Well, no sooner do I announce I'm starting than I miss a day. So I suck...but I missed it to go gaming, which is really the reason we do all of this.
I warn you now that I'm not going to be posting on the weekend or on Monday, because it's a long weekend here in Ontario.
With that out of the way, let's get on to Count Malocchio.
Here's what we know about the Count. The official bio says:
Count Bernino Malocchio is the thirteenth of an infamous line. His predecessors were part of the cutthroat politics of the medieval Italian city-states, and his grandfather was a fascist collaborator and Axis agent, who used the powers of the talisman known as the Evil Eye. The eleventh Count Malocchio met his end in a rockslide in the Alps, but his infamy did not perish with him. Bernino sought out his grandfather’s final resting place, daring the treacherous peaks and valleys of the Alps. There he unearthed the Evil Eye and claimed its power for his own. Sacrificing a childhood mentor to seal a blood pact, he unlocked even greater power than previous possessors of the Eye imagined. It was not long thereafter that the twelfth Count Malocchio suffered a fatal "accident" and his son assumed the mantle of leadership.
Text quoted with the permission of Steve Kenson and Ad Infinitum Games, and is not intended to challenge the copyright.
Every comic book needs a schemer, and the ICONSverse has two: Count Malocchio and Ultra-Mind. (Not that the others can't scheme, but these two are clearly string-pullers.) The Count's appearance means that he can appear fine at a cocktail party or a diplomatic function (while Ultra-Mind's appearance means that when he shows up, there's going to be a fight). Count Malocchio is someone you introduce early but keep in combat reserve until late in the adventure(s).
He seems an urbane gentleman, a bit of the Old School (where Old School means Macchiavelian). It's easy to introduce him... The Count’s family has a home in San Montis, but also homes in Switzerland, London, New York, and Sao Paolo.
Also, you want to keep using him, so setting up the Count to go to jail seems a waste. No; let’s give him a diplomatic out. He's not the leader of his country, but knows the leader and (in the manner of nobility) is a distant relation. The real reason that the Count is not the ruler of his country is that he doesn't want to be the ruler. Rulers are held to a different standard, even the rulers of micronations.
Count Malocchio is a man who wants power. At one point, he thought that money was power, but what he has discovered is that he wants to exercise power personally. He doesn’t want to rule the world, just control it.
Yes, he has the organization, and yes, he will hire people who have specific talents. But in the end, he prefers to hear the lamentations of his victims in person. (In fact, you should fill out the Count’s retinue with a number of unpleasant and superpowered individuals.)
This trait keeps him personally involved. When a major deal closes, the Count is in the city. (He doesn’t trust cell phones for his shady deals.) When the knife is pushed in, the Count is there to twist it. If there’s a way to rub salt in the wound, the Count does it. He was always like this, even before he had the Eye.
Although he might use the Eye in private or in his "special" researches, he tries not to use it in public. He is, however, rarely without it.
Count Malocchio should be a presence in the lives of the heroes. He is present at art gallery openings (a previous Count Malocchio was quite involved in the theft of artworks during WWII), at diplomatic functions, at ceremonies providing awards to the player characters.
From a game point of view, the Count can be behind anything, even if you didn't intend him to be. (Reward the players with a Determination point.) It might be interesting if the Count were one of the investors in their super-team...
San Montis, By The Almanac
The country of San Montis is tiny: a smidge less than 38 square miles, or almost a hundred square kilometers. San Montis does not have the tourist trade that San Marino has. It has a tiny tail sticking out of the Alps, so it’s not entirely in the mountains: there is a tiny bit of arable land. And, like Liechtenstein, San Montis is ruled by a prince, Prince Baldassare, a distant cousin of the Count's.
For the most part, San Montis follows the lead of Italy (as it did during WWII), but Prince Baldassare has contradicted the Italians on occasion, claiming that he only wants what is best for his people.
Prince Baldassare has appointed Count Malocchio his emissary for business deals. He is unofficially aware of some of the Count’s other activities, and allows them, so long as his country gets a kickback.
San Montis has no extradition treaties with other countries, except the Vatican City. And that treaty has not been exercised for hundreds of years.)
- A residential building important to the PCs or to a loved one of the PCs is sold, and will soon be razed to build a new museum. Count Malocchio is one of the investors, here from San Montis to look at the site. He hopes that the investment will bring new money to this area, and through tax dollars and revenue, to San Montis. In fact, he has arranged for all the residents of the building to be moved to a new building, at minimal expense to them. The building is the modern equivalent of H. H. Holmes' "murder palace" and soon, people begin to take sick, or even to disappear. Count Malocchio makes regular visits, clucking concern and offering aid for their well-being. Will the PCs discover what is going on before one of their friends is abducted? Even if he is caught, Count Malocchio cannot be directly related to the problems; he claims that it was unfortunate that the building super turned out to be a psychopath. Unfortunately, the man committed suicide before he could be questioned….
- Having aroused the interest of the player characters, Count Malocchio becomes aware of them as well, and begins to test their mettle, even while offering gifts to anyone they are publicly associated with (to at worst curry favour with their associates and at best steal their loved ones away). He begins to engineer a series of accidents which require the intervention of the PCs. He’s on hand for some of them (he likes to watch), but works through intermediaries, and has iron-clad alibis in most or all cases. The PCs will find and stop the intermediaries, and even totally unprovable information that the Count is behind it.
- There is a series of robberies in the area which have two things in common: first, the victims were blinded, so they couldn’t see anything; and second, the items stolen were recovered artwork that had been taken by the Nazis during World War II andlater returned to their rightful owners. The crimes are the work of Count Malocchio himself: the artworks were stolen during the war by his family, and he regards them as his. PCs might be able to track this down; there are other returned artworks in the area (perhaps as the bank where they are stored, awaiting identification and return, or at a museum), but only ones with a connection to the Malocchio family. This crime is the PCs’ best bet to get the Count with ill-gotten gains.
- The Count returns. It turns out that San Morino is an extraction site for a valuable mineral resource, probably from a meteorite millennia ago. In order to be diplomatic with their government, our government has dropped charges and convictions against the Count, and he is back in the country. (The threat of losing this resource can forgive all manner of crimes by the Count; it can be used again and again.) Now the Count is out for revenge. He plans to take over a local criminal organization and crush the PCs. He will sully their reputations, steal their loved ones, reveal their secrets, and once they are destroyed, reveal himself to them. Part of his plan involves alibis; most of the damage is to be done by destroying their reputations.
And we start with a character whom I dismissed as a joke or one-note character when I did the original Villain-A-Day...ConfederApe!
The official bio says:
An accident in brainwave syncing led to an experimental ape absorbing the intellect of scientist Dwight Givens, along with Givens’s obsession with Civil War history and re-enactments. To the "ConfederApe" the "Lost Cause" became synonymous with the overthrow of human domination. With the power to broadcast mental commands to his fellow apes, he staged a breakout of the research facility and plots rebellion against all humankind.
Text quoted with the permission of Steve Kenson and Ad Infinitum Games, and is not intended to challenge the copyright.
It's easy to treat the ConfederApe as a joke or a one-off villain, so let's not. Let's consider ConfederApe as a credible threat in a comic book universe.
In some ways, he's the perfect comic book villain: his plans do not involve grubby cash (except as a means to an end), non-lethal (he doesn't want to kill all humans, just subjugate them) and his knowledge of strategy and tactics means that the PCs can never assume his actions are "just random," even if they are.
But what does he want?
A Brief Aside: A GM's Decision
Technically, apes are any of the tailless anthropoid catarrhine primates (look it up on Wikipedia). The group includes gibbons, chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, and humans. But "ape" also gets used to mean any tailless monkey, such as the Barbary ape, while excluding humans.
So you have to decide when using the ConfederApe on his usual behaviour: does he control apes in the technical sense, or apes in the casual sense (in which case you can probably throw in all New World and Old World monkeys as well, but exclude humans).
He can do either, but you should pick one. It determines his choices. A ConfederApe who can control human minds is a different opponent than one who controls the monkeys of organ grinders.
(Remember to throw your PCs a Determination Point any time he violates his usual protocol.)
Here, I'm going to assume that he can control the mind of any non-human primate. (I'm also going to risk the wrath of primate researchers by declaring that for my purposes, intelligence or sapience mean human intelligence.)
Look at his Qualities. They're meant to constrain and define him. Yes, he wants the apes to rise; no, he can't do it dishonourably, because he's a Southern gentleman. If the ConfederApe has given his word, he will not betray you. (Obviously, he doesn't give his word often.) If you're careful, you can strike some sort of deal with him. But he can't just give up: he's a rebel primate.
Really, he wants to create the Planet of the Apes, but he'll settle for founding Gorilla City. This is perhaps the best way to think of him: as a long-range planner who combines both King Solovar and Gorilla Grodd.
Because he's not a genius, you can make the plans stupid, but why bother? A squad of policemen and three officers from Animal Control would be able to catch him if the plans were stupid.
ConfederApe: The Mini Series
Put yourself in his place at his origin: you're a gorilla that has suddenly achieved sapience, you understand how you've been oppressed by humans, and you need to organize to put down the humans. Let's say the facility was in or near Atlanta, Georgia.
ConfederApe broke out of the facility with as many apes as he could bring—capuchins, rhesus monkeys, and other gorillas, including his mate, Nabila. Maybe the best thing to do would have been to hide his intelligence, find out what was going on, but the ConfederApe was overwhelmed by rage when he suddenly understood what they were doing. He was also afraid that they would take away this new knowledge, this new self-awareness. He doesn't know what happened to Dwight Givens; Givens didn't go home that night. (ConfederApe checked: he knows where Givens lives.)
The first thing to do was put distance between his group and the research station. They hopped a freight train heading east and south, to wilderness. He liked the idea of hiding on the Fort Stewart grounds (Givens had fond memories of hunting there), but he also knew there were lethal items on the ground. Instead, he headed to the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge.
There they hid.
ConfederApe had several needs in the early days: He had to hide his people; he had to increase the size of his army; he had to make his apes smart. (Smart apes weren't unknown in the ICONSverse, but they had never bred true.) He stole food, to make their presence less obvious. Several times they were spotted, leading to Bigfoot rumours, but he managed to keep everyone safe.
He started breaking into the Refuge administration center at night, and using their computers. Under pseudonyms, he contacted animal rights groups. Eventually he found one that was radical enough that it wouldn't question the legality of breaking apes from research facilities and jails.
And he discovered superheroes.
Superheroes might not be against the idea of ape self-rule, but they would be against the subjugation of humanity.
After thinking about this for weeks, ConfederApe came to a couple of conclusions.
- He had to keep freeing apes wherever possible. But until he could make the apes smarter, he couldn't hide with them. Superheroes would find him, which means they would find the others, who couldn't escape on their own.
- He had to foment discontent among the humans. He had seen even in the research facility that the humans weren't monolithic in their feelings toward apes and ape captivity. That was something he could use.
- He needed to be a symbol. Even if only a small fraction of humans agreed with him, a small fraction of seven billion would be many humans. They would have to rally around him.
That was the origin of ConfederApe. That's the reason for the vest and the hat and the name.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Ape
Again using the freight trains, ConfederApe returned to Atlanta. In Atlanta, he was going to make his first appearance as ConfederApe.
He planned to be on camera and distract attention from his animal rights associates...and the surest way to find cameras and people was to go to a baseball game.
He attacked during the seventh inning break. He was mistaken for a zoo mascot.
In anger, he tore up the field, broke the scoreboard, and smashed the box office. When Animal Control officers showed up, he tricked them into shooting each other with tranquilizer darts.
The crowd loved it. The home team had been losing, so the distraction was welcome. They paid no attention to the plight of the apes.
Defeated, ConfederApe went into hiding. He was a supervillain whom no one recognized as a supervillain. He needed to refine his plan. To get the attention he needed, he had to attack superheroes directly.
But not in Georgia. Instead, wherever your heroes are located.
Remember his goals: money, awareness, and make apes smarter so they can be free.
First, he needs money. He has a community that must be hidden and paid for; he has habitats that must be saved so that some day there can be a place for apes to live. Any untraceable high-value item is a good bet for ConfederApe. He steals diamonds and other gems or bearer bonds when he can.
Second, he needs to raise awareness. An assault on superheroes at a known location (with cameras) does that.
Third, he needs to raise the intelligence of his apes. ConfederApe is interested in any technological or magical system for increasing intelligence or any hero or villain who has become intelligent.
His normal technique is to find a location with captive apes, break them out, and use them to help him with whatever job he has in mind. He makes it quite clear that he is controlling the apes, and it is not their fault. (If it comes down to it, he would rather they were re-captured so he can rescue them again.)
ConfederApe travels, in the hopes of keeping the authorities away from his people. He does make trips back there, whenever his females are in rut, because he is hoping his transformation will breed true.
His Relationships with Other Villains
This part is even more "just a suggestion" than the rest, but here's my take on how ConfederApe relates to the rest of the provided villains:
- Count Malocchio
- "I dislike him, but I find him useful. Warbride tells me he feels the same way about me. I'll work with him, sure, but I see the wrong kind of Old World colonialism and oppression in what the Count does to really feel comfortable with him. That being said, if the Count offered some way to uplift the apes, I'd take it"
- The Creeper
- "I like the idea of him more than I like him. When the apes rise up, we will need someone to re-establish the plant world, and the Creeper can do that. On the other hand, ConfederApe thinks that Carl is a bit full of himself in the sense that Carl just assumes that plants are better. Look, they're necessary but not better than apes. Also, he has no appreciation for alcohol—he calls it 'yeast piss.' Also, he scorns cotillions, a social construct that I find fascinating."
- The Gila-Master
- "He's a fellow animal man. I suppose I should like him. I work with him, but you know that everything is is eventually going to go wrong. First there's that whole 'Chosen One' thing—since I'm trying to be the savior of the apes, I find that offensive. Second, it always seems to come back to Saguaro. This is a time and a place. No, things eventually go wrong with Gila-Master, but they can be quite good at the beginning. The trick is getting out before he causes the end."
- "He's a loose cannon. He's fine if he's kept on a short leash (so to speak), but you don't ask him to plan anything."
- Speed Demon
- "He's a nice guy. I like him. He can have all the human women he wants. He likes wine, which I find a bit odd. I like his taste in music."
- The Troll
- "You know he's shot apes? In the Congo. He bragged about it once. Also, he's a beer man, which I find vulgar."
- "We don't have a lot of common ground, but I think there's someone interesting there. For instance, he doesn't care if all the humans get destroyed. I like that. I just don't know how to communicate with him. Still, he's useful, and I'll generally do what he asks, because when I call in those favors, I think they'll be quite important."
- "I like her. She appreciates a fine bourbon, and she's not nearly as fragile as she looks. She brings me Blue-Rays sometimes and we try to figure out human civilization. I had an idea once that would have used her, Speed Demon, and Ultra-Mind, but I couldn't find the right level for Ultra."
- ConfederApe hears about the Creeper, and he is curious. Granted, Carl had only a qualitative leap in self-awareness and not a quantitative one, but apes are so close that it might be enough. He breaks the Creeper out of jail, and agrees to commit a series of crimes in return for the Creeper's secret. The Creeper has no real secret (and many apes are mostly vegetarians, which Carl is dubious about).
- The Ultra-Mind has increased his intelligence, and finds the ConfederApe's little crusade amusing. The Ultra-Mind's genetic accelerator could be used to give apes intelligence, with a few modifications. Or the Ultra-Mind would like to build a device that will turn all humans into apes (except for the ones he deems suitable for evolving). They might strike a deal, where the ConfederApe steals a few parts he needs. The ConfederApe is initially unaware that the Ultra-Mind has no interest in honouring any bargain. (The Ultra-Mind is not a gentleman.)
- The ConfederApe needs to sway public opinion more, so he embarks on a scheme to make the heroes look bad. Whomever they are fighting, the ConfederApe and his cohort of apes make sure that there is collateral damage, that people are going to get hurt, and that someone (if necessary, a hired someone) is there to catch the footage on their cell phone.
No one asked for this—in fact, the response to the original Villain-A-Day was pretty much silence. But I'm going to do it again for ICONS: The Assembled Edition.
I think of the implied universe of ICONS: The Assembled Edition as the results of DC's Crisis on Infinite Earths, or Marvel's upcoming Secret Wars. Everything is re-set. Nothing is nailed down until we see it. We haven't seen Rex Mundi yet, so maybe he doesn't exist; the Troll was created by an unnamed mastermind.
If an item hasn't been explicitly said, it is open to question. For example, All-Star definitely existed; he's mentioned in All-American Girl's Qualities, and he was probably the well-respected hero of his universe, the Superman or Captain America. But that doesn't mean he's alive, or not in a coma, or hasn't been turned to evil, or exiled to space by Muhkota Farqward, the n-dimensional imp. We just don't know.
As another example, we know from the original edition that Dwight Givens was placed into a coma by the mental transference experiment, but that's not explicitly stated in the text biography. (And a quick shout-out of thanks to Steve Kenson and Ad Infinitum Adventures, who gave me permission to quote the biography text here. Such quoting is to underscore what is and isn't known, and is not meant to threaten the copyright. Quoted text is marked off and indicated as such.)
The challenge I set for myself in this set of write-ups is to try to avoid duplicating my original takes, in the case of ConfederApe, Speed Demon, and the Troll.
Last, because this is an indulgence, I perhaps over-indulged. At least once I wrote <Villain name>: The Miniseries, which is a narrative of how the villain's early career might have gone.
Nothing from the first edition has to exist. I can ignore it or embrace it, whether it's in the original edition or the Villainomicon or the adventures.
The following characters definitely exist in the implied universe of ICONS: The Assembled Edition.
- All-American Girl (provided character)
- Arctic Fire (provided character)
- Atomic Roach (provided character)
- Cian of the Tuatha (mentioned in bio for Lugh; believed dead)
- ConfederApe (provided character)
- Count Malocchio (provided character)
- The Creeper (provided character)
- Ethniu of Fomor (mentioned in bio for Lugh; believed dead)
- Gila-Master (provided character)
- Gorn (mentioned in bio for Volcano)
- Grudge (provided character)
- Hangman (provided character)
- Lugh (provided character)
- Miss Tikal (provided character)
- The Mighty Saguaro (provided character)
- Sekhmet (provided character)
- Speed Demon (provided character)
- Troll (provided character)
- Ultra-Mind (provided character)
- Volcano (provided character)
- Warbride (provided character)
The following characters and organizations are mentioned in the character bios but their current status is unknown.
- All-Star (All-American Girl)
- Brides of Battle (War-Bride)
- Council of Sacred Skulls (Miss Tikal)
- Dwight Givens (ConfederApe)
- Mannannan Mac Lir (Lugh)
- Tom Crow (Gila-Master, The Mighty Saguaro)
The following characters and organizations are mentioned in examples, and might exist or not, depending on your needs.
- Aquarius (p. 39, example of Determination; p. 99, example in Healing)
- Black Hood (p. 36, example in Stunt Effects; p. 139 example in Evading)
- Bolide (p. 26, example in Pyramid Tests)
- Dr. Punch (p. 36, example in Stunt Effects)
- Dr. Wyrd (p. 31, example in Learning & Creating Qualities)
- Dr. Zodiac (p. 167, example in Create A Villain)
- Fungus Humongous (p. 36, example in Stunt Effects)
- The Hex-Men (p. 74, example in Team Qualities)
- Minuteman (p. 87, example in Ability Boost)
- New Phalanx (p. 74, example in Team Qualities)
- Prometheus (p. 38, example in Determination)
- Protector (p. 133, example in Blocking; p. 140, example in Interposing)
- The Protectors (p. 23, example in Combined Effort; p. 74, example in Team Qualities)
- Psi-Borg, the Mind Hunter From the Future (p. 113, example in Cybernetics)
- Puzzler (p. 26, example in Pyramid Tests)
- The Searchers of the Multiverse (p. 26, example in Pyramid Tests)
- Serpent Sphinx (p. 31, example in Learning & Creating Qualities)
- Stellar Council (p. 26, example in Pyramid Tests)
- Revenant (p. 96, example in Energy Drain)
- Warlock (p. 96, example in Extrasensory Perception)
So...artists: what is the name of a character whose head is body? I just want to write a line like, "Like Mr. Potato Head, his body was head."
I can think of other examples (remember the nutrition ads on Saturday mornings...Time for Timer, I think? Timer would be an example), but not the word.
Posted on DreamWidth at http://doc-lemming.dreamwidth.org/206118.h
Two problems I have often had when running a campaign:
- I spin off subplots like other people exhale (probably as a result of trying to find the right things to interest my players). How do you keep track?
- We have short sessions, and not everyone can attend. What do you do when a player who was there last week won't be there this week, even though it's the middle of an adventure?
Whoops; it got long-ish. Have a cut.
( Read more...Collapse )
So, there's a couple of ways to handle the subplot and the absent player elements. (Heh. This started as a post to extoll the virtues of the plot grid, and then the whole absent-players thing took over. Maybe I need a plot grid for outlining posts?)
1. I also handle experience in an odd way: everybody gets some experience, whether they were there or not. Someone might get more experience for being brilliant, but everyone gets at least a point.
Posted on DreamWidth at http://doc-lemming.dreamwidth.org/205634.h
And it still exists. (Have I discovered this before and pointed to it then? I don't recall.)
And immediately I notice a typo...so maybe I don't want to re-read it and see how bad it is.
But it's there.
Posted on DreamWidth at http://doc-lemming.dreamwidth.org/205470.h
Lost Voices which is an anthology of semi-pro work (pay rate: $0.02/word) on the theme of lost voices.
My brain immediately went to some dark places on that, but part of it went over to this:
So what happened to Ursula's voice at the end of Disney's The Little Mermaid? She was using Ariel's voice (which reverted to Ariel when Ursula died), so presumably she tucked her voice into one of those pearl thingies. For storage.
I can imagine a mermaid film noir, trying to retrieve the Screaming Pearl, which contains Ursula's voice. It would literally be a Lost Voice.
Heh. If the pearl were black, you could have a cross-over with another Disney property. None of them named, of course.
Posted on DreamWidth at http://doc-lemming.dreamwidth.org/205276.h
Posted on DreamWidth at http://doc-lemming.dreamwidth.org/204842.h