Unified Special Effects for Torg

Special effects skills are special skills. They allow the character to create various extranormal effects, from magic to miracles to psychic powers. Each given special effect is called a discipline and each is considered separate from the others. Each discipline requires two skills: an action skill that is used to create effects and a effect skill that is used to determine the power, damage, duration, etc. of an effect. For example, the discipline of magic has Sorcery as its action skill and Willforce as an effect skill. Psionics has Psionics and Mental Strength, Spiritualism has Focus and Faith and so forth.

Character use Special Effects skills to create effects (often abbreviated “FX”). Each effect is learned separately, and characters with FX skills have lists of effects they can do. For example, a typical Aylish mage:

Sorcery +3, Willforce +2
Effects (spells): flaming weapon, detect corruption, light, mystic shield, invisibility

Or an Eidenos Optant:
Focus +4. Faith (Keta Kalles) +3
Effects (gifts of Lanala): see through mist, increase Toughness, simple spear, blossom spear

Or a Core Earth psychic:
Psionics +2, Mental Strength +4
Effects: read thoughts, telekinetic lift, precognitive visions, psychometry

Even a Nippon martial artist:
Kata +1, Ki +4
Effects: invisibility, walk without trace, cobra strike, hypnotize

Effects

The following are the different types of effects characters can create.

Animate

This causes non-living things to move, levitate or fly without altering their shape or form. A weight value equal to the Effect Skill can be moved at a rate of speed equal to the difference between the weight value and the effect skill (i.e., a maximum weight could only be moved slowly if at all, but small objects may move faster).

Attack (wound, slay)

The basic damaging effect. The attack uses some medium (be it magical fire, holy lightning or mental force) to do damage equal to the Effect Skill to the target. The attack may be resisted by Toughness, Mind or Confidence at the caster’s choosing or by an opposing effect skill (such as a miracle resisted by the enemy’s Faith or a spell resisted by Willforce).

Bind (request, geas)

With this effect the target creature is forced to obey some agreement. The agreement can only be about a single thing and there must be a definte point at which the agreement is completed. The effect is generally resisted by the subject’s Willpower. This effect is often used to command summoned creatures to perform a service.

Compel (induce, control)

The compel effect causes the subject to do something against his will or to feel a particular emotion. The effect must be something that the target is capable of doing. Obviously self-destructive commands give the subject +10 to their Willpower for resisting this effect. The subject is entitled to a Willpower roll for each interval on the Time Value Chart that passes while under this effect to see if they break free of the compulsion.

Conceal (cloak)

This effect causes people or things to be hidden from normal notice or sight. The difficulty of noticing the subject of this effect (even in plain sight) is equal to the Effect Skill.

Create

This effect allows the user to create matter out of nothing. Only non-living matter may be created and each type of item or material is a unique effect. The user also cannot create anything with which she is not familiar and creating materials beyond the user’s axioms is an automatic four-case contradiction.

Delude (appear, seem)

Delude creates illusions or phantasms that fool the senses of the victim. Strangely garbed wizards appear as ordinary workmen, an ancient barrow appears to be a gentleman’s manor, etc. Each type of illusion is a seperate effect.

Dispel (dismiss, banish)

This effect is used to cancel another effect or send a summoned thing back to where it came from. The difficulty is equal to the Effect Skill of the other effect or the appropraite resistance value of the summoned creature. While dispel can affect all the abilities of a discipline equally (e.g. dispel magic), each type of summoned creature is considered a unique effect and some creatures may have conditions on their banishment (such as knowing the creature’s name or having the correct Faith skill).

Enhance (fortify, grow, intensify)

This effect increases or improves an existing ability. Compare the Effect Skill value to the value to be enhanced and read the results on the Power Push table. This is the amount by which the value is increased. This effect has numerous applications, from creating enchanted weapons and armor to heightening Strength or other abilities and skills. Special Effects Skill values cannot be Enhanced by this effect.

Forsee (divine, predict)

The forsee effect is a difficult one that allows the user some glimpse of the future through any number of methods from Tarot reading to psychic visions. The difficulty is based on how far into the future the user wishes to see and what information is desired. Information gained from this effect is always somewhat vague and open to interpretation.

Heal (cure)

This effect can heal wounds, cure disease, etc. For wounds, the Effect Value is compared to a difficulty of 15 and the results are read on the success chart. For each level of success, one wound is cured. A successful use also removes all Shock and KO conditions. For diseases, the difficulty is based on the type of disease. Such healing may only be used once per day on any given character.

Protect (shield, armor)

This ability provides protection for the subject in the form of mystic armor, a force field or similar effect. The user’s adds in the Effect Skill are treated as armor adds up to a maximum of the Effect Skill value.

Reveal (hear, see, show)

This effect allows the character to sense things that are hidden or distant. It is the effect used for clairaudience and clairvoyance (scrying spells). It is also used for telepathy and other effects that reveal information directly to the character. The difficulty of the effect is based on the distance value and the Resistance value of the target character (if any).

Shape (manipulate)

This allows the user to control and warp inanimate objects. A character could use it to direct a fire into a wall, raise a wall of earth or open a passage through a wall. The action does not change, create or give life to the affected material. The difficulty is generally based on the Toughness of the material.

Summon (call)

Summon is used to draw spirits into the user’s presence. The effect only summons the spirit-it does not bind it or protect the summoner. Those require other effects. Summoning cannot draw in creatures present in the normal world. Thus, the user could not summon the Aylish ambassador, for example. Each type of summoning is unique and some spirits cannot be summoned without additional conditions.

Transform (alter, change)

This action changes the form of a living being. The change does not affect the victim’s personality. The subject’s abilities are logically affected by the transformation (a man turned into a mouse would not be very strong, for example). This is a very difficult effect; the Difficulty Value is equal to the subject’s Toughness or Willpower (whichever is higher) +10.

Transmute (purify, putrefy)

The companion of transform, this effect changes non-living matter, turning lead into gold or wood into steel. The general difficulty is based on the Toughness and weight value of the object.

Transport (move, travel, send)

This effect imparts movement to the subject creatures, either at a speed value equal to the Effect Value or instant teleportation of a distance equal to the Effect Value. Teleportation requires that the user be able to see or sense the destination or be very familiar with it (in which case the difficulty is increased by +3).

Ward (protect, bar)

Ward creates a barrier against a specific opponent or effect, such as a summoned creature or an enemy of the faith. The warded creature must exceed the Effect Value of the ward with an appropriate skill or ability roll (usually Willpower or Faith) in order to break through it.

Weaken (curse, sicken)

This effect is the opposite of Enhance (above). The result points of the effect are read through the Power Push table and subtracted from the target value.

Long-term effects

These effects can be created by adding a Time Value to the difficulty of the effect.

Enhancements

Extra Time: Add the time value of the additional uninterrupted preparation time to the bonus number.

Extra Effort: Each point of Shock taken gives a +1 bonus to the Effect Skill total. Each Wound gives a +3 bonus.

Possibilities: A reality-rated character can of course spend a Possibility to enhance one of their special effects.

The Odds

Wanted By The Empire

Name: Tar Waylan
Species: Human
Sex: Male
Homeworld: Unknown
Known Associates: None
Bounty: 20,000 credits
Classification: Regional (Outer Rim Territories)
Application Conditions: Alive and intact, without serious injury
Bonus: None
Determent: None
Crimes: gambling, theft, fraud, smuggling
Originator: Gran Orel, Corellia
Receiver: Any Imperial garrison station or processing facility
Brief: Tar Waylan is a notorious gambler, thief and swindler. He is known to frequent questionable establishments where he may carry out his crimes and to prey upon honest citizens in order to cheat and steal from them.

Introduction

The characters are bounty hunters hired to track down a troublesome gambler; their employer is one of the many victims he has cheated. Trouble is the gambler, one Tar Waylan, is hiding out at a place called The Odds, a private, exclusive combination nightclub, cantina, gambling hall and pleasure dome owned and controlled by the gangster Trigash Nor, who happens to have a personal interest in Waylan. The Empire is looking to put Trigash Nor’s operation out of business, but has had trouble tracking down the exact location of his asteroid base. When the characters come along, they offer the Imperial commander an opportunity too good to pass up.

Scene One: Imperial Entanglements

Reading the following out loud to the players:

You have recently acquired the contract on a gambler named Tar Waylan, wanted for numerous counts of swindling and theft throughout the sector. Your present employer is a wealthy man with a weakness for gambling, one that Tar Waylan was apparently happy to take advantage of in a couple of rigged sabbac games. There is a price being offered by him for Waylan’s capture, and you plan to collect on it.

The problem is, that Waylan has all but disappeared. He is obviously aware of the bounty out on him, because he has not shown up at his usual hangouts or been in touch with any of his regular contacts in the sector. That will make finding him troublesome, but if the job were an easy one, you wouldn’t be as interested.

The characters can get involved in the hunt for Tar Waylan in a variety of ways. They might be employed (as described above) by someone the gambler cheated or the family or friends of such a person, they might be contacted by planetary authorities who are looking into complaints of Waylan’s activities or they simply might see the brief while looking through the available bounties posted by the Empire and take an interest in the case.

Finding the gambler is going to be the characters’ first challenge. Tar Waylan does indeed know that there is a price on his head and he has chosen to take refuge with his patron, Trigash Nor, in the gangster’s hidden pleasure asteroid. The bounty hunters will first have to track down where it is that Waylan has disappeared to before the can attempt to capture him.

The gamemaster can take the search for Waylan’s whereabouts in a number of directions. Listed here are some possible scenes that could be played out as the bounty hunters search for clues:

  • The characters will need to speak with people who know Tar Waylan in hopes that he might have dropped some hint about where he was going. This leads the characters into a number of “hives of scum and villainy” where they can speak with some of the unsavory underworld types that Waylan associates with and perhaps get into a brawl or two.
  • Other powerful criminal figures and gangsters that the characters might be acquainted with can have some information about Waylan’s known association with Trigash Nor. They might be able to point the characters towards the Noad System and The Odds with the right persuasion, again leading the characters into some difficult negotiations or violent conflict.
  • Some of Waylan’s victims might recall some comment that is meaningless to them but which provides a valuable clue to the characters about the gambler’s whereabouts. Some comment about “always relying on The Odds for protection” or something similar could lead the characters to investigate the hidden casino.
  • One or more characters might even know or have worked for Trigash Nor in the past. That character may have even been to The Odds before and could connect up some of the other clues that the characters uncover. This is a rather heavy-handed approach to getting the characters to The Odds and should only be used if the investigation is bogging down and hitting a lot of dead ends.

