Friday, April 3, 2015

Classic Enemies: Part One (Of Many)

Alright, let's do this thing.  This is the first of hopefully many entries dissecting the contents of Classic Enemies (or CE), the first supplement for Champions 4th Edition (aka the Big Blue Book, or BBB). OK, technically, the first supplement was a GM screen and reference sheet collection, but where's the fun in that?

I have at my side my original copy of CE, Hero Games product #403.  It's 112 pages, perfect-bound.  My copy is beat all to hell, but still intact. My quick eyeball count shows it contains 77 villains (including two write-ups for Dr. Destroyer).  That's a hell of a lot of material.  The book was written by Scott Bennie, working from characters created by many authors for earlier editions of the game. All art is by Pat Zircher, who went on to a pretty successful career drawing funnybooks.

I've decided to review CE in sections, focusing initially on the villain groups (since they come first), then the individual bad guys.  In doing this, I'm using a tool the folks at Hero Games didn't have back then: Creation Workshop. CW is a neat little late-90s program designed by Bruce Kvam that handles character creation for quite a few game systems (they sold them separately).  Late in the days of the BBB, they came out with one for Champions, and it's still one of the best tools ever for the game.  So I'm entering each character from CE into it and seeing how the math holds up.

But enough of that, let's get on with the show. 

Up first, it's The Ultimates.  Created by Hero Games co-founder Steve Peterson for the very first Enemies book, they are one of the oldest villain groups created for Champions.  They're also, well...kind of lame.

The Ultimates consist of Binder, Plasmoid, Slick, Blackstar, and Charger.  Binder is the leader and the brains of the operation (though I suspect the former has more to do with his ability to control Plasmoid).  According to the back story, they are "...considered to be one of the most dangerous supervillain groups ever assembled...The premier threat to national security of all active American supervillain groups."  Honestly, I never saw it.  But if Mr. Peterson said it, there must be something there.  So, without further ado, let's look at the individual members of The Ultimates.

Name:  Binder

Affiliation:  The Ultimates

What's His Deal?:  So, Binder was once a chemist named Earl.  He was working on a superadhesive when he was injured and left hideously scarred by a lab accident.  Fired from his job, he did what any super-genius with a grudge would do: turn supervillain.  Armed with his knowledge of industrial-strength resins, he built a glue gun and used it for revenge.  Realizing on some basic level that a guy with a glue gun just isn't that much of a threat, he recruited some help.

Coolness:  Despite the goofy schtick, he's a pretty well-rounded character, with a nice balance of powers and skills, as well as 50 points devoted to Bases, which I would use for one-shot Master Plan gadgets.  Tactically, he's a good support character in many respect.

Lameness:  Glue gun.  Glue. Gun.  And boot jets. Let's face it, no one is going to be afraid of a guy with a glue gun.  It doesn't really say, "Premier threat to national security," if you know what I mean. Also, a mentalist will destroy him.

How's The Math?:  Pretty good. He's generally built with his combat-facing stats optimized. My CW write-up comes in at 340 points and the write-up in the book is 339.  Having looked it over, I'm pretty sure it's a transcription error, since everything back then was done via calculator or on paper.

Did/Would Use In My Campaign?: I never have, to be honest, and I'm still not super-tempted, though I know a later Champions product updated the Ultimates quite a bit.  Maybe I'll look that up at some point.

Name: Plasmoid

Affiliation: The Ultimates

What's It's Deal?:  Plasmoid is a semi-sentient scout sent to Earth by a planet of machine intelligences.  Unfortunately, its programming got scrambled along the way and it's kind of random and unreliable.  It's a mass of living energy like the monster in that Jonny Quest cartoon, and has lots of energy and magnetic powers.

Coolness: The energy body and the whole looks like that monster from the Johny Quest cartoon.  Ungodly powerful (seriously, it's got a 15d6 EB, a 10d6 EB Explosion, and a potentially 5d6 RKA). Lets Binder back up his threats.

Lameness: In its write-up, it's specified that 50% of the time (an 11- roll on 3d6), Plasmoid performs random acts utterly unrelated to the fight.  OK, it's not super-lame.  Plasmoid is actually pretty cool.  Oh, wait.  Plasmoid has no non-combat skills.  That's kind of lame.  Also, a mentalist will destroy it.

How's The Math?:  So-so. The by-the-book write-up is 600 pts even.  In CW, he comes out at 577.  The problem appears to be a Damage Shield that doesn't add up right.

Did/Would Use In My Campaign?:  I don't think I ever did, but I could see using Plasmoid as one of many alien "soldiers" in a full-scale interplanetary war.  Yes, 577 pt soldiers.  It's cosmic.  Deal with it.

Name: Slick

Affiliation: The Ultimates

What's His Deal?:  Rick Powell was a douchey surfer/drug dealer who gained friction powers.  Nothing creepy about that, no sir.  Basically a speedster who makes people fall down a lot.

