Saturday, July 23, 2016

Making MHR Characters ANOHotMU:U #2: The Elementals

The Elementals are a quartet of powerful supernatural entities who ruled the Earth millennia ago before they were unseated by the *yawn* Whazzat. Uh, sorry, I fell asleep partway through my own description there, it was so boring and predictable. Anyhow, the Elementals are basically Elder Gods who dress like they escaped from a Renaissance Faire, despite supposedly predating the Asgardians, and whose power is constrained by the existence of a mystic doodad called the Ruby Scarab.

And, yes, the token female is very scantily clad, of course.
Back in the Dawn Times (okay, fine, the '70s), they enlisted the aid of a dude called The Living Mummy to help them get control of the Scarab so they could get their full powers back. It . . . didn't work, and the ended up getting collected by the Collector.

Has anyone else noticed just how on the nose 70s Marvel was? The Elementals have elemental powers. The Ruby Scarab is a scarab, made of ruby. The Living Mummy is a mummy, only he's alive, and then the Elementals get collected by the Collector.

Anyhow, there's no stat block here, so it's up to me to figure out how to make this into a thing. First, there's block for the Ruby Scarab, and then a block for how to use it in an Event.

Ruby Scarab
Elemental Interference 1d12
SFX: Complication - In any dice pool in reaction to the attack of one of the Elementals, spend 1 PP to use Elemental Interference as a complication even if not in the scene.
SFX: Growing Threat - On a successful reaction, add a die to the Ruby Scarab, or step up a Ruby Scarab die by +1.
Limit: Draws Down Power - When wielded by the Elementals, shutdown Elemental Interference. Any other dice on the Ruby Scarab are renamed to match the Elemental's power set.

Ruby Scarab (5 XP/10 XP/15 XP)
For 5 XP, once in the next scene each of the heroes can use the Ruby Scarab without spending PP.
For 10 XP, they can use the Ruby Scarab in any reaction against the Elementals, even if the action isn't directly against a hero.
For 15 XP, they can use the Ruby Scarab in attacks against an Elemental as well.

Making MHR Characters ANOHotMU:U #2: Flying Tiger

Late period Boney M costuming
got weird.
This is a minor-league African-American villain who's named after a much-decorated corps of WWII airmen. He's mostly known as a member of one of the lesser versions of the Masters of Evil, and as one of the members of Spiderwoman's (Jessica Drew) rogues gallery.

We . . . aren't going to spend a lot of time here.

It's not that this isn't a character who doesn't have potential for use. I mean, he's superhumanly strong, extremely durable, quick and has a memorable costume, but he's pretty much following the Marvel motto - ABH. Always Be Henching. Still, he should serve as a good supporting character.

Flying Tiger
Solo    1d8
Buddy 1d4
Team   1d6

Merc for Hire

Flying Tiger Suit
Enhanced Reflexes       1d8
Enhanced Stamina        1d8
Enhanced Strength       1d8
Flight                           1d8
Superhuman Durability 1d10
SFX: Burst - Step up or double an Enhanced Strength die against a single target. Remove the highest rolling die and add 3 dice for your total.
SFX: Multipower - Use two or more Flying Tiger Suit powers in a single dice pool at -1 for each additional power.
Limite: Exhausted - Shutdown any Flying Tiger Suit power to add a die to the doom pool. REcover by activating an opportunity.

Acrobatic Expert 1d8
Combat Expert 1d8
Menace Experts 1d8

Making MHR Characters ANOHotMU:U #2: Jean-Paul DuChamp

This is another tough-ish one because DuChamp is:
A supporting character
To a B-list hero
Who's gone through several iterations
This is the man your pilot could smell like.
As has DuChamp

I mean, I love Moon Knight, I really do, but he's been everything from a Batman knockoff to a 90s Xtreme vengeance machine to a pseudo-mystical to a semi-serious take on the personality-altering act of being a street-level hero, and DuChamp's been with him in each incarnation. So, which DuChamp do I pick?

In the end, I'm going with the DuChamp who supported him in his Batman knockoff days. For one, I'm most familiar with him, and for another, he doesn't have weird, poorly-defined superpowers and has use of both of his legs. Okay, yes, I shouldn't discriminate based on disabilities, but I don't like the plotline that lead to one of the few openly gay characters in the Marvel universe getting bashed around and, seriously, Batman knockoff DuChamp is pretty boss. I mean, he's got the Mooncopter, people.

Jean-Paul DuChamp
Solo    1d6
Buddy 1d10
Team   1d8

Charmingly Roguish/Roguishly Charming
Mercenary Past
Trusted Confidante

Mercenary Arsenal
Guns 1d8
SFX: Focus - If a dice pool contains a Mercenary Arsenal power, you may replace two dice with a die of +1 step.
Limit: Gear - Gain 1 PP to shutdown Mercenary Arsenal. Activate an opportunity or recover during a Transition Scene to regain it.

