Hi, Everyone! One of the story arcs I developed was to feature the descendants of Black Paladin, Black Magus, and Malais the Dragon. The result was the creation of Shadowblade, Mistress Arcane, and Duraig the Dragon. The character write-ups and Hero Designer files are available for download as a Zip file here:
I agree with the core premise that a computer user is not a computer programmer. As to the designer's original intent, to be fair when the rules were written computers were much less pervasive in everyday life, most interactions were via command line / terminal as GUI's weren't much of a thing, and to even use one required some basic technical knowledge. It was not yet consumer grade technology.
It has been a long while since I ran a sci fi setting, but the last time I did I split it into two skills, Computer Usage and Computer Programming with a great deal of expanded granularity including a detailed list of modifiers,hacking rules, and a more realistic means of determining how long it should take to make new non-trivial software.
It was written in the 5e era and has some content specific to the setting's version of virtual reality, but is generally reusable for 5e or 6e if you just trim away the setting specific bit.
I also took a stab at generic-ising real world programming languages, to avoid having to use real-world IP mentions in gaming content; so for example "Enoch" and "Enoch Plus" are obvious stand ins for C and C++. I made this list a long time ago, and if I were to revisit it I would update it to include more recent trends, particularly the encroachment of FP and FP-influenced languages, but it would just be embellishment:
In the model I put forth, a character with a high computer programming skill is good at fundamentals, theory, and practice, but they also need one or more computer language skills to actually apply that skill and take penalties when forced to program in a programming language they don't know.
I once ran a Weird West campaign where I built a bunch of pre-made powers and abilities the players could buy.
One of them was called "Back in Black". It was basically a "get out of death" power. Resurrection Healing with triggers and a bunch of limitations, etc... to make it cheap. It was a one use ability (once used it was gone for good; one charge never recovers) but could be re-bought with xp. But one of the limitations was a side-effect where whenever a player came back from the dead using this ability they gained a new complication that altered their character in some dark/sinister way. Some examples were: Will now only dress in black clothing, can only speak in a whisper, the killing wound never fully heals (no loss of BODY, but always seeping/bleeding, needs to always be bandaged), crows are always circling nearby, etc... (there were a bunch more, but i can't remember them right now).
So basically the Players could come back from death (if they bought the ability each time), but each time they did they would become darker, and darker and more ominous as their complications kept adding up.
Back by popular demand! This file, which is also available for free from the Hero Games Online Store, contains all the errata known to me as of today.
If you find an errata in the core rulebook which isn't listed here, please PM me to inform me about it. Please don't post it here, because I may not see it. Sending it to me directly ensures that I won't overlook it.
6E Errata 2020-02-09.pdf
If you are going that route, you might use a custom variant of Offensive Strike, adding a must follow element ("must follow stealth roll"). Slap a couple of other maneuvers together into a "Backstabber" martial art package (etc) and you are fine.
A degree of luck (their crime spree lasted a couple of years), myth-making and brutality. They loved powerful cars and guns, and took a lot of photographs, giving them a glamorous air in desperate times: the reality was more squalid, unsuccessful, petty and murderous.
There's little to suggest that they were particularly skilled or clever. For one thing, they weren't up against difficult targets or efficient, coordinated law enforcement to start with. They killed more than a dozen people to gain trifling sums. Clyde was especially fond of the Browning Automatic Rifle he stole, a seriously powerful firearm which he clearly considered a status symbol, but honestly their main weapons seem to have been desperation and ruthlessness.
The truth is they weren't "pulp" in an action/adventure way at all, from their harsh individual lives until their deaths together. I'm not sure I'd want to feature them in a game other than as news from elsewhere.
“Lucky”? All things considered, not so much. If you want to pump them up to fit your campaign, go right ahead, but in real life they were both a couple of ill educated borderline sociopaths. The Great Depression brought out the worst in a lot of people and the best in many others. When you look at B & C just think of two high school dropouts pulling into a highway gas stations, robbing the place and killing everybody inside. The guy at the counter, the mom getting a soda...whoever.
It is said that “comedy is just tragedy plus time.” Maybe brutality plus time equals fame.
If you haven't seen it already, you (and anyone else interested in geologically plausible worlds) may be interested in the Paleomap Project of geologist Chris Scotese. Reconstructed geographies of Earth going back hundreds of millions of years -- and a few speculations about plausible future positions of the continents. Add a Savage Earth-style tilt and you could get some highly realistic, yet nigh-unrecognizalle, unearthly Earths.
My "Magozoic" D&D settng uses Pangea Ultima, the Earth of 250 million years in the future.
John Hopkins has us at 1,094 at the moment. We'll really need to see another couple of weeks to see how bad the re-opening is going to impact the case load.
I expect it to get worse. I'm open to the idea it might get MUCH worse.
However, we're not seeing anything like exponential growth (yet) and several areas outside of Texas have shown a substantial drop-off in cases so an annual rate seems extremely unlikely.
