Sunday, April 12, 2015

Classic Enemies: Project Sunburst

Another day, another update, Hero fans! I've gotten some great feedback on this series, some of which will change my approach slightly.  Until we get to individual villains, my "Can/Did Use In My Game?" category is going to apply to the entire groups in question, for the most part.  I'm also going to try to share a few more specifics on that front when my memory allows.  Keep in mind that I've been playing Champions since 1982 and I've run a lot of campaigns during that time.  In the early days, I often just threw villains at the PCs without a lot of rhyme or reason, until I started to pick up on comics tropes (in my defense, I didn't start reading comics until after I started trying to run V&V, so it took me a while to really get it).

Anyway, today we're going to look at Project Sunburst, created by Glen Thain, one of the original Hero Games crew of playtesters and in-house gamers.  Judging from their origin, I'm guessing he was a Hulk fan.  Project Sunburst are a group of villains born in shared tragedy:  government guinea pigs subjected to a nuclear explosion to test poorly-designed protective gear.  As the story goes, the lucky ones died immediately. Among the survivors, one was seemingly unharmed, three others were welded to their suits and changed, in some cases, horribly.

(And the unharmed guy had his own thing, as it turns out).  Anyway, let's get to it.

Name:  Sunburst

Affiliation:  Project Sunburst

What's His Deal?:  Randall McFadden sees his survival of the nuclear blast as his apotheosis.  He believes it elevated him to godhood.  On that day, Randall McFadden died and Sunburst was born!  He's nuts, but extremely powerful and, interestingly enough, pretty smart about supervillainy:  he runs Project Sunburst more like a loose coalition of individuals rather than a team, and their focus is primarily on theft.  He even has a cover business.

Coolness:  He's a tough fight and designed to take on a group by himself.  I like the business front, since a GM could use it as a means by which the PCs connect a series of robberies to a group of supervillains. He's a great master villain for a starting group.

Lameness:  While I'm a big fan of Patrick Zircher's art in CE, this is one piece that just doesn't do it for me.  It makes him look skinny and static.  I far prefer Mark Williams version in Enemies below:

How's The Math?:  His Powers are mis-added in the book by 30 points.  Oddly enough, he's the only group leader who doesn't appear first in his chapter.  Kind of odd, that.

Name:  Radium

Affiliation:  Project Sunburst

What's His Deal?:  Radium's a creepy one.  He's stuck in his suit and highly radioactive.  He's also mute and slightly telepathic.

Coolness:  Radiation is always scary, and Radium is all about it.  His look is pretty cool, and I dig the muteness angle.  Makes him seem inscrutable.  His Telepathy could make him a really good lookout or sniper.  It's not powerful enough to really probe someone's mind, but it's great for communication. 

Lameness:  My first Champions character, and probably the longest-running was a guy called Spectrum.  He too was highly radioactive and trapped in a suit (though more like Wildfire from the LSH).  My first GM decided that Radium should be his arch-enemy and was kind of heavy-handed about it.  I guess he's OK.

How's The Math?:  Pretty good.  I like that he's got an NND and Drain, just because the latter doesn't get a lot of use.  Not sure about the whole Instant Change thing; it doesn't really fit.

Name:  Ray

Affiliation:  Project Sunburst

What's His Deal?: Of all the Project Sunburst survivors, Ray got it worst.  For one thing, he seems to be trapped in an underwater survival suit.  Second, he was badly disfigured and damaged mentally.  But hey, as origins go, it's not the worst.

Coolness:  You've got to appreciate the commitment to the theme here.  This is a stingray-themed villain and, by Thor, they're gonna bask in it.  He's super fast, and his Killing Attack makes him extremely dangerous.  Those overall skill levels he's packing make him a lot more versatile than you'd think.

Lameness:  He's a stingray themed villain, for Thor's sake.  Like Le Sone, outside of an aquatic adventure, he's a lot less worrisome.  And, let's face it, I don't think there's anyone who can draw this guy and make him look cool.

How's The Math?:   Solid.

Art by Denis Loubet

Name:  Armadillo  (Appears in Champions: the Super Roleplaying Game)

Affiliation:  Project Sunburst

What's His Deal?:  Remember that seemingly-unharmed guy?  That would be Randall Gordon.  After Project Sunburst, he got a job as an engineer on the Man Amplifier Program.  VIPER raided and he ended up using a the battlesuit he'd been working on to defeat them. After that, he decided to use it to get rich.  He looked up his Army buddies and joined the team.

Coolness:  His battlesuit gives him substantial boosts to all of his physical stats.  He's a solid brick with ranged capability who can tunnel at a prodigious rate of speed.  In his pre-4th ed origin, the MAP was part of the OSI, which was a big part of my Agents of IMPACT backstory.

Lameness:  Dude's a villain based on the majestic armadillo.  Nature's Speed Bump.  Really.  An armadillo.  I'm just glad they didn't give him leprosy powers.  I kid; I actually love it. He's goofy and Silver Age-y and pretty much everything I love about comics.  Still...

How's the Math?:  Not terrific, which is kind of disconcerting when you realize he's an example character in the core rulebook.  According to his Disads, Mental Attacks are common but Sonics are uncommon.  I know that's a judgment call, but CE handled such things with a lot more consistency, so kudos to Mr. Bennie.

Campaign Usage:  I've used Project Sunburst a number of times in the past.  Most notably, in the Agents of IMPACT game, they were kind of a Suicide Squad type group run by the CIA off the books.  I had to tone down Sunburst's megalomania a bit, but otherwise they worked OK.  As IMPACT was the successor of the OSI, the MAP was the source of most of the power armor in the setting.

In a more traditional game, they're great as a group of allied villains with a common origin who don't typically team up.  Is it a greater conspiracy?  Or is it just coincidence?  You tell me.


  1. Another stand-out team member in Radium, here. Like Ankylosaur, he combines an awesome look with a memorable roleplay hook. Unlike Ankylosaur, I never used Radium in an actual game, which, looking at him now, I kind of regret. The rest of the Project can jump in the lake, but Radium's going on The List.

  2. I never used these guys in my world. Just never could seem to fit them in to the storyline and I didn't need just another villain group. I really like you CIA suicide squad idea for these guys.

  3. Always assumed Armadillo was just chosen because it sounds a little bit like "armor" at the beginning.