Combat Expert 1d8
Medical Expert 1d8
Tech Expert      1d8
Vehicle Master  1d10

Silent as the Night
Unique Construction

Mooncopter Construction
Cannons                   1d10
Enhanced Durability  1d8
Enhanced Reflexes    1d8
High-Speed Flight     1d8
SFX: Area Attack - Add a 1d6 and keep an additional effect die for each additional target.
SFX: Evasive Maneuvers - Step up or double High-Speed Flight when opposing a physical attack. Remove the highest rolling die and add 3 dice for your total.
Limit: Piloted Vessel. Your ship takes stress separately from you and is destroyed by taking more than d12 stress. Anyone opposing a roll made using a Space Cruiser power may use the ship’s stress or the pilot’s stress.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Making MHR Characters ANOHotMU:U #2: Crimson Dynamo

I had an odd choice to make here.
Of all the designs, this is my

The Crimson Dynamo has been an enemy of Iron Man since the early 60s, and while he's consistently lost to old Shellhead, their relationship has been a dynamic one, in part because while the armour has remained constant - well, in that it's red and stuffed with Soviet goodness - but the actual pilot and the abilities of the armour have changed a great deal over time. Sometimes it's lumbering and slow, other times nimble, other times possessed of unique or at least induplicable abilities.

And there's no stat block in the actual handbook so, based on the terms of my agreement with myself this time around*, I really shouldn't be building up an entry on the Crimson Dynamo armour anyway. So, what to do?

Well, a while back I'd bought a comic off of Marvel Online and with it came access to this giant back catalogue of stuff. Digging through, I found the appearance of the first Crimson Dynamo, Anton Vanko. He's a fantastic inventor, an amazing engineer and a scientist par excellence, dedicated to promoting the excellence of the Soviets. In a few panels, he shows himself to be highly intelligent, dedicated and keenly interested in technology, and sick and tired of contesting against America's showboating Iron Man, who's basically a jerk.

So, he builds a suit that almost takes out Iron Man until Stark picks him up and flies over a lake, threatening to drop him into the water which will short out his armour and likely kill him. Our frickin' hero.

Anyhow, later Stark dupes him into defecting to the United States where he's eventually blown up. End of story.

Ugh, that's awful. I mean, I get that he's supposed to be a bad guy, but you can't make him more sympathetic than the hero and expect me to cheer when the good guy threatens to electrocute him, and then fools him into abandoning the cause he'd dedicated his life to. So, I'm statting up Anton Venko. He's back, and he's angry.

* If there's a stat block, stat it up as a character, if there isn't one, make it into something else.

Anton Vanko
Solo    1d8
Buddy 1d4
Team   1d6

"Curse You, Iron Man!"
Mad Engineer
Still A Communist

Vanko Suit
Energy Blasts               1d8
Superhuman Durability 1d10
Vanko Generator          1d8
SFX: Absorption - On a successful reaction against an electrical attack action, convert your opponent's effect die into a Vanko Suit stunt or step up a Vanko Suit power by +1 for your next action. Spend a die from the doom pool to use this power even is your opponent succeeds.
SFX: Anti-Armor Capabilities - When you succeed on an attack against an opponent in a powered armour suit and are creating a complication, step up the effect die by +1 . Spend a die from the doom pool to also inflict stress on the target.
SFX: Area Effect - Add a 1d6 and keep an additional effect die for each additional target.
Limit: Gear - Add a die to the doom pool and shut down Vanko Suit. Activate an opportunity to recover.

Making MHR Characters ANOHotMU:U #2: Contemplator

"Hey, kid, wanna Squirrel
Nut Zipper?"
This is the first picture I ever saw of The Contemplator, and, well, it makes him look like an evil Cabbage Patch Kid who's just gotten too old for the company to sell and has kind of gone to seed. When he isn't cruising around his neighbourhood in a panel van that says "Free Candy" on the side, you can find him sitting on the back stoop, dressed like this, drinking back White Lightning with Lenny from down at the shop. You know Lenny, right?

What he does not look like is a man who has found complete and utter peace and oneness with the universe through constant contemplation of the mysteries of the cosmos, but that's what he is. He is, in fact, one of the Elders of the Universe, a group consisting of all of the most ancient living being in the universe who, through devotion to a single ideal, have achieved near-immortality, which is a decent enough idea and even explains how that grouchy old guy in your neighbourhood never seems to get any older despite the way he's constantly shouting at kids to get off of his lawn - he's actually an Elder of the Universe who draws his power from crotchetiness.

