Shadow-Force Files

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Comic Relief

Postby The Shadow » Wed Sep 02, 2009 2:53 am

Seattle sports two villains whom the GM has traditionally used to lighten the mood. Without further ado, the comic relief:

The Great and Terrifying Psychic Vampire of the Night! usually doesn't get done saying his codename before being knocked unconscious. The GaTPVotN! is prone to jumping out at people in the park and announcing himself, trying to scare them. He has a draining attack that might actually be fairly scary, if he could manage to hit anyone... [SP says of him, "The worst-designed 250 point Champions character I ever created. I wanted to see just how close I could get a character to being plausibly effective, while still being utterly useless."]

"I am the Great and Terrifying..." "Oh. Him again." *thwap*

The Silver Paladin is, in his own eyes, a hero among heroes, a friend to the weak and downtrodden. In reality... not so much.

Calling him dumb as a box of rocks is insulting to boxes of rocks. He is painfully, appallingly stupid - so much so that he sports enormous mental defenses on the grounds that it's hard to find his mind. Alas, his ego is quite intact.

The Silver Paladin is a flying brick who wears enchanted armor. He is monstrously strong and nearly invulnerable to all forms of damage. His sole idea of tactics is to dive-bomb his target, usually leaving a large crater. (It never hurts him, of course!) But he has one other minor power, that causes more trouble than the rest put together: He has a super-sense for detecting heroes and villains. Which is always, always wrong.

So... Shadow-Force would be fighting a villain group, really mixing it up. Maybe they'd even be getting the upper hand. And then they would hear the dreaded sound, the sound that strikes fear into the hearts of heroes everywhere:

"Hey hee hee HO ho! Halt, villains!" (Words on a screen do not do this justice. You have to hear SP do this to appreciate the full horror.)

Turning to the villain team, he would congratulate them on their selfless service to humanity, and then start dive-bombing the good guys, all the while saying things like, "Your wicked ways have come to an end! Now you will learn that Crime Does Not Pay!" He will lecture upstanding heroes on their moral depravity at the drop of a hat. (No hat actually necessary.)

Reasoning with him is useless (see 'painfully, appallingly stupid') and just confirms his every suspicion. He sees what he sees, and that's that. He also is incapable of realizing when he has lost a battle. You can be dragging him away in chains and he'll go on saying things like, "Ha! I have defeated you!"

The Phantom finally figured out how to get rid of this thorn in their side. Configuring his psionic Variable Power Pool to Mental Images, he made himself seem like the most evil being imaginable, a cross between Hitler and Cthulhu. This, naturally, caused the Silver Paladin to all but worship him. (Mental Defense doesn't apply to the Images power, so this was his Achilles heel.)

"O great Silver Paladin, you must not waste the powers you have been given on these petty villains! Your true quest is to recover the Holy Grail!" "Where is it, kind sir?!" "It is at the bottom of the Mariana Trench." The Silver Paladin didn't know where that was, but the Phantom was only too happy to give directions.

So far as I know, he's still looking for it.

In later years, SP tried to give the Silver Paladin a tragic twist, the enchanted armor that gave him his powers gradually destroying his brain... but nobody bought into it. :)
Last edited by The Shadow on Mon Sep 07, 2009 4:34 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Freedom Squad

Postby The Shadow » Mon Sep 07, 2009 3:52 pm

[Just realized I forgot to post on the Freedom Squad. They're very important to the past of the setting.]

The Freedom Squad was a superhero team of long standing based in Tacoma, Washington. All had second-degree crimefighter registration, except Black Phantom who had first-degree. Their roster at the beginning of the campaign was:

American Eagle II
Hardhat
Jo-Tan
Black Phantom II
Victrix

American Eagle II, the leader of the Squad, was the successor of a beloved Golden Age hero who was active during World War II. American Eagle had a set of artificial wings, a suit that enhanced his strength and protected him from harm, and a few gadgets. He was a noble man, a true hero who didn't wholly approve of Shadow-Force's methods, but regarded them as colleagues and treated them always with professional courtesy and friendly respect.

He was murdered, along with two of his teammates, by the psychotic mentalist known as the Doctor. His wings were broken in a final display of contempt. He is greatly missed.

Hardhat was the gadgeteer of the team. A bulky man always chomping a cigar and wearing his trademark hardhat, he was a jokester with a dry sense of humor. Sadly, Shadow-Force never really got to know him well, because he was killed by the criminal organization VOICE early in their career. Le Maistre, the leader of the VOICE squad that killed Hardhat, was himself accidentally killed by the Phantom shortly after. The Phantom was forever changed by this event, becoming very jittery about using his Mind Control. (He misjudged the power and hatred of one of Le Maistre's teammates, and mind-controlled her into attacking him.)

Jo-Tan was a quiet Asian man with powers of Growth and Density Control. He was Freedom Squad's brick. Nobody in Shadow-Force really got through his reserve before he was murdered by the Doctor.

Black Phantom II was the successor of a hero from the civil rights struggle of the 60's. A rather grim, driven man who relied on gadgets and his own formidable combat prowess (and a superhuman degree of luck, whether knowingly or not), he wasn't above bantering with the Phantom about the similarity of their codenames. "Copyright violation, man. Why you gotta keep a brother down?" "Hey, I'm a ghost. We can't even *vote*, you know - except in Chicago. ...You wouldn't hit a ghost, would you?" :) (The Phantom wasn't really a ghost, of course, just an astral-projecting telepath, but he didn't mind muddying the waters now and then.) Like American Eagle and Jo-Tan, he was killed by the Doctor.

Victrix is the sole survivor of Freedom Squad. A wide-spectrum telekinetic, the Doctor spared her because she was psionic. (A eugenicist, he believed that non-psionic superhumans - and probably normal humans eventually - needed to be wiped out for the sake of the evolution of the human race.) He mentally enslaved her and used her as a pawn until Shadow-Force hunted him down through several extradimensional boltholes and killed him.

Broken by this experience and the loss of her teammates, Victrix has retired as a hero and left the Seattle area.

