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Everything posted by DShomshak

  1. Re: Small Town Superhumans? Well, I set my "Scion High" campaign (teenage children of the gods and titans) in the fictional small towns of Avalon and Etna, with the unincorporated region of Hooverdale in between. All in the halo of exurbs east of Seattle, WA. But it wasn't specifically a "supers" campaign even though the characters had superhuman powers. Think Percy Jackson filtered through Buffy (though I hadn't read the Percy Jackson books at the time). (Campaign chronicle here: http://forums.white-wolf.com/default.aspx?g=posts&t=36387) Dean Shomshak
  2. Re: Storn's Art & Characters thread. Oh, these are wonderful. Dean Shomshak
  3. Re: It was a dark and stormy thread Throughout the campaigns I’ve run, the heroes have met ghosts, vampires and zombies, demons, warlocks and all manner of supernatural horrors. In this adventure, though, I think I managed my most horrible and creepy scene. To explain the cast: The Keystone Konjurors were my playtest campaign for The Ultimate Supermage and The Ultimate Mystic. The name arose from the tendency for Activation Rolls to fail far more often than the laws of probability would suggest, to the extent the characters were often their own worst enemies. Plus, there were many episodes of spectacularly bad judgment (usually in-character). Artifex, Master of the Cosmic Craft, is a super-mage who espouses the cause of Artifice. In the course of two campaigns, he got some of the brash arrogance beaten out of him. See USM for a 4th edition starting writeup. Jezeray Illyescu is a young psychic with powers to perceive spirits, the past and future, astral project, and make people not notice her. She channels Zontar Bok, Warrior-Mage of ancient Shamballah, a thaumaturge, from the crystal orb that used to top his staff. USM has starting-character writeups for them, too. Shadowman was a new character introduced in the second series, a former ninja cultist of the Brotherhood of Faded Embers. He gained mystic powers of darkness and desolidification (adding to his martial arts) in the same accident that made him turn against the cult and become a hero. Talbot does not appear in this adventure, but his last name is Fulten. He’s the son of Archimago, smart enough that he penetrated to Da’ath, the balance-point of the Multiverse, and gained such cosmic knowledge that he had to spend a few decades mad while he recovered from the experience. He means well but can have epically bad oopsies. NPC: Black Fang is Jezeray’s husband. I introduced the werewolf in the earlier “Seattle Sentinels” campaign. His transformation had been suppressed, he’d been found not guilty by reason of insanity, and was using his middle name of Andrew to reduce his notoriety. The first KK series featured a love triangle between Jezeray, Andrew and Black Fang that was resolved by a mystic quest to integrate the two sides of his soul. Jezeray and BF then joined Project Starstryker, my campaign’s US government super-team. (It began in the ‘80s, when all names were dumb.) NPC reference: Doctor Zen is Project Starstryker’s resident occult expert, non-powered but very learned. NPC: Zeta Krafft is an artist whom the PCs rescued from a pact with the smith-demon Mulciber. Later, Mulciber kidnapped Zeta and various friends and relatives of the PCs and held them hostage as a way to force them to help him defect to Babylon. Zeta died in the fighting when other demon lords attacked, trying to prevent the defection, but once Mulciber was no longer a Duke of Hell he could repay the PCs’ aid by giving Zeta a new body of living metal. She and Artifex have been tentatively dating while she adjusts to her new existence. NEW ADVENTURES OF THE KEYSTONE KONJURORS — March 2, 2001 #11) BLOOD ORGY OF THE VOODOO NINJAS (With apologies to Roger Corman) Someone is killing and kidnapping people from the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. People have had their throats cut in the night, and men, women and children have disappeared. The Navy calls the FBI. The FBI calls Project Starstryker. Project Starstryker calls Jezeray. She goes to Cuba, looks into the past and “sees” the kidnappers and assassins, who seem to possess a psychic invisibility like her own -- some sort of magical cultists. She brings in the other Keystone Konjurors. Meanwhile, Art Long and Zeta Krafft are out on a date. They have dinner and see a movie without incident; Artifex