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WWYCD: Instant Empowerment... with a twist


Wanderer
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(This is a variant of my own on http://www.herogames.com/forums/showthread.php?t=26734)

 

In the setting where your character resides, a number of new superhumans of considerably higher power than usual (say 700-800 pts for a 350-pts. standard) have been recently appearing, and several existing characters have suddenly experienced a significant power boost of comparable magnitude. Investigation of the source (which would typically be a drug/genetic treatment triggering mutant superhuman power development, or possibly, as a variant, a training/meditative regiment triggering mystical powers) turns out that powers awarded by it are genuine and permanent, with minimal side effects (e.g. for the drug they would be cosmetic physical alterations, such as hair or skin color change, steroid-like muscle build, size change, hair loss, or glowing skin). The treatment is non-addictive and quite reliable and effective, and more serious side effects may occur only as frequently as with typical vaccines. The exact results are random, though the process seems to more commonly trigger or enhance powers of the brick and/or energy projector, telekinetic, and speedster types.

 

More extensive investigation, though, reveals a more disturbing feature: superhumans empowered by the process develop an extremely strong compulsion (Total Psych Lim, or possibly Physic Lim) not to harm a notorious major supervillain or villainous organization (e.g. in the CU, it might be Teleios, Dr. Destroyer, Mechanon, VIPER, Argent, or possibly mystical master villains like Mephistopheles, Skarn or Tezcatlipoca). Investigating the group distributing the treatment turns out no direct link between them and the villain. They may have a fascination with the idea of making or becoming superhuman, but do not appear to have any particular ulterior motive, beyond making money, gaining fame and possibly getting superpowers of their own. Records about the development of the treatment are a bit fuzzy and sketchy, though, and it seems that it might, or might not, have been subtly tampered by an outside agency. Definite proof of tampering is lacking, and both the process and company making it available do not appear to break any law or safety regulation.

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Re: WWYCD: Instant Empowerment... with a twist

 

Uncle Slam was not born completely this way. He is indeed the product of super-soldier type experiments couple with his already admirable inherent abilities. He would not participate in such an endeavor to make himself even stronger. He would put out a very public advisory through PRIMUS as to what is going on.

 

Anthem is really a sidekick compared to other heroes. She doesn't have a lot of offensive firepower and often serves only as a foil for badguys while the bigger heroes are the ones who ultimately take them down. She would certainly like to have more ability. She would check with the Sentinels to see what could be done about this psychological block associated with the process. I imagine they would all try to talk her out of the process to begin with. In the end she'd likley not go through it, not wanting to be limited in who she could fight.

 

Audra Blue has cybernetics and thererfore couldn't have her superpowers boosted. But if she could, she would, and she wouldn't tell anyone until afterwards so they couldn't talke her out of it. But she would tell them then, so that they can account for why she won't do certain things when asked.

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Re: WWYCD: Instant Empowerment... with a twist

 

Husky would want to assemble a team of supers ot take out the "untouchable" After changing into Kenneth to plan the details.

 

Kenneth would work on an antidote that would strip or block the drug's effects and also work on a device to create the illusion that the "untouchable" was someone else.

 

Kenneth would then begin a detailed analysis of the drug to "fix" it but he'd wait to finish that analysis until after Husky assembled a team of heroes to attack the villain and point out the negative aspects of the drug publically. Even if the Untouchable didn't know about the effect they would make a move soon enough.

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Re: WWYCD: Instant Empowerment... with a twist

 

This kind of scenario can also be converted to a long-term campaign subplot with a minimum of twist. Let's suppose no quick short-term (within a single adventure or story arc) way to neutralize or "fix" drug's effects becomes available, it is not possible to completely suppress the diffusion of the drug and that it turns up that it is only effective on a minority (say, 1/10000, or 1/100,000, so as not flood the setting with millions of new superhumans) with the right genes or body type. Continued diffusion and availability of the drug is actually realistic: if a treatment were available to offer even slim a chance to Superman-like powers with limited risks, probably it would have the same appeal as gambling to the public, and if made illegal, they would be plenty of enterpreuners (sp.?) with issues with law enforcement willing to keep it available for a price.

 

After a while, a large part of or even most superhumans in the setting would have a drug-related origin. A GM might cause some DNPC, Followers of Contacts of the PC to become powerful but inexperienced supers this way (move from the desire to meet their superpowered friends, acquaintances and loved ones on an equal basis). How would the setting change under the massive influx of powerful but novice superhumans heroes and villains ? How would the PC react at having their normal loved ones turn up supers, as powerful as or maybe (much) more powerful than themselves ? And what would mean to the world and the PCs, a large part of the most powerful superheroes in the world being crippled at fighting a particular master villain ?

 

Even more nasty, what if the drug-induced compulsion isn't just not to directly harm the villain themselves, but to avoid the villain being harmed, so that drug-induced superhumans (including PC's friends and loved ones) feel compelled to prevent the villain being killed or imprisoned ?

 

And nastiest and juicest option of all (even if it requires players' assent), what if the PC's themselves get exposed to the drug, either accidentally or purposefully, or even more convoluted, their own origin was drug-related ? (This works best if PCs are of the right power level from the start, or have been introduced recently, and have compatible origins and power sets: i.e. mutants or "superscience" accidents, and brick, energy projectors, mentalist, speedsters).

 

Maybe what they believed to remember about their own origin was a mistake or false memory. Maybe the villain was then testing a prototype of the drug, and its full powers are emerging just now, bringing massive new powers and a nasty compulsion to shield a despised and dangerous figure from harm ??

 

A convoluted cat-and-mouse play could develop where they search for indirect ways to foil the villain's criminal schemes, without directly harming him, and being compelled against themselves to keep him alive, unharmed and out of jail. This might become a recurring "Skywalker/Vader" drama subplot.

 

In Game Terms: Physical Limitation: Will Not Harm Villain (Unfrequently, Fully Impairing) and/or Psychological Limitation: Will Not Allow Villain to Be Harmed (Uncommon, Total), and probably Hunted (Villain), Desires to Mildly Punish (Exploit for Protection and Unwilling Help), Occasionally.

 

And maybe the drug has increased effects in a minority of subjects (which may number the PC/DNPCs), who experience periodical bouts of compulsion to actually help the villain, and they may or may not keep memory of these episodes...

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Re: WWYCD: Instant Empowerment... with a twist

 

Glad to know you like the idea. Let me know if you implement it in your game, or as background for a PC, and the story developments thereof. To be honest, it's an amalgamation of several classic plot ideas (instant drug super-empowerment [iIRC, it's going to be used in Villainity Amok, too], unwilling servitude to a patron or enemy (e.g. Robocop, Asimov's First Law of Robotics), and ambigous relationship between hero and villain.

 

It also gives a good, plausible origin idea for a character, or even most or all superhumans in the setting (actually, Aberrant used just this idea for the sudden mass appearance of superhumans in their universe).

 

Moreover, the idea can be developed further: the drug might condition the supers to protect *multiple* supervillains (maybe it's development required both super-science and mystic tinkering, so it links the heroes to both gadgeteer and mystic master villains (or organizations), even if it's probably best to keep the "untouchable" villains to just a couple, maximum. However, some heroes might have some kind of generalized "untouchable" liability as a background kryptonite-like weakness. I.e. the hero may be made temporarily powerless to harm anyone that displays the right clue: e.g. a specific biochemical pheromone "tag", or an especially enchanted amulet. It would be best if the substance or ritual is made difficult, time-consuming and expensive to get, however.

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