Friday, April 22, 2011

V is for: Villains and Vigilantes!

Another member of the Early Supers Club, V&V is well-remembered by many people as a fun game. I first became aware of it because of the ads in Dragon magazine that included a complete character in each one. They were cool - see:

Just seeing that made me want to start playing a superhero game and I still think they're cool. Imagine if you could do something similar in a banner ad today - a fully-stated character! I think that ICONS could at least pull that off. I liked the front cover too

I know who the villain is! Because in those days only villains threw people off of buildings! I think the girl in red must be a villain too because a) the title is Villainssssss with an S implying more than one and b) It looks like she is cheering him on. The back cover was awesome too:

I love that "Me?" panel. "Yes you, you pansie! Go get your big boy pants on and let's go stomp some criminals!"

Anyway I haven't talked much about V&V before but I did play it. Some. My friends and I didn't acquire it until 1983 or 84 and we had already discovered Champions by then. Frankly, after a year or two of Champions V&V seemed like a step back. We liked rolling for stats just fine since that's how almost every other game in existence back then did it. We could even tolerate rolling for powers because we did it in Gamma World too but it made more sense there as they were mutations, not superpowers. So while we were OK with the mechanics, they just seemed very limiting next to Champs. Then about a year later Marvel Super Heroes came out and blew it away for good. Between MSH and Champions, we didn't need another superhero game and really wouldn't play one for the rest of the 80's and even the 90's.

Bashing aside we did play some V&V and I still have two of my character sheets from that time. 

Barbarian* was a result of random rolls and the fact that I was playing my AD&D barbarian a lot right around the time I rolled him up. I am fairly sure that our DM let us have at least one reroll or pick-your-power option because that's a fairly cohesive set of powers. In the spirit of 4d6-drop-the-lowest we would sometimes allow an extra roll or two then pick the actual number of powers that best fit into something that made sense. Even with that fudge these were still very much "roll 'em up then figure out a concept", rather than the more common practice now of "concept then mechanics".

I don't remember much about the mechanics of the game but being able to carry over 5 tons is pretty impressive. I do remember thinking that if my D&D barbarian was like Conan then this one was going to be like Thundarr. He was suspicious of magic and tended to call mentalists and anyone wearing a robe a "Wizard". I think I played him as pretty much Thundarr pulled back through time which was fun then - and might be fun now too - and although he didn't adventure long he was fun while the game lasted. 

The second character is DREADNOUGHT according to my sheet up there and looking at his powers I may have found the unremembered genesis of Aluminum Man! Armor, flight, lightning control - wow that does look familiar! He was clearly more of a traditional power armor guy but many of the elements are there for his later incarnation. Notice there isn't a lot of categorizing whether it's a device or a focus or mechanical effects for when he's out of the armor - we didn't really care about rules for that stuff back then. If he's out of the armor when a fight starts he's going to run away from the fight until he can get into his armor then he's going to join in  - DUH! We also didn't worry too much about origin stories back then - he was a guy who built some armor then went out to fight crime! I think I used an illustration from Champions for him as it was much better than anything I could draw. Dig, dig, dig - ah here it is!

Yeah! That guy! That guy is ready to kick somebody's ace! I still like that picture. I saw him as completely chromed out, with some black stripes and and a crackling blue-white electo-punch.

Anyway we played for a year or two on and off running a session here and a session there in between AD&D, Champions, Gamma World, and some Traveller and Star Frontiers. I would guess we had less than 20 runs altogether in that time so it was not a major part of the rotation. We didn't use any published modules for it other than the one that came in the box, Crisis at Crusader Citadel, and I don't remember much about it . Most of what we did was homebrewed - stopping bank robberies and the like. I was definitely a "Champions Guy" and then once Marvel came out we adopted it as our second string/fast play game and V&V just drifted down the list of priorities. It wasn't a bad game it just wasn't better than the other options for what we wanted to do. Plus it wasn't exactly rules-light. Flipping through it now almost every page has a table on it, many have more than one. Some of them are probably set up tables you look up once when you acquire a power and then write it on your sheet but combat is all table-based. That said it was a pretty complete supers game in 48 pages so it was nowhere near the massive volumes we get today. 

