Worldbuilding Wednesday – Madripoor Royal Guard

I bought some ice cream the other day.  Normally I’m great at buying ice cream.  But this doesn’t taste great.  It tastes like ice milk.  Anyone else remember that?  In school at lunch, you’d be all excited because someone said there was ice cream that day.  But it wasn’t ice cream, it was ice milk. 

I intended for there to be at least 8 members of the Madripoor Royal Guard but I ran out of steam.  Please imagine your own superhero creations of super people as part of the group.  I’m sure you’ll spend a lot of time thinking about it. 

Speaking of, I was talking to my buddy Waxy Lou the other day and he said that he could never enjoy the Sony Venom-verse because he can’t like ancillary Spider-Man characters without Spider-Man involved at some point.  So I asked him how he would have liked Venom if they added in a legally distinct for copyright reasons facsimile of Spider-Man, Arachnid Lad or the like. 

He said that he would have liked that.  As would I.  For some reason I enjoy when they just tell the story anyway with a stand-in character.  But, I assume most people would be LIVID over something like that.  That’s not the REAL Spider-Man they would say.  And I would say to them, there is no real Spider-Man, it’s all made up bro, unless you mean Alain Robert.  But I’d I know very well what they meant, I’d just be saying that to be a jerk. 

The end of the Japanese occupation saw the reformation of the Prince of Madripoor’s Royal Guard.  In the past, this group had been made up of elite (but “normal”) troops directly reporting to the Prince serving not only as guards but also as an intelligence service and instrument of foreigner operations.  Going forward, the Royal Guard was to be a force comprised entirely of the best Non-Baselines that money can buy.  

When the old Royal Guard was informed that they were being replaced by NBH’s, many of their number volunteered for experiments intended to grant them superhuman abilities.  One of the few survivors is the current Captain of the Guard, Menak.  He is said to descend from a proud bloodline, though the names of his ancestors remain unknown.  Menak was a cadet during the period of the “old guard” and a resistance fighter during the occupation, proving himself an honorable person as well as an efficient warrior.  It is rumored that the rogue scientist Rust was paid 10 million US to turn Menak into a super soldier.  Whatever the source of his powers, Menak has been observed displaying wingless flight and projecting highly concentrated beams of energy from his eyes. The maximum temperature of these beams is unknown, but have been able to burn through the skin of several “invulnerable” NBHs.

The man known as Damar is one of those smart guys who never seemed to be able to make anything of himself.  He had every advantage in life but his taste for shortcuts always did him in.  He squandered all his advantages and good fortune, made enemies out of allies, learned the wrong lessons, and rubbed everyone the wrong way.  

All his vaunted intelligence and ego netted him a low paying construction job hauling bricks.  When he started taking on odd jobs for a gang running a gambling ring, he told himself it was so he could make ends meet, but really he was looking for something dangerous enough to kill him. By methods unknown, must have been a VERY odd job, Damar was transformed into a being of living rock.  

His first attempt at supervillainy with his rocklike body didn’t go well.  Angel (yes THE Angel) treated him to a tactic she often used (RIP Angel) against non-flying “bricks”. She threw him so high he would pass out from a lack of air and she could deal with him later.  That was the intent anyway. Instead, Damar bounced off a passing airplane and landed in the courtyard of one of the Prince’s mansions.  

Menak took him under his wing, training him not just to fight but to realize his potential. Soon enough, Damar mastered the ability to pass through rock and concrete, and also absorb energy from these materials.  Damar was blasted to pieces by the “particle beam power” of a potential assassin but the rocky pieces slowly reassembled themselves.  Given this event, it is unknown how, if at all, he can be killed.

The woman called Wulan was spoiled rotten since day one.  The only skill she mastered was manipulating adults to get whatever she wanted. Lazy and self-centered, she had no appetite for her schoolwork or any other kind of work.  At age 22, she had already been married and divorced twice over, astounded to discover that her ex-husbands’ lives didn’t revolve around serving her whims all the time.  Just most of the time?  Hell no!  She ended up back with her mother, where she did little more than watch television, order servants around, and burn through her inheritance.  

When she was upstaged at a red-carpet event by the appearance of a “superheroine” she decided that she needed powers of her own.  Shockingly, she succeeded in this goal, all it took was the entirety of her and her mother’s fortune.  After a series of high-profile crimes committed to return to her life of luxury, and several murder attempts on the woman who “showed her up”, she was given the option of joining the Prince’s guard or falling prey to her many enemies.  Her powers are wingless flight and the ability to generate and control electricity.  

Not many people would consider working for the Madripoor Prince as a hatchetwoman a moral step up from their last job, but most people don’t traffic in human lives either.  Calon Arang started as a victim of trafficking herself.  When her natural born superhuman abilities manifested, she used them to force others into bondage.  She was so good at it, eventually she killed her master and took his place – she had to kill several of his lieutenants as well before they got the message but she was fine with that.

Turning her own sister out wasn’t her wakeup call, that didn’t come until her sister was killed by a wealthy client.  Calon Arang set out on a roaring rampage of revenge which she had no expectation of surviving.  When she did survive, she didn’t know what to do with herself.  She realized that she had been broken and broken so badly that she did the same thing that was done to her to others.  When Menak approached her, offering a way to help people instead of hurt them (questionable), she never looked back.  Calon Arang has been documented to possess enhanced reflexes, killing hands, and the ability to project “stunbolts”.

Menak had originally conceived of an entire wing of elite guardsman in powered armor, but even for someone with the wealth of the Prince, there are limitations in that regard.  Turns out there’s a reason the militaries of the world are still mostly relying on tanks and planes instead of giant robots and men in powered suits – not only is that shit expensive but the cybernetic circuitry needed to control the armor stimulates regions of the brain that tend to cause total psychotic breakdowns.  Which is not ideal in a fighting force.  For the majority of pilots, even limited use of power armor has serious side effects on the user, including mental instability, nerve damage, and death.  The majority, but not all.  

