Reality Is The Playground Of The Unimaginative
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Sunday, 27 June 2010

Introducing: The Whisper...

With the release of Villains & Vigilantes 2.1 today, I took this opportunity to create my first new V&V character in more than 20 years.

I have an idea for a new campaign percolating in my brain that would feature characters on a par with The Justice League or The Avengers - I always felt, as much as I loved them, our old characters (including the Flea, himself) were more Teen Titans (who they actually met in one 'crossover' adventure, but I digress).

I'm still totally hooked on the core V&V concept of playing 'yourself' as a superhero, but I also feel that - on the grounds of taste and decency, and as I'd like to bring in 'out-of-costume' sub-plots etc - I wasn't so keen on role-playing player's RL wives and families in 'jeopardy'.

So I'm proposing that while the character is physically based on you, he can have an elevated, fictionalised background.

I'd also possibly relocate Knight City (formerly Royal Wells) from the UK to New England, USA, simply because most of the prewritten material for the game (and other supers RPGS) is set in the States.

Also, because I tend to immerse myself in American TV, movies and comics - rather than real life - I think I'd feel more comfortable with a game set in an imaginary America than a pseudo-real Great Britain.

CREATION OF THE WHISPER...

First things first, I felt I couldn't - and shouldn't - ignore my disability and would reflect this in my statistics (but probably 'super'-it-up when it came to drafting the origin story). I was expecting to come out of this with a Professor X-type character who could work in the background, feeding the characters plot hooks etc.

But thanks to the wonderful wacky randomness of the V&V character creation system, I got something far better...

So, starting stats -

Strength: 8
Endurance: 8
Agility: 10
Intelligence: 13
Charisma: 11

If these didn't change that would mean a character with two hit points and minimal carrying capacity.

Creation began in earnest with a roll on Tim Hartin's Origins & Backgrounds Table. Turns out I was a 'victim of crime'. Okay I can work with that. Gives me an extra roll on either devices or skills.

Including my bonus, I get seven powers/skills and one weakness. I have to drop one power automatically, but to get rid of the weakness I have to drop a second.

I rolled: willpower; heightened strength A; natural weaponry; body power; darkness control; heightened expertise; and power blast. My weakness was reduced endurance - which I couldn't risk because of my already low stats, so I'd need to drop two powers.

I get rid of heightened strength and body power, sculpt the willpower into "exotic Eastern training" (which gives +10 to all physical stats, but needs regular practice to keep body in shape), tie the natural weaponry and heightened expertise into martial arts, and finally figure that the power blast is an extension of the darkness control and that I fire "dark energy", possibly some form of 'dark chi' or something.

I also roll lucky and get a 'bonus' power on my natural weaponry. I'm thinking some sort of 'stun' attack, but that feels a bit 'blah' at present and will be revisited later.

The name The Whisper immediately leaps into my head and first I see him as a modern-day incarnation of The Shadow, but as I flesh out an idea for an origin I get a better handle on the character.

ORIGIN STORY...

(this is brief version of a work-in-progress that still needs fleshing out with more detail)

Successful New England horror author T. Edward Knight had everything, a good career, an attractive wife, a Gothic mansion to call his own... until he was suddenly struck down by a mystery illness. Western medicine could do nothing for him, no matter how much money he threw at the problem, and eventually he began to delve into the shady world of alternative therapies.

It was there that he met up with the charming 'Doctor [FILL IN NAME]', who was in reality the shapeshifting supervillain [FILL IN NAME]. She tricked him out of his remaining funds and left him destitute and still facing death from his unknown ailment.

It was at this point, he heard about a revolutionary treatment in China and, borrowing funds from his friends, he flew East and started to make inquiries. His travels eventually led him to a mysterious, isolated monastery (don't they always?), where he was taken in and cared for by the monks.

The monks told him his illness was supernatural and they would have to train him to purge the 'demons' from within himself.

What they didn't point out was that this intensive training would take five years and they didn't have mobile phone coverage...

By the time Edward returned home though, [SHAPE-CHANGING VILLAIN] had taken over his life, moved in with his wife, and even fathered a daughter - all while wearing Edward's face.

Fearing for the safety of his wife, Edward assumed the masked persona of The Whisper and uses his new found martial arts abilities and power to channel dark chi to fight crime, as he tries to figure out a way to rescue his beloved (without freaking her out totally!).

Because of this set-up, he is forced to live as the character of The Whisper 24/7 and put up with seeing 'his face' on television, talking about his retirement from writing, his battle against illness, his miracle recovery, his rediscovery of his wealth etc etc

I'm kicking around the idea that the shapeshifter - as Edward - actually kills his wife (who isn't my lovely Rachel in this universe, naturally! Another reason I'm in favour of 'alternate reality') and therefore frames the real Edward for the crime, which is probably an even stronger motivation for staying 'The Whisper' full-time.

