Tuesday, February 15, 2022

N is for Neptune Smith in the 2022 Campaign Creation Challenge

Neptune Smith is a giant lobster. No, not anthropomorphic. He's just a 7' long lobster, not counting the 4' reach from his claws). He is either the child of a kaiju lobster empire deep in the ocean or a mutation that gained sentience and the power of speech pulling an elaborate con. He's not exactly brilliant by human standards but he's got deep cunning and a strong survival sense that comes from being very old - while his legal status has him in his early 30's he's more likely over 300.

Neptune hasn't appeared yet: he's going to crawl out of the Haven docks and cause havoc, perhaps precipitating the formation of the super-team, but by the time the heroes arrive it will be difficult to judge who started it. Neptune will slip into the bay. He will return later in a time/place less likely to cause havoc to treat with the local authorities with not just his story but a vast supply of gold pulled up from sunken treasure vessels and a request to start is education at Yale. 

Money heals many wounds, and Neptune will soon be scheming from Haven harbor, Long Island Sound, and the halls of the Ivy League. Every once in a while, he picks a fight with the heroes for no good reason and then hides behind his diplomatic immunity or some incomprehensible biological imperative. His personal fortune pays for any collateral damage. No one knows why he does this: maybe it is part of his kaiju nature, maybe he needs the force of their blows to weaken his skin before he molts, maybe the giant lobster is just an asshole. By he is insanely strong, difficult to hurt, and has enough speed an accuracy to be a threat to the heroes. 

Creation Notes

Another villain for the whole team, another 1 on the powers roll. I put the first on skills and two on powers and finally got what I needed for a proper super strong character. OK, I actually didn't roll animal powers, I got water breathing, but since that immediately went to "lets super charge water breathing to make a Namor like prickly jerk with diplomatic immunity" I decided it was easier to just move it to Animal/Plant powers with maximum number of powers and make that Heightened Strength bonus at maximum. Having the backgrounds kick up Inheritor and Education while he also had Reduced Intelligence, but the level training rolls had him maximize his Int, led to the insane and delightful (to me) idea that he's an actual giant lobster, but also attending Yale with a fat wad of pirate gold. 

Wecome to comics, people. 

Monday, February 14, 2022

M is for Mimir in the 2022 campaign creation challenge

Miriam Hardison is the late in life daughter of a prominent politician from his 2nd and much younger wife. No one knew that part of his 2nd wife's beauty came from her being 1/16th Vanir, not even Miriam. But she did covet the magical secrets of the Skull and Bones order, and through her family connections was able to reach, touch, awaken and bond with the oracular head of Mimir, which the order had been consulting since its founding. The now awakened godhead was sick of being cooped up, sick of being abused and misused, and had ideas about the correct state of the world. Miriam is more than happy to help it out.

Since obtaining literal godlike power, Miriam (and Mimir) have been exploring the world and interfering in whatever catches their attention. Miriam likes to think she's the dominant partner in the relationship, but in reality Mimir, whose scope of power and foresight and age, is directing things to institute some sort of Ragnarök event. He knows it's well past time for the end of the world, and perhaps can even make an argument that whatever mass extinction event he's planning is for the greater long term good of the world or universe. That's the angle he is slowly playing in Miriam, who for all her narcissism is not ready to end the world. 

Skull and Bones are not taking this lying down, of course. Not only do they have their own agents after her, but every law enforcement agency and mass communication outlet in the United States is knows she's in the top 10 most wanted. Other villains don't want to associate with her not just because she acts like they are beneath her, or she's not one of them, but also because she's radioactively hot. Skull and Bones have made sure she has no allies, not realizing that just maybe she doesn't need them. 

Creation Notes 

I knew this had to be the first of the "vs. hero team" villains and the dice were  great for the background and attributes, but gave me just 1 for powers. That's fine due to the wonder of V&V, and that one of those powers was Special Weapon Item. Gee Howdy did I go to town on that. Mimir manages to survive in an action economy sense as she's got at least 3 and maybe 4 actions, and can spend one of those to summon and direct a very large number of monsters of Norse myth, which will prevent the heroes from ganging up on her 6 on one. Her dimensional travel lets her 

Mimir's also got a clear enough long term goal that is easy enough to conceptualize but has dozens of paths to it, so you can pick the one that fits your campaign. That Mimir has telepathy means that Pcs telepaths can't easily try to get access to any of Miriam's moral reserves, and her Prejudice means she's really unlikable for trying that. 

The character is clearly inspired by Emerald Empress, but also Kid Babylon from Bill Willingham's _Pantheon_ series. 

Sunday, February 13, 2022

1 is for 1001001 in the 2022 campaign creation challenge

 1001001's construction at the behest of eccentric Canadian billionaire Kellingley Laws was with the intent of her being purely a sports mascot for his new hockey franchise, the Hamilton Electrics. Backed with functionally limitless money the designers went kind of overboard, constructing an ambitious modular android with a unique, fan-friendly design and wings. Wings! Laws was thrilled and backed multiple extra modules to make it even more impressive. He even licensed his favorite Rush song to use as a name and game music.

Their original programming of Asimov's first law had to be reduced as during her first practice match she kept pulling the skaters apart and chastising them The reduced directive – that she had to intervene to protect people who were in danger (due to something other than organized sport) and she could not initiate hostilities, was put in place instead. They hadn't quite thought that through as 1001001 quickly started acting as a local super-hero. There wasn't much by way of super-crime, but the Hamilton authorities didn't complain about the assistance with emergency services. 

