Originally published in Dragon magazine #252
Bases in the Marvel Super Heroes Adventure Game
The Avengers’ Mansion, Castle Doom and Four Freedoms Plaza. All of these places are landmarks of the Marvel Universe. More importantly, they are the headquarters of heroes like the Avengers and the Fantastic Four or villains like Doctor Doom. Bases, installations and headquarters are a staple of the comics. This article talks about how to add bases to the MARVEL SUPER HEROES Adventure Game, both heroic headquarters and villainous secret hide-outs.
Location, Location, Location
The first thing to consider in building a base is: where is it located? A base might be in a city, like the Avengers’ Mansion, or it might be located on the outskirts, a safe distance from the city, such as when the Avengers relocated to Hydrobase off the coast of Manhattan. The base could be some distance from major cities and towns, like Dr. Doom’s castle in the Adirondack Mountains. Such a location provides more privacy, but makes the base less accessible.
Of course, the base could be even more distant: deep underground or underwater, or hidden away in a distant place like Antarctica or Tibet. It might not even be on Earth, located in orbit, on another planet or even in a distant galaxy, like the Dyson sphere rock singer and mutant teleporter Lila Cheney used as a base for intergalactic piracy.
Generally speaking, hero bases tend to be closer to the people the heroes work to protect, and are accessible to the public in some way. Some heroes (like the X-Men) prefer to keep a low-profile, and don’t publicize the location of their base, but they remain close to places where they’re likely to be needed (Salem Center isn’t very far away from New York City). Villain bases are usually hidden or located in distant places where they can’t easily be found or attacked.
Once the location of the base is chosen, ask: what is its structure? Is it some fairly ordinary structure like a house, mansion or office building, or is it something more elaborate like a castle or underground complex, or even an orbiting satellite, moonbase or Dyson sphere? The base’s Intensity can be used as the material strength of its walls and major components.
The Narrator should consider the abilities and resources of the owners of the base. Could they create or acquire such a base? For example, the Avengers are funded by the Maria Stark Foundation, which provides for their mansion headquarters. If the Avengers wanted to set up shop on the Moon, the might have some difficulties, unless they could find an existing structure they could modify (like the ruins of the Blue Area). They would also need some means to get back to Earth quickly in case of emergency; even their quinjets wouldn’t be nearly fast enough. On the other hand, an orbiting base formerly used by A.I.M. was perfect for Baron Zemo’s plan to take over the Earth: isolated and hidden from Earth’s heroes while Zemo’s bio-modem did its work, taking over the minds of the world’s military. The same is true of Magneto’s Asteroid M, isolated from the dangers facing mutants on Earth.
The designer of the base (the player or Narrator) may wish to draw a map of the base to get a better feel for the structure and layout, as well as what other features might go into the base.
A base is assumed to come with all the normal amenities of a decent house or office: living room, dining room, office space, bedrooms, furniture, and so forth. It has utilities, heat, light, and such, and a reasonable amount of space. Everything else is considered a feature, and must be purchased separately. The different features are listed below.
Backup Power: A backup power system, able to take over if the main system is damaged in any way.
Concealed: The base is hidden from casual sight by some kind of camouflage and/or its location is not generally known. Finding the base is a challenging Intellect action. A concealed base usually has its own power plant, to prevent people from locating the base by tracking its use of power and other utilities.
Isolated: The base is isolated from the rest of the world in some way, making it more difficult to reach. It may be deep underground, underwater, in a distant place (like Antarctica), in outer space, on the Moon or even in another dimension. An isolated base must have its own power plant and must be Sealed if it exists in a hostile environment.
Communications: The base can communicate via radio and TV waves (or one other means of the owner’s choice). Each additional means of communication (like a hyperspace relay) is an additional feature.
Computer: A computer capable of processing information from a library and running the base’s systems. As an additional feature, the computer can be artificially intelligent, with an Intellect equal to the Intensity.
Danger Room: A room capable of creating various holographic threats and traps for training and testing purposes.
Deathtrap: The difference between a deathtrap and a defense system is generally that the deathtrap pulls no punches; it tries to kill you. Villain bases may have many different deathtraps as part of the defense system, or reserved for putting captured heroes in.
Defense System: A defense system provides the base with weapons it can use to protect itself from intruders.
Dock: A facility for storing and maintaining water-vehicles like a boat or submarine.
Firefighting: Automated systems for snuffing fires inside the base.
Garage: A facility for storing and maintaining various ground-vehicles.
Gym: A fully-equipped gymnasium with weights, gymnastics equipment, sporting gear, track, and so forth. It includes weights or weight-simulators designed to test the Strength of any user of the base.
Hangar: A facility for storing and maintaining air-vehicles of all kinds.
Infirmary: A medical facility for treating injuries, illness and other maladies.
Lab: A facility for performing scientific tests and research.
Library: A storehouse of information. This may be actual books and paper records or computer files (or both).
Mobile: The base can move under its own power, like a vehicle.
Power Plant: The base can generate its own power, rather than drawing on outside power. The power plant may supply all of the base’s needs, or it might be kept in reserve, in case outside power is cut off.
Prison: A facility for holding people captive. It includes power-dampners or other measures to hold super-powered prisoners.
Sealed: The base is independent of the outside environment and has its own air, food and water resources.
Security System: The base has alarms and sensors designed to detect intruders. Overcoming the security system is a challenging Intellect action.
Sensors: The base can visually detect things inside and outside (using closed-circuit cameras or something similar). Each additional sense is another feature.
Staff: The base has a staff of personnel to take care of it and the needs of its residents. This may be a single very efficient butler or housekeeper, or a full staff of specialized personnel.
Vast: The base is much larger than a mansion, castle or office building. It may be a tesseract, larger on the inside than it appears outside, or it might be a huge installation, perhaps even an entire world or dimension.