If the CS military had known that “Jammer”, a Chi-Town native, was resistant to these effects, they would have pulled out all the stops to recruit him as a pilot in their RPA division – up to and including coercion.  But he was too busy being a gun-runner in and around Madripoor for them to figure it out.  Life as a black marketer taught Jammer to trust nobody but to be nice to everyone.  As a result, he’s very likable, even when he’s trying to kill you.  

Jammer pilots a powered exoskeleton of unknown origin that gives him superhuman strength, allowing him to lift 40 tons under optimal conditions for about 3 minutes. The armor’s high-carbon steel-alloy mesh and radiation shielding offers protection from most ballistic and energy weapons. The armor can fly via chemically-powered boot jets at a maximum speed of 250 mph for 3 hours and contains 30 minutes air supply for submersion or high-altitude flight.

Timun Mas grew up on the streets of Madripoor.  Life was hard, but it was simple at least – take what you can, hold what you need, if you can keep it it’s yours.  Timun Mas learned early that there’s two choices in life – get hurt or be the one doing the hurting.  The only path was to dish out more than you take.  She started with knives.  The key is to escalate conflict as quickly and wildly as possible – someone looks at you funny?  Cut their nuts off.  

She was destined for a short life and violent death until she was grabbed off the street and taken to Busan for enhancement.  Most of the other street rats that were experimented on died and died badly, but Timun Mas survived.  She never figured out if it was a jopok or Russian gangsters that took her, both seemed to be involved, but she didn’t care because she would never be unarmed again.  As long as they put her in a cage and let her cut up other people trying to cut her, it didn’t matter who they were.  

Eventually some goody-goody team of international superpeople broke up the fighting ring and chased away the gangsters that took care of her.  They said they “saved” her.  She slashed one of their faces off and made a run for home – the streets of Madripoor.  Timun Mas maintains no delusions of glory or honor to her position as a Royal Guard.  A job’s a job, and a fight is a fight, and a life is just money waiting to be earned.  

Timun Mas has highly advanced reflexes, retractable claws, and hardened skin roughly the durability of Kevlar.

Butho Ijo’s time in the army taught him a lot of things.  It taught him to shoot, but that was the least of it.  It taught him to be part of a team.  It taught him to trust others.  It taught him what it means for someone to trust him.  It taught him to lead.  It taught him patience.  It taught him the importance of being part of something bigger.  It taught him to be better.  

And none of those lessons meant anything when the Japanese Empire invaded.  The army was shattered in a matter of hours.  His country ceased to exist.  After ten years of service, he found himself sitting at a counter in Madripoor wondering how he was going to pay for his noodles.  He was nothing without a squad around him.  

The good and bad news is that Madripoor is the land of opportunity for trained killers.  Several drunken years and a mass of scars later, Menak pulled Butho Ijo out of the gutter and gave him an opportunity.  Killers are a dime a dozen (literally sometimes in Madripoor) what’s rare are leaders, people who can bring out the best in others.  Menak is the Captain of the Guard, but Butho Ijo is the leader of the Royal Guard.   Butho Ijo has advanced senses of vision, scent, and hearing as well as the ability to heal others by touch, enhanced bone density, short range telepathic communication, and minor appearance alteration. 

Ela’s dead, the final Ela-mare

One time there was this movie called Adventures in Babysitting, the 1987 one I mean, I think they did a remake and I don’t mean that one.  In the movie Adventures in Babysitting, Brenda, played by esteemed character actress Penelope Anne Miller, tries to buy a hot dog from a hot dog cart guy by signing over a third-party check to him.  It is the greatest scene in movie history.   

When I was a kid I loved that movie for a variety of reasons, chief among them because one of the kids being babysat was a girl that liked the Mighty Thor and I didn’t know until then that girls could like comic books.  It was a revelation it was.  I found out later that not many girls like comic books but some of them do. 

It’s the first movie Elizabeth Shue was in, and the first PG-13 rated Disney movie.  There’s a lot of history there.  I know what you’re thinking “wasn’t esteemed character actress Penelope Anne Miller briefly married to Will Arnett?”  Yes, yes she was.  And you’re probably also wondering why Will Arnett and Amy Poehler got divorced.  Sometimes people just fall out of love.  Yes, Canadians are allowed to get divorced, I was surprised too.   

“Jeremy was esteemed character actress Penelope Anne Miller the lead in the movie the Relic?  You know, the lead character that got licked up and down by the titular Relic, which was a cabinet monkey lizard monster?” 

Yes she was, it wasn’t one of her more esteemed character roles.  But she got paid 1.5 million dollars for doing it.  Invested at a 7 percent rate of return, which is generous I admit, that’s 7.6 million dollars today.  A lizard licked me once and I didn’t get a red cent. 

“Jeremy why do you keeping spelling Ann with an E, isn’t that incorrect?” 

Yes it is.   

“Jeremy why wasn’t the Relic a better movie?” 

Well, it’s not like the source material was super strong you know?  And even if it was, the underlying message about museums and their negative role in society and the scientific community isn’t going to be easy to communicate in a movie.  Plus, 1997 was smack dab in the middle of the wonky CGI era so the creature didn’t look great.  I wonder if they used a practical effect tongue for the licking scene.  I wonder further what esteemed character actress Penelope Anne Miller would say about how you drop in to a scene where you’re getting licked by a cabinet lizard monkey monster.  I’ll ask her at the next family reunion. 

Dropping-in is a technique Tina and Kristin Linklater developed in the early 1970s as a method to create a spontaneous emotional connection to your role. 

https://wordsdeferred.com/2021/07/12/filling-plot-holes/

I thought this post about plot holes was pretty good, check it out if you want.  One time I “promoted” a post I thought was neat and the guy that wrote it took the time to message me and tell me that he has 20,000 followers and he doesn’t need me to help him.  I cried for three weeks.  Not because of that, because of the shark hormones I take.  And to be clear, no sharks are being killed to harvest these hormones, they’re taken from humans with shark DNA spliced in.  Which is fine. 

