Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Classic Enemies: The Stronghold Three

This post is a wee bit of a departure.  Up to this point, I've been featuring the contents of Classic Enemies in order.  But if I continued that trend, I'd either have to give a solo spotlight to an also-ran, or combine her with a couple of featured players.  To get around that, I'm going to take said minor leaguer and throw in two other characters who share a first appearance.

The first adventure for Champions was "The Island of Dr. Destroyer."  The second was "Escape From Stronghold."  In truth, it's really more of a sourcebook than an adventure, featuring something that would become a staple of all incarnations of the Champions Universe: a super-secure prison for super powered prisoners.  While the production values are sparse, it packs a lot of detail into its 24 pages, including the history of the prison, the layout, personnel, and security systems.  It also provides six villains.  Of those six, three made their way into Classic Enemies. The other three (Radar, Sonar, and Insectoid), well, let's just let them fade from memory. I certainly had until I pulled out my copy of "Escape."  For now, let's turn our attention to the three who made the cut, shall we?

First up is Esper (created by George MacDonald).  She was a misanthropic recluse who happened to be present when a meteorite containing an alien group mind crashed on Earth.  It exploded and a fragment lodged in her throat.  The group mind tried to take her over and failed, leaving her with psionic powers.  Given her new circumstances, she decided it would be better to assault society rather than hide from it.

So yeah, she's a mentalist, and a pretty decent one, though she lacks Telepathy, which is hardly required.  While she's no Mentalla, as mentalists go, she's got decent firepower and defensese and would work well in a team, particularly one where she can hide out and use her Mind Scanning to acquire a target, then blast them with her Ego Attack.  Her Mind Control is potent, but without Telepathy, she has to deliver her commands verbally, so I don't see it being used as her first course of action. 

Mechanically, she's a little odd, have no Skills whatsoever.  Her writeup reads very much like a simple update from 1st edition to 5th without much in the way of expansion.  Of course, giving her skills is simple enough, but it seems an odd omission and I suspect it has more to do with her particular vintage than anything else.

I don't have any strong memories of Esper, which doesn't mean I didn't use her.  She's just kind of vanilla and blah to me.  Looking at her with fresh eyes, I could see her as a mercenary, teaming up with Bullet's crew to provide an extra element of surprise.  I could also see her Mind Control being useful in similar ways to Mentalla's.

Our next Stronghold graduate is Freon (created by Bruce Harlick).  As you can guess from the name, he's got cold powers.  His origin, unsurprisingly enough, involves refrigerants.  What makes him interesting however, is that his powers render both him and his attacks invisible.  With his ability to zip around on ice ramps, he makes for a very mobile and tricky opponent.

Apart from his inevitable Vulnerability to heat and fire, his biggest weakness is the unreliability of his attack (it works on a 14- Activation, so it's not a sure thing).  Other than that, he's a terrific harrier, and a good early opponent for new heroes.  Like Esper, he works best in a group, ideally when the terrain is of his choosing.  He's primarily a thief, so don't expect him to go in for hardcore violence.

My experiences with Freon involved things like robberies, notably one at a charity ice hockey match.  He's mostly memorable for annoying the heroes, until they figure out how to spot him and take him down.

RIP Mark
Finally, we have The Ripper (created by Mark Williams).  Ripper is one of the visually coolest Champions villains (he's featured on the cover of Classic Enemies).  He's also the poster child for why STR was underpriced in Champions, being the scariest 233 point brick on the planet.

The Ripper's origin is tied into Project: Sunburst.  One of the surviving scientists from that ill-advised endeavor decided to try a different approach: creating soldiers that could survive a nuclear blast without protective gear.  Experimenting on a former Green Beret named James Allison, the result was a nine and a half foot tall monstrosity of scar tissue, grafted to an exoskeleton that further enhances his prodigious strength.  Of course, the process drove him nuts, turning him into a rampaging killing machine.  But, omelets and eggs, right?

Mechanically, The Ripper is downright terrifying.  He starts with a 50 STR and an OCV of 9 for his offensive moves.  With his Armor and high CON, it takes a monster hit to even slow him down for long.  He's got a high Recovery and Regeneration, so even if you do put the hurt on him, it's not going to slow him down for long.  Even worse, his exoskeleton allows him a +30 STR boost four times a day.  Combine that with a Haymaker and you're looking at 24d6 coming down your throat.  And he costs less than a starting PC!

On the downside, he's slow, easy to hit, and his Ego Combat Value is only 3, with no mental defenses.  A good mentalist will shred him, eventually, though a better bet might be for someone with Mind Control to redirect all that rage and anger, preferably against his employer.

Of these three characters, Ripper saw the most use in my games. He's a great threat for a new team to take down: his strength makes him scary, but with teamwork, he'll go down. Notably, in Agents of IMPACT, I used him as a template for supersoldiers created by Dr. Destroyer. Why have one Ripper when you can have an army of 'em?

Next Time: I returned to page order, so get your Ping-Pong Ball Guns ready, kids.


  1. I used the picture of Freon but changed the name and powers. Still a cold based character in my Villain group the Elementals. Esper showed up in my World of the Sixth Sense campaign along with most of the mental powered characters in the Champions books. Ripper was always one of my favorites. A failed experiment from an offshoot of the Ultimate Soldier program he gets hunted by most everyone. He ended up in Europe & Africa doing dirty jobs for various warlords. Off the main PC radar now he is a nice surprise when he occasionally shots up at a gun trade the Group tries to bust up.