Anyhow, The Contemplator has been involved in a number of cosmic schemes, many of them surrounding either trying to kill Galactus or not get killed by Thanos, and sometimes both at the same time. He's also been the Make A Wish family for one of the back-up Captain Americas. Remember Adam II? Well, he helped a dying Jeff Mace get his final wish which was, apparently, punching an android. Hey, not going to judge.

Anyway, this is a pretty standard write-up for a character that you're not really supposed to defeat so much as circumvent or out-think.

Solo     1d8
Buddy  1d4
Team    1d8

Master Manipulator
Supremely Aware
Zen Master

Elder Focus
Astral Projection         1d12
Cosmic Awareness     1d12
Cosmic Flight             1d12
Cosmic Mastery         1d12
Superhuman Strength  1d10
Telepathy                   1d12
Teleportation              1d12
SFX: Healing - Add Cosmic Awareness to your dice pool when helping others recover stress or trauma. Spend a die form the doom pool to recover your own or another's mental stress or to step back your own or another's mental trauma by -1.
SFX: Immunity - Spend a die from the doom pool to ignore stress, trauma or complications from disease, poison, aging, radiation or outer space.
SFX: Invulnerable - Spend a die from the doom pool to ignore physical stress or trauma unless caused by a cosmic power.
SFX: Multipower - Use two or more Elder Focus powers in a single dice pool at -1 step for each additional power.
Limit: One With Everything - When you inflict stress on a target, you can add a die to the doom pool to take the stress as well at -1 step.

Cosmic Grandmaster   1d12
Psych Grandmaster      1d12

Making MHR Characters ANOHotMU:U #2: Captain America

America. Not "'Murica." America
Oof, this should be an easy one, right? Okay, enough with the sarcasm - Cap.


So, he's kind of a big deal, this guy, right? And it's kind of funny that he is, considering that he showed up in comics for a few years, only to disappear. He was the biggest name in the Marvel vein of patriotic comics but, really, he wasn't that big of a deal.

Now? Three movies of his very own, plus two Avengers movies, his own monthly title, plus guest spots, well, just about everywhere. No, we aren't going to talk about the, "Hail, Hydra," thing. That actually sounds like it's turning out to be an interesting plotline where the actual cause of Cap turning Team Hydra was intentionally obvious because the point wasn't to make that a mystery, but to deal with the fallout.

We also aren't going to talk about Sam Wilson (formerly The Falcon) taking up the mantle because, frankly, I've only read one comic with him as Cap and it was pretty darned good.

Do I need to detail Cap's origin story? I bet I don't, but here goes. Steve Rogers started out as a good kid. Skinny, poor, hungry and desperate to get out of Brooklyn and fight for his country, but a good kid. Along comes a secret government program that, with a combination of drugs and radiation, turns him into a super-soldier. Years later, we'd find out that he was pretty much the only guy the program worked on. At various points, it's been that some of them didn't get the "Vita-Rays" or got an imperfect version of the serum, but it's often implied and is occasional absolute canon that the treatments "took" with Steve because he's just that kind of guy.
Nope, not being metaphorical. That's actual Cap, and that's
actually Hitler he's punching. Like a boss.

He fights his way through World War Two, punching Hitler along the way, and running with some pretty nifty heroes, some of whom I'll get the chance to visit late in this book. He also picks up some new enemies. A lot of them . . . have not stood up well to the test of time. A few, like Master Man, were introduced retroactively and proved to be pretty cool, but there's basically two major ones: Red Skull and Baron Zemo.

While deactivating a rocket in mid-flight, Cap ends up taking a dive into the Arctic Ocean, only to be found and thaws out decades later, just in time to join the nascent Avengers.

I'm pretty sure jaws don't look like that.
Pretty sure.
He's gone through a lot of phases, has Cap, and his power level has increased and waned. He's been in the hands of some of Marvel's best writers and artists, and has . . . not. There are definite issues with his rogue's gallery, in terms of the poor representation of minorities*, and some of the plotlines have definitely been more deftly handled than others, but at the end of the day he's an extremely recognizable and enviable character, and justifiably has served as the iconic Marvel character in the past, and no doubt will in the future.

And it's because of this that I'm statting him up as MCU Cap. I love comic book Cap but, dear goodness, is there a lot going on in his history that I'm just not getting into. I did this write-up and compared it to the official one in the Marvel Heroic handbook and found that while I'd put his Strength and Durability higher than in their write-up, we were otherwise much on the same page, and I think it's pretty clear that movie Cap is quite a bit stronger than his comic book counterpart.

* Yes, he picked up Falcon pretty soon on, but fairly shortly after it was established that Falcon was actually a recovering street criminal because of course he was.