With Kellingley's death his heirs cared little for the newly created hockey franchise and sold/transferred it to Haven to replace/resurrect the long lost Whalers. 1001001 went with them. Her prior skin of the gold and blue of the Hamilton flag was replaced with either the blue with seal of the Connecticut flag or the white and green of the Whalers logo, depending on the day and whether there's a game on the ice. 

She still acts as a super-hero (her programming won't allow her not to), and its still mostly emergency services work. She really only fights super-villains when she teams up with the other Haven heroes. 1001001 has gotten much smarter since she was created and her AI improves with experience. 

Creation Notes

Since February has 28 days and the alphabet only has 26 letters I knew I was going to need two numerical entries. Since this one came up with Android Body it was logical, and then the dice told me she was from Canada and the name became clear. Then the dice told me this Canadian Android was skilled in Broadcasting and Sports and I could not get the idea of an android hockey mascot out of my head. So 1001001 is a bit goofier than the other heroes, but that's part of comic book's charm. I leaned into it, keeping the ice powers device I was originally going to drop because hocky. The throwing pucks and collapsible hockey stick battle staff were entirely due to Moon Knight coming out and "Random Bullshit Go!" 

I was happy with her design of the skeletal android covered with pressurized inflated skin that kept her circuitry at optimal conditions but could be altered or expanded or even used to cover people. I've always been a huge fan of the Vindicator/Guardian literally wrapped in the flag costume design, and happily borrowed it here for a new Canadian hero, albeit in a goofier way. The idea of her heightened agility being an enormous database of flight and cheerleading routines fits surprisingly well, and her ice powers device being rerouting of the cryo plant needed to counteract her plutonium core again makes sense, for certain values of sense. 

She's the first of our heroes who is team based rather than having her own book, so her villains will actually be all team villains.

Saturday, February 12, 2022

L is for Legion in the 2022 Campaign Creation Challenge

 Fukashima Ryuu was born into a quietly family of extreme wealth in Japan. His father believes that having money means having security and obligation and is no reason to indulge in fripperies like fancy clothes, colorful art, or enjoying oneself. It merely opened up the space for you to engage in the endless quest for personal excellence. Ryuu heeded his father's wishes, buckling down, excelling in school, and heading to Haven in the United States for his medical degree. Ever under his family's watchful eye he continued that practice until he was given a side task: his family had acquired a company that had a subsidiary that included a storage area in Haven. Ryuu was tasked with overseeing the inventory. 

In doing so, he discovered a secret space in the storage area that contained the duplication devices of the 1980's super villain Legion, whose ability to make multiple copies of himself had confounded the heroes and authorities for a decade until he vanished. Ryuu shoved the materials into his gym bag and just sauntered away with them. No one knows they were there, no one knows he has them. To him, it's the perfect opportunity to live a double life. One of him can always be establishing an alibi, while the others (often accompanied by some unwitting bystander he has temporarily overwritten) acquire all the artwork that Ryuu has lusted after his whole life. 

Indigo caught up with him once, having predicted where his next heist was going to be, and while she won, she didn't know it: when the smoke cleared a very confused woman as one of the wounded bystanders. Indigo still isn't sure what happened, but Legion is on her radar now. 

Legion has a luxurious apartment set up from money he's made with his thefts that he's carefully filling with his conquests, and it also contains his workspace. He's been purchasing the gear he needs to keep up the Legion identity (including the body stockings that give his skin a Caucasian appearance, and the equipment he needs for his hologram Legionnaires helmet) through his fence, who is well aware of the damage Legion could do to him if he snitched. Still, Ryuu is not a criminal mastermind: his thefts are based more around his alibi and what his strength and multiple forms can do, and he enjoys being able to cut loose with some casual violence. What's going to make him hard to catch is that his dupes fade away, his unsuspecting duplicate is left holding the bag, and Ryuu prime is somewhere in plain sight. Plus his ace in the hole is being able to Transform one of the heroes into another Legion, which he is saving for worst case scenario. 

Creation Notes

I've commented on the advantages of running the characters in alphabetical order, and how I can pick international names to fit the letter and give insight into the character: Jangkar's personality was determined when I looked up Indonesian words starting with J and the word for Anchor was there. In this case the letter was L and the nationality was Japanese. But there's no L in Japanese. There was a moment of wanting to mimic the joke from the Tick comic book where he was mocking the crass commercialization of Ninjas and Japanese culture in general by having the Ninja World Mascot be "R'ir Nip" but that was old ground. So instead the idea of a Japanese villain doing the same thing with European culture – having an secret identity that is so wildly caricatured of a European warrior – worked. That gave me the name Legion. 

Which solved the problem of what to do with the Mutant Power. I had bandied back and forth on letting him transform into a stone dragon, but I wanted to use Mutant Power to build something that was unequivocally not in the rulebook. Legion made the choice of Duplication easy. I had to bust out my home rules for Initiative Intervals to manage the number of actions – rather than rolling 8 initiative rolls, you roll just the one and lower the count between actions, so when there are 8 Legions present at most he acts on 22, 20, 18, 16 and so on, for 11 actions, which is about what he would get with a 12 Agility and 8 initiative rolls. 

I struggled to come up with a motivation for him, especially since I already did the Dorian Grey hedonist with Bioreactor. I didn't like the idea of him being smart enough to build the device, but having found it, Hobgoblin like? That worked. He ends up with a very different feel than Bioreactor, who is on a slide into depravity – Legion knows what urges he's fulfilling and already enjoys it. 

Friday, February 11, 2022

K is for Killer Storm in the 2022 Character Creation Challenge

A PR flack for an ethically dubious pharmaceutical company, Ethan Anders found one of their drugs that had astounding effects. Already morally inert, he had no problems murdering to get and hide it and becoming an assassin.

Anders killed the scientist who invented the stormform drug, stole all her notes and made sure that he, Ethan Anders, was the only one who could become the heart of the storm. That was more than a decade ago, and since then Killer Storm has been an elite assassin for hire amongst the higher ups of his former employer - there's always some nosy reporter or lawsuit bearing patient or clever competitor who is getting to close who needs to be struck by lightning, have a car accident or be lost at sea. Killer Storm has no compunctions about any of it, as long as he gets paid. Sometimes the CEO of the pharmaceutical company will pass along Killer Storm's number to other ethnically dubious peers in other fields, so Killer Storm has a decent client base. 

His services are paid for through BS marketing consulting. Anders maintains a fictious position at a skeleton marketing firm that produces confidential marketing strategies that are eyes only for the CEO or whoever at the organization has hired him. Clandestine meetings then take place where Killer Storm (whose mist form is more effective than any mask or costume) makes quiet suggestions about options. And then someone suffers an accident, and the marketing consultant firm collects a fat check for the report. The firm even has some legit customers and employees who have No Idea what's going on. (With Anders intelligence and skill set, it's even useful information!)

Anders used to need to take a pill to make the transformation happen, but when he realized he had a finite supply he tinkered with what was left with the notes, his native intelligence, and his own on-the-job pharmacy training to make the power permanent. This worked, even if he needs the outside weather to be sufficiently strong for him to jump start the transformation.

Indigo Montana battled Killer Storm at the climax of her first adventure, and he left her for dead. He's not likely to make that mistake again, but she has upgraded her devitalization arrows where the toxin should infuse with his fog body and give him a nasty shock. 

Creation Notes

I decided to kick up another Powers character, so 3 powers rolls, 2 skills rolls and a device. The device ended up being the same as one of his powers, which was a nice bit of inspiration for someone who used to need a device and now doesn't. I contemplated keeping both Non-Corporeality powers and let him be able to become non-corporeal himself and turn lots of other things non-corporal with the device (similar to the original Ghost from Iron Man) but I liked the idea of him being mist in the storm more. Hence the historical tidbit about him having needed the drugs before; again, this designing the campaign with a history makes these longer-term character bits possible. 

I like the idea of him overpowering Indigo on their first encounter, and him being in for a nasty shock on their second, when her pure Devitalization Ray gas attack rounds, against which Non-Corporeality does diddly, star to rip into his Power Score. This will hardly make him ineffective, but it puts them on a much more even playing field, which is exactly what I want for my two fisted gadgeteer weapon hero. 

Thursday, February 10, 2022

J is for Jangkar in the 2022 Character Creation Challenge

 Nur Hidayat was born in Jakarta, but travelled the whole of the country for her crusading journalism work, exposing criminal activity and government corruption. Eventually she reached a point where her very public profile didn't outweigh her nuisance factor, and she was seconds away from a messy death when the experimental transport beam from another dimension struck her. That whisked her from our world to one where humans distant descendants time travelled back and bootstrap uplifted their distant ancestors – Java Men – to create a new timeline that was a veritable paradise. Nur dubbed it J-Earth, and the beam the J-Earth Transport, or JET. There she fell in love with the scientist who summoned her, Erd'l, and though tiny and pathetically weak by J-Earth standards her journalism skills let her ferret out an alien shape-shifter plot against the J-Earth government. She was feted as a hero when… the beam wore off. Erd'l had just enough time to tell here where the next beam would be. 

Thrown back to Jakarta close to a week after she left. She was presumed dead, her life was a shambles, and she had to scramble, evade detection so she wasn't just killed again, escape custody and eventually kill someone to get to the beam site 46 days later. There Erd'l ad prepared a gene splicing station where she had 5 days of extensive surgeries to make her equivalent to the J-Earth natives. For our Earth she's clearly superhuman – this 5 stone woman can lift half a ton, hold her breath and resist pressure extremes for an hour, and can see into the IR and UV spectrums if she squints right – and she was outfitted with the day-to-day gear of an adventuress on J-Earth, including her magnetic flight packs (far more effective for her tiny frame), tactical goggles and a disintegration ray pistol. 

Better prepared this time, Nur knew she would do anything, anything, to make it back to J-Earth and Erd'l permanently. But to do that she would need resources to follow the beam's path around the world, and connections to get whatever equipment she needed on her end to stabilize the process. For right now she was anchored to this world, and she hated it. The anchor, and the world. So she took that as her 'code name' and started to take down the criminal enterprise that had once threatened her life. Nur Hidayat reappeared online, filing stories of her research against this criminal cartel and how it was being hollowed out by some new crime lord, establishing how she had been in hiding for her life for the last few months. 

Now able to better predict the JET's movements and being strong enough to hold on to the charge longer and recharge faster, she is able to spend 12.5 days out of every 42 on J-Earth. In her first month back she not only claimed control of a significant criminal enterprise as Jangkar, but wrote the stories that would become her successful non-fiction book. Over the last 5 years Jangkar has solidified total control of her criminal operation – grooming loyal lieutenants to keep things running while she's gone – and has moved it into stolen high technology and criminal energy science. She's moved around the world making alliances as the beam's position has shifted. 

Meanwhile Nur exists on our earth as a writer of outlandish alternate earth fiction, chronicling her adventures on J-Earth in a series of popular novels that are derided on the internet as being pure Mary Sue fiction but beloved by its fan base. Nur "remains in hiding" lest the Jangkar empire seek vengeance on her. To say that she's alive any of these times is nonsense. She LIVES on J-Earth. She endures this wretched, fallen hellhole because she has to, and when she's able to leave it completely it can burn for all she cares. She's currently in Haven because the JET is in this area, and will be for some months. Jangkar is engaging in a series of thefts of 'advanced' technology to aid her quest, and making alliances with the local high tec criminal base. 

Creation Notes

It took a LOT of shilly shallying around before I realized that this character was what happens to Adam Strange if REALLY all e cared about was getting back to Rann. I started knowing I wanted a device based villain, and was happy when the dice kicked up an out of US origin; the combination of Dimensional Travel and Indonesia immediately brought to mind a combination of Pratchett's _Nation_ and Baxter's _Xeelee Sequence_ for bootstrapped uplifted Java Men. There were several iterations of viewing the powers, including swapping out the weakness Vulnerability for Low Self-Control once I realized the Adam Strange Archetype, before everything clicked.

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

I is for Indigo Montana in the 2022 Campaign Creation Challenge

Indigo Montana was born in Haven, but moved to her namesake state when she was young, and from there mastered all the arts of the cattle ranch. When she learned her full ancestry – that her father came from an illegitimate child of the Colt family – that general interest focused to guns. She became one of the world's best  sharpshooters, making the US Olympic team for rifle and pistol at an early age. She competed in the Rio Olympics and placed 5th, but the more she learned about the Colt family legacy, the more she wanted to make sure that the guns went back to making everyone equal, not letting people dominate one another with fear.

She threw herself into the skills she thought she'd need for her crusade – detective work, custom firearm manufacturing, vehicle design – and moving back to Haven where it all began. Originally, she had planned to be a costumed hero under the name "Colt" but on her first case a few things happened: she uncovered a conspiracy of the city's criminals and elites set to take total control of the city. In fighting them she befriended a Yale Medical bioscientist August Adler, who gave her a treatment that increased her endurance to superhuman, nearly regenerative levels. This was ultimately the thing that saved her life in the explosive final confrontation.

Her being pulled from the wreckage and feted as a hero kind of did for the secret identity, and now she's just Indigo Montana, a licensed private investigator and bounty hunter. The experimental process that boosted her endurance has partially worn off, so that she's tougher than she was before but no longer superhuman. Having taken that the Olympics are off limits for her from now on, but that's ok. She's found something better than gold medals.

Creation Notes

Woke up and decided I wanted to make a super-archer, and remembered that as a kid I had won one of those plastic bow sets for selling enough copies of OAT magazine and practiced day and night (that’s right, one whole day and one whole night, I was dedicated) to be the Indigo Arrow, since the bow was blue. Plus it would be a good way to showcase how V&V could mold random rolls to a concept rather than vice versa. The dice were super kind with well above average stats and two (TWO!) rolls to roll twice again on the backgrounds chart, so I had everything I needed for a two fisted adventurer before I even touched the powers dice. Solid skill rolls with a better than normal Heightened Endurance and the very versatile Heightened Senses that became an ad hoc Heightened Expertise, and a somewhat pathetic Speed Bonus that I vowed to get rid of.  Her weakness of Reduced Endurance was more than compensated for by the Heightened Endurance, but I liked the idea of working in that she as actual superhuman endurance for a time and is now merely top of human potential.

The device tables gifted me with Devitalization Ray and Vibratory Powers, both of which had enough options to give me an array of specialized arrowheads, dropping the 'move through solids' aspect off the power. That left Animated Servant which… just didn't fit. I kept coming up with possible robots or android companions, maybe a MCU Falcon style drone, but I've already had a lot of vehicles and allies and support staff in this. But that Speed Bonus as a grapnel (my second favorite add from the Mighty Protectors set) is just classic street level hero, and giving her that 5 story high vertical 'leap' looked a lot better than any robot companion. So welcome back Speed Bonus.

The problem was that there weren't any setting hooks for an archer in my Haven outline. But I also have a fondness for Western gimmick super heroes, and waaaay back in the misty realm of 1989 I had a bounty hunter NPC named Indigo Montana in a short-lived game. Seeing her with a contemporary design Colt revolving rifle and six shooters, with lots of specialized bullets? That worked. And so we have our 3rd hero in the Haven environs.

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

H is for Hexenmeister in the 2022 campaign creation challenge

Born to wealth (but not WEALTH) and power (but not POWER), Harold Van Vleet was the heir to a modest manufacturing fortune, but also a natural mystic with impressive innate power. His intelligence, especially for magical formulae and history, was rapacious, his willpower unassailable, and he mastered a handful of rituals for supernatural power. Still, he always felt he was being denied full access to the true magic of the Order. After his initiation into Skull and Bones he made himself useful to the Order in many ways, and his most audacious move was developing an entirely new, magic proof identity that let him infiltrate Skull and Bones most pernicious rival, the Archanogarchs that influenced the former Soviet republics.

There Van Vleet learned that the Archanogarchy had an 18 year plan in place to create a human conduit for pure magical power. Well that just wasn't to be allowed. He managed to smuggle a silver ring into the ritual chamber, knowing that the presence of metal would disrupt the ceremony. And it certainly did, with the child-vessel spasmingly madly and attracting everyone's attention while Van Vleet felt the ring burn into his soul, becoming a conduit for just a trickle of magical energy, but still more than Van Vleet had ever access before. He managed to escape detection and make it back to the United States and Haven.

Since then, he's been exploring his new power, not wanting to reveal the whole of it to his brethren in the Order. The recent appearance of the Enchanter has him convinced that the vessel of the Archanogarchy also tried to break the spell. And if his ring is this powerful, what could both rings do…? Taking the German name for Warlock, Van Vleet is starting to challenge the Enchanter, in hopes of converting him, or better yet, subverting him, to his personal power.

Creation Notes

This character also had mediocre stats (I'm having questions about my Roll20 program at this point!), but also came in at high enough level that training could clean some of it up. As usual for this group it was a couple rolls on Magic (ht. Int, telepathy), then a skill (willpower) and an item (special weapon). Telepathy was the clear loser there, and the willpower could easily take the place of minor magical powers. The weakness roll – mute – solidified things. This had to b Enchanter's opposite number, with the special weapon filling the place that Enchanters multiple items merged into his ring had. This is an older, more experienced wizard but with less raw power. The name was obvious because I had been looking for German terms for spellcaster when naming Enchanter and almost broke pattern when I saw Hexenmeister. Too cool to not use.

This sort of character and concept overlap, the various different ways to get to almost the same spot, is one of the things I love about V&V.

Monday, February 7, 2022

G is for Geri in the 2022 campaign creation challenge

Geraldine Delgado was part of the underground street fighting and street racing culture, very much on the the outskirts of society, an illegal immigrant with no paperwork or work history; a complete void as far as legal identity. When she was approached by shadowy funders to back her development of a proto-type supercar she wondered how they even knew she was working on it, and then how they had the funds to outfit her with a complete state of the art facility. But mostly she wondered how she could get more.

They gave her more in the form of draining her blood to magically enchant it and tattoo her with glyphs that acted as a personal, strength enhacing force field over any part of her body they cover. Eventually, it has covered nearly all of her. And she's more than willing to do whatever they want to keep that power Yes, the tattooes are unearthly, creepy, and scare people who see them: this just means she's abandoned her Daisy Dukes and tube tops for heavy work boots, durable jeans and hooded sweatshirts over long sleeve tees. Honestly, that works better as a costume anyway.

Geri has no idea who she's working for, or why they ask her to do what they do, but she also doesn't care. They've given her personal power and the resources to realize her mechanical dreams. If that means stealing some-thing, breaking some bones, or even killing people, so be it.

Creation Notes

Midrange stat set, I decided to eschew and item on this one and go with a device instead, so following a couple of skills, a couple of Maigc/Psionics, and a device. I've wanted to do the protective tattoos character for a while (I think I first saw it with the version of Mike Fink in the Alvin Maker series), and the roll of vehicle cemented the character concept. I usually like taking Heightened Attack and making it 'things get better as you level up' or 'roll the Heightened Expertise tale and get +4 to damage on those' to better balance the ability. In this case I deliberately made the Reduced Charisma worse – following the advice on recued attributes from Mighty Protectors, which may be my favorite part of the 3E rules set – to justify the punishing training regimen Geri uses.

I had originally envisioned her with a motorcycle, but decided to do the full "what if Michael Knight were in fast and Furious?" KITT rip off.

Geri is intended to be a Michael Knight/Knight Rider character working for one of the bad guy-magical organization. She's a solid close combat badass backed up by her not needing to evade thanks to her TK defense. The car (named GATO) can act independently and is smart enough to hack into computer systems and even override technological devices.

Sunday, February 6, 2022

F is for Fata Morgana in the 2022 Campaign Creation Challenge

Morgan Karnak was born with an interest in tings being not what they appear. She loved op art, trick photography, surrealism, and especially optical illusions, mirages, and other distortions of visual reality. Throwing herself into the sciences during grade school and college, while transitioning socially and physically, she was prepared to graduate and take the world by storm. Unfortunately, the world wasn't ready for her. Belittling, demeaning, failing to understand er genius. OK, yes, no one else could build things to reproduce her experiments, but that was because they lacked her singular vision of how the devices needed to be constructed. The entire disciplines of engineering and physics needed to be taken apart and rebuilt from the ground up to take advantage of principles that her colleagues derided as being more magic than science. When she finally revealed some of her devices to her employer, he was so shocked, so scared by the change in perception of reality, that he fired her on the spot, and blackballed her in the Haven science and engineering community. 

The unmitigated fool! 

Morgan has had no choice since then but to display the superiority of her vision. To show him. To show them. THO SHOW THEM ALL! Not that she wants to hurt anyone, but flashy crimes help both attract attention and fund her work. 

Creation Notes

Oof. The dice did not give me very good stats to work with – just like Enchanter – and with a 1 on the powers roll I knew I needed to lean into whatever the dice gave me for powers. Sticking to the Items and Magic tables I got a Heightened Intelligence (Magic), which could be a good start, but the 3d10 roll produced a measly 6. The two items, Size Change and Teleportation, suggested something but I wasn't sure what. I decided to overrule the original weakness roll (Mute) and moved it up 1 percentage point (Phobia Psychosis) because I didn't want to have a Mute Hero and a Mute villain battling it out, and the Phobia/Psychosis roll let me put in a second Infantino's Syndrome villain.

I dropped the Heightened Intelligence, but used the old page 4-5 rule about upgrading the abilities for characters with fewer powers to make even her weakness give her an edge, her insane inventing focus from what would have been the full bore Heightened Intelligence. I could have overruled the +6, made it like a +26 and kept only one of her items, but the percolating idea of size change and teleportation had finally surfaced – her growth and shrinking was all playing with perception – she would move further away and be 'larger' than what she was looking at, or 'smaller' than what people could see – which then gets into a fractured nature of reality, stepping through panel borders, leaving behind two dimensional paper images of herself, and so on. She'd be very much an 80's-90's Grant Morrison villain, just filtered through 1960's Flash comics.

I sometimes wonder if doing the character names in alphabet order helps or hinders this, but in this case it really helped. I had rolled a 3 for Gender (and I use 1-3 Male, 4-6 Female as opposed to the 2E 4/2 which mirrored the comics up to the early 80's that 2.0 modeled), and then the idea of the name Fata Morgana (which is an optical illusion of faerie castles on the horizon) to the bi-gendered nature of the name Morgan, and having Morgan be trans just fit. It's not something that defines her (the weird bending of role playing based on comic book reality does that), but it's something that might be explored in one of her later appearances.

