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Brainstorming A Champions Universe Fan Fiction (And Mini-Setting)


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Giant brains of Herodom Assemble!

 

For my own amusement, I am about to start in on a fourth Champions Universe serialised "Oh my God, what kind of amateur would call that a novel?" So, I'm brainstorming. 

 

i) The Setting: Tatammy High, a highschool with a secret superhero programme in an underground annex. It's in one of those pre-WWI "tram suburbs" that I assume they have in West Philadelphia. (I made a very dumb choice of setting, as I don't know West Philadelphia from a hole in the ground. Hints from people who do would be awesome.) Three members of the faculty are either retired Silver Age superheroes or similar, and teach about 30 kids.

 

ii) The Protagonists: the incoming 9th grade: Kung fu princess/orphan Charlotte Wong, speedster/cyberpath/refugee from a dark, postapocalyptic future, Rose; magic girl/feisty Latina/nerdy principal's daughter, Dora Guzman, and totally, like immature boys Bruce (latest grandson of the Hobgoblin, progenitor of a long dynasty of local Batman-imitator family), Brian (dark, moody recipient of half-understood ancient Elvish wild magic), and Twelve (escaped superclone project of Teleios. Thinks that individualism is a sickness of the modern American condition. "I'm a number, not a name!")

 

iii) The major adventure milieu is going to be Babylon, City of Art and Man. The quest is going to be a foray into the Library of Babylon in search of information about the lost sword Auralia, Light of Dawn, Bane of Times A-Gone.

iv) So the basic concept is junior high school students going downtown to the library to research, hang out, flirt, gossip, only turned up to 11. I have some idea of what I want to include street racing in the City of Man; creepy graduate student carrels deep in crumbling wings; ancient eugenic experiments coming to horrifying fruition; the gathering menace of Powerful Forces; dark magic of worm yellow and shining darkness.

 

That kind of stuff. The question I have, after this wall of words, what kind of things would you like to see in the City of Man, or its library in particular?

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Man, that is a tough subject to narrow down. A trip to Babylon is a trip to every city that ever existed or was imagined, with much weirdness thrown in.

 

For one thing, some of the street racing cars should be alive, handled like race horses. Machines are often alive in Babylon, because in the real world people tend to treat their machines as though they were.

 

I think it would be appropriate for your characters to hire a guide to help them get around Babylon. It's extremely chaotic and confusing for visitors. Given the age of your characters, I'd recommend a recognizable pop-culture figure who's a young person or connected to them. Someone like James Dean or the Artful Dodger.

 

Navigating the Library should be an exercise in bureaucratic frustration. When I've done research in European archives, I have to go through four or five different people before I finally get the documents I want: explain my purpose to a receptionist so I get permission to enter the document reading room; present my permission to security at the reading room entrance, then get sent to an administrative assistant to be assigned a numbered seat in the reading room; look up my documents, then request of the administrative assistant that they be brought by another staffer to my reading place. If what I want is in a restricted collection, I have to go through the whole process again to be authorized to be seen by security for permission to enter the reading room for that collection. Add a few more layers of bureaucracy and some magical creatures and security features, and you probably have the Library of Babylon.

 

Keep in mind that a basic Borrower's Card may not let your characters into areas where the information is kept. They might have to try to sneak in, and presumably the security of the Library is exceptional and includes both the mundane and the supernatural.

 

Since your characters are seeking Auralia, I'm guessing this storyline has something to do with the last being to be on the receiving end of that sword. Might your characters run into some of his agents in Babylon? I'd be surprised if he has no one keeping an eye on the place, particularly for anyone nosing about his past.

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I already have a connection with Takofanes: Charlotte's late Dad serves him as a lich. But the more that I think about it, the more I see the value of this suggestion. Local guide thing, too. Of course, if you want a streetwise popular culture figure that modern 15-year olds will recognise, you  have to figure out how to write Tupac, not the Artful Dodger, but I'll give it a whirl. Sneaking around the Library is also totally on. I don't know about Babylon's intelligent cars, though. Cars are people already!