Captain America
Solo       1d6
Buddy    1d8
Team      1d10

Battlefield Savvy
The Good (Super)Soldier
Leads From The Front

Super-Soldier Serum
Enhanced Speed          1d8
Enhanced Stamina        1d8
Superhuman Durability 1d10
Superhuman Strength   1d10
SFX: Immunity - Spend 1 PP to ignore stress, trauma or complications from poison, disease and aging.
SFX: "I Could This All Day" - Before you make an action inclusing a Super-Soldier power, you may move your physical stress die to the doom pool and step up the Super Soldier Serum power by +1 for this turn.
SFX: Lean In - Step up or double a Super Soldier Serum power against a single target. Remove the highest rolling die and add 3 dice for your total.
Limit: Loyalty - Take 1 PP and increase stress by +1 when inflicted by an ally or former ally.

The Shield
Weapon                1d8
Godlike Durability 1d12
SFX: Area Attack - Add 1d6 and keep an additional effect die for each target.
Limit: Gear - Shut down The Shield and gain 1 PP. Take an action vs. the doom pool to recover.

Acrobatics Expert   1d8
Combat Master      1d10
Cover Expert         1d8
Menace Expert      1d8
Psych Expert         1d8
Vehicle Expert       1d8

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Making MHR Characters ANOHotMU:U #2: The Captain

Oh my gosh, you guys, Nextwave. Hipster superhero comics done right.

Did I mention he's also kinda ugly?
Their membership? Boom-Boom, a mutant refugee from the late 80s. Monica Rambeau, a superhero created literally just so Marvel could hold onto the "Captain Marvel" name for a while longer. Machine Man, basically a slightly more competent Inspector Gadget. Slightly. Elsa Bloodstone, a semi-immortal bounty hunter who'd never really found her footing in the comics. And the man known only as The Captain, mostly because he could never get the legal right to call himself Captain, well, Anything.

Seriously he went through a staggering number of "Captain" names, before finally settling on just "The Captain," although even then he had to pay off a melon farmer who already used the name.

He's your typical Superman type, possessed with the power of the Messianic-Siddha complex by the power of the Heartstar of the Place Between Galaxies, or at least so he was told by the aliens he promptly murdered because he thought that if you punched leprechauns like them in the head, they spat out gold.

He is . . . not bright. I've tried to give him a reasonable write-up, but really, he should be as gonzo as possible. I highly encourage anyone playing The Captain to constantly use Versatile to increase the chance of adding to the doom pool, and to use his last distinction to great effect. With my &#^@ blessing.

Oh, you might notice that he has Godlike Durability, but absolutely nothing to let him actually shrug off a hard hit. That's because he doesn't. Ever. He's the most jobbed brick ever, and it's hilarious.

The Captain
Solo      1d6
Buddy   1d8
Team     1d10

Abrasive Alcoholic
Dumb As A Post
Swears like &^%#

Power of the Heartstar
Flight                       1d10
Godlike Durability    1d12
Godlike Stamina      1d12
Godlike Strength     1d12
Superhuman Senses 1d10
SFX: Berserk - Add a die form the doom pool to one or more attack actions. Step up the doom pool die by +1 for each action; return it to the doom pool when you're done.
SFX: Burst - Step up or double a Power of the Heartstar against a single target. Remove the highest rolling die and add 3 dice for your total.
SFX: Versatile - Split Godlike Strength into 2d10 or 3d8.
Limit: Screw-up - Both a 1 and 2 on your dice count as opportunities when using a Power of the Heartstar power.

Menace Master  1d8

Making MHR Characters ANOHotMU:U #2: Cabal of Scrier

I remember reading the Spiderman entry in the original OHOTMU about how Green Goblin was killed by being impaled on his own flyer and being kind of blown away by the idea. I mean, there's no way that would happen to a Superman villain. Maybe a Batman villain, or a Punisher bad guy, but Spiderman? Wow, that was . . . dark.

Years later, I picked up a trade that collected the run-up to the final conflict between Green Goblin and Spiderman and, holy crap. I didn't even have the foggiest clue just how dark it was. I mean, the intense hatred between the two men just coiled off the page like a cobra. It was awesome, and I wanted more.

I also liked how definitive it was - both threw everything they had at each other on every level - psychological, spiritual and physical, and in the end, Spidey survived but juuuuust barely. It was simply epic.

And then they brought back frickin' Norman Osborn. His Goblin Serum enable him to survive being stabbed through the chest, and left him just as nuts as before, and burning for revenge. So, he took over an apocalypse cult that worships an elder god that lies defeated beneath the Himalayas. You know, as you do.
"I don't care if he's a supervillain, so long as we finely get frickin'
benefits to go with these snazzy man-boob robes.
Anyhow, I'm not going to get into the whole Green Goblin thing - I'm giving you a secret lair, the kind of place where you can send your players while they're investigating an Elder Gods kind of mystery. It's a big of a side quest, probably at the end of exploration of the Mansion of Count von Eldrtichbadguy.

