Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Investigations and Villains: Superheroes Year One (Part Five)

MYSTERY SPLITTING
We had the third full session of the Superheroes: Year One Game last week. Again we were short two people, but I'd structured things so that wouldn't be such a problem. The fight ended up being quite tough, with two of the players getting KO'd during the battle. Originally I'd hoped to have this week and the previous week's material done in a single session. When that didn't work, I split things in the middle. To flesh the story out, I added a few things to add some tension, including some traps the group would have to overcome. I think I was better on pacing this week. I definitely need to start at 7:30 regardless of who has shown up. I also need to ask players to give me a heads up if they think they might not make it; that will help with my planning. 

To remind the players of the investigation, I sent them a quick summary of it the day of play. My normal instinct is to send that out a couple of days ahead. However that has two consequences. Sometimes players will send you questions which can better be answered at the table as actions, so you have to put them off. On the other hand, if you send reference material too early, players may forget it. I think sending it that day, early in the day, probably strikes the best balance. Here's what I sent them, as an example. Note that I left out who figured out what- I wanted to reinforce that they had come up with this as a group. 

Last session your heroes found themselves attacked by an unknown foe. Giant creatures- synthetic insect monsters hit Tony Stark (and Iron Man as it happened); Mr. Freeze & Mr. Miracle; and Sarge Steel (who was waiting to meet up with Nightcrawler). The attacks were targeted and most were hit by some kind of area energy wave that seemed to cause no real damage (although Stark disputes this). The creatures dispatched, everyone met up at a Stark Labs facility to examine them and put together an investigation.

You pulled together the following pieces of information (note: for simplicity, I’m not citing who found what). If I’ve left off an important detail, please remind me.
  1. The creatures appeared to be constructed, rather than insects made huge. They showed strange bioengineering combined with some mechanical parts.
  2. Two obvious villain choices: The Sliver Brain and Queen Bee. Looking at their past activities and operations, you eliminated them as possibilities.
  3. The creatures didn’t seem to approach the targets from the air- i.e. they weren’t dropped off via a ship or aircraft. That suggested ground-level release in some form.
  4. The bugs contained a metal canister with a section of brain matter in it. It seemed to be some kind of control center. Analysis confirmed that the brain matter was human.
  5. Consultation with experts, including geneticist Hank McCoy, revealed that the mysterious energy beam appeared to be some kind of mental scan, perhaps a mental snapshot of the targets, perhaps a sonar or something like that. Notably, the bugs seem to have transmitted that scan.
  6. The bugs contained a rare element, Microscopic Vibranium-K, used as a resonant power source. That’s a unique substance and hard to come by.
  7. Speaking with contacts inside the Heightened Crimes Division clued the group into a series of “brain snatching” murders. Those had been kept quiet. They’d mostly been among the homeless and dispossessed. However, one attack killed a more wealthy figure, eccentric real estate developer Zoravian Baltic. His murder, and the bizarre means of murder had been kept quiet by the authorities.
  8. Transmitting the mental signal might require a specialized infrastructure.
  9. Bug technology and systems did not seem to be the same as that used for the robots in Mysterio’s Charity Event attack.
  10. The details and style of weird technology did suggest one likely criminal: Professor Fenton, Master of ALGOL.
PRE-GAME VILLAIN BACKGROUND

NEW YORK SUPERVILLAINS
While supervillains tend to change location to location rapidly, a few have remained consistent menaces to New York. The density and wealth of NYC continues to attract the daring and the violent. It is impossible for local supers to cover all threats to the city, but some super-clashes have occurred. Below are some of the solo villains who have appeared more than once here.

Mysterio
This bizarrely clad villain has been a thorn in the side of the police since he first appeared. Myserio’s powers have not been determined with any certainty. At least a portion seem to be illusions: elaborate tricks, window-dressing and special effects. Yet he also possesses some significant weaponry: able to blind, stun, and even hypnotize his enemies. Mysterio has clashed with both Moon Knight and Engineer. In the former case, the villain set up an elaborate ruse to rob a high society dinner through nightmarish projections. In the latter case, Mysterio attempted to intercept the transport of experimental sound chips. Rumor has it that he acts as a mercenary, driven purely by profit motive. His disadvantage seems to be his love of showmanship. He’s targeted several stage magicians and illusionists for humiliation, which makes many suspect his background lies in that area.

