Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Comforts Of Home

In last couple of days, I've found myself wanting to run Champions again.  I suspect that a good deal of it has to do with the fact that the Alamo Defenders setting was a Champions (4th ed) campaign, and that when people are stressed, they fall into old comfortable patterns, and Champions is my gaming "comfort food."

I'm under a lot of stress right now, so I guess it makes sense.

Of course, wanting to run something and being able to are two very different critters.  Champions is not the sort of game that lets me just call some folks up to come over and play.  Most of my readily available gamers aren't HERO System players, so getting something off the ground is a hard sell on a good day.

Also, I suspect the desire to run it will pass in a matter of days or weeks, as these things often do.

In the meantime, here's more Alamo Defenders history, from the background I wrote for the New Defenders campaign.

[From the Dr. Sam "Spectrum" Curtis' final press conference, October 1, 1993]

"Thank you, members of the press, as well as everyone else who's come out today.  I'd like to begin by extending the Defenders' thanks to all the fine folks who've offered their support for us during the recent tragedy.  Without your kind thoughts and words, I doubt I could even stand up here today -- Thank you.  Thank you all.

Now, what I am about to say is probably the hardest thing I've ever had to tell anyone, but I'm afraid it probably won't come as a surprise to many of you.

In the course of the many trials and tragedies we've faced of the past eighteen months, it's become increasingly obvious that we can no longer act as a group to fulfill our purposes of public service and protection.  The many interpersonal conflicts we have suffered, culminating in the terrible events of last week have taken their toll on our members.  Several Defenders haven't been seen since before the funeral, and their current whereabouts are unknown, even to myself.  These problems, coupled with our rather public severing of ties with the AmTek Corporation combined to make our situation untenable.  Therefore, it is my sad duty to announce the immediate disbanding of the Alamo Defenders.  Furthermore, I'm taking this opportunity to announce my own retirement in order to pursue scientific research full time.  I have worn this costume proudly for the last decade and I'm as proud of it today as I was back in April of '83, when I first put it on, but I am, admittedly, tired.  Goodbye, San Antonio.  May you stay healthy and safe.

I will now answer a few of your questions."

G. Delaune (Channel 5 News): "Spectrum, what new information can you give us regarding Mechanix's condition?"

Spectrum: "At this point, Gary, it's just too early to tell.  I do know his prognosis for a total recovery is not good.  You must understand, the neural feedback he experienced when his armor malfunctioned was bad enough, but the death of Vanadium, combined with the circumstances involved at the time, just served to make matters worse.  I'm hoping for the best, but I just...I just don't know."

B. Karam (Hard Copy):  "Speaking of the circumstances surrounding Vanadium's death, when can we expect to get the full story?"

Spectrum: "At this point, this is still an ongoing investigation, and all I can do is abide by the wishes of the San Antonio Police Department, who have asked that I not comment further than I already have."

B. Karam: "But what about the reports that her own mutant offspring killed and devoured her?"

Spectrum: "I really have nothing more to say about that, thank you."

P. Rich (San Antonio Express-News):  "Spectrum, turning to the matter of your retirement and the disbanding of the Defenders: what about the safety of San Antonio?  What protection can we look forward to in the future?"

Spectrum: "Well Paula, there are times when I wonder if San Antonio wouldn't have been a whole lot safer without out us here in the first place.  We have no resident super-criminals, and many of our greatest threats involved individuals coming here to attack us.  We're blessed with a fine police force, which has been trained in all the latest methods of combating super-powered crime, if the need arises.

Besides, who knows?  Ten years ago, three uniquely gifted strangers met in downtown San Antonio and formed an alliance that, despite many difficulties, used those gifts to serve the greater good.  Maybe lightning can strike twice.  Maybe someday someone will take up where we left off.  Maybe they can do a better job of it.  I wish them luck.

Goodbye folks, it's been swell."