After discovering that Tar Waylan is hiding out at The Odds, the characters learn that security on the station is provided by all visitors having to know a password, which changes on a regular basis. A Difficult conpersuasion or streetwise roll allows a character to obtain the current password, which is “heavy bet.” The source that gives the character the password tells them that they are not absolutely certain that it is current, but it is as good as they can get.

Once the characters are on their way to The Odds, read the following out loud:

You have set course for the location of Trigash Nor’s hidden asteroid palace. It is located in the Noad system, an isolated and desolate place with fairly few visitors. You come out of lightspeed just outside the system and you can see the broad expanse of the Noad Asteroid Field stretching out before you as far as the eye can see in either direction.

The asteroid field is made up of thousands upon thousands of floating rocks, some as small as a man’s head and others that would qualify as small moons or planetoids, more than large enough to smash a ship like yours into spacedust. Navigating an asteroid field is a difficult task; Trigash Nor must definitely value his privacy to go to such lengths.

A perimeter alarm sounds only moments after you come out of lightspeed near the asteroid field. It’s an Imperial Star Destroyer, close by and closing fast. A crackle sounds over your comm system as the Star Destroyer hails you.

“Unidentified ship, this is the Imperial Star Destroyer Thunder, identify yourself and prepared to be boarded.”

Once the characters have acquired the location of The Odds (or an approximation of it) they can make their way to the Noad system to investigate. As they approach the system and come out of lightspeed they are confronted by an Imperial Star Destroyer and ordered to stand to and prepared to be boarded “for routine investigation.” The characters can either decide to try and escape or surrender and hope the Imperials will go easy on them.

If the characters want to fight, it is unlikely they can prevail against an Imperial Star Destroyer.

If they decide to make a break for it, there is a chase scene with some TIE fighters into the asteroid belt as the Imperials attempt to intercept the bounty hunters.

The Star Destroyer will open fire on the characters’ ship if it tries to escape but will not pursue it into the asteroid field. It will dispatch a flight of four TIE fighters to continue the pursuit through the asteroids. They will attempt at first to disable the characters’ ship so they can capture and interrogate them but, failing that, the Imperial Commander will order the ship destroyed.

Imperial Star Destroyer. capital ship piloting 5D+1, starship shields 4D+1, starship sensors 4D, astrogation 4D, capital ship gunnery 4D+2, Hyperdrive Multiplier: x2, Hyperdrive Backup: x8, Maneuverability 1D, Hull 7D, Shields 3D. 60 turbolaser batteries (fire control 4D, damage 5D), 60 ion cannons (fire control 2D+2, damage 3D), 10 tractor beam projectors (fire control 4D, damage 6D)

TIE/In Fighters. starship piloting 4D+1, starship gunnery 4D. Maneuverability 2d, Hull 2D. Two laser cannons (fire control 2D, damage 5D).

If they allow themselves to be boarded, the characters are questioned by the commander of the Star Destroyer, Commander Siy, as to their intentions in the system and their destination. If the characters offer a plausible story (coupled with a Moderate con or persuasion roll), they are allowed to go along their way with a warning to observe all Imperial regulations.

The characters might think that they got off from the Imperials too easy in this case, which would be the truth. Unknown to them, however, the outside of their ship has been “tagged” with a small tracking device that allows the Imperials to follow their movements. Commander Siy is more interested in finding out where the bounty hunters are going than in capturing them at this time. He believes that they might be able to lead him to Trigash Nor’s operation in the Noad system so that it can be shut down for good.

Scene Two: The Odds

When the characters reach The Odds, read the following out loud:

You’ve finally made it to where you think Trigash Nor’s pleasure palace should be, but you’re not sure that you have found the right place. There are a number of larger asteroids with fairly stable orbits deep within the Noad Belt, any one of which could contain an entire city inside of it.

Your comm system indicates you are being hailed and an electronically distorted voice speaks. “Identify yourself and give your authorization code.”

Once the characters make it to the location of The Odds, they are hailed by the operations on board the station and asked to give a password authorization. They characters should have been able to acquire this password during their investigations of Tar Waylan’s whereabouts in Scene One. The gamemaster should try and give the characters every opportunity to learn the password to allow them to get into The Odds safely.

If the bounty hunters failed to learn the password, or the gamemaster wants to make things more difficult for them, the characters will have to make bargaincon orpersuasion rolls to talk their way past station operations and get authorization to land their ship. The Difficulty is based on how much information the characters have about The Odds and how convincing their story is, but shouldn’t be less than Moderate in any case. The gamemaster can also modify the outcome of the character’s roll based on how believable a story is offered by the player.

Once the characters get authorization from station control to land their ship and come on board, a concealed docking bay will appear from behind cleverly camouflaged doors that blend with the surface of the asteroid where The Odds is concealed. The landing bay is more than large enough to accommodate the characters’ ship and the many others that are docked there.

Once the characters are cleared to land at The Odds, read them the following:

A light comes from one of the larger asteroids nearby as massive concealed hangar doors slide back into the rocky surface of the asteroid to reveal a landing bay. It appears that The Odds is built deep within the asteroid itself. You land your ship in the docking bay with no trouble and make your way into The Odds itself.

The entire inside of this asteroid appears to have been hollowed out to build Trigash Nor’s private domain. The interior of the place is a combination hotel, casino, bazaar, cantina and nightclub all rolled into one. The central part of The Odds is a vast, open shaft that has been dug out in the center of the rocky asteroid. The walls of the shaft are ringed with floor upon floor of the various shops, bar, dance halls and other establishments. A long metallic cylinder runs down the center of the shaft, covered with machinery and faintly glowing control panels; the central power core of the asteroid installation.

Banks of elevators along the walls carry people from floor to floor and railed balconies look out from each floor over the open shaft. They are crowded with individuals of all different species and descriptions, talking, laughing and going about their various and sundry business.

This part of the scene allows the gamemaster to include a variety of different alien encounters on board the station. Some suggestions are given below. The bounty hunters at least have to ask around a bit to try and learn if Tar Waylan has been seen on the station and learn the whereabouts of Trigash Nor’s favorite club, the Even-Odds.

In general, the inhabitants of The Odds are suspicious and don’t trust strangers. Most uses of conpersuasion and streetwise should be Difficult or Very Difficult. The characters should have to talk to a lot of people before they get the information they are looking for.

Some possible encounters in The Odds include:

  • Running into a large, drunk alien (a Gamorrean or something similar) in a cantina who is looking for a fight. This gives the characters a chance to either get the bruiser to back down from them by a show of Intimidation or an opportunity for a bar brawl. Someone might also come to the characters’ assistance and could show up later in the adventure to help them out or in another adventure. This is a good opportunity for the gamemaster to put someone on the characters’ good side.
  • A number of old friends, enemies or rivals who might be hiding out or spending time at The Odds. A rival bounty hunter or two on the station could make the characters’ investigation interesting. The rivals might be looking for Tar Waylan as well or simply looking to settle a grudge with the characters.
  • A talkative Twi’lek bartender that the characters might be able to get some information out of with a few Difficult bargaincon or persuasion rolls.
  • A drunken, failed mystic drowning his sorrows in one of The Odds’ many bars. He might offer some the characters some cryptic advice or insight into their current job or some other storyline they are involved with, allowing the gamemaster to drop hints about future adventures. The characters should not be able to tell if his insight comes from the Force or whatever it is he is drinking.

Scene Three: Trigash Nor

When the characters go to the Even-Odds, read the following out loud:

From what you have learned, Trigash Nor can be found in an establishment called the Even-Odds, his favorite club at the station. It is located high up the central core, on one of the top rings.

The first thing that strikes you about the place when you walk in is the noise and the light. The club features a sunken floor several steps down from the entrance that is cloaked in shadows made by the collection of dim, pulsing colored lights on the walls and ceiling. There is a long bar that runs along the back wall with several bartenders shuttling back and forth to take care of the crowd of customers there.

The central part of the club has a raised stage split into three lobes, each with an exotic alien dancer moving to the loud music. Several patrons give you disinterested glances as you enter and then quickly look away. This looks like a place where people do their best to mind their own business.

It is also a trap. Tar Waylan is working for Trigash Nor. The crime lord does a brisk business in selling supplies and information to the Rebel Alliance as well as his other black market customers. Tar Waylan is often able to provide Nor with information he needs from the various high rollers throughout the Empire. The crime lord is not pleased that Waylan took a little too much initiative and angered the wrong people, but he considers that a matter for him to deal with.

Trigash Nor. Dexterity 2D+2, brawling parry 3D+2, dodge 3D, melee combat 4D, melee parry 3D+2, Knowledge 3D, alien species 3D+1, bureaucracy 3D, business 5D, intimidation 4D, law enforcement 3D+2, streetwise 7D, value 5D+1, willpower 4D, Mechanical 2D+2, Perception 3D, bargain 5D, command 4D+1, persuasion 3D+2, Strength 5D, brawling 6D, Technical 3D. Move: 10. Tough hide (adds 1D to Strength rolls against damage). Force Points: 2, Character Points: 10.

The characters can generally find Trigash Nor at a private table in the back of the establishment near one the of dance stages, allowing Nor to watch the show going on both on stage and in the club. He is attended by a pair of large near-human bodyguards and usually one or two of the dancers while they are not on stage performing.

Nor will be brisk and businesslike with the bounty hunters. He will tell them at first that he has no idea who Tar Waylan is or where he can be found. Characters who make a Difficult Perception roll get the feeling the crime boss is not telling them all he knows. If the characters press the issue, Trigash Nor will warn them against trying his patience too much and tell them to get off his station.

Tar Waylan is hidden in one of the back rooms of the establishment. He is unable to resist getting a look at the bounty hunters, so the character have a chance to spot him watching them from behind a curtain to the back rooms of the Even-Odds (a Very Difficult search or Perception roll).

If the bounty hunters do not cooperate with Trigash Nor, or if they start a violent confrontation in the Even-Odds, the crime boss will order his people to subdue the characters. This presents an opportunity for a good brawl. Trigash Nor will be escorted to safety by his bodyguards immediately if a fight breaks out. More and more of the crime lord’s soldiers will come against the characters until they are overwhelmed and forced to surrender.

If the characters leave the Even-Odds but don’t move immediately to leave the station, Trigash Nor has them ambushed so they can be disposed of in the next scene. Again, enough of the crime lord’s minions will jump the characters so they have a reasonable chance of taking them. If the characters repel one attack, reinforcements will arrive and surround them.

