A Marvel Super Heroes Adventure
“The Legion of the Unliving” is an adventure for any characters of roughly Avengers power level. The Avengers themselves are well-suited for this adventure, as are any magical characters. You may wish to include a magical guest star to provide help and advice if none of the heroes have magical powers themselves.
The adventure focuses around the Grim Reaper’s newest plan to restore himself to a form a life and gain revenge on the Avengers. With the help of his demon-lover Nekra, the Reaper raises some of the Avengers’ dead enemies as zombies and turns them into a new Lethal Legion. With their help, he plans to steal Baron Zemo’s ionic ray, stored in a SHIELD depot, and use it to turn himself into an ionic energy being like his brother, Wonder Man. With such tremendous power at his command, and a group of super-zombies at his back, the Reaper can then turn his attention towards destroying the accursed Avengers once and for all!
Magical Guest Stars
Plenty of the things in this adventure – zombies, voodoo, undead villains – are pretty creepy, outside the general experience of most heroes. If the players aren’t running any magical heroes (and don’t want to, even for just one adventure) you can take the opportunity to introduce a guest star to help the heroes out with some of the weirder magical stuff going on around them. Dr. Strange is the obvious choice when it comes to providing magical help and advice, but feel free to use whatever mystical hero you like. The Scarlet Witch is a good possibility for Avengers-related heroes. You can also bring in more obscure characters like the Midnight Sons or even Brother Voodoo to help out the heroes with the plague of villainous zombies.
If you do use a guest star, be careful not to steal the heroes’ thunder. The guest star is around to advise and help out the heroes, not solve the adventure for them (what a boring story that would be!). The guest star hero should always be distracted by something at critical moments in the adventure, allowing the heroes to take center stage. Remember, magicians have the Spell Focused limit on their powers, so anything they do won’t take effect immediately. Most of them are only human, even Dr. Strange can get knocked out or stunned by a surprise attack if he doesn’t have time to call on the Shields of the Seraphim.
Having escaped from servitude in the depths of a dark netherworld, Nekra, the mutant mistress of voodoo, performs a ritual to bring her lover, the Grim Reaper back to pseudo-life at her side. The Reaper is Nekra’s equal in his capacity for hatred and vegenace, and Nekra herself thirsts for revenge against those who have wronged her: the Avengers, and all of humanity.
Once he is restored, the Grim Reaper and Nekra waste no time in preparing a new plan. In addition to gaining his revenge, the Reaper wants to restore himself and Nekra to life, to end their existence as undead. He makes some inquiries and comes up with a plan to rebuild Baron Zemo’s ionic ray, the device which transformed his brother, Simon Williams, into Wonder Man.
Assault on SHIELD
The Reaper has Nekra summon other villains from the afterlife, three former members of the Masters of Evil: the original Black Knight, the Melter, and Skurge, the Executioner. The Executioner, at least, is not pleased about being called back to the world of the living. Let’s listen in on the new Lethal Legion when their final member appears:
“Why, Reaper? Why hast thou torn me away from mine eternal reward in Valhalla? Tell me before I strike the leering head from thy shoulders and send thy spirit to the darkest reaches of Hela’s domain!”
“Why? Because I have need of your power, my friend, and so long as you are bound by the power of my dear Nekra’s ritual, you have no choice but to obey. Once you have done as I’ve asked, I’ll release you back to your so-called ‘eternal reward,’ but not a moment before.”
“What about us, Reaper?”
“Don’t worry, Melter. The Executioner may wish to return to death, but the rest of us will soon have life and power beyond imagining, enough power to exact our revenge on the Avengers and destroy anyone who stands in our way!”
With his new Lethal Legion assembled, the Grim Reaper has Executioner use the Dimension Travel power of his enchanted axe to carry the villains to a SHIELD depot in Manhattan, where the agency has stored many devices and materials confiscated from super-villains over the years. The Melter dissolves the reinforced wall of the building and the villains deal with the SHIELD agents who try to stop them. Their goal is the plans for Baron Zemo’s ionic ray device, stored in a sub-basement of the building.
Heroes may receive an emergency alert from SHIELD or hear about the assault on the depot on the news. Magical heroes may get a sudden premonition of danger connected to the zombies. The Lethal Legion fights any heroes who try to stop them from acquiring the ionic ray plans. They do not hesitate to take SHIELD agents or other people nearby as hostages. The Melter and the Black Knight may also use some of the other weapons and devices stored at the depot against the heroes. Feel free to use the weapons or devices of any captured or inactive villain you like. Most of the weapons in the depot are +5 or Intensity 12.
During the fight, the Executioner is a reluctant participant. If he defeats an opponent, he raises his axe, as if to deliver a final blow, but relents at the last moment and deliberately misses the hero. Heroes who make a challenging Intellect action during the fight notice the Executioner is deliberately holding back. He’s clearly not as enthusiastic as the other villains.