That's about all I have to say about V&V. I keep two copies of the rules on the shelf but they haven't been used anytime recently. I flipped through them and thought about getting them out with the apprentices but I realized I wasn't all that attached to the system and I would rather use that time to play something I liked better, whether it was MSH or M&M. While a retro weekend sounds like fun, I don't remember much about the rules either so it would involve a lot of re-learning  the system so I decided I would rather play something I already knew. It is only 48 pages though, and I do have some published adventures for it. Hmmmm. It still might happen as a one-off, we will have to see. 

If you're interested the game's creators have reacquired control over the game and are supporting it and preparing new material for it here. It's not dead, even if it was on life support for a long time, and that's a good thing. 

* that interesting pattern on the lower right tells me that this sheet was sticking out of a folder in my milk crate selves when I had a fire in the 90's. The smoke did interesting things to the books and papers that survived, like that little pattern. At least after 15 years or so they have stopped smelling like smoke - finally.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

U is for Uberman!

Not a lot of "U" characters here but I do have one I can share. It's another riff on an existing theme/hero so I may not score a lot of points for originality, but here it si:

What if instead of landing in Kansas near some farmers, a certain small spacecraft carrying a certain small space infant had landed in Germany? Near a pair of retired Olympic athletes? During the Cold War? See where this is going?

I give you Uberman:

Hans and Olga Krupp found the tiny baby, hid his spaceship in their training facility, and named him Karl. Karl Krupp grew up with an incredibly intense Olympic class training program for his whole life, parented by two hyper-competitive gold medalists. Though it quickly became clear that his abilities went way beyond human norms and that he would never be allowed to compete for medals, the training continued as his parents drove him to be the absolute best in the world at everything - who cares about medals if you can say you're the strongest man on earth... or the fastest? He has been raised to become the supreme athlete, the absolute tip top peak of physical conditioning, and he may well be the best.

When he realized that his abilities included near-immunity to harm he discussed becoming a hero as part of his training program but his parents would not hear of it. As time went on though, he was doing very well athletically but was not really making much to live on. Endorsements were rare and his team eventually discovered that it was because he was perceived as an arrogant, condescending jerk and very few businesses wanted to be associated with him. This was shocking to him and his family and caused some dissension within the close-knit family. Realizing that competition alone might not be everything, it was decided to have Karl start doing some community service and other charity work. This went alright but seemed like a waste of many of his talents. There was also little publicity in these local activities. Karl was convinced that he could be a superhero and he was also beginning to crave a chance to explore the world on his own. Soon enough Hans and Olga relented. Olga made a uniform from materials in his spaceship and he took to the skies as a hero for the first time..

His travels soon took him to America where he was dubbed the Unearthly Uberman by the media. Karl feels like he has found a niche for himself as a superhero and plans to stay for quite a while. He trains rigorously as he considers this the biggest competition of his life, and keeps in touch with his parents. He can still come across as arrogant much of the time, but he is learning and being around other people with extraordinary abilities has brought his overconfidence down to at least superhuman levels. He still fears just about nothing and expects to vanquish every foe he faces. This helps when working with a team as he is a rock of confidence, but it goes badly on those rare times when he is wrong.

