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?

Mastering the Mystic Arts

Originally published in Dragon magazine annual #4

Magic and Mysticism in the Marvel Universe

Hoggoth, Oshtur and dark Valtorr,
Faltine, Agamotto and Raggadorr,
Seraphim, Watoomb and Cyttorak,
Satannish, Ikonn and cold Denak,
By the Vishanti’s eternal light,
Powers of magic, protect us tonight!

— Dr. Strange, Sorcerer Supreme

The mystic arts, powers of magic far beyond the ken of ordinary mortals. It is in the shadowy world of mysticism that magicians like Dr. Strange, Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme, maintain eternal vigilance against hordes of demons, evil wizards and cosmic beings from other dimensions, protecting an unsuspecting populace from their dire plots.

The Game Book for the Marvel Super Heroes Adventure Game provides basic information on the power of magic and those who wield it. This article offers an expanded look at the mystic arts in the Marvel Universe, with additional information and options usable by players and Narrators alike.

Magic

What is magic? According to the Sorcerer Supreme himself, magic is the study of forces and how to use them to cause things to happen. A magician who learns how to manipulate the right energies can do almost anything. Magicians are limited only by the extent of their knowledge and will. Magic is not like other powers because it is not granted by cosmic rays, mutation, strange machines, or chemicals. Magic is learned through years of intense study and practice. While everyone may have some potential to wield magic, only a select few have the drive, dedication and willpower needed to develop that talent into true skill in the mystic arts.

The great majority of magicians are “novices” who have learned a few spells here and there, but do not have the skill of a true Master of the Mystic Arts. The MARVEL Game Book refers to them as “dabblers.” The Scarlet Witch is one such individual, Dr. Doom is another. Although she knows some true magic, the Scarlet Witch relies for the most part on her mutant hex power. Likewise, the Lord of Latveria prefers the tools of science to those of sorcery.

Novices have a Magic intensity of 9 or less. They choose spells (stunts) from a limited list of powers, as follows: Astral Projection, Detection (Magic), Dimensional Travel, Energy Blast, Ensnarement, ESP, Force Field, Illusion, Life Support, Telekinesis, Telepathy and Teleportation (Self, Summoning). Novices also have to draw a card whenever casting a spell. If the card’s value is greater than the novice’s Magic the spell fails, and if the aura of the card is negative, a mishap occurs, left up the Narrator.

Magicians with a Magic intensity of 10 or greater are masters of the mystic arts, able to duplicate virtually any Power with a trump suit of Intellect or Willpower as a spell. Magic does not normally allow a mage (even a master) to affect his or her own body, ability scores or skills. For this reason, mages often make use of various helpers and henchmen to handle physical matters. Even heroic sorcerers like Dr. Strange regularly call upon the help of other heroes.

The following Intellect- and Willpower-based powers cannot be duplicated using Magic: Chi, Cosmic Energy Control, Luck Control, Power Amplification, Power Duplication and Reality Warping. Many other powers are rarely, if ever, duplicated by magicians, including: Computer Link, Darkforce Control, Gravity Control, Kinetic Control, Pheromones, Radar, Radiation Control and Sonar. The Narrator should consider carefully before allowing a mage to duplicate these powers.

Schools of Magic

Magic-wielders in the Marvel Universe fall into one of three broad categories or “schools.”

Order magic, also known as “white” or “good” magic, is based around protection, truth and the maintenance of order in the universe. It is the school of magic followed by such powerful sorcerers as Dr. Strange and his mentor, the Ancient One.

Neutral magic, often known as “nature” magic or “gray” magic, focuses on principles beyond good and evil, such as the forces of the natural world or the rules of the scientific method. Mystics like Shaman from Alpha Flight practice neutral magic, as do alchemists like Diablo, showing that neutral magic can be used for either good or evil.

Chaos magic, also known as “black” or “evil” magic, is based around destruction, deception, and the creation of chaos and disorder. Magical villains like Baron Mordo and Dormammu are masters of such magic.