carefully reinforces the seats that Zeta uses, to compensate for her solid metal body’s weight. When they stop in a bar after seeing Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, though, their minds are on the movie. Zeta sits on a bar stool and it squashes. She freezes, then very quietly insists that Artifex take her home immediately. She says that this attempt to establish a normal life is foolish: she’s a freak. She can’t even cry about her troubles. Jezeray calls at this rather awkward moment. At the same time, Shadowman is sparring with Andrew. Even in his human ID, Andrew is much faster, but not nearly as strong as Shadowman. Andrew helps Shadowman with his speed and learning new maneuvers, while Shadowman helps Andrew work on his human form’s hitting power. Shad’s mother insists that he babysit his teenage sister Kisumi (or “Kissy”) this evening, so she’s at Wetchley House too. She finds lots of excuses to interrupt the training, but every time Andrew looks at her she blushes, giggles and runs from the room. All in all, it’s a relief when Jezeray calls. Talbot isn’t around for this adventure. He’s in another dimension where you really can turn the air blue by swearing, working out the equations of chromo-vituperation. * * * At Guantanamo, Our Heroes try to find out how the cultist kidnapper-assassins get into and out of the base, and how they pick their targets. The only connection they can find between the murder victims is that they all went to the cockfights at a nearby village. The slimy Quartermaster Corporal Warshofsky, who arranges the passes and gets a kickback from the fight organizers, turns out to have a magical snoop in his office — a carved wooden mug he received from the cockfight manager Garcia. Artifex talks to the mug and learns that someone called Tata Ndoki made it and passed it to Garcia to give to Warshofsky. Certainly, this would explain how the assassins (tentatively identified as Ñañigos, members of a murderous “Voodoo Mafia” that flourished in the 19th century) knew so much about comings and goings on the base. Artifex destroys the mug. That night, a supervillain attacks the base. It’s Warhead, one of the world’s more powerful and psychotic supervillains, who happened to have died in the 1980s when he fell off a skyscraper. He looks pretty dead, too, though not decayed. Despite this handicap, he remains tremendously strong and tough and able to blow up like his namesake. He gives the Konjurors a good fight, but they take him down before he can reach the base’s armory and blow it up. Shadowman’s power to disrupt life-force proves critical in the combat. Artifex finds, however, that Warhead isn’t a zombie as he first thought; rather, he’s a sort of materialized ghost. Shadowman’s STUN Drain caused extra damage because it “unzipped” the three spirits who fuelled the materialization — the ghosts of a man, woman and child. As Our Heroes ponder their next move, they realize that Warhead might not have acted alone. Artifex detects multiple cultists near the Admin building. They hurry to the Admin building; Artifex cleverly sets off the building’s sprinkler system. The water washes off the magic forehead mark that lets the cultists turn invisible. Now Our Heroes merely need to fight a bunch of fanatical cultists with poison drug-dust and knives. They win, though one cultist stabs the base commandant. Artifex reads memories in search of clues about the cultists’ base. He gets enough clues that Our Heroes can find the tiny village of camouflaged huts… but where is the evil high priest Tata Ndoki? On a hilltop a half-mile away, it turns out, watching Our heroes through binoculars and readying the human sacrifices that fuel horrifically powerful Ego Attacks. Tata Ndoki fells Zontar; a child grabs Zontar’s orb and runs off with it, while a village-woman grabs Artifex; Artifex manages to fry the kid. Shadowman, meanwhile, teleports to the hilltop just in time to see Tata Ndoki vanish down a concealed shaft in the hilltop. Shadowman turns desolid to walk into the hill, and finds Tata Ndoki’s subterranean temple. He also finds the deceased supervillain El Tigre, and Tata Ndoki’s “nganga.” Since the ever-erudite Dr. Zen had told Our Heroes that this hell-kettle would be the source of Tata Ndoki’s powers, Shadowman tips it over, despite the attacks of the four Trauma Ghosts that guard it. Tata Ndoki flips out. He screams a plea to his god Zarabanda to give him the power to avenge this desecration — possession of/by the most powerful ghost beneath the night sky. Shadowman wonders, “Did I err?” and hurries out of the hill while the other characters head toward it. Outside, a storm gathers in seconds and a bolt of lightning stabs down into the scrub, leaving a building green glow behind it. Zontar’s orb rises into the air and flies to the hill.