GURPS Superpunk

The Dark Future in Four-Color

The dark future dystopia of cyberpunk has lent itself to being blended with many other genres, from the fantasy magic of Shadowrun to the creeping eldrich horror ofCthulupunk. Genre combinations seem to thrive on contrast between two vastly different worlds colliding and melding to create a world that works. One of the potentially strangest combinations is when cyberpunk meets the four-color world of comic book super-heroes. This article presents just such a world.

History

A lot of the history of the Superpunk world is different from our own, sometimes radically different. The world is also a very good example of the fact that the victors write the history. Much of the history leading up to the present-day world is rather obscure and should remain that way for a while to provide gamemasters with a few mysteries.

The 20th Century was a shining time when the Age of Heroes began and probably ended. Stories are still told about how there were many men and women with powers far beyond those of their fellow humans, who used their abilities in the cause of truth and justice. They fought other supers bent on the destruction and domination of others and triumphed. They are legends, like the gods of the ancient past. And like all gods, they eventually came to their Ragnarok.

Sometime near the end of the 20th Century or the beginning of the 21st, no one is quite sure, came the Dark Times. Something happened to the heroes of the world. They faced a final crisis that even their amazing powers could not overcome. Perhaps a villain’s master scheme finally came to a successful conclusion. Perhaps some cosmic disaster attacked the Earth. No one knows. What is known is that Earth’s superheroes and many of its villains disappeared, killed or taken away. In the aftermath of the Dark Times, the world suffered years of chaos, starvation, plague and conflict. Governments rose and fell and the frightened people were more concerned with survival over history.

Eventually, humanity persevered and emerged from the chaos of the Dark Time into a more stable world. Order was restored by the multinational corporations that had been the prime survivors of the conflicts. They shored up and assisted weak and crippled governments in providing for the people and in exchange took hold of the reigns of power. A world as dark as any imagined by a would be world conqueror had come about and there were no more heroes left to prevent it.

Superhumans still exist, but none of them have the kind of legendary power associated with the heroes of the past. Some blame the thinning of the metahuman gene pool while others talk about the fading of the flame of hope and faith that people once placed in those costumed heroes to protect and save them. A great many supers work for the corps or the government, using their powers to maintain order. Others become criminals or businessmen, mercenaries or even vigilantes trying to resurrect some of the spirit of heroes of old.

The World

Gamemasters looking to develop a Superpunk campaign can create a whole new campaign world or make use of an existing campaign world and simply modify it to account for the Age of Heroes and the events that led to its downfall as described above. Superhero campaigns can be advanced into a Superpunk era by projecting them 50 to 100 years into the future and cyberpunk campaign worlds can be modified by adding some additional background to them to account for the presence of metahumans and super-powers.

For example, the GURPS Cyberworld setting can be made into a Superpunk campaign fairly easily by assuming that it was once a world not unlike the IST world described in GURPS Supers, with metahuman heroes and villains. Perhaps the Tolliver’s Disease epidemic that occurred in the late 20th and early 21st Century had a devastating effect on metahumans in particular, attacking and killing them mercilessly. The greater concentration of meta-genes the victim had the more likely they were to succumb the disease and die. This undermined the United Nation’s IST program to such an extent that their plans for world peace and government cooperation began to crumble. The events that followed like the Grand Slam brought the power of the U.N. crashing down.

When the Provisional Government took power in the United States, the hammer fell on superhumans in addition to other sub-cultures, and supers are genetically tested for and required to register with the government and the NERCC. The Pro-Gov has plenty of their own “pet” supers that they use for espionage and black ops. So do the korps and most of the organized crime factions. Some few supers escape detection and become vigilantes, rebels or mercenaries.

The TD plague could have been genetically engineered. Part of a plot to destroy the IST and cripple the U.N. or it could have been accidental or even the natural result of rampantly mutating Seeder genes out of control. The Provisional Government and the conquest of the United States might also be the result of some villainous plot or the work of more mundane forces. Perhaps a super-villain or two have gone underground and are now the forces behind Pro-Gov and the NERCC.

The presence of supers has provided the technological advancements to make things like bionics and the net a reality, and the technology in this world might be even more advanced than the original Cyberworld, perhaps “mature” Tech Level 8 on its way to TL9.

Gamemasters can find several different sources of inspiration for Superpunk worlds in the Source Material listing at the end of this article.

Supers

Power and prejudice

Super abilities are something of a mixed blessing in the 21st Century. For some people, supers evoke memories of the legendary heroes of the past, shining examples of all that was good in humanity. For others those memories are bitter and they recall only those who abused their power and how the heroes of the world failed to save it in its hour of need. Supers who display their powers openly will be the subject of awe and respect or envy and prejudice (usually both). Few people react blandly upon meeting a super.

Masks and code-names

In memory of the Age of Heroes, many supers still maintain the tradition of wearing costumes and masks and having colorful code names. Sometimes this is strictly for show and PR, other times it is necessary for a vigilante or criminal super to protect their identity from the authorities. Code-names have become sort of nicknames that supers acquire based on their powers, that they use as a street handle or sometimes a stage or professional name.

Psionics

Psionic abilities are among the most common of super-powers, and many researchers believe that psi is the basis for virtually all powers that do involve physical mutations (and even some that do). The existence of psionic abilities since the Age of Heroes and the Establishment’s considerable paranoia over telepathy has led to the development of some low-level psionic technology (see below).

Magic

21st Century scholars speculate the “magic” as it was known in the Age of Heroes was nothing more than misunderstood psionic ability cloaked in mysticism. The various magical incantations and spells were simply the means by which some psionic supers focused their concentration. This has lead to the “magic is dead” school of thought that says that not only doesn’t magic exist, it never did. Rumors from the streets and dark corners of the globe suggest that magic may still exist but that something happened during the dark times that changed or eliminated the wielders of the power. These rumors range from magic-users leaving Earth for another, more hospitable, dimension to underground groups of mages biding their time and waiting to unleash their hordes of magical creatures on an unsuspecting world.

The Role of Supers

Supers in this world take up all of the roles you expect to find in a cyberpunk setting: Special Ops (for the government, organized crime and the corps), Mercenaries, Rebels, Criminals, Vigilantes and Celebrities of all kinds.

Technology

The Superpunk world has all of the normal cyberpunk levels of technology (Tech Level 8 in GURPS). There is cyberware and advanced personal weapons and body armor. This technology can make heavily cybered characters an even match for many supers.

Bionics

The cyberware described in GURPS Cyberpunk is available. Full cyborg replacement bodies are still in the experimental stage, but bionic limb and organ replacements have been around for years, along with neural interfaces and similar equipment. Characters are required to pay character points for cybernetics, but there is no Unusual Background cost associated with them because they are common technology.

The Net

The Net has become a fully realized virtual reality with environmental interfaces through neural links. All of the world’s telecommunications are routed through a massive and complex communications grid. Gamemasters can consult the systems from GURPS Cyberpunk for handling netruns and computer hacking on the Net. Some supers with the Cyberpsi ability exist and can become fearsome hackers with even a small measure of power and skill.

Rumor on the street speaks of the existence of a pirate BBS known as HeroNet, which functions as a clearing house of data on supers and matters concerning them, especially any information that may have survived about the Age of Heroes. The BBS moves around a great deal to avoid being closed down by the authorities, but skilled or connected characters can track it down and access its stores of information for clues about little-known super abilities or bits of near-legendary information about the supers of the past.

Psi-tech

The existence of psionic supers has led to the development of some psi-tech, mostly to defend against hostile psis. Psionic detectors can be used to detect if a person has psi abilities, psi-shielding helmets (in common use by government and corporate troops) and various psionic dampening fields and impeders. Generally, all of the TL8 psionic technology from GURPS Psionics is available.

Characters

Point Totals

Superpunk characters are built on 250 points. This allows for the creation of a moderately powerful super or a very capable cybered or “off the rack” normal. This does not include the 30 point Unusual Background cost for being a super. Supers are in many ways more common (albeit weaker than they were in the Age of Heroes) due to mutagens in the environment and similar factors bringing metahuman abilities into expression. This brings the base points for Superpunk characters to 280 plus up to 60 points in Disadvantages.

Note that very competent super-normal characters can be built on 280 points and that the possession of cyberware or other TL8 equipment does not require an Unusual Background unless the equipment is experimental or especially unusual.

Power Limitations

The disaster that ended the Age of Heroes caused a “thinning-out” of the metahuman genes. The supers of the Superpunk world are not as powerful as their predecessors and have some limits on their abilities. Enhanced attributes are fairly common, but Enhanced Strength cannot exceed 30 and other attributes cannot exceed 25. Psionic abilities are limited to Power 10, except for Teleportation, which may go up to Power 15. Powers other than psi are generally limited to Power 6 for damaging powers and Power 12 for non-combat abilities.

Magic does actually still exist, but mages have become very rare. There is a 50 point Unusual Background cost to purchase Magical Aptitude. The world is at a level of Normal Mana, with High and Low Mana at a few places and times. Magery and spells are purchased from GURPS Magic. Note that learning magic can be a very catch-as-catch-can process and that magical abilities are often not affected by normal super-powered or psionic resistance, they can catch people by surprise if they think the mage is “just” a super.

Adventures

Golden Age

The player characters travel back in time with the aid of an ancient gadget from the Age of Heroes or perhaps with the help of a new super with time travel powers. They go back to attempt to prevent the fall of the Age of Heroes and stop their world from coming about. Will they succeed? If they do, will they be trapped in a world that is not their own? Superpunk character would have an interesting time trying to fit into a world of four-color supers who are more powerful than they are and governed by a stricter moral code.

The Cosmic Super

Rumors have hit the streets about a new super who has only recently discovered her powers. The stories say that she is incredibly powerful, on par with some of the heroes from distant past. Stories of her exploits are rapidly attracting the attention of the government and the corporations, all of whom want to secure her for themselves, or eliminate her as a possible threat. Can the player characters help her escape and use her powers to fight for change?

Aliens Have Landed

One of their number lived among us for many years (as a hero or perhaps villain of the Age of Heroes), now they’ve come to find out what became of their brother, only to find he is long dead and the primitive world he was living on is developing at an alarming rate. Any number of comic-book alien races would take an interest in a Superpunk world. Some might wish to contain and help tame such a place while others might see it as ripe for conquest. Who knows? Perhaps the disaster that ended the Age of Heroes was just the prelude for a long-term alien invasion plan. For example, a collapse of Earth civilization could have some interesting effects on the Earth-Meeranon alliance fromGURPS IST.

This scenario could rapidly turn a Superpunk campaign into an outer-space science fiction adventure as well!

The Villain Awakens

A powerful super-villain from the Age of Heroes had the forethought to protect himself from the disaster that led to the Superpunk era, perhaps he even engineered it to eliminate all of his foes and leave a world ripe for conquest. The villain awakens from cryogenic sleep in his hidden lair and begins taking stock of the world and making new plans for conquest. The most powerful heroes of the last Age only barely defeated his plans. What can this new crop of weakling supers do to stop him? Fight dirty, that’s what.

Hell Night

On Halloween night there are strange sightings and incidents all over the Sprawl. Rumors are buzzing about a new underground cult that claims to have real mages among its leadership. They are planning a massive ritual that will summon a powerful demon and his horde from the netherhells on All Hallows Eve. The cult might just be a cover from some bizarre scam or a front for a group of psionic supers but it might also be for real, in which case it’s going to be a real hot time in the old town tonight.

Other Games

In addition to GURPS, a Superpunk campaign could be set up in any major super-hero game system, notably Champions by Hero Games. Brave gamemasters could also liven up a cyberpunk campaign by “revealing” the hidden history of the Age of Heroes and adding in super-powers or creating a Superpunk campaign with an event that leads to the creation of supers in the game world, such as a biotech experiment gone wrong or genetic tampering by alien or even an AI.

Sources

The following source material can give gamemasters some inspiration for characters and adventures in a Superpunk setting.

Cybergeneration, R.Talsorian Games. A nanotech virus gives the youth of the cyberpunk world superhuman powers to fight the evil corporate state.

Dark Champions, Hero Games. Champions supplement for vigilante super-heroes on the mean streets of the city. Good source material for a near-future campaign in general.

F.R.E.E.Lancers, TSR, Inc. A long out-of-print supplement for the Top Secret/SI game that featured a dark-future with “metabiles,” super-humans working as mercenaries. More recently resurrected in a novel of the same name by Mel Odom.

Marvel 2099 Comics, Marvel Comics. The future of the Marvel Universe in a cyberpunkish sort of world, with new versions of many favorite characters. The Spider-Man, X-Men, Doom and X-Nation titles are especially inspirational for a SuperPunk game.

Underground, Mayfair Games. A weird combination of a dark dystopic future and genetically engineered war vets with super powers who think they’re really comic book characters.

Watchmen, DC Comics. Alan Moore’s classic dark-present comic book about how badly the presence of real superheroes could mess up our world.

Wild Cards, George R.R. Martin’s anthology series of super-humans created from exposure to an alien genetic virus. Releasing the Wild Card plague (through alien intervention or nanotechnology) on your cyberpunk campaign could lead to some very strange and interesting results, as could taking the Wilds Cards universe presented in the books and advancing it to the year 2030 or so. Some of the characters from the books (like the immortal Golden Boy) would still be alive and kicking!

The Uncanny X-Men, Marvel Comics. Especially useful are the “Days of Future Past” and “Age of Apocalypse” storylines, about an alternate dark-futures where mutants are hunted criminals.

Wyrmseeker

Wyrmseeker is the magical sworld wielded by the dwarf hero Narn Dragon-slayer. What is not known is that Narn’s blade drew its power from the horror Verjigorm, the Hunter of Great Dragons, and that Narn was a willing pawn of the Horror in exchange for power and pretiege. Narn was slain by the elven elementalist and dragon-friend Dianuus and his sword and shield giving into the care of one of the dragons for safekeeping. Unfortunately the wyrm died during the Scourge and Wyrmseeker was found by the unsuspecting adepts of kaer Daralon.

Spell Defense: 21
Number of Threads: 2

Rank 1 Cost: 500
Key Knowledge: The character must know that this is the sword Wyrmseeker, wielded once by Narn Dragon-slayer.
Effect: Wyrmseeker does STR+6 steps damage. It also may detect the presence of dragons nearby as well as the minions and constructs of Verjigorm like the shadows or minor horrors.

Rank 2 Cost: 800
Effect: Wyrmseeker’s damage increases to STR+8 steps and it ignores the Armored Scales power of dragons, allowing it to inflict armor-defeating hits on an Excellent Success as normal.

Rank 3 Cost: 1,300
Key Knowledge: After the sword’s Rank 2 thread is woven, it draws the attention of Verjigorm. The horror is able to Horror Mark the sword-bearer and begins to use its Thought Worm power to slowly infiltrate the character’s dreams. The horror sends information and instructions through these dreams and-if the character resists-it sends pain and injury as well. The sword-wielder has strange adventures in an alien world in his dreams, and may even earn legend points for his actions there. Verjigorm prefers that a puppet resist at first, and any Legend Points gained from the Thought Worm power can then be poured into increasing Wyrmseeker’s thread rank.
Effect: The wielder of the sword gains the ability to use the horror power of Corrupt Karma, at a level of ability equal to the wielder’s Willpower step plus the rank of the sword’s thread. This power can be used to counter the Disrupt Fate power of dragons with a successful Corrupt Karma test against the dragon’s Spell Defense.

Rank 4 Cost: 2,100
Effect: Wyrmseeker’s wielder may use the Horror power of Cursed Luck at a step equal to his Willpower step plus the rank of the sword’s thread. The sword also does STR+10 steps damage (+12 steps against dragons and drakes).

Rank 5 Cost: 3,400
Deed: The wielder has a dream (sent by Verjigorm) that guides him to an enemy of the dragon-hunter. He must slay the enemy with Wyrmseeker. In addition to the value for the enemy, the deed is worth 3,000 legend points, plus any more gained from resisting the Thought Worm. The character’s Willpower begins to errode, and he suffers -2 steps to resist any of Verjigorm’s commands.
Effect: The wielder gains the ability to draw upon Verjigorm’s karma in a manner similar to the Karma Tap horror power. When performing an action that suits the horror’s needs, the character can call upon Verjigorm telepathically. If the horror approves, the character gainst Verjigorm’s Karma Step (20) for the action, although the character must still spend his own Karma points.

