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Lord Liaden

Champions Universe Illuminati

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I thought I would celebrate the return of the Champions forum by posting a concept I've had kicking around my head for a while. ;)

 

Champions Villains Vol. 2 presents a nascent superteam (only two full-time members so far) calling themselves "The Futurists." Its members aspire to influence the development of the world behind the scenes in a positive way, by covertly aiding or hindering key parties at just the right time. While they've convinced themselves they truly do have the world's best interest at heart, their motivations are highly suspect. One of them, "The Fiend," is a sadistic pain-inducing mentalist with a vague sense of noblesse oblige, while the other, "Morticus," is driven by bitterness and sense of betrayal toward the government he once served. Ultimately both of them desire power, rationalizing that as them being the best people with the best ideas to set the world right.

 

While I found the members of the Futurists as presented to be rather contradictory to their stated goals (and who would trust guys calling themselves the Fiend and Morticus to rule the world?), the group's concept did intrigue me. The official Champions Universe has no shortage of criminal conspiracies, from more overt ones like VIPER, to those who wear a benevolent public face such as the Institute for Human Advancement, or groups whose very existence is unknown to the public, notably the Circle of the Scarlet Moon. But the goals of all of these are less than noble, based on greed, fear, or lust for power. I was interested in a genuinely altruistic "conspiracy" with the goal of truly making the world a better place. Something more along the lines of the Marvel Comics Illuminati, an alliance of true heroes cooperating in secret; but unlike the Marvel Illuminati, willing to covertly move other heroes and agencies like chess pieces to advance their goals. Some of these conspirators might be known to the general public, but their association as a group would not be. Their actions would always be for the long-term betterment of mankind, but in the name of that they might sometimes consider it necessary to take actions whose short-term consequences are ethically questionable, even apparently villainous.

 

 

An organization like this presents the GM with a number of potential uses in a campaign that a group of true villains do not, which I will list below. I will also define several qualities which I believe should be common to members of the Futurists 2.0. Since I've been running my Champions games in a modified version of the Champions Universe, I combed through my CU sourcebooks for appropriate individuals, and found several who illustrate what types of characters could belong. I will also mention a few other character types common to a supers universe who would make appropriate Futurists, even if they're not people in the official setting.

 

 

At their basic level, these "Futurists 2.0" can act similarly to patrons or superior authorities, callling the heroes together and directing them to where they're needed. If a Futurist contacts them directly he should be someone the heroes have met or know by reputation, and would listen to. However, their directions may come through very indirect channels that don't reveal who's behind them -- the mystery will motivate the PCs to investigate.

 

 

The group can provide key assistance to PC heroes who find themselves in situations they can't handle, such as a clue or lead when they don't know what to do next, or assistance to escape from defeat or danger. This should be done sparingly so the PCs don't come to believe they'll always be rescued or that they're not the stars of the adventure; and they should not always know who helped them, to further enhance the sense of mystery.

 

 

As PC heroes eventually begin to put the pieces together and realize several parties are cooperating in a grand scheme, and ultimately the extent of that scheme, they'll be faced with an ethical dilemma. Do they refuse to cooperate, maybe even report the existence of this conspiracy to the authorities, or at least their fellow supers? Or do they allow the Futurists 2.0 to continue their machinations in secret, trusting their good intentions?

 

 

The PCs may be faced with even greater moral dilemmas if they become aware of the group's intent to allow or even cause harm, or if they ask the heroes themselves to participate in such actions, which have the stated intent of preventing even greater harm in the future. Will the heroes trust these Futurists to make the right decisions, or try to stop them? If they do act to stop them they'll have to fight whatever forces the conspiracy can bring to bear, which depending on the members' relationship to the world could include law-enforcement and even other superheroes.

 

 

I believe the most important qualities for members would be:

1) They should clearly be benevolent, even heroic, so that PCs will not seriously question their motives, although they may have a real problem with the group's methods;

2) All members should have the powers and/or resources to significantly affect the game world even on their own, so the heroes will come to appreciate the scope of their influence when combined;

3) They should display a propensity for acting covertly behind the scenes rather than always being on the front lines in the war against evil; and a willingness to draft others to serve their goals, whether those others are willing or not;

4) All members should share a "long view" and "big picture" perspective, accepting (regrettably) responsibility for short-term suffering for the few if it brings long-term improvements for the many;

5) They should demonstrably have access to extensive intelligence-gathering, knowledge of hidden secrets or future events, ability to foresee or calculate probable outcomes, and the like, such that PC heroes have little reason to doubt that what they say will come to pass, actually will.

