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Steve

Pandemics in a Superhuman World

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How would a pandemic like COVID-19 play out in a superhuman world?

 

In the Champions Universe, there are many supervillains with the skills to whip up something like it, most likely pretty easily. Could you imagine VIPER starting a pandemic?

 

How does a superhero help in a pandemic?

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Depending on powers, obviously...

 

Some may have powers directly relevant to treating and curing the virus.

 

Others may have relevant skills. They may use these in either their heroic or civilian identities.

 

Some characters will be immune. This will make them useful. In some cases, the nature of their immunity could provide clues to providing a vaccine.

 

Other characters can act as couriers for emergency supplies, or as security helping to control the panic and rioting that is likely to be much worse in a superheroic world than in the real one.

 

Some may try to track down the mad scientist(s) that caused it, in the name of justice and in the search for a cure.

 

Characters that are really lucky might get to shrink down, be injected into a special patient's body,  and fight the virus hand to hand.

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Many Superheroes would be just as vulnerable to disease as a standard human, only being healthier (higher Con and Body). The main way they could help is with transport of medical supplies - either as security or to provide better speed.

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9 hours ago, Steve said:

In the Champions Universe, there are many supervillains with the skills to whip up something like it, most likely pretty easily. Could you imagine VIPER starting a pandemic?

 

Absolutely.

 

The more "superish" plot would be to release a deadly disease worldwide, then say you'll release the cure/vaccine if the governments of the world submit to your rule. VIPER might start with a small "demnonstration" release in an isolated area... and find that their plague spreads faster than expected.

 

A nastier, more Iron Age plot could be to release the plague in hopes that civilization collapses and you can pick up the pieces. Cure or vaccine only for VIPER members.

 

In my Millennium Universe campaign, the megavillain Helix has threatened to release pandemics in retaliation for moves against him. One of the PCs comes from a possible future in which he did this, exterminated humanity, and replaced it with a new species of his creation.

 

Dean Shomshak

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EDIT FOR DOUBLE-POST:

 

Perhaps the more interesting story arc comes after the heroes foil VIPER's attempt at bio-terrorism. Plague evokes visceral horror and disgust unlike, say, threatening to blow things up. In the aftermath, world governments might come together for Operation: Snake Hunt (AKA the Saint Patrick Sanction) -- to destroy VIPER once and for all. The public demands no less. Heroes are pressed to join the campaign, even if it's not their regular "beat." Even some supervillains might join -- they're scared and disgusted, too. No more protection from rogue regimes; no more plea deals to captured agents; no limits. Things will get ugly, on both sides. Heroes may face tough choices about how far they'll go.

 

Dean Shopmshak

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Another issue to consider will be the aftermath of the pandemic. Depending on how wide it spreads and how much of the population is affected, the authorities may be left with diminished resources to deal with looting, rioting, and similar unrest. Supervillains would undoubtedly take advantage of those circumstances, particularly any who are immune to the disease.

 

In a super world the disease itself may not just make people sick, but transform them into actual monsters -- the "Resident Evil" scenario. Not only would this vastly escalate the general chaos and panic, it would provide more foes for superheroes to confront directly, especially if some monsters are superhuman, or if actual superhumans are among the afflicted. If it's possible to cure the infection, that would leave standard police and military in a moral quandary about whether to use lethal weapons against essentially innocent victims. Superheroes often have more effective non-lethal options for dealing with threats, so would be even more valuable.

 

Allen Thomas wrote a multi-part adventure book for 5E Champions, Sharper Than A Serpent's Tooth, re-introducing the classic master villain, King Cobra. The second chapter involves dealing with King Cobra unleashing an engineered virus, "the Ophidian Plague," which changes humans into berserk serpent-men who pass on the virus via saliva from a bite. Aside from the reptilian motif the plague plays out much like a classic "zombie apocalypse," but with the possibility of cure.

 

In the 4E version of the official Champions Universe, the geneticist master villain Malachite used the threat of plague to maintain the security of his kingdom, the Malachite Islands, i.e. any attack on them by the world's other nations would lead to him releasing lethal airborne viri of his creation. That highlights the levels which such a bio-weapon could be used for: as a deterrent against aggression; a threat to extort concessions (the most common tactic for comic-book supervillains); or actually deployed, with authorities and heroes dealing with the consequences.

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I work in a supermarket.  One of the threats the Coronavirus is having is the search for toilet paper (along with other valuable things we normally take for granted). Imagine if Foxbat got a hold of the area's toilet paper supply at such a time?

 

...and just as likely not even know that the Coronavirus is happening. He doesn't normally watch the news. Besides, the Statue of Liberty needs to be mummified...

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9 hours ago, DShomshak said:

In my Millennium Universe campaign, the megavillain Helix has threatened to release pandemics in retaliation for moves against him. One of the PCs comes from a possible future in which he did this, exterminated humanity, and replaced it with a new species of his creation.

 

Obviously time travel sets up a whole range of opportunities to prevent it from happening or containing it in its early stages. So would visions of the future, and a bunch of other McGuffins.

 

With these in play, the details of characters' abilities matter less. Any heroes can stop things from happening - dealing with them once they have happened is harder.

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Just my $0.02 disclaimer.

 

I like how pathfinder describes curing disease with remove disease.  The magic removes the disease but does not give immunity to the disease.  So removing disease just means you can be reinfected.  So most powers would probably do this.

 

Another point, if Viper could come up with a deadly virus (say like in Contagion with a high infection rate and a 25% kill rate), a super genius hero could come up with a cure or vaccine.  But to be honest, I don't think most super smart supervillains/organization will use bioweapons like disease.  Germs generally are notorious for mutating and making your vaccine/immunity useless.  About the only group I think willing to use bioweapons is Mechanon who might think a virus is not really a living thing per say.