Bases may also have powers of their own, above and beyond the base’s features. A base generally has the same Intensity for all powers. Base powers are controlled by the base’s computer or security system, but may be under the direct control of the base’s owners or may be an inherent property of the base itself. The Narrator has final say about any powers given to the base.
Paying the Cost
When players design a base, the cost is calculated just like the cost of equipment: the Intensity of the base, plus the total number of features and powers the base has. Heroes can use their response bonus to built a base, with each hero contributing some of the initial cost. The Narrator may allow a base to be built in pieces; with the heroes donating response bonus for the basic features of their new headquarters, then adding new features and increasing Intensity as times goes on. Adding to or repairing an existing base is a good use of response bonus for a team of heroes; the heroes donating their response bonus should help work on the repairs or upgrades in some way, even if it’s only moving and lifting the heavy stuff.
Of course, the Narrator can ignore or modify this cost as desired. A Narrator may wish to provide a base to the Heroes free of cost at the start of a series, and many established heroes and teams already have bases of their own. Villains and other characters, of course, don’t have to worry about the cost of a base. If the Narrator wants them to have it, they do, with whatever features are needed.
The monetary cost of a base is entirely up to the Narrator. If the builder doesn’t have the money to afford a base, he or she may be able to acquire the base by some other means, such as assistance from the government or a wealthy patron. Of course, villains can always try and steal the funds they need to construct a new base.
Many different adventures can be built around a base, either a hero’s or a villain’s. Here are a few possibilities:
- The heroes’ base is taken over by an outside force, turning it into a giant deathtrap to be used against them. Security and defense systems are turned against the heroes, who must find a way of regaining control of the base.
- The base is stolen by another party, either seized and taken over or literally removed from its former location and transported somewhere else (like another planet or dimension).
- The base contains something desired by another character, who breaks into the base to steal the item in question.
- The base is assaulted by enemies of the inhabitants; this might be heroes trying to capture a villain or villains making a strike against the heroes.
- The base contains secrets unknown to the current owners or inhabitants, like when X-Factor took possession of Apocalypse’s Ship, unaware that it was a Celestial construct.
- The base contains a portal or means of entry for invaders from another planet or dimension, such as the Negative Zone portal in Four Freedoms plaza, or the dimensional portals in Dr. Strange’s mansion.
- The patron who helped provide the base has some strings attached. For example, a government-provided base might require the heroes using it to have a government liaison and work as government operatives.
Provided here are some examples of bases in the Marvel Universe and their features according to this system.
Intensity 18. Backup Power, Communications, Computer, Concealed, Hangar, Infirmary, Isolated, Lab, Library, Power Plant, Sealed, Security System, Sensors
Asteroid M is an orbiting base used by Magneto. It has been destroyed and reconstructed by the Master of Magnetism many times over the years. The base is built in and on a hollowed-out asteroid in orbit above the Earth, concealed by various sensor-baffling systems. For a time, Asteroid M was renamed “Avalon” and used as a base by Magneto’s Acolytes, brought there by Exodus’ teleportation power.
Intensity 14. Backup Power, Communications, Computer, Defense System, Firefighting, Garage, Gym, Hangar, Infirmary, Lab, Library, Prison, Security System, Staff
One of the most famous headquarters in the Marvel Universe is the Avengers’ Mansion, located on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. The mansion originally belonged to the Stark family and was donated to the Avengers by Tony Stark (alias Iron Man). It contains the Avengers’ sophisticated computer and communications systems, as well as housing the team’s quinjets and the active Avengers who choose to live there. The mansion is ably cared for by Jarvis, the Avengers’ faithful butler.
Dr. Doom’s Castle
Intensity 15. Backup Power, Communications, Computer, Deathtrap, Defense System, Hangar, Isolated, Lab, Power Plant, Prison, Security System
Built along the lines of Castle Doom in Latveria, Doom’s castle is hidden away in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York. Doom used it in his first attack on the Fantastic Four and in many subsequent plots. In Dr. Doom’s absence, the castle was taken over by the criminal geneticist Arnim Zola, who was defeated by the Thunderbolts.
Dr. Strange’s Mansion
Intensity 16. Concealed, Library, Staff, Vast
Located on Bleeker Street in Greenwich Village, Doctor Strange’s mansion is an unassuming three-story house built over an ancient power-site. The interior of the mansion is much larger than the outside dimensions would suggest, and features strangely shifting rooms that seem to appear and disappear at random. The mansion houses the Sorcerer Supreme’s collection of mystical artifacts and once served as the ad-hoc headquarters of the Defenders.
Professor Xavier’s Institute for Higher Learning (the X-Mansion)
Intensity 15. Backup Power, Communications, Computer, Concealed, Danger Room, Defense System, Firefighting, Garage, Gym, Hangar, Infirmary, Lab, Library, Prison, Power Plant, Security System
Located on a large private estate near the town of Salem Center in New York State, the mansion operates under the guise of a private school run by Professor Charles Xavier. The mansion conceals the headquarters of the infamous X-Men, with several secret underground levels holding the team’s facilities, including the famous Danger Room and a hangar for their super-sonic jet, the Blackbird. The X-Mansion still serves as a school as well, training the young mutants of Generation X.
Intensity 12. Backup Power, Communications, Computer, Defense System, Hangar, Isolated, Power Plant, Prison, Security System, Sensors, Staff, Vast
The United States Special Penitentiary (known as “the Vault”) is secretly located in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. The prison is specially built to contain super-powered criminals, and was once able to hold the members of the East and West Coast Avengers. Prison break-outs are common, and heroes may be called in to help contain them. Heroes accused or convicted of a crime may face time in the Vault, which is not as easy to escape from as the number of breakouts suggests.