[From the January 2, 1994 edition of the San Antonio Express-News Sunday Magazine, "Top Stories of 1993"]

Beyond a doubt, San Antonio's top story of the year was the series of conflicts and tragedies that led to the breakup of the Alamo Defenders.  Although their troubles began as early as 1989, matters escalated toward the breaking point last years.  On January 3, Alaister Hammer, the president and CEO of AmTek, filed divorce proceedings against his wife Cynthia, alleging an affair between her and recent Defenders addition Citadel.  During the course of the proceedings, Citadel left the team, but not soon enough to prevent Hammer from withdrawing AmTek's sponsorship of the team.  Despite their best efforts, the remaining Defenders were unable to persuade Hammer into reinstating them into the Strike Force program, leaving them in a serious financial bind that affected the team throughout the months that followed.

Shortly thereafter came the teams confrontation with self-proclaimed messiah David Koresh and his followers at the Branch Davidian compound near Waco.  Although successful in bringing Koresh to justice, the Davidian leader's charismatic presence and ability to bestow superpowers on his faithful caused a great deal of embarrassment for the Defenders, who once again found themselves cast in a bad light.

At the same time, rumors began to circulate alleging problems in the marriage of Mechanix and Vanadium.  In May, Mechanix took an official leave of absence from the team, cancelling all public appearances.  He was not seen again until the ill-fated morning of September 24.  Throughout his absence, divorce rumors swirled, only diminishing slightly in July when Vanadium also absented herself from active duty, reportedly due to pregnancy.

July saw, for a brief moment, a hint of the Defenders of old.  While helping with flood relief efforts along the Mississippi River, they battled and defeated the superpowered terrorists known as Conquest.  Sadly, even this incident was marred by tragedy when the mysterious Dynamo, an occasional ally of the Defenders was swept under the flood waters when a levee broke, never to be seen again.  Not the first of the Defenders' friends and allies to fall in the line of duty, he would also, sadly, not be the last.

"All Hell Broke Loose"
Three months later, there is still a great deal known about what occurred at Defenders Plaza on September 24, 1993.  The official records are still under investigation, and the people in the best position to comment on the events are either unavailable or cite confidentiality when asked.  Based on eyewitness accounts and information obtained through anonymous sources, the following picture emerges:  At approximately 7:30 AM, Vanadium went into an extremely premature labor at Defenders Plaza.  Shortly thereafter, witnesses saw Mechanix fly into the building's rooftop entrance.  Three hours later, in the words of one witness outside the building, "All Hell broke loose."  Defenders Plaza was virtually demolished as the team, sans Vanadium desperately battled a glowing egg-shaped object.  Witnesses who looked directly at the object reported nausea and headaches.  The object was obviously superpowered and demonstrated incredible telekinetic abilities.  In the course of its escape, the Defenders paid a heavy price: no member of the team escaped injuries. Vanadium was dead, the cause still undisclosed by the Coroner's Office.  Mechanix suffered a massive feedback of the neural network controlling his armor, which left him paralyzed.  Marc "Fury" Sinclair was not found after the battle, though Spectrum later reported he survived.

On October 1, three days after the funeral of Clarice "Vanadium" Whittaker, Spectrum held his last press conference as leader of the Defenders.  Stating that he and his surviving teammates were "tired," Spectrum disbanded the Defenders and announced his own retirement.  After the conference, he flew to his combination home/laboratory facility in Bandera and hung up his costume, content to spend the rest of his life as Dr. Sam Curtis, research physicist.  But what of the other Defenders, all of whom seemed to hang up their capes at the same time?

One Step At A Time
Of all the Defenders touched by tragedy in 1993, none was likely more affected than Dan "Mechanix" Whittaker.  On September 24, he last his wife, his child, and the use of his own body.  While doctors at Methodist Hospital report significant progress in treating his paralysis, they also caution that it will be many years before he will be able to walk unaided.  In this only statement, a press release given out on Christmas Day, he expressed his gratitude for the outpouring of the sympathy displayed by San Antonians and people worldwide.  He said that he'd regained much of the use of his arms, but walking was a long way off, although he planned to get there, "One step at a time."