Spells

Spells shape magical energy to create an infinite variety of effects. Spells draw energy from two basic sources: personal and external.

Personal energy spells draw on the magician’s inner reserves of strength. Powers that use personal energies are: Astral Projection, Detection (Magic), ESP, Illusion andTelepathy.

These spells do not require any special incantations or gestures, only a modicum of concentration on the part of the magician. A magician can cast these spells even while bound and gagged, or otherwise restrained. Personal spells still take place as Contingent Actions, as described on page 164 of the Marvel Game Book.

A magician can cast personal spells without being noticed by making a difficult Magic action. The difficulty is only average against opponents with the Overconfident hindrance (see page 109 of the Game Book). Dr. Strange uses this tactic against Overconfident foes like Mordo or the dread Dormammu quite often, loosing his astral form or creating an illusion to distract his foe and give Strange time to overcome him.

All other spells require the magician to tap into external sources of energy, either from the Earth or other dimensions, using names of power, incantations, and gestures to summon and direct the energy. The magician must be free to speak and move in order to cast these spells. A mage who is gagged, silenced or bound can only use personal energies. Some of the more common magical powers are described here, along with the names used to invoke them.

Dimensional Travel: Magicians travel between dimensions and often deal with beings from other dimensions. Magic makes use of two new stunts of Dimensional Travel.Gate creates a “door” between two dimensions, allowing travelers to simply step through. Keeping the gate open requires an average Magic action for each exchange beyond the first. Banishment sends a target to another dimension chosen by the caster, requiring an average Magic (Willpower) action. Dimensional Travel spells include theMists of Hoggoth, the Shades of the Seraphim and the Winds of Watoomb. The Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth , the Fires of Satannish and the dreaded Spell of Eternal Vanishment are banishment spells.

Elemental Control: The powers of Air, Earth, Fire, Water and Weather Control are common for magicians, especially followers of a neutral “nature magic” school. Power over the elements is granted by Gaia, the Earth Mother, as well as many elemental spirits.

Energy Blast: The standard magical Energy Blast is called a Bolt of Bedevilment , which is taught to every novice. Additionally there are the Baleful Bolts of Balthakk(black lightning), Crystals of Cyndriarr (dozens of flat, razor-sharp squares), the Crimson Crystals of Cyttorak (sharp, reddish crystals), the Daggers of Daveroth (flat red triangles), the Disks of Denak (flat purple circles), the Flames of the Faltine (green flames), the Light of Agamotto (bright light, usable only against evil creatures), the Seven Suns of Cinnibus (blazing light), the Storms of Satannish (lightning bolts), and many others.

Ensnarement: Magicians often use spells to entrap foes. The most famous is the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak, but there are many others, including the Chains of Krakkan, the Dark Vapors of Valtorr , Icy Tendrils of Ikthalon and the Roving Rings of Raggadorr. Some spells provide the Multiple Targets stunt of Ensnarement, trapping all opponents within firing distance, such as the Ribbons of Raggadorr and the Seven Bands of Cyttorak.

Force Field: The most common magical force field is the Shield of the Seraphim. There are many other sorts of defense, including the Conjured Crystal of Cyttorak (a reddish crystal), a Nirvalonic Sphere (which gains +2 intensity, but is immobile once created) and the Seraphim’s Grim Shield (which provides Detection (Evil) in addition to protection). Magicians also use force fields to trap opponents with spells like Dyzakk’s Cage, the Scarlet Sphere of Cyttorak, the Shining Circle of the Seraphim and one of the Spells of the Omnipotent Oshtur.

Nullification: Magic is used to nullify many things, particularly other magic. Some common nullification spells include the Flames of the Faltine (vs. animation, ensnarement, or mental control), In the Name of the All-Freeing (vs. bonds and mental control), the Hosts of Hoggoth (vs. magic), the Illusions of Ikonn (vs. illusions), theLight of Agamotto (vs. bonds and mental control), the Light of Nirvalon (vs. emotion control), the Mystic Moons of Munnopor (vs. energy fields), Oshtur’s Mighty Hands (vs. magic), the Shades of the Seraphim (vs. ensnarement) and the Stumbling Vapors of Valtorr (vs. Agility).

