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Villain A Day (Assembled): Ultra-Mind

Because I have a biology degree, I find Ultra-Mind's origin wrong but tweakable. However, the science in most comic books is laughable, so that's clearly a personal response (kind of like Steve Jackson including umpteen varieties of biology degree in GURPS but not many in other sciences).


Here’s what we know:

Evolutionary biologist Victor Slan developed methods to rapidly "force" evolution, bypassing millions of years of natural selection. When his project was cancelled, Dr. Slan broke into his lab and used his genetic accelerator on himself, transforming into a hyper-evolved "Ultra-Mind." The forced evolution atrophied his body and Ultra-Mind developed a life support tank to house his disembodied brain. Ultra-Mind seeks to increase his own power, either through artificial enhancements or by further evolving into what he believes will be his ultimate state: a godlike being of pure mental energy, unshackled from physical existence altogether.

Text quoted with the permission of Steve Kenson and Ad Infinitum Games, and is not intended to challenge the copyright.

Let's get a couple of things clear.

  • Ultra-Mind is not defeated by stairs; with his telekinesis, the tracked life support unit (the Defense Attack and Life Existence Container) moves at excellent speeds, and can hop or fly for short periods. He sets it on the ground because it's easier.
  • A certain part of the DALEC is devoted to a small teleportation device which serves as his emergency escape route, but because he uses the mechanism to protect the more vital to him nutrition filter and pump, it is likely to be damaged.
  • He has several DALEC units with components in different spots: even if your heroes were able to defeat him once by physically disabling a part, it might not work the second time.

From a campaign and adventure point of view, Ultra-Mind serves as the source or consumer of most miraculous things. If you need a teleportation device that doesn’t replace the subway, the highly evolved Ultra-Mind has done it, even though the electronic contents look like a sandwich of aluminum foil, glass, and seaweed. (Ultra-Minds says it's like a Pithecanthropus attempting to reverse engineer an integrated circuit: "Not that you couldn't understand it, given a few dozen extra IQ points and some lifetimes of training.") He is the spider at the center of a web we cannot comprehend. Because of his highly evolved intelligence, things that look disparate can be combined by simply saying, "Ultra-Mind." (There’s a parallel with certain schools of religious thought which the Ultra-Mind has been known to encourage.)

If you have a tricky problem, the answer might be to say that the Ultra-Mind solved it. I did that in the last entry with the invention of Coventry: it requires the Ultra-Mind's inventions, but it is a solution to a problem that comic book worlds face: Where do you go for a beer if you have unusual looks (to use the Hero System term)? And there’s a clear benefit to the Ultra-Mind—he (or it) gets detailed biometric data on many, many villains.

Thematically, Victor Slan is a creature of the mind. He’s opposed to most superheroes, who resolve problems physically (the answer always seems to be, "Punch the problem until it goes away"). His dislike for superheroes is largely because this physical activity is gross and unevolved. Normal folk and most superheroes sweat and eat and kiss and all sorts of physical things that he finds icky. (He’s actually quite a prude…but he's always been that way.) When he's a creature of pure mind, he won't have to deal with the icky stuff.

Goals and Strategies

He's a brain in a tank. The bio suggests that he is trying to increase his own power, either by further evolving (his machine is possibly gone, destroyed as Ultra-Mind was trying to get control of his own new powers, or impounded by the military) or by enhancing what he has, possibly by improving his DALEC.

He can build a new evolving machine, but the computing power for the next stage in evolution doesn't exist: he pushed computation as far as it could go with his transformation. He’s biding his time until Moore's Law suggests that he can build a proper supercomputer…say, in ten years. He’s trying to speed that up.

Even though it doesn't appear in his Qualities, I submit that he's intensely curious about the next stage in evolution for him. He could possibly be manipulated using a stooge who believes what he/she says. The only power we don't see him holding is time travel, and I think he'd be taken in by that one: if he had a chance to see the future, see what we all become, I think that might take him in. Once. (There's your story idea: he's going to commit thefts in order to pay for the time machine. The professor probably has to wear a telepathic shield ("If you saw how to do it, you'd do it on your own, and we'd never see any of the benefits!") when he meets with Ultra-Mind. (And if that works...well, what if it brings an army of devolved or hideous creatures through to our time, hoping to be saved from the bloating of the sun?)