Secret Lair
Even finding the Secret Lair requires uncovering the Hidden Doors And Panels, unless the players were able to get their hands on the Secret Floor Plans. Once inside the place, the Watcher can have Murderholes, Traps, and Oubliettes as a 1d10 complication as they contend with area-appropriate mobs and bad guys. There are also Mysterious Sigils that outline the Cabal's history and secret plans. If someone succeeds on a roll against the doom pool with a Mystic specialty, this distinction turns into Eldritch History, which can be a complication against the Cabal members.

Specific rooms can include the Smoke-Filled Sacrificial Chamber, the Dark Heart Of The Temple. Bad guys could be mobs of Cabal Acolytes or low-tier supernatural themed villains. Or, hey, Gamecock. He's probably not busy or anything.

Making MHR Characters ANOHotMU:U #2: Black Cat

Ah, Black Cat. Not my first comic book crush, but one of the first.

She started out as a standard Spidey villain, albeit one of the "villains with a heart of gold," but was far more flirtatious than his typical foes. Which, considering most of them were like the Vulture and Mysterio makes a whole lot of sense but, nevertheless, it was notable and something the writers picked up on. Over the years, she'd go from being a quip-dropping high-end thief and amateur socialite to an ally and even girlfriend of Spidey. Heck, in the 1991 arcade game, she was a playable character and one of the heroes.

One of my favourite aspects of her character is that she's kind of indomitable. Yes, she's lost to Spiderman and to other heroes and villains, but while she gets knocked down, she never quite gets knocked out. It's not an attribute you see in a lot of the female characters in Marvel, or at least you didn't see it when I was reading regularly. (Some day, I think I'm just going to right out cheat and stat up Kamala Khan just because she's awesome and I really want to.)

Is she kind of a combat monster? Well, yes, the gal who took down Sabretooth in a brawl IS kind of a combat monster. Deal with it, Jake.

Today I understand she's swung back over to hardcore thief and hardened enemy of Spiderman because Superior Spiderman punched her in the face or something, but this represents an earlier version, some time just post-Civil War, when she has her probability powers and her super-suit, but isn't quite as villainous.

(Oh, hey, the same Affiliations as Spiderman. Kind of perfect, that.)

Black Cat
Solo      1d8
Buddy   1d10
Team     1d6

After Midnight, All Cats Are Grey
Loyal Friend

Nine Lives
Probability Control   1d10
SFX: Bad Luck - On a reaction against a physical attack action, inflict physical stress with your effect die at no PP cost, or +1 with 1PP.
SFX: Versatile - Split Probability Control into 2d8 or 3d6.
Limit: Out of Luck - When you take physical stress, take 1 PP to also take mental stress equal to the physical stress at -1 die.

Cat Suit
Claws                        1d6
Enhanced Reflexes    1d8
Enhanced Senses       1d8
Enhanced Speed       1d8
Enhanced Strength    1d8
SFX: Cat Scratch Fever - Step up or double any Cat Suit power for one action when used in an attack. If the action fails, add a die to the doom pool equal to the normal rating of your power die at -1 step.
SFX: Pounce - Add a 1d6 to your dice pool for an attack action and step back the highest die in the pool by -1. Step up physical stress inflicted by +1.
Limit: Exhausted - Shutdown any Cat Suit power to gain a PP. Recover power by activating an opportunity or during a Transition Scene.

Acrobatics Master    1d10
Combat Expert         1d8
Covert Master          1d10
Crime Expert            1d8
Psych Expert            1d8