Rank 6 Cost: 5,500
Deed: To weave this thread, the wielder must know the terrible truth of Wyrmseeker: that it is a creation of the horrors and meant to slay dragons as part of Verjigorm’s plans. The wielder must accept this truth and acknowledge Verjigorm as his master, effectively surrendering the ability to resist the horror’s commands.
Effect: At this rank the wielder can invoke Wyrmseeker’s terrible dragonslayer power. When this power is used, the blade is infused with the power of the Hunter of Great Dragons, inflicting 4 points of permanent damage on the wielder. The sword then does STR+32 steps damage against dragons and dracoforms and inflicts an automatic 7 wounds on any dragon it strikes for the next turn. It is this power that allowed Narn Dragon-slayer to gain his reputation and, eventually, led to his death. It is believed that the dragons slain by Wyrmseeker have their spirits drawn out by the sword and turned to some purpose by Verjigorm.

Power of the Mind

Originally published in Dragon magazine #255

Psionics in the Marvel Super Heroes Adventure Game

Whether it’s the matchless mind of Professor Charles Xavier or the tremendous telepathy and telekinesis of Nate Grey in X-Man, fantastic mental powers or “psionics” are a staple of the Marvel Universe. Psionic heroes and villains offer unique opportunities and challenges to MARVEL players and Narrators. This article looks at psi powers in the Marvel Universe and how to use them to add some interesting new twists to your MARVEL adventures.

Psi Powers

The first question is: what are “psionic powers” exactly? Psionics (“psi” for short) are extraordinary powers of the mind, like telepathy and telekinesis, the two most classic psi powers. Generally speaking, psi powers have Willpower as their trump suit, and psionic heroes rely on having a strong Willpower to help back them up in mental combat. Some psi powers have Intellect as their trump suit, particularly powers that affect the physical world, like Telekinesis.

A psionic hero should have a strong Willpower and a selection of mental powers. The hero might have only a single mental power (like Justice’s telekinesis), several powers (like Phoenix’s telepathy/telekinesis combo) or many powers, like Nate Grey’s collection of psi abilities. The Mental Control skill is very valuable for psionic heroes, since it lowers the difficulty of all powers based on Willpower (not just Mind Control). Don’t overlook the value of a Psi-Screen for protecting a psionic hero from mental attacks and powers; most psionics have some kind of mental defense to protect themselves from the powers of other psionics.

Psi powers (particularly telepathy) are very versatile, and can be used for many different stunts by the heroes and villains who possess them. In addition to all of the various stunts described in the MARVEL Game Book, here are some other applications and stunts psionics might try.

Astral Projection

Astral projectors can use Willpower powers while in astral form, allowing them to use powers like Telepathy and Mind Control on other people while they are out of their body. This is a powerful ability, since an astral projector cannot be affected or even detected by anyone without the appropriate mental powers. Narrators should beware of heroes who try to go into action solely in astral form, making them immune to counterattack.

Heroes and villains capable of astral projection may fight battles entirely on the astral plane (like Professor X against the Shadow King, or Dr. Strange and many of his opponents). In astral form, physical abilities like Strength and Agility are irrelevant. Willpower serves the same function as Strength and Intellect the same function as Agility on the astral plane. Physical powers have no effect, only Willpower-based powers work. Two opponents with astral projection can fight a battle without anyone in the physical world even noticing.

Illusion

As mentioned in the MARVEL Game Book, illusion can be a very potent power when its true nature is concealed from others. A skilled illusionist can appear to have any number of powers, even Reality Warping, if the subjects of the illusion don’t know it’s an illusion. Moonglow (from the Squadron Supreme) concealed the true nature of her illusion powers and pretended to have powers of Flight, Phasing, Light and Gravity Control using an illusory image of herself. The super-villain Mastermind was an expert at using illusions to confuse his opponents and turn them against each other by twisting reality, such as when he turned Phoenix against the X-Men or the X-Men against Cyclops by convincing them Cyclops was actually Dark Phoenix reborn.

A skilled illusionist often mixes illusion and reality, using an illusion to conceal a real danger like a trap or an enemy.

Mind Control

If an illusionist can make you doubt your senses, a mind controller can make you doubt your own thoughts and memories. Can you ever really be sure you did something of your own will, or was there some outside influence? A subtle opponent with Mind Control can plant thoughts, alter memories and arrange things so it’s almost impossible to be sure.

Generally speaking, only villains use powers like Emotion Control, Hypnosis and Mind Control casually. Psionic heroes have a special burden on them to use their powers wisely. They are reluctant to usurp control of another person’s mind against their will. A hero who does so on a regular basis may need to consider a change of Calling. Even powerful psionics like Professor X and Phoenix are loathe to interfere with the minds of others casually, and there are often consequences for such actions. When Professor X used his powers to shut down Magneto’s mind, a portion of Magneto’s consciousness was trapped in Xavier’s mind. It loosed the professor’s own dark side and created the entity known as Onslaught, which nearly killed many of the world’s greatest heroes.

Of course, villains have no compunctions about using their powers to control the minds of others and super-villains like Mesmero and the Shadow King treat other people as little more than puppets.

Brainwashing: A mind controller can attempt to brainwash someone rather than control them short-term. This stunt requires a daunting Mind Control (Willpower) action. If it succeeds, the controller can implant certain commands that the subject must carry out at a later time. A hero can make a daunting Willpower (Mind Control) action to resist the effects of brainwashing.

Memory Alteration: Similar to Mindwipe, except the hero alters the subject’s memories instead of erasing them by making a daunting Mind Control (Willpower) action. The subject can be made to recall things differently from how they actually happened. The subject believes the memories are real and acts accordingly until the effects are reversed using this power.

Telekinesis

In addition to simply using Telekinesis to lift and move things, a hero can use it to manipulate things at a distance: pushing buttons, moving levers, pulling (or jamming) the triggers of weapons or even pulling the pin from a grenade. A hero can telekinetically wield objects as weapons, either actual weapons (like swords or knives) or anything the hero can mentally lift.

Telekinesis can grab objects (like weapons) out of an opponent’s grasp with an average Telekinesis (Strength) action. Telekinetics are also fond of grabbing opponents and lifting them off the ground, an easy Telekinesis (Strength) action, requiring an easy Strength (Telekinesis) action for the target to break out.

A telekinetic can manipulate machines with moving parts; releasing the brakes on a car, hitting keys on a computer keyboard, and so forth. The difficulty of the action depends on how complex the machine is.

Clothing Change: A telekinetic hero wearing clothing made of unstable molecules can change the color, style or fit of the clothing with a challenging Telekinesis action. This does not alter the clothing’s protective value, only its appearance. Telekinetic heroes may use this stunt to quickly change into their costumes.

Internal Attack: The hero can telekinetically attack a target internally, squeezing the trachea, a blood vessel or something similar. The attack requires a daunting Telekinesis (Strength) action and ignores the target’s defense, doing Intensity damage directly. A telekinetic might also use this stunt to damage machines by affecting their internal parts.

Manipulation: The hero can perform very fine manipulation with his or her telekinesis. This stunt is useful for doing things like typing, operating controls or even picking locks telekinetically.

Reflection: The hero can catch and reflect physical weapons (even bullets) back at an attacker with an average Telekinesis action.

Telepathy

Telepathy is perhaps the most versatile psionic power. A telepath is an invaluable teammate, able to keep everyone in contact using the Team Link stunt, which allows for instant and silent communication. A telepath can link the minds of others to share knowledge quickly, and allow someone with Teleportation to see through another person’s eyes to teleport safely to an unseen location.

Telepathic heroes can use their power for several stunts other than those listed in the MARVEL Game Book, including the following:

Gestalt: The hero can function as the coordinator for a telepathic gestalt, the mental combination of multiple psionic individuals. This works just like the Gestalt power from the Game Book. The mental gestalt’s combined Telepathy power intensity equals that of the most powerful hero in the gestalt, plus that of the coordinator (or the next highest character, if the coordinator is the most powerful). A telepathic gestalt often has tremendous mental power.

Mind Meld: The combination of the telepath’s mind with another mind. This is a total sharing of information and a considerable intimacy, so it is not entered into lightly. It requires a daunting Telepathy (Willpower) action. The telepath and the subject know everything the other knows, and it is impossible to lie to each other while melded.

Mindscape: The telepath can enter the “world” inside a another person’s mind and interact with the things and people there. This is most common as a means of mental combat, similar to astral projection. It can also be used to “go inside” the mind of an unconscious or comatose person to attempt to bring them out of it, or to enter the dreams of a sleeping person and interact with them. You can have an entire game based around a trip into someone’s mindscape, like the time Professor X and the New Mutants traveled into the shattered mindscape of the Professor’s son David.

Personal Rapport: This is a permanent telepathic link between the hero and another person. It requires a daunting Telepathy action to establish and the other party must be willing. From then on, each individual can always sense what the other is feeling and knows immediately if the other person is in danger or hurt.

Mental Problems

Of course, being psionic isn’t all cool powers and stunts. Psionics, especially telepaths, have some drawbacks. These are not Hindrances exactly, more unique problems encountered by psis. Psionic heroes can also have Hindrances based around the unique nature of their powers.

Feedback: A psionic hero whose power is resisted or fought against may suffer some kind of feedback, like a telepath attempting to control someone’s mind while they fight back furiously, or a telekinetic whose mental grip is broken by an opponent. The hero suffers damage points equal to the Willpower, Strength or other Ability of the target, reduced by the hero’s own Willpower.

Overload: A telepath’s senses can be overloaded by the presence of too many minds or very powerful emotions or thoughts if the telepath is unprepared, or scans a more powerful subject than expected (like a telepath who encounters a cosmically powerful alien mind or who tries to probe one person just as a New York subway lets out dozens of people out onto the platform). This causes damage equal to the subject’s Willpower or an intensity chosen by the Narrator against the telepath’s Willpower. A Psi-Screen helps protect against this damage and many Telepaths develop Psi-Screens simply to screen out mental “noise.”

Prejudice: Psionics are often mistrusted because of the nature of their powers. A psionic who uses his or her powers responsibly won’t have a lot of problems, but a psionic who doesn’t will be mistrusted and hounded by the public and the authorities.

Narrating Psionics

Narrating adventures for heroes with psionic powers like Telepathy, Precognition and ESP can be difficult. With one successful action, the hero can know everything about your carefully-prepared plot and jump right to the end, spoiling the fun for the other players. It’s your job as Narrator to make sure that doesn’t happen, without frustrating the player with the psionic hero all the time.

The first thing to keep in mind is that psionics don’t make a hero omniscient. Even if he or she can read minds, that doesn’t have to give things away. Telepathic heroes should be wary about invading other people’s privacy casually, and some people may refuse to have their minds read even if they’re innocent. A strong Willpower can sometimes make it too difficult for a telepath to read someone’s mind.

Powerful emotions triggered by certain situations (especially violent crimes) may cause a psionic to suffer from overload (above) if he or she tries to scan the crime scene or someone involved in it. These feelings may also conceal or obscure any information associated with the crime.

Psionic information is also highly subjective. There’s no guarantee that the future seen by a precognitive hero is the only future, merely a possible one. The information gained with telepathy is only as reliable as the subject’s thoughts and memories. What if they don’t remember something correctly, or what if their memory has already been tampered with by another telepath?

A rival psionic can use his or her powers to hide things from the hero; use the rival’s power intensity as additional opposition to the hero’s actions. You don’t necessarily have to tell the hero who the attempt failed unless the hero is specifically checking for opposing psionic interference.

Psi Equipment

The scientists of the Marvel Universe have developed different gadgets and equipment that affect psionic powers and psionics. Some of these devices are used by the authorities while others are used by villains or secret government organizations (like “Project: Wideawake”).

Psionic Detector: A device (usually hand-held) that picks up psions (energy particles that psionic powers use). It provides Psychic Detection 8 (higher for more sophisticated and sensitive detectors).

Psi Amplifier: This is a device like Cerebro or the PAM (Psionic Amplification Machine) used by the ESPer division of S.H.I.E.L.D. It provides Ability Boost for all Willpower powers while a user is hooked into it. A psi amplifier can (at the Narrator’s discretion) make certain mental powers suffer from the limits Masochistic, Uncontrolled or Unpredictable while they are amplified.

Psi Nullifier: This device blocks the use of all Willpower and Intellect powers with an intensity less than the Nullification power of the device. A psi nullifier is a collar or headband the subject wears or a device that projects a ray or field that affects the subject for an aura duration (or as long as he or she remains in the field).

Psi Screamer: A terrorist weapon intended specifically to harm telepaths, a kind of telepathic “grenade”. It creates a powerful (intensity 15+) mental shock, affecting any telepath within firing distance. A Psi-Screen helps protect against the damage of a screamer. Physical defenses have no effect.

Psionic Hooks

Here are some adventure ideas involving psionic powers for your game.

  • A telepathic hero or character catches a stray thought from someone planning to commit a serious crime. The trouble is, the thought came from someone in a large crowd and the hero can’t be sure who it was. What if someone in the crowd is not what he or she appears to be?
  • A hero “hears” a telepathic cry for help. It comes from a boy who is a telepathic mutant whose powers surfaced early. He ran away from home and is afraid of being attacked by mutant-haters. Unfortunately, the boy has no training in controlling his power, so he can’t shut out the “noise” of other people’s thought. He also randomly broadcasts his own fear onto other people, causing a rash of random “panic attacks” throughout the city. The heroes have to find him before a group of disguised mutant-hunting Sentinels do.
  • A friend or ally of the heroes is left in a coma by an illness or the attack of a villain. The heroes (perhaps with the help of a telepathic character like Professor X or Dr. Strange) must travel into the mindscape of their friend to help bring him or her back to consciousness.
  • A villain is kidnapping psionics to hook them up to a powerful psi-amplifier that will channel all their power into the villain, giving him or her tremendous psionic power. Perhaps the villain is building a mind-control machine, powered by telepaths, to take over the world.
  • A telepathic or astral projecting villain is committing crimes by possessing other people, then releasing them once the crime is done. The victims have no memory of what happened and no alibi to prove their innocence. When the villain uses one or more of the heroes as pawns, they have to figure out a way to prove their innocence. How do they find and capture a villain who’s never seen, and can change bodies at will?

Adventures in Slumberland

The Freedom League virtual reality simulation developed by Dr. Rudolph Bushmiller for the genetic boosting program is both the greatest success and the greatest failure of modern technology. While “slumberland” (as it has been nicknamed by technicians) serves to prevent the most severe psychoses associated with genetic enhancement, it has also led to a sub-culture of super-powered veterans with some bizarre beliefs about the nature of the world. The “comic book” reality of Slumberland seems permanently imprinted on their consciousness and that may be one of the deciding factors in the existence of groups like the Underground.

Slumberland works by immersing the modification subject in a virtual reality modeled on the “four color” world of comic book superheroes. While in this virtual experience, the subject is better able to deal with the reality of possessing paranormal powers in a setting where they are not very unusual. This provides a “cushion” for the subject’s psyche, allowing them to accept the existence of their new abilities and learn to use them in a non-threatening environment. When they are removed from the VR, the subjects retain some of this “cushioning” from their experience in Slumberland, allowing them to better adjust to their new enhancements.

Getting Ready

The preparation for the VR experience is one that is carefully undertaken to maximize the effects of the program. The advance planning can take several weeks or even months in and of itself to ensure that the results are under optimal conditions. Of course, there have been occasions where time or budget constraints forced the pre-planning stage to be accelerated and conditions have been less than ideal.

First, a complex and detailed psychological profile of the subject is compiled, to determine the optimum settings for the scenario. There is a battery of questions and psych tests, where technicians gather as much relevant data on the subject as possible. Subject’s are encouraged to be as truthful as possible on these tests, to ensure that the VR simulation will be correctly programmed. The corporation is generally not held liable for any omissions or incorrect information provided by the subject (such as the case of Up the Wall, an unfortunate vet who lied about his terror of spiders before undergoing genetic modifications that gave him clinging ability and other spider-like powers). The subject also has a comprehensive physical exam and is prepared for the mutagenic changes that will take place while they are in the vat.

One of the most important parts of the preparatory stage is to ensure that the subject will accept and believe the virtual experience as much as possible and that their suspension of disbelief with be enough for the VR to do its work. What exactly subjects are told in advance is carefully planned out. Originally, the subjects were told as little as possible about Slumberland, to increase their credulity and increase the impact of the “reality” of the experience. Currently it is impossible, of course, for the subject to know nothing of what will happen of the procedure, rumor being what it is, so instead they are told as much as possible about the nature of the Slumberland experience. Memory drugs and other techniques allow the subject’s memories of the real world to be suppressed or “fogged out” during the experience.