The Unearthly Uberman for Mutants and Masterminds 3E:

This one is pretty easy - he's a Paragon, straight out of the book. Considering his upbringing I would consider some small adjustments:

  • I would shift 1 or 2 points from Fighting to Strength as he is by no means a trained fighter but he is very strong. He could then use power points gained from experience to increase his Close Combat (Unarmed) skill to show how he is learning. Power Level limits are a concern here, but there's probably a way to make it work.
  • I would lower the Dodge bonus and raise his Agility to about a 6 - he's supposed to be an elite athlete
  • I might also shave a rank or two off of Flight to help with the Agility boost above or maybe add the Ultimate Effort advantage for Athletics. that would let him be the REALLY strong guy or high jump guy  when he needed to be. Extraordinary Effort would be good too. 
  • I would replace Persuasion 6 with Athletics 6
  • I would drop his Insight skill down a lot and replace it with something like the Accurate Attack advantage, the Fearless advantage, and probably the Attractive advantage - he is pretty...
  • I would also consider dropping his Awareness to 0 and raising his Presence to 2 - It just fits him better.
  • Complication #1: Recognition - He's in this to try and spruce up his image and he's not going to forget about it, even when he's trying to do good.
  • Complication #2: Arrogant Competitor - This is tempered with his friends to a degree but with new heroes and especially with villains he wants to prove that he is the best - he is the Uberman! Most people probably knew some jocks in school - think of the worst high-school jock you knew. Now give him parents that tell him he is the best for most of his life. Now give him superpowers. Enjoy the mix!
  • For an older, more experienced Uberman, use Superman's description with similar changes. If you want to give your players an allied NPC to hate, there you go. 
So that's Uberman. For the writeup he's more of an example of how to customize a template for an RPG to fit a concept, although it does help that they are based off of the same red-caped ancestor. In this case I have a concept and I'm bending the numbers to fit the concept. That's one of the fun things about supers and point-build games in general, is that you can make the character fit a concept exactly. If you can't come up with a concept then sometimes a template, a sample character, or a randomly rolled character can inspire you, which turns into a case of the concept bending to fit the numbers! There is no right way to do this - enjoy it! A chance to make up your own superhero and play him (or her) in a campaign is a rare and special thing so get into it! It's a genre that welcomes everything from  primary-colored spandex-clad types spouting cheesy catchphrases to grim servants o' death so more than any other game you should be able to create a character that you enjoy playing. It's one of my favorites types of RPG and I'm clearly going to have to do more of it.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

T is for: Thunderblade!

Gamma World was one of my favorite games in the 80's and my favorite character was Conan Thunderblade, a mighty-thewed humanoid (2E talk for a mutated human) who was the mightiest mutant ever! I can't find my 2nd edition character sheets (pretty sure I still have them) but I have found my GW3E sheets for them and I will space them out through the post.

We started playing it with GW 2nd edition. I knew about the 1st edition and had seen it on shelves and read articles for it in Dragon and I thought it looked pretty cool but never had a chance to play it. Then in 1983 the second edition came out with another cool cover and a friend of mine bought it and once we started playing it became a regular part of the rotation.

GW was incredibly cool for several reasons, among them no classes and no levels. You decided between Pure Strain Human, Humanoid (mutated human), or Mutated Animal and each had its own advantages and disadvantages. I preferred the mutant types because you got to roll for mutations and that's where a lot of the fun of the game was. I rolled up a few PSH's during the game but they were nowhere near as memorable as the mutants. With no levels you had maximum hit points at the start, 1d6 (or 1d8 for PSH) per point of Constitution. This was a huge change from the 4 hp M-U's and 8 hp Fighters of early D&D adventuring - you could actually take some damage and still live! You could even take enough damage to run away if you were losing! The world was still very dangerous and there were many ways for characters to die that did not involve hit points but it made a huge difference in attitude when starting out as we were no longer some pathetic band of weak rookies - we were bad-aces! We might only have swords and crossbows and chainmail but we could blast things or turn invisible or fly as well - it was almost a supers game with some of the powers available. Heck with Ninja Turtles, I had characters who could disintigrate something by touch once per day!

My first character was a mutated lion named Roard who ran around in plate mail with a two-handed sword for a very long time, later adding a Fusion Rifle as his signature weapon. He was joined by a mutated hawk named Thorondor and a mutated wolf named Redfang who was immune to radiation and a mutated lizard named Shadowhiss who fought with claws and (somewhat later) an .88 Magnum (thank you Johnny Dangerously). They were all fun and had their own cool adventures, including one where my hawkoid dropped my wolf and a neutron bomb into a castle-like outpost of the knights of genetic purity. Hawk flies off, wolf pulls out the bomb in the middle of the courtyard, then he detonates it right there, counting on his energy reflection power to shield him (it did) and effectively wiping out a group which had been a serious thorn in our side. He then opened up the gate and walked home. Like I said it was a great game.

