I'd like to run a Popbot campaign at some point in the distant future, so this thread is intended to provoke interest and to help me prepare for it. I'll gradually add more sample characters for various archetypes, complete with art (probably based on requests).
Ashley Wood and Sam Kieth's Popbot series has no entry on Comicvine and only a stub on Wikipedia, which is surprising given the originality of the setting and the quality of the art. The art is not just filler for a story, each page is practically a painting. The setting is really intriguing. Popbot has it all: a punk-rock singing cat, fembot assassins in black stiletto platforms up to the knee, male cyber-bot Elvis ronin, and Arthurian legend. The characters are often somewhat ridiculous, but Popbot is not a comedy. The story has an indeterminate sense of time throughout most of it. The setting is dark and has a pulpy noir feel in addition to eclectic array of elements ranging from pop culture to supernatural horror. The Popbot universe seems to be almost like a dream world pieced together from traumatic experiences of a collection of individuals (the injury of Kitty/Mr. Paw's owner when he was stabbed by a jealous band member or by the apparent suicide of Stephen).
Game features and rules:
Inspiration: Smoking opium (and using a Hero Point) can lead to temporary (uncontrolled) precognition.
Timetide: In the Popbot universe, time is plagued with ripples that obscure any linear progression. The 12 day battle to retake Cairo, for instance can also be dated from March 22, 1943 until August 28, 2206. In a campaign, this can be handled by two methods: a) parallel plots with the same characters in different times similar to the storytelling method of Darren Aronofsky's movie the Fountain, or b) a more linear storytelling method that integrates two different time periods in a manner consistent with Julie Taymor's movie Titus. For simplicity's sake, I would use method b.
Trauma and the Fourth Wall: Story elements can appear in the Popbot universe based on traumas in a parallel reality resembling our own world. An everyday person named Stephen, for instance, seems to have contributed himself (as Andy Warhol) and his one-armed uncle Donald/Liarg (Popbot) to the story by shooting himself in the head. Likewise, Kitty's real world owner seems to have interjected himself as the Punk King by virtue of being stabbed and hospitalized. The Maxx seems to be present for the same overarching reason, as could be other heroes.
Timelines and Settings:
The past and present:
1889 – Lord Brinefellow foresees the “deathbringer,” who will unleash Armageddon. He founds the Cult of Cleth (1889- c.1959). His followers spent their time trying to interpret the meaning of the message and discover when the deathbringer (who resembles Popbot) would come.
1930s – The Third Reich invades Europe, aided by a mysterious robot wielding an iron bat. Pulp hero Luthor Bean touches it in the forehead and disables it.
1946 - Awakening of the Totes Herz on Mars. His supply chains were cut, however, leaving his condition unknown.
1959 - The Avery Mongo robot prototype was developed but was deemed too slow and cumbersome. The WBR (World's Best Robots) factory designed the Brambleton Royal MK 1 (or Hardacre) robot line.
1961 – Sexual revolution in the West begins. “Disturbing, lurid, nasty things became commonplace” and the invention of female cyber-beings (pleasure bots) began. Eventually, a new model is created that will resist advances (to make attraction challenging again), but the cyberbots developed their own personalities and shunned humanity. Over the course of the 1960s and 1970s, they fled Earth, formed the largest private investigation business ever seen and many became mercenaries “stalking their prey in bikinis with stiletto heels and seven-inch magnums.”
1963 - The Coalition lost ground in Europe and Africa. The Mortis forces launched offensives into Africa to wipe out humanity.
1964 - The Brambleton Royal entered military service. WW4 turned against the Neo Axis powers with their defeat in one of the world's largest land battle in Central Africa in 1964.
1984 - WW4 draws to a close. The WBR factory released a line of Brambleton Softacre robots for a domestic civilian market.
2002 - Present day stories start. 2215 Funlicker is overshadowed by the Back Door Boys, a "boy band" of post-op (formerly female) transexuals. The “Geeee Bob with Andy Warhol” show, featuring everyone’s favorite Andy Warhol clones, is popular.
Space flight (through the ion engines capable of folding space) is fairly commonplace. Neo Camelot on Mars was the dream of mankind but has wilted into a nearly lifeless outpost that is blasted by winds and sand due to the strain of war and embargoes on the settlement (by Mortis forces). Synthetic foods are the staple diet. Synthetic animals are present, but many have died as the colony lapses into decline. Neo Camelot is run by a warrior king known as his royal highness The Forth, and his feline vizier Dothan.