The current Texas Two Week Trend analyzed on the Scottish Fox Hyper Net:
Louisiana has dropped off a lot:
New York is dropping off a lot:
Granted Texas seems to be going upward and will probably see double or triple the current numbers before it's over (maybe more).
Additionally, I bought the entire family a set of Arctic Cool gaiters (ninja masks basically) so we can look stylish as we walk into stores while I think to myself, "If I wore this shit in here 3 months ago, in Texas, they'd be shooting at me already.".
As Steve Long presented him in books, the Harbinger of Justice is like Batman's level of skill, genius, and obsession, married to the Punisher's mindset and methodology. I would have to pick that over any incarnation of the Shadow.
Now, if you would be interested in a Hero homage to the Shadow and his operatives, you ought to check out The Raven and the Midnight Brigade.
Of course, in the Gestalt world. Scott Bennie produced a great example of a single-source-origin setting, emphasizing particular themes and motifs. OTOH the Champions setting is a grab-bag of diverse origins, like Marvel and DC. Different intentions, neither superior depending on what a given game-group wants.
Please understand, it was never my intention to make a thread about what I like or not, what I would use or not. That's irrelevant. I only wanted to present for your consideration and potential inspiration, origin concepts from the Champions Universe setting that I thought were relatively fresh and distinctive, and relatively easy to mix into any four-color supers game world, without actually having to be based in the CU. IMO that world is full of cool and useful concepts, that Champions players (or players of any supers game) who haven't sampled its world-building product line might not be aware of.
I am not an expert in contagious diseases by any means. The last biology class I had was in 10th grade. But I'd guess that there are a few break points that NYC is on the wrong side of. Not just population density, but also the prevalence of mass transit, how close people stand to each other, high numbers of elevators, the number of people you interact with on an average day, etc. I'm also wondering if the amount of virus you get exposed to affects how sick you get.
In NYC, you've got millions of people cramming themselves onto dirty subway trains, they stay packed in for long periods of time, then they go to office buildings and cram into elevators (with people coughing on the buttons). Then they take the subway home again and go home to their 4 roommates in their tiny apartment. Compare that to Dallas, where people drive to their jobs alone in their F-150 trucks, where most jobs are not in high rise buildings, then you drive back home and live in your big suburban house with your family.
Suppose that just breathing and talking, an infected (but not yet sick) person has a 5% chance of passing the virus to a person standing within 5 feet after 5 minutes of time. Joey New Yorker probably interacts with 40+ people a day that closely. That means on average he's infecting two new people each day during the 10 days or so that he's contagious but not yet sick. On the other hand, Big Tex probably only interacts with 3 or 4 people outside of his immediate family.that closely. On an average day he's not spreading the infection. Once these guys get sick, they go to the hospital and they quit infecting people (except maybe hospital employees). Without a shutdown, the virus would spread completely out of control in NYC. In Texas, it might just kinda fizzle out.
Now obviously you're going to have pockets where the average doesn't hold true. There are extremely social people in Texas who interact closely with a lot of people. And there are introverts in New York who never go out and don't take the subway. So you can't completely ignore the problem in rural areas. But the different average lifestyles are going to seriously affect how the virus spreads.
An excellent bit of research! May I add a note or two?
As an addendum to the Vandaleur entry, you might mention the other occult dynasties of the CU. The Sylvestri clan of Satanists is comparable in size and power, and detailed in CV2. All known super-powered members are v illains (it comes with the family background), but it is conceivable that a Sylvestri might turn against their heritage while retaining their aptitude for magic. (Though I would not be surprised if they'd been retroactively edited out of Champions Online to make the setting more "family friendly": This is a *very* dark concept and group of villains.)
Other dynasties were mentioned in The Mystic World. The Chunhu, a clan of therianthropes, hold a powerful place in the mystic subculture of the Far East: One, "Tiger-Man, acts as a hero in Hong Kong but AFAIK has never been written up. The Kayvanzadi dynasty still flourishes in the Middle East, especially their native Iran. The Magambo of central Africa remain mysterious: The group seems to be made of some sort of vampire, but what sort is not defined, and their name is an ordinary Central African name. It's like being told to beware of the dark power of the Johnsons.
I can also add a few *completely unofficial* personal details to the Zodiac Working. This was my first essay into Shared Origins for my own campaigns, though the PCs only met two villains derived from it (Frag and a fellow called Hotspur who wielded a flaming sword). I wrote up a villain team of Zodiac Working progeny called the Demonic Convergence, but never got a chance to use them. But I offer the concept for anyone who wants to make the Working an important part of their CU campaign.
Finally, Pagan is my own PC from a friend's campaign. A 4th ed writeup appears in Ultimate Super-Mage under the name Morningstar. As this was a friend's campaign, not mine, his siring was not part of some greater plan (I left open who arranged his conception, but my friend never developed this.) By the time Steve Long ported much of my USM material into the official CU, there was already a Morningstar, so I changed the name to Pagan to prevent confusion. Not that I would expect anyone to buy the .pdf of USM from the HERO store just to get that obsolete writeup.