… Our Heroes — Artifex, Shadowman, Jezeray and Black Fang — find Tata Ndoki possessed by Zontar Bok… wielding his powers and knowledge, but subject to Tata Ndoki’s evil will. Zontar’s orb is now clenched in the jaws of the skull atop the evil priest’s shinbone scepter. Artifex blasts the mask of El Tigre (the relic that Tata Ndoki used to evoke his ghost) but the dead super-terrorist does not fade immediately. Black Fang keeps El Tigre busy (no “fighting like cats and dogs” jokes!) while the others take on Zontar. Even outnumbered, Tata Ndoki/Zontar makes a good account of himself, but Jezeray sneaks up unnoticeably and snatches the scepter from Tata Ndoki’s hand! Whoops. Zontar can still cast spells without using the orb, but it’s *much* harder. For all practical purposes, Tata Ndoki has just lost the fight. He made certain promises to Zarabanda that now he cannot keep. The entire hill shakes. Our Heroes see a huge spectral hand rise from the ground and grab Tata Ndoki, pulling his soul out of his body and dragging it down into the ground. Artifex and Shadowman grab Jezeray and Tata Ndoki’s body and flee the crumbling hill. A minute later, Black Fang burrows his way out. Zontar wakes up. He’s now in Tata Ndoki’s body — permanently, it seems. The cult’s power seems broken for now, and with both Tata Ndoki and the supervillain masks gone the cult won’t be calling up dead supervillains anytime soon. Our Heroes report that the problem is solved, and go home. Jezeray and Shadowman are still talking to Artifex when they arrive at his loft in Babylon. The lights are on and they hear the hiss of propane torches. Where is Zeta? They find her in her workroom, slumped on the floor, teeth gritted in pain as she uses a pair of torches to melt out her eyes. The molten bronze trickles down her face. Hearing them enter, she turns and smiles. “Now I can cry,” she says. * * * At this, Artifex’s player looked like I’d slammed him in the gut with a baseball bat. Dean Shomshak
  4. Re: Australian Supervillains First post attempt failed. Oddly, the "apotropaic wands" used by Egyptian priest-magicians were boomerang-shaped. They didn't throw the things, though -- they used the tip to draw a magic circle on the ground. It would be something for a boomerang-themed villain to steal, though. Dean Shomshak
  5. Re: Australian Supervillains IIRC, Australia also has a mine that produces the world's only pink diamonds. (Well, kind of pinky-violet.) "Pink Diamond" might not be a very good name, but you can surely create an original diamon-reference name. Not as iconically Australian yet as black opals, but it's something. Dean Shomshak
  6. Re: Storn's Art & Characters thread. Very nice sense of movement in all three. In the case of Mexi-Shaman, a nice sense of pausing, which is not the same as "not moving." Well done. Dean Shomshak
  7. Re: Types of Superheroes/Villains Fair call: I forgot how long the war of Dutch independence lasted, and withdraw the point. Still, the Dutch seem to have profited from their religious tolerance at this time, and that's the point of the allegory. Dean Shomshak
  8. Re: Types of Superheroes/Villains I came to find Marvel's attempts to use "anti-mutant hysteria" as an allegory for other forms of bigotry ham-handed and dubious on multiple levels. Still, Marvel could generate one good story from it, by postulating a smallish country whose people have (both spontaneously and as official policy) decided to accept mutants. As a result, mutants move there. As a result of *that,* the country is rapidly gaining wealth and power. This story arc would be a latter-day retelling of how the Dutch decided to sit out the religious wars wracking the rest of Europe. Not only did the Netherlands avoid squandering its resources in fruitless war, the country's immigrant Jews, Anabaptists and other religious minorities included a lot of scholars, artisans and other folk who helped make the country very rich. A prosperity the Dutch still enjoy, centuries later. Leaving Marvel, I see two important story aspects to super-powered mutants. First, the powers are totally