The Freedom Squad and Shadow-Force often shared information and intel, and would join forces against major threats. Their most notable partnership was against the international crime syndicate VOICE and its formidable leader, Red Dragon.

The two groups tangled twice with Red Dragon herself, the second time ambushing her with overwhelming force and only barely managing to subdue her. (She's one of the most powerful superhumans on the planet - in Champions terms, she was 1200 points back in the day when starting heroes had 250.) Red Dragon is currently at large, though many of VOICE's superhuman agents have been put away by the two Seattle groups.
Last edited by The Shadow on Sun Sep 20, 2009 11:55 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Legal Status of Non-Humans

Postby The Shadow » Wed Sep 16, 2009 9:27 pm

The legal status of nonhumans remained fuzzy for over forty years after the first satyrs breached the Earth dimension. But the landmark 1972 Supreme Court decision Louisiana vs. Sssthokrraal finally gave some clarity to the matter.

Sssthokrraal was a dimensional traveller whose equipment malfunctioned and accidentally landed him in a Louisiana swamp. Unfortunately for him, his own crocodilian race bore too close a resemblance to the iguanoid Hissies for comfort, so soon after the war. Upon making his way to the nearest town, a panicked mob formed and attacked him. Sssthokrraal did not fight back for as long as his body armor protected him, but once he became injured he defended himself, killing one human. He cooperated with law enforcement when they arrived, though communicating with each other was a challenge. (Eventually a telepath was able to make preverbal contact and establish ties.)

The state argued that Sssthokrraal, not being human, did not and could not have 'human rights', and sought to put him down as a 'dangerous monster'. An appellate court upheld that status, and the case was appealed to the Supreme Court. Through all this, Sssthokrraal cooperated fully and retained his good humor and good will toward the strange apelike beings who were trying him. Popular opinion started to sway in his favor.

Eventually, the Supreme Court ruled that 'any living creature capable of speaking for itself' was a person under the law and entitled to the same rights and responsibilities as any foreign national. (Or American citizen, if natural-born or naturalized.) Sssthokrraal was permitted to repair his dimensional equipment (with help from several gadgeteers) and return home.

This decision greatly clarified the situation in general, but in 2008 several legal issues remain in question regarding those non-human beings who are not 'living creatures'.

The undead have been lobbying off and on for legal protection for decades, to little avail. In 1981, a man was tried for staking a vampire in its coffin who had murdered and turned several of his relatives. The court ruled that Sssthokrraal did not apply to the undead, and the Supreme Court declined to review the case. In 2008, there is an uneasy understanding that law-abiding undead beings have many of the same rights as living humans - certainly they cannot be destroyed out of hand. But governments generally do not press charges against anyone who destroys an undead guilty of violent crime.

Since undead are not 'alive', and indeed are not considered 'persons' in the full legal sense, destroying one cannot be prosecuted as 'murder' in any event. However, prosecutors have come up with any number of alternative ways to charge humans who cross the line. In a notorious 1994 case in which a peaceable vampire was staked by a zealot, the man was put away for life on multiple aggravated assault charges. (The joke at the time was that it was one charge for each blow of the hammer.)

Vampires in particular cause legal headaches, because many versions of them possess mental powers. There is no difference in principle between their powers and those of, say, telepaths... but since the legal standard is to treat mental assault as equivalent to physical, this means that a vampire using hypnosis, say, can find itself stripped of legal protection.

Artificial intelligences are an entirely separate matter. There aren't very many of them, and only very few are publicly known to exist. (Most are top-secret military or corporate projects. X-97 Alpha is quite unusual in being neither.) There simply is as yet no body of legal opinion on them, and so the field is wide open.
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P.S.I.

Postby The Shadow » Sun Sep 27, 2009 8:04 pm

The Parapsychological Studies Institute was founded originally to do research on the psionic metagene complexes by Dr. Sebastian Poe, who found a way to activate them to greater heights using a serum of his own creation. He himself became a mild empath and telekinetic using the serum, and he had still greater success on his son Simon. Dr. Poe turned to white-collar crime to finance his research, but was ultimately forced out by his son and his old colleague, Counselor Darke. Dr. Poe is currently serving a long jail sentence. (His powers are not potent enough to justify time in Stronghold.)

Under the direction of "Psimon" and Darke, P.S.I. became little more than a front for supervillainy. They were bent on, ultimately, taking control of the government and perhaps the world. However, that phase in their plans was still a long way off when they fell afoul of the nascent Shadow-Force. P.S.I. made it a point to kidnap youngsters with psionic potential and brainwash them to do their bidding. They had a number of installations around the country, notably in Seattle, Texas, Florida, and California. Several P.S.I. members were later inducted into the Doctor's cult of personality.

P.S.I.'s roster at their height was:

Psimon
Counselor Darke
Inquisitor
Mind Slayer
Torment
Omen
Deuce

Psimon was more or less the leader, or at least figurehead, having forced his own father out of the Institute. Charismatic and cunning, his powerful mental blast made him a formidable foe. He also was quite good with mind control, though it was too weak to affect heroes with significant defenses against it. He used it primarily against normals, and evaded imprisonment by that means after being captured by Shadow-Force. Unfortunately for him, his hold on Omen slipped when Shadow-Force closed in on him the second time, and Omen shot and killed him.

Counselor Darke was in charge of brainwashing new "recruits". He was also quite likely the power behind Psimon's throne. In addition to his own mental powers, he used drugs and hypnosis extensively. He was killed by Erebus in 2002 during the first assault on a P.S.I. compound.

Inquisitor was a powerful telepath, and could inflict an agonizing mental blast that could even kill his victims unless he used restraint. A sadist, he quite enjoyed the latter power and was in fact addicted to it; it was his mental blast that awakened in the Phantom his latent powerful telepathy and mild telekinesis. The Phantom had his revenge when he and Erebus captured the man; he drained Inquisitor's power so thoroughly that it would take years if not decades to revive. The Doctor sprung him from jail (he wasn't in Stronghold as he had no powers) and reversed this 'treatment', making Inquisitor one of his lieutenants. Inquisitor is currently still at large, having fled when his master's plans spectacularly failed. (Shadow-Force by that point had no interest in chasing anyone but the Doctor himself.)