Scene Four: Unexpected Help

When the characters are taken away by Trigash Nor’s guards, read the following:

The crime lord’s guards escort you into an elevator and down into the lower levels of the station. They take you to what looks like a maintenance area off of the lower docking area and bring you to a large hatch placed flush against the silvery metal of the bulkhead wall. One of the guards touches a panel alongside the hatch and it slides open to reveal a small room just beyond it, with another sliding hatch door. The small window set into the door looks out into the starry blackness of the Noad asteroid belt.

This place is starting to look an awful lot like an airlock.

Once they are captured by Trigash Nor’s men, the characters are taken to an airlock on the lower level where they are to be jettisoned into space. Moments after the airlock door is opened and the characters are about to be herded inside by the crime lord’s goons, The Odds shudders from some kind of massive explosion, knocking the guards off balance and allowing the characters a chance to act. Several more blasts quickly follow the first, one of them blowing a power conduit in the nearby wall and sending sparks and debris flying all along the corridor.

The characters have their chance to get free from their captors and make a break for it. The first blast gives them a chance to get the jump of the guards if they act immediately. The successive blasts require a Moderate Strength roll for the characters to avoid being knocked down.

If the characters attempt to escape from the guards before reaching the airlock, the gamemaster needs to consider the effectiveness of any plan they propose. Keep in mind that the guards have weapons closely trained on the characters at all times and are alert for any tricks from them. If the characters do manage to escape early, the guards can pin them down in a fire fight or otherwise corner them and the first blast gives the characters a chance to make a break for it.

Some suggestions for choreographing the fight near the airlock:

  • Several of the guards should be knocked off balance by the explosions, giving the characters a chance to make a decent fight of it. One or more of the guards’ weapons might also be knocked out of their hands if they fall.
  • The half-open airlock offers an opportunity for someone to throw an opponent into it and hit the activation sequence. A misfired blast bolt might also hit the controls or rupture the outer door, causing a decompression in the corridor. The characters will have to make Difficult Strength rolls to grab on to something and avoid being blow out into space.
  • The cascading energy from the ruptured power conduit makes a useful makeshift weapon if a character can push an opponent into it with a successful opposedStrength roll. The arcing energy does 6D damage to any character that touches it.
  • As additional blasts strike the station the fight could be complicated by falling debris from the ceiling, more explosions or damage to the outer airlock door.

Once the characters have handled the guards at the airlock, they have to make their way through the station and get back to their ship. They may also want to go after Tar Waylan and any equipment that was taken from them by Trigash Nor or his men in the previous scene.

The characters find the station in chaos, with people rushing around and overloading the elevators. They characters may wish to use the emergency ladders that lead from one level to another rather than fighting their way through the crowds. Occasional blasts rock the station, punctuated by explosions from damaged power conduits. An EasyTechnical roll will tell a character that if the damage to the station continues it is only a matter of time before the main power core feeds back and explodes, pulverizing the entire asteroid.

The characters can find Waylan leaving the Even-Odds and making his way to the docking bay to reach his ship and escape. He will try to escape from the bounty hunters and may even fire a few blaster shots in their direction to deter them. This can lead to a chase through the elevators and ladders of the stations and possibly a struggle with Waylan along one of the perilously high railings as the station’s energy core begins to crackle and glow dangerously.

Scene Five: Getting Out

When the characters reach their ship and are ready to get away from The Odds, read the following:

Metal, dust and debris fall from the ceiling of the hangar bay as another blast rocks the station. You can see the bay doors stand open, the secondary magnetic field holding in the atmosphere. Through the floating asteroids outside you can see the vast bulk of an Imperial Star Destroyer slowly closing on the station, its massive laser batteries vaporizing small asteroids in its path. A pair of TIE fighters screams in towards The Odds, blasts from their lasers sending another shock wave through the asteroid.

It’s definitely time to get out of here.

It turns out that The Odds is being assaulted by TIE fighters and that the Imperial Star Destroyer Thunder is slowly making its way closer, disintegrating small asteroids in its path. The ship followed the characters here, either through their homing device or from the final reports of the TIE fighters the characters evaded in the asteroid belt, and now Commander Siy intends to deal with Trigash Nor’s smuggling base once and for all.

The characters will have no trouble getting their ship out of the hangar bay. Once they are clear of The Odds, they will have to evade the TIE fighters long enough to get clear of the asteroids and go to lightspeed.

The TIE fighters are under orders to destroy or disable any ships attempting to leave The Odds. At least two or them will break off their attack on the asteroid to pursue the characters’ ship through the asteroids. Once they clear the asteroid field, they will have to avoid the fighters long enough for their nav computer to give them the necessary information to allow them to make the jump to lightspeed.

Shortly after the characters’ ship is clear of The Odds, the asteroid shudders violently and gouts of flames and sparks shoot from the open hangar bays as well as from fissures and cracks that form in the rocky surface. The main power core has detonated. A secondary explosion fragments the asteroid and sends a shockwave through the field, scattering many of the asteroids in random directions (and calling for a Difficult space transports or appropriate piloting roll to avoid them) as well as possibly causing some damage to ship systems if a Complication is rolled.

Some suggestions for choreographing the final chase scene through the asteroids:

  • The ship’s pilot will have to make Very Difficult space transports rolls to fly around the asteroids. Sudden changes in course may be required to dodge some of the faster moving chunks of rock.
  • Difficult starship shields rolls might be required to ward off some of the smaller chunks of rock as they pelt and batter the ship, not to mention the usual starship shields rolls to protect the ship from incoming laser fire.
  • Some suitable complications for the chase could include damage to the characters’ ship during their escape that forces them to repair the damage while evading the Imperial forces. Good systems to go out include sensors, weapons and, of course, the hyperdrive.
  • Close-in flying near some of the larger asteroids could be used to evade the TIE fighters if the pilot is especially daring. This would call for some Very Difficult or even Heroic space transports rolls.

Once they achieve lightspeed, the characters are home free. There will be no other pursuit and they can finish this job.

Closing Scene

The characters are able to turn Tar Waylan over for the bounty (if they caught him) or begin investigating if Waylan survived the destruction of The Odds (if they didn’t).

Trigash Nor survives the destruction of The Odds and is not pleased when he learned that the characters survived as well. He suspects them of being Imperial agents involved in the destruction of his pleasure palace and may try and take revenge on the characters at a later date.

Commander Siy from the Thunder may likewise be interested in tracking down the characters at some point, or perhaps even hiring them. Considering how helpful they were in dealing with The Odds.

Adventure Awards

If the characters managed to get Tar Waylan and escape from The Odds with him, they should each get five Character Points. The gamemaster can award an additional two or three Character Points to characters that played especially well during the adventure. The characters also receive the promised bounty for Waylan when they turn him over to the authorities.

If the characters failed to capture Waylan, they earn only three Character Points, plus any bonuses for good roleplaying. Waylan escapes the destruction of The Odds, and the characters may wish to continue hunting him, allowing the gamemaster to create more adventures where they work to track the notorious gambler down.

Major Characters

Tar Waylan

DEXTERITY 3D+2
Blaster 4D+2, dodge 4D+2, melee parry 4D+1
KNOWLEDGE 3D
Business 4D+1, streetwise 5D, value 5D
MECHANICAL 2D+1
Repulsorlift operation 3D
PERCEPTION 4D
Bargain 5D, con 5D+2, forgery 4D+2, gambling 6D, persuasion 4D+2
STRENGTH 2D+2
Brawling 3D
TECHNICAL 2D+1

Force Points: 1
Character Points: 5
Move: 10

Equipment: Expensive clothes, lucky deck of sabbac cards (marked), datapad, 500 credits, blaster pistol (4D)

Capsule: Tar Waylan has made his career by outsmarting other people, swindling and cheating them at different games of chance, whether at the gambling table or in negotiations over goods and services. He has been a gambler, swindler, smuggler and spy on many different occasions.

Waylan is loyal to nobody but himself and his own needs. Most of the people he works with are aware of this and no one trusts the charming gambler very much. Waylan knows very well how to use and manipulate people to his advantage and play both sides against the middle and come out ahead.

Waylan is a human, slightly on the short side, with dark hair and a short, neatly trimmed beard and mustache. This, combined with his dark and darting eyes gives him the appearance of a handsome rouge or a nervous rodent, depending on who you ask.

Trigash Nor

DEXTERITY 2D+2
Brawling parry 3D+2, dodge 3D, melee combat 4D, melee parry 3D+2
KNOWLEDGE 3D
Alien species 3D+1, bureaucracy 3D, business 5D, intimidation 4D, law enforcement 3D+2, streetwise 7D, value 5D+1, willpower 4D
MECHANICAL 2D+2
PERCEPTION 3D
Bargain 5D, command 4D+1, persuasion 3D+2
STRENGTH 5D
Brawling 6D
TECHNICAL 3D

Special Abilities: Tough Hide : Trigash Nor adds 1D to his Strength rolls against damage.
Force Points: 2
Character Points: 10
Move: 10

Equipment: Generally just expensive clothes and some jewelry, but Nor has access to pretty much any standard equipment that he wants and can get more exotic stuff with a little advance notice.

Capsule: A near-human from a heavy gravity world, Trigash Nor began his criminal career as little more than hired muscle. His employers seriously underestimated the big man’s intelligence, cunning and ambition, much to their later regret. Nor used his knowledge of the organization and his own intimidating strength and appearance to allow him to advance quickly through the ranks.

His ruthlessness eventually made him head of his own organization of pirates and smugglers. He invested much of his ill-gotten gains in the creation of his personal asteroid pleasure palace that served as a haven for the kind of criminal scum Nor associated with. The profits from the gambling and other vice operations on The Odds soon nearly equaled the crime lord’s smuggling operation.

Although Trigash Nor has been in a leadership position for many years, he is still quite formidable personally and is not above crushing an enemy with his own hands. In fact, he rather enjoys it from time to time.

Trigash Nor is a giant of a man, about 2.3 meters tall, with a broad, squat build and barrel chest. His skin is pale gray and hairless, save for his bushy eyebrows. His voice is deep and thunderous.

Commander Tobal Siy

DEXTERITY 3D
Blaster 4D, brawling parry 4D, dodge 4D+1
KNOWLEDGE 3D
Bureaucracy 4D, intimidation 4D, law enforcement 4D+1, tactics 4D
MECHANICAL 2D+1
Capitol ship piloting 4D+1
PERCEPTION 3D+2
Command 6D, investigation 4D, search 4D
STRENGTH 2D+1
TECHNICAL 3D

Force Points: 1
Character Points: 5
Move: 10

Equipment: Imperial uniform and sidearm blaster pistol (4D)

Capsule: Commander Siy is a typical Imperial Commander: self-assured to the point of arrogance, and loyal to the Empire and his duty, which he carries out with ruthless efficiency.