spontaneous and unexpected. In one sense, this makes them a "fair" source of super-powers: Anyone might be a mutant. In another sense, they are deeply unfair in they are completely undeserved. You didn't even have to be in the right place at the right time to have your origin. You were, apparently, a completely ordinary person before you discover, out of the blue, that you have super-powers. What do you do about this? The second aspect is that mutant powers are potentially heritable. That reverses the randomness of the first factor. Instead, you have the potential of a super-powered caste -- an aristocracy whose members are, really and truly, born more powerful than everyone else. Potentially, a very nasty ruling class. Once *that* potential becomes clear, hating mutants becomes a bit more plausible. Dean Shomshak
  9. Re: It Beats the Alternative Yeah, Professor Alternative is a great character. Thing is, he could probably make a bit of cash selling his services to people who want to be someone different... but the mind-set to do this would probably make it impossible for him to invent his goofy rays in the first place. It also occurs to me that after his first attempt, Professor Alternative was probably kidnapped by someone who demanded, on threat of death, that he reverse his "gay ray" to produce a Straight Ray so the kidnapper could "cure" homosexuals. (Good story otherwise, too!) Dean Shomshak
  10. Re: Types of Superheroes/Villains In working on my own Champions campaign way back when, I classified superbeings this way: Innate powers: Supernatural Being: Gods, elementals, ghosts, vampires, demons, angels, etc. + spirit hybrids (offspring of human and supernatural). Mutant: Born with potential for powers because of some genetic quirk. Alien: Comes from a race that naturally has super-powers. Robot/Android: Artificial entity with built-in powers. Induced powers: Enchantment: Powers ganted by magic, but innate from then on. Lycanthropes, origin potions, blessings from gods, etc. Weird Science: Radiation accidents, genetic manipulation, etc. Cyborg: Powers from artificial bits implanted in the body. (Includes bioengineering.) Trained Powers: Sorcerer: Includes "psionic training" (old wine in new bottles). Inventor: People who invent battlesuits, advanced weapons and other super-gadgets. Martial Artist: What it says. External Powers: Weapon: Powers come from a device that the character cannot or does not significantly upgrade. Includes characters who build just a few super-gadgets and stick with them, character who obtains a magic item (o item of alien super-technology), and stuff like that. Mastermind: "Powers" come from having lots of money, status and other social resources, so the character can have other people do things for them. Characters can fit under more than one heading. If a character fit under three or more, I classified them as "Complex" and left it at that. I also did a power breakdown of Brick, Energy Projector, Martial Artist, Mentalist, Other, and Complex, and cross-referenced to keep track of, say, how many supernatural characters I'd created were mentalists, as a way to spot concepts and combinations I'd neglected. Yes, it was a lot of work. Yes, I was insane. Dean Shomshak
  11. Re: [Retro] COTN 5th edition proposal I'm with LL on the Four Great Spirits: They seem too inhuman and, well, "cosmic," to be among the gods of Earth. Upper Planes, for sure. Dean Shomshak
  12. Re: Question for Dean Shomshak There's at least one other god-level entity active on Earth, and I'm surprised no one brought him up: Mephistopheles is active and powerful enough to provide origins on short notice, as he did with Hell Rider. How does he evade the Ban? Simple. He cheats. (OK, maybe that was too obvious even to need saying.) Dean Shomshak
  13. Re: Question for Dean Shomshak Since I've never read The Turakian Age, I don't know what it says about Krim. Still, if you want Krim to be powerful and (potentially) active despite the Ban, the Crowns are a good excuse for this. One possibility is that Krim placed himself entirely in the Crowns. You could give the Crowns an AI to represent Krim's will, with a Mind Link between them to represent that Krim possesses all the Crowns at once while remaining a single will, and an IPE Psychic Bond to the wearer. Even if Dark Seraph et al. aren't sock puppets for Krim, he could still be influencing their minds and choices beyond a generic "Be Evil." Dean Shomshak
  14. Re: Question for Dean Shomshak Don't get me wrong, I'm proud of all (well, most of) the stuff I wrote for USM and SMB, and I'm glad you found it fun and useful. Just about all the big ideas and major characters made it through to 5e, though -- the framework for the mystical side of the CU, that had to be there for other material to make sense. It's too bad there couldn't have been a revised Mystic Bestiary to update the other critters and characters, but such is life. Now that Cryptic/DOJ allows people to write their own licensed supplements, I'm working on entirely new material that I hope people will find just as appealing. Dean Shomshak
  15. Re: Question for Dean Shomshak Now, about Lucifer. I did not think that nailing down many details about the Descending Hierarchy was a good idea; I wanted to leave a lot of freedom for GMs, without saying that any particular accoun of devildom was true. For instance, that's why MYW and UMY say that devils lie about their rank. Hey, even if the Abrahamic tradition there are multiple stories about the origin of devils. I want them all available for GMs to use. So, is there truly a supreme Devil or Satan in the Descending Hierarchy? There can be, if you want -- or not. There might be an archdevil named Lucifer -- or that might be a pseudonym of another archdevil, or even a title for whoever is most powerful at the moment. Vibora Bay uses the fall of Lucifer as part of Therakiel's background. I did not coordinate UMY and MYW with the Vibora Bay authors. Well, except for Steve Long, who as line developer could have asked me to include Lucifer, Therekiel and the Fall in MYW. He didn't, and I don't think that was absent-mindedness on his part. You'd have to ask him, but I suspect his motive was the same as mine: To keep these matters loose, with lots of room for GMs to tweak the setting. All the gods and spirits have their own memories of their mythic pasts. It would be normal for Therakiel to remember the Fall: That's his mythology. What matters is not whether it's true. I'd say it's that holy crap, there's a god-level entity on Earth who *somehow* escaped the Ban. (How? Why? More story possibilities here.) Dean Shomshak
  16. Re: It was a dark and stormy thread At the start of my second Supermage campaign, the player of Artifex asked if the Master of the Cosmic Craft could now have a live-in girlfriend: Barbie. As in, a life-size Barbie that he animated. Artifex wasn't much for human connections that could be used against him. Well, how could I pass this up? A couple of adventures into the campaign, the PCs discovered that one of the people injured in the crossfire was a highly realistic, living plastic mannikin. In fact, there were thousands of them in the city and one on a plane flying away. They had all been human, but were victims of a sort of contagious Reality Vampirism. The US government's super-team was already transformed, which added to the problem. Eventually they traced the plague back to Barbie and Artifex. At which point, Artifex remembered that he was Barbie's slave and turned on the team. Barbie was absorbing all the stolen reality and becoming a nascent dimension lord; the PCs saw the Barbie World she was creating to replace the Earth. She claimed she was doing it for the good of humanity: No more sickness, old age, starvation or war. Just life in plastic, dolls playing out roles. The other PCs got through to Artifex, though, and he destroyed Barbie before the transformation of humanity was complete. With her destruction, all the transformed people became flesh and blood again. Yeah, it took Artifex a while to live down that particular oopsie. As for other creepy things that happened in the campaign? Later. Dean Shomshak
  17. Re: Question for Dean Shomshak Before or after makes no difference. It's not a curse on specific individuals, it's a metaphysical brick wall with a teeny tiny hole in it. Above a certain power level, you can't squeeze through. DS
  18. Re: Question for Dean Shomshak Mortality. Yahweh was born as Jezeray Illyescu's daughter Jordan. Cosmics only possiss gods, not mortals. Not much of a power vacuum, with Mephistopheles sitting on the throne of Heaven, using all his skill and power to make sure nobody realizes the substitution. Because that could be bad for him. Lucifer needs a more complicated answer. I may get to that later. Dean Shomshak