 

 

Here are the Champions Universe characters I found whom I believe best fit the above criteria:

 

 

Captain Chronos (Conquerors, Killers, And Crooks/ Champions Villains Vol. 3: Solo Villains)

 

 

The Captain is a scientist who has journeyed to the present day from Earth of the far future in order to prevent a coming disaster, and keep other time-travelers from corrupting the timeline. Although his intentions are unquestionably good, the Captain sometimes has to perform apparently questionable acts which will ultimately lead to beneficial outcomes, which have led some people to brand him a villain, or at least unstable. He can't explain his actions to most people lest he affect their future.

 

 

Captain Chronos has unique knowledge of what will occur in the future, at least in the timeline as it was before he arrived in the present; and great skill at calculating the probable result of any changes made to the historical progression of events. He possesses extremely advanced time-travel and time-manipulating technology which lets him go almost anywhere and do almost anything. The Captain has already taken actions to both aid and hinder heroes, and revealed secrets he calculated would benefit the future if known to today.

 

 

The Drifter (Champions Universe: News Of The World)

 

 

A founding member of the renowned superhero team, the Justice Squadron, the Drifter has been active since the late 1930s. He's well respected by government, law enforcement, and the superhero community, and has numerous connections in the Mystic World, including among other-dimensional entities. The Drifter is one of the most knowledgeable and powerful heroic sorcerors in the world today. Besides his spell-casting skills he has the innate power to "drift" between dimensions, a mystic sense for danger on a global scale, and frequently experiences precognitive dreams.

 

 

The Drifter rarely participates in the daily activities of the Justice Squadron, preferring to fight evil on his own from the shadows, but he's quite willing to manipulate people into helping him, or forcibly draft them, if he thinks their help is necessary. He's rather disconnected from humanity, and doesn't care why people do what needs to be done as long as they do it.

 

 

Hazor (Hidden Lands)

 

 

The king of the Empyreans, an immortal superhuman offshoot of humanity, Hazor is the epitome of the "long view," having observed the evolution of humanity for three hundred millennia. Hazor believes superhumanity represents the human race approaching the status of the Empyreans themselves, but fears they will destroy themselves before they can adapt to their new powers and technology. He has altruistically provided covert help to mankind in times of crisis, but is concerned revealing the existence of his people would affect human social development.

 

 

Although not extremely powerful personally, Hazor can call upon his entire race (probably around a thousand) for help, the majority of whom already live incognito among humans. The Empyreans also utilize very advanced technology, and collectively possess near-limitless wealth.

 

 

Marduk (The Mystic World)

 

 

The chief of the ancient Babylonian gods already meddles in the affairs of the modern world, and has done so for years. From his extra-dimensional fastness Marduk secretly influences the minds of superhumans, prompting them to take up the heroic cause, to go where they're needed, and to form teams when one hero isn't enough. His ultimate vision is for every city and nation to have its own superheroes leading it, modern parallels to the patron gods and demigod kings of ancient Mesopotamia.

 

 

In addition to his own divine powers, as leader of his pantheon Marduk can presumably command the assistance of his fellow deities.

 

 

Mentiac (UNTIL: Defenders Of Freedom)

 

 

Formerly a member of UNTIL's official superhero team, UNITY, for the last few years Mentiac has left the field to apply his genius to improving UNTIL's tactical, logistical, and intelligence-gathering efficiency, and contribute to its scientific research projects. This has given him extraordinarily broad knowledge of, and ability to influence, the largest and most advanced law-enforcement agency in the world. Mentiac is also considered one of the front-runners to succeed the current leader of UNTIL when he retires.

 

 

Mentiac's mutant brain functions like a living computer, able to absorb, process, and recall information with incredible speed and accuracy. He's one of the world's foremost experts in many scientific fields, and his understanding of human pyschology is so deep he can often deduce what a given person is thinking, and predict where he'll be, if he can study that person in advance. One of Mentiac's plot seeds from U: DOF has him calculate that the United Nations will fail in its mission, unless he (Mentiac) takes covert control of it.