Queen Bee
A supervillainess of unknown origin. She seems to be able to create or transform persons into drones who mindlessly serve her. Queen Bee can fly and release debilitating pollen clouds. Through variant chemical pollens she’s mind controlled victims- wiping memories and leaving them with post-hypnotic suggestions. Her most recent capture led to a daring escape from the new “Raft” wing of the Rykers Island Correctional Facility. Queen Bee had subverted several of the guards there for just this case. Queen Bee’s motives remain uncertain, she has acted for profit several times but she’s also carried out crimes seemingly without logic.

Black Knight
This sword-wielding villain has proven deadlier than his appearance would suggest. Armored and surprisingly agile, he wields an ebony blade which can cut through an engine block. The Knight possesses a number of other medieval weapons of power, including a bolt-launching lance and resilient shield. Most striking is his winged steed. Deadly and trained, the horse can kick through steel doors and shoot into the sky with a single stride. The Knight’s focused his crimes on items of historical merit: museum pieces, valuable books, recovered artifacts and antiquities. He’s known as one of the few villains who actively teams up with others. He’s worked with the Rhino, Klaw, and Whirlwind in robberies along the eastern seaboard. However these alliances haven’t repeated. Authorities believe the Knight makes his home in New York, given the frequency of his crimes there.

Foolkiller
While superheroes and masked vigilantes work outside the law, there are lines they haven’t crossed. Or at least most of them haven’t. That doesn’t holder true for the masked avenger known as Foolkiller. He’s made several appearances, gunning down petty criminals and bosses alike. Heavily armed and apparently well-trained he’s murdered at least two dozen people in New York. That most had criminal records has enflamed the debate about the roles of superheroes. Except for a skull mask, Foolkiller’s costume and appearance seems to change between attacks. He’s left a few witnesses alive to make sure they spread warnings.

The Silver Brain
Formerly a scientist with Stark Enterprises, Sergei Vlataroff transformed himself into a being of pure brain. It is unclear whether his present form is a mental construct or an actual metal body. The Silver Brain possesses enormous intellect and can apparently feed on the mind-waves and genius of others. He’s targeted noted scientists and inventors several times. The Brain interacts with the world through powerful telekinesis, and can project mental bolts as well as command victims under his sway. In his most recent attack the Silver Brain was accompanied by a group dubbed the Gorilla Swarm. These insect-headed, gorilla-bodied beings appear to be some form of hive-mind. The Brain used them as his tools in an effort to create a dimensional breaching tower. Ms. Marvel managed to disrupt Silver Brain’s control of the Swarm, sending them into a berserker fury.

Noman 
A mercenary super-criminal who controls electricity within a short range. He manipulates this to create a static field around himself and add devastating effects to his punches. Several times he’s used his powers to overload and black out city blocks, allowing associates entry into banks, jewelry stores, and casinos. Noman actually appeared on the scene before Yes Man, but the media ignores that. Instead they suggest he’s Yes Man’s nemesis despite the two never having fought. Underworld scuttlebutt suggests Noman’s furious about the link.

Pyro
With the power to summon and control flames, Pyro’s a self-declared mutant. He’s combined embracing that as a political stance with other criminal activities. Several key groups and figures who suggested mutants pose a danger have been attacked. Offices have been set on fire, property has been devastated, and victims hospitalized. At the same time Pyro has staged flashy robberies to apparently fund his cause. His activities have gained sympathy among radical elements. Some have suggested he has a network of associates. The FBI has so far held off labeling Pyro or his group as a terrorist organization for fear of encouraging anti-mutant fear and paranoia.

Lynx
Said to be a former spy, this criminal is known as a supreme cat burglar as well as a fixer for criminals. Rumors remain in her wake, but little in the way of solid facts. While she apparently manages her small criminal network, she takes an active hand when something catches her eye. Some of the most daring thefts in the last couple of years have been attributed to her. Some suggest her career stretches back even further than that. 





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