There are probably lots of plot holes in Ela’s narrative because the spine of it is random RPG tables and I don’t have an outline or anything guiding the tale.  There are probably even more unresolved plots.  My other blog is even worse and I don’t even have the excuse of RPG nonsense on that one.  The other day someone said to me “Why don’t you stop this solo campaign bullshit and do some real writing?” and I says to them I says “I don’t have the creativity for that” and then they reminded me of that other blog and that shut me up.  I had forgotten about it.  How did I forget a blog that I post on three times a week and write for almost every day?  Dunno.  But I did.   

For D&D Ela I was content to let the dice dictate everything, hence her sudden and unceremonious death.  For comic book Ela I’ve been more flexible, but I’m at a real crossroads now.  Not to give anything away but decisions need to be made.  Dice or free will? 

I can’t remember if I blogged about this, possibly blogged about it twice, or if I just thought about it and blogged about it no times, but now that I’m back in the swing of TTRPGs I’ve been thinking about running a campaign again.  And what I’ve been thinking is that I don’t know if I will.  I have a lot of desire but more and more I find it a stumbling block that my game friends all like games but they don’t really like the same thing.   

I’ll start planning a modern investigative spooky campaign and then remember that no one likes that but me.  Then I’ll start working on a cyberpunk intrigue-based campaign and then I’ll remember that no one likes that but me.  So then I’ll think about the kind of campaigns they like and I groan because it’s all stuff I don’t like.  My gaming circle is hilariously mismatched like sitcom roommates.   

And I know that it doesn’t really matter, we’ll all get together and have a fun time no matter what, but it’s hard to want to spend a lot of time on shit when you’re the only one who’s really into it.   

There’s a scene in Adventures in Babysitting where Brenda, played by esteemed character actress Penelope Anne Miller, loses her glasses and thinks that a giant rat is a fluffy kitty and tries to pet it.  When I was younger, one time when I didn’t have my glasses on, I thought a baseball cap was our cat TJ.  I couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t come to me because she was super friendly.  It was because she was a baseball cap in that scenario.  And they’re not known for being overly personable.   

Now my eyes are great because I had the laser eyeball surgery.  Also, not for nothing, but I have fantastic knees.  Maybe the best knees in the world.  There’s no way to know for sure.   

The movie Adventures in Babysitting was released with the title A Night On The Town in other countries.  Does that mean babysitting isn’t a thing in other countries?  Or do they call it something else?  Must be the first thing otherwise they would have called it Adventures in BLANK right?   I wonder what that says about American child rearing.  I know the movie Date Night was called Crazy Night in many other countries because date night is an American concept.  I wonder what that means about Americans and our relationships.   

Writing tip of the day – When writing a female character, make sure that in the middle of a scene apropos of nothing you have her start thinking about when she first started “developing”.  That’s totally cool.  Remember that scene in Die Hard when in the middle of a firefight, Bruce Willis starts talking about how he got hair on his balls?  You need to apply that same level of care to female characters.   

Legion of minor characters 3 – The Multiple Malicious Mercenary Minions of the Four

Maeve – see previous post https://elatheexpert.com/2021/04/21/red-hair-dont-care/

Wildcat

Ruth Rig is a poor Manchester girl rejected and taunted for her bizarre appearance.  When her father started beating her for the crime of being ugly, she lashed out at him with her claws, drawing blood.  Shortly thereafter, she became the ward of a special government project tasked with the study of NBHs.  For some reason, being raised in a sterile laboratory as a trained beast without love or affection made her turn cruel and callous.

This personality served her well later when she was used as a tool against the NBH assets of other nations and factions.  She was an effective agent and became marginally happier.  When she was sent to kill someone not unlike herself, things changed.  The two fell instantly and hopelessly in love and now they work together, fighting for themselves.

Ruth has a deeply held resentment for “normal” humans, male humans in particular.  Even during serious combat she can’t help but taunt and insult them, wanting her victims to be terrified and humiliated before they die.  She’s been confined and abused her entire life and now it’s her turn to repay the world for what’s been done to her.  Her one soft spot is Elizabeth, who she truly loves and is showing her that not everyone is cruel and awful, just most people. 

Ruth has enhanced hearing and seems to be able to literally sense danger, which combined with her heightened agility and speed makes her a very difficult opponent to land a blow on.  Ruth is very, very, very quick.  She attacks viciously and without remorse. 

Wildcat (also, she’s thinking of changing it now)

Elizabeth Page was born to a wealthy family – a family wealthy enough to hide her from the world so thoroughly that she hardly even existed.  They gave her as much attention and affection as they could stomach but eventually Elizabeth decided that a lifetime of confinement and familial shame wasn’t going to work for her.  When she escaped her special room in the basement and ran away, her family breathed a sigh of relief. 

On her own she was quickly captured by one of the many shadowy organizations that like to use NBHs as their attack beasts.  She was trained to the best of their abilities and became one of their most loyal operatives.  Until she saw Ruth.  She never believed in love at first sight before, maybe not love at all, but in an instant, all that mattered was the two of them.  Elizabeth betrayed her support team, killing them to a man and she and Ruth ran off together to fight against anyone who wanted to fight.  And also for money.

Elizabeth has never been bothered by her appearance, she finds herself to be beautiful and interesting – normal humans look like ugly shaved apes to her.  She is a natural show-off, as well as incredibly cocky, and believes herself to be undefeatable in combat, not having picked up on the fact that Ruth is actually much more powerful than she is. 

Elizabeth is overprotective of Ruth, especially given that Ruth is the stronger of the two, and sometimes her love comes close to smothering – a fact that is exacerbated by Ruth’s background and discomfort with any kind of emotional connection.  Elizabeth is swift and highly mobile and well trained in fighting, but her “natural” abilities are nowhere near as significant as Ruth’s.

Sledge

Travis Mann was a Pecos high school football hero.  He was six foot tall his 7th-grade year and ran the forty in 5.2 seconds.  He was a god among men at the age of 15.  Everyone expected him to go pro and become a big star.  Didn’t exactly work out like that.  His professional career consisted of one game as a Cowboy’s second-stringer before a failed drug test got him shown the door.  He bounced around from practice squad to practice squad for a few years before moving home and telling everyone that he had a career-ending knee injury.

People didn’t quite look at him the same way, but it’s not like he failed, he was injured tragically, so he retained enough celebrity to get his name put on the water tower. That was the high-water mark of his success. His car dealership flopped, his realty business tanked, and his steakhouse lasted less than a year. His marriage didn’t last even that long.  When you never have anything denied, you never learn how to say “no”.  After his fifth affair (fifth that was discovered anyway), his wife left him.  Which was depressing, but the cocaine made that problem go away.  

When his old pal that used to get him the good steroids told him there was a way that he could get back to the NAFL, he didn’t need to be told twice.  He was barely told once before he was on the table.  He woke up stronger, faster, and tougher than ever.  He was also a hairless freak with skin the color and texture of concrete.  The ladies weren’t going to be interested in that!  Travis went berserk, destroying everything in his path before falling into the common role of hired muscle.

Warrior  

When Liew Sun Yee escaped from the repressive regime of the Taiping Kingdom, she headed for the Arkansas Republic, world-renowned for its racial harmony and multiculturalism.  The reality was a little less rosy.  Everywhere you go there are people on top and there are people on bottom, things were better in the Republic than in the Kingdom, but the environment was not as enlightened as they would have the world believe.  

Firmly ensconced as second-class citizens, her son Danny grew up determined to make things better for himself and his mother.  He worked hard and started a career in electrical engineering while still in high school.  In his early twenties he founded his own company, and within a few years he was worth millions.  He found that people liked his money well enough but they didn’t much change their opinion about him, and especially not about his mother who they viewed as an ignorant peasant.  

His bitterness reached a tipping point when his mother revealed the identity of his father – a member of Taiping’s super-powered national organization, Tiger Force. He was known as the Green Dragon, a man considered a terrorist and an enemy of the state in several North American nations.  Danny decided to use his wealth to follow in his father’s footsteps.  He designed a chamber that “supercharges” him with a specific heliomagnetic frequency that makes him resistant to harm and amplifies his strength temporarily.  When in this supercharged state, his most powerful ability is the manipulation of electromagnetic resonance fields that allow him to create constructs of glowing green hard light.

Dragonfly

Jimmy James spent most of his early life hitching rides all across Pecos, the CS, and Canada working odd jobs and doing copious amounts of drugs.  Jimmy likes to tell people that he uses substances as tools to access deeper inner exploration of the mind, but really he just likes to get high off his ass.  

Jimmy joined various “movements” and the like because they often have access to the “good stuff” but was usually so lazy and unmotivated that even cults couldn’t find much use for him.  Until he bumped into the pithily nicknamed “Nightmare Factory” – a criminal organization run by a “doctor” that claimed to be from an alternate dimension.  Their success rate at creating super-beings was frightfully low, but that mattered little to the wealthy individuals that were sold the rare successes as guards or enforcers. 

To avoid notice, the Factory mostly conducted their punishing experiments on animals but weren’t above kidnapping transients as well.  Jimmy had fallen into their clutches when a joint US-Pecos military operation crushed the organization, culminating in the good doctor detonating his main complex and killing more than 200 people – but not Jimmy, who escaped during the battle.

Jimmy is unwittingly the Factory’s greatest success – not only is he gifted with gliding, superhuman agility, natural fighting abilities, and mimetic muscle memory that allows him to replicate any physical movement or fighting style he sees perfectly, but he also looks completely human.  The same cannot be said for any of his fellows, there was a reason the place was called the Nightmare Factory.

Jimmy figured he should do something with his new abilities, and settled on stalking his ex-girlfriend and stealing drugs that he wanted.  When the police tried to shoot him, he decided that he should beat them up.  And suddenly he’s a criminal?  Harsh man, harsh.  

Mauler

Petro Groza lived a pretty ordinary life until he died for the first time.  Dying and coming back to life was strange enough, but upon doing so, he found himself to be incredibly strong as well.  Petro likes to play up that he brought something back with him from the other side, something that tempts him into a life of crimes, but the truth is that once you’ve died and been resurrected a couple times, it’s pretty easy to decide that nothing matters and you should do whatever you want.

Petro never thinks too far ahead and likes to leave the planning to others, which is why he’s spent half his lives incarcerated in one fashion or another, until he manages to break out.  He’s been killed three times by the police and once by another super criminal who accidentally blew him up while trying to break him out of a secure facility in Germany.  

Petro’s a basic knockdown kind of guy, in that he knocks down whoever gets in his way.  He walks into any sort of trouble without too much worry, assuming he can handle it. And if not, he’ll be back from the dead quickly anyway.  Sooner or later (probably sooner) he’ll piss off someone that will keep killing him until he stays dead.

Shake & Rattle 

Otto Franklin’s mother died when he was young, leaving him to be raised solely by his father – a drill sergeant in the US Army.  To say that papa Franklin was a stern disciplinarian is putting it lightly.  Otto was expected to maintain his room, his grades, and himself in a certain proscribed condition and any infraction resulted in bounteous amounts of push-ups, sit-ups, and five-mile runs.  Every year on his birthday, Otto was required to run as many miles as years he was old with his father pacing him – if he was “dogging” it, he had to do it again until he got it right.  By the time he was 12, Otto could outshoot most of his father’s trainees.  

When he joined the Marines at 18, Otto found that his new life was pretty easy compared to the murderous discipline of his childhood.  Otto was badly wounded in ‘64 taking out a terrorist camp in the Andes and spent over a year learning how to walk again.  Given an honorable discharge, Otto found that he had a hard time finding a job but that his skills were great at helping him rob loan sharks and numbers runners.  When the organized crime groups behind these victims decided that Otto was a problem, he discovered that his skills were pretty useful in taking care of them too.

Otto used his ill-gotten gains to purchase and design state of the art weaponry and equipment, in particular a non-powered armored environmental suit.  Otto was freelancing for various groups until he really hit the bigtime when he joined up with two similar technologically based “super criminals”.  Under the callsigns Shake, Rattle, and Roll the trio was able to make some big-time money and build an excellent reputation as “troubleshooters”.