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When describing the PCs' journey through Babylon, I recommend giving them glimpses of notable landmarks from districts they don't necessarily travel to, just to add color: the Eiffel Tower; the Acropolis; the Hanging Gardens; the World Trade Center; the mile-high skyscrapers of Fritz Lang's Metropolis; the Emerald City of Oz.

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When it gets Fast and Furious time, I don't want to distract the narrative with no Emerald City, but the point is good and clear, and human history and Babylon are big enough for magic vistas that are true to the moment when the pedal hits the metal.

 

Hmm. Eiffel tower, and WTC, of course, mile-high skyscrapers go with multiple level parkways. What else works? The Berlin Wall? What would the Berlin Wall divide in Babylon?

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When it gets Fast and Furious time, I don't want to distract the narrative with no Emerald City, but the point is good and clear, and human history and Babylon are big enough for magic vistas that are true to the moment when the pedal hits the metal.

 

Hmm. Eiffel tower, and WTC, of course, mile-high skyscrapers go with multiple level parkways. What else works? The Berlin Wall? What would the Berlin Wall divide in Babylon?

 

Um, the Berlin district of Babylon? :P

 

More usefully, it might be interesting if the Berlin Wall divides popular images of urban Capitalism and Communism. On one side, opulent office buildings with streets paved in gold, next to squalid slums; on the other, uniform rows of bleak grey apartments and barren industrial parks.

 

I didn't realize street racing was going to be such a big part of the adventure.

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Um, the Berlin district of Babylon? :P

 

More usefully, it might be interesting if the Berlin Wall divides popular images of urban Capitalism and Communism. On one side, opulent office buildings with streets paved in gold, next to squalid slums; on the other, uniform rows of bleak grey apartments and barren industrial parks.

 

I didn't realize street racing was going to be such a big part of the adventure.

 

It's just part of the vibe I'm going for. You know, these kids today with their baggy pants and their hippity-hop music.

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Thanks to Lord Liaden for really helping me bring this one into focus.

 

These exercises are always so useful to me that I am going to push my luck with the patience of the board a little further and ask: What do you think Auralia (the sword that slew Takofanes at the end of the Turakian Age) has been doing for the last 70,000 years? (Bonus points for including Empyreans and the Drindrish, from Valdorian Age, in the scenario.)

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That's an interesting challenge.

I did some research into various Hero Universe books dealing with past eras of the setting. I'm going to explore a few permutations of the lore here, to give you options as to how you might like to handle Auralia's history over the millennia since the Turakian Age.

First let's look at the later history of Ambrethel, as revealed on pp. 274-75 of The Turakian Age. After Kal-Turak's first defeat, when his corpse was sealed within its imprisoning crypt, Auralia was also placed there to strengthen the spells upon Kal-Turak. When he arose as Takofanes he hid Auralia so it couldn't be used against him. The leaders of the rebellion that overthrew Takofanes imprisoned him again; it would be reasonable to assume they'd once again bury Auralia with him, along with the other three holy weapons used to defeat him the second time. Assuming this happened and the weapons were still there when Takofanes awoke in 1987, he likely would have hidden them (and I can suggest places if you'd like to hear them). If the weapons weren't buried with Takofanes then they must have been lost in the catastrophic collapse of Ambrethel, and thus might be discovered at any future time and place. There's no story about enchanted swords during the Valdorian Age, though, so if Auralia was found during that era it probably was left idle or kept hidden for some reason. However, I think it would be more interesting if Auralia had indeed been buried with Takofanes, because then if you want it out in the world, someone with the power and the desire would have to have stolen it.

As described on pp. 83 and 162 of The Valdorian Age, Lake Tah'nees in the Nightlurk Mountains lies directly above Takofanes' crypt, and his evil influence has corrupted its waters. Necromancy spells are more powerful when performed at the lake's shore, but a necromancer who rolls a magic Skill Critical Failure is geased by the spirit of Takofanes to perform a task of great evil. Since you want to bring the Drindrish into this story, let's say a Drindrish necromancer attempted a spell at Lake Tah'nees, but was enslaved by Takofanes. The task placed upon him could have been to remove the four holy weapons, which would weaken Takofanes' prison enough for the Archlich to break free. But I doubt even a Drindrish mage could accomplish that task alone, without the aid of a truly great thief.

My nomination would be Thief Handrel (Hidden Lands p. 64). She's a second-generation Empyrean obsessed with the challenge and thrill of thievery, rather than the acquisition. She was already an experienced elder Empyrean by the Valdorian Age, probably hirable through the right channels. Due to the undoubtedly terrible perils of Takofanes' crypt, the two may only have been able to seize Auralia alone, leaving Takofanes' bonds cracked but not shattered. Whether or not the Drindish magician survived, Handrel may have chosen to keep Auralia, or keep her agreement and deliver it into the hands of the Drindrish. If the latter, I doubt the evil Drindrish would have much use for a holy sword, and may have put it on display or just locked it away. But when Valdor was on the verge of overwhelming Drindria Handrel would have feared he would destroy Auralia along with all other tokens of sorcery, and stolen it back. Alternatively, if the Drindrish had just discovered Auralia amidst the ruin of Ambrethel, Handrel would have enjoyed the challenge of taking it from the Towers of the First and Last Sunset. In any case, in the end Auralia would likely have ended up in Arcadia, but Empyreans having little expertise in magic would have done nothing with it.

Now let's move forward to The Atlantean Age, the setting book for which mentions many potent enchanted weapons. While the creation histories of most of them are noted, two of the mightiest are not given defined origins: the sword Aetnos, greatest weapon of Atlan Vondarien himself; and the scarcely less powerful Aurumgast, wielded by Vondarien's rival Cormar the Mighty. Either of these swords could have been Auralia recovered and renamed, even reforged if it was found after being broken during the collapse of Ambrethel. If it had been in the possession of the Empyreans, Auralia could have been a gift from them to Mestor of Atlantis when he discovered Arcadia (The Atlantean Age pp. 142-43) to seal the peace treaty between Arcadia and Atlantis.

I don't know if you have a specific location for Auralia today in mind for your story, but if it had been in possession of Atlanteans during the conflict between the Ten Brothers of Atlantis and Sharna-Gorak the Destroyer, which overwhelmed the Atlantean world, it might have ended up anywhere on the globe, or even borne by the awesome unleashed magic into another dimension. However, if it was actually one of the two aforementioned swords, that suggests a couple of interesting places it may have come to rest. If Auralia was Aetnos, Vondarien probably carried it into the final battle with Sharna-Gorak, so it may be in the vault of the Destroyer deep beneath the Atlantic. OTOH if it was Cormar's sword Aurumgast, Cormar's son Dalsith could have recovered and used it to help power the spell which transformed him into Sharna-Gorak. In that case the sword may be in the cavern where Dalsith cast his spell, now also beneath the Atlantic; along with a byproduct of the spell, the slumbering demonic monster called the Murk (Hidden Lands pp. 85-86). Two similar settings, but the Murk would presumably be less of a risk to disturb than the Destroyer.

Well, that's all I've got. Hope it was helpful. :)

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i) The Liberty League is cool, and they're in Philadelphia;

ii) Stupid, stuck-up private school gits. That is, I wanted a public school setting, with kids living at home, going to the mall, having part-time jobs at the Price Rite, that sort of stuff.

iii) I wanted to create my own faculty. And, having done that in the first instance, ee-vil faculty, too. It's not like you can have the Board accidentally hire Professor Paradigm to teach drama, and then watch as your retired superhero principal tries to get him fired through union arbitration.

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