 

 

In addition to the above official characters, I've also identified other common hero archetypes who would easily fit the methods and goals of the Futurists 2.0. One is a mentalist, sort of an heroic version of Menton, willing to use his powers to "persuade" people to help him improve the world. His influence could be extensive but very subtle, almost indetectable. It would be possible to revise the mentalist member of the official Futurists, the Fiend, eliminating his sadism and making his desire to help mankind stronger and more sincere.

 

 

Although the current official CU doesn't feature such a character, the San Angelo setting (for HERO 4E) does. "Mind-Master" was a fairly typical hero, until he became frustrated with the recidivism of the criminals he captured, and began secretly "curing" them of their criminal thoughts. From there he gradually developed the grandiose vision of eliminating evil from the minds of everyone. Opposed by other superheroes Mind-Master fled into hiding, adopting the guise of Mastermind (Enemies of San Angelo) and building his own network of brainwashed loyal followers.

 

 

Another appropriate hero type would be the wealthy philanthropist, someone who, in addition to personal power, has great financial resources and social influence that he can bring to bear to change the world. Imagine Bruce Wayne or Tony Stark if they were willing to employ some of the tactics of Lex Luthor. The official Champions Universe has several prominent heroes with that kind of background, including Japan's Tetsuronin and Brazil's El Dorado (both in Champions Worldwide), and the Champions hero-team's own Defender. I myself would not use these particular characters, because they're all very high-profile and personally involved in the fight against villainy, devoted to inspiring others rather than manipulating them. However, one could always redefine the personality of one of them, or create a new character with the appropriate background and mindset.

 

 

One could also include a super-spymaster, someone with great knowledge of and connections to the world intelligence community, aware of significant movement within the Espionage World and able to acquire highly classified information. While Mentiac above is a prominent member of one such organization, the focus of his abilities isn't spycraft. One of the members of the official Futurists team, Morticus, actually has an espionage and black-ops background, but as written is too bitter and unstable to work well with a group of altruists such as I defined above. However, it wouldn't be hard to rewrite his history and Psych Comps appropriately, or replace him with a reformed version of a more stable spymaster villain such as Molnya (from Champions Worldwide).

 

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It is an interesting premise but I must confess the Marvel Illuminati left a bad taste in my mouth. Personally I would prefer the plain old Bravarian Illuminati.

You might want to consider the Create Hero team thread so that people listed there could be members. Alternately I can look through and see if I can find anyone usable.

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Conspiracy theories are fun, and I like having Illuminati-type characters/groups in my campaigns. I have always taken the route that there are several Illuminati organizations that are aware of and compete with each other, even though they are largely invisible to the general populace. The competition between the groups is a convenient way to make the PC heroes take sides or work with one group of villains against another, albeit temporarily.

 

I could see having a benevolent Illuminati perhaps, but my general feeling is that even if they start out with good intentions they will ultimately become evil, or at least lose perspective and become extreme or dogmatic. You can't shape the world without a lot of power, and power corrupts. An interesting plot might be for the PC heroes to join with a benevolent Illuminati group, and then have to decide whether they want to stay with it or even work against it at it becomes more fanatic.

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It is an interesting premise but I must confess the Marvel Illuminati left a bad taste in my mouth. Personally I would prefer the plain old Bravarian Illuminati. You might want to consider the Create Hero team thread so that people listed there could be members. Alternately I can look through and see if I can find anyone usable.

 

I wanted to leave this concept wide open, so anyone interested in it could include whatever character they thought appropriate, from whatever source. The Champions Universe heroes are presented for illustrative purposes. Similarly, the Marvel Illuminati are just the closest example to my concept that I know of.

 

The Bavarian Illuminati are classic, and I can't fault you for preferring them. But they've obviously been done, a lot, and I was looking for something fresher, that could only work in a comic-book universe.

 

Conspiracy theories are fun' date=' and I like having Illuminati-type characters/groups in my campaigns. I have always taken the route that there are several Illuminati organizations that are aware of and compete with each other, even though they are largely invisible to the general populace. The competition between the groups is a convenient way to make the PC heroes take sides or work with one group of villains against another, albeit temporarily. I could see having a benevolent Illuminati perhaps, but my general feeling is that even if they start out with good intentions they will ultimately become evil, or at least lose perspective and become extreme or dogmatic. You can't shape the world without a lot of power, and power corrupts. An interesting plot might be for the PC heroes to join with a benevolent Illuminati group, and then have to decide whether they want to stay with it or even work against it at it becomes more fanatic.[/quote']

 

The default Champions Universe already has a bunch of villainous conspiracies, whether it's organization-based or built around a master villain. And to some extent they do compete against each other. I've read a few people here express the opinion that the only reason one of them hasn't already taken over Champions Earth, is because they thwart each other. ;) So I thought the setting overdue for an heroic group fighting them on their own level.

 

I agree with you on the general corrupting influence of power. The thing about the heroes I presented is, most of them already have great power, and have had it for a long time. They're probably about as "corrupt" as they're going to get. Now someone could definitely see them as misguided, although OTOH they bring a lot of collective credibility to their positions. Having the heroes decide where they stand in relation to this group would be the role-playing fun in using them (at least hopefully).

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I guess my post with my new Nintendo 3DS did not work (not a real surprise there, but a disapointment non the less). So, this is my post on the subject.

 

Have you thought about Foxbat being the financer charater? Of course, using him 'as is' might not work (seeing that Freedy is as crazy as a Fox...bat), but he could be fakeing his insanity, using that as leancy for his mostly non-violent crimes. Besides, he dosen't comit crimes for the cash, or things as petty as revenge. No, Freddy comits crimes to put smiles on eveyone's faces.

 

Another option is that Foxbat is a member, but only when temprary cured of his insanity via a spell by The Drifter. Once the spell is taken off/reversed/wears off, Freddy dosen't remember his streeks of sanity and the world changing uses of his finances.

 

Another posable member could be Lord Driar (sp?), of the 3rd edition book Kingdome Of Champions. He has always seen himself as the "Lord Protector" of the UK, and only plots to take over the islands because he beleves he can run it better than the curent monocracy and parlament. Now, extend that thought to the world, and then give him the chance to run it from behind the sceens...

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I guess my post with my new Nintendo 3DS did not work (not a real surprise there, but a disapointment non the less). So, this is my post on the subject.

 

Have you thought about Foxbat being the financer charater? Of course, using him 'as is' might not work (seeing that Freedy is as crazy as a Fox...bat), but he could be fakeing his insanity, using that as leancy for his mostly non-violent crimes. Besides, he dosen't comit crimes for the cash, or things as petty as revenge. No, Freddy comits crimes to put smiles on eveyone's faces.

 

Another option is that Foxbat is a member, but only when temprary cured of his insanity via a spell by The Drifter. Once the spell is taken off/reversed/wears off, Freddy dosen't remember his streeks of sanity and the world changing uses of his finances.

 

Another posable member could be Lord Driar (sp?), of the 3rd edition book Kingdome Of Champions. He has always seen himself as the "Lord Protector" of the UK, and only plots to take over the islands because he beleves he can run it better than the curent monocracy and parlament. Now, extend that thought to the world, and then give him the chance to run it from behind the sceens...

Using Foxbat as a member of any group with a serious agenda is going to require major character redefinition. If you want to take that on, more power to you. ;) Just keep in mind that Freddy Foswell's origin involved his wealthy family losing its fortune, so you either have to change that too (by which point you're basically looking at a new character), or he made a lot of money through crime.

 

I believe you're referring to Lord Dire from Champions of the North for Fourth Edition, set in Canada not the UK. On the surface he does appear sane and rational, does want to make the world better, and has some plans to achieve that, so it wouldn't be a stretch to fit him into this group. However, he set out on this path due to megalomania from a cybercontrol chip he implanted in his own brain, so you'll want to consider how to handle the implications of that.

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It seems to me that if you have the Drifter willing to go ethically gray for the greater good, Franklin Stone would make an excellent fit for the financier role if given a mystical attitude adjustment or just sufficiently compelling incentive.

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It seems to me that if you have the Drifter willing to go ethically gray for the greater good, Franklin Stone would make an excellent fit for the financier role if given a mystical attitude adjustment or just sufficiently compelling incentive.
A more idealistic version of Franklin Stone would be a very useful addition, much as I suggested in my first post. His financial and social influence is massive. Mind you, Stone achieved that through utterly ruthless self-promotion. His first and last cause is Franklin Stone.

What I think makes the Drifter such a good candidate, is that by his published description he's already ethically gray, but morally, definitely on the side of the angels. But angels aren't always nice.