The alliance took a hit when “Roll” was killed in a firefight during a job in Toronto.  Otto, who was never that friendly to begin with was left with just Rattle, who he finds annoying and stupid.  Otto resents that he had to work hard to make it whereas Rattle just fell backwards into his tech.  Otto doesn’t end the partnership because he realizes that he and Rattle make a formidable team and have a lucrative future together, which makes him begrudge his partner even more.

Aloisio Abreu started out as a small-time smuggler moving various illegal goods from South America into the Caribbean States.  Things changed for him when he spotted what he thought was a downed aircraft on Chacachacare Island.  It was a downed craft alright, a downed spacecraft.  

Aloisio was only able to grab one item before fleeing from a joint US-CS Alien Extermination squad – a collapsible cannon-like smart rifle with multiple firing modes, holographic scope, seemingly infinite ammo, self-securing and self-storage features, capable of destroying fairly large objects in one blast, not to mention vaporizing a human size target.  But that’s not all!  The alien weapon also features a helpful AI that speaks a variety of earth languages, not to mention a personal protective barrier generator proven to be effective against bullets, concussive forces, fire, explosions, and car crashes.

Deciding that his smuggling days were over, Aloisio dubbed himself Laser (which his gun does not fire) and began a career as hired muscle, which usually degenerated into his employers trying to steal his fantastic super gun.  Things turned around for Aloisio when he met up with Otto, although a bitter fight about being called “Rattle” instead of Laser highlighted that their personal relationship wasn’t going to be a bed of roses.  Aloisio is scared to his very core that people will think he’s named after a baby rattle and before Roll’s body was even cold, he was asking to be switched to “Roll” which to him is short for Rock & Roll and therefore a perfect name for a cool guy like himself.  Otto refuses to change the names just to annoy Aloisio.   

Aloisio plays the role of the patsy for Otto, pretending not to take offense at his insults and pretending not to be aware of his enmity, but secretly Aloisio dreams of the day that their partnership becomes unprofitable and he can annihilate his arrogant and selfish “partner” without regret.  

Legion of minor characters 2 – Serpentina’s Sneaky Subtle Serpentine Super Servants

Salty

Klaus Voorhees was one of those kids that was born competitive.  He strove to beat anyone and everyone at anything.  The only thing Klaus liked more than challenging others to races or fights or dangerous “dares” was being challenged to them.  His parents tried to channel that competitive drive into team sports, but while Klaus excelled at soccer, he didn’t find it to his taste.  He liked the running and competing but what was lacking for him was brutality.

Despite his indifference, Klaus attracted attention in the athletic world and he made it his goal to become the youngest player ever on the national team.  Finally his competitive nature and ego outpaced his skill.  He fell into the trap of booze, partying, and the feeling of being “untouchable”.  When he missed a practice due to a hangover and was told he wasn’t going to play in an upcoming game, Klaus attacked his coach.  When his teammates tried to restrain him, he attacked them too. 

Klaus left the field in a fury and tore off in his car, striking two pedestrians before slamming into an oncoming truck.  In addition to a concussion, Klaus was left with fractured ribs, a broken collarbone, two separated shoulders, a perforated bowel, and a leg that would be mostly pins for the rest of his life.  Had he bothered to ask, he would have found out that the driver of the truck died.

Facing a lengthy physical recovery which would likely be followed by an even more lengthy prison sentence, Klaus couldn’t say “yes” fast enough when approached by an agent for a mysterious company seeking test subjects for a new performance-enhancing drug.  The drug was concocted from material harvested from dead NBH’s with reptilian blood enzymes as a stabilizer.  When the first injection worked miracles in healing his broken body, Klaus demanded a second.  This was unwise. 

Within moments of the second shot entering his system, Klaus underwent a catastrophically painful transformation into a huge reptilian beast.  He smashed through the wall of the hospital, fell thirtysome feet to the sidewalk, wrecked two police cars, and put five officers in the hospital he had just come from before disappearing into the night.  After coming to some sort of terms with what he had become, he chose a life of crime and resurfaced working as hired muscle in Australia where, much to his chagrin, he was dubbed “Salty” due to his mild resemblance to a salt water crocodile as well as his crummy personality.

Tigerclaw

Tigerclaw never had a desire to be involved in a globe-spanning criminal enterprise.  She had intended a life of peaceful seclusion far away from civilization.  But the order that trained her had other ideas.  The abbot of the temple where she became a master of the Tiger Crane style owed a favor to some unsavory types and 10 years of her service was payment of that debt.  After a year of her service was up, her masters passed her along to fulfill another favor for a different group of criminals and so on, with her ten years of service turning into the life of an assassin for hire – only without the part where you get any money.

Honor-bound to obey the dictates of her order, Tigerclaw will fulfill her obligation despite the fact that her loyalty is neither earned nor deserved by those giving the commands.  She tells herself that she bears no responsibility for the crimes she is guilty of while acting on the orders of others. Most of the time, she believes this.  Her vice is her pride.  She will seek to overturn any defeat she suffers. She is not driven by revenge – only the desire to be the best.  She has vanity about her abilities, a long memory, and infinite patience.

Tigerclaw is so called for the relic of her order she carries of the same name, a deadly sword said to be crafted by a smith consumed with such pain and suffering that he abandoned his humanity to overcome the torment and turned his heart into a cold, dark rock.  Those feelings were poured into the blade as it was forged and are said to give it the capability of draining both the nightmares of its owner and the life of its victims.

Militia

Jessi Bardin grew up in southern Canada and married her high school sweetheart, Jason.  Jessi and Jason loved the outdoors and spent much of their time hunting and camping.  Jason’s belief that federal taxes were unconstitutional resulted in them spending more and more time camping away from things like jails and federal marshals.  In Jason’s mind, legal authority ended at the beginning of his land.  Or maybe just anywhere he happened to be.

Jessi and Jason started spending more and more time with like-minded couples and when it was time to start raising a family, they moved to a large piece of land north of Denver with several of these new friends.  In ’71 the RCMP, backed up by several enhanced individuals associated with law enforcement, raided the compound with a warrant for illegal weapons, and to the surprise of no-one, it turned into a small warzone.  Jason was killed in the fighting and Jessi murdered the “superhero” Badger before escaping the firefight.