At various times I've mentioned here that, since the official Champions Universe is a hobby of mine, I found myself becoming a sort of unofficial "lore-master" to the Champions Online player community, answering their questions on the game's forums about elements of the setting. That has sometimes prompted me to compile information on particular topics for their easy reference. Occasionally I've transcribed some of that info here for our tabletop gaming community when I thought it might be of general interest, and that has been received positively.
The Champions Universe, being inspired by the major mainstream comics companies, embraces the full range of classic super character origins you see in those comics: mutagenic accidents, genetic mutation, radical scientific inventions, mystic martial arts, aliens, sorcery, gods and supernatural creatures, cosmic entities, etc. However, there are a number of origin concepts described in Champions books that IMHO are more original and distinctive to the setting, but don't require characters with backgrounds so unusual that players would require a lot of information or elaborate setup to use them. Even if you don't use the official CU, these origin concepts can be inserted into most original four-color super campaign worlds without much effort. So I thought outlining origins in that category might inspire some of my fellow Champions gamers.
I'd be happy to flesh out more details on any of these origins if anyone asks; but every entry cites the published books in which folks can read more about them. I hope some of you find this useful.
Alien Gene-Tampering: Superhuman powers resulting from aliens mucking with Human DNA is a well-established comic-book trope. On Champions Earth the repeatedly-invasive Qularr are one likely candidate. The main reason the Qularr invaded Earth in the first place was so they could study the Human genome on a large scale, to understand why and how Humans manifest superpowers with greater frequency and average power than nearly any other species, including the Qularr. They hope to engineer that capacity in themselves. At least one experiment along those lines has yielded a super-powered hybrid, although by accident. It's highly likely other similar experiments are being conducted by Qularr currently on Earth, or perhaps on Humans kidnapped and brought back to Qularr space.
What virtually no one knows is that one reason Humans do manifest powers more often, is because that genetic potential was placed in them by incredibly ancient and advanced aliens called the Progenitors. Two million years ago the Progenitors advanced the evolution of Humanity's ancestor species to the next stage of sapience. Half a million years ago they experimented on Homo erectus, creating the first of the ageless superhuman Empyrean race. Champions Universe suggests they might also be responsible for the creation of the Birdpeople of Thaar twelve thousand years ago.
In any case, the Progenitors still exist, continuing their experiments and periodically monitoring the progress of past ones. It's not unreasonable to assume that they would do some "followup" work on Human DNA.
You can read much more about the Qularr and Progenitors in Champions Beyond. The Birdpeople of Thaar are described in Champions Universe.
Coruscations of Power: In the worldwide accidental cataclysm which devastated the alien planet Ashraal centuries ago, and gave birth to the awesome cosmic villain Xarriel, discreet bursts of energy from the main explosion were cast across space and time, emerging in random locations in the space-time continuum. To date at least five of these "coruscations of power" have appeared on or near the Earth in recent years, and affected humans in their vicinity, creating the supervillains Photon, Stareye, Sunspot, and Vector, and the superhero Victory.
The coruscations can manifest as bursts of light from space, but in the past have been mistaken for solar flares or lightning storms. Powers induced by them can, but not must, include various forms of energy projection, flight (usually very fast), mind-affecting abilities, enhanced physical strength, speed, and durability, and the ability to survive in hostile environments (even space).
Xarriel is fully detailed in Champions Beyond, while the other villains mentioned are in the Champions Villains trilogy, and Victory in Champions Universe.
DEMONic Experiments: One of the classic superhero origins is the person unwillingly subjected to villainous scientific experiments who uses their newly-gained powers to escape. In the CU quite a few official supers came about that way, particularly due to actions by VIPER and ARGENT. But DEMON, the worldwide supernatural villain org, often conduct their own magical analogues to scientific research, which have spawned magical superhumans.
One official villain, named Riptide, was a young runaway girl before a member of DEMON found her and turned her over to his Morbane. The Morbane attempted a magic experiment to bind the girl to a water elemental, hoping to create a strong but mentally pliable minion. But Riptide's crazed fear at what was done to her was now backed with elemental powers, enabling her to force her way to freedom. The supervillain now called Morningstar was the result of a tactic that DEMON often uses since it became estranged from the rulers of Hell: forcing a summoned demon to temporarily occupy the human body of a DEMON Brother, giving the Brother a measure of demonic power but with the human personality in control. For unknown reasons, Morningstar's possession proved permanent. He fought DEMON's enemies for some time, under enchantment to ensure his loyalty, until a battle with magical heroes severed the control spell and returned his free will. Morningstar left DEMON to become an independent supervillain. (Both characters are detailed in Champions Villains Vol. 3.)
Another villain in the service of DEMON, Professor Samedi, was a minor DEMON member, and lackluster musician, before his Morbane had him try to play an enchanted fiddle the Morbane had acquired. Samedi found he could cast several potent spells with the fiddle's music, but it changed him physically, making him look almost skeletally gaunt; and changed his personality, to more actively, confidently malevolent. So there's precedent for a Morbane to have one of his disposable minions "test drive" a magic item. Perhaps a given item would change the wielder's personality in a more positive way. (Prof. Samedi is detailed in DEMON: Servants Of Darkness.)