FILLING IN THE HOLES...

One of the main aspects of the backstory I have yet to decide is the identity of the shapeshifter. I wanted to use established, 'official' Villains & Vigilantes villains where possible and my first thought was Shapeshifter (from the Death Duel With The Destroyers adventure and The Elementals comics), but V&V co-creator Jeff Dee had some other suggestions for me (on the Monkey House Games forum):

"In the official V&V universe, the only major shape-shifting villain (so far) is Shadowjack (from Most Wanted 1). Unfortunately, he may be more of a ruthless killer than you’re looking for. Does it literally have to be shapeshifting, or could it just be illusion? If so, you might want to consider Mirage (also from MW1) or the Hauntress of the Crushers (formerly known as the Shrew, stats in issue 3 of the V&V comic miniseries)."

Now, I'm quite tempted by Hauntress - mainly because I have the V&V comics (and don't have Most Wanted Volume 1) and she has darkness control powers like The Whisper, that could suggest some kind of connection.

The problem is she's a ghost and it costs her energy to stay corporeal. I'm seeing her like an avatar of The First from the seventh season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and having a hard time convincing myself that she'd be able to fool my character's wife for the better part of five years... let alone 'father' a child!

If, of course, I take the "framing for murder" direction with the origin story though, it might make Shadowjack a more viable candidate for the role. I'll have to track down that character's writer-up and see if it fits the story better.

STAT BLOCK...

The Whisper
Level 1

Powers:
  • Exotic Eastern Training - +10 to physical stats, but must train regularly to maintain.
  • Heightened Expertise - + 4 to hit with martial arts
  • Natural Weaponry - +2 to hit/+4 damge with martial arts
  • Darkness Control - create area of darkness in size up to a sphere of 17.25" across, up to 60" away, at a cost of PR 2
  • Power Blast (dark energy) - 18" range, PR1, 1d20 damage
Wt: 187lb
Basic Hits: 4
STR: 18 END: 18
AGI: 20 INT: 13
CHA: 11

Hit Points: 30
Damage Mod: +2/+6 martial arts
Accuracy: +3/+9 martial arts
Carry Cap: 713.6lb
Basic HTH Damage: 1d8
Movement: 56
Det. Hidden: 10%
Det. Danger: 14%

COSTUME
:
Again, still a work in progress, but I'm thinking Chinese martial artist meets ninja meets Batman, but without the cape. Probably a dark blue/black body suit - no logo. Can't quite picture the face mask yet, but will keep working on it.

Of course, if anyone wants to draw me a costume for The Whisper they would have my eternal gratitude...

6 comments:

  1. V&V is one of the few classic superhero games which almost passed me by. I say almost as one of my long-time players owned a copy and we even went as far as running a test one-shot with it back in the day. The whole idea of "playing yourself" is what put us off in the end, but the system as a whole felt very solid.

    Time to give it another chance, methinks :D

    Great write-up of The Whisper!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for the kind words.

    When we played this originally, we were teenagers and the whole idea of "playing yourself" was really cool (helped by the fact that we really only played 'adventures' and didn't really explore emotional character sub-plots etc), but coming at it as a 43-year-old I see it in a different light.

    This is why I advocate the "alternate reality" version of yourself, which allows for the 'comic book sub-plots' of romance, loved ones in jeopardy etc without being uncomfortable.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I have almost always played V&V with characters that weren't based on the players. We just rolled 3d6 for stats and went on our merry way. These days I usually allow players to roll 4d6, ignore the lowest die to get attributes that fit the super-heroic genre.

    BTW Tim, under Powers you wrote 'Exotic Easter Training.' Does that mean doing the easter bunny exercise regiment increases your physical stats (it's all that hopping and jumping around). Just Kidding. :) The Whisper sounds very cool.

    Cheers,
    Tim

    ReplyDelete
  4. Ha ha! It's V&V - typos are obligatory! I'll change that now though (d'oh!)

    We were the opposite, all our V&V characters were based on ourselves because, for us, that was one of V&V unique selling points, but as I said to Greywulf above - these days, if we can get a game going again, I'd imagine they would be fictionalised versions of ourselves.

    ReplyDelete
  5. We Initially Played as ourselves, but soon many of us in our group choose to retire those characters as I think it became awkward after-while, and we moved on to completely fictionalized characters. I Initially played myself Erik as the Furious Firebird Techno-Armoured Flame Projector (who was inspired by Wildfire of the LSH) He eventually went out Heroically "With a Bang" Saving a Space Station I believe. Then I played Will o'the Wisp a size-changing, Life Leech, Power blaster. After that I played Magi a Sorcerer Supreme on the run and tiring to repent from a dark past. And then Came Midnight!! :)

    - Erik (a.k.a Midnight)

    ReplyDelete
  6. And I'd always thought 'Midnight' WAS you, Erik! We live and learn ;)

    ReplyDelete

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