Thursday, April 30, 2015

Classic Enemies: The One! The Only!

I suspect today's entry will prove one of the more popular.  I've had more than a few folks ask when I was going to get to him, and yesterday's post was a bit of putting off the inevitable, truth to tell.  Even now, if I were doing this in strict alphabetical order, tonight's entry would be Firewing, but even Classic Enemies put him first, so let's get going.

Foxbat (created by Bruce Harlick) is arguably the most popular villain in the Champions Universe. He originally appeared in Enemies II, though my first exposure to him was the silly cartoon on page one of Champions II where he demands the readers mail him experience points.  I didn't know precisely who that guy was, but I knew I wanted to find out, so I tracked down a copy of Enemies II the next day.

Every long-time fan of the CU knows Foxbat's origin.  Freddy Fosworth was a rich, spoiled, manchild with a love of comics. Nay! An obsession for comics!  He trained himself to peak physical condition, ready for the day he could become a superhero himself, only to lose his fortune in a stock market crash.  Under the circumstances, villainy was his only viable career path.  Armed with his wits and his mighty ping-pong ball gun, he went forth to wrong rights, put damsels in distress, and ruin the day.

The thing I love about Foxbat is that he's in that same category of crazy self-aware, fourth-wall-breaking character as Ambush Bug or Deadpool.  But Foxbat got there first! (Trust me, I looked it up.)  He's one part Wile E. Coyote, one part Richie Rich on Skid Row, one part your dimwitted cousin who wanders into traffic and believes everything he sees on TV. It's a winning combination. 

I hold a rare distinction in that I've actually been threatened by Foxbat, in writing.  If you look at the letters page in Adventurer's Club #20, you'll see that my nice letter complimenting the efforts to get the magazine back on track are met with outright hostility from dear old Foxy.  I quaked in my boots, I tells ya...

While I'm sure there were GMs and players out there who don't like Foxbat, they're not people I want to play games with. To me, he's a terrific tonic for an overly-serious campaign, a way to deflate the overconfident without making utter fools out of them.  My most memorable use of him was as a foil in my Alamo City Defenders game.  He crashed the initial "audition" episode, trying to make the team, claiming that the rules said nothing about criminal or mental health issues being a disqualifying factor. When that didn't work, he broke out of jail and created his own Defenders, even suing the team for trademark infringement.  He also put the moves on Witchfire, my wife's PC, with hilarious and pyrotechnic results.

Since I know Bruce Harlick has read a couple of these and will probably see this, I'm just going to take it upon myself to speak on behalf of Champions fans everywhere and say, "Thanks!"

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.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Classic Enemies: IN SENSURROUND!

Tonight, we look at the third and final Barry Wilson creation from Classic Enemies: Earthmaster.

I'm not going to lie to you, true believer: I never had much use for this guy.  But let's give him a rundown all the same.

Earthmaster was a seismologist researching the San Andreas Fault.  In the course of his studies, he discovered a powerful artifact: the Earth Crown of Krim (interestingly enough, this is the first mention of Krim, though at some later point in the Champions Universe, the Iron Crown worn by Dark Seraph would become the Iron Crown of Krim and other becrowned villains would turn up).  Anyway, the crown infused the gauntlets he used for his research with power (which is why he's not wearing it) granting him lots of strength and toughness, which seems to be innate (no Focus Limitation) as well as a bunch of earth-related Tunneling, Blasting, and Entangling powers that aren't.

The interesting thing about those powers is that they're all either Explosive or Area Effect.  He is incapable of subtlety: everything is large-scale and rather indiscriminate.  It's an interesting twist, really.  It makes him a serious threat in populated areas because even if he doesn't intend to threaten innocents, it can happen.

Personality-wise, his origin gave him a healthy dose of megalomania.  He sees himself as the vengeful guardian of the Earth with an emphasis on vengeful.  His approach is that of a hard-core ecoterrorist, with ample power to back himself up.  That said, he's a bit low Speed for a solo villain, so he's going to work best in a group (which is probably why he ultimately got rolled into the Crowns of Krim).

Like I said above, he's not a character I ever had a lot of use for.  My games never needed him, so he never turned up.  It happens.

Next time, I'm going to break from the order of the book and provide a triple feature of characters straight outta Stronghold.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Classic Enemies: Steam, Punk.

And, we're back. I spent the entire weekend chained to my computer on a work project, but let's try to get back on track.

Today's example of villainy is the Dreadnought.  Like Dark Seraph, he is a creation of Barry Wilson, first appearing in Enemies III under the name Juggernaut.  Given the likelihood of confusion with a better-known funnybook mutant, he got a name change for Classic Enemies, as well as a bit of a system cleanup. Fortunately, neither took away from the basic charm of the character.

The Dreadnought Armor (whoever wears it is The Dreadnought, it's had many wearers over the years) was designed in World War II by the Nazi scientist Professor Klankenhausen.  It's a nuclear-fueled, steam driven battlesuit that, for all it's limitations, makes for a very capable heavy Brick (70 STR, 60 CON, 30 rPD/rED hardened, 99 Stun, 30 REC -- in short, you're going to have to hit him very hard A LOT and wear him down).  The one thing he doesn't have going for him is his Dexterity; it's extremely low and even with Combat Skill Levels, he's very easy to hit.

After the war, the suit made its way out of Europe, where it made the rounds of the criminal underground before coming into the possession of Zarathustra, a powerful and mysterious neo-Nazi figure.  More recently, it was stolen from Zarathustra by an individual bent on revenge (against whom being an exercise for the GM).

If the picture here doesn't give you ample ideas, here's his description out of the book: "The [Dreadnought] suit is 6'6" tall, and weighs 950 pounds.  It was once a shiny grey, but that has been replaced by shining black plates that suggest a cross between plate mail and 1930s Art Deco.  Puffs of steam can be seen coming from its joints, but it no longer whistles."

Of course, I happily restored the whistling and the clanking. Why the hell wouldn't I?  This thing fairly defines the word contraption.  He makes terrific hired muscle, but my most memorable use for him was in a Golden Age campaign, when the armor was a new secret prototype.  It was shot into London on a V-2 rocket and the heroes had to fight it before it leveled Buckingham Palace.  Jolly good show, that.

Next time, we'll complete our Barry Wilson trifecta and look at another guy with a crown.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Classic Enemies: DAAAAAAAARKNESSSSS!!!

This one is later than planned.  I've got a project at work that's extremely time/detail intensive, and I've been playing Solo Dad while my wife travels on business.  So, these updates have taken a back seat.

That said, after spending three hours on the aforementioned project, I needed a mental break, so here we go with possibly the evillest dude in Classic Enemies: Dark Seraph.

Dark Seraph was created by Barry Wilson (whose two other CE contributions follow him immediately).  According to his origin, he was a bored English nobleman (as if there's any other kind in funnybooks) whose flirtation with the occult turned into a full-on love affair with black magic.  He acquired an artifact of immense evil, the Iron Crown (coincidentally, the name of the company that published Champions at the time) and consecrated it with vile blood rites, becoming the embodiment of evil: the Dark Seraph.

This guy is just terrific. From a rules/construction standpoint, he's raw power with very little in the was of efficiency, because points are for players, not GMs.  He's mainly a very tough hand-to-hand fighter, with high defenses as well as flight and the ability to turn desolid.  He can also stand off and summon a massive (18d6!) explosive thunderbolt.  On the non-combat side, he's a powerful telepath, which is great for getting into the heads of the heroes and using their innermost thoughts against them.

Personality-wise, he's the vilest of the vile.  Even Black Paladin looks at Dark Seraph and says, "Damnnnnn..."  GMs can count on Dark Seraph to do the absolute worst, to the limits of what your campaign can stand.  The heroes should fear him, the players should loathe him.  Best of all, he works on both a mystical front as well as a basic opposition to good.  He's equally suited to fighting your Sorcerer Supreme or your Star-Spangled Patriot.

I first used him before 4th edition without much forethought.  If I remember correctly, I needed a magical villain and I chose him rather randomly out of Enemies III, without really looking at his powers or tactics.  On his first action, I dropped the thunderbolt and basically one-shotted the the heroes (I think one was still standing and DS mopped him up fast).  Since then, I've been more circumspect about his use, putting him behind occult conspiracies and using other magical villains as his lackies.  One notable campaign kickoff started with him in custody, with the heroes coming together to try and foil an attempt to bust him out of his magical incarceration.  Good times.

On that note, I've got to get back to work.  These systems aren't going to inventory themselves.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Classic Enemies: It's Like A Salad Bar

As I go back and review the characters in Classic Enemies, I'm often struck by how often I folded, spindled, and mutilated characters, using the names and the powers, but ditching the backgrounds for something more "interesting" (or, at least more suitable for my campaigns).  Case in point, this guy...

Dragon Master (created by Glenn Thain) appeared in the first Enemies collection.  His basics were already in place: a Chinese super-spy who'd fled to the US after he became a political liability.  In America, given a choice between poverty and crime, he chose crime, seeking vengeance on the government that spurned him.

For Classic Enemies, Scott Bennie took this basic origin story and used current events to good effect.  After he fled China, Dragon Master tried to live a life of simple seclusion until he learned of the events at Tienanmen Square.  His criminal network is now politically motivated, using ill-gotten gains to support subversion against his homeland.

Stats-wise, Dragon Master is a solid comic book martial artist.  He's not fancy, he doesn't have a lot of weird abilities (North Americans being mostly unaware of the amazing goings on in Hong Kong Cinema) and, without his Followers and Bases would come in at just a bit over 250 points.  At 75 points, his followers aren't a serious threat to a superhero individually, but in numbers (he has over 100), they can pose a serious problem.

BLACK DRAGON!!!
Of course, as I alluded to above, I don't think we ever used him as written. In one of the early Champions campaigns I played in, I created a Martial Artist, who I called Black Dragon.  I originally planned to have him hunted by Green Dragon (one of the stock villains the Champions rulebook).  But then, I noticed Dragon Master and my inner D&D nerd kicked in.  What if Green Dragon was a minion of Dragon Master and Black Dragon had run afoul of them by trying to leave his organization?  If that's the case, it stood to reason there were also Blue Dragon, Red Dragon, and White Dragon (at the least).  Thus was born the Dragon Brotherhood, an idea I've used pretty much ever since.  While this has made Dragon Master a (mostly) off-screen threat, it appeals to my HK film fanboy urges.  As far as I remember, I've only used the full brunt of the Brotherhood once, but it was fairly epic.

And Black Dragon?  I've used him as a PC and NPC in multiple campaigns.  Over the years, his background became a bit shadier.  When my Tuesday crew tried some 6th Edition, I even revived him one more time.  He was 70s-tastic.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Classic Enemies: Low-Powered Threats

I'm back.  I needed a day off.  Also, all the news from Star Wars Celebration kind of took my mind off supers.  But this project must continue.

Today, I'm going to talk about the next three characters in Classic Enemies: Black Mambe, Blowtorch, and Bulldozer.  While they're grouped by alphabetical order, they're also interestingly close to or below the power level of a starting character.  As a result, they make great early foes for a group of new heroes.  And they've got terrific hooks as well.

Of the three, Black Mamba (created by Bruce Harlick) is built on the most points.  He was Jefferson Durant, a Nobel Prize winning biochemist.  His family was kidnapped by King Cobra, who we'll get to in time.  KC used them as leverage over Durant, and to ensure his loyalty, mutated him into a hideous human-reptilian hybrid.  Any hope for continuing fealty ended when Black Mamba (as he was now called) discovered King Cobra had killed his family months before.  He broke free and began a one-snake man crusade against the ophidian mastermind.

All of which would make him a potential superhero, except for the fact that he's fanatically focused on revenge and doesn't care who he hurts to obtain it.  If blowing up a plane full of innocent people furthers his cause, he won't blink about it.

In combat, Black Mamba combines medium Brick strength with a touch-delivered Drain that targets Constitution and Physical Defense.  He's fast, and not a pushover, at least against starting characters.

If I have any gripes about Black Mamba, they are his rather low intelligence for a Nobel Prize Winner (though his Biochemistry is on a 16-), but that's pretty minor.  He's a fun character to use, and he's tied into a larger universe.  GMs featuring King Cobra in their games can have him cross paths with the heroes as an unwanted ally.  Or, his story could ultimately be one of redemption.

Next we have Blowtorch (by Glenn Thain).  He's craaaaaazy.  Perry Johnson likes fire.  No, he LOOOOOVES fire!  He loves fire like Heatwave on "The Flash" loves fire. In fact, if you're going to use Blowtorch in your game, I recommend watching the episodes of Flash where Heatwave shows up and take notes.  They aren't that different, really.

Powers-wise, Blowtorch is the classic "Normal Guy With Mundane Equipment Manages To Be A Superpowered Threat."  Unlike, say, Bullet, it's not as annoying because he's so over the top Nutsy Fagen.

Stats-wise, he comes in at only 225 points by the book.  He's not particularly fast tough, but boy, can he lay down a ton of damage!  His primary attack is an autofire flame blast, but he can back it up with an explosion, or a concentrated burn that just keeps going.  If he takes Body damage, his tank ruptures, immolating him. Which probably guarantees him a short career, particularly against foes with Killing Attacks.

Apart from the crazy, his write-up also notes he's Hunted by Defender (leader of the Champions).  This is a potentially cool hook, if the Champions exist in your game world (if not, use another hero).  New heroes could find fighting Blowtorch being their first introduction to a larger world of heroism.

Mostly, I dig the crazy.  He's fun.

Our final low-powered threat is the ever hilarious Bulldozer (created by Steve Goodman).  His write-up's broken, but he's a fun character and easy to fix.

Bulldozer was a, well, a bulldozer driver who had a radiation accident. He refuses to disclose his real name, if he even remembers it.  His personality is pretty much every professional wrestling heel you've ever seen.  He's violent, macho, misogynistic, and not very bright.

Also, he doesn't wear a shirt, those are tattoos on his arms.

Also, he's such a misogynist that he actually takes extra damage whenever a female character tags him in hand-to-hand combat.  Not that he'll admit it.  He'll just bluster all the way down, then claim they tricked him or something.

He's also afraid of spiders.  Which could be hilarious.

Mechanically, there's a fairly big problem with him.  He's built with a single level of Density Increase. The problem is, DI requires a minimum purchase of two levels.  So, to make that work, either all of his DI-affected stats go up, or other adjustments need to be made to fix it.  Upping it to two levels certainly doesn't break the character (he's still under 200 points), so that's how I did it and adjusted the points costs of the affected attributes.  He's a little harder to knock back, but nothing else really gets changed.

Story-wise, this guy's so much fun to use.  All it takes is one superheroine on your team to ruin his day, and who isn't going to have fun with that?

So, there you have it: some low-powered characters for the heroes to cut their teeth on.  Next time, they won't be so lucky.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Classic Enemies: Back In Black

Today, I'm just going to focus on a single villain from Classic Enemies, a villain who might be my single favorite bad guy in the book.  John Black, aka Giles de Morphaunt, the Black Paladin, the Knight of the Crow (created by Steve Peterson).

Dude just radiates evil, doesn't he?

The story of the Black Paladin begins in Arthurian legend or, more precisely, the Arthurian legend of  Champions Universe.  Which is really perfect.  Comics are full of mythical mashups and edits, just look at DC's Etrigan, or Marvel's Thor.  The Black Paladin is firmly in that style of character.  According to the legends, he was an evil knight, a member of a cult devoted to dark powers and the arch-enemy of Launcelot, best knight of the Round Table.  Nearly slain by his foe, Sir Giles was placed in a magical slumber by his lover, a powerful evil witch.  Thus he remained for many centuries, until awakened by an American archaeology student.  Sir Giles tortured the young man, learned of this new age, and then killed him, taking his identity (John Black).  He now fights the knights of this age, who festoon themselves in skintight cloth, once again championing the cause of evil.

Pretty great, huh?  In terms of his actual write-up, he's far from the most powerful villain in the book (322 points), but he is incredibly effective.  Much of this is down to his magical mace, which can do 10d6 when thrown, but 15d6 as a melee attack, due to the ever-broken Hand-to-Hand Attack power.  His magic armor and shield provide him with enough protection to stand toe-to-toe with a heavy brick, and probably take him down.  His powers are all equipment-based (OAF or OIF), so if you can get him without his gear, he's vulnerable.  But he does have Instant Change, which I assume is a magical summoning of it to him, so good luck with that.

But the stats are really only part of the picture.  I love this guy because he has style.  He's full of florid speeches and morbid imagery.  He's the Death Metal counterweight to your bright and shiny Pop Star Heroes.  And with his magical origins, he's easy to fit into just about any situation dealing with the darker arts.  Have a powerful sorcerer who needs a bloodthirsty lieutenant?  Call the Black Paladin.  Evil cult of derivatives traders in need of a dark artifact and they don't want to get their hands dirty?  Call the Black Paladin.  Need the firstborn sons of an entire village slain in order to summon an Elder Horror?  Knight of the Crow, says it right on his business card.

When I've used him, I've given him some skills in Occult and other esoterica, just because it seems right.  He's a terrific foe for any sort of a magical hero; someone with a knightly theme is obvious, but straight-up sorcerers might find him even more menacing, what with the whole physical violence thing.  My favorite of his official appearances was in the 5th edition adventure Shades of Black, wherein he tries to resurrect his long-dead lover.  It's terrific.

I've noticed I don't get a lot of comments here, which is fine (I get quire a few in other places where I post links), but I wouldn't mind some.  If you've used the Black Paladin in your own games, feel free to share with the class.


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Classic Enemies: Moving On To The Independents

If you've been following this far, we are now done with the organized teams and duos and on to individual villains.  Of course, these folks don't exist in a vacuum, so they may team up or hate each other.

We start off with this fine specimen, known as Avar-7 (created by Glenn Thain).  According to the write-up, AVAR stands for Advanced Variable Android Reconaissance).  He is yet another alien space probe, this one a more or less human-looking...

OK, here's the deal: Avar-7 is The Vision with the serial numbers filed off.  Seriously, he can get super-dense or completely desolid.  His No Normal Defense Attack is basically phasing his fist into someone.  He was benevolent until Mechanon (the Champions Universe's answer to Ultron) got hold of him and messed with his programming.  Even then, Avar-7's code against killing prevailed.  He's even described as having a ruddy complexion.  The only thing Vizh can do that Avar can't is fly.

None of this is a bad thing, mind you.  Avar-7 is interesting because his original programming has gotten screwed up, but not in the same way as Plasmoid, where he might strike up a conversation with a ATM.  Avar-7 tries to work toward the conquest of mankind, but he can't quite follow through.  All in all, he'd be a good target for a redemption plotline, particularly one involving a magic wielder (he's vulnerable to magic, you see).  Or, what happens when his creators show up and find out that some Earth AI tampered with their programming?

Avar-7's hunteds are kind of interesting.  He's hunted by the Champions (the stock team in the main rulebook), a US Chemical company (for some reason that isn't expanded upon), and Strike Force.  This last one is interesting because they're not actually part of the Champions Universe. Unless...

Our next rugged individual is Beamline (created by Eric Christian), a scientist who fell victim to the bane of all experimental physicists: funding cuts.  Forced to use unreliable equipment, his experiment failed, turning him into a living mass of plasma with magnetic manipulation powers (but, oddly enough, not actual magnetism/TK).  Now he dedicates himself to taking over the country in the name of science.  In the world he will rule, scientist will never have to beg for funding.  Yes, he's kind of a Bozo.

I've got a lot of issues with the way he's written up, and my hunch is that the stats were generally provided by the character's creator, and not necessarily given a solid going-over.  Beamline's powers are kind of a mess.  He's got a Multipower that doesn't work in strong magnetic fields.  OK, so far, so good. He's then got an No Normal Defense Energy Blast that doesn't work "metal armor or magnetic fields."  This, I have a problem with. 

First off, we already know it doesn't work against magnetic fields.  That's in the parent power framework.  The "not against metal armor" seems, to me, way too generous.  I'm not fond of NND's that are only stopped by special effects.  It's one thing for a Vulnerability or a Susceptibility to work that way; those Disads are chosen by the player/GM and modified by the frequency of whatever the character is Vulnerable/Susceptible to.  An NND that works against everything except Metal Armor? Way too generous.

Second, all of his attack powers in the NND have the Charges Limitation.  This is just kind of weird for what are supposed to be innate powers.  I'm not a fan.  Third, he's got Regeneration in his Multipower.  This is a weird idea, but on the surface I'll allow it.  Except, once again, weirdness crops up: the Regeneration has a Limitation "Only when unconscious."  Here's my problem with that: You can't shift Multipower slots when you're unconscious, so Beamline wouldn't be able to activate the Regeneration in the first place to use it. Also, Regen doesn't affect Stun, so as soon as he wakes up, he loses the power to heal himself. The final slots are Desolidification (which works), and Gliding, a power I have very little use for, but I guess it's OK.

He also has Armor (apparently natural, as there's no focus) that activates on a 14-.  I'm guessing this is him altering his plasma state or something.  At least his skill choices back up his origin.  Though I can't for the life of me figure out why he's hunted by Anarchists.  Doesn't matter, it's not like I ever used him or would in the future.  Not in that form, anyway.

The last two characters we'll look at today are both independent operators, but they are allies.  First up is Black Claw (created by George MacDonald).  I'm pretty sure he first appeared in "Microfilm Madness!" a Champions adventure published in Space Gamer magazine that provided an additional chapter in the "Viper's Nest" saga.  He's a mutant with the ability generate darkness.  Primarily a burglar, he once bluffed his way out of a bad situation with a knife, he built himself some claws for backup.  He's a member of GRAB, "a democratic alliance of supervillains who commit theft and split their take among the members of the group, with a reserve fund for legal and medical bills."

Power-wise, Black Claw is comparable to a starting PC (265 pts). He's got superhuman strength that puts him into "light brick" territory.  His build does trigger another one of my pet peeves in that he has Damage Resistance purchased with a Focus Limitation.  Now, far be it from me to argue with the designer of the game, but I've never liked using Focus for Damage Resistance.  I realize this may be a minority opinion, but it never flew in my games.  Better to just buy some Armor.

All in all, he's a neat little character.  I love the fact that his combat levels are all for hand-to-hand defense and only against someone who doesn't have resistant defenses. Basically, he flails his claws around threateningly, trying to avoid getting hurt.  So yeah, he's fun to have around.

Our final subject for this chapter is Black Claw's fellow GRAB associate, Black Diamond, so named because she's 1) Super dense (like a diamond); 2) African-American; 3) has that diamond cut-out on her costume.  Deal with it.

Like Black Claw, Black Diamond is also a George MacDonald creation.  She's not high-powered (only 215 points), but she is very cost-effective.  I've seen her hit way above her weight class.  Whereas Black Claw is a classic second-story man, Black Diamond is a straight up brawler.  You use her as the muscle, distracting everyone while Black Claw slips in unseen.  Unless her luck slips again.  It does that a lot.

While Black Diamond won't necessarily be a long-term threat in a game, having her show up as a regular on GRAB jobs or even hiring out to other crews is a good way to cement the notion of a supervillain underworld in your campaign.  If she's constantly being arrested and getting right back out on the streets, that may be down to GRAB's lawyers, or maybe there's corruption within the system for the heroes to investigate.

And that's it for tonight.  Next time, the Knight of the Crow...

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Classic Enemies: Twoo Wuv

This time around, it's a theme post.  Love is in the air, and we have two very special couples to talk about.  One's a pair of folks who never wanted the limelight, but got it anyway.  The other are a couple of mutant kids just trying to make a go of it in this crazy world.  Let's find out all about Thunder & Lightning, and Panda & Raccoon.

(Technically, these are two separate chapters in the book. But, they're short and kind of thematic.)

Thunder and Lightning (created by George MacDonald) are a tragedy in the making.  A young couple who gained their superpowers in a freak storm during their honeymoon, they wanted nothing to do with superheroics or supervillainy.  They just wanted a normal life.  Of course, that didn't work out.  They began using their powers to steal money to pay their taxes and got caught.  Instead of prison, the judge sentenced them to a year of full-time public superhero duty.  Their identities were made public and they were on 24-hour call.

The experience ruined their lives.  Previously very private people, they had to live under a microscope for a year.  Now that the year is up, they've decided to take it out on the world.  The thing is, they're not really all that powerful...
Margaret Harrington, aka Thunder is a flying brick.  She's strong and fairly tough, but being built on only 200 total points, her flight speed and resistant defenses are low, and she's very vulnerable to mental attacks (and her husband's lightning).

John "Lightning" Harrington is a teleporting energy projector.  He's got decent offensive capability but as he's also built on a mere 200 points, he's very much a glass cannon, especially when it comes to physical attacks.

After Dr. Destroyer, the notion of two villains who are weaker than a starting PC might be laughable.  The thing is, Thunder and Lightning aren't great combatants.  What they are is great campaign fodder.  They're devoted to each other and coming to terms with the fact they'll never have their old lives back.  What will that drive them to do?  They're a terrific pair of villains to start a new team of heroes on because while they can put a scare in the newbies, they probably can't do them serious harm.

In one long-ago game, I set things up so they were still serving their sentence at the beginning of the campaign and even helped the PCs on occasion. When their year was up, well, let's just say it was fun springing that ambush.

And hey, in a long running game, there's nothing that says they have to stay low-powered.  Right now, they're hunted by VIPER, but suppose they turn to them and offer their services in exchange for a power-up.  After all, in for a penny, in for a pound.

Panda and Raccoon (created by Stacy Thain) may be the goofiest pair of villains in Classic Enemies.  Mechanically, they certainly bear the hallmarks of being designed for an earlier version of the game.  Here's their deal:  Panda is a British mutant with, well, ears like a greater panda, and a potent mind blast.  Raccoon is an American mutant (I think), with a raccoon tail, superhuman strength, and the ability to project a field of darkness. They're both potent martial artists as well. They fight...VIPER, I suppose.  Mostly.

That's Panda up there.  She was raised in an orphanage until PSI (The Parapsychological Studies Institutes - a front for a psionic villain group) took her in.  Mechanically, she's just plain weird with two-slot Multipower that contains a (variable) Ego Attack in one slot and (fixed) Mental Defense in the other.  It's a deeply weird arrangement, from my perspective. She also has a very high Speed (7), which does give her a lot of versatility (she can attack from range with the Ego Attacks, or up close with Martial Arts).  She also has Danger Sense, which feels kind of tacked on.  Like I said, she feels very 1st Edition.


Raccoon is similarly all over the map, combining a light brick approach with lots of Martial Arts (seriously, his Martial Kick does 14d6), along with that Darkness power that doesn't really seem thematically connected (though I do like the fact he has a way to see in it when most characters won't).  His story is that he's also a mutant, but raised in wealth and privileged confinement, hidden from prying eyes.  Chafing under the restrictions, he ran away and joined VIPER for some reason, becoming one of their top operatives.  He met Panda when she was sent to kill him and it was love at first sight.

I'm 100% certain I've never used either of these characters in any of my games.  Between the lack of thematic consistency (other than the on-the-nose names and costuming), I just haven't ever had a situation where I needed a psychic martial artist with panda ears and her raccoon boyfriend.  I guess that makes me a bad person.  If you've got ideas or stories about them, feel free to share them with the class.

Next, I'll start with the independent villains. Some days, you'll get a few, others, I may focus on just one.


Monday, April 13, 2015

Classic Enemies: The Big Bad

In any setting, even one as vaguely-defined as the early Champions Universe, there's a pecking order.  This is particularly true of villains, since a good GM doesn't make the PCs feel like they're playing the fifth or sixth best superhero team on the planet.  And who cares if the Champions are better? They're good guys.  It's the threats that players are concerned with, and by extension, their characters.

In the Champions Universe (at least, in MY Champions Universe), the top of the heap, the biggest bad, the worst of the worst is undoubtedly Dr. Destroyer.  Sure, there are more powerful beings out there, but they're generally vast cosmic entities or magical embodiments.  Herr Doktor is, ostensibly, a mortal human being.  A vastly improved normal human being, probably incapable of dying by anything short of a nuclear strike, but mortal on paper.  Let's examine him further, shall we?

I think I'll depart from my usual format this evening.  He deserves a different approach...


Dr. Destroyer was created by George MacDonald and first appeared in "The Island of Doctor Destroyer" (by Steve Peterson and George MacDonald), the first published adventure for Champions.  Even in his earliest published appearance, he was extremely powerful (500 points, which was more than any published character to date).  The adventure itself is fairly rudimentary, to be honest: a location for the heroes to invade and fight their way through to take out the bad guy.  Even so, the guy had that certain something.  Maybe it was the crazy battle armor artist Mark Williams gave him.

It's OK, he knows he's awesome.
Maybe it was the whole disfigured Nazi scientist turned Dr. Doom analog thing.  Regardless, Dr. Destroyer became one of the iconic villains of Champions, even featuring on the cover of the fourth edition rulebook.

Art by George Perez. Your argument is invalid.
 As I kind of hinted above, Dr. Destroyer's background is classic comics.  A Nazi scientist, horribly burned while escaping to Argentina, becomes a weapons designer, eventually turning himself into the ultimate weapon.  He's arrogant, seeing himself far beyond mere humanity, destined to rule the world.  And powerful enough to back it up.

In Classic Enemies, Scott Bennie fleshed out this background significantly, making Albert Zerstoiten the son of a dollmaker, painting him as an utterly unscrupulous genius who's perfectly comfortable with killing someone to take their scientific breakthroughs as his own.  He contextualizes him alongside the other powers of the Champions Universe (VIPER, Mechanon, DEMON) giving him relationships outside of his interaction with the PCs.  In a paragraph, we get a master class in how to define your own campaign.

Mechanically and conceptually, Destroyer is updated as well.  In his first incarnation, most of his powers received the Focus Limitation for his battlesuit.  In CE, he receives no such Limitation as he is now permanently merged with the suit.  And what a suit it is.  We're given two versions of Dr. Destroyer: a low-end and an experienced version.  Frankly, the low-end version could probably annihilate the Champions from the BBB. He's just that powerful.  A SPD of 7, 80 STR, a 14d6 EB as a starting point, with lots of extras, not to mention hundreds of points to spend on bases and associated weapons.  And that's not even counting his soldiers, which have always been part of his schtick.  The low-end model comes in at 1300 points; the experienced version, 1932. I can only imagine taking down the high-end version would be a most epic moment in a campaign.  I can only imagine it because I've never experienced it first-hand.

I mentioned the Dr.'s agents. He has scads of them, well armed and dangerous in numbers if not individually.  Canonically, he also has a number of superpowered allies/servants, like Menton (arguably the most powerful mentalist on the planet), Stormwatch (a 492 point ninja), and Gigaton (a 680 point high end brick/energy projector).  And robots.  Because, of course he has robots.  In short, possibly the most powerful concentration of superpowered force available anywhere.

So, why hasn't he just taken over?  Well, first off, it's a comic book universe, so he can't.  Not for long, anyway.  Secondly, his arrogance gets in the way of things.  He can't do anything subtly.  Everything has to be a grand operatic gesture, and the rest of his team are at least as dysfunctional as he is. This allows for certain exploitable cracks.  And, because he's usually focused on some device that will bring his plans to fruition, defeating the device is usually easier than defeating him.

Finally, there are a lot of people on planet Earth with a vested interest in keeping him out of power.  When he turns up, the heroes will not want for allies, including folks they'd normally be trying to put behind bars.  The sheer might the rest of the world can put against him acts as a small deterrent.

In my games, he's always been an off-screen presence. When I still used the Champions Universe more or less straight, he was too powerful (even in his low-end configuration) for the PCs to tackle, and they weren't particularly interested in it.  The one time I did use him, he kidnapped Vanguard (my setting's Superman figure) stole his genetic material, and created a twisted clone, sort of like Doomsday from DC comics (OK, exactly like Doomsday from DC comics).  Even then, the PCs never pegged to it being Destroyer's plan, which in retrospect, was a bad move on my part.

In my Agents of IMPACT, I recast him as the Dictator of Destruga, a nation formed from the ruins of Libya.  In 1983, he overthrew Qaddafi and took over, setting the world's first superpowered oligarchy, with himself in charge.  He was less focused on outright conquest of the rest of the world, dispatching superpowered terrorists like the Conquerors to do his dirty work, keeping the US and USSR at each other's throats in the Shadow War.  In that setting, no one in the supers community ever referred to him by name.  He was "Herr Doktor" or "Double-D."  To say his name was to tempt his attention (or so the superstition went).

And for my money, that's the best way to use him.  As an off-screen threat. A reminder that the world is bigger and vastly more messed up than your little 250 point superhero can even imagine.  That there's something bigger and badder just outside your frame of reference.  And that's Dr. Destroyer.  Death. The Shatterer of Worlds.  The Dollmaker's Boy.

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.


Saturday, April 11, 2015

Classic Enemies: Terror Incorporated

Howdy, True Believers!  After the Raiders, I needed something different to cleanse my palate.  Fortunately, different was one page away.  Terror Incorporated (created by Steve Perrin) is a neat little ban of murderous rogues, led by a low-rent Dr. Destroyer fan-boy.  Let's take a look, shall we?

Name:  Professor Muerte

Affiliation:  Terror Incorporated

What's His Deal?:  OK, get this:  Hernan Cortez (I'm not making this up) grew up near the Nazi-exile compound in Argentina.  He idolized Albert Zerstoiten (aka Dr. Destroyer) to the point of self-mutilation to imitate his hero.  Eventually, his infatuation faded, and by then he decided to set out on his own, as Professor Muerte.  He founded Terror, Inc. to set himself up as an emperor, ruling over the fearful.

Coolness:  You've got to admire his commitment. He's specifically set up as a lower powered surrogate for Dr. D, which reinforces the notion that everything presented in Champions at this point was optional.  There was no Champions Universe other than a sort of consensual one based on sourcebooks.  It's a very freeing thing.  Also, I dig the skull mask.

Lameness:  He's really weak without his armor.  He's also got a lot of points socked away in bases and followers, which means his 450+ points are more like 350.  He's still quite formidable.

How's The Math?:  Off a bit.  It's hard to find where because of the way Creation Workshop handles characteristics bought via focus.

Did/Would Use In My Game?:  Definitely.  They were mainstays of my old games, since Herr Doktor outclassed the PCs.  In Agents of IMPACT (which I'll write about some day), they were professional Terrorists of the Carlos the Jackal variety.  The Professor's a fun guy to use.

Name:  Scorpia

Affiliation: Terror Incorporated

What's Her Deal?: She's an assassin with claws!  But she's not Pantera. Scorpia is deliberate, skilled combatant, and skilled martial artist.  She's also the only member of Terror Inc. who isn't horribly disfigured.

Coolness:  Good costume, interesting use of an NND to simulate poison in her claws.  She's hunted by those pesky New Knights of the Round Table as well as STOP, another British team. This is the first we've heard of them.


Lameness: She's an Irish terrorist, which was pretty de rigeur back then.  She's the second clawed female assassin in the book, though her schtick is different.

Did/Will Use In My Game?:  Absolutely. In the IMPACT game, she was a freelance assassin, who worked with Terror Inc when it suited her.


Name:  Giganto

Affiliation:  Terror Incorporated

What's His Deal?:  He's pretty much The Thing as a villain.  He's a rocky brick. Super-strong, not too bright, very - VERY - tough, and loyal to his boss.

Coolness:  I love the way Pat Zircher drew him.  He's very effective for his point value, and he's one of the strongest characters to appear in CE.

Lameness:  No skills, really.  Also, despite being named Giganto, he's only 5'8".  Maybe it's ironic.

How's The Math?:  Off by a few points.  CW says Hardened Defenses cost less than the book.  Also, the cost breakdowns of some of his Disadvantages were a little off.

Did/Will Use In My Game?:  He's the Professor's faithful lapdog. It wouldn't be any fun without him.



Name:  Feur

Affiliation:  Terror Incorporated

What's His Deal?:  Professional mercenary who had an accident and is permanently on fire. Apart from that, generically powerful energy projector.

Coolness:  Dude's on fire all the time.  I guess that counts for something.

Lameness:  Kind of boring.  Makes bad puns/cracks about his powers/situation.

How's the Math?:  Off by a point. One of his skills is mis-priced.

Did/Will Use In My Game?:  See above.  He's OK. Not interesting, really, but he provides a decent ranged threat, and his Damage Shield is always fun.

So, that's the big guns for you.  They're not super awesome, but they feel more cohesive than that last bunch.  There's also a write-up of TI's Agents, because they actually have agents.  I don't really need to say much about them.




Thursday, April 9, 2015

Classic Enemies: The Raiders

After the long haul of writing up all eight members of Eurostar, I figured the three-man Raiders would be a snap.  Not so much.  While none were particularly intricate to input into CW, I had to do a fair bit of reverse-engineering in places and all three had some fiddly bits.

So yeah, the Raiders, created by Andrew Robinson.  I'm not too fond of these guys on a couple of levels. First off, their leader is probably my least-favorite supers cliche, the Gun-Bunny.  Second, the team is a really odd combination: Gun-Bunny, Growing Brick, and...Cosmic Energy Blaster From Beyond the Stars.  One of these things is not like the others...

Anyway, let's give them a once-over.

Name:  Bullet

Affiliation: The Raiders

What's His Deal?:  Randolph Ball is a bad-ass mercenary.  He got his start in 'Nam and never really looked back.  Somewhere along the way, he decided he was Merc enough to take on superhuman threats, via his skills and hardware.  He's a master tactician and goes after the big rewards, bringing in superpowered targets.

Coolness:  He's very versatile.  The team background includes code words for tactical maneuvers, which are down to his presence.  His primary weapon is the "Plugh Gun," which I assume derives its name from the noise it makes.

Lameness: He's a hard man making hard choices in a hard world.  His defining characteristic is his toughness, and the write-up implies that he's a favorite of the Right Wing Guns and Torture set.  I'm not fond of the "Normal Guy Gears Up And Fights Superheroes" schtick in comics or gaming, and he feels too early Iron Age for my liking.  On the other hand, where I see bugs, you might find features.

How's The Math?:  Slightly off, but I think Creation Workshop is rounding incorrectly.  His writeup includes Weapons Familiarities, which aren't something I typically bothered with in supers-level games.

Did/Would Use In My Campaign?:  Pass.  Between a concept I dislike and the team he has backing him up, I'm just not interested.


Name: Big John (seriously)

Affilation:  The Raiders

What's His Deal:  His name is John. He gets big (about six meters) and really strong and tough.  He's Scottish.  And very mechanically inclined.