Teleport: Mages can move across the face of the world in an instant using spells like the Winds of Watoomb or the Shades of the Seraphim. They also use Summoning spells to bring objects and creatures to them, such as the Demons of Denak, which summons a group of demons to serve the caster, or the Flames of Falroth, which can summon any item or being known to the caster.

Transmutation: Magic can transform virtually anything. The Weirdling Planes of Pholdak is a complex spell that requires three exchanges to cast (any interruption spoils the spell). It requires an average Magic (Willpower) action and turns the target two-dimensional, like a pane of glass. If the target is shattered (an average Strength action) it is destroyed. This spell is quite rare, found only in a few obscure books and scrolls. More mundanely, magicians use Transmutation to repair broken objects, transform their clothes and waterproof their spooky old mansions and towers.

Miscellaneous Spells: There are far too many other spells to describe them all, but here are a few of the classics. The Light of Agamotto and the glow of the Mystic Moons of Munnopor can have a Blinding effect on evildoers. Daranthon’s Lost Lore provides Detection spells. The Sign of the Seraphim permits a mage to reflect a spell back at its caster (Energy Reflection). The Illusions of Ikonn can create any type of Illusions. The Images of Ikonn induce specific feelings (Emotion Control). The Munnopor’s Mystic Maze, the power of Amtor the Unspeakable and the Wheel of Bromagdon induce Paralysis. The Mists of Morpheus provide the Sedation stunt of Psychic Blast. The Mists of Munnopor and the Vapors of Valtorr cover an area out to firing distance with a dense mist that acts like Shadow Control. The Spell of Silence provides the Silence stunt of Sonic Control.

The mystic trinity of the Vishanti (Agamotto, Hoggoth and Oshtur) is the greatest magical force for good known, capable of granting virtually any spell, and often invoked by good sorcerers.

Playing a Mage

A student of the mystic arts, whether a mere novice or an experienced master, has considerable responsibilities compared to the average hero. Mages have a sacred trust to use their powers responsibly, for the good of all. Those who violate this trust are drawn to evil, and may suffer a change in Calling. Magicians must be vigilant against various magical threats: cults, evil mages, magical creatures and dimensional conquerors seeking to use the power of magic for their own ends.

Mages operate in a world that’s weird even by the flexible standards of the Marvel Universe. I mean, heroes tackle alien invasions, megalomaniac scientists and mutant terrorists without batting an eye, but mages have to handle sanity-bending dimensions, creatures out of myth and legend and cosmic beings that rule entire universes. On the other hand, magicians have the power to do it. It’s not an easy job, and outsiders often don’t understand what it takes.

Magician heroes can often be occupied dealing with magical threats, while other heroes handle the physical stuff. For example, while Dr. Strange goes spell-to-spell with Baron Mordo or Dormammu, other heroes can take on hordes of demons, cultists or Mindless Ones. Mages often need a little help with the physical side of things, and even the Sorcerer Supreme can be taken out with a well-placed shot, or just a grappling attack that keeps him from casting spells.

Playing a mage is a great opportunity to ham things up. Mages-even the heroic ones-tend to be pompous and long-winded. They’re prone to speeches and dramatic dialog, to say nothing of the spells. Ah, yes, the spells. Mages turn out rhyming tongue-twisters about the Many Moons of Munnopor and the Roving Rings of Raggadorr at the drop of a hat. Narrators should encourage players of mage heroes to make up their own spells, using the names from this article and the Marvel comics. It’s lots more fun to say “Evil now be held back, by the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak!” than to tell the Narrator “I use Ensnarement on the villain.” A player who comes up with a cool incantation that wows the group should definitely get a bonus on that spell!

Magical Items

Many different magical items are spoken of in the annals of the Marvel Universe. The most powerful items are in the keeping of Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme, Dr. Strange. Other items are unearthed from time to time and fall into the hands of sorcerers seeking to abuse their powers or, worse yet, people who have no idea of their powers and dangers. It’s up to the heroes to keep that from happening.