Traumatized and filled with hatred for the federal government and their costumed lackeys, Jessi, now calling herself Militia, is absolutely convinced that the federal government is unlawful and that she is a true patriot. She is directly responsible for the murder of another Canadian “superhero”, the death of two servicemen, and the drowning of a Navy recruiter.

Jessi and her followers have fled to Madripoor to build up the forces and armory necessary to free a country that exists only in her mind.  Jessi’s only “power” is never being without a sidearm and having access to assault rifles, grenades and chemical weapons, and anti-vehicle or anti-aircraft weaponry such as rocket propelled grenades.  Given enough time she can acquire military vehicles, weapons, and other gear.

OOC – Danger Zone!

When I was a kid I used to watch classic boxing in the basement Sunday mornings.  In my memory, it was on IPTV but that can’t be right, why would boxing be on public television?  I occasionally watch YouTube clips of classic fights.  But I can’t really say that I’m a boxing fan.  Not even a casual fan.  It’s more like something that I keep half an eye on sometimes.  And yet I still manage to get all riled up whenever anyone talks about Mike Tyson being a great boxer.  Who did he ever beat?  He knocked out a bunch of chumps and then lost to anyone decent he faced.  

That’s not relevant to anything really, but I thought about it because I’m going to talk about Million Dollar Baby which is a good movie with a stupid name.  I never saw Baby Driver because that is also a stupid name.  I did like Gone Baby Gone though, I guess the key is not to start or end your title with baby.

Million Dollar B is not in my top X favorite movies ever but I really like it.  It’s a movie that I always stop and watch if I see it’s on, or I did when I had satellite TV anyway.  Now I just roam around the house rootless and rudderless.    

I watched it with my lady the other day and after it was over she asked me “What is the point of the Danger character?”  I’ve seen that movie in part at least a dozen times and I never thought about that before.  What is the point of that character?  I’ve been thinking about it ever since and I really have no idea.

At first you think, well he’s the comic relief right?  But nothing he does is really that funny.  And I would suggest that it’s not that it was supposed to be funny and wasn’t.  So what is he?  Generally, I think a character like Danger would be a morality pet but he’s definitely not that.  I don’t think he interacts with Maggie at all and she doesn’t need a Jiminy Cricket anyway, she’s fine on her own.    

So what does Danger provide?  He gets his ass kicked and then comes back.  So you’d think that he’s the example of how you should never give up.  But he’s not, because again Maggie never thinks about giving up (on boxing anyway) and he doesn’t come back to the gym until after she’s gone anyway.  

The only thing that Danger really does is give Scrap a reason to punch out Anthony Mackie.  Which is kind of a neat scene, who doesn’t like seeing an asshole get their comeuppance, but is ultimately pointless.  Is that scene supposed to let us know that Scrap was a hard mofo in his day?  That’s pretty firmly established already I think.  And even if it wasn’t established, that isn’t important to the story either.  Is that supposed to tell us that Anthony Mackie is a puss?  Why would that be important?  

Thinking about it, the Anthony Mackie character doesn’t bring much to the story either.  He harasses Maggie in one scene and she blows him off and that’s pretty much it.  Sidenote, in my mind I remembered the harassment as being much harder to watch.  By the standards of women being harassed in movies these days, it was pretty mild.  If that movie was made today, there for sure would have been an attempted sexual assault or something. 

So I got to wondering if the character of Danger is from the book.  I was slightly wrong about the origin of the movie it turns out, there is no book, the screenplay was “inspired” by the book Rope Burns which was written by a cutman and longtime boxing trainer about his real experiences in boxing.  Which is probably why a lot of people think that Million Dollar Baby is based on a real story.  

The only thing I can figure is that one of the stories in Rope Burns was about a goofy kid that came in to train and wanted to fight Tommy Hearns for the middleweight championship and they put that story in the movie even though it didn’t really have anything to do with anything.  I feel like that’s a thing that happens when a screenplay is written based on a collection of short stories, the writer falls in love with one thing that really doesn’t belong and wedges it in there anyway.  I have no examples, but I think it’s a thing.  

Anyone else have any ideas on what the Danger character is supposed to be or accomplish in that movie?  Also, should I start a new segment where I take Best Picture winners and talk about how much better they would be with changes I would make since I’m a better writer than all the writers that have written best pictures.  I mean, you didn’t win best screenplay did you, Million Dollar Baby?  DID YOU?!

In other news I watched a couple episodes of an Amazon show called Red Oaks.  It’s highly touted and recommended.  I don’t get it.  Is there a twist coming or some subtle context I’m missing?  It appears to be a very standard 80s teen movie turned into a TV show.  The fact that so many people think it’s great makes me think I’m missing something.  

Is this a Jennifer’s Body situation?  When I watched Jennifer’s Body I thought “this is a horrible cheesy horror movie like any other” but instead I guess it’s some kind of powerful statement about feminism and is lauded as something great.  I re-watched it and I still don’t get it.  It seems like the exact opposite to me.  Seems to me like the screenwriter’s whole pitch was “What if Megan Fox makes out with Amanda Seyfried and we make it a movie?”  But I acknowledge that I’m wrong about that.  

Is that what’s going on here?  Is Red Oaks Jennifer’s Bodying me?  What am I missing? 

OR do people just like it because the 80s have a weird nostalgia for people my age even though they were little kids for most of that decade?  

One thing that really irks me about Red Oaks is that I know for sure that in 2013, we all decided that we were done with the Manic Pixie Dream Girl and then WHAM Red Oaks slaps me right in the face with Skye.  

Red hair don’t care

It’s been brought to my attention that these random character creation posts are “unreadable” and “awful”. But it’s fun for me so I’m going to do it again. I could do it and not post it but what’s the point of doing something without desperately begging for attention afterwards?

I think all RPG people would agree that the best part of any game is character creation – before the gross GM ruins everything with their stupid plot. And the other players think their characters should get to do stuff too?! It’s lunacy.