Department 17: Since World War II, the United States government has researched ways to safely and reliably create superhumans, as well as to more effectively control them, with few successes. Their efforts have often resulted in severe, even fatal physical and mental side effects to their subjects, and produced as many supervillains as superheroes. During WW II the US military set up Project Rainbow for this purpose, at Fort McLaughlin (now McLaughlin Air Force Base) near the small town of Haynesville, Kansas. After the war the Project was declassified and officially shut down, and McLaughlin AFB appears nearly abandoned today.
This was a ruse. Project Rainbow was never shut down. Still secretly based at McLaughlin, what is now titled Department 17 is the Defense Department's hub for research into superpower generation and superhuman control. Under its current director, General Clarence Smith, it conducts a wide variety of research involving drugs and chemicals, radiation treatments, genetic engineering, and other exotic methods. Much of the Department's current research focuses on refining the Cyberline procedure used for PRIMUS's Avenger program. The Department's scientists are also very interested in investigating any reports of new manifestations of superpowers.
General Smith might go to great lengths to keep 17's existence and activities secret. He's also used some "creative" accounting to keep his department funded. Department 17 is described in Champions Universe, as are PRIMUS and Cyberline.
"Divine" Intervention: In the Champions Universe, all the gods and demons of myth and religion that humans still remember actually exist. Although very powerful in their home astral dimensions, a metaphysical barrier called the Ban prevents them from manifesting on Earth with their full power. But there are a few ways divine beings can create lesser-powered Earthly agents to champion their causes.
One of these ways is to infuse some of their power, and sometimes personality, into a deserving human host, creating a superhuman reflecting the qualities of his or her patron deity. Quite a few official Champions heroes and villains have been empowered in this way. In keeping with comic-book origin conventions, their empowerment typically comes under unusual and dramatic circumstances, often at a key turning point in the life of the hero. For example, the first Johnny Hercules was given an amulet by an "apparition" of Zeus when the circus he worked for toured Greece, containing the "Hercules Force," the power of Hercules as a demigod which he abandoned when he became fully a god. The Nigerian hero Ogun gained power over metal after being beaten near to death by criminal thugs, when he received a vision of the Yoruba god of the forge of the same name.
Ogun is thoroughly detailed in Champions Worldwide, while the current Johnny Hercules is featured in the PDF book The Hercules Force, available from the Hero Games website store. Much more on CU gods and the Ban can be found in The Mystic World.
Empyrean Heritage: For hundreds of thousands of years, the immortal superhuman offshoot of humanity called Empyreans have existed alongside their human cousins. While they maintain their own city of Arcadia in Antarctica, hidden from human discovery by advanced devices, the majority of Empyreans choose to live incognito among humanity. The general population is ignorant of their existence; only a few superheroes have been trusted with the secret, although the Lemurians know of Arcadia and have been enemies of the Empyreans for many millennia. A few Empyreans have acted as superheroes or villains in the modern era.
Empyreans sometimes have children by humans, who are always either normal humans or full Empyreans. These children may grow up unaware of their true heritage; but the Empyreans' leaders scan the world for any new Empyrean offspring, and when they discover one induct him or her into their society. But individual Empyreans can follow whatever activities they like, provided they don't reveal their race's existence to mankind.
All Empyreans are ageless, physically superhuman to a greater or lesser extent, and can fly. They can manifest a wide range of mental or energy powers, although the type and degree varies based on innate ability and the interest a given Empyrean has in developing specific powers, usually related to their preferred pastimes. The Empyreans and Arcadia are extensively described in Hidden Lands.
Golden Age Legacies: In the real world the earliest comic-book superheroes appeared starting in 1938, and continued to be created over the course of World War II. Champions Earth's first actual superhumans also began to appear during this period. Most of those heroes eventually retired, to be replaced by newer generations; but often those newer heroes were inspired by their predecessors, in many cases even to the point of adopting their code names as an homage. Most such "legacy heroes" were either the relatives or proteges of the originals, or sought their blessing to carry on their names. However, certain lineages originating in the Golden Age have been particularly fertile in continuing to produce new heroes to uphold the family tradition.
In the winter of 1939 Kiril Lenskii was a young officer in the Soviet army serving in his country's war against Finland. Badly wounded in an attack that wiped out the rest of his unit, and overcome by the severe winter cold, Lenskii collapsed unconscious over underground caverns which released strange gasses. As they entered his lungs his body began to change. He awoke to discover that not only was his body healed and stronger than before, but he was now immune to the cold, and could even create intense cold, snow, and ice over limited areas. Given the code name, General Zima ("winter"), over the course of World War II Kiril Lenskii became the Soviet military's leading superhero, and remained so for many years.