The greatest character of all of them though was Thunderblade. He was a Humanoid. Stat generation in that edition was 4d6 drop the lowest (except Pure Strain Humans got to keep the extra die on Int, Con, and Charisma) and I rolled an 18 Strength, a 15 Dexterity, and a 16 Constitution - he's clearly a beast, physically. Then while rolling up mutations he picked up Heightened Physical Attribute and rolled Strength. Maximum Physical Strength in that game was 21 so despite rolling a 6 for it he maxed it out and had a 21 PS - he was the strongest mutant of all! You start off at a medieval level of technology (at best) so I decided he would use a two-handed sword and dubbed him Conan Thunderblade. It's a little cheesy, yes, but remember this is a post-apocalyptic game so there could be some knowledge of older culture and media and I figured he probably looked like those old pictures so that's what he was called.

Now we often ran multiple characters in our parties back then. Some of it was because Gamma World could be a lethal game, some of it was because we ran D&D like that, and some of it was because we had fewer players in our GW sessions, usually 2-4 instead of 4-6 for D&D. From the moment he was created, if I was playing then Thunderblade was almost always in the party and was often the leader. We explored the introductory adventure about the rite of passage, we explored the chicken factory from GW2, and we explored many homebrew ruins and installations but we spent a great deal of time in the Barony of Horn fighting the Legion of Gold. That adventure, easily GW's "Keep on the Borderlands" in terms of inspiration and scope, turned into the core of our ongoing campaign and to this day is that DM's main campaign area for GW simply because he spent so much time detailing it for us! Towns, villages, NPC's, tribes, wandering monsters - all of that was fleshed out or created outright for our party. It was probably a more cohesive, coherent campaign than our D&D adventures were at the time, largely because it was run by one DM in one geographic region, unlike our D&D games. Conan led the fight against the legion eventually discovering his two signature weapons - His vibroblade - think lightsaber (not chainsaw - in GW vibro weapons are energy force weapons) and his heavy machine gun, usually fired from the hip Rambo-style with belts of ammo crossed on his chest like a good old action hero. He usually opened a fight by blasting away with his big gun before setting it down (gently) and activating his vibro blade and charging in like Thundarr.

When we eventually defeated the legion we took over the main base, expanded it, and even reactivated much of the ancient technology using some of the sleeping scientists rescued from the aquabase. Oh look, I have our old map...

We ended up making an epic run down to Shreveport Louisiana because it was one of the few towns on the big map of post-nuking America that wasn't radioactive. We loaded up flatbed hovertrucks with durasteel plates (Shreveport had a foundry of some kind) and hauled them back across country to use inside our base. I think we did some groundbreaking work in post-apocalyptic economics and interstate trade that has been sadly lost to time. We traded everything from trinkets and gear to ancient currency to energy cells to giant insect husks - know your market!

When 3rd edition was released in 1986 the rules changed dramatically. We converted our existing characters and continued as before. We made some adjustments as mechanically not every character was as strong under the new rules as the old, but we did our best to even things out, even grandfathering in old mutations that were no longer listed in the new version. It worked and we were happy.