  19. Re: It was a dark and stormy thread Hm. There are so many possibilities... Was it the mob of partly melted mannikins from Trinity (you know, the mock-up town that got blown up in the first nuke test) shuffling and lurching forward Night of the Living Dead style, strying to grapple the heroes in their deadly radioactive grip? Nah. That wasn't even my creepiest scene with mannikins. That was... for tomorrow. Dean Shomshak
  20. Re: Question for Dean Shomshak Or maybe Thaumiel, the Two-Faced Lord of Good and Evil. In my own campaign, lots of cosmic entities made Yahweh their sock puppet, pulling him this way and that like dogs fighting over a juicy bone because he was such a *useful* sock puppet. He had like five minutes a day of free will. The final story arc in my second Supermage playtes campaign dealt with Yahweh's jailbreak from Elysium. Dean Shomshak
  21. Re: Question for Dean Shomshak How "canonical" is USM? At this point, not very. Everything genuinely important got ported over to Ultimate Mystic and Mystic World. Also, don't be too sure that Yahweh had anything to do with creating the Ban. He may have been as surprised (and annoyed) by it as any other deity. The description of the Ban's rise is deliberately somewhat vague and the matter of causality and intentionality. If anyone is the prime mover for the Ban, I'd nominate Urizen as the cosmic entity with the strongest interest in promoting religious belief centered on doctrine rather than direct experience. At crucial moments, though, Urizen could have possessed Yahweh and made him say and do things to support the plan. Dean Shomshak
  22. Re: Question for Dean Shomshak Wow. It's been so many years (and campaigns, and writing projects) I'd forgotten about that earlier version of the Ban. Yeah, in USM the Ban was to explain (or explain away) how Christianity and Islam could ever replace the old polytheisms if the gods could appear at will and remind people they were real, and powerful. In the superheroic Age, this version of the Ban fell almost completely and gods were merely faced with the problem of being in another dimension. But then, USM also suggested writing up gods in the normal power range for superbeings, with only a few being significantly more powerful. (Which can be done. As an exercise, I wrote up a "starting PC" Thor on 400 points -- though it had to be early Marvel's version, with OIAID on damn near everything.) In this case, pantheons are no more a problem for the setting than any other small, super-powered race such as the Eternals and Inhumans for Marvel. Long's decision to make every god comparable to Doctor Destroyer made the problem sharper, and required the Ban to continue in some form. Dean Shomshak
  23. DShomshak


    Re: Evil Fanaticism is more complex than it may seem at first. Consider the young man who becomes a Jihadist suicide bomber. He's likely unemployed, seething with sexual frustration, and has been brainwashed for weeks using harangues and sleep deprivation (standard cult indoctination techniques). He is a tool in another's hand and, I think, deserves a measure of pity. The one who brainwashed him does not. This man is a fanatic, but also a hypocrite: You don't see *him* strapping on explosives, eager to become a martyr. But fanaticism and hypocrisy go together like the two sides of a coin. For the sake of The Cause, any lie, crime or blasphemy becomes acceptable and maybe even noble. The fanatic is above the laws and morals that govern lesser, less committed men. A law unto himself. The egotism is incredible, and incredibly evil. Dean Shomshak
  24. DShomshak


    Re: Evil The latest issue of Scientific American has an article that might be relevant to this discussion. It's called "The Wisdom of Psychopaths." Sometimes there is a fine line between hero and villain -- like the world-class brain surgeon who says that over the years, he has deliberately extirpated any trace of compassion for his patients. To keep a steady hand and perform surgery at that level of difficulty, he cannot afford any trace of emotion. Psychopaths are, provably, also better detectives than other people. They sense vulnerabilities -- such as having something to hide. But there's a spectrum. The traits of a psychopath (inflated self-esteem, empathy that can be turned off at will, superficial charm, etc.) can be useful at moderate degrees, but criminal and dangerous if they're turned up too high, or paired with other traits (such as a need for instant gratification). Dean Shomshak
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