Using information gathered from the preliminary tests, the subject’s Slumberland experience is programmed into the virtual reality. Because the VR programming is so complex, an extensive computer library of templates and standard scenarios has evolved that can be mixed and matched to create different custom programs to suit virtually any subject with a very small margin for error (generally less than 5-10%). Technicians makes small modifications to the scenario based on the subject’s psychological screening, along with any special modifications requested by the company based on the subject’s need for psychological modification in certain areas and their planned duty assignments.

One novel approach taken by Disposable Heroes, Inc. is a Slumberland program where the subject believes they have been “accidentally” transferred into a parallel universe where comic book super-heroes are real. There they gain superhuman powers and become costumed heroes in their own right. This scenario has worked very well in increasing the believability of the VR experience, while allowing the subject’s normal memories and experiences to remain intact. However, it has led to subjects who so fervently believe that this “alternate” world exists that they have seriously or fatally injured themselves in vain attempts to return there and escape the normal world.

Doctor 451, a case study:

Brad Raymond, a veteran of conflicts in South America, was modified by Allied Mayhem. Comprehensive psycho-physical profiles were compiled on Raymond and analyzed by AM technicians in preparation for modification. The study indicated an above-norm interest in pyrotechnics and latent pyromania. The physical evidence suggested the potential for alpha-wave alterations, so Raymond was considered suitable for pyrotic enhancements that would allow him to channel his pyromania in a useful direction.

Supporting Cast

The profile information gathered on the subject allows technicians to program the specifics of the Slumberland scenario, including all of the various “supporting characters” that will exist in it. Generally, the subject is given a small group of opponents, known as the “Rogues Gallery” by Slumberland programmers. These characters are comic-book style villains that embody the kind of qualities that the subject is intended to fight against. They typically are anti-social elements and dangerous would-be dictators with plots to do harm to society and the things the subject cares about. Rogues galleries are sometimes programmed with the likenesses of real individuals, such as for the veterans who were modified for action in Paraguay experiencing conflicts with a likeness of the country’s then-dictator in Slumberland where he was a dangerous super-criminal and terrorist. Generally, the opposition in Slumberland is made up of amalgamations and archetypes of real individuals rather than accurate simulations.

Along with the opponents the subject is intended to fight, there are also other characters. Every scenario presents a “companion” character for the subject, usually known as “the squeeze.” Female companions are nicked named “Lois” and male companions are often referred to as “Trevor.” The companion character is tailored to the subject’s interests and preferences and provides them with a tangible person to protect and help when they are threatened by the forces of evil. Companion characters serve as objects and goals for the subject during many adventure scenarios and can help to reinforce the effects of the experience on the subject once the scenario is over through repetition and the companion’s obvious gratitude for the subject’s actions.

Generally the primary companion character will be a romantic object for the subject. There may also be additional companion characters that represent father/mother figures, siblings and other friends and loved ones to the subject. This can be useful for additional reinforcement, but generally the cast of companion characters is kept to a reasonable minimum so that they do not become distracting to the subject. The importance of the subject’s duty over even the value of any companions is regularly stressed with conversations and scenes of how the subject cannot give up their life of crusading and heroism, even for the love and affection of their companion.

Cast Study, Doctor 451 (cont.):

For supporting characters in Raymond’s scenario, a companion named “April Newman” was designed based on several different people from the subject’s background. April’s design included information from Raymond psychological background. She was made a secretary to a highly-influential corporate vice-president who was designed to be a friendly father/uncle figure for Raymond, April’s own father having “died” in the fiery explosion that gave Raymond his powers. This created a strong respect for authority and the corporate structure as well as a sense of obligation and mutual experience on the part of Raymond towards April.

For 451’s Rogues Gallery, administrators wanted to stress both anti-social/rebel elements as well as the need to deal with large numbers of opposing troops on occasion. The main antagonist, Mister Meurte, is outlined as a scientist formerly employed by the company April works for. He rebelled against his rightful employers and stole some of their technology to become a criminal terrorist. He also desires revenge against April for spurning his advances when they worked together, making him an immediate threat to Raymond’s happiness. Mr. Meurte employs a large number of faceless “goons” to carry out his bidding, opponents that Raymond can destroy in droves with fairly little concern about their welfare. Because 451 is being modified for action in the South American Zone that Allied has contracts with, Meurte is made Hispanic so that Raymond will begin to associate with the idea of having an Hispanic enemy/nemesis, improving his performance in the field.

Secret Origins

Once all of the preliminary testing is done and the virtual environment has been programmed, the subject is immersed into the bio-support tank for what will be months of genetic modification and virtual reality. Generally the subject is sedated before being placed in the bio-tank. They go to sleep in bed and when they wake up, the world is a very different place.

The Slumberland experience begins when the subject’s mind is “locked out” of most of their conscious memories of the real world, through datalock techniques similar to those used to secure bio-drives, supplemented with drugs fed intravenously through the bio-tank. They are then fed the basics of the Slumberland VR in a compressed-feed upload that allows a lifetime of new memories to be fed to the subject in only a month or so, bringing them up to what the technicians call “the Origin Point.” These basic memories provide the foundation for the subject’s experience in Slumberland and help to “orient” them with the basic rules of the world around them.

The “origin point” is where the virtual reality programming truly begins. This is where the subject experiences a comic-book style adventure where they first acquire their strange and unusual powers, beyond those of mortal men, based on the template of the subject’s genetic enhancements. A variety of origins have been experimented with by various corporations over the years: genetic mutation, alien intervention, and magical alteration.

Generally, it has been determined that the “radiation accident” origin model is the most effective. In this situation, the subject suffers some kind of unusual or unique “accident” such as exposure to exotic radiation or chemicals, that causes them to change and gain their superhuman abilities. This model is most ideal because it allows the subject to start out “normal” and go to being superhuman with a definite identifiable cause. Other origins like the subject “discovering” he or she is actually a genetic mutant seem to be less satisfying to the subject’s need for a “cause” for their new abilities.

Case Study, Doctor 451 (cont.):

The origin scenario that evolved placed Raymond in the heart of a fiery explosion that poured flaming chemicals over him. The burning sensation from the flames was quickly replaced in the VR with a stimulation of Raymond’s endorphin-producing glands to provide a pleasurable feeling from the fire. The chemicals absorbed into Raymond’s skin and he became able to cause objects to burst into flames at will, shaping and controlling the resulting fires with mental commands. He is also highly resistant to fire and the simulation will allow him to overcome any latent fears about contact with open flames.

The subject’s origin is followed by months of simulated “adventures” designed to allow the subject to adapt to different aspects of using their genetic abilities and to allow them to be tested safely during development. The scripted adventures also serve as a form of mental conditioning that primes the subject for service in combat or whatever other area they are destined for. Some of the classic adventures include: “patrolling” the City on the lookout for crimes and stopping them in progress, being called upon by the police or government to solve a baffling series of crimes (improving respect for authority), natural disasters, rampaging monsters (often vaguely similar to out of control boosters) and super-villains attempting to capture and/or destroy the subjects (improving resistance to interrogation and reinforcing the desire to avoid capture by the enemy).

Teamwork

The most recent innovation to the Slumberland system is the interconnection of the different VR systems used to train subjects to allow them to interact with each other. While this has placed certain demands on “continuity” to ensure that the experiences of all of the subjects involved match up correctly, it has had tremendous benefits. The inclusion of multiple subjects strongly reinforces the “reality” of the Slumberland experience because the additional subjects are able to provide some “real” human contact and a certain random factor in social interaction that is difficult to simulate.

Subjects in Slumberland are encouraged to join or form “super-teams” where the subjects all work together against common enemies and for common goals. This provides an ideal social-bonding experience that will allow the subjects to work better as a unit in the field. It encourages feelings of team-work, cooperation and camaraderie.

Such super-teams will usually develop common adversaries and problems they need to overcome. This can be scripted in advance for groups of subjects that are intended to work together as a team or develop from the progress of the Slumberland simulation over the course of enhancement process.

Case Study, Doctor 451 (cont.):

After a few adventures with his newfound powers fighting the forces of Evil, 451 ends up meets several other people with super-abilities when they band together to fight Mister Meurte’s plot to poison a city’s water supply with his insidious mind-control drug. Following the events of their adventure together, the group decides to stick together for the greater protection of the City. They choose to call themselves the Lucky Seven at the suggestion of their wealthy patron (and Supporting Character) Mr. Brant of SilverCorp. In no time at all, the Lucky Seven have set up their secret headquarters in the City and are well on their way to becoming the premier force of good against the dark and dangerous underworld.

Alternative PERPS

As described in the Underground Player’s Handbook, different organizations are experimenting with variations on the Slumberland VR theme to produce different “post-enhancement reconditioning paradigms” (PERPS) in an effort to minimalize some of the side-effects of the Freedom League VR (notably a tendency towards “superheroic” behavior after enhancement). The existence of these other VR programs to deal with metagenic feedback is nothing more than a rumor for the most part and they may not exist at all or in very different forms from the ones described here.

Abduction!: In this PERP the subject is abducted or experimented upon by extraterrestrials. The program takes advantage of information retrieved from the alien pod in combination with decades of compiled abduction stories to create a classic abduction/alteration scenario. The subject believes that their modifications have been carried out by advanced alien science (which is at least partly true). Unfortunately, this PERP does not seem overly effective, as subjects often become extremely paranoid, developing a “the truth is out there” complex about alien conspiracies to take over Earth and infect humans with their bio-technology through corporate agents. Generally, it is not the preferred origin option.

Gift of the Gods: This PERP can often be very effective for subjects that come from a highly religious/spiritual background. In this scenario, the subject is chosen by a god or gods to receive special powers that will be used to carry out divine purposes on Earth. This has ranged from the Judeo-Christian God granting miraculous gifts like “the Strength of Samson” to His followers to the Loa of Voodoo or even the Greek gods gifting special abilities to the subject. The subject’s faith in the divine image provides the rationale needed for their unusual abilities.

While this technique has proven very effective in controlling metagenic feedback syndrome, it often leads to a fanatical devotion to certain religious principles that can make the subject irrational regarding certain things. It also creates a loyalty to a “higher power” beyond that of the corporation or government the subject serves which can lead to a conflict of interests.

The Master Race: Used by the Neo-Deutch in their modification program, the Master Race scenario makes use of a great deal of Aryan propaganda and mythology about the Germans as the Master Race that is destined to overcome all others. It frames the subject’s modifications as advancements of the Race for the glory of the Fatherland. It tends to create boosted subjects that are racist and is not as effective in protecting them from metagenic feedback syndrome, so they are often sociopathic or dangerously deranged.

The Secret Masters: The secret masters are a hidden group of Illuminati of some kind or another. They may be a secret cabal of magicians, Tibetan monks, ninjas or other power group that has concealed themselves from humankind throughout history. In this scenario the Secret Masters take the subject into their care to some hidden fortress or stronghold where the subject is trained in their “esoteric arts.” The subject emerges with powers and abilities beyond those of other people along with a carefully constructed code in the use of their new abilities.

The Secret Masters PERP has been effective in developing belief and obedience in subjects. They are more willing to take orders without question if they believe these commands come from their hidden teachers. The side-effects of the program can lead to paranoia and conspiracy complexes, however. It can also lead subjects to believe that they are “above” the authority of anyone other than their secret masters.

Strange Visitor: This experimental scenario “reveals” to the subject that she is not human at all, but is in fact a “strange visitor from another planet,” an alien with powers and abilities outside of the human norm, but normal for her. This usually involves some kind of disaster scenario where the subject is one of the last of a dying or dead race. Unfortunately, the Strange Visitor scenario tends to stretch the subject’s credulity somewhat thin unless they have a strong desire to be considered part of a “special” group outside of normal humanity. It can also lead to disassociation from “humans” and a lack of respect for human authority and social conventions.

Totem: In this scenario, the subject undergoes a VR simulation of a mythical shamanic initiation. Traditionally, the subject travels to an “Otherworld” inhabited my mythical archetypes and spirits who teach the subject certain mystical secrets and grant him special powers. The subject then goes on a journey through this world that culminates in his body being broken down or torn apart and then reconstructed by spirits or other creatures that place additional “pieces” or organs within the shaman’s reconstructed form that grant him special powers. This is an effective boosting program for primitivists.

Hanging up the Mask

The process of bringing the subject out of the Slumberland experience usually takes a couple of weeks. It involves slowly re-introducing the subject’s awareness of normal reality, and will often involve a guide or helper trained in counseling to interact with the subject in VR and guide them back to reality. Many subjects react violently when the truth of their virtual experience is exposed, so councilors must be very well trained and usually get combat pay for the work (such as the councilor who was seriously injured while treating Doctor 451, who tried to use his pyrotic powers to prove that she wasn’t actually real).

It is important that the subject understands the nature of the virtual experience and what has happened as much as possible, but the valuable conditioning “cushion” provided by the Slumberland experience should be kept intact to allow the subject to deal with their genetic modifications as well as possible. This is a delicate balance, and can often be difficult to maintain. Some subjects still slip entirely into their own fantasy worlds and cannot be recovered while others become violently deranged when the truth is exposed to them.

The ideal subject accepts the truth after a fairly short re-orientation period and is able to begin training for their assigned duties. The fantasies of Slumberland are all but forgotten, but the deep unconscious conditioning that allows them to make use of their genetic enhancements is still in place and protecting them from the worst effects of metagenic feedback syndrome. Many of these subjects find themselves disillusioned after their experience in Slumberland and prefer to avoid any references or reminders of it thereafter. This can make them cynical and less social, but generally serves them well in the field.

Some subjects cannot be entirely extracted from virtual reality. Their experience in Slumberland has had such a strong affect on them that they have lost the ability to tell fantasy from reality. A great many of these subjects become convinced that their experience in the Freedom League VR was real and that they are in fact the costumed heroes they were made out to be. This proves to be a comfortable fantasy for many modification subjects when compared to the harsh realities of everyday life. These people continue to act out their comic book fantasies in the real world, using their enhancements (both real and perceived) as if they were still in VR. This has led to some disastrous consequences when veterans have attempted to apply “comic book physics” to real world situations, even more so when they attempt to apply comic book social or psychological ideas to real-world people.

Finally, in some rare cases, extraction from the cushion of the Slumberland VR actually triggers metagenic feedback syndrome in some subjects. These individuals become dangerous deranged and require considerable treatment and counseling before they can be deployed in the field (assuming they are ever fit to be deployed at all). These are the failures of the Slumberland program, but they are few and far between because of the rigorous screening and testing programs.

Case Study, Doctor 451 (cont.):

The removal of Raymond from Slumberland took place some fourteen months after his immersion in the support tank for his enhancement. The process began with a councilor being introduced into the VR storyline as a Supporting Character, then introducing herself to Raymond during an adventure. She slowly worked with Raymond to bring him to an awareness of certain facets of the Freedom League world while also working to re-awaken memories of the real world as neuro-stimulants and chemical neutralizers were fed into his system to prepare Raymond for his awakening.

Like most subjects, Raymond initially denied the reality of the councilor’s statements and believed that it was part of some plot to take over or alter his mind. Continual patience and additional evidence began to convince Raymond of the truth of what he was hearing. Although the councilor recommended an additional four weeks of preparatory therapy, Raymond was disconnected from the VR because of unexpected scheduling delays in his genetic enhancements that put him behind schedule.

Aftereffects

While subjects of Slumberland are re-integrated back into normal society as much as possible, there are still numerous aftereffects of the VR that linger for years after the experience. Some of these side-effects come from the way in which the experience allows the subject to deal with their new enhancements. The subject retains certain aspects of the “comic book” reality of Slumberland in their personality, often making them seem quite deranged according to “normal” standards. There have been some attempts to vary the ‘genre’ of the Slumberland experience according to different comic-book sources to provide some kind of common-ground that will leave fewer side-effects. So far, the different VR’s seem only to produce different, but no less disconcerting, side-effects (such as the VR programs used in other nations where comic books are not a well-known medium).

The Slumberland Campaign

A very interesting variation for an Underground campaign is the “Slumberland Kick-Off.” The gamemaster informs the players about a super-hero campaign, and outlines the basics of a super-hero game world. The players create characters using the gamemaster’s guidelines for powers and abilities. The gamemaster leads the characters through their origin stories and meeting the other characters to form a super-team. The team has several adventures fighting villains and protecting the innocent from harm. They become well known and beloved super-heroes of their community.

Then the gamemaster reveals the truth. The world that the characters thought was real is actually Slumberland. The characters are subjects undergoing genetic modification for one of the major corporations and they are about to be taken out of Slumberland and de-briefed and re-oriented for their first mission for the company. A councilor is assigned to the characters after they are taken out of VR and the GM can play out debriefing the boggled characters and readjusting them to “normal” life before sending them out into the killing fields of the Middle East, Asia or South America to bust heads for their parent corporation. This kind of campaign can form an interesting prelude to an Underground campaign that takes place after the characters have all mustered out (or gone AWOL) from their units and been reunited by circumstance later in their lives.

Super-Powers (Slumberland Only)

If the gamemaster desires, the following new Enhancements can be used in the context of the Slumberland VR. These enhancements are impossible according to modern science, but they do simulate some of the abilities that characters will encounter (and perhaps even possess) in the virtual world of the Freedom League. Characters that possess one or more of these abilities in Slumberland might suffer from the delusion that they still possess them in the real world and act accordingly, trying to walk through walls or see through solid objects, for example.

These abilities have a listed Base Cost and Potency, but no Max or Stress because they don’t really exist and can’t be used outside of the Slumberland VR. The gamemaster may wish to allocate characters additional “dream points” to allow them to purchase some of these more fantastic powers or simply give them out for free and let the players have fun with them in VR until they get hit with the problems of the real world.

Energy Bolt (Base Cost: 5, Potency: 2): This power allows the character to fire bolts of energy from her hands, eyes, etc. The bolt has a damage value equal to its Unit Rating and uses the character’s DEX for the to-hit Challenge.

Energy Field (Base Cost: 10, Potency: 3): Energy Field surrounds the character’s body with a protective field of energy that allows the character to add their Unit Rating to their RES rating for Penetration in combat.

Magic (Base Cost: 30, Potency: 4): This very potent ability allows the character to mimic the following enhancements: Energy Bolt, Energy Field, Flight and Illusion.

Morphing (Base Cost: 20, Potency: 3): The subject can alter her shape at will into any other life form. The Units of the power can be added to any attribute to simulate the effects of the shape-change (such as adding to STR and RES for changing into a bear).

Phantom (Base Cost: 15, Potency: 3): The subject can pass through solid matter by making a Phantom Challenge against the RES of the material. The units of Phantom also add to RES for resisting Penetration in combat.

Stretch (Base Cost: 5, Potency: 1): The character can stretch his body a number of units of distance equal to the Units of the power.

Teleport (Base Cost: 20, Potency: 3): The character can move instantly a number of Units distance equal to the Units of the power without crossing the intervening space.

X-Ray Vision (Base Cost: 10, Potency: 1): The character can see through solid objects by making a Challenge against the RES of the object. There is one material that the character cannot see through.

Note that some or all of these powers might also be used as alternative models of existing enhancements a character has been given. For example, a character with the Chitin enhancement might believe in Slumberland that their power is a protective force field. A character with certain alpha wave enhancements might play the role of a “master magician” character in Slumberland and so forth. The GM and players should feel free to play around with the “special effects” assigned to a characters enhancements in Slumberland to give them a little variety and a “hero” identity that might be quite different from their actual enhancement program.

Live Kree or Die!

A Marvel Super Heroes Adventure

based on the story by Kurt Busiek and George Perez

©1999 Marvel Comics and Wizards of the Coast

Introduction

And there came a day, a day unlike any other, when Earth’s mightiest heroes and heroines found themselves united against a common threat. On that day, the Avengers were born-to fight the foes no single super hero could withstand! Through the years, their roster has prospered, changing many times, but their glory has never been denied! Heed the call, then – for now, the Avengers Assemble!

Avengers: Live Kree or Die! is an introductory adventure for the MARVEL SUPER HEROES Adventure Game intended for up to six players. You need the MarvelGame Book and the Fate Deck in order to play. The players take the roles of the Mighty Avengers to stop their old foes, the alien Kree, from turning all humanity into “neo-Kree” and the Earth into the center of the new Kree Empire! Hero sheets for the members of the Avengers are provided at the end of the adventure. If there are fewer than six players, some of the heroes can be ignored or run as characters by the Narrator.

The events in this adventure are inspired by the “Live Kree or Die!” storyline published by Marvel Comics in Iron Man, Captain America, Quicksilver and Avengers. While it uses the original storyline as inspiration, it does not try to exactly duplicate the events from the comics, allowing Narrators to work in some surprises for players who may have read the stories themselves.

How to Narrate

One player in the group takes the role of the Narrator. The Narrator handles all the actions of the characters other than the heroes and describes what happens in the game to the other players. Narrating a Marvel game requires quick thinking sometimes, since heroes often do the unexpected. Advice and hints for the Narrator is provided throughout this adventure.

In general, the most important things to do are to keep the game moving and make it fun for everyone involved. The Marvel Universe is an exciting, fast-paced world, so try and run the game the same way. Liven up your descriptions with dramatic sound effects, use different voices for the characters and villains in the story and don’t let the players get too bogged-down in the rules or numbers of the game. As long as you’re trying to make the game as much fun as reading an issue of The Avengers, you’re doing a good job.

Each chapter makes suggestions about various Dramatic Events that can be used to provide additional fun and complications for the heroes. These events are printed on the cards of the Fate Deck and can be used during the Narrator Draw of an action scene or ignored as desired.

Choosing Heroes

The end of this adventure contains hero sheets for six members of the Avengers: Captain America, Hawkeye, Iron Man, the Scarlet Witch, Thor, and the Vision. Their hero sheets can also be found in the Marvel Roster Book and the Avengers Roster Book. If you have fewer than six players, you can play any remaining heroes as characters in the adventure, or simply ignore them. If wish to run the adventure for more than six players, you can use additional heroes from the main Roster Book or from theAvengers Roster Book. Quicksilver, Firestar and Justice are particularly appropriate heroes. If you use additional heroes, you should increase the size and power of the opposition accordingly.

If two or more players wish to play the same hero, have each player draw a card from the Fate Deck. The highest card wins, unless a player draws the card with that hero’s picture on it, in which case that player gets to play the hero.

Background

The Kree are an alien race from the planet Hala in the Greater Megallanic Cloud, a distant galaxy from our own. Many thousands of years ago the Kree built a star-spanning empire while humans were still primitive. They colonized and conquered many worlds and explored beyond the bounds of their galaxy. They created a powerful computer system, linked to the preserved brains of the greatest statesmen, scholars and scientists of the Empire to rule it, known as the Supreme Intelligence.

One of the worlds the Kree visited was Earth. In studying primitive humans, the Kree discovered the genetic tampering of the godlike alien Celestials, which led to the creation of two branches of humanity: the Eternals and the Deviants. The Kree conducted genetic experiments of their own on primitive humans, in hopes of creating a new soldier or slave race for their Empire. Eventually, a war with the alien Skrulls caused the Kree to abandon their outpost near Earth. They left behind robotic Sentries to keep watch over their creations.

The humans modified by the Kree became known as the Inhumans. In time, they discovered the genetic-altering Terrigen Mist and found the fabled city of Attilan. For a time, Attilan occupied a portion of the ancient Kree outpost, known as the “Blue Area” of the Moon.

The Kree warrior Captain Mar-Vell became known on Earth as Captain Marvel. He worked with the Avengers and fought with them against enemies like the Kree and the mad titan Thanos before dying of cancer caused by an exposure to deadly chemicals. Mar-Vell helped Carol Danvers (Warbird) gain her original powers and knowledge of the Kree.

Over the millennia, the Kree Empire fought many wars, particularly against their old enemies, the Skrulls. Eventually, the Supreme Intelligence determined that the Kree were at an evolutionary dead-end. They were no longer evolving as a race. In an effort to find a solution, the Supreme Intelligence tried several schemes involving the inhabitants of Earth, who the Kree knew to have great genetic potential. All of these plans were thwarted by the Avengers and their allies.

Eventually, the Supreme Intelligence drove the Kree into war against another stellar empire, that of the Shi’ar. Although the Supreme Intelligence told the Kree it planned to conquer the Shi’ar, in truth it wanted the Shi’ar to defeat the Kree, providing a catastrophic event to “jump-start” the race’s evolution once more. That billions of Kree would die in the process was of no concern to the Supremor’s cold intellect. The Avengers intervened in the Kree/Shi’ar War and helped prevent matters from being far worse than they could have been. A group of Avengers decided to end the conflict by destroying the Supreme Intelligence, which they did. The Kree Empire fell and became a vassal of the larger Shi’ar Empire.

But, unknown to the Avengers, back-up systems saved the Supreme Intelligence and Kree loyal to the Supremor spirited it away from Kree-Lar, the Kree throneworld. Calling themselves the Lunatic Legion, these Kree established a secret base in the ruins in the Blue Area of the Moon and planned to gain revenge on the Avengers, while turning Earth into the center of a new, more powerful Kree Empire!

The Kree

The alien Kree are the main villains of this adventure, led by the Supreme Intelligence and Admiral Galen Kor.

The Supreme Intelligence

Strength 0X , Agility 0XIntellect 16AWillpower 16C, Health 17. Scientific Genius (all science skills); Leadership, Mental ControlComputer Link 20Invulnerable to Mental and Emotional ControlIllusion 16 (rangeless), Mind Control 10 (Kree only), Telepathy 16 (rangeless), Teleport 25 (passengers only). Calling: World (Galactic) Domination. Hindrances: Sedentary (the Supreme Intelligence is part of a vast computer system. He has no Strength or Agility of his own and cannot move).

The Supreme Intelligence (also known as the “Supremor” or Supreme Organism) is a vast organic computer system made up on the brains of the greatest Kree leaders, scholars and statesmen, linked together to form a single, powerful group-mind. The Supremor has vast intelligence and mental powers, some of which can reach across intergalactic distances. Although unable to move on its own, the Supreme Intelligence operates by using its vast mental powers and by controlling various robot servants like the Sentries. It’s prime goal is to revitalize the Kree’s stagnant evolution, and it has been willing to sacrifice the greater good of the Empire in order to do so. During the Kree-Shi’ar War, the Supremor plotted to kill a large portion of the Kree population in order to “jump-start” their evolution once again. A group of Avengers attempted to kill the Supremor, but it managed to escape apparent death as it has in the past. It is now concealed in the ruins on the Blue Area of the Moon.

Unknown to the Lunatic Legion, the Supreme Intelligence wants their plan to fail. The Kree are at an evolutionary dead-end, and the Supremor sees no reason to perpetuate their mistakes by turning humanity into neo-Kree. Because of this, there are times during the adventure when the Supreme Intelligence may actually help the heroes overcome the Kree. It never does so overtly or in any way that the heroes will know they are being helped. Instead, the Supremor uses subtle manipulations to “lend a hand” to heroes who might need it. With its Computer Link and Mind Control powers, the Supremor can affect Kree devices and soldiers to do its bidding, causing a device to malfunction or a soldier to miss a critical shot, with no one the wiser.

You can use the Supreme Intelligence as a kind of “guardian angel” for the heroes during the adventure. If things go really badly for them, have the Supremor give them a little unseen help to make things easier. Don’t turn the adventure into a cakewalk, just help the heroes out if they really need it and keep the adventure going. Keep in mind that the Supreme Intelligence never does anything to give away its true intentions and that it is amazingly patient, since it is effectively immortal.

The Lunatic Legion

Strength 8XAgility 4DIntellect 4XWillpower 4D, Health 10. Marksmanship or Martial ArtsMilitary. Equipment: Body Armor +2Blaster +4 Calling: Soldier.

The Lunatic Legion is a group of exiled Kree soldiers, led by Admiral Galen Kor (see below). They are completely loyal to the Supreme Intelligence and the ideals of the Kree Empire, refusing the believe that the Supremor actually intended to sacrifice the Empire to the Shi’ar (they believe it is a lie spread by the Avengers). Galen Kor and the members of the Legion blame the Avengers for the fall of the Kree Empire and reserve particular hatred for the seven Avengers who attempted to kill the Supreme Intelligence.

Admiral Galen Kor

Strength 11BAgility 6XIntellect 4XWillpower 6C, Health 17. BrawlingMilitary, Leadership. Equipment: Body Armor +2, the Universal Weapon +5 [all powers intensity 16, Absorption (energy damage), Energy Blast, Disintegration (disintegration ray), Force Field (remote field), Gravity Control, Teleportation, Transmutation (inanimate only)] Calling: Soldier.

Admiral Galen Kor is the commander of the Lunatic Legion and the mastermind behind the plan to gain revenge on Earth by turning Earth into the center of a new Kree Empire. He is a tall, powerfully muscled Kree with blue skin. His face is badly scarred and he has a cybernetic replacement for his missing left eye. Kor is a fanatic devoted to the Supreme Intelligence, the Empire, and a desire for revenge on the Avengers (in that order). He is completely unaware of the Supremor’s duplicity and continues on with his plans believing he is serving the Supreme Intelligence by doing so. Kor carries the Universal Weapon, a Kree device originally wielded by Ronan the Accuser, which grants him considerable power, making him a match for even the Avengers.

Kree Sentries

Strength 16XAgility 6XIntellect 3XWillpower 2X, Health 20. Body Armor +4Computer Link 15Energy Blast 14, Force Field 18 (projected field), Invulnerable to Aging, Corrosives, Disease, Emotion Control, Mental Control and Poison. Calling: Soldier. Hindrances: Uncreative (0 Intellect in fights, always responds with the simplest and most apparently logical powers regardless of consequences).

The Sentry robots are used by the Kree for military and surveillance purposes. Sentries have no creative intelligence and simply follow their programmed instructions. Several Sentry robots have been stations in Earth’s solar system since it was discovered by the Kree. The Kree are currently using the Sentries as weapons against the Avengers and the people of Earth.

Warbird

Strength 16XAgility 6BIntellect 5BWillpower 7D, Health 17. Aerial CombatMartial Arts, PilotingEnergy Control, Espionage, JournalismMilitaryEnergy Blast 14,Flight 14. Calling: Gloryhound. Hindrances: Addicted to Alcohol.

Although herodom is a long, strange trip for anyone, Carol Danvers gets top marks for a bizarre ride. Carol was a top notch intelligence agent for the US Air Force for several years before becoming chief of security at NASA. There, she met the Kree Captain Mar-Vell and was exposed to the Kree Psyche-Magnetron at his secret base on Earth. The radiation from the Psyche-Magnetron augmented her genetic structure, granting her enormous strength, invulnerability, flight, and a “Seventh Sense.” She took the name Ms. Marvel in honor of Captain Mar-Vell and fought crime with her new abilities.

Carol moved to New York, became the editor of Woman magazine, and joined the Avengers. Shortly afterward, Immortus’s son Marcus seduced her, brought her to Limbo as part of a creepy escape scheme, and impregnated Carol-with himself. When Carol left Limbo, he was rapidly born from her, and grew up fast-so fast, in fact, that he turned to dust.

Feeling violated and angry at the Avengers for letting Marcus walk off with her, Carol was hardly back before Rogue (then a member of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants) stole all her powers and memories. The powerless amnesiac Carol stayed with the X-Men while Professor X helped restore her memories.

Traveling with the X-Men led her to be captured by the alien Brood, who used an evolution ray on her, giving her a whole new set of stellar energy-based powers. She changed her heroic name to Binary, and joined the Starjammers for outer space adventures. Binary came back to Earth to help out during Operation: Galactic Storm and was nearly killed.

Following that she decided to remain on Earth. Carol’s Binary powers have faded for some reason, reducing her power-level. She also began drinking heavily as a means of forgetting her problems. Taking the new name Warbird, she rejoined the Avengers feeling she had a great deal to prove. Her dependence on alcohol and her need to prove herself have caused problems with the team.

Warbird is not a hero in this adventure, since she gets captured in Chapter Two. Run her as a character along with the rest of the heroes and play up her independence, grandstanding and erratic behavior. Carol is very proud and can’t admit she has a problem to her teammates. She pushes herself to greater and greater acts of daring in order to impress them (especially Captain America).

Chapter One: Bad Moon Rising

When the adventure begins, read the following to the players:

Iron Man recently battled a dangerous new villain called Firebrand in the Caribbean. Firebrand works for a terrorist group known as the Flaming Sword. During the battle with the Flaming Sword, an unknown party transmitted information to Iron Man about Firebrand’s origin. Rick Dennison was a member of an eco-terrorist group known as Terra Tactics. The group staged a sabotage mission of an alternative energy project run by a company in the Boston area called PowerSource. In the saboteurs’ escape, Rick was shot by a guard and left behind. The explosion blew Rick through a tank full of an experimental super-charged plasma. When rescuers found him, he was glowing, his body melting metal at touch. Before doctors could help him, his containment tank was stolen by another terrorist group called the Flaming Sword. They renamed him Firebrand and used him as their chief operative.