Saturday, February 5, 2022

E is for Enchanter (and Elfriede)

 Uwe Weber lived a complicated life. Born in Halle, Germany, his parents are part of the Arcanogarchy – what happens when formerly state controlled magical assets find themselves unsupervised in the anarchic post-Soviet – and they had been anointed at the millennium to birth a vessel for pure, raw magic. Their son, Uwe, was kept magically ignorant so as to not taint the vessel in any way. Oh sure, he was trained in crime (espionage, forgery, computer hacking, surveillance, blackmail techniques) but no violence and no magic. On the eve of his 17th birthday he was told to come with his parents wearing no metal. A growing premonition and teenage rebellion made him swallow his grandfather's wedding ring. 

The presence of the metal disrupted the complicated ceremony in strange ways. To the Arcanogarchy it was clearly a failure: the boy didn't display any new magical potential, he just suffered from seizures and was rendered mute. Still, he was clearly loyal, still an asset. Might as well deploy him to the United States where he might spy on, disrupt, or possibly even infiltrate Skull and Bones, one of the Archanogarchy's adversaries in the war for magical dominium. Uwe happily took the assignment, taking pre-med classes at Yale, quickly finding a lovely girlfriend of Germanic descent, and making all the right social connections. The Archanogarchy are keeping him under light surveillance at best.

For Uwe, the ritual was VERY different. The Fae Court (which is the only way Uwe's mind could process the pure magic entities he contacted) carried on a timeless conversation with him while his newly minted ability to detect weaknesses told him every pathology and scheme of his parents and the rest of the Archanogarchy as the seizures wracked his body. One of their number, Elfriede, bound herself to him to act as his guardian and an ambassador from the Fae Court. While his body is a permanent conduit to pure magic – letting him move things and himself through an infinite array of means as well as sense weaknesses and speak to objects – his grandfather's ring was an even more powerful one. The band of gold marries him to pure magic, letting him create objects, including armor and vehicles, with nothing but a word. The power can be draining if used too much, but it is infinite in scope. 

Unfortunately, Uwe's lack of magical training betrays him: he cannot control the wishing power of the magic, and any words he says can change the world. As a result, he doesn't dare speak. As Uwe he communicates via talking technology (he's learning sign language); as the Enchanter he speaks only to make changes to the world, and otherwise Elfriede does the talking for him, whatever her current shape. 

His criminal training has let him create a fake identity or three for Elfriede in the US. She normally passes as Ellie Weaver, his pure and beautiful girlfriend (the Maiden), but from time to time she's been his wise doting Mother Ellen Weber, and has the papers to be Elfriede Weber, his cruel to kind grandmother (Crone). When he's operating as Enchanter, Elfriede takes the shape of small familiars, normal-ish animals, or, if he gives her a boost of magical energy, something large enough to be truly dangerous and carry Enchanter and his allies. (Of course, he can also have her familiar sized and create a chariot or broomstick or what have you). She can't form shift or size change during a fight, so her tactics are locked in once she's selected her form. 

In addition to trying to thwart the Archanogarch's plans, he's also investigating Skull and Bones, who, we must stress, are not any better. There's a secret war going on between powerful and connected magicians, and the Enchanter is putting himself in the way of all of them. 

Creation Notes

This is absolutely another character where the power set did not immediately inspire. I knew I wanted a magic powers / magic items hero but the mediocre stats (Uwe really is just a normal guy, if a little smarter than average) and nothing to bolster them hurt, and the last-ditch attempt on the Skills table to get something landed Pet. It took a while and looking at the PCs from several different angles to land on Enchanter, but once I realized I could take the Kyle Rayner Green Lantern route where he never did something the same way twice helped a lot. Enchanter was suddenly a lot more powerful in my head because of his visual versatility. His relatively low Agility hampers him, but between his actions, Elfriede's actions and his vehicles action on 8, the player acts 4.5 times a round, just all at the end. His biggest issue is his most effective attacks (his Animate Illusions) also drain his Power score, which weakens the Illusions. Still, I can see him as being very fun to play. 

Friday, February 4, 2022

D is for Dominium (and Decius) in the 2022 Campaign Challenge

Samuel King was born an off the charts genius and realized very quickly life would be a lot easier if he didn't let on about it too much. He got an accounting degree, landed a job at a stable manufacturing firm, invested in painfully obvious to him stocks to make sure he would never need for money, and started tinkering with some of his interests: hypnosis and light. Eventually he found a way to merge the two, creating an palm sized disc capable of generating an instantaneous hypnotic effect. Samuel spent the next several decades enjoying himself at the expense, and deaths, of others, and in driving the occasional psychologist out of their practices.

That hubris eventually caught up with him when he volunteered for experiments with Dr. Hana Tanaka. When Tanaka's telepathy machine revealed Samuel's inner thoughts, he processed what was happening before she did and dispatched her – without any of his usual finesse. This triggered the chain of events that created Akuma, uncovered his long string of killings, led the press to nickname him Dominium, and eventually led to Samuel's imprisonment. 

Of course, with his intelligence prison couldn't hold him for long, and once he escaped he decided to improve his methods before wrestling with the Devil again. He vastly improved the light generation capacities of his palm disk, denying Akuma her shadows. He discerned that her mental gifts didn't extend to animals and got himself the biggest, strongest, attack dog in the world and built specialized hypnotic devices to let him dominate it utterly. Once he let Akuma track him down again, Decius caught her by surprise and mauled her. Samuel, Dominium, was concerned that she somehow managed to escape, but he knows the rematch will come eventually. 