The Minister of Pain

In a distant land, on a faraway shore, in a country you’ve probably never heard of, as it does not show up on any map, there is a town. All the buildings are made of good, solid, stone, the streets are paved and well-maintained, and the people are happy, bright and cheerful. The neighbouring towns often remark on this because this land is harsh and it is does not give up its treasures easily. The air is cold, and the skies are often dark. The rain, when it comes, is so cold that it cuts like a scythe, and so powerful that it can knock over crops. The soil is hard and full of rocks, bending and breaking all but the sturdiest of plows. Still, the village is full of laughter, and its people are hearty and healthy.
It is not quite true that all of the buildings are made of stone - there is one dwelling, at the far edge of town, made of thin boards. It is cramped, even for one person, and leaks terribly when it storms. It smells of mold and mildew and always seems on the verge of collapse, but no one raises a hand to fix or maintain it because the person who lives there is the most reviled man in the town - the Minister of Pain.
It’s impossible to tell his age. His sallow skin hangs loose on his underfed bones, and in this way he looks like he is an old man, but he moves with an unnatural strength and vigor. The townsfolk fear him and would seek to avoid his touch, but it is forbidden by law to do so.
Most of the time, he will fix his rheumy eyes and point to the person he intends to touch, crooking a long and pointed finger at them and murmuring, “You,” in a strange, thick accent from an ancient and eldritch time. Sometimes it’s a fair maiden, other times an old man or a strapping farmboy. It is never a child. Some of the young people, especially the boys, make a show of facing him bravely, extolling how they will not flinch or fade away from his touch and, in truth, some of them don’t, at least not at first.
But when his emaciated fingers dig into flesh like the talons of a hawk, just short of tearing the flesh, and he tilts his head back and groans, even the strongest of the townsfolk groan in kind. Some scream, and kick against his grip, but escape is impossible until he’s done his task. The pain is obvious, written in the body language of both participants, and clear in their wide eyes and narrow pupils, but afterward the person snaps back to normal. These sessions can last anywhere from a few seconds to a minute or more, but each one touched will say that it felt like only a passing moment. The only reminder of their pain are the bruises where he gripped them, and those fade soon enough.
The Minister does not speak.
He wanders through the town from dusk until dawn, pausing at midday to drink from a well and eat a crust of bread from one of the many pockets in his tattered robes. Some days he selects a dozen victims, sometimes only five or six. There is no apparent rhyme or reason to his choosing. When dusk is almost over, he returns to his hovel, and we find why it is that the Minister of Pain is the most revered man in town.
His screams sound almost unreal, so high and piercing, so inhuman, like that of a wild animal caught in a trap. They last for hours, usually dying some time just before midnight. He is called the Minister of Pain, but the truth is that his true title has been lost to time. He is the Minister of All Pain, and wakes each morning with sum and total of the town’s burden of suffering on his shoulders. Each day, he doles out a little of it, as little as he can, just enough so that when night comes, the pain won’t kill him.
In a distant land, on a faraway shore, in a country you’ve probably never heard of, as it does not show up on any map, there is a town. It’s people are healthy and happy. Well, most of them.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

One day in August

Late August days in Southern Ontario giveth and they taketh away. Sometimes they’re cold, windy and wet, like the worst parts of October two months before you’re braced for the weather. Sometimes they’re ridiculously hot and humid. Sometimes you get both extremes in a single day, which means you head out in a pants and a heavy sweater under a raincoat, and end the day painting for breath as you try to figure out how to lug around two unnecessary layers of clothing in a way that means you don’t actually have to touch them.
The day in August I’m about to talk about was not one of those days. It was a day in just about perfect equilibrium, with a slightly chilly morning giving way to a pleasantly warm day and a gradually cooling afternoon. My family would call it “T-shirt weather,” and it’s pretty much my ideal environment.
Beyond the weather, the day’s events had gone fabulously as well. At the end of the last school year, I ran a completely dark horse campaign for student class president. It really shouldn’t have gone anywhere because I had no strategy, no manager and, really, no position beyond, “C’mon, let’s be serious, this is Student Council. Any ‘position’ beyond, ‘Let’s have some fun,’ is pretty much impossible anyway.” I was, however, fearless, though more in the sense of a virus facing an antibody rather than actual courage.
I met my cabinet twice before the end of school, and at the second meeting the newly appointed secretary invited us to her house for a meeting before school. I accepted, but I’d completely forgotten about it until the week before, when she’d called to remind me.
The meeting had gone very well indeed. Honestly, I’d been more than a little concerned how things would go because everyone, and I mean, everyone, seemed to have more political ambition than me, and I was apparently supposed to be their leader, but outside the framework of a council meeting it turned out that we were just a bunch of nerds who actually enjoyed doing their homework in history class. We did talk a little shop, but it was mostly light stuff about our goals for the year which, by and in large, consisted of, “How much fun can we have this year?” It felt good.
I left the party in good spirits actually looking forward to an hour-long walk home so I could put some thoughts together about future plans. I was walking down Plains Road opposite the traffic, ruminating on what was coming up that year, and how I’d meet the challenges when I suddenly realized that no matter how hard I tried to do well in the coming year, I’d fail and let everyone down and so it really would be best if I just stepped out into traffic and ended it all.
So I did. Well, I stepped out into traffic, anyway. One prolonged horn honk was enough to snap me out of whatever state my mind had gone to and I jumped right back to the curb where I suddenly found I couldn’t stand. The crushing despair wasn’t gone, I’d just lost all desire to move my limbs and collapsed on the grass. I’d left the party at about 4 in the afternoon and by the time I cleared my head enough to stand up and head home, the sun was low in the sky. I didn’t get home until 7. My parents, who were used to their son’s rambunctious social life, didn’t ask any questions and greeted me warmly. Somehow, I responded back in kind, although the voice that wanted me to feel worthless was still crawling around in the back of my head.
My mom offered to reheat dinner for me, but I begged off. I think I lied and told her that I’d eaten dinner on the way home or something, and I headed to my room.
I put on some music and threw on headphones - Buddy Holly or Roy Orbison, I think, romantic music that didn’t require me to think about it much - and turned on my computer. I loaded up a game and, with the moving parts of my brain so distracted, I poked at my despair like a small child poking at a sore and wiggly tooth. I don’t think I got anywhere - the feeling of being crushed dissipated, but didn’t lift. It turned to shadow, always with me, but out of sight.
That was more than twenty years ago, and that shadow’s never entirely left. I was able to handle it with counseling, Christian and otherwise, and no drugs. It’s never come back like it did that day, the day I tried to kill myself.
Why am I saying this, on my tiny blog in a tiny corner of the Internet. A few reasons.
One, most of the people who read my blog know me personally, and I want to give a face to suicide and depression that might not come naturally. We tend to think of people who’ve attempted suicide as being morose and sad but that’s just not the case. We’re just folks, just people like you.
Two, I want to get rid of the secretiveness that creeps in around suicide attempts. We don’t talk about it, I think in large because it’s easier to just ignore it and hope that it goes away. Well, it’s not easier, and it’s not going away. In fact, rates are slowly increasing. One of the big reasons it’s taken me this long to write about this publicly is the fear that people would judge me as weak. I lost an uncle to suicide, so screw that - I’m talking about this.
Third, if you’re reading this and you know what that shadow feels like, if yours is stronger or more persistent than mine, I’m writing this so you can know that you aren’t alone. The fight you’re in, it’s a common one. Reach out. Here’s a list of NH phone numbers you can call here. Call me. Call a friend. Call someone and we’ll help. Don’t let the shadow win.
Fourth, I want to do what I can to boost the signal for Willow’s Run, an event put together by my friend Kim Mihelich (and a bajillion volunteers) in support of suicide prevention. Check out the donations and sponsorships link. If you need help finding a similar event in your area, let me know. And if you do go to the race, say hello to the guy waving you into your parking spot. I hear he’s pretty cool.
Let’s beat back the shadows, for one more season.