Coolness:  While he's in a villain group, he's portrayed as a pretty decent guy who just likes to fight.  He's hunted by Genocide, so he's got that common with Neutron from The Conquerors.

Lameness:  I can't for the life of me figure out what he's doing with Bullet.  But I can't imagine any of the Raiders together, really, so maybe that's my problem.

How's The Math?: A bit screwed up, to be honest. His writeup charges him 10 pts more for his INT than he should spend.

Did/Would Use In My Campaign?:  Maybe, if I re-tasked him to be an independent, or maybe even as a guy just trying to live his life in peace who gets targeted by Genocide.  I'd probably change his name, though.

Name:  Starseer

Affiliation:  The Raiders

What's His Deal?:  Starseer is an alien space probe (obviously not from Plasmoid's world) who stumbled into Vast Cosmic Power(tm).  Unfortunately, his mind shattered under the weight of Ultimate Knowledge and he's not sure what his purpose is.  For some reason, that led him to teaming up with a couple of Earthling mercenaries.  He's depressed a lot, Silver Surfer style.

Coolness: I like the character concept.  He's a solidly designed character that works a bit differently from most Blasters, in that he uses an NND exclusively and can boost it by harming himself.  His defenses are based on Damage Reduction and Danger Sense, which is a nice variation.  He's hunted by METE, the Metropolitan Extra-Terrestrial Enclave, created by Aaron Allston for "Organization Book 1."  It's a nice call-back (though I never liked the name.  I used NASA, the National Alien Studies Administration, which isn't any sort of improvement, really).

Lameness: Putting aside my inability to believe he'd hang around with Bullet and Big John, I do have a few other problems with him.  First off, he's got Hand Attack, which is a power I really wish had been left out of the BBB.  I know what they were trying to accomplish, but it's badly broken and outlawed in any game I run.  Second, I hate, hate, hate characters that are all powers, no skills.  Starseer is supposed to have vast cosmic understanding, but he's got a mere 18 INT and his only skill is English.  I get that he's supposed to be broken, but I'd never let a player bring a PC into my game with 3 points in skills and I'm disinclined to do it for an NPC.

How's The Math?: My CW input came up six points cheaper, but I haven't found them.  Not that I looked too hard. It's been a long day.

Did/Would Use In My Campaign?: I never did, but I could see myself doing it under the right circumstances. I would pull him out of the Raiders, up his skills, and play up the cosmic origin more.  It's OK if he's unclear on his mission; that would make for a terrific plot.  I would definitely up his skill points and probably give him Eidetic Memory.  He's an interestingly designed character, I just think he's in the wrong group.

So, that's the Raiders.  What do you think?  Did you put them to terrific use and want me to lay off the Crack?  Next time, we'll look at that Bargain Basement Dr. Destroyer knock-off, Professor Muerte and Terror Incorporated.

 


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Classic Enemies: Eurostar

With the delays of the past few days hopefully behind me, today I'm tackling the largest single villain group in Classic Enemies.  Eurostar are among the heaviest hitters in the Champions Universe (Which, it should be noted, really didn't exist at the time.  There was, at best, a sort of consensual setting based on the Enemies books and published adventures, but no two campaigns would be remotely the same.  And that was how we liked it.)  As the writeup says, "Eurostar does not rob banks. We wreck economies."  And honestly, yeah, they are mostly in that weight class, in terms of power level and combat synergy.  They're also among my favorite RPG villains ever.  Well, most of them.

Eurostar in CE consist of five core members: Fiacho, Bora, Durak, Le Sone, and Pantera, along with three provisional members: Mentalla, the Whip, and White Fire.  In raw character points, the eight of them weigh in at a mere 3,602 point (or, roughly 450 points each).  That's not quite double the high-end writeup for Dr. Destroyer (the baddest of the bad in the CU). So yeah, they are definitely heavy hitters.  That said, there are a couple of Morts in the group that I've happily ignored in my home games.

(On the plus side, Eurostar's membership was 3/8 female in 1989.  Not terrible.  Granted, they're all pretty much white Europeans, but at least there was some gender representation.)

So, put on your thickest Eurotrash accent (or a how to speak Esperanto LP) and take a gander at Eurostar.


Name:  Fiacho

Affiliation: Eurostar

What's His Deal?: So, this guy, Danar Nicole was a Danish politician in the European Congress.  A real go-getter, united Europe sort of dude.  Then, a scandal ruined his career.  It later turned out that the KGB sabotaged him, but by then the damage was done.  He vanished and came back twisted and ugly, strong and tough.  He was dedicated to uniting Europe under a crushing fist of destruction.  Or something like that.  Anyway, Fiacho means "Very Bad" in Esperanto, because -- of course -- he speaks Esperanto.

Coolness:  While transcribing him into Creation Workshop, I realized that Fiacho is kind of the CU's answer to the Red Skull. He's European, charismatic, a genius, and tough enough to fight a star-spangled patriot on more or less even terms. In game terms, he's a light brick with a dusting of martial arts and lots of skills.  He's also got 400 pts to spend on bases and vehicles, so he's got the Mastermind square on his supervillain Bingo covered as well.  He also speaks Esperanto.

Lameness: It's a pretty lousy costume.  No explanation is given for his superhuman stats, but that's easy to make up, or leave it as the elephant in the room.  His martial art is Savate, which I've always thought kind of goofy. Some folks will find the Esperanto bit silly, but I like it.

How's The Math?:  Pretty close.  Interestingly enough, the Eurostar write-ups were the first that "showed the math" for Psychological Limitations, though they didn't do it consistently.

Did/Would Use In My Campaign?:  Yeah. Absolutely.  Who doesn't need some powerful Eurotrash villains in their game?


Name:  Bora

Affiliation:  Eurostar

What's Her Deal?:  She's basically a mutant with serious air/wind control powers.  She can turn her body into air and fly and can pretty well kill you from a distance without breaking a sweat.  She's Italian and super beautiful and super vain about it.  She also speaks Esperanto.

Coolness:  Seriously powerful air controller.  A really well executed character build that reinforces the concept.  Particularly frightening is her immunity to psionics when in her air form. Also, one of my favorite character illustrations.

Lameness:  The whole cold-hearted gorgeous killer thing has kind of been done to death in comics, y'know.  She doesn't really have a personality beyond that.

How's The Math?: She has 20 more points in specific Disads than technically allowed, but I've never considered that a problem for villains.

Did/Would Use In My Campaign?: Definitely.  Though in my games, Eurostar was usually an off-screen presence, a major threat that could strike, but probably not until the PCs were able to take them on.


Name:  Durak (Bully)

Affiliation:  Eurostar

What's His Deal?: Russian brute.  Got his powers during an experiment.  He hates the Soviet Union (which was still a thing back then).  He's incredibly strong and tough. He also speaks Esperanto.

Coolness:  Big, strong, and ugly.  He's the sort of bad guy the players are going to hate, because he's downright sadistic.  He's also tough enough to take on an entire team and keep them busy for a while (until they gang up on him).

Lameness:  Not a lot, really.  His Ego is criminally low, so he is very vulnerable to mental attacks, but that's utterly in keeping with a big brute.  Eurostar also have some countermeasures on that front.

How's The Math?:  Off by a few points, though upon review, it looks like I left Superleap off the sheet when I did my entry. Will have to fix that.

Did/Would Use In My Campaign?:  Absolutely.  Someone has to throw a container ship at the good guys.


Name:  Le Sone

Affiliation:  Eurostar

What's His Deal?:  He's French.  And he wears a diving suit sort of battlesuit because he was a diver.  And he's blind.  And he has sonic powers.  And yet, he's not as cool as any of that would indicate.  He also speaks Esperanto.

Coolness:  Ummm...he's got a wide array of energy blasts with different effects.  Sorry, I got nuthin'.

Lameness:  Remember when I said there were a couple of Morts in the team?  This is the first in the set. Apart from the water guy always being the most useless member of a team, Le Sone ("The Sound") is just terrible.  Apart from crappy powers and theme, he's also completely paranoid.  Nothing about him says team player, and nothing about him says "Member of the most feared supervillain team on the planet."  Though he IS a racist, so he's got that going for him.

How's The Math?: OK.  Mechanically, his powers run of an END Reserve, so I'm not thrilled with that aspect of the design either.

Did/Would Use In My Campaign?:  Not bloody likely.  I don't remember if he turned up when PCs actually faced Eurostar.  I've pretty much hated him from Day 1.



Name:  Pantera

Affiliation:  Eurostar

What's Her Deal?:  Feral woman bred in laboratory by her war-criminal father.  Powers-wise, she's basically Wolverine: fast, sharp claws, Regeneration.  Or maybe X-23.  They have similar personality issues.  She does not speak Esperanto. Or much of anything, really.

Coolness:  Who doesn't love a babe with claws, amirite? 
She's one of the lowest power level members of Eurostar, but she's one of the most dangerous.

Lameness:  Not a lot.  She's not terribly hard to take down with gas or a concerted mental attack.  But getting her to stay still for it might be a problem.

How's The Math?:  Perfect.  Mechanically, she's a marvel of efficiency.

Did/Would Use In My Campaign?:  The one time I fielded Eurostar, I nearly lost a friend.  I'd been running Champions for a few months, and my friend (and former GM) Chris had begun playing a speedster.  A very annoying speedster.  My villains couldn't hit him, and this was many years before I realized that for PCs, SPD equals spotlight time, so he was constantly monopolizing the game.  

To teach him a lesson, I sprung Eurostar on the PCs, and Pantera on him specifically.  Her first strike dropped him to negative BODY.  As it turns out, he had no Resistant Defenses and he was literally bleeding to death from the first attack of the combat.  However, I rolled poorly on the Stun Lottery, so he was still conscious and more or less functional, other than the whole bleeding to death part.  

What ensued was the first case of attempted character suicide I ever encountered in a superhero game.  A massive shouting match at the table followed shortly thereafter, and it was a couple of weeks before we spoke civilly.

Ever since, I've been leery of springing Eurostar on insufficiently powerful PCs.



Name:  White Flame

Affiliation:  Eurostar

What's His Deal?:  Some sort of British nobleman who killed some people with his superpowers in order to avenge the death of his wife.  He's got lots of fire powers and, I suppose, a posh accent.  He also speaks Esperanto.

Coolness:  I kind of like the fact that he's basically bought his way onto Eurostar with his personal fortune.  Other than that...meh. Oh wait, he's hunted by The New Knights of the Round Table. This is the first time they've been mentioned and they're not UNTIL, the KGB, or INTERPOL, and therefore slightly more interesting.  He also speaks Esperanto.

Lameness:  He's just kind of a Mort, y'know? I just don't like him.  He's boring.

How's The Math?: The numbers add up OK.  He's got an Absorption power I had a lot of trouble building in CW and would probably hate to use in play (Adjustment powers in general are a pain in the ass to GM, if you have to shuffle numbers around).  I also like the fact that his Reputation Disad applies to both his secret ID and his villain ID, but the reputations are different.

Did/Would Use In My Campaign?: Not as a member of Eurostar.  Probably not.  Not with that Absorption power.  Maybe if I turned him into a raving National Front UKIP sort of guy (riffing of the White part of his villain handle).  That might could work.


Name:  Mentalla

Affiliation: Eurostar (formerly Dr. Destroyer)

What's Her Deal?:  Isabella Medina is a psionic weapon created by Dr. Destroyer who changed sides and got away with it.  She's a very powerful psychic who likes to play with people's minds.  She also speaks Esperanto.

Coolness:  Terrific origin.  She's a mentalist who can actually handle herself in a melee, as long as her defenses hold up.  I suspect she can take down the Ultimates single-handed.

Lameness:  Pretty insane cleavage on that costume there, Mr. Zircher.  Not much else to hate on, really.

How's The Math?:  Off by a few points, but no big deal.  I find it kind of interesting that, despite her history with Dr. Destroyer (and a Psychlim to go with it), she's not hunted by him.

Did/Would Use In My Campaign?:  In a heartbeat.  The best thing about Mentalla is her non-combat potential.  With her EGO drain, there are very few important normals she can't weaken then use her Mind Control on.  With her Mental Illusions and Disguise skill, she can make herself look like whoever she wants.  With her telepathy, she can make herself look like whoever her victims want her to look like.  In short, she's perfect for undermining anyone in authority.  The real beauty of it is that things could start going to hell and no one would even know she was involved.

Name: The Whip

Affiliation: Eurostar

What's His Deal?:  He's a Romany dude with a whip.  He uses drugs to keep his physique at the level of someone in their late 20s, even though he was a child during WWII.  Mostly, he's a guy with a whip.  In a team that bankrupts nations. He does not speak Esperanto.

Coolness: Seriously?  He's a guy with a whip.

Lameness: Haven't you been reading? He's a guy with a whip!  Sheesh...

How's The Math?:  OK. For a guy with a whip.

Did/Would Use In My Campaign?:  Sure.  If I really needed a guy with a whip. I suppose.

And that's Eurostar.  Next time, a much smaller (and weirder) group: the Raiders!