The commander’s current duty is to eliminate the smugglers who are funneling supplies to the Rebellion. He has tracked their activities to the Noad system and plans to use the characters to provide him with the “hook and bait” he needs to find Trigash Nor’s hideout and deal with the crime lord’s operation.

Tobal Siy is a bit above average in height. He has thinning dark blond hair swept back from a high forehead, a prominent nose and a receding chin. His eyes are ice blue, with a penetrating gaze.

The War Dancer Discipline

Before the long night of the Scourge, the Human Kingdom of Landis in Barsaive was ruled, like the rest of the province, by the Theran Empire. The proud warriors of Landis were forced by their Theran masters to surrender their weapons and all impliments of war were outlawed on pain of enslavement and death.

Though many warriors wanted to fight the oppression of mighty Thera, they could not risk their compatriots and loved ones. They hid from the forces of the Empire and continued their teachings in secret, waiting for they day when they might be free.

One of these warriors was a man known as Kaatal. In seeking a new weapon to turn against the Therans, Kaatal looked to the world of nature, where he studied the combat abilities of many animals and creatures. Kaatal did not have the passion to follow the way of the Beastmaster, for he did not seek to understand the mind of the beast-he looked to nature only as a means of finding a new way in which to be a Warrior. Kaatal trained to make his own body the weapon that he needed, following the ways and techniques that he observed.

In time, Kaatal taught his way to others. His teaching were concealed in the graceful movements of his combat style, which were further exagerated to make them into a whirling sort of dance that the Therans could take to be nothing more than a folk custom and not a deadly weapon. So was the discipline of the War Dancer born.

The War Dancers of Landis never liberated their homeland from Thera. Even as their number grew, news of the coming Scourge reached Barsaive. The construction of kaers began, and the war dancers entered the underground shelters to wait out the Long Night. While hidden in their separate kaers, they continued to teach they ways of their discipline and kept alive a spark of rebellion against Thera and theran ways.

When the people of Barsaive began to emerge again into the light of day, the war dancers began to recognize one another from the many kaers in which they had been concealed. Although they followed the same discipline, centuries of isolation had led to factionalism among them; there were debates on proper traditions, ways of teaching and order of precedence among the proud warrriors. The war dancers were splintered into small groups and some individuals struck out on their own, traveling the lands of Barsaive and teaching their discipline to others they encountered.

Important Attributes: Dexterity, Strength, and Toughness

Racial Restrictions: Obsidiman, T’Skrang, Windling

Karma Ritual: To perform his karma ritual the War Dancer meditates. When an inner state of tranquility is reached he begins the Great Dance, moving through each of the elements as represented in the Dance: Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Wood. The ritual ends with a decisive punch into a cupped hand.

Artisan Skills: Dance, Elemental Sculpting

First Circle

Talents
Acrobatic Strike
Avoid Blow
Karma Strike
Karma Ritual
Maneuver
Unarmed Combat

Second Circle

Talents
Durability (7/6)
Fireblood
Steel Thought

Third Circle

Talents
Great Throw
Tiger Spring

Fourth Circle

Karma: The War Dancer may spend Karma on any action using DEX only.

Talents
Swift Kick
Thread Weaving (dance-weaving)

Fifth Circle

Physical Defense: Increase the Physical Defence of the War Dancer by one.

Talents
Anticipate Blow
Temper Self

Sixth Circle

Initiative: Increase the War Dancer’s Initiative step by 1.

Talents
Disarm
Lizard Leap

Seventh Circle

Recovery Test: The War Dancer gains an additional recovery test per day.

Talents
Detect Weapon
Second Attack

Eighth Circle

Physical Defense: Increase the Physical Defense of the War Dancer by one.

Talents
Cobra Strike
Spot Armor Flaw

Ninth Circle

Iron Hand: By expending two permanent points of damage, the War Dancer hardens his hands like iron, increasing base unarmed danage by three steps.

Talents
Battle Shout
Crushing Blow
Wound Balance

Tenth Circle

Karma: The War Dancer may spend Karma on Damage Tests in unarmed combat only.

Social Defense: Increase the Social Defense of the War Dancer by one.

Talents
Champion Challenge
Lion Heart

Eleventh Circle

Initiative: Increase the Initiative step of the War Dancer by one.

Talents
Defense
Weapon Breaker

Twelfth Circle

Physical Defense: Increase the Physical Defense of the War Dancer by one.

Spell Defense: Increase the Spell Defense of the War Dancer by one.

Talents
Crtical Hit
Whirlwind

Thirteenth Circle

Recovery Test: The War Dancer gains an additional Recovery Test.

Talents
Spirit Strike
Safe Thought

Fourteenth Circle

Karma: Increase the War Dancer’s Maximum Karma by 25.

Talents
Multi-Strike
Vital Strike

Fifteenth Circle

Elemental Favor: At the cost of three Strain, the War Dancer can perform a special Dance that calls upon the favor of the elemental planes. The War Dancer must perform a special hour-long ritual and make a Karma Ritual Test. That value becomes the effect value for one elemental effect that the War Dancer may call upon in battle. The favor can be a gust of wind, a sudden burst of flames, a minor ground tremor, etc. The favor must be called upon before the next sunrise or it is lost.

Talents
Gain Surprise
Stone Skin

New Talents

The war dancer uses the following new talents:

Karma Strike

Step Number: Strength + Rank
Action: No
Skill Use: No
Requires Karma: Yes
Strain: None
Discipline Talent Use: War Dancer

This talent allows the user to focus magical energy into any part of the body to increase the damage of an unarmed attack. The character uses their Unarmed Combat talent to hit and uses their Karma Strike talent for damage. The character must spend Karma to use this talent. The karma die is added to the damage roll. The effect of the Karma Strike talent lasts until a hit is scored or a number of rounds equal to the talent rank pass.

Great Throw

Step Number: Strength + Rank
Action: Yes
Skill Use: Yes
Requires Karma: No
Strain: None
Discipline Talent Use: War Dancer

This talent allows the possesor to hurl an opponent to the ground. The attacker makes Unarmed Combat test versus the Physical Defense of the opponent. If the character gains at least a Good success he does damage equal to their Rank in Great Throw plus Strength. The opponent also must make a Knockdown Test with +5 added to the difficulty.

Dire Invasion

A Marvel Super Heroes Adventure

The heroes end up in a small town imperiled by Dire Wraiths. They are aided by Rom, Spaceknight. Unfortunately “Rom” is not entirely what he appears to be.

The heroes end up on the outskirts of Fremont, a small town upstate (either in New York or whatever state the heroes are based in). They are greeted by Sheriff John Tucker and his dog Rex. Apparently, according to the Sheriff, the town’s had some trouble recently with animal mutiliations and people reporting strange happenings. He’s at a loss to explain them beyond the possibility of some kids playing pranks. He invites the heroes back to town if they want to help.

Trouble in Town

Back in town, the heroes get a chance to speak with some of the local residents. A distraught woman comes rushing into the room, saying that aliens are mutilating her farm animals. When the heroes rush out to see what’s going on, they find a small group of cultists, wearing robes and carrying knives, standing over the bodies of some slain livestock. The cultists (Dire Wraiths in disguise), lash out using blaster weapons concealed beneath their robes and command the two hellhounds with them to attack. The Wraiths reveal their true nature if pressed, assuming various horrible forms to attack the heroes.

The Spaceknight

In the midst of the fight, Rom arrives to help out. The spaceknight swoops down over the battle, eliciting a cry of fear and anger from the Dire Wraiths. He says “I thought this world cleansed of your foul kind, Wraiths. It is my duty to see it remains so!” With a blast of his neutralizer, Rom banishes the Dire Wraiths to Limbo, leaving only some ashes and discarded cloaks behind. The hellhounds are likewise neutralized, leaving the bodies of dead Earth dogs behind.

Rom greets the heroes and tells them how he has returned to Earth because of information of a new Dire Wraith invasion. He offers to help the heroes deal with the Wraiths as he did before, by constructing a larger neutralizer device to banish them to Limbo. He suggests returning to the heroes’ base to work on the device. If the heroes lack the necessary technological equipment, they may be able to borrow it from SHIELD. Otherwise, Rom reveals he has a base in a cavern not far from the town, and offers to take the heroes there.

Back Home

The heroes go back to their base to help Rom impliment his plan. He intends to design a device to applify the beam of his neutralizer, banishing any remaining Wraiths still hiding on Earth. In truth, Rom is a dire wraith warlock in disguise, faking Rom’s abilities using technological trickery. The device is a dimensional portal into Limbo, intended to free the imprisoned Wraiths. When the device is activated, a portal appears in the air and from it steps the horror that is… Hybrid!

The wraiths free their brethren from Limbo, including Hybrid, who uses his tremendous psionic powers to paralyze the heroes. Hybrid banishes the heroes to Limbo through the portal and traps them there. The Wraiths assume the forms of the heroes and head off for New York (or the heroes’ home city) to begin winning over the local populace. Soon the Earth will be theirs!

Escape From Limbo

Floating helplessly in Limbo, the heroes are attacked by a Deathwing, a Dire Wraith monster that once nearly destroyed Galador. During the fight a voice drives the Deathwing back away from the heroes. They see a heavily robed Dire Wraith figure, carrying a golden sceptre. She is the Witchqueen of the Wraiths, banished to Limbo by Rom along with the other female wraiths. She knows something of Hybrid’s plan and does not wish to see it succeed. She believes she can return the heroes to Earth, but in return, she wants her own freedom. She will help the heroes against the other Wraiths, if they agree to help her escape from Limbo. If the heroes refuse, they’ll have to come up with their own way out, although they might be able to trick the Wraithqueen in some way.

Worms in the Big Apple

The “heroes” have met with an enthusiastic welcome in New York City, aided by Hybrid’s tremendous mental powers. The heroes need to overcome the Wraiths and put an end to Hybrid’s mind control. The Wraith leader will flee if his defeat appears imminent, to plan for another day.

The Dire Wraiths

Dire Wraiths (sciwraith): Strength 12X, Agility 3X, Intellect 8D, Willpower 4X, Edge 0, Health 10. Resistance to Heat +3, Shapeshifting 10. One science skill.(warlock): Strength 12X, Agility 3X, Intellect 4D, Willpower 10X, Edge 0, Health 10. Magic 10, Resistance to Heat +3, Shapeshifting 10. Occult. Calling: World Domination.

Hybrid (Jimmy Marks): Strength 8X, Agility 6X, Intellect 6X, Willpower 15D, Edge 2, Health 25. Body Armor +4, Flight 4, Illusion 16, Mind Control 16, Shapeshifting 16, Telekinesis 18, Telepathy 14. Calling: World Domination.

Hellhounds: Strength 8X, Agility 6X, Intellect 1X, Willpower 2X, Health 10. Animal Form 8 (Limit: hound form only), Claws +2, Enhanced Senses 10 (tracking), Phasing 12, Teeth +2. Calling: Animal Nature.

Deathwing: Strength 16X, Agility 4X, Intellect 2X, Willpower 4X, Health 30. Body Armor +3, Claws +4, Teeth +2, Wings 8. Calling: Demolisher.

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.

Building a Better Deathtrap

Diabolical Dilemmas for the Marvel Super Heroes Adventure Game

A super-villain has defeated our heroes, leaving them at his or her mercy. What is the villain going to do? Certainly not kill the heroes in cold blood. Not only would that end the game in a hurry and leave the Narrator with a lot of unhappy players, it wouldn’t be in keeping with the modus operandi of most super-villains. Killing the heroes outright denies the villain the opportunity to use one of the favorite villainous devices: the deathtrap.

This article looks at ways to include some fiendish deathtraps in your own Marvel games, along with some game rules to make escaping from those traps a little more exciting.

Why Deathtraps?

Why doesn’t the villain just do away with the heroes when they are helpless? Why put them in a deathtrap? Well, villains have many different reasons. Some want to demonstrate their own cleverness by creating the perfect deathtrap, although they always seem to fall just a bit short. Other villains prefer for their enemies to suffer. Rather than kill them quickly and cleanly, they want to make the heroes squirm. For some a deathtrap is a means of doing away with the heroes without the villain having to dirty his own hands at the task. In some cases, the deathtrap happens by accident rather than design; the heroes end up in a perilous situation-trapped in a burning building, for example-and the villain simply leaves them there to die.

Whatever reasons the villain might have, the real reason behind deathtraps is simple: super heroes just don’t die in such undramatic ways as being shot by a villain after a knock on the head. Super heroes only die in dramatic life-of-death struggles, and rarely even then. The consequence of defeat in most RPG settings is death, combats are often lethal. In the non-lethal setting of the comics, deathtraps provide a way to put some drama into a super heroic adventure. Defeated heroes, and their players, know that they face, not death, but “a fate worse than death! Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!” (Sorry, got carried away there.)

Being Defeated

A key part of many deathtraps is that the villain first defeats the heroes. The villain puts them into a deathtrap, reveals his or her evil plan, then leaves the heroes to face their fate. The trick in translating this into the Marvel game is defeating the heroes in the first place.

As a general rule, players don’t like to lose. Although roleplaying games like Marvel don’t have any real “winners” or “losers,” players often equate “defeated in combat” with “losing.” If a Narrator plans to defeat a group of heroes before putting them in a deathtrap, expect the players to fight to the very last to avoid being defeated, even if defeat seems inevitable. And, if you give them the opportunity, don’t be surprised if the players somehow managed to snatch victory from the jaws of certain defeat. Trump cards and Edge can do that.

There are several ways you can deal with this problem in your games. The first is to tell the players up front that, in playing a Marvel game, a certain amount of defeats may happen to their heroes. These defeats shouldn’t be looked at as failures on the part of the players or their heroes, simply as part of the game. As you play and the players see that defeat does not mean certain death for their favorite hero, they’ll begin to loosen up about getting defeated now and again. They might even look forward to the deathtrap that’s coming next!

You can also set up “you never had a chance” situations; traps so fiendishly designed that the heroes simply have no way to avoid being defeated. For example, the heroes break into Arcade’s control room and confront the crazed assassin, who’s sitting in his chair, smugly confident and taunting them. One of the heroes decides to punch or blast Arcade. When he does, the android duplicate of the carnival hitman explodes, releasing a cloud of knockout gas. The gas quickly incapacitates the heroes, allowing Arcade to drop them into his latest Murderworld. In this case, the heroes don’t get a chance to resist the gas; if they trigger the trap, they’re caught.

Or you can simply start an adventure with the heroes already defeated by a villain, who has them in a deathtrap. For example, if your players are running the Uncanny X-Men, you tell them they were out for a night at the opera when Arcade’s loyal assistants, Ms. Locke and Mr. Chambers, sprang a stun gas trap on them. When the adventure begins, they wake up in their costumes inside Murderworld and the game begins!

Use this method sparingly. If the heroes are confronted with too many situations out of their control, the players can become frustrated and lose interest in the game. Oftentimes it is better to allow the players to come up with some way to avoid the trap, then hit them with another one, rather than making a particular defeat inevitable.

Lastly, you can surprise heroes with deathtraps that do not require the villain to defeat the heroes first. In the first example above, the booby-trapped android duplicate of Arcade might be the deathtrap rather than a means of getting the heroes into one. Heroes can walk right into a deathtrap if a villain prepares the proper “bait,” like a crime in progress or a helpless loved one.

The Doom Clock

Deathtraps require a certain dramatic timing in order to remain tense and exciting for the players. One way the Narrator can accomplish this is through the use of a “Doom Clock,” which counts down how long the hero has to successfully escape the deathtrap before disaster.

The Narrator chooses a number of actions required to escape from the deathtrap. This should generally be between two and five actions. One action is too quick for anything except the simplest traps, while more than five actions tends to bog things down and get boring. The Narrator then decides what the various actions should be, for example, finding the access panel to the computer, bypassing the security lockouts and reprogramming the system. If the player offers a plan of his or her own, the Narrator should break it down into actions accordingly.

The Narrator then chooses the number of actions before the deathtrap activates: how long before the walls close in, before the hero is dropped into the pit of boiling acid, and so forth. For tough deathtraps, this interval should be the same as the number of actions required to escape. For easier challenges, the interval can be from 25% to 100% longer.

The Narrator then begins to turn over cards on the Fate Deck. Each card represents an exchange. On a positive draw, the hero may attempt an action to escape the trap. On a negative draw, the trap’s “clock” advances forward by one exchange. On a neutral draw, nothing happens: the hero is struggling to figure out what comes next while the clock is ticking.

Last Ditch Effort

It may be that the trap springs before the hero has time enough to escape, especially when the positive and negative counters are close. In this case, when the final negative card comes up that would trigger the trap, the hero has the option of making a last ditch attempt to escape. This is a single action, chosen by the Narrator. It should have a difficulty at least three levels higher than that of the other actions for getting out of the trap. So a deathtrap that required three challenging actions to overcome normally would require a superhuman last ditch effort to escape. Heroes can use Pushing the Limit to help with a list ditch effort. If the hero is successful, he or she escapes just in the nick of time.

Dramatic Events

While the Doom Clock is ticking, the Narrator can use any Dramatic Events that come up on the card draws the enhance the excitement of the deathtrap, if appropriate. For example, Emergency or Endangered Innocents might indicate a new threat from the deathtrap, like a runaway laser beam setting the room on fire. On the other hand, events like No Restrictions or Never Say Die, might actually help the heroes, giving them additional insight or a second-chance. This is very useful if the heroes are having too easy or too difficult a time with the deathtrap, keeping things in balance and keeping the players on the edge of their seats.

Types of Deathtraps

Here are some of the classic deathtraps from the comics for use in your games. You can use these basic ideas to create an almost endless array of lethal traps. Consider spicing things up by combining two or more deathtraps into one, or by taking an existing “classic” and adding a new spin to it, like a Closing Walls trap where the room the heroes are trapped in is slowly filling with an alien bio-sludge that causes the heroes to mutate or lose control of their powers.

  • Closing Walls: The heroes are trapped in a room where the walls are closing in or which is slowly filling with sand, water, poison gas or something equally unbreathable, or perhaps both: the walls are closing in and the room is filling up at the same time. The walls may also be backed up by more than crushing force, they may be lined with spikes or heated red hot. The heroes have to figure a way out of the room before they are crushed or suffocate. Needless to say, this trap is considerably less threatening to heroes who are either invulnerable or don’t have to breathe. However, their teammates, friends and loved ones still do.
  • Controlled Teammate: The villain brainwashes one of the heroes into thinking his or her teammates are enemies who must be destroyed. The team has to convince the brainwashed hero not to attack. The Narrator can control any brainwashed hero(es) for this trap, but it can be a lot of fun to give control of the mind-controlled heroes to the players and let them loose! Encourage the players to roleplay helping their comrade break free of the evil mind-control, rather than reducing it to just a series of Willpower actions. You can use the Doom Clock in conjunction with the heroes’ attempts, especially if there is a time-limit, such as the mind-controlled hero about to trigger a far more lethal deathtrap.
  • Countdown: The heroes are sitting on top of a bomb (or similar deadly device) which is counting down to go off. Of course, the heroes are restrained or in some way prevented from easily defusing the bomb. The Doom Clock represents the trap’s countdown.
  • Decoy Villain: A decoy that looks like the villain (a robot duplicate or simply a dummy) triggers another trap when it is attacked. The decoy might explode or release a toxic gas when struck, or it might trigger things like trapdoors or cages containing dangerous creatures.
  • Gauntlet: The heroes have to make their way through a corridor or maze filled with deadly traps of all kinds. The traps can be anything the Narrator thinks up: automated weapons, fighting robots, creatures, pit traps, swinging blades and so forth. There may also be a time-limit for the heroes to make it through the gauntlet before something else happens, like the whole place blowing up, being flooded or something similar. Heroes often use gauntlets for training purposes on their own, like the “Danger Room” scenarios of the X-Men.
  • Psychodrama: The heroes are trapped inside a mindscape or illusion that involves something drawn from their own memories or worst fears. They may all see the same thing, or each hero might experience something different-the claustrophobic hero feels the walls closing in, the hero afraid of drowning sees the room filling with water, and so forth. The heroes have to overcome their fears in order to defeat the trap.
  • Sawmill: The heroes are strapped down, helpless, while a deadly attack draws closer and closer. It might be a laser, molten metal in a steel mill, a buzz-saw in a lumber mill, a rampaging monster, or some attack or substance a hero is especially vulnerable to. The heroes must escape before the attack gets to them. Alternately, a friend or loved one of a hero may be placed in a similar situation, forcing the hero to come to the rescue.
  • Tiger Pit: The heroes are placed in a trap where dangerous animals can attack them. It might be hungry lions, sharks, piranha, poisonous snakes or even more exotic creatures like alien monsters, mutates or cyborgs. Usually, there is something keeping both the creatures and the heroes trapped together, like a pit or force field. The creatures also have the home-field advantage, such as having to fight sharks or giant squid underwater (while holding your breath) or dealing with invisible mutants that can see in the dark while in pitch blackness.

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.

Marvel: The Hidden Races

Humanity in the Marvel Universe is by no means alone; numerous alien and extradimensional races have visited Earth in the past. In some cases, those visits have altered the evolutionary destiny of the human race, creating sub-races, offshoots of the human genetic tree, that share the planet with humanity. Most of these races are few in number compared to humans and choose to conceal their existence from humanity. They are the hidden races.


Atlanteans

The Atlanteans (homo mermanus) is an offshoot of the human race adapted for life underwater. They take thier name from the sunken continent of Atlantis, after they colonized its underwater ruins. The origin of the Atlantean race is unknown; they may be descendants of the original Atlanteans, altered by advanced technology or magic to exist underwater, which allowed them to survive the sinking of their island continent.

The Atlanteans have blue-tinged skin and gill slits at their clavicals that allow them to breathe water. They are approximately ten times stronger than normal humans, adepted to survive the rigors of the ocean depths. Their circulation is more efficient, protecting them against the cold, and their vision is more sensitive to the blue-green portion of the spectrum, allowing them to see greater distances underwater. Atlanteans have pointed ears, enlarged to allow them to hear great distances underwater. Normal Atlanteans cannot breathe air and suffocate out of the water, although there is an Atlantean bio-chemical that allows them to take on the paler skin and air breathing qualities of a normal human for a few hours at a time. Most Atlanteans wear water-filled helmets when visiting the surface world.

Atlantean society has been primitive and tribal for most of its history. Unable to light fires, mix chemicals, or perform many of the most basic technological feats underwater, Atlantean science and technology remained at a stone-age level. In the past century or so the Atlanteans have aquired advanced technology from contact with the Deviants and from looting the ruins of Atlantis. This gives them a combination of primitive weapons and armor like tridents and swords along with powerful submarine ships and biotechnology.

Atlantean society is tribal for the most part, organized in small bands of hunter-gatherers who subsist on fish and seaweed, living in ocean caves and coral reefs. A few thousand Atlanteans live in the ruins of the city of Atlantis and have a more advanced society, similar to the Roman Empire in many respects. They are ruled by a king and a Council of Elders, with specialized castes for hunting, farming, the arts, sciences, and so forth. Although the monarchy claims authority over all Atlanteans, technically it only holds sway over the city and the surrounding area. The barbaric Atlanteans outside of it have their own chieftans and warlords. Atlantean religion tends toward pantheistic nature worship, while the official religion of the city of Atlantis is based around worship of the sea-god Neptune.

Atlantis has attempted to invade the surface world on several occasions, but has always been forced back. Surface world relations with Atlantis are shaky at best, and the Atlanteans tend toward isolationism.

Typical Atlantean: Strength 9D, Agility 3X, Intellect 3C, Willpower 2X, Edge 0, Health 10. Knives, Lore (Atlantean), Oceanography. Resistance +4 (Cold and Pressure), Waterbreathing 3 (Swimming). Equipment: Knife +2, Net 8 (Ensnarment), Trident +4. Hindrance: Fatally Vulnerable to Air. Calling: Outcast.

Typical Atlantean Warrior: Strength 10C, Agility 4D, Intellect 3C, Willpower 3X, Health 17. Knives, Spears, Underwater Combat, Lore (Atlantean), Oceanography. Resistance +6 (Cold and Pressure), Waterbreathing 4 (Swimming). Equipment: Knife +2, Net 8 (Ensnarment), Power Trident +3 (Stun Blast 8), Blaster 10 (Energy Blast). Hindrance: Fatally Vulnerable to Air. Calling: Soldier.


Deviants

A million years ago, the powerful alien Celestials visited Earth and performed experiments on primitive humans. They created two new offshoots of humanity, the highly evolved Eternals (see Eternals) and the Deviants. The Celestials engineered the Deviants to test the plasticity of human DNA by ensuring that their physical and genetic characteristics would vary greatly with each generation. Deviant children bear no resemblance to their parents and, apart from generally maintaining bilateral symmetry, Deviants bear little resemblance to each other.

The Deviants were the first natives of Earth to develop technology and they quickly became very advanced in a number of areas, notably genetics. They engineered the Subterraneans as a slave race (see Subterraneans) and Deviant technology may have been used to transform the Atlanteans into water-breathers (see Atlanteans). The Deviants built great cities and established an empire centered on the continent of Lemuria. They conquered the entire world except for the continent of Atlantis, which fought off a Deviant army. To fend off the Deviants, Atlantis’ King Kamuu opened the magma pits that heated the capitol city. This led to seismological uphevals in Atlantis.

Not long thereafter, the Second Host of the Celestials visited Earth, appearing above Lemuria. The Deviants launched an immediate attack on the Space Gods and the Celestials responded by destroying Lemuria, unleashing the cataclysm that sank Lemuria and Atlantis beneath the ocean. The Deviant population was decimated and retreated to hidden cities deep underground. They built a new underground capitol city in the ruins of Lemuria, the so-called “City of Toads.”

The Deviants are ruled by a noble class but much of the power in their society is held by the priesthood, which works to stabilize the Deviant gene-pool. The priests cull the Deviant population, sending the most mutated Deviants to their deaths in the fire pits during the “Purity Time.” The priesthood also has the greatest understanding of Deviant genetic science and engineering. Such harsh measures do not seem to have significantly affected the Deviants’ random genetics.

Nearly all Deviants are born with non-human appearances (indeed, the Deviant Ransak is considered a “freak” because of his completely human appearance). Many Deviants also have super-human abilities, the most common being super-strength, although they display a wide range of powers and abilities. Deviants with powerful abilities tend to rise to the top of their society as warriors or priest-lords.

Because Deviant children differ so greatly from their parents, Deviants find the idea of reproduction somewhat repugnant, and take no pleasure in it. The sexes are segregated in Deviant society and only mate in order to propigate the race (often at the direction of the priesthood, which determines the best genetic matches). The Deviant birth-rate is unsurprisingly low; there are only a few thousand Deviants in the entire world, making even the great City of Toads seem vast and empty. Many other subterranean Deviant cities are entirely abandoned.

The Deviants have been at war with the Eternals for nearly all of their history, generally motivated by the Deviants’ jealousy of those they see as the Celestials’ “favored” children and their desire to gain the secret of the Eternals’ immortality.

Typical Deviant: Strength 7X, Agility 3X, Intellect 3X, Willpower 2X, Edge 0, Hand Size 2 (10). A “typical” Deviant is almost a contradiction in terms, but most of them have abilities close to these. Deviants often have super-powers. Draw a card from the Fate Deck and assign a power of that suit with an intensity equal to the card’s face value, or add the card’s value to its associated attribute. Deviant warriors often have Strength 10+ and various Strength skills. Priests have Intellect and Willpower of at least 4 (often higher). Hindrance: Monstrous.


Eternals

The Eternals are one of two races (the other being the Deviants) created by Celestial intervention on Earth a million years ago. The Celestials evolved a group of primitive humans and granted them the ability to tap and control small amounts of cosmic energy, creating the first Eternals.

Eventually a civil war broke out between two factions of Eternals over the course of their race’s future. The more war-like faction, led by Uranos, lost and was banished into space. The winning faction, led by Uranos’ brother Kronos, built the city of Titanos. Uranos’ band of Eternals discovered a supply depot on the planet Uranus, left by the alien Kree. Overcoming the sentry robot left to guard it, the Eternals used the supplies from the depot to construct a warship to return and conquer their brethren on Earth. Four Eternals remained behind and became the founders of a small Eternal colony on Uranus. The returning Eternals never reached Earth, however, because they were intercepted by a Kree armada entering Earth’s solar system. One Eternal, Arlok, was captured and vivisected by the Kree. Discovering that he was from Earth, the Kree resolved to conduct their own genetic experiments on humanity. Their experiments resulted in the Inhumans (see Inhumans). The survivors of Uranos’ followers settled on Saturn’s moon, Titan.

On Earth, Kronos performed an experiment in cosmic energy engineering in Titanos, resulting in an explosion that destroyed the city and exposed Earth’s Eternals to cosmic energy bombardment, activating their latent potential. Kronos was disintegrated in the explosion, although his astral form still exists in Earth’s dimension. After Kronos’ death his sons, Zuras and Alars, initiated the Uni-Mind for the first time in Eternal history, to decide which of them should lead their people. The Uni-Mind chose Zuras, and Alars departed for space to avoid conflict. He discovered the Eternal colony on Titan, devastated by a civil war. He mated with Sui-San, the last survivor of the Titanian Eternals, and together they began the process of repopulating Titan. Alars changed his name to Mentor and he remains the leader of the Titanian Eternals.

Zuras directed the construction of three new cities for the Eternals of Earth: Olympia in Greece, Polaria in Siberia, and Oceana in the Pacific. For thousands of years the Eternals co-existed with the other branches of humanity. Their occasional interventions gave rise to human myths, and they were sometimes confused with extradimensional races of gods like the Olympians and the Asgardians. The Eternals also conflicted with their ancient enemies, the Deviants, from time to time. In recent years, the Celestial Fourth Host arrived on Earth to judge the fitness of their work. The Eternals banded together with the Asgardians to repel the Celestials, but were unsuccessful. Zuras died in the attempt, but the Celestials ruled in Earth’s favor, thanks to intervention by the Earth-goddess Gaia, and departed.

Following Zuras’ death, the majority of Eternals chose to join the Uni-Mind and leave Earth to explore the universe. A small number of Eternals particularly involved in human affairs chose to remain behind. They were first ruled by Thena, Zuras’ daughter, as Prime Eternal, but Thena was later deposed by Ikaris because of her involvement with the Deviant Warlord, Kro. Ikaris is the current Prime Eternal of Earth. For the most part, the Eternals maintain the secret of their race’s existence, and interfere only rarely in human affairs.

Earth Eternals have cosmic energy-based powers, making them virtually immortal and invulnerable. Titanian Eternals have more limited (but still substanial) life-spans and powers, from the genes of Mentor. The Eternal colony on Uranus died out in the 20th century, not long after sending Robert Grayson (alias Marvel Boy) back to Earth. Quasar explored the ruins of the Uranus colony shortly before becoming Protector of the Universe.

Typical Earth Eternal: Strength 15, Agility 4, Intellect 4, Willpower 5, Edge 2, Hand Size 4 (20). Skills based on areas of interest. Cosmic Energy Control 10 (Flight, Telekinesis), Immortality, Invulnerability (Cold, Disease, Electricity, Heat, Poison, and Radiation), Telepathy 4 (Illusion), Teleportation 3. Many Eternals have trained themselves to higher (sometimes much higher) levels of powers and abilities, and mastered particular power stunts (such as Sersi’s Transmutation).

Typical Titanian Eternal: Strength 12, Agility 4, Intellect 4, Willpower 4, Edge 1, Hand Size 3 (17). Skills based on areas of interest, although science and Willpower skills are common. Flight 10, Resistance (Aging, Cold, Disease, Electricity, Heat, Poison, and Radiation) +5. Various “sport” psionic abilities are common among the Eternals of Titan, including Telepathy and Telekinesis.


Inhumans

The Inhumans are an offshoot of humanity created by the alien Kree, who visited Earth some twenty-five thousand years ago. After encountering an Earth Eternal in the outer solar system (see Eternals), the Kree decided to perform their own genetic experiments on primitive humans, possibly to create super-soldiers for their ongoing war against the Skrulls. Kree scientists succeeded in engineering a tribe of genetically advanced human beings, but abandoned their plans for them for unknown reasons. After the Kree left them, the Inhumans wandered across the Eurasian continent, eventually settling on a small island in the Northern Atlantic they called Attilan.

Sometime within the first millennium of Inhuman existence, the Inhuman geneticist Randac isolated a chemical catalyst for human mutation, which he called Terrigen. Randac exposed himself to Terrigen and gained tremendous mental powers, rivaling those of the Eternals. He was chosen as the leader of Attilan for his genetic fitness and instituted a program to expose others to the Terrigen. Unfortunately, half of the subjects developed non-human physical mutations, so the experimentation was stopped. The ruling Genetic Council decided that subjects would only undergo exposure to the Terrigen Mist after careful genetic screening and testing.

Centuries later, an Inhuman leader named Gral, tired of discrimination against the non-human portion of the population, instituted a reign of terror where the entire population of Attilan was exposed to the Terrigen Mists. Three-quarters of the population were transformed into non-human types. For years, the Inhumans were segregated into Mutation Camps, allowed to interact and breed only with their own phenotype. Eventually Gral was deposed, and an Inhuman named Auran taught his people to embrace their diversity and live together in peace and understanding. This era came to an end some 2,500 years ago, when winged Inhumans built a city suspended in the sky above Attilan, leading to conflict between the sky- and ground-dwellers. The small colony of winged Inhumans has existed in relative peace over the years. It became the adopted home of the costumed hero Red Raven.

About four thousand years ago, the Inhuman scientist Avadar convinced the Genetic Council to lift their ban on cloning, allowing him to engineer a clone servitor race called the Alpha Primitives to perform all menial labor in Attilan. Only in recent times has the ban on cloning been re-instituted and the creation of new Alpha Primitives outlawed. The Inhumans freed the Alpha Primitives and gave them a home in the caverns beneath Attilan. Designed as sub-human workers, its unclear whether or not the Alphas are even aware of their chage in status, although some Inhuman missionaries work to try and educate them.

Some 110 years ago, the Inhuman Agon was elected to leadership of the Genetic Council. Agon was a skilled geneticist and popular leader, who made many advances in stabilizing the Inhuman genome. He and his wife Rynda exposed their unborn child to the Terrigen Mist, causing Blackagar to be born as the most powerful Inhuman in history, exceeding even Randac’s abilities. They persuaded their brothers and sisters to do likewise, causing Blackagar’s cousins to be born with powerful superhuman abilities as well.

Ninety years into Agon’s rule, the Kree renewed their interest in using the Inhumans as soldiers in their ongoing war with the Skrulls. Agon’s younger son, Maximus, betrayed his people and began secret negotiations with the Kree. When Maximus’ brother Black Bolt discovered this, he used his sonic powers to blast the Kree ship out of the sky. It crashed into the laboratory where Agon and Rynda worked, killing them along with a number of other Inhumans. Given Agon’s popularity, the Genetic Council elected a reluctant Black Bolt the new king of the Inhumans.

During Black Bolt’s reign, Attilan was moved from the Atlantic to a hidden valley in the Himalayan Mountains, to hide it from the outside world. Shortly thereafter, Maximus overthrew his brother and seized power in Attilan with the aid of mutated Alpha Primitives known as the Trikon. For nearly a decade, Black Bolt and his cousins wandered the world. When they finally returned to Attilan, Black Bolt won the crown back from Maximus. He made several later attempts to oust his brother, but none were as successful.

When the Inhumans proved allergic to the pollutants in Earth’s atmosphere, they were forced to relocate Attilan once more, this time to the Blue Area of the Moon, where the Kree had once built a city outpost. The city remained hidden on the Moon for some time, until the Inhumans moved it to an island near Attilan’s original location, a portion of the Atlantean continent raised above the ocean during an Atlantean invasion of the surface world (see Atlanteans). Magnetic field generators and distortion projectors protect Attilan from outside discovery and interference.

The Inhumans are ruled by a genocracy, rule by the genetically fittest. The ruling body is the tweleve member Genetic Council, the members of which are elected for life. They choose from among their number one to be the ruler (or “king”) of Attilan, who also serves for life. Rulership is not hereditary, although popular kings are sometimes succeeded by their genetic offspring (as in the case of Agon and Black Bolt). The Genetic Council passes laws, while the king acts as Attilan’s sole judge in legal matters. Presently, the Council restricts the science of cloning, and citizens are required to undergo genetic screening before marriage and mating, to ensure the best genetic matches. Exposure to the Terrigen Mist is permitted only after extensive genetic screening. Children may be exposed in utero or at a young age at the discretion of their parents. Adults not exposed as childen may choose to be at the age of 31. Presently, of the some 1,200 Inhumans in Attilan, roughly half have some non-human mutation.

The Inhumans speak their own language, Tilan, but many have also learned to speak human languages like English, Russian, and Chinese. The primary occupation of most Inhumans is science, but they also have various trade and artist guilds. Menial labor is mostly handled by machines since the use of genetic slaves like the Alpha Primitive was banned. The technology of Attilan is highly advanced, sufficient to make the city entirely self-sustaining.

Typical Inhuman: Strength 8X, Agility 4X, Intellect 3D, Willpower 3X, Edge 1, Hand Size 3 (17). Powers: Every Inhuman has at least one power. To determine randomly, draw a card from the Fate Deck and assign a power of that suit with an intensity equal to the card’s face value. If the card also has a neutral aura, the Inhuman has some sort of physical mutation, often linked to his or her power. Hindrance: Fatally Vulnerable to pollution of intensity 15 or greater. Certain medications can offset this Hindrance for a short time.

Alpha Primitive: Strength 9X, Agility 5X, Intellect 1X, Willpower 1X, Edge 0, Health 10. Calling: Soldier. Hindrance: Uncreative.


Lemurians

The Lemurians are a subspecies of the water-breathing Atlanteans (see Atlanteans) who settled the northern regions of the continent of Lemuria after the Celestial Second Host sank it (and Atlantis) beneath the ocean. The Lemurians worshiped the elder god Set and their King Naga wore the mystical Serpent Crown, a channel for Set’s magical power and his touchstone with Earth’s reality. This caused the Lemurians to develop green-tinted skin, often scaled in the case of Set worshipers like Naga and his closest followers.

Other than their differently colored skin and a propensity for learning magic, the Lemurians have the same abilities as the Atlanteans.


Subterraneans

The Subterraneans are actually three related races living deep beneath the Earth’s surface. When the Celestials sank Deviant Lemuria (see Deviants), the Deviant race was driven deep underground. They needed a slave race to replace the human slaves they had lost in the catastrophe, so they used their mastery of genetics to engineer such a race. The original Subterraneans looked identical to humans except for their pale yellow skin. They had approximately three times ordinary human strength, making them well suited for hard labor, and their eyes were adapted to see in the infrared, allowing them to operate in very dim light. The Subterraneans carved out tunnels and expanded the underground Deviant cities.

Eventually, the Subterraneans rebelled against their Deviant masters, led by the revolutionary Gor-Tok. They captured several underground cities and expelled the Deviants from them. The Deviants later sued for peace and ceeded those cities to the Subterraneans, who became known as the Gortokians, after their leader.

A demon-worshipping cult later developed among the Gortokians. The demon magically transformed its worshippers into Lava Men, who broke off from Gortokian society and established their own civilization deep beneath the Earth. The Lava Men have rocky reddish skin and radiate great heat, which they are virtually immune to. They are ruled by their shamans, who have mystical powers over lava, ash, and rock.

The Deviants, meanwhile, engineered a new slave race. This time, they made sure to engineer their new slaves to be completely obedient to authority and virtually incapable of rebellion. They created one breed as short and stocky, with rounded heads that later became known as the Tyrranoids. The other was small and thin, later known as the Moloids.

They proved the ideal slaves for the Deviants but they were no match for the Gortokians, who attacked and drove the Deviants out of their cities, forcing them back to the City of Toads in Lemuria. The Deviants abandoned their new slaves, leaving most of them to fend for themselves. The Tyrranoids and the Moloids degenerated, becoming weaker (about the strength of a normal human) and incapable of speech, although they continued to maintain the old Deviant machines, as they were instructed. The Tyrranoids were eventually discovered by the exiled Roman Tyrranus while the Moloids were discovered by the Mole Man. Desperately in need of leadership, the Subterraneans latched onto these men as their new masters.

In recent years the Gortokians prepared to conquer the surface world, but their capitol city was destroyed a nuclear weapon test by humans ignorant of their existence. Radiation sickness and plague wiped out all of the Gortokians except for the heir to the throne, Prince Gor-Tok, named for his legendary ancestor. Radiation mutated Gor-Tok and he attempted to avenge his race by destroying the surface world, calling himself Grotesk. His efforts were thwarted by the X-Men.

Subterranean: Strength 4X, Agility 3D, Intellect 1X, Willpower 1X, Edge 0, Hand Size 2 (10). Repair (Deviant technology). Hindrances: Monstrous, Physically Disabled (blind in bright light), Uncreative. These abilities are the same for the Moloids and the Tyrranoids.

Lava Man: Strength 9X, Agility 3X, Intellect 3X, Willpower 3X, Edge 0, Hand Size 2 (10). Body Transformation (Rock) 9, Energy Sheath (Heat) 8 (Resistance to Heat). Hindrances: Monstrous, Susceptible (Cold).

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?

A Magical Miscellany for SAGA

Variant Magic Styles for the Saga Game System

The Dragonlance: Fifth Age game presents a system of magic used by the heroes of Krynn in the Fifth Age. It relies on the flexible, story-oriented nature of the SAGA System rules. However, this system is by no means the only style of magic possible in the SAGA System. The basic game system is extremely flexible, and capable of simulating magic from many different fantasy settings, even mixing-and-matching different magical styles within the same setting.