Coolness: OK, using Entangles to represent areas where he made the ground too slick to move is kind of cool. Kind of.

Lameness: Where to start? The name. The surfer personality. Anyone with "Showoff" as a Psychological Limitation.  Truth is, I hate this guy more than just any other character published by Hero ever.  He's totally out of place for a team that is "The premiere threat to national security."  Also, a mentalist will destroy him.

How's The Math?:  Dead on.  No issues.

Did/Would Use In My Campaign?: Maybe in a flashback sequence being gunned down by the Harbinger of Justice.

Name:  Blackstar

Affiliation: The Ultimates

What's His Deal?:  Science nerd James "The Brain," Carson murdered a scientist for the secret of a density altering process.  It gave him the ability to make himself super-dense or insubstantial.  It also gave him rock-hard abs.

Coolness:  Blackstar is a brick with a twist (the Desolidification thing).  When his Density Increase is on, he's seriously tough and hard to hurt.  Since his powers are all 0 End, he's very efficient and easy to run. For a brick, that's the best you can ask for.  I can see where he'd be quite useful in the team environment with Binder and Slick setting up targets by immobilizing them for Blackstar to pound.  Provided he can get to them.

Lameness:  He's got serious mobility issues.  Also, for someone nicknamed "The Brain," his INT is only 13 and his skills in Electronics, Mechanics, and Physics are all 12-.  On the other hand, that 13 does make him the second-smartest member of the Ultimates.  Also, a mentalist will destroy him.

How's The Math?:  Only off by one point.  I can't get one of his Multipower slots to cost what the book says.

Did/Would Use In My Campaign?: I haven't, but I could see a use for him in any team that needs a brick with a twist.  The only issue is purely coincidental to his name.  My SCA kingdom newsletter is "The Black Star." As I've usually had SCA/gamer crossover in my groups, I've hesitated to use him just because folks will laugh when they hear his name.

Name: Charger

Affiliation:  The Ultimates

What's His Deal?:  Edward Ellis was dying so he had his body frozen in liquid nitrogen. Comics, everybody! Of course the casket in which he rested was hit by lightning, yadda, yadda, yadda, living battery, blah, blah, origin, blah, blah, angry at the world, Charger.

Coolness:  Pretty much unstoppable if you're hitting him with energy attacks.  He's got a massive Endurance reserve and he can absorb incoming attacks to recharge.  He throws out 16d6 EBs like he's waving down a cab, so he actually IS a fairly major threat.  He also flies.

Lameness:  Absorption plus and End Reserve is a complete and utter pain in the ass for a GM to deal with.  He's pretty much the definition of a one-trick pony: he can throw devastating lightning at you from a distance and fly around.  He has literally one non-combat skill: Disguise (and that on an 11-).  Also, a mentalist will destroy him.

How's The Math?:  Solid.

Did/Would Use In My Campaign?:  Not without getting rid of the Endurance Reserve and changing up the Absorption a bit.

So, there you have the Ultimates.  They're a pretty odd group, almost certainly composed of a bunch of separate characters the GM had handy when he had to whip up a team.  Tactically, they're kind of weird in that you've got four characters that work best at range, and only one who's particularly good up-close. While there are ways to make it work, none of them work well with their supposed threat level.  Not to mention the fact that a mentalist would destroy them.

Next time, The Conquerors!


  1. Is there anything in these characters' motivations that would cause them to want to threaten national security -- aside from Plasmoid when it's on task?

  2. Not much. Binder's accident happened when he was working for a company that was contracted to UNTIL (the SHIELD equivalent of the Champions Universe). Mostly, they're motivated by greed, to be honest, and accumulating power. I can see where those goals could run afoul of national security, but I suspect they were a big deal in Steve P's home game and that translated to the write-ups.

    I did take a brief look at ENEMIES ASSEMBLE!, one of the last sourcebooks for 4e. It had updated writeups for the Ultimates, as well as a campaign timeline for them. Again, I suspect this was pulled out of a home campaign.

  3. A fun read, thanks! loved the breakdown analysis of each character.

  4. They are a pretty random and generic group, led by "Paste Pot Pete" there. I'm enjoying the nostalgic part of this, though.

  5. My conversion of Binder in Heromaker 2.5 came to 339 points. What item in your CW conversion didn't add up?

  6. Blackstar's writeup in the book is illegal because it places the 45 point Density Increase and 15 point Armor powers in one Multipower slot for a combined cost of 60 points. They should have had just the Density Increase in the slot, and then Armor power that is linked to the Density Increase. Here is a character sheet written out correctly.

  7. This groups was full of good plot hooks for me to use to drag the PC group into encounters with other groups and organizations. Over time my Ultimates got smarter and stronger and became a very decent fight for the heroes.

  8. Paste Pot Pete as leader of the Inferior Five

    Wait, you hate Slick more than Defender?

    Also, you assume every game has mentalists involved. Some settings don't have such things. So how would they stack up outside your assumed setting full of mentalists?