Eventually though we saw an opportunity to bring in some new players and so we semi-retired the original group. We had been thinking of them as our "High level" group so now it was time to make some new ones to run alongside new players. I converted "Shadowhiss" the mutated lizard over to 3E as he had been left gathering dust with the new edition. He kept the magnum. I also rolled up "Elric MacArthur" as a new humanoid. He had the military genius mutation and the albino mutation - obviously!  I don't have as many memories of this latter phase but I know there were some expeditions out onto the Great Lakes. During one adventure involving a submarine, someone else's lizardguy infiltrated the sub while it was surfaced, got into the engine room and started smashing stuff. When he took a laser torch to one particular part he got a big surprise as it turned out to be a nuclear sub and he got hit with a bunch of radiation as he breached the reactor. As it turned out he was OK - he got a "Mutation" result on his roll and then got something that made him double in size. So the now 12-foot lizardman had to try and squeeze out of a submarine (remember - watertight doors) and in the end Shadowhiss had to cut him out of the thing with his vibroblade, ruining the sub and annoying the rest of the party who had wanted it intact! We had some wild adventures back then.

In 1992 Gamma World 4th edition was released and it was good. It was another big change though, adding a class system and a bunch of new stats to the game. It looks now like an early forerunner of the system found in Alternity and the one later used in D&D 3E and we liked it but it was different enough that we didn't really translate any characters over. We rolled up a new batch and started in a whole new region but we never put together a sustained campaign using it and despite probably being the most solid version mechanically it was the one we played the least.

There was a 5th edition (Alternity) and a 6th edition (d20 Modern) plus Omega World (Dungeon magazine mini-game) plus now there is a new 4E based 7th edition but I have not actually rolled up a character and played any of those, even though I own most of them. By the time they came out GW had lost a lot of traction and the players we were playing with were not the same as those early days so they had no attachment.

I hear good things about the new version so maybe I will pick it up and try to run it with the Apprentices this summer and see if the legend can continue. I probably won't bring Conan Thunderblade in as a statted-up character but he might make an appearance as an aging ruler of a small area near the Great Lakes, a strong ally of the Barony of Horn, who just happens to have a mission perfect for a new group of young adventurers. Maybe there's more trouble at the old chicken factory, and it's time for a new generation to set it right once again.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

S is for: Shamrock - Captain Shamrock!

I had some other characters in mind at first - no shortage of "S" characters here - but I had to go with Michael O'Toole, AKA CAPTAIN SHAMROCK!

I created him for City of Heroes when some of my friends and I finally decided to create a regular team to run with together. He's pretty easily converted to other systems as he's not really all that complicated. He's a hand to hand fighter who has the power of regeneration. I did have some inspiration form this old Champions villain. I liked the idea of "hey he's a Brick with 3d6 of Luck!"

But he's a Bad Guy and mine is a Good Guy so they are clearly nothing alike. The original concept for the team was classic Superfriends/Silver Age heroes, goofiness and silliness welcome but it needed to work and be fun to play in the game. I think we did pretty well.

Michael O'Toole was an Irish pub brawler and general hooligan when he found a magical four-leaf clover and was invested with the "Spirit of Eire" which made him magically stronger and tougher than any normal man, and also gave him the power to come back from any defeat. He used this new power to win some fights but he realized it was cheating and even more importantly it was a waste of this kind of power. He decided to become a costumed hero and his fights against evil eventually brought him to America. His already impressive fighting skills have become superhuman with his new powers and his cheerful attitude has won him many friends among the hero community and even some among the villains of the world. His closest friends know he means well, but he is still dangerously cocky at times, endangering himself and those around him. It's something he struggles with and eventually hopes to conquer.

Personality-wise he's a cheerful, cocky guy who's fun to hang out with but who's temper sometimes gets the better of him. He's loyal to his friends and friendly to strangers until they prove themselves to not be friendly - then the temper kicks in. If you want a super-analogue, what if Wolverine was cheerful and ready to grab a pint and throw his hand around your shoulder on the way down to the pub instead of grim and annoyed all the time? Once something makes them mad though, they're pretty much the same. Shamrock is less likely to kill someone as once he's inflicted a beatdown he will stop and ask if his target has learned their lesson. If so, he may even help them up, though a betrayal at that point means he's beating them into unconsciousness. There's also an air of friendly competition when he fights, as he doesn't really expect anyone to be able to stand up to him for long. This helps keep him make potential allies when he's right, but this overconfidence has led to disaster a few times when he has been wrong. As has been pointed out to him "we don't all grow our arms back". He's trying to keep this in mind but it's hard sometimes.