Meanwhile, Metaltechnix, his high-tech company continues to thrive.  Dan's younger brother Andrew handles the day-to-day operations, but he has no doubts as to who's still in charge.  "Dan checks in three times a day and any major decisions are still made by him.  In fact, the first thing he did when he started his recovery was to design a telecommunications suite for his hospital bed, just so he could stay in touch."  Still, Andrew concedes, not everything is going to plan. "Dan still has his bad days.  It's understandable, given what he's been through.  But he really does seem to be coming along."

Notably Absent
When the Defenders emerged from the ruins of their headquarters last September, one member was notably absent.  Marc Sinclair, who adventured under the name Fury, was nowhere to be seen, although Spectrum verified that he did survive the battle.  Since that time, there have been numerous reported sightings of the mysterious psychic across the the country, although none of these have been substantiated.  Given what is known of Fury and the powers he commands, it seems unlikely he will be located unless he wants to be.  One of the more interesting rumors alleges he is pursuing the mysterious object that killed Vanadium and destroyed Defenders Plaza, but that remains pure speculation at this time.

Other Defenders
Of course, there were other friends and allies of the Defenders who've gone their separate ways at or prior to the team's dissolution.  Firefist, who left the team in August of 1993, is currently a member of Strike Force San Francisco, serving as their deputy leader.  Lady Starlight, the mysterious woman of energy has not been seen since Vanadium's funeral, nor has the martial arts master Black Dragon.  Since their true identities were never revealed to the public, their whereabouts may never be known.

But what of Citadel, who's alleged indiscretion with Cynthia Hammer heralded the beginning of the end for the Defenders?  Sadly, he recently surfaced in Portland, Oregon, apparently leading a VIPER-related assault on an AmTek facility.  During the commission of the robbery, he was quoted by police as saying, "You turned your back on me, now try turning your back on this."  AmTek CEO Alaistair Hammer has offered a $1,000,000 reward for information leading to Citadel's capture.

Life After The Defenders
For San Antonio, life goes on.  But how has the departure of a world-class superhero team affected the city?  On the surface, the effects have been minimal.  During his final press conference, Spectrum said, "...there are times when I wonder if San Antonio wouldn't have been a whole lot safer without out us here in the first place."  Since his announcement, superpowered crime has been at an all-time low, perhaps confirming his concerns.  Nonetheless, many citizens are not so certain.  "I miss the notoriety of having them here," said Mayor Nelson Wolff, "They really added to the city's characters while they were active."  Local taxi driver Bernie Breslin shares his views, "Every tourist I picked up in the last ten years had some sort of question about the Defenders. On top of that, I just felt safer knowing they were out there."

Not all citizens agree with this opinion.  Ruben Salazar, spokesman for the San Antonio Police Officers' Association said, "While we admire the courage and the sense of duty shown by the Defenders, it is our organization's opinion that the crime statistics speak for themselves.  In municipalities where you have superheroes, you have superpowered crime.  In places without supers, the problem is nearly invisible.  They're like magnets to each other.  Without the Defenders here, the city has had only one reported incident involving a supervillain, and that was Foxbat."  The Police Department's views notwithstanding, a recent Express-News survey found that over 75% of San Antonians would like to see the Defenders re-form, or some other group step in to fill the void left by their departure.  Perhaps that story will be among the most memorable events of 1994.


  1. Wow..The sheer amount of history and knowledge of your setting is amazing. I'm inspired.

  2. Thanks. To be honest, it's been a long time since I could put that sort of back story into a campaign, but it's nice to take it out and look at it once in a while.

  3. I've also had the spandex bug the last few weeks. Would you be up for playing something light, without having to GM...?

  4. Maybe, once I get shed of the current unpleasantness.