Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Champions: One Earth (Storylines 02)

Continuing the storylines from the different timelines of the DC & Marvel Universes, here are a few more that I'm appropriating into my timeline for my combined One Earth universe.

House of X / Powers of X (The Krakoan Nation)

I found this storyline useful, because its core idea solved something for me with regards to mutants: there were so damn many of them intermingled within the fabric of multiple societies. While I could've scaled them back (there were never that many) or had some major event prune their numbers down (no more mutants, the Genosha Genocide, etc.), I liked the idea that they would form their own nation.

I also liked that there were plants that Krakoa provided that were beneficial to mankind and to mutantkind, that there would be a council that oversaw the birth and growth of the nation, and that there would still be dark futures that kept the attentions of the new 'super-power' in check: Orchis and various little known factions with great power.

There's a great summary of this storyline here on YouTube by Comics Explained.

Rather than use the heretofore unknown mutant ability of Moira MacTaggert, I'd rather come up with an excuse that it was an unforeseen tangent that united the factions of mutants under one banner, with world changing results.

Against the backdrop of a Counter-Earth with Kryptonians on it (who are allied with Earth), numerous alien races and empires growing wary of Earth's corner of the universe, and the anti-mutant technofuture alive and well, it adds an air of mystery into the older, somewhat repetitious formations and reformations of the X-men and related teams.

One wonders how the Green and its avatars view Krakoa and its sentients as well.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents

Not originally a DC property, a series came out under the DC banner sharing with us a more cohesive, more modern, and less innocent view of super-spies and super-agents in a world containing The Higher United Nations.

Setting aside questions about Checkmate, The Global Guardians, S.H.I.E.L.D., S.W.O.R.D., and the Agents of Atlas, it adds another wrinkle to the many super-soldier initiatives posited in Marvel and DC. Dynamo, NoMan, Lightning, and Raven fighting against the forces of S.P.I.D.E.R. and villains such as the Iron Maiden, and a fantastic underground nation that suggested that the Mole Man wasn't the only would-be ruler below the earth.

The super-agents had trade-offs on their powers -- an earlier version of Strikeforce: Morituri but with a super-spy flavor and slightly (?) less common incidents of death for its protagonists.

The DC series takes place some time after the original series, so the idea of legacy and old vendettas resurfacing also ads a nice potential element to the campaign.

[ NEXT UP: Batman / Captain America, All-Star Squadron, Invaders, The Liberty Legion, etc. ]

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Champions: One Earth (Storylines 01)

I'd indicated that I'd be tying the storyline to initial appearances of heroes in comics, but as all comics continuity buffs know, there's just too many storylines and stories out there that contradict, retcon, and change the current continuity to make it easy to do a straight history in either timeline (Marvel, DC) without doing some pruning and editing.

My approach: lock down some tentpole characters and storylines and move forward (and backward) from there. Of course, since I'm looking at what my players are interested in as well, I have to ask them which storylines they remember and enjoyed -- then I try to find a way to make it have happened in the skeleton timeline that I have.

Ignoring the multi-versal, time-twisting events in both universes, here are a few storylines that I'm weaving into the history, based on my own interests -- we'll get to the players' interests and favorite storylines and arcs later:

Batman: Court of Owls

The existence of the Court of Owls dovetails nicely into the Earth 2 opposite number of Batman being Owlman. But even better, it sets up Gotham as a place of secrets -- some that even the World's Greatest Detective is unable to find until it's almost too late.

While Gotham may be their home base, a decades-old conspiracy of wealthy families that have surely spun their webs of influence throughout the world. Also, they have likely spent their wealth of techniques and tactics that placed them in the blind spot of Batman, making for an almost bottomless source of conspricay - crime families that would give John Wick's assassin-rich culture a run for its money.

Speaking of assassins, the Talons are a great recurring foil for some of the more agent / espionage members of the Knight Watch Red team -- regenerating, semi-undead foes that are relentless and backed by as much money as the other wealthy crimefighters in the world.

Lastly, it sets up some great mystery that the descendants of the Bat would wrestle with -- Dick Grayson? The half-brothers each known as Jason Todd (same father, different mothers)? Helena Wayne?