The three sons of fisherman and former naval sailor Morimoto Takashi (by a mysterious woman who may have been a supernatural spirit) were each born with extraordinary abilities: enormous strength and durability (Ichiro); incredible speed (Jiro); and probability manipulation (Saburo) manifesting as phenomenal luck for himself, and phenomenal misfortune for his opponents. The three young men were recruited by the Japanese government to fight their country's foes, first China in the 1930s, and later the Americans and their allies during WW II. They were among Japan's most prominent superhuman champions during and after the war.
Each of the three Morimoto brothers had more than one superhuman offspring, while all seven of General Zima's children developed super powers. Today there are over two dozen "super" members of the extended Morimoto family, and descendants of General Zima, active in their respective homelands. It would be reasonable to expect a few of their relatives to have emigrated to other countries at some point.
Although the histories of these characters don't explicitly state it one way or the other, there's no reason to assume superhumans from their lineages necessarily manifest the same types of powers as their ancestors. The mutations of all three original Morimoto brothers were radically different from each other; while General Zima's origin implies his abilities resulted from his body adapting to a specific environment.
The full write-ups for General Zima and the Morimoto brothers appear in the latest edition of Golden Age Champions (for Hero System Sixth Edition).
Hzeel Biomatter: Champions Earth has experienced several alien invasions in the past, and is currently dealing with renewed intrusions by the Gadroon and Qularr. What no one on Earth knows yet, is that another aggressive species, the Hzeel, also have the Earth in their sights. These short, blue-skinned humanoids have scouted Earth for nearly two decades, wanting it as an advance staging area in their war against the Dorvalans (Ironclad's race).
At least two Hzeel scout craft have crashed on Earth and been discovered by humans. One of these was salvaged by Roger Warwell, aka the Warlord, and its technology became the basis for his own weapon designs. Hzeel technology is partly biological, and can have radical unpredictable effects when it comes in contact with human tissue. Two humans, the solo supervillain Howler, and the Warlord's minion Warcry, gained superhuman vocal powers when Hzeel communications devices were implanted in their throats (this happening spontaneously on contact in the case of Howler).
The effect also extends to tissues from Hzeel themselves; VIPER's staff supervillain Oculon gained his powerful eyebeams from eyes from an Hzeel corpse transplanted to his sockets. (Hzeel don't have eyebeams, they're the result of interaction between the two species' biologies.) Anyone using recognizable Hzeel materials would undoubtedly be of interest to both the Hzeel and the Warlord.
The Hzeel have a whole chapter in Champions Beyond, as do the Qularr and Gadroon, and the Dorvalans are also described there. The other villains mentioned are in the Champions Villains trilogy, except Oculon who's written up in VIPER: Coils Of The Serpent. Ironclad and the rest of the Champions superhero team get full write-ups for their beginning careers in the Champions genre book, with more experienced versions in Champions Universe.
Kelvarite: This mysterious, green-glowing extraterrestrial mineral has been found in meteorites from several falls. It's a powerful source of energy, but is extremely unstable and prone to explosion when disturbed. Some people who have been bombarded by radiation or fragments from exploding kelvarite have gained superhuman powers, typically (but not exclusively) superhuman strength and durability, and some type of enhanced movement capability, e.g. super-running or -leaping, flight, or teleportation. They also acquire a susceptibility to radiation from other samples of kelvarite. Known superhumans with this origin include the solo villains Tachyon and Thunderbolt II, Dr. Destroyer's servant Meteor (all in the CV trilogy), and the African superhero Gazelle (in Champions Worldwide).
Large organizations such as the US government and UNTIL have secured all the kelvarite they can find, but sometimes lend samples to research laboratories. Other kelvarite meteorites remain to be discovered. However, what no one is aware of is that what they call kelvarite is actually impure samples, which is why it's unstable. Pure kelvarite doesn't resemble the impure mineral, and is extremely rare on Earth. Its energies respond to the will of intelligent beings in physical contact with it, allowing them to wield formidable and versatile energy-projection powers. (It isn't obvious that the power comes from the kelvarite itself.) The only pure kelvarite discovered so far was made into rings worn by the four men who have used the superheroic identity, Meteor Man.
Kelvarite is described in Champions Universe, while the first Meteor Man is written up in Golden Age Champions.
Martial-Arts Temples: For centuries, hidden enclaves have existed in the Far East where dedicated monks have practiced the most advanced physical and spiritual martial-arts techniques, including virtually superhuman abilities for those with the skill and determination to master them. Several official Champions heroes and villains were trained at such enclaves. The most legendary of these sites among knowledgeable martial artists are Yengtao Temple, somewhere in the mountains of China; and the city of Shamballah, in a cave beneath a mountain in the Himalayas. Both sites are hidden from the outside world both physically and magically, so that only those already highly disciplined in body and mind can find them. But those who do can study almost any martial art that has ever existed, and perhaps achieve abilities like the heroes of legend.
Various students at Yengtao Temple have returned to the outside world to become heroes, or villains. In the present day the Millennium City superhero Nightwind, his bitter rival Jade Phoenix, and the Hong Kong hero Golden Dragon Fist, all learned their extraordinary skills and ch'i powers from Yengtao. Jade Phoenix was responsible for the destruction of Yengtao Temple and murder of the monks in 1996, but there may be other former students alive in the world. And Shamballah, second only to Yengtao as a repository of mystic martial-arts secrets, still stands.
But Shamballah also guards a dark secret even further beneath the mountain: its evil twin city, Agharti, prison of the Dark Monks, also extraordinarily skilled but utterly corrupt. While the Shamballans prevent the Dark Monks from escaping, they don't forbid outsiders from visiting the city, or leaving afterwards. The villain Zhua Teng ("grasping vine") received training in Agharti.
The story of Yengtao Temple, and description of some of its unique techniques, appear in Champions Universe. Shamballah and Agharti are described in considerable detail in Hidden Lands. Nightwind's latest write-up is in Millennium City, while Jade Phoenix is in Champions Villains Volume Three. Zhua Teng is fully written up in Martial Enemies Volume 1.
Professional Armorers: One of the staples of the superhero genre is the gadget-using super, with no actual super-powers but employing equipment made of special materials and/or incorporating advanced technology. Most comic-book heroes build their own gadgets, or have them designed for them by benevolent patron inventors or agencies. Some heroes acquire prototype devices by accident, including "liberating" them from their villainous makers (often earning them pursuit by the vengeful villain). But it's not unheard-of in comics for a scientist -- usually one of criminal bent -- to sell his technological services to whoever will pay.
In the official Champions Universe there are several possible sources of scientific expertise for hire to aspiring supers. Most of these are considered criminals by most world law-enforcement, so don't typically contract with anyone of obvious heroic bent who might cause them trouble. But for another criminal, or a mercenary or vigilante of grey morality, they're often the route to quick super status.
Millennium City is the home base of Wayland Talos, a brilliant inventor with a pathological hatred of superheroes. To strike back at them he supplies villains with everything from questionite hand weapons, to energy blasters or jet packs, to full suits of powered armor. He's considered one of the underworld's premier armorers, with few individual competitors. One of those competitors is known as Brainchild, a telepathic gadgeteer who primarily supplies tactical and technical support to other criminals, rather than take the risk of committing his own crimes.
On the international front, the Warlord is a powered-armor villain and would-be conqueror who's also a major dealer in high-tech armaments, and who has created super-class weaponry and armor for individuals for the right price. The unscrupulous corporation called ARGENT does a thriving business in service to criminals; not just supplying gadgetry, but even physically augmenting a person through bionic implants or experimental biochemical treatments. The independent city-state of Larisagrad was once a center for the USSR's classified scientific research, including advanced weaponry, and experiments to create true superhumans. After the collapse of the Soviet Union and thus their funding, the scientists of Larisagrad chose to freelance to the highest bidder.
The only truly benign inventor engaged in remotely similar activity is named Ralph Polarewski. Formerly the full-time technical supervisor to the famous Sentinels superhero team, Ralph left them after a bitter argument with the team's leader. He's become a well-known freelance contractor to members of the superhero community who use gadgets but have no technical skills of their own. As written he primarily works for people already established as heroes (and would never sell his services to someone of questionable morality), but would be well able to supply an equipment-based origin to someone who could convince him of their sincerity and dedication.
ARGENT and Larisagrad are described in Champions Universe. The Warlord and his organization are fully written up in Volume One of the Champions Villains trilogy, while Brainchild and Wayland Talos get the same treatment in Volume Three. Ralph Polarewski is detailed in the book, Everyman.
Project Sunburst: In 1994 a group of American "rogue generals" assigned over 200 volunteer soldiers to what they were told was a war game. In fact the generals were experimenting to try to create superpowered soldiers resistant to radiation, by detonating a nuclear device near them while they wore protective suits. Most of the volunteers soon died of radiation poisoning, while a handful slipped into comas. Most of the comatose were placed into a secret holding facility, codenamed "The Crypt," while a few were stored at other sites.
In the intervening years, several of these survivors have developed superhuman physical and energy powers. A few, such as the master villain Sunburst and his follower Radium, awakened spontaneously. Others, like Dr. Destroyer's security chief, Gigaton, were aroused with help from other villains. Some escaped the Crypt on their own, while others were "liberated." All the active survivors except Gigaton and the powered-armor villain, Armadillo, have joined Sunburst. However, the remaining comatose subjects are still being kept in secret in the Crypt, not just from the public but from the generals' own superiors.
Most of these villains are fully written up in Champions Villains Vol. 1: Master Villains, although Armadillo is in Vol. 3
Radium-X: This radioactive element has been known to science on Champions Earth since at least the 1930s. It's well known for its radiation's mutagenic properties, able to induce radical, even super-empowering mutations in living organisms under certain conditions. For example, it's a critical component of Dr. Phillippe Moreau's process for creating Manimals. The late superhero Tiger, a former leader of the famous Sentinels superhero team, was a former UNTIL agent who became a man-tiger hybrid through accidental exposure to radium-X and some of Moreau's chemicals during a raid on the Doctor's lab. In 1940 a Bulgarian laboratory researcher gained formidable magnetic powers after the failure of an experimental magnetron being powered by radium-X flooded her lab with radiation. She took the code-name Leitstern ("lodestar") and was drafted to fight with Germany during WW II.
The preceding examples suggest that the specific mutations caused by radium-X are thematically linked to the environmental conditions applying at the time. The origin of Leitstern also highlights another major use for radium-X, as a concentrated high-energy power source for various devices. The Golden Age villain Liquifier needed that element to power his Matter-Liquifier Ray, which could change any inanimate solid matter to a liquid state. It's possible that other radical technology can only be powered by radium-X's unique radiation.
Radium-X can be purchased legally. Various research laboratories are noted as studying or using it. However, the clear implication of references to it is that it's rare and expensive, leading to attempts to steal it by people with less than upright intentions for it.
Dr. Phillippe Moreau and his followers are fully written up in Champions Villains Volume One: Master Villains, while both Leitstern and Liquifier are detailed in Golden Age Champions. Tiger has never been given a full background story or Hero System character sheet, but is mentioned and briefly described in CV Vol. 1, Champions Universe, and Book Of The Destroyer.
The Swords of Nama: During the Dark Ages the serpent-god Nama, who is today the patron deity of VIPER, set out to become a great power among Men. He gathered six mighty warriors from across Eurasia to be his agents and generals, to conquer an empire in his name. For each warrior he forged a powerful enchanted sword. But before they could achieve any major successes the warriors quarreled, which ultimately led to all their deaths. The Swords of Nama were scattered. Over the intervening centuries some of these legendary swords reappeared, and a few were destroyed; but others remain to be discovered in ruins across Eastern Europe.
The story of the six "vipers upon the land" appears as a small part of the history of Nama and VIPER, on p. 6 of the book, VIPER: Coils Of The Serpent. Aside from being called "serpent-blades" the Swords of Nama aren't described, nor are any of their qualities defined, which leaves a player free to imbue a particular sword with any powers desired. Note that Nama is neither good nor evil, and has helped heroes or villains as the mood struck him; so there's no inherent reason for his Swords to be one or the other.
Teleios, the Perfect Man: The foremost genetic engineer on Champions Earth today, Teleios is infamous for being a cloner of people, and a creator of animalistic monsters, but the range of his genetic expertise goes far beyond that. More than half a dozen official supers, villainous and heroic, owe their powers or very existence to The Perfect Man.
Teleios has the skill to induce almost any super power in any human, whether or not that person already has powers or the potential for them. Teleios will do this for pay, or in exchange for services or favors, as he did for the supervillain-turned-hero Flashover (Champions Universe: News Of The World), and her brother, the villain Hurricane (Champions Villains Vol. 3: Solo Villains). Teleios has been known to bestow powers on someone on a whim, whether or not they want them, like after a dalliance with the Indian woman now known as Monsoon (Champions Worldwide).
The Perfect Man can grow completely original, humanoid or human-looking superhumans with any abilities he chooses. He sometimes sells his creations, as when he supplied VIPER with the powerful monster named Obelisque (Champions Worldwide). Sometimes Teleios turns a creation loose in the world uncontrolled (although not unmonitored), to see how it responds and develops. He did this with the beings labeled the Landsman, and the Lodge (both in Champions Of The North).
The master geneticist can program his creations with whatever skills he or his employer desires. He can even implant elaborate false memories, to the point where the person has no idea he or she is artificial or has any connection to the Perfect Man. This is how Teleios programs the cloned soldiers he sells to other villains and groups. The superheroine called the Teen Dream (Teen Champions), whom Teleios designed as an experiment in social manipulation, is unaware of her real origin and considers herself a true hero. When he makes a creature Teleios implants controlling genes that make it psychologically impossible for that creature to harm him, or may even make it a loyal follower (although those controls have been known to fail on very rare occasions). Those controls can be so subtle that a person isn't consciously aware of them. Although the lore doesn't specify it, it may be possible for Teleios to do this to humans he augments. He definitely is known to build exploitable secret weaknesses into their genetic code, should they turn against him.
Teleios is fully written up in Champions Villains Vol. 1: Master Villains.
Vandaleur Bloodline: Founded a thousand years ago by their immortal progenitor, Adrian Vandaleur, this widespread clan of sorcerers is one of the premier occult dynasties in the Western world. Although the majority of Vandaleurs have no more talent for magic than most people, the gift for spell casting is far more common among them than in the general populace; and their ranks include some of the most powerful mages in the world.
Members of the family are aware of each other, and sometimes cooperate, sometimes conflict. But Adrian Vandaleur, whose power dwarfs that of his kin, keeps any factionalism from descending into violence. Otherwise individual Vandaleurs are free to follow whatever activities they like. Their personalities and morality vary widely. Some are benevolent, even heroic; others are amoral and ruthless, up to megalomaniacal psychopaths. Most are simply concerned with their own interests.
Any Vandaleur with magical ability and desire to develop it could find family members able and willing to train him. The Vandaleur family are described in detail in Champions Villains Vol. 2: Villain Teams.
The Vita-Man Clan: Percy Yates was born in Los Angeles in 1910. Brilliant but sickly throughout his youth, he studied biology, chemistry, and nutrition to find ways to improve his own health. In 1939 he discovered a compound which when administered in a pill had a miraculous effect on him, transforming his body to one of perfect health and exceptional physical vigor. Further experimentation led to additional pills granting him true super-powers, including X-ray vision, invisibility, flight, growth to giant size and strength, or shrinking to the size of a mouse.
Yates's discoveries had two major drawbacks. Their effects were only temporary -- his main vitalizing pill lasted about an hour per dose, while his additional abilities endured for only a minute. Yates was also unable to make them work for anyone else -- they interacted with his own unique physiology. Nonetheless he used his new abilities to fight crime under the costumed identity of Vita-Man. Vita-Man was recruited by the Drifter as one of the founding members of the Justice Squadron superhero team, protecting the west coast of the United States during WW II.
Percy Yates's health continued to deteriorate over time, leading to his retirement as Vita-Man in 1948, and his death in 1964. But in the intervening years he learned that several of his family members shared the biological factors which would allow them to use his empowering treatments. Today half a dozen of his kin are using "variations of his discoveries" (wording suggesting that other powers are possible).
Vita-Man's full background and character sheet are included in the Golden Age Champions Secret Files, a PDF collecting outtakes from the manuscript for the latest edition of Golden Age Champions.
The Zodiac Working: In 1979 the late master villain Archimago, greatest sorceror of the Twentieth Century, attempted this fearsome ritual, to impregnate twelve women by twelve powerful demons. The resulting hybrid children could be used by the demons as hosts to incarnate themselves on Earth with all their power. The ritual was interrupted and the women rescued by the superhero team, the Fabulous Five. The women seemed unharmed and weren't pregnant, so returned home.
Two years later one of these women married and gave birth to a girl who later manifested powers of destructive energy, as well as a propensity for rage and vandalism. She grew up to become the supervillain Frag (fully written up in CV Vol. 3). She has no knowledge of her true origins, thinking herself a mutant. Although she usually appears human, when enraged her form becomes more demonic-looking.
Another of these women gave birth to a son, who now acts as the superhero Pagan (described in the book The Ultimate Mystic). In his superhero identity (resembling a satyr) he's physically superhuman and can project powerful mystic light. Pagan discovered his true heritage when his demonic father Belial attempted to seduce him to his service. Although his diabolical inclinations are strong, Pagan's inherent decency has so far won out.
To date nothing has been revealed about the other ten victims of the Zodiac Working.
I have completed and sent Western Hero to Hero Games to look over and build a cover for. Its a complete book with all you need to build characters and play the game (minus powers and modifiers etc, as not applicable in a heroic game) with a full campaign setting adapted from the original Western Hero 4th edition, plus tons of adventure ideas, campaign tips, background, maps, etc.
Also, I have uploaded a file of The Greatest Guns Who Never Were, a file containing almost 50 fictional characters of western and western-inspired background from books, comics, movies, television, and radio, from Hopalong Cassidy to Mal Reynolds and all points in between. Its free in the Downloads section and includes full Hero Designer write ups as well as a pdf containing them all and some notes on how they were made.
Regarding the Serpent Lantern, Destroyer managed to obtain it for himself several years ago, then drained some of its energies into himself using his super-science to render himself immortal without pledging himself to Nama. VIPER has since tried to kill him on several occasions, but they only managed to whittle down his supporters to a fragment of its former size. After threatening to disintegrate the Lantern after their last attempt on his life, the direct threats against him stopped, and he and the Supreme Serpent are now in a cold war with the world as the prize, using their agents and superhuman allies against each other. Using his network, Destroyer has assembled cells of resistance fighters, some of them small superhuman teams that don't know they are working with the infamous Dr. Destroyer. Professor Muerte heads up one such team, his former allies scattered or dead, forcing him to acquire new ones.
Mechanon has proven to be one of VIPER's most tenacious foes, establishing new bases just a bit faster than VIPER can find and destroy them, rebuilding himself again and again and spawning an ever-growing army of robotic assistants. His activities distract the Supreme Serpent and diverts VIPER's resources into fighting against him, unintentionally helping the resistance by keeping VIPER from focusing more fully on them.
True. The players will need some idea of where to start when doing a campaign. The GM needs to let the players know where to find the plot hooks. If he/she runs a sandbox campaign, great, but it's necessary to explain that to the players, who will otherwise be wondering what to do or where to go.
Some years back, I had someone refer to a "sandbox" campaign in contrast to a "rowboat" campaign.
The sandbox as he described it had players who would work together. The game world was there, it had plenty of plot hooks, and the players/characters would decide their goals and which hooks to bite.
The rowboat was "You are in a boat on a massive featureless sea. What do you do?" Why you can pick any direction you want, with no idea what may be found, or even whether anything will be found, no idea where you came from or where you are going. Have "fun".