The Grim Reaper’s stats are in the main Roster Book. For the rest of his Lethal Legion, use the following:
Black Knight: Strength 8X, Agility 6X, Intellect 4C, Willpower 2X, Health 17. Biology, Genetics. Armor +3, Energy Lance 10 (Energy Blast, Smoke Screen). Flying Horse (Strength 10, Agility 4, Health 10, Wings 8). Calling: Vengeance.
Executioner: Strength 16C, Agility 6X, Intellect 4X, Willpower 8X, 20. Axes, Brawling. Enhanced Senses 12 (sight), Resistance to Heat and Cold 8, Magical Axe +5 (Dimensional Travel 12). Calling: Repentant.
Melter: Strength 5X, Agility 3X, Intellect 6D, Willpower 4D, Health 17. Finance, Gadgetry. Melting Gun 12 (Distintigration, only causes targets to melt). Calling: Vengeance.
Nekra: Strength 8X, Agility 10C, Intellect 4D, Willpower 12X, Health 17. Dancing, Martial Arts, Occult. Ability Boost (Strength) +4, Animation (Necromancy) 14. Calling: Vengeance. Hindrance: Triggered-Powerless (0 Intensity in all powers) by feelings of love and compassion.
In addition to the powers they had in life, the villanous zombies have Life Support 15, Regeneration 18, and are Invulnerable to Aging, Cold, Disease, Emotion Control, Mental Control and Poisons.
If the Legion seems too weak to take on the heroes, add any of your own favorite dead villains to the group’s membership, but no cosmic-level villains (the Executioner is about as powerful a villain as the Nekra can summon and control with her voodoo).
Once the Lethal Legion finds the plans for the ionic ray, the Executioner uses his Dimensional Travel power to open a portal for the Legion to escape.
Assemblage of Doom
Over the next few days, the Lethal Legion steals the parts and equipment needed to build a new ionic ray device. Their method of attack is for the Executioner to create a portal using his magical axe, the Legion deals with any security or other obstacles, seizes the needed material and escapes through another gateway. The strikes are lightning fast, giving heroes and authorities little time to respond. The heroes should hear about one or two of the strikes before they have an opportunity to try and stop the Legion.
The heroes can learn from SHIELD what plans were taken and, with a challenging Intellect action, determine what equipment the Grim Reaper needs to build a new ionic ray. Armed with that information, the heroes can try and anticipate the next place the Lethal Legion will attack, allowing the heroes to get there first and be waiting when the villains appear. Magical heroes might also get a premonition of where the Legion will appear next with a challenging Willpower action, giving the heroes some advance warning.
Choose a suitable location for the confrontation, like a Stark-Fujikawa plant on Long Island, the Oracle, Inc. building in Manhattan (a good opportunity for a guest appearance by the Heroes for Hire), or a Roxxon facility outside the city (which might also be concealing some illegal activities on the part of Roxxon). If any of the heroes have ties with high-tech companies or government organizations, use one of them to put the hero on “home ground” and make the whole thing more personal.
The main goal of this encounter is to give the heroes another shot at the Lethal Legion and another chance to learn how to fight them. The heroes also get another shot at noticing the Executioner’s discontent with the situation. If the heroes manage to capture one or two of the Legion, that’s not a problem, but Grim Reaper, Nekra and the Executioner should get away. Use Doom Cards to help ensure their escape, if necessary. If the Melter or the Black Knight are captured, you can replaced them with new undead villains for the final encounter, or simply use the remaining villains. With the powers granted to them by the ionic ray, they should still be more than powerful enough.
Fear the Reaper
Once he has assembled a new ionic ray, the Grim Reaper uses it on himself and his allies. The ray works just as the Reaper hoped it would: granting him tremendous physical power and making him the equal of Wonder Man. He provides the same benefits to Nekra, Melter and the Black Knight, but the Executioner refuses to undergo the ionic ray treatment (which is fortunate, since its effects on Asgardians is unknown).
The ionic ray grants each of the villains a +10 boost to Strength, and they retain all of their zombie powers and natural abilities. The ionic empowerment also makes the villains immune to any zombie-affecting magic (since they are not truly undead or exactly alive, but somewhere in-between).
The Executioner demands his freedom from the Grim Reaper’s service, but the Reaper refuses, saying that his revenge is not yet complete. Once the Avengers are destroyed, only then will he allow the Executioner to return to his final reward. But first, the Reaper wants to test his newfound power on the heroes who tried to thwart his plans. (If the players are using the Avengers as heroes, the Reaper goes after them directly.)
The vastly more powerful Lethal Legion attacks the heroes in a public place. It could be at their headquarters (if it is publicly known), at some event in the heroes’ honor or while the heroes are investigating the activities of the Legion. If they are unable to find the heroes, the Lethal Legion simply goes on a rampage through midtown Manhattan, with the Grim Reaper shouting a challenge for them to come out and face him.
During the whole confronation, the Grim Reaper keeps talking about how he will use his vast power to destroy anyone who stands in his way. All of the ionically-charged villains are drunk with power, the Reaper and Nekra in particular. The heroes are very likely taken off guard at first and overwhelmed by the villains’ vast increase in power-level. Pull out all the stops for this fight, with plenty of property damage and destruction to go around. The villains use cars, lamp-posts, even buses and whole buildings as weapons against the heroes.