After going solo for a while he joined up with some heroes on a regular basis and during a long night of carousing suggested that they form a permanent team. Thus was born the League of Super Justice Friends, consisting of himself, The Electric Defender, Granite Guardsman, Captain Rex, and the Martian Manhuntress. Together they have fought many evildoers and saved a lot of lives. Within the team Granite is the brick who holds things together, Rex is a gun and bow specialist who fights at range, ED is another close combat guy, and MM is a mentalist. Usually Granite holds the center while ED jumps into the midst of a group of enemies and unleashes his electrical blasts while Shamrock goes for the biggest baddest target in the area. Rex and the Manhuntress take care of targets of opportunity and support the rest as needed. Queen Isis was also present at the founding of the team but she has been somewhat distant of late, handling her own affairs.

Knee deep in the beatdown
Having achieved some success the league has added a second team made up of other heroes that are friends of the founders and together they can cover a wide area and do a lot of good. Other members include the Unearthly Uberman, the Hammer O' Justice, Psycho Ex Wife, Aluminum Boy, Inspector Hammer, and many others.

In honor of Captain Shamrock's greatness, here is my first writeup for Mutants and Masterminds 3rd Edition, featuring Mr. O'Toole.

Now he's a bit limited in some ways - his main offensive ability is to run up and hit people - but all those advantages give him a lot of options - trip, disarm, boost damage over accuracy, boost accuracy over defense, hit multiple minions, etc. and his luck and Ultimate Effort abilities ensure he can land those hits when he needs to.  One thing I want to figure out is how to give him a multi target melee attack like a full-circle leg sweep kind of strike, but I don't know the system well enough to do it yet. Some kind of stunning or crippling strike would be good too but I wasn't quite read to tackle "Affliction" just yet.

No "travel power" - if Wolverine and Captain America don't need one, that's good enough for him.

He has some skills useful outside of combat as well - that Pub Expertise plus that Persuasion skill combined with 5 shots of Luck mean he could have a really good time. He also has enough Stealth to be useful and a little bit of Treatment to help his buddies recover after a good scrap.

Runners Up for the Letter S Post

Well unlike "O" the competition was fierce for the letter S. In the end there can be only one winner, but here's a post covering the almost-winners:

Captain Saskatchewan - posing for pictures for a fan

Super Atomic Beetle - On Patrol

Super Patriot - Watching over the city

Super Charger - Recharging

Super Avenger - Rumored to be the only survivor of a hero team from a parallel world...
Super Alien American - standing watch

Sewer Gator - He likes Sprite and yes that is a manhole cover

Star Paladin - Fighting the good fight!

Star Phantom - Looking for his cape

Snake Pliskin - "I heard you were dead"

Monday, April 18, 2011

R is for: Ranger

When 1st Edition AD&D was The Thing there was one character I played more than any other, one that is by far my highest level character from any form of D&D, and that was my Ranger.

Yep, 20th level - He'd reached that by 1985 at the latest and I started AD&D in 1980 so that's 5-6 years of regular playing. Also please understand that in the early 80's we played constantly - after school 2-3-4 days a week for a couple of hours, on the weekends, through spring break, 5-6 days a week during summer vacation - we were gaming machines back then and the majority of our time was spent on this game. It's impossible to duplicate it now but it was awesome and we were very happy back then.

We also used the GP for XP rule because... it was the rule! I know some other old schoolers declared it dumb and didn't use it and I have no doubt this explains the glacial pace of advancement in those games, but if you used it, well, it was entirely possible to come out of a big dungeon with a ton of loot. We also got pretty good at estimating the value of furnishings and art objects. We were like expert miners mining coinage and furnishings deep under the earth, only instead of chipping away rock we had to chip away at orcs or bugbears or dragons. I know he took down at least 3 major dragons with good-sized hoards, and that explains some of the wealth and items on his sheet.