The idea of the Dominators managing to pull together an alliance of alien races to invade Earth -- in order to eliminate the threat of metahumanity (mutants, mutates, and peak humanity speciments) not only thrusts the awareness of alien races into the public consciousness, it also sets up several useful setting threads:
  • aliens are real and humanity knows it;
  • aliens see Earth and humanity as both a threat and an opportunity in their complex plans for peace, war, isolation, and conquest;
  • alien technology scraps and fragments were left behind and reverse engineered by humanity -- and while manufacturing  capabilities and raw materials vary between worlds, the science behind the technology has led to breakthroughs in many fields;
  • some alien races came to Earth's defense once they found out about the invasion (including some already living among us for their own purposes).
I'll be avoiding the worldwide effects of the gene bomb that occurs in Book Three, but I'll allow for limited exposure to these in certain areas. After all, this gene bomb could be the basis for the Big Bang that took place in Milestone Comics' Paris Island.

[ NEXT UP: The Mutant Nation of Krakoa, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents ] 

Sunday, May 14, 2023

Champions: One Earth (Player Characters)


As mentioned before, I waited for the initial batch of characters from interested players before beginning to flesh out the campaign further from the general direction of the campaign. This is so I can take into consideration the characters and the directions the players want to take them.

I got the following other character pitches (which slowly evolved in play):

Agent Armstrong (Mister Elastico)

The grandson of Plastic Man, he was envisioned as as a fairly powerful, wise-cracking hero fascinated by ice cream.

Surprsingly, this leads to obvious connections to Batman and the Justice League, but also connections to the modern Mister Terrific, and the rest of the super-team The Terrifics.

Strong, tough, and capable of shape-shifting into many different forms. There's an opportunity here to explore generational heroism back to the World War II era, and perhaps some of the community of shape-shifters (human and alien) in the universe.

Agent Brightshield (The U.S. Avenger)

This one was a bit complicated in terms of legacy, because it merged two legacies: a mutant from the Summers clan (child of Cable & Domino) displaced in time who lucked into the Captain America Adamantium-Vibranium shield. He created a variant uniform of the U.S. Agent, but chose to call himself the U.S. Avenger instead.

Not a super-soldier in anyway, but hoping to uphold the ideals of the bearers of the shield before him, he has been allowed to continue to carry the shield as a member of Knight Watch Red.

Funnily, enough I was hoping to avoid the complications of the confusing history of Cable, the Summers family tree, AND the dark future timeline where Apocalypse has conquered the world. 

However, now I'll have to do a bit of research and come up with some storylines related to these. I was thinking about a war between some dark and bright future timelines fighting for key events to take place in the present. But honestly, I'm not fond of time travel in game campaigns unless it's easy to clean up the mess of timeline changing paradoxes.

It does allow for some more "super-agent" adventures, and mutant adventures in the campaign, so it was approved.

Agent RocketDoc (Professor Strange)

Coming from the lineage of Adam Strange, he has a more advanced weaponry array (with more non-lethal options, and futuristic targeting systems), he is a classic gun-wielding action scientist.

Potential storyline from this character background pulls in the alien worlds of Rann & Thanagar, and the current possible villains from the space-faring superheroes of DC. There might also be some smattering of involvement from Marvel's space-faring races and empires.

Not sure that the Zeta Beam will come into any storylines soon, nor any echoes of the Rann-Thanagar War, nor any enemies from the rogues galleries of Adam Strange or the Omega Men. There might be some other interesting alien races that might come into one-shot adventures but am trying to keep an alien menagerie from infesting my campaign at this point.

So, this character will probably play the role of the scientist who can reverse engineer technology, act as an expert on alien races and technologies, and can fly and shoot opponents with energy blasters.

[ Even More PCs in our next installment ]

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Champions: One Earth (Player Characters)


Having learned from prior aborted campaigns, I waited first for the initial batch of characters from interested players. My weakness has been pre-plotting the direction of the campaign without taking into consideration the characters and the directions the players want to take them.

I got the following character pitches (which slowly evolved in play):

Agent 36 (The Kryptonian)

One player wanted to portray a Kryptonian from the House of El. Not a warrior, but an activist pushing for a different way of living, inspired by exposure to different cultures on Earth and the aliens that visit it.

In my universe, we are going with the assumption that Kryptonians don't instantaneously gain all the standard powers at once, but develop them in stages and branch off in different directions based on genetics and which powers are used (supported by the power levels of the Golden Age Superman when he first appeared, his forgotten ability to SCULPT HIS FACE TO LOOK LIKE ONE OF HIS ALIEN CAPTORS in one comic, the mutations in powers due to exposure to Red Kryptonite, and Superman Red & Superman Blue), this one has some basic invulnerability, super-strength, flying, some super-senses, but doesn't have the whole shebang yet.

And he works as a writer on Earth, as a known Kryptonian assigned to Knight Watch Red with the approval of the Kryptonian Council.

Kryptonian Council? Yes, the one based on New Krypton in a constructed Counter-Earth orbiting SOL, peopled by survivors of the Bottled City of Kandor, and the reformed criminals from the Phantom Zone confronting the reality of being the last survivors of Krypton in a universe populated by other races with powers and technologies that rival their own -- and who know their weaknesses.

Agent Dynamo (The Man from T.H.U.N.D.E.R.)

Another player proposed to be the latest bearer of the Thunderbelt -- the new Dynamo, in a world that has lost The Higher United Nations Defense Enforcement Reserves.

While this Thunderbelt no longer has the long-term negative effects that the original belt had (which eventually killed the wearer), it still has its time limit for safe usage.

Furthermore, this Dynamo has had enough of the dirty tricks and backstabbing that his former agency life was full of, and is serving in his capacity as a strongman for Knightwatch Red in semi-retirement. His closest friends are his animal companions: Rex the Wonder Dog and Detective Chimp, who took him into Knight Watch Red after the fall of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. in a recent super-agency battle for supremacy whose effects are still being felt. They also serve as his service animals and support when dealing with PTSD. 

Hailing from the estate of Greystoke, it remains to be seen if his friendliness with animals comes from other residents of that land who've historically had close ties to the animal kingdom.

Agent Tumaco (Scion of Wolverine)

A grey man hailing from Columbia, this PC is one of the many children of the long-lived Wolverine. He has the regeneration and the Weapon X admantium-laced bones and claws of his father, and a history of violence and wetwork experience before joining Knight Watch Red.

He relies more on his martial arts and a small set of non-lethal weapons on his person in combat, as leaving behind a trail of bodies would not endear him to his new organization and the residents of his new home.

Despite his reluctance to pop the claws at the slightest opportunity, he has shown the viciousness and deadly skill that mark him as a worthy successor to the mantle of Wolverine.

That being said, he -- along with Agent 36 -- has been one of the most diligent and dogged investigators of the Knight Watch Red team in its current incarnation.

[ More PCs in our next installment ]

Thursday, May 4, 2023

Champions: One Earth (Bayport Megacity)

In the grand tradition of DC locations for super-hero teams, I've chosen to base the campaign in Not-The-San-Francisco-Bay-Area, Bayport MegaCity.

Much like the TV show, Streets of San Francisco, players will investigate and adventure across the entire Bay Area (and adjacent locations thereabouts) as the campaign unfolds.

Since my campaign is a mix between the investigation-structured Gumshoe game systems, and traditional super-hero cliffhangers and confrontations, I felt that naming it Bayport was a nice tip of the hat to my earliest introduction to mysteries and pulp adventures: the Hardy Boys. Calling it a MegaCity also conjures up the feel of an infusion of cyberpunk elements into the Northern California feel of the campaign setting -- which works with the West Coast presence of well-known DC & Marvel companies like WayneTech, S.T.A.R. Labs, Stark Enterprises, Rand Corporation, LexCorp, Roxxon Corporation, and so on.

That being said, I'm not slavishly following the naming of the roads and streets and areas. I'll be gleefully abstracting areas and renaming them for their flavor: seedy docks, colorful and mystical asiatowns, steel-and-glass skyscraping cityscapes, and all the stolen flavor of NorCal tourist spots.

GAMING RESOURCE -- San Angelo: City of Heroes

Now, the copy I have is for an older edition of Champions / HERO. This one from DriveThruRPG is actually for M&M and Action!System.

After a few of my adventures are completed, I'll be cribbing from this lovely superhero city supplements, one that feels so fleshed out that it'll hopefully bleed into my campaign and come across as an integrated & interconnecting setting. Written by Patrick Sweeney and Mark Arsenault, this setting has always impressed me by the way it communicates the feel of a lived-in superhero city.

Of course, it'll be a patchwork job with another city setting sourcebook...

GAMING RESOURCES -- Champions: Bay City Sourcebook

Yes, I did buy the Fuzion series of books. As a fan of both the Hero System and R.Talsorian's Interlock System (Cyberpunk, Mekton, etc.) how could I not pick it up?

Anyway, this little beauty sets up a series of locations and NPCs in the actual San Francisco Bay Area (slightly changed by the dangers of being in a super-hero universe), making it a joy to pick and choose locations for my players' characters -- residences, favorite restaurants, contacts, and backdrops to adventure!

It's also relatively easy to convert to the Hero System, because of the lineage of the ruleset.

With both of these, and the locations to be established by my initial adventures, the ingredients for the setting of the Bay Area MegaCity are complete. They just need to be mixed together in the course of a storyline to really feel solid.

Monday, May 1, 2023

Champions: One Earth (Broad Strokes)

Now that I've gotten a weekly rhythm going with my Champions: One Earth campaign, I wanted to share my initial document(s) in creating the campaign -- the ones that helped me define the starting point of the campaign and moved me past the hurdle of "enough world-building" to actually running games.


On this blog, I've been posting -- on and off over the years -- about a gaming universe for superheroes that would incorporate core elements from the DC & Marvel Universes. And I've finally done it, with a kind of vague, hand-wavey implementation on the setting history. Enough to allow the players to get a handle on their characters (and me to get a handle on the adventures and campaign) before I fill out the many corners of the multiverses.

Campaign Hook: Knight Watch Red

The PCs start off as plainclothes super-heroes tasked to investigate incidents (involving locations, individuals, and artifacts) of a potentially multiversal nature. If there's potential danger, they are to secure the location, individuals, and artifacts involved, contain multiversal incidents, and protect sentients and the dominant reality.

Borrowing from SlyFlourish's Six Truths approach to fantasy rpg campaigns, and applying it to my own (just enough for my players to jump onboard without having to read pages and pages of background), I came up with the following for my super-heroic campaign:

  1. The world of Knight Watch Red has a single timeline from WWII to the present involving different ages of super-heroes (from Marvel & DC).
  2. Super-heroes and super-villains tend to age normally from their first appearances, and have seen multi-generational legacies across heroic ages.
  3. Nations, corporations, and organizations recognize the threats of metahumanity based on battles of super-heroes and super-villains across history.
  4. Nations, corporations, and organizations also recognize the value of metahumanity in conflicts against attempts to conquer or destroy the Earth.
  5. Organizations like the Justice Society and Checkmate evolved from fighting crime to monitoring, regulating, and cultivating the super-human societies of Earth. (edit)
  6. Recent anomalous incidents suggest that multiversal incursions are weakening the fabric of reality, and must be contained to safeguard the timeline.

The combination of these Six Truths helped me establish a familiar combined universe, yet one that was also different from the ones in the current comics -- where some heroic and villainous mantles are already on their second or third generations, while others are eternally frozen in time and still hold on to their places despite their aging compatriots. It also allowed me to briefly expound on new elements of a status quo that place Earth in a universe with aliens, but have somehow placed it in a semi-static status quo that does not have an incredibly fertile mutant population with Omega-level threats around each corner, that does not have yet another alien race invading this week / month / year, that does not have hyper-advanced technology in the hands of common folk. But more on this in another post.

Of course, I added a Seventh Truth to this set, which was related to the creation of the characters themselves:

7. Each PC must be a legacy character. Whether they are related by blood to another hero or villain in the DC or Marvel universe, or they are inspired by one of them, or they have inherited artifacts, knowledge, abilities through various means, they must be tied to an existing character in these universes.

The reasons for this last one were: (a) to provide me with a handle on the types of adventures that these created characters would like to engage in; and (b) to allow me to quickly and easily grasp the backstories of these characters -- including whatever time-/science-/space-bending implications their histories and powers might have. It reduced the need for long (and potentially contentious) discussions about histories, NPCs, powers, abilities, enemies and allies through broadstrokes mentions of key figures in the DC/Marvel setting (filtered through the rough timeline and current status quo in my head). Oddly enough, it also curtailed a tendency for my Champions players to come up with the wildest character concepts executed in the most-game breaking way possible -- by giving them a chance to go through favorite character concepts and legacies and an opportunity to put their own stamp on this legacy character.