I would say half of the people that I’ve gamed with that I didn’t care for should have been writing instead of playing an RPG, they would have been much happier if they were in control of everything.

Type – Hardware, Analytical Genius  

Appearance – Short, average 

Disposition – Mean, suspicious  

Age – Mid-20s 

Origin – Europe, English speaking, small city 

Background – Criminal  

Powers manifested – Recently 

Other – Legacy 

Budget – 4 million  

Analytical genius in this context means your standard super science person.  I would imagine that IRL most super smart people are only super smart in a couple of areas at best – if you’re a great heart surgeon you’re probably not also a wiz at coding and can build a new kind of airplane in your backyard.  But in comics, smart heroes can do everything.  They get budget instead of abilities for their super-gear. 

Europe-English speaking is an odd inclusion on a random chart, isn’t that just two countries, England and Ireland?  I’ll say this short mean suspicious lady is Irish.  Irish ladies in media always have red hair. The only Irish person I’ve met IRL had red hair.  It got me to wondering how common it actually is.  Per the internet no one knows really, but estimates range from 10% to 30%.  Remember a few years ago when it was “news” that red hair would be gone in a few generations because we’re not all trapped on an island anymore?  I do. 

I don’t know much about Ireland but I don’t think they have many cities there, I’m given to understand it’s more of a small-town vibe most places.  I’m not sure it matters much, but I’ll say she’s from Derry.  I was just thinking the other day for a period of time it seemed like all media portrayals of Irish people were related to the IRA and/or the conflict in Northern Ireland.  I wondered “is that not cool?”  But if you’re going to do something involving action and violence, I suppose it would be weird to ignore it.   

So I’ll cave to convention and possibly be un-PC to Irish people (sorry Irish people) and say that Maggie McGraw’s father was a Red Hand Commando.  Her mother was out of the picture at a young age so Maggie was reared by her hellraising father and his secret paramilitary buddies.  Having a knack for machines and the like from a young age, she was the armorer for her father’s “platoon” and if anyone had an issue with a little girl taking care of their weapons, her da would beat them senseless.   

Legacy usually means that you have the same powers or abilities, but I’ll say that’s not the case here.  The legacy in this case being that she followed in her father’s footsteps in the conflict.  Maggie is a genius intellect inventor type, her father was not, he was a hard charging, hard fighting, tough as nails SOB.  As Maggie got older she started building devices for her father and his crew to use, and eventually started participating in “operations” herself.  Not the really violent stuff, but robberies to support the cause and the like.  Which were still pretty violent. 

When she was a teen her father’s luck ran out – he and his commandos were caught and ended up dead or in prison.  Maggie was shuttled from relative to relative and hidden with various people sympathetic to the cause.  This continued until she attempted an attack on her own and was caught in the process. Playing up her youth and gender, Maggie got off “merely” with a ten-year sentence.  In prison she meets Mairéad Devaney, who unbeknownst to the authorities, was actually the tech-villain Complex.   

Mairéad spotted Maggie turning a radio into a transmitter and the two immediately began conspiring to escape.  Which they did successfully a few months later, by being smart and doing way cool tech stuff.  Once they were away from the prison at Mairéad’s hideout, Maggie did away with her new friend and occupied herself building and modifying equipment with the components and materials Mairéad had stored up.   

Even though Maggie was imprisoned only for a short time, she lost her passion for her father’s cause.  Her goal now is to make money and live the high life.  She plans to do this eventually by becoming a supplier of high-tech gear for other criminals but first she needs the seed money to get started.  And what better place to make some quick cash than the wealthiest and most corrupt city in the world, Madripoor? 

Maggie’s sweet gear –  Armored bodysuit w/ telemental multi-optics combat computer helmet, rocket boots, wireless communication, reflex enhancers, and supercharged punchin’ gauntlets with frickin’ lasers 

Procedurally generated duo part 2

Type – Magic, Magic Object  

Appearance – Medium, athletic 

Disposition – Laconic, fatalistic 

Age – 40s 

Origin – Europe, non-English speaking, countryside 

Background – Military 

Powers manifested – Early adulthood 

Other – World traveler

Abilities – Animal abilities (insect) 

Doc already did the work on this for me, thanks Doc!  The randomness lines up pretty well.  I’ll call this guy Amerigo Vespucci.  Do they still name people Amerigo in Italy?  I don’t know, but they do in my pretend world. 

At a young age, Amerigo decided that the country life was not for him and ran away from home, stowing away on a ship bound for Italian Libya.  With no marketable skills and a hostile populace, Amerigo was facing a grim and short life on the streets when he was swept up as labor by one of the many Italian government-funded excavations of Roman cities – which were used as propaganda to justify their claim to the area. 

Barely literate and with no education to speak of, Amerigo nevertheless was fascinated by archaeology.  Ignorant to the political nature of their missions, he looked up to the “scientists” leading these expeditions as brilliant men of knowledge.   At night, he would lie in his tent and marvel over the artifacts he had pilfered and dream of what the world had once been.

Amerigo resolved to become an archaeologist himself, but with no money and no real interest in “book learning” this was a pipe dream.  Amerigo did discover two talents on these trips though – an ear for languages, within a few years he could speak passably in several native tongues and enough to get by in several others.  His other talent was for getting into and out of places very quietly, especially places people didn’t want him.

One of those places was a temple with a bird motif in the deep desert.  Exploring the temple, Amerigo found a jewel-scarab of malachite and garnet – which he felt the overwhelming urge to swallow.  Upon doing so, he was mystically granted beetle-strength and beetle-agility!  Some old god with a beetle-head showed up to tell him something about it, but Amerigo ditched him and ran away from the temple.  He couldn’t understand what the old codger was saying anyhow.

Amerigo figured the best way to cash in on his abilities was to travel south to join the fighting in Italian East Africa.  It wasn’t.  Being beetle-fast and beetle-strong is fine and all, but in a conflict with personnel armed with machine-guns and flamethrowers, not to mention copious amounts of airstrikes and heavy weaponry, it doesn’t mean much.

