Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Fallen ICONS: Daniel Hugo, formerly Exemplar


Daniel Hugo believed he was a strange visitor from another world, one who had been raised on Earth and fought for truth, justice, and the things he believed in. He worked that much harder at being human because he wasn't.

Years later, he learned that was only half true. Yes, there were significant amounts of alien DNA in his system, but he was essentially human, crafted from human eggs, sperm, and something that crashed in the Nevada desert. The scientists who crafted him built in a fail-safe: certain frequencies of radiation, when combined and not present with other radiations in the same ranges, would trigger an enzyme that excised the alien DNA from his system. They didn't know that just some of the frequencies would kill him, or that others would cause wild and unpredictable temporary changes. The rocks that produce these radiations got lumped together as Xenite.

The truth didn't come out for a long time: a "man hunter" had come to earth to find the missing alien and he discovered the base, the project, and the child. He destroyed the base and its backups and left the child in another state, where he was given the name "Daniel" and raised by the Hugos, a childless farming couple.

Years later, when the truth was revealed, someone pieced together the fail-safe and used it. Exemplar was just a man, but he continues to fight for truth and justice--now as a reporter. Few people know he was once Exemplar; they think Exemplar fell in battle or returned to his home planet. But Daniel knows. And if the heroes can help his fight for truth and justice, they might be told.

Daniel Hugo

Daniel is a reporter and a blogger and an investigator. He retains most of his knowledge from his days as Exemplar, and he has picked up martial arts in order to stay fit and to protect himself.

NameDaniel HugoProwess4Intellect4Determination
SpecialtiesArt (Writing), Business, Investigation, Leadership Expert, Martial Arts
QualitiesMidwestern Upbringing and Former Experimental Subject
Truth, Justice, and the North American Way
Web of Connections: Friends, Allies, Contacts, and Enemies


With his powers, Exemplar looked something like this:

NameExemplar (Daniel Hugo)Prowess5Intellect4Determination1
SpecialtiesAerial Combat, Art (Writing), Leadership
Damage Resistance Limit:Not vs magical effects8
Blast (shooting) Heat vision7
Super-senses: +1 Enh. sight & hearing, microscopic vision, telescopic vision, X-ray vision5
QualitiesTruth, Justice, and the North American Way
Alien Heritage, Midwestern Upbringing
The Major Hero


Another character with a huge history and a huge suite of powers, ranging from ubermensch to juggler-of-worlds. I chose to concentrate on only a few, and the player can use the "Alien heritage" quality to stunt the rest. In my mind, the character is a better man: whatever humans can do, he can do better. Strong? He's stronger. That strength gives him a toughness. He can see farther. Instead of leaping, he can fly. You could arguably put Super Speed and Life Support in there, but I prefer to stunt them. Most "normal" uses of Life Support are handled by his great strength, and the Super Speed was never was always sort of an afterthought and never part of his schtick like it was for a certain other flash-y character.

Exemplar and the original character are, also, a creature of science. Implicit in the "Alien heritage" quality is the idea that it is not magic.

Thanks to Fred Hicks for suggesting the name "Exemplar." The Daniel Hugo name is my way of suggesting Hugo Danners.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

What's the alternative to effects-based?

Okay, a lot of supers games are effects-based: you buy the effect, and then define the cause. So a blast can be a fire blast, a mystic blast, an energy blast, whatever. Usually these are point-based: you have X points to spend.

(Originally, games were menu-style, where you picked powers off a menu. You got the vulnerabilities that came with it. You had no choice. In the third edition of DC Heroes you can see the transition starting to happen there: they say that the names are essentially suggestions.)

But there never seem to be enough points to buy everything you should have.

I very much like games like ICONS where you sketch out the basic powers and the stunt mechanic lets you have the other powers you ought to have. But I have to admit that sometimes I chafe under the problem of "Well, I have a swingline; why don't I just tie him up?"

In ICONS you'd just get rid of the swingline, taking the Trouble of "no swingline" in order to stunt Entangle at the same level. But why should you have to?  Why do you have to buy/choose Blast, Swinging, and Entangle to represent that grappling gun that can be shot at someone or used to tie them up?

Is there a rules-medium to rules-light supers game that is effectively cause based? It lets you specify a cause and then you have a suite of powers that you can choose from that go with the cause. I haven't read Mutant City Blues but it sounds somewhat like the table there (apologies for forgetting the name).

The constraint might not be points but rather the number of powers you can choose that are associated with a specific power: the more powerful, the fewer powers. Between that and something like a Determination point mechanic, you might not have to worry about player balance. If you had a list of causes, you could make this relatively easy for the player. This is close to what Supers! does with its offense/defense/other trinity for each power, but that still has the problem that you have to buy Entangle separately, and that specifically is one of the problems I'm trying to avoid.

I'm just tossing out ideas, but let's model this off ICONS because that's what I'm thinking about today.

Power LevelNumber of Powers"Cost"

You can have between one to four causes, depending on what the GM wants to run. Something like this gives your utility belt guys lots of little powers (you wouldn't specify them, you'd just mark them off on a sheet of paper and charge extra after you hit the limit) because they get a bunch of powers at level 2 or so. Your big guns get Strength&Invulnerability (they go together so often in the comics that I'd just count them as one power, unless you want the disadvantage) and, oh, flight.

Then you tie them together with your cause. Again, you can choose the effects.

Or does that just hide the not-enough-points problem under a layer of complexity?

Monday, September 28, 2015

Fallen Icons: Ambassador Alfdisa, formerly Virago


Once, the heroine Virago was the emissary to man's world, eager to see what had happened on the outer crust of the earth since the Sitones had hidden themselves away, early in the days of the Roman empire. Now, the Sitones formally recognized, the former champion can no longer overtly fight crime. Her badges of rank as Virago, the Sitone champion, have been stolen by someone unknown, the person who killed her successor. Alfdisa (or just Disa to her friends) has too many responsibilities as the ambassador of the Sitones to man's world. She can't go after them herself. Even her invisible plane has been made visible, in recognition of the danger to air traffic.

She's strong, but no longer can she bounce bullets off her bracelets, or make people talk with the lasso of Freya. If the goddess wills it, she can fly...but Disa's life is not as pure as it once was, and the goddess sometimes holds back permission.

Someone has the bracelets. Someone has the lasso. Someone killed the last Virago. If she trusts the heroes enough, she'll ask them to help. She can offer some assistance, but it has to be behind the scenes. She can't run around doing the superhero thing any more.

Ambassador Alfdisa

As ambassador, Alfdisa no longer has the special devices and favors of the Virago; she has, however, cunning, and a network of favors and debts.

Disa has become a mover and a shaker, being the ambassador to much of the world. (Some countries still don't recognize the Sitones.) She has lost the favor of the Goddess and her people in many ways—diplomacy is an ugly business—but she's still strong, superhumanly so. As member of the ruling family of the Sitones, she is rumored to have in her the blood of gods.

Ambassador Alfdisa
Aerial Combat, Leadership Expert, Mental Resistance, Military Expert, Wrestling
  • Ambassador for the Sitones
  • Network of friends and enemies
  • Ledger of favors
  • Flight
    • Limit: Unpredictable (must pray for favour of the gods)


In her prime, as Virago, chosen of the Sitones and the Goddess, Disa looked something like this:

Virago (Alfdisa)
Aerial Combat, Leadership, Military Expert, Wrestling
  • Champion and favoured of the Goddess
  • It's lonely at the top
  • Even her enemies like her
  • Amazing (8) Flight
  • Amazing (8) Entangle (device)
    • Extra: Secondary effect [Mind control
      • Limit: Only tell truth]
  • Incredible (7) Reflection (device)
    • Limit: Performance

From Kris Anka via Project Rooftop:


Historically, Flight is a relatively recent power, but then there are several things that got lost by the end of the 1950s—like the pet kangaroo and that the lasso was originally a full-fledged Mind Control.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Places to fight!

I know it sounds terribly mechanical, but one of the things I do when I'm creating an adventure is think about where the fight(s) will take place. Sometimes the location is forced on you by the crime or the confrontation, but sometimes it's open. After all, they might discover agents of FANG (Friends of Absolutely Nothing Good) almost anywhere, and after you've had thirty or forty fights outside the corner where Rosie's Bar sits(1), you want somewhere else.

So, in no particular order, here are some locations and things that make them interesting. I might go back and insert links at some future date so that you can see the inspiration for things like the underwater mansion, but I shan't do it today. I see there are twelve here, so you could use a D12 to choose among them...
  • Any Place Abandoned like warehouses, Victorian mansions, amusement parks, old theme parks, ski resorts, factories...
  • Hi-Rise Construction Site Some sheltered floors, some open to the elements, construction equipment, cranes, heavy mud of there's a rainstorm, good access for flying heroes, adequate for swinging ones, air ducts to hide in.
  • Used Car Lot Lots of cars to throw at each other; which contains the MacGuffin you need? Pennants on wires, a garage, a repair facility including jacks, floodlights, a showroom, access for shady dealing, a forgotten entrance from when this was a hideout, a secret carjacking ring.
  • High School Twisty halls, chemistry labs, a swimming pool, a big open area with a baseball diamond or football field or both, gyms, innocent bystanders galore.
  • Multilevel Mall at Christmas A huge Christmas tree, Salvation Army Santas, hundreds of bystanders, open area for flyers, decorations to grab and swing off, hostages and helpers, guards, anybody's loved ones.
  • Municipal swimming pool in high summer Water, the high board, nobody's wearing much of anything so no hidden weapons, a stretcher in case of spinal injury, a hook, pool cleaning equipment in a closet, change rooms.
  • In storm sewer Tight spaces, darkness, unexpected depths, a catwalk, the smell, sudden rush of water, lost child, albino alligators, strong monsters hiding, wet walls you can't stick to.
  • Waste treatment plant Big pools for separating waste, the smell (no, worse than that), sluices, access to the river, drying waste matter, possibly UV chambers for purifying waste, skimmers, places to put waste that won't degrade (lots of used condoms), catwalks above the pools, a control center.
  • Recycling center Disassembly lines, hazardous materials, prisoners separating out trash, big vats for materials, criminals diverting stuff to sell as "new", high security if they're recycling money (which some few do), shredders for paper, acid baths, furnaces for glass and metals, skimmers to take different density of materials off, and some should have the process for making oils but probably don't.
  • Teaching hospital Sick people, medical equipment, paramedics and doctors trying to be heroes, someone trapped in secret ID, unconscious targets, people under police arrest, teaching arenas for operating theatres, clumps of residents, candy-stripers, old women selling coffee, visitors, men waiting around obstetrics and maternity, senile people who can't be put in a home yet, imaging equipment with radioactive materials.
  • Underground mansion Proof of an eccentric mind, strange labyrinth, collections of unusual things (art; weapons; superhero devices not quite deactivated), security systems, guards, haughty owners, a pool entirely underground, its own generator, access to solar power or its own nuclear power plant.
  • Window washing platform A four-rope platform (so the window washers are not required to have separate safety lines); small space, access for those who fly or crawl walls, threatened window washers, no access to inside the building, cranes that lift and lower it, hidden under gargoyles, or an old system like the Empire State Building, where the window washer hooks his belt to the window frame, opens it, and leans out to wash the window he's just opened. (Did you know that window washing is considered the most dangerous job in the UK?)

1. For those who don't know, Rosie's Bar was on the map that came with Champions when it still came in a box. We had many a fight near Rosie's Bar. Someday I have to design the interior to that. Just because.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Fallen Icons: Big Brother, formerly Grim Justice


One of the products I very much like is the Iconic Legends series from Rogue Genius Games, which are ICONS versions of various comic characters with new names and backstories. (Jacob Blackmon and Mike Lafferty do the writing and co-creation.) It's an excellent series.

Anyway, to me, it seems that the biggest problem is that the characters in the series might overshadow the PCs. (Whether they do or not depends on your campaign or whether these characters are being played.) My proposed way to handle this is Fallen Icons: characters who cannot fight crime any more, but who obviously were closely modeled on existing characters. A second note talks about what needs to be changed to make them characters in their prime (or if those are extensive, a whole second character—it's ICONS; that won't be huge).

For whatever reason, all of the characters that RGG has released so far have Marvel characters are their inspirations; to avoid stepping on toes, I'll do DC characters. Here's one.

Big Brother

Grim Justice (Spencer Fade) was one of the great trained heroes the world had seen, but even with the incredible good luck that some heroes have, a trained hero has a limited shelf life. Eventually, an augmented individual named Blight was as smart as he was, and stronger. After some years of crime fighting, Spencer Fade escaped with a broken back, paralyzed from the hips down.

After a long and ultimately fruitless search for a cure, he switched tactics. He became Big Brother, the all-seeing information broker and aid to heroes everywhere.

One of his temporary solutions has been built into his wheelchair. The powered exoskeleton which he hoped would replace his legs has been built into his chair. Should an old enemy discover his identity, the chair unfolds legs and has enough power to let him function briefly, usually enough time to get away. There are also some weapons built into the chair so he can protect the bystanders who are there. He may have to succumb to his enemies—the Grimace, Blight, Quizzical, Bubastis, and others—but he doesn't plan to make it easy.

Prowess 6 Intellect 6 Determination 4
Coordination 3 Awareness 5 Stamina 10
Strength 5 Willpower 6
Athletics, Investigation, Martial Arts Expert, Technology, Weapons (in wheelchair) Master
3 Blast (hidden device in wheelchair)
4 Gadgets (in wheelchair)
4 Leaping (wheelchair unfolds into exoskeleton) Limit: Temporary
Extra: Super Speed (Wheelchair/exoskeleton is motorized) Limit: Temporary
Big Brother Sees All But Can't Walk
Justice is a Harsh Mistress
Old Enemies and Allies

Grim Justice

In his prime, his powers looked like this:
Coordination was 6
The Weapons specialty was Weapons (thrown), but only as a specialist.
3 Blast (Device: thrown baton)
5 Swinging (Device: Swingline)
3 Gadgets (Device: Utility belt) including Life Support, cameras, pocket crime lab, etc.
Instead of the Big Brother quality, he had "Billionaire playboy and philanthropist"


The original comics character is hard to convert: over his decades-long history he's been everything from grim avenger in the night to jolly costumed cop. So I picked and chose. You might have a separate interpretation, and it's perfectly valid.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015



Rogue Genius Games does a series of heroes called Iconic Legends, where each hero strongly resembles a hero in the comics, so you could even (if you wanted) file off the serial number and give it a new paint job, and voila, there's that iconic hero for you. (And you should check them out; they're awesome. I've seen versions for Mutants & Masterminds and ICONS, and I think there are Supers! versions as well.)

Except that I kept running into the problem that I often have with iconic heroes from the comic books--they take the spotlight away from my guys. So I was thinking, what if they're all fallen legends, legends who have stopped fighting for one reason or another. It would be twice as much work, but you'd present them in their current state, and at their prime, so if someone wants to play with Batman (RGG has done no DC heroes yet), they can have the seriously overpowered version, or they get the bitter guy in a wheelchair who's still obsessed with fighting crime, so he's passing info on to the players. They can play Superman, or they can play the investigative reporter who knows lots of stuff but gold kryptonite took away his powers. They can play Wonder Woman or they can play the Amazonian ambassador who has the public eye on her too much to go in the field any more.

Time to go to work; a sample of this later.

Edited to add: So I'm tentatively calling this "Fallen Icons" and I'll do at least DC's big three. I'm using DC Adventures to guide my character choices: if they made it into the Hero's Handbook, they're possibilities.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

An experiment with back-posting

Nothing to see here. I'm writing this on December 3, 2015, and seeing if I can make it appear on some earlier date by selecting the scheduled date.

You can do this kind of backfilling on LiveJournal (for instance) so I'm curious to see if you can do it here.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Today's NPC: Justine Mastema, Paranormal Paralegal


Justine Mastema

Fallen angels have children (doing what often leads to angels being fallen might cause that), and one of them wants to be a lawyer. Oh, there was a whole adventure where the forces of Light and Dark fought for her soul (Lucifer also being a fallen angel) and the end result is helping people as a paralegal. (She has lots of reasons why paralegal is the choice right now instead of lawyer.) Her sweetie is an ambulance attendant and paramedic, so "para" stays in the house, so to speak.

Justine is short and petite, with long black hair that's usually braided down her back.
She is an information source: through her, heroes can hear about this evil corporation or that bad guy who is cheating innocent people out of their belongings.

Justine Mastema

Origin: Unearthly


Specialties: Law Expert

3Aura (flames)
3Element Control (fire) — Telekinesis (can create and control flames)
5Fire Resistance

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Still silent

Third day at FanExpo. Still busy with that. I believe I'll see Robin Laws today, so I'll probably have things to say about that.