1 A friend tells me that when I stood up to the podium to deliver my speech, the crowd was kind of rowdy, and I held up my hands in the air and brought them down with such authority that the crowd immediately went quiet. I do remember being annoyed at the noise level in the gym, but I have no actual recollection of this event. For me, a crowd of five is the same as a crowd of five hundred in terms of the nerves I get before speaking, so this seems plausible.

2 I feel like I need to pause her to say that while I’ve never talked about what happened outside of a narrow group of counselors and, well, my wife, there have been tons of people who’ve helped. Did you say a kind word to me? You helped. Did you pick up when I fell down? You helped. Did you laugh at one of my jokes? You helped. You’re helping, actually. While I’ve never actually talked to them about it, my family has been an incredible source of support just being being their awesome selves. Thank you. Thank all of you. I’ve had my shadow in a chokehold for better than 20 years because of you.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Making MHR Characters ANOHotMU:U #2: Avalanche

36 years of history, but this is how
I picture him.
Many of the members of the Brotherhood of Evil have long, complicated storylines that weave together with
the lives of the X-Men in intriguing and fascinating ways.

Avalanche? He's there to destroy stuff - for preference, the X-Men. He's just kind of a jerk who likes breaking stuff, which is refreshingly straightforward for an X-men villain. Yeah, he's gone along with some of the more complicated, "villains pretending to be superheroes," plots, but ultimately it just comes down to fighting superheroes and he likes that. He likes that just fine.

I didn't make him terribly complicated. His power set is basically limited to his Seismic Control, but it's a versatile power, one that he's had for a very long while, so he has a pretty impressive number of SFX, offset by having two Limits to represent his one constant - when he uses his powers to try to hurt people directly, it just doesn't work out for him. Ever. I mean, admittedly the most memorable time, he tried to use it against the Hulk, which is just a bad idea. but he's never really had much success with just whacking people with seismic waves.

Solo    1d4
Buddy 1d6
Team   1d8

Glorious Destruction

Rock Gliding       1d8
Seismic Mastery 1d10
SFX: Area Effect - Add a 1d6 and keep one extra effect die for each additional target.
SFX: Chaos Unleashed - Add a 1d6 and step up your effect die by +1 when using Seismokinesis. to create complications
SFX: Smash Away - Step up or double any Vibration Control Power for one action. If the action fails, add a dice to the doom pool equal to the normal rating of your power die.
Limit: Hard Targets Only - If you fail on an action to inflict physical stress, you take your opponent's effect die as physical stress.
Limit: Mutant - Add a die to the doom pool when affected by mutant specific Milestones and tech.

Making MHR Characters ANOHotMU:U #2: Apocalypse Beast

I only picked up two issues of this critter's mini-series, and they weren't the two that actually had the Apocalypse Beast, but between the entries on the Marvel website and my knowledge of the kaiju genre, I think I've got this.