Amerigo lost his stomach for the conflict quickly, but found that he was able to make money as a scout – leave the killing the dying to others.  Beetle-agility is a lot more useful for avoiding a fight, Amerigo found. 

Once the fighting was over, Amerigo discovered there was even more money to be made as a mercenary.  There seemed to be all manner of conflicts up and down the east coast of Africa and plenty of demand for someone who knew the terrain and could speak the language. 

Amerigo could have made a lot more money if he wanted, but typically after a paying job, he would spend months traveling and exploring alone, only returning to “civilization” when he ran out of resources.  Eventually, this resulted in Amerigo getting a reputation as being “unreliable” even though he always did what he was paid to do. 

Amerigo and Dino ended up being a perfect match – no one would hire Amerigo anymore and no one wanted to work for a crazy old man looking for “magic”.   Amerigo never mentioned to Dino that he knew magic was real because he had already found it, but he did take the old man’s money and lead him all across Africa with forays into the Middle East and even India looking for some true magic. 

Once the old man’s money ran out, Amerigo wondered where he was going to find his next meal ticket. But shortly thereafter, Dino returned, looking 60 years younger and ready to cause some trouble.

Tremble before my procedurally generated terror!

I don’t really have anything for background this week so I’ll roll some random tables for a new character and build them.  That should be interesting?

Type – Magic, Mystically Bestowed 

Appearance – Tall, overweight 

Disposition – Self-reliant, tough 

Age – Elderly 

Origin – Europe, non-English speaking, large city 

Background – Wealthy 

Powers manifested – Recently 

Other – Physical limitations 

Abilities – Spellcasting 

In this context, mystically bestowed is a power source like Shazam, you speak the magic word or drink your magic tea and you’re transformed from whatever, in this case an old man with physical ailments, to a young strong alternate self.  Who in this case also knows magic.  Which is a little weird, seems like if you knew magic, you’d just know it no matter what. 

I’ll say this guy is from Italy.  The only big city that I know of in Italy is Rome, but that seems too on the nose.  Internet says Milan is the second biggest city in Italy, so we’ll go with that.  So we have a wealthy old man in Milan.   

What was going on in Italy in this alternate timeline?  The Great War (aka WW1) was pretty much the same.  If this guy is old in 1973, he was probably the right age to be in the mix in 1914.  As a rich man who fancies himself a tough guy, he was likely an officer in the Italian army.  I don’t know a ton about WW1, but I think Italy fought a bunch of battles against Austria and lots of people died and it was all kind of pointless.  Which is more or less WW1 in a nutshell.   

I should probably give this guy a name, I’ll go with Dino Fossella, which I think is the name of one of the kidnappers in Man on Fire.  The novel. The movie was in Mexico instead of Italy.  Sidenote – I love that movie and I don’t care what anyone says about it.   

Dino was embittered by his experience in the war, he expected to come home and be a big hero and get a parade but instead, no really cared because they didn’t get all the sweet Austrian booty they were after. (note to self, register domain name sweetAustrianbooty) But old Dino wasn’t going to be denied his fame so easily.  Let’s say he was a big-time piano man and after the war, his goal was to become a celebrated concert pianist. 

He was good, but he wasn’t that good.  But, as a pretty good pianist with a boatload of cash, he managed to get his name out there at the expense of other, better pianists.  So he spends a good decade being a man about town and having concerts that are really just parties for his rich pals.   

I’ve established that there was no WW2 as we know it, just “another war in Europe”.  Without an expansionist Germany and a more laid-back USSR, what was going on?  I’m no historian, so I don’t know the roots of Italian fascism – but let’s say the march on Rome in ‘22 still happened.  So we have France and Britain fighting the Empire of Japan in the east while Germany and Russia are playing it cool.  That probably leaves Italy free to attack the Balkans like they always wanted. 

So we have Italy at war again.  Dino once again wants to be an officer but they say he’s too old – go back to your piano, old man.  Dino doesn’t like that.  He likes it even less when his villa is bombed by Greek and Yugoslavian operatives.  Dino survives but his legs and hands are damaged, no more piano for him, also now he can’t get around so well.   

If you thought Dino was embittered before, oh man, watch out now.  But what sparks Dino’s interest in the occult?  Perhaps one of the operatives was mystically inclined.  One of the bombers supernaturally clouded the minds of Dino’s men and walked right in with the bomb.  Dino saw his guards standing there like statues while a dude just rolls up and plants a bomb.  He becomes obsessed with finding out more about it. 

He spends the next thirty years or so frittering away all his money on raiding Egyptian tombs and whatnot looking for magic.  I don’t know much about Italian folklore, but google told me there’s a tale of a 7-headed dragon that was causing a ruckus in Bergamo province and a big army went to fight it.  The battle was a draw and the dragon retreated into the river.  Folklorists say there was a “maga” – a sorceress – involved somehow but that part of the story is lost.  Here’s the deal, the sorceress was the dragon, transformation style. 

And check this shit out, Milan is in Bergamo!  So old lady 7-heads is injured and she goes into the river to sleep it off for a couple centuries and when she wakes up and looks around she’s like “da fuck? Where’s all the old timey shit I know?”  She goes to the first place she sees, the now empty villa of Dino, where he sits alone and broke being old and bitter.  Probably it would be hard for them to communicate, the Italian language surely changed some in a thousand years, but she’s magic so she figures it out. 

She asks Dino what’s up.  He says give me the magic power and I’ll tell you.  She’s all like “sure” and he wigs out because he’s been after magic forever and now it just falls into his lap.  Dino speaks the word of magic power she bestows upon him, “Drago” and suddenly he’s a young strong able-bodied man that has a little magic of his own. 

But why can he only do magic when transformed?  Let’s say that this form of magic is physically taxing and in his old broken body he can’t manage it.  Dino says “thanks, old time Italian sorceress! Now I shall have the fame and coolness I deserve, by being a supervillain!”  And she’s like, whatever floats your boat man.    

I like duos (of people, not the gum, although the gum is okay) so he’ll probably have a partner but this post is already long so maybe I’ll do that next week.