Note that the term “magician” in the following descriptions refers interchangeably to either sorcerers or mystics from the Dragonlance: Fifth Age rules. Where sorcerers or mystics are specifically intended, those terms are used. If desired, the Narrator can choose one option for sorcerers in the game and another for mystics, mixing and matching to create several different types of magic.

Spell Gathering

In this system, magicians have no spell points of their own to cast spells. Instead, spell points (magical energy) is gathered from the environment by drawing cards from the Fate Deck, which represents the local magical energy available. If desired, the Narrator can use a separate Fate Deck for spell gathering, so the players’ own hands do not deplete the deck.

Each school or sphere is aligned with a particular suit of the Fate Deck (see the Suit Alignment Table). Cards for that suit count their full face value towards the cost of the spell. Cards from other suits count as only 1 point each. The magician must gather enough cards to successfully cast the spell. The first card draw takes no time (the caster simply “grabs” whatever available energy is nearby). Each additional draw takes one minute. This means only the weakest and simplest spells can be cast quickly. If desired, the Narrator can vary the speed of gathering. For rapid spellcasting, allow casters to draw a number of cards equal to the appropriate ability score (Reason for sorcery, Spirit for mysticism) immediately, then one additional card per minute. For slower castings, eliminate the free first card, or require each draw to take 10 minutes or more.

A magician can draw as many cards as his or her appropriate ability score (Reason or Spirit). If the magician does not gather enough power, or stops gathering before gaining enough power to cast the spell, it dissipates harmlessly. If the magician draws the 10 of Dragons while gathering power, the spell misfires immediately in some way determined by the Narrator.

Once the necessary power has been gathered, a normal action is still required to cast the spell, as described in the Fifth Age rules. The magician must gather enough additional power to overcome the target’s resistance or the spell automatically fails.

The Narrator must decide how quickly the “pool” of magical energy (the Fate Deck) recovers. It may do so immediately after each spell, in which case magicians cannot deplete the magical power around them. Alternately, the local magical resources may only recover each day, or even slower, forcing magicians to husband power and not become overly extravagant with spellcasting. The geographic size of a magical pool is also important. If it is limited to only a mile or two, then a magician can find more energy only a short distance away. If it is many miles, then magicians may fight to control the magical power of a given area.

Suit Alignment Table

Fate Deck Suit Sorcery School Mystic Sphere
Swords Pyromancy Channeling
Helms Cryomancy Healing
Arrows Aeromancy Alteration
Shields Geomancy Animism
Orbs Enchantment Meditation
Moons Divination Sensitivity
Hearts Spectramancy Spiritualism
Crowns Hydromancy Mentalism

Spell Memorization

Magicians do not have spell points. Instead, magicians memorize their spells. Once cast, the spell is forgotten until it is re-memorized, similar to the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons systems of magic.

The magician builds spells in advance according to the normal spell system in the Fifth Age rules. All spells are limited to no more than (attribute x 2) cost. Use Reason for sorcery and Spirit for mysticism, so a sorcerer with Reason 7 cannot memorize a spell with a cost greater than 14. Heroes add their number of Quests to this total, so a Reason 7 hero with 5 Quests can memorize spells with a cost up to 19 points (7 times 2, plus 5).

A hero can memorize a number of spells equal to his or her appropriate ability, plus an additional spell per Quest. So a Spirit 5 mystic can memorize 5 spells, plus one per Quest. Memorizing a spell requires a number of minutes equal to the spell’s cost. Sorcerers must have a spellbook to memorize from. Mystics need only quiet, uninterrupted meditation to memorize spells.

Casting a memorized spell requires an average Reason or Spirit action, opposed by the target’s ability, if applicable.

Spell Components

Rather than magicians having their own spell points, spell points are stored in objects, which are used as part of the spellcasting. These objects may be virtually anything allowed by the Narrator, from simple herbs, minerals and animal parts to exotic and rare ingredients. Without the proper components, a magician cannot cast spells. The number of spell points contained in an object varies according to the Narrator’s judgment. Generally, more common items have fewer spell points, while rarer items have more. Narrators may want to use the rules from Heroes of Sorcery to allow magicians to draw spell points of existing magical items as well.

Source Magic

Magicians do not have spell points. However, other living beings do have them, and magicians can draw on them to perform magic. However, the other being must willingly give spell points to the magician, they cannot be taken against his or her will (except, perhaps, by some dark and evil rituals). Magicians need “sources,” companions willing to supply magical power for them to cast spells.

The availability of suitable sources varies depending on the effect desired. If sources can be any living being (even friendly animals), then magicians are likely to have many pets and familiars, along with servants and traveling companions, to provide a ready source of energy. Cities and towns may require citizens to volunteer spell points to help magicians with municipal work and the defense of the area.

If sources are rarer, such as only allowing certain people to act as sources (perhaps only those with high scores or codes in Perception or Presence), then magicians will carefully cultivate possible sources. If each magician has only one source, then the source and the magician have a very close bond and must work together as partners. Each is powerless without the other.

Life Magic

Magical power (spell points) comes from the life force of living things. Using magic results in the depletion of this life force, leading to death. This is similar to the defiler magic from the Dark Sun campaign setting. Generally, life force must be given freely to the magician, or taken from non-intelligent life like plants (again, certain evil, arcane rituals may be able to alter this).

Plant life (along with small insects, lichens and similar simple life forms) have roughly 1 spell point per square yard in size. A hundred square yards of grass and plants yields 100 spell points. An average adult tree provides 20-30 spell points. Plant life drained of spell points turns to ash, and the ground there will not grow plants again until rejuvenated in some way.

A creature or character has as many spell points as its Endurance squared. For every amount of spell points equal to Endurance used by the magician, reduced the being’s Endurance by 1. When all its spell points are used up, the being dies. Heroes have spell points based on the cards in their hand. A hero can spend cards from his or her hand to give a magician spell points, the magician gets a number of points equal to twice the card’s face value. If the donating hero is reduced to 0 cards, the hero falls into a coma and is dying.

Magicians in a setting where life magic is common may decimate the environment, and may be hunted or outlawed for indiscriminate uses of magic.

Power Sites and Ley Lines

Magical energy comes from certain sites and places (or times). These places are often connected by “ley lines” that carry magical energy along the surface of the terrain, much like invisible, magical rivers. Each site or line is rating according to how much magical energy it supplies. A site may provide a certain number of free spell points automatically each minute, or it may allow a magician to draw spell points from it (as described under Spell Gathering). For example, a ley line may provide any magician standing on it with access to 12 spell points per minute, which means that any magician standing on the line can cast any spell with a cost of 12 or less for free. The magician cannot cast any spells with a cost greater than 12 unless some other source of spell points is available.

If power sites and ley lines are the only sources of spell points in a world, magicians are likely to fight over control of them. Even if they are not the only sources of magical power, magicians will still wish to control power sites for the advantages they offer.

Learned Spells

This option reduces the flexibility of magicians and makes their spells more predictable. Magicians can only cast spell effects they have specifically learned, rather than having access to all effects from the schools they know. Heroes get starting spells equal to their appropriate ability, plus one additional spell per Quest. Heroes should design their individual spells and keep track of them. For example, Hermod the Enchanter has Reason 8 and 6 Quests, so he knows fourteen spells. Hermod’s player designs the spells his hero knows based on Hermod’s available schools and shows them to the Narrator, who approves them.

Learned Schools

Magicians are able to learn additional schools or spheres over time, one additional school or sphere per increase in the magician’s Reputation. Experienced magicians can become very flexible and powerful in this way. For example, a sorcerer with a Reason Code of “A” in the SAGA System begins as Rabble, knowing three schools of Sorcery. The sorcerer can then learn an additional school upon becoming a Novice, and upon attaining each new Reputation level, until becoming a Legend, when her or she will know all nine schools of Sorcery. If hero who knows both sorcery and mysticism gains an additional school or an additional sphere per increase in reputation.

Expansive Magic

Magicians have access to all spheres or schools of their chosen type of magic. Magic can do anything, limited only by the ability and energy (spell points) of the magician. This option should be limited to fantasy settings where magicians are superior to all other types of characters, since they have the greatest flexibility and range of powers. However, magicians are still limited by their abilities and their available spell points, so they are not all-powerful. Narrators choosing this option should be careful to control the power of magicians to keep them from completely overshadowing other heroes.

Catastrophe Magic

Magicians have access to unlimited magical power. However, the more they use, the more likely for bad things to start happening. This makes magicians reluctant to overuse their powers, lest disaster strike. Magicians do not have spell points of their own. Instead, as they cast spells, the cost of the spell goes in a “catastrophe pool.” Once this pool exceeds the level of the magician’s appropriate attribute, squared, bad things start to happen. Each time a magician over the limit casts a spell, draw a card from the Fate Deck and add the amount by which the magician is over the limit. Dragon cards are considered trumps for this draw. Add the total together and consult the Catastrophe Table. The effects may represent a magical backlash or misfire, divine disfavor, the loosing of uncontrolled forces of chaos, or anything else appropriate to the setting’s magic.

The catastrophe pool is reduced by 1 point per hour. The Narrator can vary this rate of reduction in order to make the use of magic more or less risky, and therefore more or less common, in the game.

Catastrophe Table

 Total Effect
 4  Minor Mishap: The spell goes wrong in some fairly harmless way.
 8  Major Mishap: The spell goes wrong in a major way, affecting the caster or any companions.
 12  Minor Setback: The caster suffers from some minor problem, like a paralyzed arm that lasts for a day and increases the difficulty of all Dexterity actions by two levels, or being surrounded by a glowing light like a torch for several days, attracting monsters and strange looks.
 16  Major Setback: The caster suffers from a major problem, like being struck blind, deaf, or dumb for a day, being rendered unconscious for several hours, and so forth.
 20  Minor Injury: The caster suffers from a minor injury that lasts for at least a month and increases the difficulty of certain actions by two levels. For example, suffering a limp (affecting movement and Agility actions), a stutter (affecting Presence actions), or weakness (affecting Strength actions).
 24  Major Injury: The caster suffers some permanent, lasting injury that permanently reduces an ability score by 1. The Narrator can draw a card from the Fate Deck or choose an ability related to the spell cast.
 28  Minor Disaster: A minor disaster occurs around the caster. This includes a building or cavern collapsing, a sudden storm, an attack of monsters, an explosion or something similar. The disaster should provide an additional threat for the heroes to overcome and should hamper their plans in some way.
 32+  Major Disaster: A major disaster strikes the area around the caster. This includes earthquake, forest fire, hurricane, tsunami, plague of vermin (insects, frogs, rats, etc.), sudden darkness, and similar catastrophes. Additionally, the magician is rendered nearly helpless (0 in all abilities) for a number of hours equal to a draw from the Fate Deck.