This thing actively makes no sense
Basically, all of the monstrous creatures in the Marvel Universe go nuts and start randomly attacking things, while the Moloids are gathering in one spot in Japan. Iron Man and the Fantastic Four go out to investigate, and, shortly enough, one of the more intelligent of the Marvel kaiju drags the rest of them off to go have a lie-down and think about what they've done. Well, that sort of thing, anyway. And then the Apocalypse Beast rises, 3 miles tall and starts plowing through towns and cities like Godzilla on 'roids, until it's revealed that the Moloids were literally bred for this - they kill it, and launch it into space, as you do.

It's completely loony tunes, and one of my favourite things about early twenty-first century Marvel in that it's completely unapologetic about it. Statting up a beast that's three miles tall is a bit of a challenge, but then again I'm throwing it up against Iron Man and the Fantastic Four - they can take the hits.

Running this right does take some planning on the part of the Watcher - those early fights against the other Marvel kaiju are there to rack up a giant doom pool. Small dice, big dice, it doesn't matter, they're just getting funnelled into Thick Hide anyway.

Apocalypse Beast
Solo     4d10
Buddy  3d8
Team   2d6

Huge in Japan
Mindlessly Destructive
Moloid Connection

Apocalypse Kaiju
Destructive Blows    1d12
Godlike Durability    1d12
Godlike Stamina       1d12
Godlike Strength      1d12
Superhuman Speed   1d12
SFX: Arm Sweep - Add a 1d10 and keep an additional effect die for each additional target.
SFX: Large-Scale Destruction - Add a die from the doom pool to one or more attack actions. Step up the doom pool die by +1 for each action; return to the doom pool when you're done.
SFX: Property Damage - Step up the effect die by +1 when creating a complication caused by damaging surrounding buildings and manmade structures.
SFX: Thick Hide - Spend a die form the doom pool to ignore stress.
SFX: Vast Size - Whenever targeting something less than a mile in size, keep four dice for your total.
Limit: Apocalyptic Threat - Step up any doom dice by +1 when generated by an attack targeting you.

Menace Grandmaster 1d12

Making MHR Characters ANOHotMU:U #2: All-American

Why do I feel like I've already done at least one New Universe character? Oh, right, Erishkigal monkeyed around with the Starbrand, which started as a New Universe.

I should probably introduce the New Universe a bit, huh?

Okay, so, 1986 was the 25 anniversary of Marvel, so they decided to launch a comic series set in a universe totally unlike the Marvel continuity, one without space gods, mutants or magic, where being superhuman really counted for something and the effect of a single super could have a dramatic effect on things. The goal here was a sense of realism, that the events took place in a world the reader could understand because it looked a lot like theirs. Or was supposed to. In reality, it was kind of a boring setting because the superheroics were so subdued you almost didn't notice them, and the "realistic consequences" . . . weren't.

The introduction of superhumans into the world should've changed everything, but instead it basically didn't change anything. Eventually they blew up Pittsburgh and things were interesting for a little while after that, but it was too late and in 1989 the line was cancelled.

All-American comes out of Kickers, Inc., a comic series about a quarterback who gains superhuman powers and, naturally, joins up with a couple of other football players to form a team of superheroes.

Yeah, the New Universe had problems with the realism thing from the start.

Anyhow, All-American was a star quarterback until he realized that he was totally cheating by being superpowered, and that he'd crush a dude's ribs if he actually threw a football as hard as he could, so he decided to fight crime. Or something. I bought three issues of Kicker's, Inc, and if there was an actual plotline I can't tell you what it was because it just wasn't terribly good.

He's basically a moderately powerful brick. I put in a couple of SFX intended to carry through the idea in the comics that his powers are dangerous because he can't stop being superhuman, making things like shaking hands and playing a pick-up game of basketball a dangerous proposition.

Solo    1d6
Buddy 1d8
Team   1d10

Good Soldier
Where Angels Fear To Tread
Wild and Dangerous

Intensifier Treatment
Enhanced Reflexes         1d8
Enhanced Speed            1d8
Enhanced Stamina          1d8
Enhanced Strength         1d8
Superhuman Durability   1d10
SFX: 110% - Step up or double any Intensifier Treatment power for one action. If the action fails, add a die to the doom pool equal to the normal rating of your power die.
SFX: All-Star - Use two or more Intensifier Treatment powers in a single dice pool at -1 for each additional power.
SFX: Charge - Step up or double an Intensifier Treatment power against a single target. Remove the highest rolling die and add three dice to the total.
Limit: I Break Things - Gain 1 PP to turn an Intensifier Treatment power into a complication. Make a recovery during a Transition Scene to recover.

Combat Expert   1d8
Covert Expert     1d8
Crime Expert      1d8
Vehicle Expert    1d8