a ‘get out of here, punks’ from SHARP, but a happy hand holding, knowing is half the battle freeze frame as the PCs pass off the boring stuff to the cops.

This should not work – the point of having Bandit be so annoying with his getting away is to get the players invested in him, so they keep digging. When they do they find SHARP’s investigation is cursory at best, but the ones doing the research just see it as not prioritizing a cold trail. Questioning Bandit reveals that this isn’t his first action – he’s bee being unknowingly run as an asset by MEDUSA agent. Harker slipped up and careful questioning Andromarkin will give them enough to track back to Harker, his recent “death in a car accident with the brain missing” and eventually Cross Station or, if they have powers that support super-investigation, back to Cross Station directly.

If the PCs fall for the SHARP story but you want to keep digging into this Fiasco (Pat Pend Jason Morningstar), no problem – they get called in for the freakin’ indestructible robot vampire and pick up at Cross Station.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Most Wanted Conspyramid 3: MEDUSA

Continuing from the last post in this series we’re adding a new column to the Conspyramid with MEDUSA – the Military Espionage Department, United States of America. This group recruits captured super-villains for rehabilitation as clandestine agents and develops high tech to build their own super-agents. These assets are used to explore, recruit and degrade foreign military science and protect US assets from same, though sometimes that means ‘liberating’ it to create ‘deniable’ weapons for use black ops use.

Adding this column to the Conspyramid expands the conspiracy from a corrupt police organization to domestic espionage. This could have a huge change on play, but given the villains involved, that this is still a super-hero story and it’s placement in the Conspyramid we’re going to say it’s just the regional office. Plus in this version its one where the people involved got to hell with good intentions rather than by chartering a jet there the way Buzzard’s Boys did. (This would change somewhat if you add in the next column of the Conspyramid, which we’ll do later).

Regional MEDUSA has significant control over the local SHARP program; Buzzard’s effectiveness with the Freakshow led to his being tapped for more work, and his willingness to loan out his men for domestic black ops support and cover up any messes makes him a key part of their team. One kept at arm’s length of course, and just as Mirage knows Buzzard can hose her, he knows MEDUSA can hose him. No one else in Buzzards Boys explicitly knows about the connection, but Psi-Phon has enough ideas about where some of the non-psionic captives go to make a good guess.

Level Four Node: MEDUSA Regional Office

Trickshot: Roy Alexander was the first super-villain recruited for a suicide mission as a test, and he worked out very well. Still with MEDUSA in his secret ID he is now in charge of this regional office based on his sterling field record and charm, but is in way over his head. He trusted too many people who tracked mud into his office and now has to cover it up or lose everything.

* Increase level to 11 and increase age to 40; he’s been in this game a while.  
* Node Level: 4
* Add Govt/Bureaucracy as a background, acquired via training. Other training raises C to 15.
* feel free to add more specialized bullets, however outrageous, to his guns. If he has had time to prep against the investigating PCs powers he certainly will be ready for them.
* Give him a Security Clearance of 10 thanks to his high status.

If the players are nosing around here it’s because they’ve tracked things up through his corrupt Asset Runner or have made the tie from Buzzards dirty SHARP operation. Of course even finding out MEDUSA exists is hard, it being hidden in both the Army Intelligence and DARPA budgets and behind a dozen shell companies. PCVs will be stymied by previously set up false leads, very difficult data analysis, recently abandoned warehouses, etc. This node is protected by government espionage level secrecy.

If the PCs do find it through the projects Alexander funded that he shouldn’t (Cross Station) or the former super-villain agents he shouldn’t have he will confront the heroes directly and come clean, sort of the programs are defensible if looked at in the right frame, he can cover everything up with national security and is willing to work with the heroes to close down the project as long as they keep quiet. He will threaten to make their lives really difficult if they do blab about the secret government programs and he can certainly do so to an extent, but contrition will be believable enough

He’s more comfortable burning Cooper and his corrupt cops. He suspects Cooper has a dead man’s switch of data somewhere, but is emotional enough to put a bullet in Cooper’s head and call it done. Trickshot isn’t normally a killer, but he knows how bad a man Cooper is, and might be better able to live with himself if Cooper dies in a hail of gunfire and gives the heroes a nice clean ending to a bad man.  If the PCs are approaching from Cooper’s organization and Alexander thinks he has enough to connect he might just pull the trigger in advance, hopefully freezing their investigation there.

You’ll notice in both of these cases Trickshot is trying for a bank shot, while pleading out to a lesser crime. This is his prior MO, so that’s consistent. Players my find it unsatisfying if the presumed big bad at the top of the conspiracy escalates by talking and helping them dismantle his own works (under the cover of state secrets and national security), but it should make for an interesting change. It also makes it harder to climb higher if there’s a higher to climb. At least until Cooper’s dead man’s switch goes off and the PCs inbox is flooded with files incriminating MEDUSA. 

More to come next post