Mind Slayer is a telekinetic who can throw and wield "blades" of intangible force. She evaded capture during the dissolution of P.S.I. and later sought revenge on Shadow-Force. (Erebus once memorably punched her across the tarmac of an airport runway, commenting, "Oooh, road rash. I bet that smarts." :) She escaped during the infamous Stronghold prison-break of 2005 and pursued a life of crime until she fell under the Doctor's sway. She is still at large.

Torment could inflict horrific pain - or rather, share the pain he himself constantly suffered. Torment was a basically decent guy who remained with P.S.I. solely because they supplied him with drugs to control his suffering; when the Phantom offered to drain his powers and render him permanently normal, he leaped at the chance.

Omen was a powerful precognitive who worked with P.S.I. because they threatened his family. Once Shadow-Force began dismantling P.S.I., he foresaw that with a few nudges, his "comrades" would not be able to carry out their threats. He surreptitiously passed on some information to the heroes, then shot Psimon at a crucial juncture. Amidst the confusion, he coolly took his leave, and has not been seen since.

Deuce was a recent "graduate" of P.S.I.'s "recruiting" program, and rather a disappointment - she was erratic and hard to control. Like the Phantom, she was an astral-projector; it had been hoped that she could be done away with once he got older. That plan... notably did not work out well. :) Deuce cut and ran when P.S.I. started to crumble; her current whereabouts and status are unknown. Before she left, she did give the Phantom some helpful information.

-----------------------

The Phantom's fellow "recruits" in P.S.I included:

Probe, a telepath. She was the Phantom's age, and the closest thing he ever had to a girlfriend. She learned too much about the inner workings of P.S.I. after the Phantom's escape and was killed. Mike found this quite devastating.

Force, a potent telekinetic. He was somewhat younger than Probe and Phantom.

Soulfire, a pyrokinetic with anger problems. He was a year older than Probe and the Phantom, and helped open the Phantom's eyes to P.S.I.'s evil. He is now a minor villain.

The other "recruits" were significantly younger than these three.
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The Doctor

Postby The Shadow » Sun Sep 27, 2009 8:06 pm

The Doctor was one of the most astonishing telepaths and mind controllers ever recorded, able to manipulate even powerful psis with relative ease. His raw power was matched only by his disregard for his fellow man; the Doctor (no other name for him was ever discovered) was a eugenicist with ambitions of genocide. He believed that psionics was the main axis of human evolution, and decided to exterminate all non-psionic supers, and probably eventually all normals, whom he regarded as subhuman. Meanwhile he would rule the psionics with an iron fist, satisfying his own desires along the way.

The Doctor began his reign of terror by picking up the pieces of P.S.I. He forged a number of the surviving members, along with others, into a cult of personality focussed on himself. To cement his hold on his followers, he cynically developed an elaborate "mythology" to shape their thinking. In that mythology, the Phantom - a powerful psionic who had nonetheless destroyed P.S.I. - was a Judas figure, perhaps even an Antichrist. Despite his own vast psionic power, the Doctor was not an astral-projector; he regarded astral-projection as the "purest" form of psionics, with the mind at its most divorced from mere matter. So the Phantom - who came closer to rivalling the Doctor in raw power than most, in addition to being astral - was regarded as the ideal Messiah figure who had gone horribly, tragically wrong. The cult's term for him was "the Signpost" - the one who pointed the way to the evolutionary future. The Doctor himself ("the Precursor") claimed to be receiving telepathic messages from the future from "the Pinnacle", the disembodied, supreme overmind of humanity's destiny.

The Doctor initially regarded his cult and its mythology as simply a tool. (He used the female members as concubines freely, on the pretext of spreading his superior genes.) But in the end he seemed to have begun to believe it somewhat himself. In any case, he focussed his attention on the Seattle area, to keep the cultists' hatred of the Phantom alive. He murdered the Freedom Squad with cold, single-handed ease, breaking American Eagle's wings as a final gesture of contempt. He spared only Victrix (a psionic telekinetic) to be his concubine and slave, indoctrinating her into the cult.

As the Doctor stepped up his efforts against Shadow-Force, he tried to kill Jessica telepathically while she was driving on the freeway. Thankfully, the Phantom was sitting next to her in the car, and was able to shield her sufficiently to save her life. This attempt enraged Erebus (already furious, as all of Shadow-Force was, at the murder of the Freedom Squad) to the point of assuring that the Doctor would never be taken alive. (And in any case, it is doubtful whether any prison could have held him.)

In the end, the Doctor fell by over-extending: The fully-engaged Shadow-Force, backed up by Mystra and Chameleon and shielded by the Phantom, proved to be more than he could handle. He ran for his life into another dimension using a stolen super-science gadget, leaving his cult to fend for themselves. (Except for Victrix, whom he took with him to warm his bed and defend him from physical attack.) Technoid created a similar device to follow him, leaving Beta, Photon, and the rest of the reserve team to fend for the city in Shadow-Force's absence. Shadow-Force hounded the Doctor through several extra-dimensional boltholes before finally running him to ground; in the end, Erebus impaled the man with his magically-charged cesti, while the Phantom kept his powers at bay.

Victrix was taken home to be mentally healed, but she suffered too deeply from post-traumatic stress to continue being a hero. (She has since left the Seattle area.) The Doctor's cult dispersed in bewilderment upon his inexplicable fall; many of the members are still at large. Shadow-Force took up the burden of their city once more, this time without their allies in Tacoma, and life went on.
"All right, I am not the Shadow. You have nothing at all to worry about. Except, oh, wait, I'm pointing a gun at you."