If the Vision or Wonder Man are present, the Grim Reaper concentrates his fury against them, since he blames them for destroying his life. If not, the Reaper concentrates his attacks on any Avengers heroes or the heroes who were particularly troublesome to hin during the adventure. The Melter has a grudge against the Avengers and the Black Knight against Iron Man, who he blames for his own death. Nekra attacks anyone threatening the Grim Reaper and particularly goes after magical heroes.
Once again, the Executioner is a reluctant participant in the battle. He is beginning to understand that the Grim Reaper will never release him fron his forced servitude, and he is fighting against the Reaper’s control. A hero who appeals to the Executioner’s sense of honor can help him break free of the necromantic spell with a daunting Willpower action. If the hero is successful, the Executioner turns on the Grim Reaper and strikes him with his magical axe. The wound leaks ionic energy rather than blood and causes the Reaper to begin to destabilize immediately.
The Reaper’s End
Unknown to the Grim Reaper, the ionic ray process – designed for living beings – does not interact well with the undead. Although the ray has supercharged the zombie villains for a short time, is also destabilized their cell structures. Living things affected by the ionic ray eventually go into a hibernation state where they metamophose into beings of pure ionic energy. The undead simply continue to build up ionic energy until they explode.
Five exchanges into the fight with the heroes, the Grim Reaper and his allies begin to glow visibly. The following exchange, the zombie villains are wracked with terrible pain and the glow grows brighter and brighter. Any hero with mystical or enhanced senses able to detect energy sense a massive power build-up in the charged villains. Any hero with Danger Sense or Precognition feels a massive imminent danger. An average Intellect action is enough to tell a hero that the villains cannot contain the ionic energy infused into their bodies, they’re building towards a critical mass explosion powerful enough to level more than ten city blocks!
The heroes have to act fast in order to prevent the explosion. A hero with energy control or absorption powers can try to drain enough energy to stop the explosion, or at least reduce its force. This requires an unfathomable Absorption or Energy Control action. A force field or similar defense can contain the explosion with an unfathomable Force Field action. Heroes can also attempt to get the Lethal Legion out of the area before they explode, requiring a desperate action with the appropriate movement power.
If a hero suggests it, the Executioner can use his magical axe to open a dimensional rift to cast the villains into before they explode. Another hero with Teleportation or Dimensional Travel can also attempt to remove the villains before they attempt to explode with a desperate action.
Make the players think and act quickly, don’t give them too much time to plan. Tell them the glow around the villains is becoming blinding in its intensity and an explosion in imminent. If the players have absolutely no idea how to deal with the crisis – and you don’t want to turn a 10-block area of Manhattan into a smoking crater – the Executioner can intervene at the last moment, opening a dimensional rift that pulls himself and the rest of the Lethal Legion into it. The last thing the heroes see is the Executioner nobly saluting them before the rift closes.
Any heroes caught in the blast who are not Invulnerable to Energy should be badly injured at the very least. You can use effects of the ionic explosion as an excuse to change a hero’s powers; increasing them, decreasing them or altering them altogether as part of the response bonus for the adventure.
If the Executioner is not destroyed along with the rest of the Lethal Legion, he is freed from the Grim Reaper’s control and uses his magical axe to return to Valhalla. He thanks the heroes before he leaves, calling them true champions and says he was honored to fight at their side. The authorities work to track down the Grim Reaper’s ionic ray device, but it doesn’t turn up immediately. Perhaps another villain gets hold of it or a small-time criminal uses it to become a new super-villain with powers to rival those of Wonder Man.
If the Lethal Legion was sent into another dimension before they reached critical mass, it is possible the effects of the dimensional travel stablized their condition, restoring them to life, or a semblance of it (especially if they were exiled to the energy dampening Darkforce Dimension). The Grim Reaper and his allies could return to menace the heroes at some future date.
If you are running this adventure as part of the Avengers: Masters of Evil series, then the idea for the Grim Reaper to make use of Baron Zemo’s ionic ray came from none other than the current Baron Zemo, who knew (or at least theorized) the effects it would have on undead flesh. The Lethal Legion’s attacks provide useful distractions for Zemo, keeping heroes busy while he works on his final fiendish plan, which is revealed in our final adventure: “Zemo the Conqueror.”
The Grim Reaper and his allies also steal a few technological components useful to Zemo’s plans. A hero who studies the list of items stolen by the Lethal Legion notices there are some items that don’t seem to relate at all to the building of an ionic ray by making a challening Intellect action. Another challening Intellect action allows a hero who participated in “Lightning Rods… Strike!” to notice that the extra items stolen by the Legion are the same type take by the Lightning Rods while under outside control.
If Zemo is behind things, then he is the one who takes possession of the ionic ray at the end of the adventure, adding it to his collection of his father’s devices. Zemo might even try using the ionic ray on himself, or a suitable minion, following the events in “Zemo the Conqueror”.