Creation Notes

I got a standard set of rolls on this one- no 6 Strength – and knowing I wanted to keep the Akuma villains primarily device basis I split the rolls between devices and skills and got a power set that could have gone very flashy, but one thing I'm allowing myself is that age can either be 12+2d6+level or the more random NPC ages. The random NPC age was top of the charts, and the image of a creepy old man holding a hypnotizing disk in his hand just came to me. The rest of the character, his two encounters with Akuma, all came quickly. He nails down the creepy evil sociopath end of the super-villain psychology spectrum while the Crepuscular Man nails down the goofier side. 

Thursday, February 3, 2022

C is for the Crepuscular Man in the 2022 campaign challenge

Jacob Collins is a 56-year-old out of shape functionary in the Haven city government. OK, so yes, he has a past, but who doesn't? His past? Well, when he was a fresh-faced young government bureaucrat he was diligently filing in the deepest basement of his office when the three-day weekend started early and some nob in the city government decided to shut off the power completely. Collins spent the entire weekend in that basement, watching the shadows get deeper and deeper as the batteries of the emergency lights died, and the trauma set off his latent Infantino's Syndrome. Collins became obsessed with shadows and with proving his mastery over them. As he learned their mysteries, he felt the growing compulsion to prove his genius to the world, in the most spectacular way possible!

He took the identity of the Crepuscular Man and started a decade long spree of bizarre and spectacular crimes across Haven and the surrounding cities, all relating in some way to shadows and darkness. He somehow managed to escape jail repeatedly despite being separated from his tech, but was eventually 'cured' of his Infantino's Syndrome by Dr. Hana Tanaka and became once again a productive member of society. 

Until Akuma showed up with her team of Shadows, that is. Shadows? Them?!? They didn't know the first thing about Shadows! It's like she was begging him, forcing him to come out of retirement to show her what true shadows were! He tried to talk about it with his old therapist but Dr. Tanaka had died a few years earlier and this new woman, Learson? Larson? Whatever… was just too distracted. Hopeless really. No, no, the city of Haven had to learn again, via robberies and blackmail of famous monuments and ransoming of famous people, what true mastery of shadows looks like!

Creation Notes

I wasn't thrilled with the banal combination of darkness control and teleportation, and the rest of the power set was lending itself to shadowy serial killer, which is boring as all get out. Yes, I know I built Akuna as someone who fought serial killers in her original 1980's comic run, but by the 2020's I've found that really played out. So I took some time away from it and came back in full on Flash rogues' gallery mode, including the goofy silver age origin story of developing darkness devices because he'd been locked in a dark basement for a weekend. 

His relatively low STR score – this is three characters in a row with a 6 STR, which is a little weird - is the result of years in retirement and perhaps being overly sedated. At STR 9, 230lbs he's running a little on the chunky side these days. His 10 Charisma is because so many people have forgotten him. Forgotten the Crepuscular Man? He'll show them!

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

B is for Bioreactor in the 2022 campaign challenge

 August Adler was brilliant, charming, but physically weak and with very poor vision. He was glib, quick with a quip, great at breaking the ice, but this was all a core over feeling like his narrow frame never actually measured up. He applied his genius to sports medicine, where he might be in a position over the athletes he envied – athletes who in general already respected him. Having finished his medical degree at 22, he's already positioned to be approached by superheroes needing medical or rehab assistance. This is where Akuma met him – while he still doesn't know any of her secrets or who she is under the mask, she did trust him enough to seek his help in her recovery from serious battlefield trauma. 

Spending time with actual super-heroes has led him, ultimately, to develop a highly dangerous (and illegal) Cell-Atomic Energization via Stimulating Arrangement of Radiation, or CAESAR. When he experimented on himself it produced amazing effects – his vision cleared up, his endurance and apparent strength became superhuman, his body became all but indestructible if e were injured, he would heal almost immediately. He doesn't even know about his power blast ability (and how it temporarily saps his strength) 

While August knew he needed to keep this illegal experimentation secret it was hard to hide his new musculature, height and lack of glasses. He's concocted a story of a lab accident that is holding for now – and leaves people unaware of the scope of his powers – but won't for long. After that he'll be booted from the university. He's already making Dorian-Grey like advantage of his new beauty and indestructibility, and once he's stripped of his medical license he'll be lost to all concept of propriety.   So, while he is an Akuma villain, he hasn't really become one yet…

Creation Notes

It was strange seeing the 6 Strength turn up again, and as is common the full 8 power suite is harder to conceptualize around than as smaller one. Seeing the higher-than-normal intelligence and charisma due to skills, and then the suite of physical abilities, led me quickly to a self-experimentation, and the to be dropped diminished senses and very slow strength gave a motivation. Is he a bit of a cliché? Yes. Freely admitted. But I couldn’t get the idea out of my head, so I found a way to modify the Power last to give him a Heightened Strength equivalent. Plus I like the idea of him firing his power blast tangibly weakening him while he recharges. 

Design wise, he's built as a mirror image of Akuma – intuitive genius where she is methodical, strong and tough where she is fast and trained, all physical while her powers are mental – and being someone she might want to try to save. But then he will discover his power blast ability by accidentally killing someone, and his slide into depravity will be complete. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

A is for Akuma in the 2022 campaign challenge

Our first hero is Dr. Emery Larson, aka Akuma. 