A GM's Handle: Aurora East

Ultra-Mind doesn’t live in a vacuum, though he would wish to. He can fix a new nutrient bath and change the reservoir, or occasionally repair the fabrication devices he needs, but sometimes it's more efficient to have someone else do it. His usual interface is Aurora Dawn (formerly Lucy Elton). Aurora is a small-time grifter who makes a living off her looks; she generally has five or six "boyfriends" going at one time. She helps Ultra-Mind for mercenary reasons, and (if she secretly admits it to herself) because he is the one guy guaranteed not to think of her in a sexual way. Everyone else is a mark to her; Ultra-Mind is just a friend who pays her and can’t be betrayed because he reads minds.

Ultra-Mind hates the fact that he sometimes needs her (it's a sign that he’s not as highly evolved as he thinks). Sometimes they are on the outs, but they have always made up in the past. (She likes money, and he likes having a face for certain items.)

Because he has telepathy, she does not do things like slip hallucinogens into his nutrient broth. Out of a vestige of politeness, he does not intrude on her mind at random.

Aurora East

NameAurora East
Coordination3Awareness3Mental Resistance; Performance (Acting) Expert
Stamina8 Almost everyone's a mark; What's in it for me?; You can tell me your secrets

That Origin

Okay, I can't resist. If you want to get away from the teleological idea of a next stage in human evolution, you simply say that the evolving machine picks a trait to be selected for, and then randomly generates tests and mutations, eventually applying them to the genome of the individual. Understanding the possible mutations and the folding of the proteins that result takes incredible amounts of computing power, and if you choose your selection force incorrectly, you might get nonsense. Slan's original design had four real components:

  • a random number generator that produced the mutations
  • a protein evaluator that turned the mutations into possible proteins and produced a viable system model
  • a "nature red in tooth and claw" module that evaluated them for reproductive success
  • a genetic change synthesis machine that took the theoretical mutations and applied them to the subject genome

Pharmacology companies were interested in the second part and the military in the fourth part.

Slan's research was cancelled because the military wanted that component for their own super soldier programs, and because the intelligence agency wanted to suppress it.