Although Firebrand and the Flaming Sword escaped from their battle with Iron Man, shellhead still wants to check out PowerSource and their involvement in the whole affair. It might be that they are innocent, or they may have ties with Firebrand. Either way, it would be good to find out who sent the information on Firebrand. A trip up to Boston will also give the team a chance to check in with Warbird, who took some temporary leave. Everyone on the team is worried about her, she simply hasn’t been acting like herself lately.

Captain America raps his gavel on the table. “Meeting adjourned, Avengers. Let’s fire up the quinjet and head for Boston!”

Carol’s House

Carol Danvers (aka Warbird) is staying at her parents home in Beverly, Massachusetts, near Boston. The general public does not know that Carol is Warbird, so the Avengers should approach the house covertly so as not to attract too much attention to themselves (landing the quinjet on the street would be a bad idea, in other words). Let the players come up with some suitable means of arriving incognito, from wearing civilian clothes to using image inducers to Thor whipping up a fog to cover their appearance. If the players can’t come up with something on their own, an easy Intellect action allows a hero to come up with an idea (tell the players one of the above or make up your own).

The Avengers are greeted by Carol’s mother, who’s a little surprised to have the world-famous Avengers in her house. She tells them Carol is in her room. There are several discarded beer bottles on the night stand and the floor in front of the bed, which is unmade. Air Force posters decorate the walls and model airplanes hang from the ceiling. The smell of alcohol is strong in the room. Carol greets her teammates and asks them what they want. She’s still technically on leave, after all.

At first, Carol is friendly, if guarded, in dealing with her fellow Avengers. Any effort to get her to talk about her problems gets Carol to recap her origin story (given under Warbird’s description in the Introduction). Make it clear that Warbird has had a tough time of it, it’s understandable why she feels persecuted. However, any mention of her current problems or her drinking sets Carol off. She transforms into her Warbird costume and shouts angrily at the heroes, telling them to mind their own business and leave her alone. She seems on the verge of attacking them as she orders them out of the house.

In general, this scene serves to introduce Warbird and her problems to the players and gives them a chance to get a feel for their heroes and how they interact. It’s a role-playing scene, not an action scene, so no real cardplay is needed. If any of the players wants to start a fight with Warbird, remind them that they are in Carol’s parents’ house, which would almost certainly be demolished by even a minor brawl between members of the Avengers. Captain America, at the least, should try to keep the encounter peaceful and agree to leave when Warbird asks them to.

Powersource

The Avengers’ next stop is the PowerSource building off Route 128 north of Boston. PowerSource is a small high-tech company specializing in alternative energy research. As it happens, the president of PowerSource, Victoria Snow, is an old employee of Tony Stark (Iron Man). Tell the player of Iron Man this, and allow the heroes to decide how they want to approach the situation. Tony Stark can try talking to Victoria in his civilian identity, or the Avengers can ask to speak with her directly.

In either case, Ms. Snow is aware of Firebrand’s connection to PowerSource. She basically recounts the description of the accident given to the players at the beginning of this chapter. She denies any knowledge of a data-transmission to Iron Man or any other knowledge regarding Firebrand, trying her best to end the interview quickly. She refuses to allow anyone to search or look around the building, claiming that PowerSource handles many sensitive and top-secret projects. Any hero who makes a challenging Intellect action can determine that Victoria is probably lying. She is definitely hiding something. Before the heroes can press her for more information, they find out what.

Enter the Kree

Suddenly, Ms. Marvel comes crashing through the window of Victoria’s office. She’s angry and has clearly had too much to drink. She accuses the Avengers of trying to force her out of the team. “I’m as capable as any of you!” she yells at them, stellar energy glowing around her hands.

Before the Avengers can respond, a group of eight Kree soldiers burst into the room, weapons at the ready, and order the Avengers to surrender. More than likely, a fight erupts between the Kree and the Avengers. Warbird sides with her teammates, taking every opportunity to prove to them that she can handle herself against any opponent. Unfortunately, she tends to grandstand, ignoring team tactics and Captain America’s orders.

The Sentries

The Avengers should make fairly short work of the Kree, but as soon as the fight is nearly over, the room of the PowerSource building is ripped away, revealing two Kree Sentry robots, which attack the Avengers to cover the escape of the Kree soldiers. The Sentries surround the PowerSource building with a Kree force field (intensity 18) and attack. If none of the players point it out, remind them that the building contains dozens of innocent civilians who may be caught in the line of fire. The first priority of the Avengers should be to safeguard their lives, then take out the Sentries, and deal with the Kree soldiers last.

On the first negative draw during the fight with the Sentries, any unconscious Kree awaken, regroup and move towards their hidden aircraft to escape. Warbird breaks off whatever she is doing to fly after them. If any of the heroes try to do the same, a Sentry gives them something else to worry about, attacking that hero or threatening some of the innocent people in the building (collapsing part of the floor or ceiling, or overloading an experimental generator, for example). Warbird’s energy powers allow her to penetrate the force field surrounding the building with a heroic effort. Any other hero who pursues is stopped by the force field and must break through it or destroy the Sentry (which is maintaining the field). It is important that the Kree escape, pursued by Warbird, since that leads into Chapter Two.

If the Team Splits Up

It is quite possible the Avengers might choose to split up at the beginning of this chapter, with some of the team going to see Carol Danvers and the rest checking out PowerSource. If this is the case, run the scene at PowerSource first and have the Kree soldiers burst into the room, but do not have Warbird show up yet. Switch over to the scene at Carol Danvers’ home with a statement of “Meanwhile, at the Beverly home of the parents of Carol Danvers, alias Warbird…” leaving a cliffhanger for the heroes at PowerSource (and giving the players a chance to come up with ideas of things to do).

Play out the scene with Warbird as described above. Right around the time Carol is ordering the heroes out of her home, the Avengers’ Identicards beep with an urgent alert from the rest of the team at PowerSource, they’re under attack! The other Avengers rush to the rescue and Warbird chooses to follow them so she can help out and prove herself to them. Go back to the fight with the Kree soldiers and have the other Avengers show up in time for the fight with the Sentries, allowing Warbird to go after the Kree while the heroes handle the robots.

Dramatic Events

During the fight scenes, you can use various dramatic events from the Fate Deck to liven things up. Each card has a particular event printed on it, along with the Calling that responds most strongly to that event. These events provide the heroes with additional roleplaying opportunities and things to do. For example, Costume Damage might result in an attack or accident damaging a vital system of Iron Man’s armor, temporarily disabling him and requiring a challenging Intellect action for Iron Man to get the system working again. Cry for Help or Endangered Innocents may indicate people endangered by the Sentry or damage to the PowerSource building. Heroes with a Calling the corresponds to the event (such as Guardian and Cry for Help) should react to the event, otherwise they risk losing their response bonus for the adventure (see the Marvel Game Book for more information).

Doom Cards

If the players play any Doom Cards during the initial fight with the Kree, save them up in the Doom Pool to make the fight with the Sentries more challenging. The Kree soldiers should be no match for the Mighty Avengers, but the Sentries should be a fairly tough fight. You can play cards from the Doom Pool if it looks like the Avengers are having too easy a time of it to increase the difficulty of actions against the Sentries. You can also play Doom Cards to prevent heroes from breaking through the force field to follow the escaping Kree.

On the other hand, if the heroes are having too tough a time with certain parts of this chapter (mainly the fight with the Sentries), the Supreme Intelligence may step in to help the heroes out. The Supremor can mentally control a Sentry using its Computer Link power, and may deliberately cause the robot to miss heroes or provide them with an opportunity to destroy the Sentry (lowering the difficulty of attacks against it). It may also cause one Sentry to shoot another, giving the heroes an opening. Don’t tell heroes why the robots suddenly seemed to have a run of bad luck, let them wonder.

Chapter Two: Stuck in the Middle

At the beginning of this chapter, read the following out loud to the players:

Not long after dealing with the aftermath of the battle at PowerSource, you’re in the quinjet heading back to New York. Shortly before you reach Manhattan, you receive an emergency signal from Warbird’s Indenticard. “Team, this is Warbird,” she says. “I’m pinned down fighting a group of Kree at an abandoned missile silo near Cape Canaveral. Home in on my coordinates and…” suddenly, the message ends in a burst of hard static. You managed to get a fix on it before it was cut off, however. The quinjet’s flight computer has the location of the silo Warbird mentioned, a short distance from Cape Canaveral, Florida. You should be able to get there in a matter of minutes. You only hope you’re not too late.

The Missile Silo

The Lunatic Legion is holed up in an abandoned missile silo in Florida, which they have converted into a hangar for their ship and a testing group for humans they have captured. They expose human prisoners to Terrigen Mist, stolen from the Inhumans, in attempts to find the genetic “key” needed to transform humanity into a neo-Kree slave race. Thus far, the experiments have been unsuccessful, resulting only in a lot of dead humans.

Shortly after sending out the emergency message to the rest of the Avengers, Warbird is captured by the Kree. They hope to use her unique combination of Kree and human biology to further their experiments. Warbird is placed in a containment vessel hooked up to various monitoring devices in the center of the testing chamber, filling with human test subjects. The heroes arrive on the scene just as the Kree begin pumping in the gas. Warbird is firmly held by Material Strength 18 restraints, so she is unable to do anything to stop the Kree until the heroes free her. The walls of the testing chamber are only wood (material strength 7), so the heroes should have no problem busting in and freeing the prisoners.

The instant the heroes break in, the Kree attack them in order to cover their own escape. There are at least a couple dozen Kree soldiers in the silo, armed and armored as described in the Introduction section. In addition, there are two Kree cyborgs, which have the same statistics as the other Kree except they have Strength 16D, Brawlingand Body Armor +2, making them a match even for some of the Avengers. The cyborgs leap to the attack and try to keep the Avengers occupied while the other Kree fire their energy weapons at the heroes.

Escaping the Blast

Four exchanges after the fight begins, most of the Lunatic Legion boards the Kree ship concealed in the silo and blasts off for their base on the Moon. The back-blast of the rockets does intensity 22 damage to anyone still in the silo when the ship takes off. Any of the human prisoners still inside will be killed unless the heroes can get them to safety in time. Let the heroes come up with their own ways of doing this. A challenging Willpower action can help coordinate the evacuation (Leadership skill reduces the difficulty to average). There are several dozen prisoners, so several heroes must coordinate their efforts to get them all clear in time.

Once again, Warbird tries to prove herself by stopping the Kree. She ignores the efforts to get the prisoners clear and flies at the Kree ship. The Lunatic Legion catches her in a stasis beam and pulls her on board the ship before it takes off. They use the stasis beam on any other heroes who try to stop them, but do not pull them on board. Instead they leave them paralyzed, to be killed by the rocket blast. Evading the Kree stasis beam is a challenging Agility action. Heroes struck by it are paralyzed and must make asuperhuman Strength action to break out of the stasis field. The primary concern of the Avengers should be to get the prisoners clear and protect them from the effects of the rocket-blast. Heroes who ignore their Calling to go after the Kree rather than helping the prisoners may lose their response bonus, feel free to remind the players of this.

Dramatic Events

Dramatic events that come up during the fight with the Kree may involve the human prisoners, the various equipment (both Kree and human) in the silo and the bodies of the Kree’s other human victims. For example, Mass Panic may cause the humans to stampede over each other in an attempt to escape, forcing the heroes to try and calm them.Never Say Die or Remembrance of Heroes may expose a hero who is knocked through a wall to the dozens of dead bodies of the Kree’s other experimental subjects, inspiring the hero to fight that much harder. Unstable Ground may indicate a stray blaster bolt collapsing a section of the silo onto a group of helpless prisoners, and so forth.

Doom Cards

Save up any Doom Cards the heroes play during this chapter to help ensure the Kree’s escape at the end. You can use Doom Cards to increase the difficulty of avoiding or breaking out of the Kree stasis beam, allowing the Kree to paralyze any other heroes who try to capture them (and forcing the other heroes to rescue their paralyzed teammates from the rocket blast). Give all the heroes something to do (either helping prisoners or fighting the Kree, or both!) so they can spend their Doom Cards.

The heroes shouldn’t have too difficult a time against the Kree in this chapter, since their opponents haven’t got anywhere near their power-level. However, if needed, you can have the Supreme Intelligence use its powers to help the heroes out a little, as described in the Introduction.

Chapter Three: Blue Moon

At the beginning of this chapter, read the following out loud to the players:

The Kree have taken Warbird and escaped! Their rocket has gone to the mysterious Blue Area of the Moon, where the Kree must have some kind of base. You’ve returned to Avengers Mansion to prepare to launch a rescue mission, recover Warbird and put a stop the whatever the Kree may be planning. In short order, Iron Man has the space quinjet ready for launch and you’re off to the Moon!

As the quinjet leaves the atmosphere and heads towards the lunar surface, the communications system beeps and a strange image appears on the viewscreen. It is a bulbous green head with glowing yellow eyes, topped with writhing tentacles, the Supreme Intelligence of the Kree!

“Greetings, Avengers,” it says. “Despite the best efforts of your ally, the Black Knight, I survive. His energy sword could not destroy me, as I am a sentient computer, not a corporeal being. I downloaded my sentience into another terminal and escaped from my home planet of Kree-Lar. Now a faction of Kree warriors called the Lunatic Legion has used the technology here to rebuild part of the ruins on your moon as a base.”

“They have acquired a generator from the earthbound technological firm PowerSource, which is being used to fuel a powerful omni-wave projector, directed at Earth. The omni-waves will be filtered through a portion of Terrigen Mists, stolen from the Inhumans, our genetic creations. When the waves strike Earth’s atmosphere, they will cause a chain reaction that will cause all human life to change. Those whose genetic code is unsullied will be changed into beings genetically identical to pure-breed Kree. Those whose DNA is mutated-such as many of the superhuman heroes and villains of your planet-will die.”

“In a way, you have provided the key to this plan. As the only surviving hybrid of human and Kree, Warbird’s DNA has provided the information needed to program the omni-wave projector. Soon General Kor will make all of humanity pay for the destruction of the old Kree Empire, but turning Earth into the foundation of a new one!”

If the heroes ask the Supreme Intelligence why it is giving them this information (apart from the opportunity to gloat), it says only “My reasons are my own.” Then it ends the communication. In truth, the Supremor isn’t gloating, it’s warning the Avengers what they are up against so they can foil Galen Kor’s plan.

Lunar Defenses

As the space quinjet approaches the Blue Area of the Moon, Kree weapons batteries open fire on it. Heroes must make a challenging Intellect action to avoid being surprised by the batteries. Avoiding their attacks and landing the quinjet safely on the lunar surface requires a series of four challenging Agility actions by whoever is piloting. Other heroes can try to use their powers and abilities to protect the quinjet (set difficulties for these actions as you see fit). The Kree weapons do intensity 16 damage against the Quinjet’s Hull Strength of 14. If the quinjet is hit, the heroes themselves may be damaged. Apply the intensity against them as well, but the quinjet gives all the Avengers Body Armor +8 against outside attacks.

If the heroes are having too much trouble evading the weapons, the Supreme Intelligence may covertly lend a hand (see the Introduction), causing the weapons to fire slightly off-target and lowering the difficulty to evade them to average or even easy. Of course, you shouldn’t tell the players why things seem so much easier than they thought.

The Kree Attack!

Moments after the Avengers land in the Blue Area, dozens of Kree soldiers swarm out of the ruins and attack (use the game stats provided in the Introduction). Give the heroes a good fight against the Kree and give all the players a chance to let loose against their enemies. Don’t worry too much about the exact number of Kree soldiers-it will soon become irrelevant when the Kree sacrifice themselves. Just let the players have a good time pounding on the Kree and avoiding their attacks. Encourage innovative actions and roleplaying during the fight. The Kree should shout taunts and insults at the heroes, telling them they cannot win against the might of the Kree Empire. The Avengers will pay for their crimes against the Empire. They will fall and Earth will be next! Such threats should help inspire the players to get into the fight and roleplay it.

Freeing Warbird

Warbird is being held in part of an underground complex near where the Avengers land their quinjet. Finding her is a challenging Intellect action. Alternately, a dramatic event could send a hero or Kree soldier crashing through the wall into the room where she is held. The restraints holding her are Material Strength 16.

Once freed, Warbird is not overly grateful to her teammates, instead she powers up and goes after the Kree, doing her best to demonstrate her fitness as an Avenger to everyone. However, it is quite clear that she is not up to the task. Her Addiction to Alcohol hindrance is in full-force, so many of Warbird’s attacks miss or hit the wrong targets. You should feel free to use any Dramatic Events that come up as hints for how to handle Warbird’s actions. For example, Cry for Help might mean Warbird gets in over her head, forcing a hero to rush to her rescue (it would be bad of any Avenger to abandon a teammate, even if she is acting poorly). Lack of Support might cause Warbird to fail to help out a teammate in need in favor of going after another goal (since she is acting poorly for an Avenger).

Destorying the Generator

Warbird’s main target is the power-generator the Kree stole from PowerSource on Earth. It powers the omni-wave projector and Galen Kor pointed it out to Warbird when she was held captive. She doesn’t tell the other Avengers about it because she wants to destroy the generator herself and be the hero of the day, but any hero who asks if there is a pattern to Warbird’s actions can make an average Intellect action to figure out she’s going for the generator. This may allow other heroes to help Warbird (not that she wants or appreciates any help).

The generator itself is Material Strength 12, so it should not be too difficult for the heroes to destroy it. Once they do, the omni-wave projector powers down. It seems like the threat to Earth has been averted, until the Kree play their final card (so to speak).

The Kree Sacrifice

The Kree suddenly stop fighting the heroes and, one by one, they start to glow and disappear. The Kree are using devices in the Blue Area to turn themselves into energy to power the omni-wave projector aimed at Earth. All the Kree soldiers rapidly vanish and the Projector begins powering up again, building towards a blast that will transform the people of Earth.

However, not all of the Kree are transformed. Admiral Galen Kor remains behind to make sure the Avengers cannot stop the projector. He remains in hiding and attempts to surprise the heroes as soon as they try to tamper with the projector. It requires a daunting Intellect action for heroes to detect Galen Kor sneaking up on them. Heroes who succeed have a last-second flash of intuition and may act normally; heroes who fail are caught off guard and may not take actions during the first exchange (although they may take counteractions).

The first thing Galen Kor does is enclose himself and the Avengers in a force field created by his Universal Weapon, cutting them off from the omni-wave projector. The force field is intensity 16. Kor then attacks the Avengers with his Universal Weapon, using its various powers to try and disable them and keep them away from the projector. Although the Avengers outnumber and out-power Admiral Kor, the Universal Weapon makes him a formidable adversary, and the heroes don’t have much time before the projector activates, dooming all life on Earth.

The heroes have four exchanges before the Projector activates. In that time they must overcome or outwit Galen Kor and disable the Projector. The Omni-wave projector itself is Material Strength 18. Destroying it causes it to explode, doing intensity 24 damage to everyone within about a mile. Lifting and moving the projector requires anunfathomable Strength action. Heroes might try to break into the Projector to shut it down. This is a bit easier, the hatches are only Material Strength 12, but overriding the Projector’s programming requires a superhuman Intellect action (reduced to desperate if the hero has the Computers skill, like Iron Man). Let the heroes come up with their own plan to disable the projector and apply an appropriate difficulty to it, based on the information above.

Dramatic Events

This is the big final scene, so the tension should be running high. The fate of the entire Earth rests in the hands of the heroes (no pressure or anything). Keep the events moving and don’t give the players too much time to stop and think.

You can use Dramatic Events throughout this chapter to add spice to the different scenes: during the approach to the Moon, the battle with the Kree, freeing Warbird, destroying the generator, fighting Galen Kor and stopping the omni-wave projector. Always try to use the dramatic events to enhance the scene rather than distract from it. There’s a lot going on towards the end, so it’s best not to clutter things up too much. Some sources of dramatic events may include: stray shots collapsing parts of the ruins (Structural Collapse), ancient Kree or Skrull weapons in the ruins going off (Explosion), and Kree booby traps (Cunning Scheme). A Dramatic Entrance or Retributive Strike event while the heroes are busy disarming the omni-wave projector might cause Galen Kor to regain consciousness and make a last effort to stop them. A Malfunctionevent while trying to disarm the projector might cause the countdown to skip an exchange, forcing the heroes to act quickly.

Doom Cards

In general, try to save up Doom Cards from the earlier parts of this chapter to play during the big climatic fight with Galen Kor. The Kree Admiral should be a powerful and dangerous opponent. Let the Kree soldiers in the early parts of the chapter go down to defeat fairly easily. Don’t make overcoming Admiral Kor impossible (remember, the heroes have only a limited time to stop the projector from firing). In fact, if it looks like the heroes can’t beat Kor, you can have the Supreme Intelligence step in once again to tip the balance, using its mental powers to throw Kor off balance or causing him to hesitate, reducing his abilities to 0 for one exchange, long enough for the heroes to take him out.

If the Heroes Fail

What if the heroes blow it? It is possible Galen Kor might delay the Avengers long enough for the omni-wave projector to fire on Earth. Or the heroes might overcome Kor, but not be able to shut down the Projector in time. If this happens, you have two choices. The first is to have the Supreme Intelligence step in and stop the Projector from firing, using its Computer Link power. It never intended to allow Galen Kor’s plan to succeed, it simply wanted the heroes to force Kor’s hand and capture the Lunatic Legion so they would no longer be a threat to the Supremor’s plans. Of course, the Supreme Intelligence doesn’t tell the heroes what happened, the Projector simply doesn’t fire. If asked, the Supremor denies any knowledge of sabotage. It suggests instead that Galen Kor’s plan was flawed. Use this ending if you want a simple, clean wrap-up for the adventure.

The other choice is to allow the Projector to fire and start the process of transforming the population of Earth into neo-Kree. The heroes will have to come up with some way of reversing the effects of the omni-wave before it is too late. It might be as simple a matter as reprogramming the projector, using Warbird’s human/Kree DNA as a pattern (and requiring a desperate Intellect action).

If you’re willing to do some additional preparation, reversing the effects might require an additional adventure where the Avengers acquire the necessary components of a reverse omni-wave projector from the Blue Area or even from the former Kree throneworld of Kree-Lar, in a distant galaxy. The heroes must race against time to assemble the needed components before the effects of the Projector become irreversible. Allowing the heroes to deal with the effects of the ray may be more satisfying than simply having the Supremor step in and sort things out, since it makes the players and the heroes more responsible for the consequences of their actions and reinforces the feeling that they were the ones to save the Earth, not some giant green, tentacled potato-head.

Epilogue

Once the threat of the omni-wave projector is ended and Galen Kor is dealt with, the Avengers can wrap things up. Experts from S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Starcore space station arrive in the Blue Area to oversee the dismantling of any remaining Kree equipment, and to study the Supreme Intelligence. The Supremor shows no emotion (good or bad) over the defeat of the Lunatic Legion and denies that it had anything to do with helping the Avengers. In truth, the Supremor is quite pleased: the rogue Kree are beaten, it has human scientists to help maintain it and talk with it, and its own plans to continue the evolution of the Kree race continue undisturbed.

After the adventure is over, Warbird tearfully resigns from the Avengers. The heroes should recommend that she get help for her problems and she says she’ll think about it. If any heroes try to convince her not to go, Warbird thanks them but says that she is obviously outclassed in the Avengers right now. Maybe once she’s had some time to sort things out, she’ll come back.

If the heroes completed the adventure successfully (meaning that Earth has not become a planet of blue-skinned neo-Kree), give each of them a 1-point response bonus.

Necromancy

The Black Art in the Sixth World

> Chummers, check out this latest on some of the deepest and darkest magics on the streets and in the shadows of the Sixth World. This is necromancy, the magic of the dead: of spirits, souls and undead. Take a look, because it explodes some of the popular notions of "the blackest art" and introduces some valuable information you might need the next time a Johnson wants you to collect a handful of graveyard dirt by the dark of the moon. You have been warned.
> Talon

Questions of life and death have long been a focus of metahumanity’s quest for enlightenment. All human cultures have wondered what lies beyond the veil of death, what awaits us on our final journey? Those questions have led to the development of numerous arts that attempt to learn more about the mysteries of death and the dead, to honor the spirits of those who have gone before us and, perhaps, to secure the afterlife or even immortality for those who follow the advice of the people in the know.

The Awakening has done nothing to end the debate on the nature of death and the existence of some kind of life-after-death existence. If anything, it’s only intensified it, creating new ways for metahumanity to explore the questions of life and death and adding fuel to the fire in the form of ghosts, zombies, vampires and the magical arts of necromancy.

Literally, necromancy is the “magic of the dead.” For most modern magical theorists (those who do no scoff at the mere mention of necromancy) the term has been extended to cover a wide and disparate range of magic, from the souls/spirits of living beings to the summoning of the dead to animating corpses and even the investigation of the so-called “undead” and “demons.”

In truth, necromancy is not a “school” of magic or even a branch of magical organization as many think. It is a loosely organized collection of spells, rituals, enchantments and theories having to do with spirits and the dead. The only “necromantic spells” are those that users and armchair magical experts choose to define as such. A manipulation spell is a manipulation, whether it manipulates dead flesh or unliving matter. One is not more “necromantic” than another. Likewise a mana spell that pours damaging energy into a target’s aura is no more “necromantic” than a spell that explodes a ferrocrete wall. The characterization of some spells as “necromantic” is largely a subjective one.

> True, but a subjective judgment has some actual weight in matters of magic. A magician who considers his manabolt to be a means of "shattering a target's soul" can produce some nasty signature effects and lingering traces. Style can be substance sometimes.
> Miss Tick

> This guy dances around the question: are they necromancers or not?
> Raker

> Depends, Raker old son, on what you mean by "necromancer." Are there magicians who are investigating the frontiers of life and death using magic? Yes. Are there magicians who animate corpses? Yes. Are there magicians who seem to be able to summon ghosts? Yes. But if you mean, are there magicians who are skeletal-thin, dress in black robes and live in haunted towers where they perform terrible experiments and have legions of skeletons and zombies as servants, I'm afraid you've been slotting too much kid-trid.
> Silicon Mage

Spirits and Survivals

The primary issues that the necromantic arts concern themselves with is the question of survivals; of life-after-death and the continued existence of the living spirit/soul following the death of the body.

Certainly many have pointed to astral projection as proof of the existence of a “spirit” that can exist apart from the body and some believe that astral forms are the souls of the living beings they represent.

> What jetwash. Astral projection proves absolutely nothing about the existence of the soul. It could just as easily be a mental projection created by the magician's mind and the whole astral plane a kind of veridical hallucination. Once the body dies, the astral body doesn't last long.
> Magister

> Yes, but the fact that the astral form can outlive the body at all is an interesting factoid about the nature of the spirit and astral space, no?
> Druid Lass

The most common manifestation of potential survival-phenomena is that of ghosts (larva valida), a class of spirits that are believed to be the remnants of a dead person. Whether or not the ghost is actually the spirit of the deceased bound to the material plane or an “astral echo” created by an especially traumatic death is still hotly debated by magical theoreticians and parazoologists.

It’s a well-established magical theory that strong emotions can leave a lasting “impression” on the local fabric of astral space. The strength, intensity and duration of the emotions relate directly to how long the emotional “imprint” is retained by a particular place or object. This background count can take the form of a lingering emotional presence, like a sound echoing through a canyon or a scent lingering in a room.

It is speculated that certain extraordinary cases of death-trauma can create a powerful astral impression, an “echo” that mimics many of the characteristics of the deceased at the moment of death, and that it is these lingering astral impressions that form the basis of many types of ghost phenomena.

> This theory denies the existence of the (meta)human soul and diminishes us in ways I can't even begin to describe. Magic should be a humanizing force in the world, not another tool of those soulless corporate bastards!
> Mr. X

> Whoa! Damp down, X. The "astral echo" theory doesn't say one way or another if people have souls. It just assumes that, if they do, they don't hang around on the astral plane after death. It's quite possible that we all do have souls (well, most of us <grin>) but that the soul goes on to its Final Reward (or whatever) while an "astral echo" lingers behind as a ghost. The two are not mutually incompatible.
> Blackstone

The majority of ghostly phenomena seem to take the form of lingering impressions, sometimes accompanied by strong emotional presences and even visual or other sensory impressions. Witnesses may see a ghostly image of the deceased, hear whispering voices or feel sensations of cold or even a phantom touch. All of these can be interpreted as sensory experiences of the unusual astral impressions.

Most ghosts seem to be “automatic” in a fashion, the manifestation always produces the same impressions or the same images over and over again. Many famous ghosts appear and act out the same events like clockwork and have become attractions for the curious and those interested in learning more about ghostly phenomena. It appears that these images are nothing more than mindless automatons, acting out the same events over and over.

> Or tormented souls doomed to re-enact events from their lives over and over for eternity.
> Mr. X

Some ghosts, on the other hand, exhibit qualities more like other spirits and astral entities. These ghosts are able to manipulate mana to produce magical effects and they appear to have intelligence and wills of their own. Some of these “specters” (as they have been dubbed) have considerable powers equal to those of an elemental, nature spirit or other independent astral entity. Some are even speculated to be as powerful as free-willed spirits.

There have been many cases of astral entities appearing in different metahuman forms. Common nature spirits (particularly Spirits of Man) can assume humanoid forms, as can elementals, although these forms are typically imperfect and not likely to be confused with a real person.

Other spirits, like the Brocken Bow, Man-of-the-Woods, Wraith or loa travail of Voudoun appear in very human-like forms and, in some cases, act like classical ghosts would be expected to, but whether or not these spirits are actually metahuman spirits that return to the etheric plane or spirits that look (meta)human remains a mystery.

Most ghosts, specters and similar spirits can be banished with the appropriate rites and rituals, just as other spirits can be. Some of these spirits exhibit unusually strong ties to the material plane and are difficult to exorcise.

> That's for sure. Many ghosts and specters are tied to some particular place or object that seems to serve as an "anchor" for them on this plane. As long as their anchor remains intact, they're damned near impossible to banish. The anchor first has to be destroyed or, in some cases, cleansed of the psychic impressions of the ghost, for the spirit to be sent away. I know some magical consultants who specialize in this kind of "ghost busting" for ornery spirits.
> Golddigger

> Ghosts are often an occupational hazard of shadowrunning. In addition to the possibility of having a mage whose body you've geeked come at you an hour or two later in astral form looking for revenge, there are some long-term ghost problems, too. I know of some runners who ended up going against this Yakuza kobun who was out the avenge his brother's death on a rival oyabun. They greased the kobun but it seems that his desire for revenge wasn't going to be kept down by death. When the oyabun turned up dead, the runners were the first suspects and the gumi had them killed in retaliation, but there are some people who think that the kobun's ghost came to finish the job he started.
> Yoshi

> What a load of drek. I know the dust-up you're talking about and it wasn't no fraggin spook who did the oyabun. Those runners got greedy and stupid and they paid for it. Evolution in action, plain and simple.
> D-Con

> Don't think the Yakuza clan agrees with you, D-Con. Buzz out on the streets is that they're looking to hire some more runners with a little more than average magical muscle for a very hush-hush job. Naturally their rep for working with runners is in the drekker right now, but it sounds to me like there's some ghost-hunting work out there.
> Walker

The Undead

In addition to ghosts and specters as examples of survivals are often lumped the various “undead” such as zombies, vampires and ghouls.

Unfortunately, zombies are generally little more than corpses animated through the power of magic, no more alive than a table made to walk through the power of a spell or a statue inhabited and animated by a familiar spirit. Such “undead” are little more than fleshy puppets of the magician that created them.

> Not entirely accurate. Some zombies are just puppets animated through manipulation spells and drek like that, but there are others the come out of the Voudoun of the islands and New Orleans area that are different. Some of them are animated by spirits summoned by the houngan, and who's to say that those spirits are the original ones who inhabited those bodies before they died? Not a pleasant thought.
> Decker del Sur

As for vampires and other so-called “undead” they are merely the victims of old world mythology applied to the Sixth World. Vampires, ghouls and others are metahumans infected with strains of the Human-Metahuman Vampiric Virus (HMHVV) a retrovirus that alters the genetics of its host, providing them with various magical abilities and the need to feed on the energy of other living beings to survive. These altered metahumans feed directly on life-energy through some medium such as flesh or blood to sustain them.

Vampires and their related kin are no more dead than anyone else. They are victims of a disease whose cause and cure have yet to be unraveled.

> That depends on your definition of "dead." Yeah, vampires and banshees can walk around, think, talk and do most of the other things that you or I can, but they can't reproduce and they can only survive by draining living essence from other beings. Without it, they slowly waste away. Sounds mighty undead to me.
> Jaxom

> Maybe so, but we have to feed on other life to survive too, chummer. We eat living things as food and we starve to dead if we don't eat just the same. Sounds to me like we're more alike than not.
> Gardener

> Where do ghouls fit into the equation? I thought they were a metahuman race?
> Hart

> That's a good question that's looking for an answer. Originally, it was believed that ghouls were a meta-human race like orks or trolls, who goblinized around the same time. More recently, it looks like ghouls are able to make otherwise normal humans become ghouls by infecting them with a strain of HMHVV. Some scientists are guessing that the original ghouls might have simply been humans with a dormant HMHVV retrovirus in their DNA. When the magic came back, the virus re-activated and people with a strong enough concentration of it became ghouls with the ability to infect other people. Because the transformation looked a lot like Goblinization, people figured that ghouls were metas like orks and trolls.
> Doc

> Right idea, Doc. Now take it to its logical conclusion. If ghouls are actually the result of a virus, couldn't it be that orks and trolls are, too? In fact, isn't it possible that all metahumans are the result of some kind of genetic virus and that our governments have know that fact all along and kept the information from us? What do you say to that?
> Buzz

> I'm not sure I should dignify such Humanis trash with an answer, Buzz, but to stay rational about it, metahumans have displayed no retroviral characteristics and clearly do not have the ability to infect humans like vampires and ghouls do. Medical science has long-since established that metahumanity is not a "disease" nor is it transmittable.
> Doc

Returning to Life

One thing that we cannot currently know for certain is what lies on the other side of the gulf that separates life and death. Although our abilities, both magical and technological, to stave off death have increased dramatically, we are still mortal and there is nothing that will keep death at bay forever.

> Speak for yourself, old man.
> A-mortal

One means we do have of gaining some information about the hereafter is through near-death experiences (NDEs) that have been reported. Thousands of NDE cases have been documented over the years and modern magical theory is expanding the frontiers of investigations in near-death experience.

Interestingly enough, reports of NDE strongly resemble metaplanar and astral projection experiences reported by magicians, leading to the possibility of a connection between the astral and the experience of those undergoing a NDE.

> Duh. That's because the astral is the realm of Spirit. In the distant depths of the spirit world are the Summerlands where our spirits go after death to await reincarnation to begin the wheel of life anew.
> Sereena

> Not that Elven drek again.
> Thorn

> Not elven, chummer, neo-pagan. Sorry to say that there's no definitive proof that the Summerlands, Heaven, Hell, Tartarus or the Happy Hunting Grounds are out there among the metaplanes. There are certainly magicians who have visited places like these and more on astral quests, but who can say for sure what they really are? Are they the realms of the afterlife or simply projections of our beliefs on the astral? Both? Neither?
> Miss Tick

Despite its considerable power to restore health and vigor to the injured and ill, magic is still not able to break the barrier of death and cannot be used to restore life to those who have died.

> At least, not yet. And of course the definition of "dead" can be a bit flexible. No life signs doesn't necessarily mean that you're done these days and a good combo of magic and tech can still bring you back more often than not.
> Spook

Goetia and Demons

Calling demons from ancient texts has been a work of many magicians since long before the Awakening. Since magic has come more into the public eye certain aspects of the Art, like the summoning of demons, has fallen by the wayside or been pushed into a dark closet where it is never talked about. Magical theoreticians talk long and loud about how there are no such things as demons to be summoned, as if their voices could drown out their own fears and concerns about the truth.

The truth is that some spirits like those found in different goetic texts have been summoned by magicians, and these spirits often have many of the abilities they are fabled to have, but they are also of keen intelligence and cunning. Calling upon the spirit of a “demon” is riding a magical tiger that can well devour the magician who summons it. Little wonder that the magical community wants to keep such things under wraps.

> Such so-called "demons" are nothing more than free spirits with a sense of humor and some knowledge of goetia. They appear in forms like the Dukes of Hell and their courts because it amuses them and strikes fear into superstitious mortals.
> Lyaster

> I'm not so sure. Such demons may indeed be free spirits-they are bound by their True Names in the same manner- but who is to say that they aren't really creatures of Hell or some similar astral realm? After all, plenty of magical lore proved true after the Awakening. Why not demons?
> Aethyr-smith

> That's just the kind of talk that the academics and the spin-doctors are afraid of. Start telling the mundos you're summoning "demons" and they'll be burning crosses on your lawn as a warm-up to burning you. Frag, it took years to convince most people that fraggin fire elementals and drek weren't creatures from Hell.
> Garnet

> Putting aside whether or not they are the genuine article, there are definitely freebies out there that play the demon's part. They appear in forms from the harmless to the hideous, and offer magicians deals involving the spirit's service in exchange for something. Usually it's rituals and rites that the magician has to invest in to increase the spirit's power. Then the spirit increases his, etc. This cycle can be mutually beneficial, so long as neither side tries to renege on the deal. Some mages also try to simply bind these freebies to their will as slaves. They get a powerful spirit-servant, but bound freebies are treacherous critters, always looking for a way out. Preferably one that involves a slow, painful death for their former master.
> Blackstone

> Dabbling in the summoning of demons is not recommended for living a long and sane life. Magicians who go this route sooner or later end up dead themselves or totally of their rocker, little more than creatures to be hunted down and destroyed by other practitioners of the Art.
> Westwood

Game Information

Gamemasters who want to introduce some different, darker spins on magic in their Shadowrun campaigns can try some of the ideas mentioned in this article to put necromancers and necromantic magic on the streets of the Sixth World.

Ghosts

An anchor is a physical object that holds a ghost or specter in the etheric plane near the physical world. Often it is some item that had strong emotional significance to the ghost in life. A magician who holds a ghost’s anchor can attempt to banish it. Ghost’s with anchors cannot be banished otherwise: their anchor holds them too firmly to this plane. The concept of Fetters from White Wolf’s Wraith: the Oblivion, is similar and can provide additional inspiration.

Specters are ghosts that have paranormal powers that can affect the physical world. They can be treated in much the same way as other spirits; they have a Force, which is used to determine their abilities, and they have various critter powers at their disposal. Powerful ghosts can be considered free spirits, with some of those powers, especially the Hidden Life power connected to a particular anchor of the ghost’s. They can also be summoned and bound, like free spirits, by someone who knows their True Name and/or possesses their anchor.

It remains unknown whether or not specters are actually the spirits of the dead or simply astral shadows molded in their image by powerful emotional impressions. In truth, it may be impossible to know for sure either way.

Necromancers

Like toxic shamans twist and pervert the way of their totem, necromancers are mages who have gone the route of corruption and power for its own sake. Not all who study the Black Art become evil and corrupt, but those who practice it for too long are subject to falling into a darkness of the spirit that never lifts.

Like other Magical Threats, necromancers can be given a Potency Rating that measures the additional power their twisted magical perceptions grant them. The Potency Rating is added directly to the necromancer’s Magical Threat Rating for determining their power level. Certain obscure rites and rituals can increase Potency, and necromancers will pursue those goals. Thwarting a necromancer can reduce Potency.

Essence Draining

A metamagical technique similar to the vampiric power. It allows a magician to tap into and drain a living being of its Essence to increase the magician’s own life-force.

The potential victim must be in an excited emotional state (terror, lust, anger, etc.) and in physical contact with the magician for the ability to work. Initiating an Essence drain requires at least 30 seconds (10 Combat Turns). The magician uses the Sorcery skill and makes a test against the victim’s Willpower. A single success is enough to begin the process of draining Essence.

The magician can drain as many Essence points as the victim has at a rate of 1 point per minute of contact. The Essence loss is permanent for the victim. The magician then adds the stolen essence to his own, up to a maximum of 12 points of Essence.

The side-effect of this Essence drain destabilizes the user’s own Essence. It begins to “bleed” away, causing the user to suffer from Essence Loss immediately after using the technique for the first time. This causes a permanent alteration in the user’s aura. They must now steal Essence in order to survive, like a vampire. On the up side, the Essence-drainer gains the critter powers of Immunity to Age, Immunity to Pathogens and Immunity to Toxins. So long as he continues to drain Essence, the magician is effectively immortal. Essence-drainers do not gain any of the other abilities of vampires, although they are similar. But they do not have any of a vampire’s traditional weaknesses to wood or sunlight, either.

Any magician can potentially learn how to Essence drain, but the technique is extremely rare and most magical paths consider it forbidden knowledge that is best left alone. Once an initiate steps onto the path of draining the life-force from others, there is no turning back.

Demons

Whether or not “real” demons exist in the Sixth World is up to individual gamemasters, but there can still be spirits in Shadowrun that are the functional equivalent of the demons of magical lore.

Demons are basically Shadow free spirits that are reflections of the dark side of humanity and human nature. These spirits take forms out of myth and legend much like demons and they are demons in nearly all practical ways.

These spirits can be summoned like other free spirit, using their true names to bind them to service. Some magicians use ancient texts and names of demons written down by occultists centuries ago to try and call something to their wills. Some of them even succeed, although they often find that the Names they have used do not bind the spirit like they thought they did. Some shadow-spirits even allow foolish magicians or mundanes to think that they are bound to them when in fact the spirits choose to serve their “masters” for reasons of their own.

Other magicians will try and bargain with a shadow-spirit in exchange for its service. The coin of the realm with shadows is generally Karma that the spirit can use to increase its power, but sometimes shadows will desire other things from supplicants. Some can even teach initiates the secrets of Essence Draining (above) and will take a “cut” of the Essence stolen from the magician, converting it into an equal amount of Karma for themselves. Other shadows have goals and desires that can only be barely comprehended by sane (meta)humans and demand payments that seem to have no logical purpose.

In addition to free spirits, there seem to be other things in the depths of the metaplanes. Spirits like Tutor from the Threats sourcebook, are prime examples of “demonic” spirits.

There are also deadly spirits that feed on living Essence and other things of the material world: the mysterious Enemy. These dark spirits are powerful beyond that of nearly any Shadowrun free spirit and they are best used as puppet-masters or background elements if they are used at all. Gamemasters familiar with the Earthdawn setting can adapt some of the Horrors from that game for Shadowrun, but even the least of the Horrors would likely annihilate a group of shadowrunners, so they are best used only in high-powered games or campaigns that are looking to create a feeling of hopeless terror, a la Call of Cthulhu.

Given here are a couple of sample “demon” free spirits for gamemaster to use in their campaigns:

The King of Pain

The King of Pain is a strange spirit that manifests as a tall figure covered in a dark, tattered and shapeless hooded robe. From beneath the robe protrude many different metallic probes and blades, all wickedly sharp and barbed, many attached to pulsating flesh or dripping blood or ichor. It speaks in a terrible whisper and carries and odor like a charnel house with it. In short, it’s just as many imagine a demon might be.

The spirit seems to have its own agenda and dislikes being summoned. It always appears to the call of it’s True Name, but it is difficult to bind (having a very high Force). It often bargains with summoners and offers them magical knowledge or power in exchange for service (and Karma). The spirit’s followers may have infiltrated many existing magical groups and orders, giving the King of Pain extensive influence in the magical world.

Mordel

Mordel appears to be a fairly harmless creature, which is an often fatal misconception by those who see him. The spirit appears as a small, demonic imp: childlike body and features with reddish skin, small horns and a barbed tail. His voice and laugh are high-pitched and malevolent, but almost too comical to be threatening.

Mordel prefers to play the part of the “demonic servant” and appears at the summons of a magician to obey his “master’s” wishes. Usually Mordel does his best to draw out the most depraved and hidden desires of his masters and then fulfills them, usually in exchange for Karma that he himself can use. Those who believe they are in control of Mordel quickly become totally dependent on the little demon for advice and assistance. Eventually Mordel tires of the game and abandons his former master and leaves them to the mercy of the authorities or their angry victims and goes off seeking another “master” to serve.

Legion of the Unliving!

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.

Nekra’s Gift

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.

Epilogue

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.

Tie-Ins

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”.

The Spirit Warrior Discipline

Spirit Warriors are martial adepts who are strongly in tune with the spirit worlds and astral space. They use their abilities to defend their communities from both physical and astral threats, while maintaining good relations with friendly spirits as helpers and allies. Spirit Warriors are generally found only among the more primative peoples of Barsaive, much like Shamans (see the Earthdawn Magic Sourcbeook).

Many spirit warrior abilities were tested during the Scourge, when their talents became important in protecting the kaers they lived in from invasion by the Horrors.

Important Attributes: Dexterity, Strength, and Willpower

Racial Restrictions: None

Karma Ritual: To perform a Karma ritual, the spirit warrior draws a triangle within a circle on a ground and meditates there, singing songs to the spirits to gain their favor. The ritual ends when a spirit gives some sign of favor to the warrior, which may be anything from a whisper on the wind to a gout of flame from the earth to a mighty clap of thunder.

Artisan Skills: Body Painting, Tattooing, Storytelling/Oral History

First Circle

  • Acrobatic Strike
  • Air Dance
  • Astral Sight
  • Avoid Blow
  • Fireblood
  • Karma Ritual
  • Melee Weapons

Second Circle Talents

  • Durability (7/6)
  • Steel Thought

Third Circle Talents

  • Silent Walk
  • Unarmed Combat

Fourth Circle

  • Plant Talk: At the cost of 1 point of Strain, the Spirit Warrior can speak with plant spirits in the same manner as the first circle Elementalist spell of the same name.
  • Elemental Tongues
  • Thread Weaving (Spirit Weaving)

Fifth Circle

  • Physical Defense: Increase the Spirit Warrior’s Physical Defense by 1.
  • Elemental Hold
  • Gliding Stride

Sixth Circle

  • Call Ancestor: By performing a special Karma Ritual and sacrificing a Recovery Test, the Spirit Warrior can call upon the spirit of one of his ancestors or ancestral heroes. If the Karma Ritual Test overcomes the spirit’s Spell Defense, the spirit will appear and answer one question to the best of its ability or it will grant the adept a single use of one of the talents that it had in life at a rank equal to the Spirit Warrior’s Karma Ritual. This ability must be used within a day and a night of the ritual or it is lost.
  • Spirit Hold
  • Spirit Talk

Seventh Circle

  • Spell Defense: Increase the Spirit Warrior’s Spell Defense by 1.
  • Enduring Art
  • Life Check

Eighth Circle

  • Karma: The Spirit Warrior may spend karma on any action using Willpower only.
  • Safe Path
  • Spirit Strike

Ninth Circle

  • Initiative: Increase the Spirit Warrior’s Initiative dice by 1 Step.
  • Social Defense: Increase the Spirit Warrior’s Social Defense by 1.
  • Lion Heart
  • Metal Ward
  • Water Dance

Tenth Circle

  • Karma: The Spirit Warrior may spend karma on any action using Dexterity only.
  • Physical Defense: Increase the Spirit Warrior’s Physical Defense by 1.
  • Animate Object
  • Orbiting Spy

Eleventh Circle

  • Karma: Increase the Spirit Warrior’s maximum Karma by 25.
  • Cobra Strike
  • Plant Shelter

Twelfth Circle

  • Recovery: The Spirit Warrior gains an additional Recovery Test.
  • Spell Defense: Increase the Spirit Warrior’s Spell Defense by 1.
  • Summon
  • Summoning Circle

Thirteenth Circle

  • Karma: The Spirit Warrior may spend Karma on Damage Tests against spirits of all kinds.
  • Spirit Walk: At the cost of 3 Strain, the Spirit Warrior can physically enter the Astral Plane. It costs an additional 3 Strain to leave the astral. This ability is similar to the Rank 15 Lightbearer talent except that the Spirit Warrior cannot bring anyone with them.
  • Bargain with Summoned Creature
  • Spirit Mount

Fourteenth Circle

  • Physical Defense: Increase the Physical Defense of the Spirit Warrior by 1.
  • Recovery Test: The Spirit Warrior gains an additional Recovery Test.
  • Matrix Strike
  • Aura Armor

Fifteenth Circle

  • Walker Between the Worlds: At the cost of 3 points of permanent damage, the Spirit Warrior becomes highly acclimated to the astral and spirit planes and is able to function there more effectively than others. This ability adds 1 step to the adept’s Astral Sight, Spirit Strike and Matrix Strike talents.
  • Ethereal Weapon
  • Moving Earth

Half-Magic

Spirit Warriors can use half-magic to identify plants and other natural materials, different types of spirits and for gathering natural ingredients for alchemy and enchanting.

Sensing Spirits

Spirit warriors are sensitive to the nature of astral space. They may make half-magic tests to determine the presence of spirits in nearby astral space. They also have some minor half-magic summoning abilities that allow them to call and bargain with lesser spirits (primarily elemental spirits).

The World of Shadow

How it came to be

The Storyteller games from White Wolf describe an alternate “gothic punk” world were creatures of the night are engaged in their own secret struggles right under the very noses of the mortals they co-exist with. They all maintain their own veil of secrecy of one kind or another, existing in the shadows of the night, just out of sight.

In the world of Shadowrun the forces of magic have stepped out of the mists of legend and into the neon of the city lights. The Awkened are no longer hidden… or are they?

The World of Shadow starts out much like the story presented by White Wolf. The mad forces of Order, embodied by the Technocracy, work to smother the power of magic and wonder in the world, entrapping everything in their cold, crystaline vision. The power of Corruption, of the Wyrm, twists the plans of these utopians and threatens to brings about the destruction of all that live.

In the early years of the 21st Century, it appeared that these forces were about to achieve their final victory. Powerful corporations backed by the Technocracy and influenced by the power of the Wyrm grew to eclipse national governments. The Seretech Decision of 1999 gave them extraterritorial rights and powers that allowed them to expand unchecked. The Pogrom of the Technocracy began to ruthlessly root out renegade mages and execute them and the Garou were losing their battle against the coming Apocalypse.

A reprive came from an unexpected source. A group of Marauders, acting in concert, were sowing the seeds of the return of the mythic age of magic and chaos. They instructed their acolytes and acted with cooperation previously unknown among their kind until the time was right.

On December 24, 2011, a time of power fortold in prophecy, the Marauder’s acted. In an incredible display of magick that consumed its wielders, the paradox-immune mages sundered the Technocracy’s carefully built gauntlet like tissue and sent the power of magick flooding across the world. Dragons appeared in the skies and mythic beasts in the land and sea. Humanity felt the call of magic once again. The Awakening had come.

The World of Darkness gave way to a World of Shadow. The forces of the light gained a ray of hope, a foothold on the slippery slope. The shadows are dark, but there is a chance that the meeting of man, machine, and magic can offer hope.

The Kindred

The Vampires have benefited from the Awakening by a slight loosening of the Masquerade. The kine are now aware that vampires exist, but they do not know how long they have lived among us or how much influence they truly wield.

Powerful Kindred have infiltrated all of the major corporations. Several of them are actually totally Kindred controlled, such as Haven Industries. The Masquerade is still ruthlessly enforced to protect their deepest secrets from the kine.

The Tremere have taken advantage of the Awakening to allow them to practice many of their magics in the open, although their more esoteric blood magics are still hidden from mortal eyes.

The Garou

The tribes of the Changing Folk have gained new hope from the Awakening. Garou forces reclaimed the Amazon Basin in their greatest victory against the forces of the Wyrm. The government of Amazonia is secretly controlled by a council of Garou and their magical allies. The Garou are also strongly influencial in the Native American Nations, especially the Wendigo and the Uktena. Wendigo Garou often agitate behind the scenes for the Ghost Dance to continue and drive the non-natives forever from the shores of the Americas, but the other tribes have held them in check.

Some of the Garou have taken to guerilla warfare in the depths of the sprawls: dark strongholds of the Wyrm. The Glass Walkers have become masterful deckers and shadowrunners, as have the Bone Gnawers. The Shadow Lords are influencial with many megacorporations, often fighting secret struggles with the Vampires and Mages who control them.

Magi

The Technocracy has been struck a powerful blow by the Awakening, but they have by no means surrendered their grip on Reality. The plan has simply changed. The Technomancers have altered the reality they seek to impose upon the masses to include the hedge magic permitted by the Awakening.

They continue along with their program, controlling the major corporations and working to make magic just another part of “ordinary” reality: a cold science with no passion or wonder left in it. They have even begun experimenting with bizzare meldings of science and sorcery like cybermancy.

Most magicians of the Sixth World use hedge magic, unaware of the larger nature of reality and True Magick. The more outlandish forces of magick are still suppressed by Reality and still summon the forces of Paradox to punish offenders. Tossing a fireball invokes little paradox, but re-shaping space and time is still an affort to the will of the Technomancers.

The Dreamspeakers are strongly involved in the government of the Native American Nations and have been encouraging the revival of shamanic traditions around the world. The Verbena are tied to Amazonia and have allied with the Garou. The Order of Hermes is behind the revival of the hermetic tradition and looks forward to re-establishing the power they once had in the Mythic Age.

The Virtual Adepts have come into their own with the creation of the Matrix. When a Adept/Iteration X war crashed the worldwide telecomm system in 2029, a truce was established that allowed for the creation of the Matrix, the mundane shadow of the Digital Web, increasing the Web’s influence all over the world and becoming a new battleground for the forces of the Awakened.

The Nephandi still lurk in the shadows and hope to bring about their day when their demonic masters will be able to enter the Earth’s dimension en masse. They have already taken control of the Aztechnology corporation with their vampire and bane allies and are using the Aztec blood rituals to speed the time of their masters’ arrival.

The Restless Dead

The existance of wraiths is a debated topic among scholars in the Sixth World. Some of the Awakened know of the restless dead and respect their powers and influence. The Technomancers and their allies work to maintain the belief that appearances of wraiths are no more than “astral echoes” with no real substance.

The heirarchy of the Shadowlands has also been altered by the weakening of the Shroud that accompanied the Awakenings. Wraiths can have greater effect on the mortal world and many of them have become more involved in the affairs of the Quick using their various Arcanos powers. A Wraith subculture known as “nomads” has developed, based on skinridding and taking over various mortal bodies to experience the joys of life again, at least for a brief time.

The Faerie

With the Awakening, the gates of Faerie are open once again, sort of.

Before 2011, the forces of Banality all but overcame the Changelings. The progress of the Technocracy’s program brought on the endless Winter that faerie seers and soothsayers had predicted. Most of the fae fell into forgetting their Dreaming natures and became mundanes.

The Awakening brought about the new Spring that some had hoped would follow the Banal Winter. Changelings and faeries cast off their mortal guise once again and assumed their true forms. But all was not well with the fair folk.

The long winter had robbed most of the faerie of the knowledge of the Dreaming. When they awoke again to their true natures, their memories did not. The vast majority of changelings in the world are ignorant of their origins and have taken on a modern conception of themselves as “metahumans” perhaps mutations of the human form.

Some of the few elite changelings still remember their true selves. They have established nations where their brethern can be safe and the power of Glamor can be protected against the tide of Banality that is rising again. The Elven Nations of Tir Tairngire and Tir na n’Og are mortal enemies of the banality of the Technocracy as well as the blood-soaked madness of the Nephandi and their puppets in Aztlan. The High Princes and true faerie of those nations have been forced to act covertly against their enemies, because the crushing force of banal disbelief destroys the delicate structure of their glamors.

Now between the Awakened Light and the Stygian Darkness is a World of Shadow. In that twilight realm dwell those forgotten by the rigid corporate world, the last hope of change and freedom, the Shadowrunners…

A Change for the Better

A look at shapechanging in Shadowrun

In most Shadowrun campaigns, magician characters will have a fairly “standard” assortment of spells, including some of the old stand-bys like manabolt, heal and armor. However, there is a virtually limitless range of possible spell in the Shadowrun magic system and many effects are overlooked by magician players. One of these effects is shapeshifting.

There are two primary spells for shapeshifting: shapeshift and critter form. Critter form is just a limited version of shapeshift that only allows the magician to assume a single animal form.

Limits on Shapeshifting

There is no mention in the spell of any limit of size or other abilities for the critter form beyond the fact that it must be a “normal” critter (that is to say, a non-Awakened “real world” animal). To quote Madame Mim from Disney’s Sword in the Stone, “no purple crocodiles or pink dragons allowed.”

However, there are still many “normal” animal forms that can be quite powerful. An elephant must have Strength and Body well into double digits, not to mention what the abilities of, say, a blue whale must be (easily Strength 40 or more). There is also the possibility of turning into a very tiny form, like an insect. What about microscopic life-forms like amoebas or Merlin’s trick (again from Sword in the Stone) of turning into an invisible germ?

Obviously some sort of limit on the forms that magician can assume is probably needed to keep things under control. A simple rule is to limit the change based on the Body of the desired animal form (which is also a rough guideline as to its mass), say no more than plus or minus three to the magician’s original Body score. This would allow most magicians to assume animal forms with mass a few times greater than human, such as a horse, but nothing as massive as an elephant or whale.

Likewise, the magician is not allowed to reduce Body to lower than 1, and so cannot assume the form of anything much smaller than a rat. Of course, with the attribute bonus generated from the spellcasting test, it could be one tough rat!

Naturally, the gamemaster can vary these limitations as needed for the campaign. Perhaps he feels that the larger forms are not too great of a concern because of their limited utility (you can’t become an elephant in an enclosed space nor would you want to become a whale on land) and only very tiny forms are restricted.

Another question to consider is whether or not the shapechange spell allows a character to assume (meta)human forms as well as animals. This is probably better covered by the mask spell, but it might be allowed by some gamemasters.

Animal Fighting

The ability or attribute used by a character in animal form to make attacks is also not given by the spell description. Would the human-oriented skill of unarmed combat even apply to fighting in the form of an eagle or a tiger?

Normal animals use their Reaction as their attack score and I would suggest that characters in animal form would do the same. This makes a shapechanged combatant formidable, because the animal Reaction is increased by the Intelligence of the subject of the spell, but this seems to well represent the terrible power of a creature like a bear or tiger controlled by a human intellect. This seems to reflect the fantasy-genre fiction where shapeshifting magicians who are quite combat inept become fearsome fighters in animal form. Keep in mind that all tests (including attack tests) made in animal form may still suffer a target number penalty from sustaining the shapechange spell.

Alternately, the gamemaster might require a specialization of Unarmed Combat for animal forms. This could even be a different skill for each species or even each type of animal! This is generally too restrictive, but it is a good way to limit the combat abilities of a shapechanger, if desired. If Unarmed Combat skill is required, then the shapeshifted character can also default to Quickness or Reaction, which will likely be fairly high in the beast form.

Can’t Take It With You

One of the limits of the shapechange spell given above is that it doesn’t affect clothing or equipment. Anything the character is carrying or wearing will either fall to the ground or might possibly even be destroyed by the shapeshift if the character doesn’t bother to remove his clothing first.

This can be a nuisance (not to mention embarrassment) for a shapeshifter. Armor, in particular, can be lost when changing into a very large form and there is always the possibility of the character becoming entangled in their clothing when assuming certain animal and (especially) avian forms. There are several possible solutions for this problem.

The first, and simplest, is to create a version of the shapechange spell that is a physical spell and transforms anything that the character is wearing (but not carrying). The character’s clothing disappears when the spell is cast and reappears when they assume human form. The clothing might be displaced into astral space, be changed along with the character (see below) or perhaps it is a mystery that magical theorists are still working on.

An option within the existing system is for the magician to stack a Fashion spell (Grimoire, p.131) along with the shapechange spell to transform his clothing into a collar, leg band or something similar on the person of the animal form, then reverse the spell upon changing back to human form. This allows the shapeshifter to carry “compressed” clothing along with him. The drawback is that the multiple spellcastings can be become very draining, especially if multiple changes in form are called for.

A third option is to take a page from White Wolf Games’ Werewolf and allow magicians to spend karma to “bond” items much in the way they bond foci. This allows the items so enchanted (and only them) to change shape with the character. A normal set of clothes might cost a point of Karma or two, while something like a weapon or other item might cost more. If this option is used, magical foci should automatically have this ability as part of their normal bonding cost.

Character with cyberware who are the subject of a shapechange spell need not worry. Although cybernetics are not “living,” the character has expended Essence to tie those implants to his personal aura, allowing them to change form along with the rest of the character. It is worth noting that the various bonuses granted by cyberware do not apply while the character is in animal form but return to normal when the spell ends.

Once Through Quickly

One thing a shapeshifting magician might want to do that is common in the source literature is change directly from one form to another without assuming human form. This is common in shapeshifter’s duels and similar situations. For example, a magician in seagull form flying over the ocean spots something faint under the water. She wants to assume dolphin form to dive down and take a look. Does she have to re-cast the shapechange spell? There are several options.

The gamemaster could require that a character assume human form (i.e., drop any existing shapechange spell) before assuming another form. This would prohibit changes like the one described above, and the magician would have to dive into the water in human form, then become a dolphin.

The gamemaster can allow another shapechange spell to be cast while in animal form. This assumes the magician has no geasa or fetishes required for the spell that the animal form does not have or is not capable of. For example, if the magician needed to speak to cast the spell, she would have to be in the form of a parrot -not a gull-to pull it off.

Lastly, the gamemaster can allow a single shapechange spell to grant multiple changes of form, with the same number of successes as the original casting. Whether or not these additional changes cause any additional drain is up to the gamemaster. This option makes shapechange a highly flexible spell and should be considered carefully before being adopted.

Going Over to the Beast

A common danger of shapeshifting in the source literature is losing one’s own personality in the mind of the animal form. The longer the shapeshifter remains in animal form, the more likely they will become the animal in mind as well as body.

If the gamemaster wants to include this possibility, a shapechanged character must make a Willpower test every hour against a target number of 4. A failed test reduces the characters Intelligence by 1. When the character’s Intelligence drops to the normal level for that animal (as listed in the critter descriptions) the character mentally becomes that animal and the shapechange spell is effectively Quickened at the force it was cast at (at no Karma cost to the magician, unless the gamemaster is especially cruel).

The only way the character can assume their normal form again is if the shapechange spell is dispelled or overcome in astral combat by another magician. This ends the spell and returns the character to normal with no adverse effects.

A Changeling Primer

Listed here are some useful forms for a shapechanging magician to keep in mind.

Combat: Most predatory animals are useful combat forms, especially tigers, bears, and wolves. Gorillas have great Strength and Body as well as the ability to handle equipment when directed by a human intelligence. A shark form in the water can be frighteningly effective.

Disguise: Any breed of domestic dog is good for this in the city (remember the Thing, directed by John Carpenter?) as are rats, pigeons and other critters that are omnipresent in the city.

Flyers: Bird forms of all kinds are useful for aerial scouting and spying. Pigeons and seagulls are common enough in most cities as not to be noticed by anyone, while falcons and eagles have extraordinary distance vision and also make useful combat forms. Bats are an excellent aerial form at night, providing natural sonar. Owls make a good nighttime form as well.

Poisonous: Some small forms can be highly effective in combat because they are also poisonous. This includes most poisonous snakes like cobras and vipers.

Runners: Swift land animals like deer, antelope and cheetahs are superb for fast pursuit or escape, especially in wilderness areas. They are less effective in the metroplex where smaller forms like rats and domestic cats allow one to disappear more easily into dark alleys and small nooks and crannies.

Swimmers: Useful aquatic forms include otters, seals and small cetaceans like dolphins. Shark forms can be very frightening and strange ones like manta rays and jellyfish (especially poisonous ones) have their uses as well, and don’t forget electric eels.

Lycanthropic Adepts

A specialized “shapechanger” adept would make an interesting character to play. The character (most likely a sorcery adept) would specialize in spells like shapechange and mask that allowed him to assume different forms and the various support spells (such as fashion, mentioned above). The character might even be unaware of his abilities and believe himself to be some kind of “were-creature” instead of a normal magician.

The Shapeshifter’s Duel

Another common occurrence from the source fiction (remember Sword in the Stone?) is a duel between magicians using the shapeshift spell. While the duel is in effect, each magician assumes a series of shapes, trying to use superior knowledge and cunning to overcome his opponent.

Each participant cast shapechange normally at the start of the duel. During the duel, the magician may not use other magic, but may assume a new shape as a Simple Action. Each form change requires a new Force Success Test, but does not require an additional Drain Resistance Test (this may vary if the gamemaster places additional limits on shapechange). Remember any limits on different forms that the magician may assume.

This sort of combat exists in numerous traditions (most of them shamanic). At the gamemaster’s discretion, any magician who knows the shapechange spell may participate in such a duel. Indeed, it would be interesting to see such a conflict played out between two magicians of different traditions.

Exclusive Sustainment Modifier

This spell modifier is similar to the normal Exclusive modifier for spell force (SRII, p.133). Exclusive sustainment has the same requirement that the caster may not cast any other spell or perform any other magical activity while this spell is being sustained. It is different in that the modifier is not applied to the spell’s Force, which remains at the learned level. Instead, the caster is allowed to expend a Free action each turn for the sustainment of the spell and takes no distraction modifier for sustainment. Therefore, the caster can act normally while sustaining the spell, with the exception of not being able to take any other magical actions while sustaining.