While she was doing her graduate work at Yale Medical for criminal psychiatry, her mentor, Dr. Hana Tanaka, invented a device that let her read her patient's minds. Since Dr. Tanaka's patients were criminals, this led to some amazing and disturbing discoveries, including he revelation that one of them was secretly a serial killer (who may end up being one of the 3 core villains). Dr. Tanaka didn't survive the encounter, but Emery was able to escape with the device. 

Emery was never the strongest or smartest person, but she was always physically quick and agile, passionate in her interests and incredibly dedicated to completing things. Not the sort of genius where things came naturally, she would work three times as hard to get where the wanted to be, with a passion that inspired others. Seeing the potential for the Tanaka headband for directly fighting criminals, but not trusting it to common use, she vowed to fashion herself into the person who could use it to make criminals fear the devil. 

Insert a training montage here, as she rapidly parlayed her prior hobby training in martial arts into full bore ninjitsu mastery. This was accomplished under the wing of an aging master of the art. Taking the Japanese word for devil, Akuma, as her code name, Emery took to the streets to find, track, build evidence against, and take down criminals, using the aid of a growing cadre of assistants, her shadows, starting with her ninjitsu instructor, Master Takahashi. Over the course of her first few adventures 4 more were added, each with strong combat training and other skills. 

To help protect her identity, Emery altered her personal style, adopting spike heels, cutting the hair she inherited from her Japanese mother into a pixie cut and dying it bright colors, and getting a wardrobe of loose-fitting clothes. Akuma, in contrast, has flat feet (emphasizing her 5'4" frame), a black-on-garnet form-fitting costume that makes distinct changes to her silhouette (along with a flame motif that doubles as camouflage), and a long black wig that is braided with wire, has handles inside it and ends with a kama – her hair functions as a Kusarigama. 

Akuma and her Shadows spent the next several years tracking down people with criminal psychosis – from exotic serial killers to pyromaniacs to run of the mill jerks – with the Haven law enforcement learning to tolerate her, especially since she always provided a big old envelope full of collected data for them to act on to convict the criminals. No one outside the Shadows knows that she's telepathic, and more than one investigator has bought into the myth that she's supernatural. Dr. Larson has also seen her career climb, being an oft consulted specialist from the police and the FBI while she teaches and does research at Yale. 

A few years ago, one of Akuma's cases went horribly wrong, and she was badly mauled. It's taken her years to get back to her original fighting trim, and the incident has put a harsh edge on her passionate intensity. This ultimately cost her Master Takahashi as a shadow. She's held on to the others but it will take some time before she can win Takahashi back to the cause, if ever. 

Akuma is nothing if not methodical. As long as there are no lives at risk she’ll spend as long as needed to make a case against someone and bring them down; her telepathic powers make her almost impossible to surprise, or to locate when she's decided to track you. She's quite capable in a fight, and even moreso when the Shadows come into play and she can telepathically direct them. When working with the rest of this nascent hero team she doesn't have the Shadows join her, but still acts as a telepathic guide and combat director, making the hero team much more capable. 

Creation Notes

I was not thrilled with the original power set, nor the 6 in STR, but once I stared at it long enough the idea emerged. I imagine her original book coming out in the 1980's black and white boom with ninja and serial killers – the fake hair comes from early Spider Woman, the hair as Kusarigama comes from Eagle – with the team of seconds being deliberately pulpy. Her book is being re-started for this new publisher, picking up more of less where it left off. As usual I'm more than willing to use decentralized resources in terms of a crew of people, and her ability to give the rest of the team stealth and accuracy bonuses becomes wicked powerful when the other people are super-heroes.  The combination of a 6  STR and the Reduced Charisma weakness are what made her near career ending injury in her old book. 

2022 Campaign in a Month Challenge: The city of Haven


I tried this self-created challenge and didn't complete this last year, but here's oping 2022 will be better. The intent is to make up one character a day for February, some heroes, some villains, to populate a campaign world using Villains & Vigilantes 2.1 with as much randomness as possible. Last year I tired for 4 heroes with 6 member rogues galleries, but this year I'm going for 7 heroes with 3 member rogues galleries. I'm also using more an Avengers model where 2 of the heroes will appear solely in the team adventure book (and hence their villains are team villains), 4 of them are other team members who have their own comics, and the final will be an outside hero who sometimes teams up with them.

Rather than giving each their own base city, these heroes are all sharing the same city, Haven, which is a synecdoche/amalgamation of Connecticut. Several key elements of Connecticut are being smooshed (that's a technical game design term) into this altered version of New Haven. It has

1)      A famed Ivy League university, best known for its law and medical schools.

a.       That university contains one of the best-known secret societies for the 1% (Skull & Bones)

2)      Enormous wealth disparities (rich should have places in city and country).

3)      Tourist trade driven by a historical district and nearby living history site (Mystic).

4)      Solid presence in the military/aerospace industry (Sikorsky and Pratt & Whitney).

5)      Solid presence in aquatic research/navy submarines (Trident submarine)

6)      Links to the 19th century/civil war/old west (Twain/ Stowe/Colt Firearms),

7)      Links to colonial/revolutionary war period where we were con men.

8)      A pair of well-established Native American casinos.

9)      Periods of wildly corrupt governance (governors and mayors going to prison levels)

10   Parts of the city hollowed out by white flight; abandoned industry sites.

11   The original off-Broadway sites for experimental theater/stage actor stars.

12   Devil's Hopyard/Devil's Den and other

This 12 bullet points should give me enough to build both characters and neighborhoods in the theater.

I'm also going to be recycling some things I've used before, such an Infantino's Syndrome, a neurological complex that makes one act like a Flash rogues gallery member, and twisted mirror versions of the heroes as their rogues' gallery. I'm trying hard to not come in with preconceptions to the characters before the dice hit the table.

OK. Buckle up, true believers!