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Super Slang: Supers

Postby The Shadow » Sun Oct 04, 2009 9:02 pm

Being "super" is more than just having powers, it's being part of a culture with its own jargon. Not all super-slang terms are in equally wide use; some, such as "cape" and "mask" go all the way back to the 1920's; others, such as "toyboy", are of much more recent vintage, and popular only with the younger generation.

Super: Short for "superhuman", this is the generic term for anyone with powers. More widely, it refers to anyone who can hold their own in a super-combat, even if it's only by using gadgets. Note that there is a distinction between being a super (having powers) and being part of the Super subculture. (When capitalized, it refers to the culture.)

Cape: While this can be used as a generic term for supers, it definitely carries a "good guy" flavor. Capes are heroes, fighting crime usually openly with the police.

Mask: Again, this can sometimes be a generic term, but it carries a darker, more sinister edge. Masks aren't necessarily villains, though - violent anti-heroes can be called masks.

Vig: Short for "vigilante", this refers to someone who fights crime illegally. Vigs are usually also masks - it would seem strange to call them capes, unless perhaps they are squeaky-clean otherwise. Nocturne is a vig, and a hardcore vig at that. (See "hardcore", below.)

Hero: A collective term for anyone super who fights crime; it covers both capes and vigs. More of a general-society term than a Super term, though capes do often believe in being heroic. (On the other hand, as a verb 'to hero' it is quite common in Super circles.)

Villain: Supers who aren't heroes. Villains are a subset of masks, though "mask" in context often means the same as "villain". Though this term is also current in wider society, it sees some Super use too.

Slacker: A super who does not participate in the Super subculture; they neither fight crime nor commit it. Either they are trying to hide their powers, or they use their powers for some non-heroic, non-villainous purpose. Above all, they do not wear costumes or use codenames.

Half: Someone with super-powers, but not at a level or of a type to be remotely useful as a hero or villain. Halves aren't usually called slackers, whether associated with the Super subculture or not; they're basically "norms with powers".

Old-School: Refers to supers who, while they are heroes or villains, disdain to wear costumes and often avoid using the flashier Super lingo. (Costumes, and to a lesser extent codenames, came back to the fore during the Vietnam War as a way to avoid being preferentially drafted. They had been used previously by the Mystery Men, though.) There is a spectrum of old-schoolness - supers with families to protect will almost always conceal their faces. Also, it's nearly impossible to avoid having a codename these days, as the press will pin one on you if you don't have one already.

It should be noted that old-school supers have a tendency to also be hardcore (see below) - they may not buy into the unwritten Super code of not using excessive force. Golden Age heroes did not have much compunction about killing.

Bazooka is notably old-school. His only "costume" is Army fatigues with "Bazooka" where the name should be. To many supers of his generation (he was born in 1950), costumes are associated with draft-dodging.

Hardcore: The Super subculture has an unspoken agreement not to use excessive force. Heroes and villains will fight each other cheerfully, but few will try to actually kill their foes. (Deathtraps are a grudgingly accepted, traditional dodge.) Likewise, deliberately killing or maiming norms with superpowers is frowned upon even by most villains. (Though using one's powers to put norms in danger - collapsing a ceiling, for instance, to delay heroes - is, again, more acceptable.) Hurting kids, in particular, is considered so vile that even most villains will spit on you.

Hardcore heroes and villains do not abide by this tacit code. Supers with a reputation for being hardcore will often find their opponents treating them in a hardcore fashion as well - the rule being that the code doesn't apply to those who don't observe it.

Hardcore can also refer to other violations of the unspoken rules. (See "wigjob" below for an example.) These rarely call forth lethal force in response, but do "authorize" the opposition to use similar dirty tricks. For example, Enigma draining Photon's powers (as he thought) was borderline hardcore; that's why Photon felt fully justified in sniping at him invisibly, which would otherwise have been rather questionable itself. But a villain whose powers revolved entirely around draining would have been given a pass by many supers; things get complicated that way.

In Shadow-Force, Erebus was as hardcore as he could get away with while still remaining a cape. (This is sometimes called "softcore". Villains can be softcore too - Enigma arguably is.) Bazooka, while not as hardcore as Erebus, did not go to great lengths to restrain him.

Civilized: The opposite of hardcore. "We're both civilized individuals, let's just fight this out."

--------------

Types of super: (Note that some of these terms can also be applied to norms. Also, some are current in the culture at large as well - especially the terms for different kinds of mages.)

Artificer: A mage who makes artifacts. (Artifacts are the magical equivalent of super-science gadgets.) While most mages can do this, the term artificer refers to those who rely on artifacts strongly, much the way "wrenches" rely on gadgets. If someone uses artifacts without having the ability to make their own, they are a type of "toyboy", not an artificer.

Baldy: See "deadhead".

Baseline: See "deadhead".

Beast: A super with great fighting prowess, but without being a brick. Erebus was a beast.

Bigger: Anyone with growth powers. Biggers are usually bricks when grown. (Or "embiggened", as it is sometimes humorously called.) Jo-Tan was a bigger.

Blaster: See "zapper".

Brick: A super who is very strong and, crucially, also very resistant to damage.

Brute: A big, dumb brick. Often a villain.

Clotheshorse: See "suit".

Deadhead: A pejorative term used by wigjobs (q.v.), above all telepaths, for those who aren't. The more polite version is "baseline", for "baseline psionic potential". However, 'baseline' can also mean someone without any sort of psi powers; it would be odd to call a telekinetic a baseline, but perfectly appropriate (if rude) to call them a deadhead. An in-between version that gets around the limitations of "baseline" is "baldy" - ie, someone who doesn't have a wig.

Elemental: A common sort of mutant, with powers relating to a particular type of energy or substance - NOT necessarily one of the four classic elements. Enigma, along with most other people, wrongly thought Photon was a light elemental. Bolt, Photon's first foe, is a lightning elemental. Erebus could loosely be called a shadow elemental, though his powers were magical in origin. Likewise, Demeter could be called a plant elemental, but this is stretching the term somewhat.

Feral: Classically, an animalistic beast. (See "beast", above.) More widely, anyone with "naturalistic" powers. Demeter is a borderline feral - she's not enough of a combatant for the term to feel completely appropriate.