Story Ideas

  • Ultra-Mind is mixed in a gang war! No, he doesn’t care who wins or loses; he just needed Aurora’s help with something and in his usual way plucked her from a moment with one of her "boyfriends," a Russian Mafiya boss. It seems like a good thing that the Mafiya is targeting supervillains right up until the point where Ultra-Mind uses his telepathy to find all their secrets. He warns them that he will publish them on the Internet if they don’t stop bothering him, but they don't listen…so every criminal organization is capitalizing on the secrets, and it’s gang war, with the Ultra-Mind publishing a new set of secrets every day, because they will. Not. Stop. Bothering. Him. The heroes hear about this…in fact, they’re protecting people from the violence. What will they do?
  • Ultra-Mind thinks that maybe everyone is hopeless, and the answer is an extinction-level event. All he has to do is kill all the mammals and start again. (If he restricts himself to humans, ConfederApe will help.) Fortunately, there's an asteroid the size of a football field passing close to the earth…all he has to do is attract it to the planet. He might build a gadget for it, but it would be easier just to take control of an earth-controlling hero. (If you want to do this as a slow reveal, have an earth-controlling hero slowly get more powerful and out of control. The reason is that the Ultra-Mind is improving and taking over his powers.) The heroes might attack the asteroid itself, or the earth-controlling hero, or Ultra-Mind.
  • The problem with being highly evolved is that you are the only one of your kind. Ultra-Mind has decided that if he is to have company, he’ll have to make it. Fortunately, he doesn’t want to make anyone smarter than he is, just the same, and his original equipment holds the genome for that virus. He just as to get the original equipment back. Unfortunately, it's in a military base, and military bases holding equipment that has created supervillains tend to be well guarded. He'll need a team to penetrate and steal the hard drive from the genomic synthesizer. (He can build a new synthesizer itself; he just needs the plans for the one that created him.)
  • He has come up with the new scheme in evolution. Rather than supercomputers, he's using a computer virus that has spread to millions of computers, each of which does a fraction of the computing he needs. PCs might discover the plot through that, or through the thefts he performs to build a new genomic synthesizer (the government watches that equipment).
  • Superhumans are showing up connected with the government, and the Ultra-Mind recognizes the work that created them: it's his. But instead of creating new evolved organisms, they're creating the same boring old ones: beings who are super-strong, or tough, or fire blasts. This is intellectual theft, and Ultra-Mind declares are on the government. The bases that produced the "heroes" are the first for attack, but he gradually works closer to the decision makers. Can the heroes stop him before he disables our government?
  • Aurora has decided to make use of the resource that is the Ultra-Mind, and she sets up a religion. It's very popular on university campuses, and promises all manner of things, but most of them boil down to evolving the adherents. (This also involves curing certain disabilities, which is one way to get players involved.) To punish people, the religion promises an evolutionary downgrade (usually an Affliction or Energy Drain). Ultra-Mind needs some specialized items from a lab. He could steal them directly, but why not use the monkeys? He manipulates adherents to do it. The PCs discover the theft, and try to stop it, but the Ultra-Mind has given them weapons tuned to the PCs. The PCs should be able to follow the trail and eventually get religious members to talk, and then go after the Ultra-Mind.
  • ConfederApe wants intelligent apes. Ultra-Mind wants some high-tech components. They can make a deal. Ultra-Mind suggests that the best time to get the components is while they're being transferred. The manufacturers of the components and the military (not being dummies) have asked the PCs to guard them in transit. So this is a two-piece adventure: ConfederApe and simian associates rob the components; one or more monkeys gets away with the pieces while ConfederApe and the bigger apes fight the heroes, and then there's a fight with Ultra-Mind and a bunch of evolved intelligent apes, the results of his bargain.
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( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 21st, 2015 06:58 pm (UTC)
Speaking as the newly-invented character Perspective (income derived from his representation of former big dumb supervillains in the building demolition business, which nets them more average annual income than the robberies/penitentiary cycle they were accustomed to), I would point out:

"Isn't the best use of your finite time the development of self-stabilized plasma networks, to load your consciousness into once they're established?"
Feb. 21st, 2015 09:39 pm (UTC)
I was so tickled by this (which is almost but not quite the Damage Control schtick from Marvel) that I immediately rolled up an ICONS character who was high Strength, and he'll be the guy who stayed among Bad Company, even though he could learn enough engineering to safely dismantle a building.

Though a proper supers demolition team would include one or more strong guys and somebody who can cast force fields to contain things, and somebody who can either control earth or has very strong telekinesis to smooth over the hole when you're done.

You probably want access to someone who controls water (in case the plumbing is screwy) or electricity (ditto for the wiring).

"Jerry thought his ability to telekinetically control only copper doomed him to a life of crime....and then he discovered copper reclaiming from demolitions sites. He says, 'Oh, it's boring work but it's honest work. Sergeant Samson and Wrecker take down the building inside the force bubble that Miss Apartheid creates, and then I come in later and collect all the electrical wire. The only problem we have is that Wrecker's a, uh, gentleman of color and Miss Apartheid is, well, let's just say that she's always rooting for Sergeant Samson when the two are fighting. We can take down a seventy story building and clean it up about as fast as the trucks can leave with the debris. You wouldn't know anyone with a really big, strong area telekinesis or teleportation, would you? Those trucks cost a mint per hour.'"

The trick would be to avoid Doctors of Destruction from going evil, in the way that Damage Control did.
Feb. 22nd, 2015 06:55 am (UTC)

The power of Perspective does not register on any detection system, but it has been known to end battles in moments.

Edited at 2015-02-22 07:01 am (UTC)
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )