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Steve

"Uncommon" Criminals

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What makes for a memorable criminal in a Dark Champions setting, especially those that involve masked heroes? Do they have to have powers and abilities? Can they get by with odd motivations alone?

 

What makes for an "uncommon" criminal? What are some you have faced as players or created as GMs that you feel were a cut above so-called "common" criminals?

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It is all about motivation and personality - especially if the aspecst clash.

 

For instance: The characters are on the track of a professional killer and a shadowing him, looking for a good spot to "wasting" him. Now, they following him to an orphanage to which he usually goe sto make a large donation for a fund-raiser or visits his old and feeble aunt he cares for or gets his children from kindergarten for an extended weekend and trip to Disneyland ( he is either a single father or divorced).

 

So, he IS a merciless killer with a heart of stone (it's his "job") AND a compassionate person with a soft heart of gold. Don't make him use the orphanage to recruit under-aged suicide-bombers, the aunt to get her millions hwen she dies and the kids and Disneyland for an alibi. Nope, both times he is the real deal.

 

Now it is the heroes decision: Exort him to quit his "job" by threateing to hurt the DNPCs, kill him anyways and let the kids grow up fatherless, the orphange underfunded and the aunt getting kicked out of the retirement home? Or do they pony up the missing mones (ponying up a new father would be hard ...)?

 

The other was is the modus operandi of the criminal: He always leaves a sign, a card, a flower at his crime, spay-paints the victims blue, pays for the funerals, kills with his bare hands etc.

 

Looks can be memorable: An angelic face that calms the victim down (via Mind Control), a voice that COMMANDS (MC again, or a high Presence), Superpowers of any kind when there are usually NONE in the campaign (STR 30 and some resistant Defenses make a nice "monster" when everybody else is Arnold at STR 20), especially if he doesn't look that way.

Or also nice: The cross-dressing/ disguiseing villain. Just lately some mooks tried to get away with a robbery by donning masks of white men while being blacks. Try that or combine that with changing gender and even age and you have a "Person with a 1000 Faces". And then make him two and twins - boy AND girl. That should keep the players guessing.

 

Then of course there is the grand villain with the BOOM on the big stage and the weird aspect - think Koker, Two-Face etc. But I always found them a little two colourful for the dark and grim setting of DC.

 

Stay away from straight combat monsters and grodd killer who dissect/ eat/ masscare their victims. That is just a shock effect that will send the badguy straight to the morgue as soon as the playser get him into his hands. Memorable? Maybe. But short-lived.

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Insanity, especially if you the GM can roleplay it consistently, is always memorable. Especially if the players have not previously seen you do that, or do it in that way.

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Insanity, especially if you the GM can roleplay it consistently, is always memorable. Especially if the players have not previously seen you do that, or do it in that way.

You have to handle it carefully. Players will catch onto a Joker clone right away.

 

Now an obsessive bad guy, on the other hand, can be pulled off in many more different ways. it all depends on what he is obsessed with. Let's say you have a dangerous NPC who is obsessed with conspiracy theories. He does what he does to strike back against some enormous, powerful, evil group that has their tendrils in everything from the banking system to the media to the Cub Scouts. He really does believe he is trying to save the world, and that the PCs would actually want to help him if they would only understand what he was trying to do.

 

Now in some campaigns he might be absolutely right. In others there is no conspiracy and he is completely delusional. In still other campaigns there may very well be a conspiracy, or competing conspiracies, but he is wrong about their powers, methods and motivations. And even if he is right, his actions in that cause probably remain inexcusable. Hunting down and trying to "deprogram" local Scoutmasters because he thinks they're "brainwashing America's Youth" is unlikely to win him many friends....

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Oh, I agree that a bad Joker impression will get spotted very quickly. You need to have your own head wrapped around the cracks in a crackpot's mind to do this effectively, and probably takes no small amount of prior thinking about the nature of the character's psychosis. But the advantage the insane villain has over the mere fraud is that the insane one is not limited by what is commonly believed about reality; he substitutes his own (almost by definition of insanity) so the limits of his schemes are not immediately obvious. As you say, having a picture of that alternate vision and what comes of it makes all the difference.

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Modus Operandi can be a big part of what "makes" a villain. A brute that keeps a small gang of thugs has a very different feel than a brute that uses his physicality to stay on top of a mob family. Likewise, a psychotic contract killer with blatant sex appeal will garner a different reaction than a consummately professional mercenary whose code--and oblique compliments--earn her the occassional pass.

 

A distinct signature is another way to set a villain apart. As goofy as they may sometimes seem, themed villains are memorable because they are so over the top.

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What makes for an "uncommon" criminal? What are some you have faced as players or created as GMs that you feel were a cut above so-called "common" criminals?

 

The most memorable criminal I ever used was the Idiot King (I think he was published in the "Underworld Enemies" sourcebook).  He certainly had an unusual motivation (his escapades always were intended as social commentaries -- from his own demented point of view). He was a supergenius. He had whatever mundane skills were required for his current escapade. He had enough wealth to obtain whatever mundane resources were needed (like thugs).

 

And he left clues. He wasn't trying to avoid getting caught. He was trying to see how quickly the heroes could catch him through his clues.

 

And he always announced his presence to the media at the beginning of an escapade, so the press was always watching (putting a different sort of pressure on the team).

 

He wasn't vicious or murderous. Just cheerfully and criminally nuts.

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