Flag: A super with a patriotic theme. Very popular in the Golden Age, though the term didn't arise until the 60's.

Godfather: A villain (almost always), whose "power" comes from commanding huge numbers of minions. These can be summoned, duplicates, or even just norms on the payroll. (The last option isn't very "super", but even a norm can be a godfather.)

Jedi: See "zapper".

Layman: A joking term for those who aren't super-geniuses. "Laymen's terms" sees a lot of use.

Mage: Generic term for wielders of magic. This encompasses wizards, sorcerers, and artificers, though usually not magical toyboys.

Muggle: See "mundane".

Mundane: A term used by mages for those who aren't. This is tolerable when used as an adjective, but elitist and insulting when used as a noun. "It's hard to explain in a mundane fashion," is fine, but "It's hard to explain to a mundane," would definitely be rude. Nowadays, "muggle" is also sometimes used, and it's definitely more insulting than "mundane".

Peeper: Someone who can spy on others from a distance with powers of any type. Precognition is sometimes called "peeping ahead", and retrocognition and object reading are likewise sometimes called "peeping back". Erebus was a peeper - he could scry through shadows and was also a retrocognitive. Though the Phantom was not technically a peeper, his invisible, astral spying largely qualified.

Though "peeping" is the generic term, "esping" and "scrying" are often used to narrow things down to psionics and magic, respectively.

'Port: Anyone who can travel between two points without crossing the intervening ones. Not always done by straightforward teleportation; dimensional travel works too. Brimstone is a 'port; Photon isn't, but his light-form is fast enough that many people probably think he is.

Shaker: "To shake" means to move something telekinetically, thus a shaker is a telekinetic. (The term comes from the association with "mover".) Teke and Mind Slayer are shakers. While shakers are usually psionic, shaking can also be done by magical spells, or even by some kinds of mutant energy powers.

The past tense of "to shake" is "shaked", not "shook". "Teke shaked me off the ground and shook me up and down."

Sorcerer: A mage who gains magical powers from summoned spirits. Enigma is a sorcerer as well as a wizard.

Speedster: A fairly common mutant power suite, involving running (or sometimes flying) at great speed.

Stalker: A super with powers slanted toward sneakiness and spying. Several Shadow-Force members, notably Erebus and the Phantom, were stalkers, as is Chameleon.

Suit: Someone who wears powered armor. If they built it themselves, they may be called a "tailored suit" (and jokingly "upper management"); if they're a complete norm without the armor, they are "toy soldiers" at best or "clotheshorses" at worst. Silver Siren is a (tailored) suit.

Tin Can: A robot, generally a mindless one. If you can have a conversation with it (Beta's close enough) it can be called a "tin man" instead.

Tin Man: See "tin can", above.

Toyboy: A "super" whose powers derive completely from gadgets. The implication is that they did not make the gadgets themselves; to call a gadgeteer a "toyboy" is quite insulting. American Eagle was a toyboy, though he was such a hero's hero that few would have called him that. Black Phantom had some mild powers apart from his gadgets but not many knew about them, so he likely would have been called a toyboy also. (Though again, nobody would have said it to his face.)

Some toyboys use magical artifacts instead of gadgets. There is, as yet, no special term for them.

Toy Soldier: See "suit".

Upper Management: See "suit".

Wigjob: Someone who specializes in "wigging" others. "To wig" is to affect someone's mind with powers - usually psionics, though others are certainly possible. (The term comes partly from "wigging out", and partly from this sequence: Telepathy -> TP -> teepee -> wigwam -> wig. "Wigwam" is occasionally heard in place of "wigjob".) The Phantom was a wigjob par excellence; Whisper is also a wigjob. Silver Siren, while she does wig people, doesn't rely on it enough to be called a wigjob.

Wigging others in a long-lasting fashion is frowned upon by the Super code. This can be called "wigging someone hardcore". (The more vulgar term for "to wig hardcore" is "to mindf*ck".) The Phantom infamously wigged Inquisitor hardcore early in his career - blocking off his powers near-permanently - but most supers would agree that Inquisitor very much had it coming. (The man was slime even by supervillain standards.)

Witch: A wigjob who affects the emotions, or who uses magic - the term is rather vague. In any case, witchery connotes a less direct, more subtle sort of wigging than the usual. "Bewitch" is the verb. "Warlock" is sometimes used for males, the complaints of neo-pagans notwithstanding. Silver Siren and Captain Kidd both bewitch people, though they probably wouldn't be called witches except in the context of using those powers.

Wizard: A mage who is capable of casting spells of his or her own, as opposed to sorcerers and artificers. Mystra, the Texas Hex, and Dr. Miracle are wizards. Enigma is both a wizard and a sorcerer. Erebus was a very minor wizard, but one with a highly unusual specialty.

Wrench: A super-genius gadgeteer. Since wrenches often do not have overt powers of their own and rely on their inventions, their relationship with the wider Super culture can sometimes be uneasy. Technoid and Hardhat were wrenches, as are FAQ and Silver Siren.

Zapper: To "zap" someone is to shoot them with some sort of energy. A "zapper" is thus a super who makes extensive use of zapping. If zapping is pretty much all a super does offensively, they are a "blaster". Bazooka is a blaster. Zappers who can also shape energy in more subtle ways are "Jedi". Photon is an electromagnetic Jedi. Energy elementals are often Jedi as well, but the reverse is not true - you can have the ability to shape energy without having the all-encompassing orientation that an elemental has.

Striking someone with a bolt of telekinetic "force" counts as zapping. Wide-spectrum, versatile telekinetics can even be called "shaker Jedi". Teke definitely qualified, though Mind Slayer was only a "shaker blaster".
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Super Slang: Norms

Postby The Shadow » Sun Oct 04, 2009 9:13 pm

Norm: The generally-accepted neutral term for someone without powers. Sometimes jokingly expanded out into "Norman (or Norma) J. Citizen".

Null: More dismissive than 'norm', this implies someone who stands no chance whatever in a super-conflict. There are norms who are crimefighters; but the idea of a null being a crimefighter is laughable.

Zip: An openly contemptuous term for people without powers.

Fan: A norm with an obsessive interest in supers, whether in general or in specific. Fans are often conversant with the Super subculture and its lingo.

Bat: A norm who fights crime. From "Batman". Bats tend to be plugged in to the Super subculture, and a very few are even fully accepted as part of it.

Norms who fight crime *as equals* with supers using super-science gadgets are not generally "bats", they are "toyboys". (Or "toy soldiers" if in powered armor.) Norms with minor super-gadgets are more often called "toy capes", see below. (The darker ones are instead "toy masks".) Toyboys are basically considered honorary supers.

Toy Cape: A versatile term, this has several meanings. It can mean a sidekick, or a fan with delusions of becoming a sidekick. Can also be a dismissive term for a bat, especially if the bat uses gadgets. Note: This term can also be used for supers who are sidekicks, though it's fairly insulting.

Toy Mask: Like a toy cape, only darker and edgier - either a wanna-be villain, or a wanna-be anti-hero.

My Friend Sid: "Sid" is short for "Secret ID", and refers to a norm with ties to a super's hidden life. Can also be used in such phrases as, "Sid called, I gotta go." This lets supers mention their secret lives without giving specifics.

If it would be awkward for "Sid" to have a masculine name (such as, "Going out on a date with Sid" in the mouth of a straight male), the accepted alternative is "Sal", for "Secret Alternate Life".

"Sid" is sometimes also expanded out to "Sidney J. Citizen". (The feminine version being "Sally J. Citizen", naturally. "Sidney and Sally" is yet another variation.) In the days since the Star Wars prequels, a friend or relative on the wrong side of the law can even be "Darth Sidious" - though an individual called by that name is unlikely to be a norm. Finally, the word "insidious" can be used as code to cue in another super to keep secret-ID issues in mind.

-----------------

In super battles:

Specks: Short for 'spectators'. These are norms who watch the battle and generally get in the way. They differ from gawks in that they retain a certain minimal degree of self-preservation instinct.

Gawks: Norms who watch a super battle with stupefied wonder. They differ from specks in that they do not have the sense to get out of the way.

Rabbits: Norms who panic during a super-battle and flee in a disorderly fashion, often causing trouble.

Citizens (1): When unmodified, this refers to norms with the good sense not to be specks, gawks, or rabbits. When a super-battle occurs, they vacate the premises in an orderly fashion, helping others as necessary. All capes are very grateful for citizens, and many masks are too.

Citizens (2): When modified with a positive adjective, such as "fine citizens" or "upstanding citizens", this refers sarcastically to norms who are in the way or causing trouble. "A bunch of nice citizens crowded around asking me for autographs, and the perp got away." Sometimes used as a code between capes: "Photon, let's not bother these fine citizens," as a warning to stay off a sensitive topic.

'People' is often used in the same way. ie, "Good people" or "fine people". This form is more often used when directly addressing the individuals in question. "Good people, I would ask you to stand back from the fighting."

Reptiles: Reporters, considered as lower life-forms. Reptiles are usually also specks, of course. The classic (if bitter) joke is that "Reptiles prey upon rabbits".

The term can also refer more broadly to anyone snooping around with ulterior motives. In particular, 'lizards' are lawyers digging up dirt on a hero, and 'snakes' have darker motives - blackmail or worse.

Our Dear Friends: When said with heavy sarcasm, this is another term for reporters. The official full phrase is "Our Dear Friends in the press corps", but there are all sorts of more colorful endings. One common one is, "Our Dear Friends of the reptilian persuasion".

Badges: Often cops, but can be anyone connected with the government who has at least minimal combat training: soldiers, spies, agents, what have you. Badges are usually armed, and aren't completely useless (or harmless) in a battle. On the other hand, they often have the ability to make trouble later.

Our Blue Brethren: A cape term for the police, collectively. Usually said with sarcasm.

Both capes and masks are apt to make use of such phrases as, 'the boys in blue' and 'the thin blue line' as well. Going to jail can be called going 'into the wild blue yonder'. "Feeling blue?" is a common crack from a cape to a mask. (Or more darkly, in the opposite direction.)

The Loyal Opposition: When used by capes, this refers to minions, mooks, thugs, and any other norms generally on the side of the bad guys. When used by masks, it usually refers to cops. In either case, the full phrase is, "The Loyal Opposition is prepared to Give Their All," meaning that they will go down quickly.

Often abbreviated to LO, pronounced 'low'. The usual joke is, "LO, and what before my wondering eyes should appear?", among many other variants. "LO-down rascals" and "LO-er criminal element" are others. The abbreviation also comes up as a mocking, "'Ello!"
"All right, I am not the Shadow. You have nothing at all to worry about. Except, oh, wait, I'm pointing a gun at you."



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Re: Shadow-Force Files

Postby Libra » Mon Oct 05, 2009 10:19 am

Fascinating work, Shadow, which I'm ashamed to have neglected - so many threads, so little time! :oops:
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Re: Shadow-Force Files

Postby The Shadow » Tue Oct 06, 2009 12:36 pm

Welcome back, Libra! Good to hear from you.
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Nukleon

Postby The Shadow » Thu Oct 15, 2009 10:52 am

Nukleon is a being formed in the explosion of Werner Heisenberg's lab during World War II. It rampaged through Germany for several days, further hampering the Nazi war effort, until the Thule Society successfully destroyed it. Or so they thought... Nukleon manifested itself again at Hiroshima, and has come into being again several times in the ensuing decades, always at the sites of nuclear explosions or nuclear accidents. (The threat of Nukleon has been more effective at enforcing a nuclear test ban than any treaty.) Thankfully, it seems to "decay" after a period of days or weeks if not "fed" with radioactive energy or materials; it eventually gutters out and disappears.

Nukleon is a towering being of glowing, radioactive plasma. Only vaguely humanoid, its only real constant is two legs; it usually has two arm-like extensions, but can form more as needed. Its "body" generally contains three or more hotly-glowing "eyes" that shift about seemingly at random. When especially angry or in pain, Nukleon takes on the shape of a mushroom cloud. The only sound it makes is a deep basso roaring, though its mere presence gives off a hot metallic hiss.

Mentalists attempting to contact (or control!) Nukleon have never made any headway. Its "mind", such as it is, is fixed in a rictus of fear, pain, and anger. Many attempting to contact its mind have even come away horrified and scarred by the experience. Though it is aware of its surroundings, it does not seem to engage in destruction out of malice or any distinct plan; it seems to be simply blundering about in its suffering. However, it reacts angrily to attempts to destroy or contain it. Neither has any attempt to nullify its powers ever succeeded, though its radioactive touch can be countered as usual.
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Timeline: McCarthyism

Postby The Shadow » Mon Jul 12, 2010 7:15 pm

When I wrote up the timeline, I unaccountably left out an important snippet of history: McCarthyism in the Shadow-verse. I've updated the original post, but here's the changed bit so you don't have to go looking for it:

1950: Senator Joseph McCarthy - a very mild esper - notices an attempt by a Russian telepath to read his mind. He embarks on a crusade to root out Communist telepathic spies, and many innocent telepaths are caught up in his net. McCarthy is remembered in 2008 as a heroic figure fighting a genuine threat, who became tragically overzealous and went too far. [This world's equivalent of McCarthyism was focussed almost exclusively on those with psionic powers.]

Telepaths have been perceived as a wronged minority ever since this time. [This is one reason why they are not more feared for their powers - it smacks too much of McCarthy. It's also one reason why crimefighting registration is so lenient and hands-off at the first level.]

William MacCrae (the future Bazooka) is born.
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Layout of the Shadow-Force Base

Postby The Shadow » Fri Jul 30, 2010 9:22 am

The Shadow-Force base is built in the shape of a cross. (Erebus wanted the corners to be killing fields, with crossfire potential from two wings at a time.) It is warded against magical and esper scrying from outside, though the Phantom can wander about freely if his body is within.

The external defense grid can only be described as formidable. (Though currently in the game it is offline.) Laid out by Erebus, designed by Technoid, and built by him and Alpha, it can bring a frightening amount of firepower to bear on anyone foolhardy enough to try to attack. The interior defenses are less extreme (don't want to put holes in the walls!) but still impressive. Nonlethal options are available in both cases. All defenses are under Alpha's direct control, though they can also be operated manually if desired. All doors, windows, and intercoms likewise can be activated or deactivated by Alpha, or manually from the Situation Room.

The 'front' wing contains a lobby and reception area. (No receptionist though, at least not one made of meat!) Also present here are a large Conference Room for press conferences and presentations; also a well-appointed 'parlor' for smaller meetings, interviews, and the like. Also a small kitchen. There's a secure viewing area for the Trophy Room here, but the public are not actually allowed in. The front wing can be sealed off from the rest of the base with security comparable to external measures elsewhere in the base; it is functionally a separate building.

The 'central' section of the base is the heart of Shadow-Force. The Situation Room is here: Alpha's main interface, along with viewscreens, a state-of-the-art comm system, and chairs for team meetings. Stairs lead down to the Vault, guarded by a massive door of super-alloy. The door checks handprints, voiceprints, retinal and iris prints, DNA, and mental signature before permitting entry. (The voiceprint is also a frequently-changed code phrase.) In the Vault are a safe containing confidential information about Shadow-Force; Alpha's main processor; and a hospital bed to receive the Phantom's inert physical body.

Also in the central section is the Trophy Room, with mementos from many of Shadow-Force's battles: Seth-Amon's knife (now stolen by Jessica), a pumpkin-shaped helmet from one of Jack o'Lantern's early suits, a glove of Red Dragon's, a disenchanted amulet belonging to Diabolus, and others. As well as fragments of several deathtraps Shadow-Force has been placed in over the years.

The left wing is the living area of the base. Michael Thompson's room is here (still preserved just as he left it), as are a number of guest rooms, and a dining room. There is also a small lounge, favored for more informal meetings between team members.

The right wing contains holding cells for supervillains, with all the usual precautions. The well-stocked Infirmary is also here, as is a gym.

Finally, the 'back' wing holds Technoid's lab (now much larger on the inside than the outside), the central power system of the base, and various maintenance supplies. Beta's 'room' is here, dominated by his charging station. He is within easy calling distance from the Situation Room.

Alpha has a variety of specialized robots, mutually designed and built by himself and Technoid, which serve as his 'hands' at various tasks. None of them are designed for combat, but some have tools that could serve in a pinch. Besides his repair 'bots for maintaining the base, he has a couple med 'bots in the Infirmary and the Vault - though the latter is now painfully obsolete. As well as workshop 'bots to bring his visions to life.
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If Shadow-Force Were a Comic...

Postby The Shadow » Sat Sep 11, 2010 8:55 pm

[So on a slow day I had a few thoughts about Shadow-Force from the point of view of the comics industry - what would have driven the direction of the campaign from a comic company's point of view? I wrote the following and sent it to SP, thinking it likely to amuse him. I was right! Perhaps it will amuse you too. I see the company in question as a smallish one that has somehow managed to acquire title to some Golden Age properties.]

I think originally there was an Erebus book which was fairly popular. (He's basically a magical-darkness version of Wolverine, after all.)

When they started heating up the P.S.I. arc, they introduced the Phantom to team up with. Probably they were wanting to see how this went over with the fans; the Phantom could've ended up as a one-shot (though popping up later in other contexts, of course), as a sidekick of sorts - or, if he proved popular, he could even get his own book.

The P.S.I. arc proved wildly popular. So much so that the editors wanted to keep Erebus and the Phantom together, and started floating the idea of a team. They introduced a supporting character, a minor second-tier guy Technoid that they hadn't done much with in a while, to see how that went over. It did fine, though Technoid was never as popular as the other two.

So they started a new "Shadow-Force" title. Brimstone and X-97 were created from scratch; Bazooka had probably been, like Technoid, an established minor character they'd never done much with. I don't know if the Erebus solo book continued; probably not.

Mystra and Chameleon were introduced by different writers as allies, but not every writing team felt inclined to use them, so they languished a bit. Meanwhile, Shadow-Force was tied in with the Freedom Squad, an old Golden and Silver Age team that still saw some use, but which hadn't carried its own book in a while.

The "shocking conclusion" to Forestrike's criminal career received critical acclaim; the team had finally 'arrived' as a cemented feature of the setting. (And likewise, the Phantom firmly established as a major A-list hero and leader of the team.) So the editors started thinking of ways they could capitalize on this.

"Shadow-Force" started getting a backup feature called "The B Team" or something like that - lighter stories about trainee superheroes. Sometimes the reservists popped up in the main plot of the book too, just to spice things up. One of them, Photon, proved surprisingly popular. Although he'd started out basically as comic relief, his innocent, sincere goofiness won people over.

"The B Team" faded out after a while, but Photon got his own limited miniseries, just to see how it would do. They tried taking him in a bit more serious direction, while keeping him idealistic and awkward. The arc against the Covenant did quite well. Meanwhile the main "Shadow-Force" book continued to do well, and fans started to clamor for Photon to take on a bigger role; so he joined the team as its most junior member.

At this point the writers started pushing things to the next level. To the glee of the 'shippers, Bazooka and Brimstone got engaged. And they started introducing new cosmic-level villains: Red Dragon, Diabolus, and most of all the Doctor.

In that last arc, they decided to go 'dark'. They built things up heavily - 'Who will live and who will die?', that kind of thing - and then actually killed off the Freedom Squad (which by that point were basically also-rans for Shadow-Force anyway). It sold a lot of comics, even hit the mainstream news - "American Eagle" had been a popular Golden Age book, after all.

The dimension-travelling arc going after the Doctor caught the fans' attention as seriously cool. Meanwhile people wanted to know what was going on with Photon in the team's absence. The writers started doing minor arcs with Photon and Beta trying to cope, and these were well-received.

At this point the editors decided to roll the dice and try something new. The major driving dynamic of Shadow-Force had always been the relationship between the Phantom and Erebus; a new writing team had quite a bit of nostalgia for the early days of the P.S.I. arc.

So they gave the Phantom and Erebus their own duo book to have weird dimensional adventures in and in the process gave Photon a "radiation accident" so he could start stepping up as more of an equal with the others. But sales for "Shadow-Force" started to slip without the two main characters... The stories were lackluster and the book came perilously close to cancellation.

Until somebody had the brilliant idea of taking things a step further. Photon got his own limited series again, "Life & Light" in which Bazooka and Brimstone also left the team. (Perhaps got their own miniseries as well.)

These had been intended to be temporary changes to revitalize the title, but "Life & Light" *took off*. The fans loved it! (Even when the series culminated in another 'shocking conclusion', with the lackluster hero Technoid being turned into a villain and defeated by Photon.) The editors weren't quite sure where to take things from there, though, except they wanted more.

"Life & Light" had focussed on the trials and tribulations of Photon trying to hold the city together more or less alone; it gave the writers an excuse to do teamups with some less-used characters, like the Protectors and the Texas Legends. But what had really captured the fan's attention was Photon being forced to mature, to lead. You couldn't keep that up forever with temporary teamups.

After some dithering about what to do, it was decided to recreate Shadow-Force almost from the ground up, a little 'edgier' this time. *And* reviving American Eagle (the oldest and most popular Freedom Squad hero) with a fresh new look, while hinting that Black Phantom (the second most) was not far behind. I'm sure Hardhat fans are sending in letters. :)
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Diabolus

Postby The Shadow » Wed Jan 12, 2011 11:36 pm

Diabolus was one of the greatest threats Shadow-Force ever faced. An extradimensional archmage powerful enough to conquer several dimensions single-handedly, he'd intended Earth to be next. Breaching our dimension in Seattle, he was narrowly defeated and banished by the combined efforts of Shadow-Force, Mystra, and the Freedom Squad.

The archmage is capable of looking like whatever he pleases; he 'honored' his new slave race by taking human form during his attempted conquest, but upon being banished his true form was revealed as that of a satyr. It is now speculated by some scholars that the satyrs who breached our dimension causing much trouble in the 1930's were partly advance scouts and partly refugees.

Diabolus has only two real weaknesses. The first is his towering ego, which is greater even than his immense (and seemingly limitlessly versatile) power justifies. He proved resistant to the belief that mere mortals could threaten him in any serious fashion, and realized his mistake too late.

The second is his phobia of science and technology - which he cannot understand and thus fears and hates. Photon, of all people (he was painfully green at the time) reduced the mage to incoherent terror for a time by reflexively taking light-form when Diabolus attempted to control his mind. The experience of relativistic travel through Photon's mind, and the associations leading to Jon's world-class knowledge of the subject, nearly unhinged the wizard - enabling the other supers to get in some devastating attacks. (Diabolus wasn't nearly that hysterical about, say, Technoid; it seems that it was more scientific theory than actual technology that bothered him. Or perhaps it was the unexpected onslaught that brought on his fit.)

Jon for his part, in struggling to throw off the mind control, ended up beyond the orbit of Jupiter and had some HIGHLY awkward and dangerous moments getting back to Earth without a spacesuit. Back then, he could only travel in straight lines with his light-form, and had to materialize multiple times to get his bearings to find the Earth again. He was lucky to get back alive; Technoid made him a spacesuit afterward in case of future mishaps.

Diabolus' name has become a byword for evil and fear in many dimensions, even those he is not known to have visited - it seems that traumatic events sometimes 'echo' across dimensional boundaries. Some now theorize that the Devil is in some esoteric sense named after him, rather than the reverse.
"All right, I am not the Shadow. You have nothing at all to worry about. Except, oh, wait, I'm pointing a gun at you."



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