A lot of those stats started pretty high but we also burned a lot of wishes boosting stats (one reason being that you were a lot less likely to get reamed by the DM for using them that way - seriously, look at the Dragon articles from this time on wishes and how to screw players who used them) and we also went after those magical stat-boosting books at every opportunity too.

Heh - 4 wishes still ready to go!

Appearance....OK... hates Demons (sure), Evil Dragons (he fought enough of them) and Tiamat - yeah she killed a party he was associated with and that helped fire up his one-man war on dragonkind.

Personality-wise, this character was me. I didn't assign him any particular traits because I always saw him as my self-representation in the game world. That's how a lot of us played back then and a lot of the other stuff came later and with running multiple characters. There's a fair amount of descriptive material on his sheet. The Rankin-Bass Return of the King Aragorn sort of looks the way I envisioned him, but it's not a perfect match.

"Argon" was a name I chose to sound Ranger-ish but to not be a straight LOTR rip-off, though it's pretty close. As it turned out I ripped off the periodic table of elements instead (which I only realized somewhat later in my junior high earth-science class) but at least it was from an unusual source). I never added a descriptor or an honorific to it, always referring to him simply as "Argon" or "Argon the Ranger".

I'm not sure why I felt so connected to the ranger class in AD&D. It's probably because it's the Fighter Plus class, with a damage bonus against common enemies, interesting abilities, then cool followers and some spell use at higher levels. They weren't tied into the light armor DPS identity that they have now - mine went around in plate & shield and felt just fine about it. I made a few others for one-offs or tournament games because I liked the class so much, but the only one I played extensively was my "main".

Argon started off in the Keep on the Borderlands and went through many custom home-brew adventures under at least 3 different DM's. He eventually took on the giants with a strong party and proved his worth against all 3 clans. Somewhere around that time he found his intelligent frost brand sword and wreaked massive havoc with it in the fire giants' hall. He went on to take on the Drow as well, went on an expedition to the Barrier Peaks, and investigated the lost caverns of Tsojcanth. He never did take on Lloth as we got caught up in a dragon war (no doubt influenced by the Dragonlance books) and he spent a lot of time in his later career fighting them. We later had a stable DM for a long time and placed everything we did in Greyhawk though we started before the Gods were really spelled out, using only the 1980 Folio version for years, so we had things like the Norse gods in it.

Argon eventually settled down and built a massive fortress at the mouth of the Nesser River, right in the middle of the big map. I had pages of followers, henchmen,  notes on villages, and stats for a small fleet of warships he maintained and used to journey down to Hepmonaland and the Amedio Jungle  looking for trouble. His was a chaotic, messy career and it was epic in scope.

I know he was level-drained a few times but I know of at least once that he burned wishes to offset it

I believe he was killed once in a fight against Storm giants but he was resurrected shortly thereafter and went right back after them with more help, then used a ring of wishes to fix his constitution loss. That's the only death I can remember and it was rare for him to even get close.

At one point he had the artifact "The Ring of Gaxx" (it was at the bottom of a BIG dungeon)and he was in a group that recovered the "Crystal of the Ebon Flame" (from a dragon hoard). Artifacts were just another source of funky magic abilities back then - we were not terribly concerned with history or the chance of corruption.

In the end he was active at least occasionally right up until 1989 and the release of second edition. With 2E rangers looked quite a bit different and I lost the connection with them. I won't say I was heartbroken or anything because I was excited about all the new stuff, but I never played Argon again and made zero effort to convert him to a 2E character - what would be the point? After 10 years of running around in gold-plated armor with magic shield in one hand and talking ice sword in the other, it just wouldn't be the same. I took up wizards and then clerics until 2E's time eventually ran out as well and I tuned into mostly-DM.