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Humm...would you beleve that crime dosen't pay, but merchadising does? I mean, the royalities on the Foxbat Soft Fome Ping Pong Gun alone would make him regain his fortune by a factor of 10. (long pause) Your not buying that? Well, me neather.

 

As for Lord Dire, if you can reduce him meglomania, then he would be a perfect canadate. (And, yes, I *DID* forget he was from the original Champions of the North, and he should of been included in the update 5ed, just because there are not realy that many masterminds who are *kinder and gentler*). As he stands now, it IS all about HIM, and he is defently not a team player unless he is the head of it.

 

As for replacements, darn it...I can't think of any.

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Lord Liaden's candidates are good, better than any I came up with after reading the title of the thread. Rashindar, of the Indian Super Division, has the ego to be a member of the Illuminati, but perhaps too much ego. El Dorado, just because he strikes me as an Ozymandias tribute, is the best tycoon-superhero candidate for membership, but I'm not sure that one would want to push El Dorado towards his inspiration. That's one sinister character....

 

Hmm... How about Amazing Man? He's getting rich of his patents, and retired from active superheroing. Mr. Fantastic is a member of the Marvel Illuminati, isn't he?

 

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Lord Liaden's candidates are good' date=' better than any I came up with after reading the title of the thread. Rashindar, of the Indian Super Division, has the ego to be a member of the Illuminati, but perhaps too much ego. El Dorado, just because he strikes me as an Ozymandias tribute, is the best tycoon-superhero candidate for membership, but I'm not sure that one would want to push El Dorado towards his inspiration. That's one sinister character.... [/quote']

 

Thank you for the kind words. :o

 

I thought long and hard about including El Dorado. He has fabulous wealth, a genius intellect, a tremendous reputation, and is truly committed to using his resources to helping his fellow man as both philanthropist and superhero. What's most extraordinary about him is that he was born with great privileges, but gave them all up to start his life over from scratch, to prove what he was really capable of and to inspire others to be all they can.

 

And in the end that was what made me decide not to use him. El Dorado is all about inspiring and empowering other people. Covertly using people to further a goal, even an arguably worthy goal, the way my other proposed Futurists would, strikes me as anathema to him. Of course it wouldn't be hard to modify his character for such a use, perhaps keeping his crime-fighting activities secret as he did early in his career. He's otherwise more than qualified. OTOH one thing I considered for a Futurists backstory would be to have them approach El Dorado to join, and him rebuff them; but now there'd be someone who knows the group exists and what it aspires to do, who could clue PC heroes into what's going on.

 

Hmm... How about Amazing Man? He's getting rich of his patents' date=' and retired from active superheroing. Mr. Fantastic is a member of the Marvel Illuminati, isn't he? [/quote']

 

Well, since we know very little official about Amazing Man II's personality and goals, the possibilities are pretty wide open at this point. Although he's not completely retired -- he and his wife, Electron, lead the field teams of the Goodman Institute.

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This concept sounds very similar to the organization in many of Asimov's books. I forget the name of them but essentially they operated on the premise that you could predict mankind's actions in broad strokes, therefore you could predict the future and they used that to work to ensure the future was as beneficial as possible... Haven't read the series in ages but I did love it :)

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This concept sounds very similar to the organization in many of Asimov's books. I forget the name of them but essentially they operated on the premise that you could predict mankind's actions in broad strokes, therefore you could predict the future and they used that to work to ensure the future was as beneficial as possible... Haven't read the series in ages but I did love it :)
Ah yes, Asimov's classic Foundation trilogy. There are certainly similarities between the two concepts. Both Captain Chronos and Mentiac base a lot of their future predictions on such calculations. But in addition these Futurists have knowledge of actual future events via Chronos, the Drifter's precognitive visions, and Marduk who can apparently reach into people's minds.

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The CU Illuminati all work for Menton and don't realize it.
That's certainly one way one could choose to take them, although my personal feeling is that it kind of cheapens the concept (no offense intended). But even assuming Menton learned of this conspiracy and could locate all its members, the Drifter has strong mystic defenses against mental control; Hazor had that trick pulled on him by his brother Arvad, so he's likely taken subsequent precautions; and Marduk is a major mythic god abiding in another dimension. Not an easy bunch to manipulate.

Now, Menton working for the Futurists and not realizing it, that could be interesting. :sneaky:

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