 

If I were to implement an epidemic plot, I would probably make the disease highly infectious via breath and contact, is slow to develop symptoms (so an infected person could transfer the disease without knowing it) and such that a very healthy person would show no symptoms and be a carrier.  This would make supers who make a Con Roll, not get symptoms but who are carriers unless they have immunity to disease.  I would make the infection based on a Con Roll, if you make it, you wouldn't get symptoms.  If you make it by 5 (or 10 depending on the game), you don't get infected.  If you are sickened, you must make 3 Con Rolls consecutively in 3 days to get better.  You get a +1 for making the previous roll and a -1 for failing a previous roll cumulative.  If you make any of the Con rolls on a success as a 3, you are actually a mutant/mutate and you get better because of the mutation assuming you aren't currently a mutant/mutate.  If you fail any of the Con rolls with an 18, you mutate as a horrible monstrosity, no longer able to fit in at first glance with humanity.  The disease drops your BODY and CON by 1d6-3 each day.  The effect would affect figured stats normally.  The one thing I definitely would not do is stat out the disease.  The disease is what it is.

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Another variation of a Pandemic is the Power Granting Pandemic. From the Wild Card Virus to the bacteria from outer space "Stand Virus" which infects the metal heads of the Stand Arrows in Jojo's Bizarre Adventure. There is always a chance of death, and sometimes the survival thing is worse than simply being killed by the disease itself (at least according to the guy who held Cheap Trick and Notorious B.I.G.).

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Danger sense is, depending on how it works, a test for the disease.  Of course knowing the FDA, they well take ages to approve it if they ever do.  In the meantime you know that guy getting on a plane had a lethal disease but you can't say why.  Or if you can the government doesn't officially believe you.  Stopping him is kidnapping.  Hilarity ensues.

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Pathogens can react differently depending on the genetics of the host.  If you manipulate this you can actually get targetted diseases, fatal to selected people but trivial to others.  Depending the bioweapon-maker a mutant could get the sniffles and a non-mutant die.  Or it could be racially targetted, or it could be (mostly) harmless to anyone but the specific target. 

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I like the idea of the heroes being needed due to some super-normal feature of the virus.    Perhaps it is proving impossible to manufacture a vaccine and one of the NPC heroes has to contract the virus and the heroes have to be miniaturised and venture into his body to help it combat the virus.  When they have finished, the NPC is saved and his blood provides the basis for an effective vaccine....

 

Doc

 

PS: can you tell I grew up in the Silver Age?

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I've been trying to think of big name supervillains in the CU that might try launching a plague, but it doesn't seem to fit the motif of the most likely ones.

 

Doctor Destroyer would probably find it to be too slow a process and maybe even beneath his dignity to initiate a plague, even if he could win control of the world by providing a cure. He seems to prefer doing flashier things like making monsters and orbital death rays.

 

Teleios is another one more into making monsters than germs.

 

Mechanon I could see doing it, maybe thinking he is using life to destroy life. A slow plague that can't be stopped would probably be really appealing to him.

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Teleios would probably do some super germ as long as it doesn't do anything like kill. He might be intrested in how human bodies process whatever semi-inteligant non-lethal disease/lifeform colony he created.

 

As for anyone else...again nobody in the mainstream Champions Universe comes to mind. Prehaps Takophans, if he could even comprehend what a bacteria is.

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3 hours ago, Steve said:

I've been trying to think of big name supervillains in the CU that might try launching a plague, but it doesn't seem to fit the motif of the most likely ones.

 

On 3/22/2020 at 2:35 PM, Lord Liaden said:

Allen Thomas wrote a multi-part adventure book for 5E Champions, Sharper Than A Serpent's Tooth, re-introducing the classic master villain, King Cobra. The second chapter involves dealing with King Cobra unleashing an engineered virus, "the Ophidian Plague," which changes humans into berserk serpent-men who pass on the virus via saliva from a bite. Aside from the reptilian motif the plague plays out much like a classic "zombie apocalypse," but with the possibility of cure.

 

  

3 hours ago, Steve said:

Mechanon I could see doing it, maybe thinking he is using life to destroy life. A slow plague that can't be stopped would probably be really appealing to him.

 

There's an adventure for 4E Champions by the late Dean F. Edgell, published under license by Atlas Games, called Blood Fury, in which Mechanon plans to use a mutated form of the rabies virus, introduced through the world's distribution of cocaine (after he takes control of the drug cartels). It plays out similarly in some respects to the Ophidian Plague cited above.

 

More recently, Champions Online introduced a similar plot by Mechanon as part of its "Steel Crusade" story line, this time using a motif that IMHO is more in line with Mech's style: a plague of nanobots which causes infected humans to spontaneously combust.

 

3 hours ago, Steve said:

Doctor Destroyer would probably find it to be too slow a process and maybe even beneath his dignity to initiate a plague, even if he could win control of the world by providing a cure. He seems to prefer doing flashier things like making monsters and orbital death rays.

 

Doctor Destroyer has played the orbiting mind-control satellite gambit a couple of times to try to conquer the world. He's also a master of brainwashing techniques to transform his worst enemies into loyal minions. It strikes me that a tailored virus or self-replicating nanobot to hard-wire loyalty to him from within would be sufficiently grandiose. It would also have great potential for a "hunted heroes" story line or even campaign, as the only heroes (and maybe villains) immune to this virus have to flee world police and military, PRIMUS and UNTIL etc. now serving DD, and find a cure for his virus. Probably a more involved process compared to just knocking out a satellite.

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