There are spellbooks containing magical lore. The Book of the Vishanti contains nearly every good magic spell gathered by Earth’s Sorcerers Supreme, while theDarkhold is the ultimate tome of evil magic. Other books may contain scraps of lore useful to magicians.

Items like the legendary Wand of Watoomb increase a magician’s powers. The wand grants its wielder ESP 20 and the Rangless stunt for Magic. It can also absorb magical energy directed at the wielder and convert it into power for spells (Absorption 20 with the stunts of Absorption Conversion and Healing). Dr. Strange’s Orb of Agamottoprovides ESP 20 across space and dimensions.

Magician heroes can also make magical items on their own, using the Equipment rules from the Marvel Game Book, or the expanded inventing rules from Mike Selinker’s article “Super Science in the Marvel Universe” in Dragon Annual #3. The mage must have the Occult skill and Magic intensity is substituted for Intellect in the inventing process. The Narrator should take care not to allow magician heroes to create items that will spoil the fun of the game. Magical inventions also provide lots of opportunities for backfires, thefts by cultists or evil sorcerers, or quests of exotic or rare materials, some of which may only be available in other dimensions.

Magical Dimensions

Masters of the mystic arts explore a myriad of different dimensions. Some dimensions are fairly safe, while others are filled with dangerous creatures.

AsgardOlympusHeliopolis and several related dimensions are home to the gods of myth, as well as many creatures like trolls, giants, hydras and the like.

The Astral Plane is an abstract place of floating shapes. Heroic sorcerers often try to shift their battles here, to protect innocent people on Earth whole might get caught in a magical “crossfire.”

The Dark Dimension is the domain of the Dread Dormammu, a Lord of Chaos and powerful sorcerer. It is a magical world of floating islands, abstract shapes and mystical energy. It is bordered by the Domain of the Mindless Ones and ruled from the grand palace, where Dormammu schemes to take control of Earth’s dimension. Although he has been deposed several times, first by his sister Umar and later his niece Clea, Dormammu always regains control of the Dark Dimension to plot anew.

The Dream Dimension is the realm of Nightmare. It is the place where humans go when they dream. Nightmare sometimes takes the opportunity to torment a helpless mortal, but he has been thwarted many times by Dr. Strange and other mystic heroes.

Magical Creatures

There are many different magical creatures on Earth and in other dimensions. Some are the servants of powerful sorcerers, while others are villains in their own right.

Cultists worship extra-dimensional beings who seek dominion over Earth. Individually, cultists have little power, but as a group they can be quite dangerous. They have names like the Cult of Sligguth, the Dark Cabal, the Darkholders, the Sons of Satannish and many others.

Demons come in many different shapes, all of them nasty. Some have more powers than those listed, including Body Armor, Cold Control, Fire Control, Horns and various Resistances. They are summoned to serve sorcerers or sent by their infernal masters to serve their cults on Earth.

Elementals are spirits of the primal elements: air, earth, fire and water. They can be conjured by magicians to serve them. The statistics provided are for a fairly typical elemental. Those summoned by more powerful magicians have higher Strength, Agility and Element Control. See the Alchemy power on page 129 of the MARVEL Game Book for more information.

Eye-Killers are Native American spirits with the head of an owl, the forepaws and upper body of a lion and the lower body of a snake. They are able to assume human form and may serve evil sorcerers.

Gargoyles are animated creatures of stone. They can turn other people into gargoyles by touch, and are found in the service of evil sorcerers.

The G’uranthic Guardian watches over the gateway to the Dark Dimension. It is a giant multi-armed statue of stone with a single eye that projects a will-sapping beam.

The Mindless Ones are also inhabitants of the Dark Dimension. They are walled off by a powerful spell cast by Dormammu, since they are beings of endless violence. They exist only to fight and destroy.

Vampires are corpses reanimated by magic that live off human blood. They have many powers, but also a number of weaknesses.

Zombies are also reanimated corpses, but mindless. They serve necromancers who call them back from the grave. They’re not too tough, but they keep on coming back for more until they are completely destroyed by fire or something similar.

Name Str Agl Int Wil Health Powers/Skills Hindrances Calling
Cultists 3X 3X 2D 4X 10 Some have Magic1-5; Occult Obsessive (Cult) World-Domination
Demons 6X 3X 1X 3X 10 Claws and Teeth +2, Poison 10, Wings 6 Susceptible (Silver) Demolisher
Elementals 8X 8X 1X 1X 10 Body Armor +4, Invulnerability to Element, Nature Control (element) Susceptible (opposite element) Guardian (of element)
Eye-Killers 9X 6X 6X 6X 17 Claws +2, Energy Blast 12, Enhanced Vision 9, Imitation 9 Fatally Vulnerable (sunlight) Vengeance
Gargoyles 12X 6X 2X 1X 10 Additional Limb (tail) 6, Body Armor +4, Claws and Horns +2, Transformation (into gargoyle) 9, Wings 6 None Demolisher
G’uranthic Guardian 16X 4X 2X 12X 10 Body Armor +4, Life Drain (Willpower) 16 Physically Disabled (cannot move) Guardian
Mindless Ones 8X 3X 1X 1X 10 Body Armor +4, Energy Blast 8, Invulnerable to Mental Control, Regeneration 20 Bruiser Demolisher
Zombie 8X 2X 0X 1X 10 Invulnerability to Mental Control, Life Support 15 (Reformation), Regeneration 8 Physically Disabled (0 Intellect) Demolisher

Magical Adventures

Players don’t necessarily need magical heroes to embark on magical adventures. Magic is everywhere in the Marvel Universe. Players can run magical heroes like Dr. Strange, Shaman or Brother Voodoo, or heroes like the Avengers or the X-Men can mix it up with demons and evil sorcerers for a change of pace. Dr. Strange is a great way of getting a group of disparate heroes together, like he did with the Defenders, to help the Sorcerer Supreme deal with a magical threat to Earth. There’s also the possibility of a group of players all running novice magicians, possibly students of Dr. Strange like the X-Men were students of Professor X.

Here are some ideas for magical adventures:

  • A two-bit sorcerer gets his hands on a magic item that grants him power to rival that of the Sorcerer Supreme. The mage uses his newfound magic to banish all good magicians from the Earth into another dimension, perhaps the Domain of the Mindless Ones. The magical heroes have to figure out how to survive and get back to Earth, while other heroes fight the evil mage without the aid of magic.
  • Dr. Strange’s mansion is full of twisting corridors, hidden rooms and various powerful magical items. When the good doctor disappears into the depths of the mansion and doesn’t return for weeks, his friend Wong becomes worried and contacts the heroes. They have to make their way through the bizarre rooms and halls of the mansion to find Dr. Strange and figure out what happened to him.
  • A cult has plans to bring their demonic patron to Earth, using a complex magical ritual that requires a human sacrifice. Unfortunately for them, the sacrifice they’ve chosen is a friend or loved one of one of the heroes. They have to track down the cult before it’s too late, and probably end up confronting the cult’s demon master.
  • The heroes are “spellnapped” from Earth to another dimension. Sorcerers in that dimension are fighting an invasion of magical creatures like demons or Mindless Ones and cast a spell to summon aid. It brought the heroes. Now they have to use their powers to help stem the tide of the invasion and find some way to turn it back. Things get more interesting if there is a powerful mage, like Baron Mordo or the Dread Dormammu himself, behind the invasion.
  • The heroes are plagued by terrible nightmares that make it impossible for them to get any rest. They become tired, listless and cranky during the day. It turns out that Nightmare is responsible for the bad dreams. He is using the psychic energy gathered from the nightmares to extend the power of his domain, causing more bad dreams, until everyone is trapped in a permanent nightmare they can’t wake up from. Mystic heroes may sense that the nightmares are more than they seem. The heroes need to go into the dream dimension to confront Nightmare, and their own worst fears.