I always thought these guys looked like they might be rangers
So there's my "Best Character Ever" post - he didn't have the deepest characterization or background or personality quirks or a cool illustration or a catchphrase or some signature move but he was the one I played the most, for the longest time, and covered the greatest span of time of any character of mine having been born at the start of a decade and my new hobby while I was wrapping up elementary school  and fading out at the end of that first era as I progressed through college. I lived in 3 different states in the course of his career, went to 5 different schools, and probably played with 50 different people in those runs. It's been a long time but looking over his sheet brings back a ton of memories of that time and where some of those notes and even items came from.

 I feel myself getting a little misty-eyed and philosophical but I'll spare you most of it. It's not even nostalgia in the "things-were-better-back-then" sense but more of realizing that I spent a lot of time having a blast with people whose names I don't even remember now but I have their character's name scrawled in the margin of a character sheet or a treasure list and I can recall exactly what we did that day. All I will say is don't be ashamed  of those early days and don't discount them - maybe you were in a group where the cleric wielded the wand of Orcus when you took on Asmodeuus and your thief backstabbed him with Excalibur for the win, but it's not something to forget - those stories can be a lot of fun and that's how things really were! Maybe it was a pure monty-haul-fest but who cares now? I'd like to see more of that kind of stuff, not less! One of these days I'll share my own whopper,  the story of our expedition to Hell and the unfortunate end of Dip the psionic chicken. Not today however - I've run on long enough.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Q is for: ?

Hmmm, this is a tough one.

Q could be for Quartermain...

... except I've never played him.

It could be for Quasimodo...

...nah. I've played some that look similar to him but never The Man himself.

Could be the caverns of Quasqueton from B1

 but that's not really a character now is it?

Could be a Quarren

but that's a species not a particular character.

The Question is a character

... but he's not MY character.

I'm really stumped. Even looking at the list of the family's 200+ City of Heroes characters I don't see a single Q-named individual.

So let's make one up.

A Superhero would be the least restrictive, plus I'm feeling inspired by that guy right up there, so let's mix and mingle to come up with something both funny (to me anyway) and interesting (if you were to play him in a tabletop game for an extended period).

What if Steve Rogers did everything just the way it's described in golden age comics?

What if at the end of the war he was betrayed by elements within the government that preferred a heroically dead superhero to a live one that might ask too many questions during the coming cold war? Perhaps he had already asked a few too many questions and certain powers were looking for an easy, palatable exit to push on the public.

What if he survived this effort though he was left frozen in an iceberg for 50 years but then freed by a pair of FBI agents looking for evidence of aliens in the ice after native rumors of a ship from the sky that crashed there 50 years ago?

What if the former patriotic hero knew who had betrayed him at the end and then was introduced to 90's America by a paranoid conspiracy enthusiast who had at times been forced to work against the American government despite working for that government?

You might get a onetime super-patriot who woke up 50 years after a seeming golden age to find a darker, dirtier world where power moved in the shadows and everyone seemed to have their own agenda. A man might feel compelled to take a stand for the things he believed in, but might believe that doing so openly would be futile or foolish in this new age. Instead he might take to the shadows, striking where he thought he could do the most good but remaining an enigma to those he considers enemies.

You might get Captain Question.

I see a full-face mask, leaving it blank like the Question's face. I see a similar bodysuit to Cap's only done in black instead of red white & blue. I see a black shield as well, possibly with a big red question mark on it. Maybe red gloves and boots to set it off. I would want it to look similar enough to Cap for people to get it, and I want him to act enough like the Question for people to get that. He kind of falls into a weird Batman-ish area with this as I can see him out haunting the streets at night but he's not out fighting crime as much as he is looking for evidence and information that will let him bring down someone big. He doesn't really care about stopping purse snatchers because he is after bigger fish.  I think it would be a lot of fun in the right campaign. Probably not one anyone around here is going to run anytime soon, but a good one. 

No dramatic illustration here either. Maybe later, if I stat him up for M&M or something. I'm not going to stat him up for ICONS either - Just give him Cap's powers with 2 levels in "Conspiracy Theory" and play him with the right attitude and you're there.

Tomorrow the letter R, which I do have relevant characters for, thank goodness.