Meanwhile on Earth, Europe and Russia are nuclear wastelands. England south of Manchester is also a wasteland. Prime Minister Bez is formally in control of England, but a textile kingpin named Mr. Bridger runs the show. Black pudding is the staple food there.
2203 - Beginning of England “race riots” with military grade weapons (really a large-scale drug war).
2206 - Retaking of Cairo. The Cairo conflict (numbering 3 million combatants and 1.9 million robots) was the largest land-air battle of WW4. Popbot's last confirmed sighting was at this battle, where he defeated a 400 foot tall Bosch Bot.
2208 – End of the England “race riots.” A Yardie named Muffett set off a small tactical nuke in Picadilly Circus that wiped out London. The English government moved north.
2219 – Future stories start.
Earth - In both timelines, Earth is the center of the known universe and has the majority of humankind. Earth is somewhat depopulated by the human-Mortis wars and the drop in child births stemming from the human abandonment of the message: "explore, conquer, breed."
Inferno Playa 6 - IP6 was the location of an important battle (history's largest land battle) between the Mortis and Coalition forces. The planet seems to be immune to the timetide that affects the rest of the known galaxy. It was also the site of the first and largest deployment of Tomorrow King soldiers. Coalition forces would have lost the war if not for the battle of Inferno Playa 6.
Mars - A terraformed planet that is the location of Neo Camelot. It serves as the seat of the Forth's monarchy. It is one of many outposts of human civilization beyond Earth.
UCPWNN 13 - A planet without a formal name, UCPWNN stands for "universe crypt planet with no name." As the title implies, it is crawling with zombies and other horrors.
Main Types of Enemies:
Devilbots – Also known as "Teufel Bots," male cyber-bots of unknown origin. Some are serving the Mortis. Large robots with a machine appearance. Smaller versions often operate in the criminal underworld as assassins and thugs. These generally wear suits or similar attire.
Nature Mortis – Fembots originally used as sex objects that eventually revolted against humanity, becoming bounty hunters and assassins. They serve Queen Mortis, who organized the Mortis movement. Not all of the Mortis revolted, but many did. Mortis have an attractive human appearance (the Attractive feat is required) are usually scantily clad or even partially naked. Many models are immune to radiation and toxins (due to bioskin and toxin scrubbers in the lungs).
Demons: This category can include children of the Devil, succubi (they require hosts and usually possess animals since humans put up too much of a fight), vampires, or banshees.
Animals – Normal animals with unusual abilities (such as talking cats) or mutant animal hybrids (such as monkey headed people).
Clones – Genetic copies of famous people of the past, such as Andy Warhol or Basquiat.
Elvis Ronin – Exclusively male and originally used for corporate takeovers, they are clone samurai with haircuts like Elvis in Blue Hawaii. They are also known as the Tomorrow Kings: “Elvis culture crossed with Japan’s finest fighters. Cool and deadly, thank you very much!” They were tasked with hunting down any monsters that got off Earth due to the creation of ion engines. Only around 60 have fought in Coalition forces but even a small special ops group is rumored to be as powerful as an entire battalion. They are naturally autistic (though some exceptions have arisen) and unflinching in their resolve when hunting Mortis.
Established Superheroes – Including the Maxx, for example.
Historical Figures/Fictional Historical Figures – Sherlock Holmes, King Arthur.
Magi – Sorcerers. Some survive from the mid-20th century.
Martial Artists – Many forms of kung fu are common, including “tantric kung-fu” (suggested APs: Emotion Control [Love, touch range] and Nauseate [Pleasure descriptor]).
Classic pulp adventurers - Versatile pulp heroes, such as the playboy Luthor Bean.
Robots – Various types of male robots with obvious robotic appearance and varying sizes. The most common examples are the Brambleton WBR models. Most have some sort of built in weaponry, either hook hands or guns.
Rogue Nature Mortis – Fembots that have betrayed the Queen and thrown in with humanity. Rogue Mortis are rare.
Supers – People with super powers, such as super speed or the ability to out drink Keith Richards. Some have abilities from supernatural relics (such as the rags used to douse the blood of a dying JFK, which bestowed super vision to a blind gunslinger). Many of them are in the human army fighting against the Nature Mortis and the Devilbots. Elvis ronin, such as Sou Desu Aberu the Swift, can also fall into this category.
Supernaturals – Spirits of spontaneously combusting gangsters that currently inhabit a sock puppet, for instance. Half-vampires (Luthor Bean, Jr.) are also possible.
Luthor Bean: Famed physicist/occultist and classic pulp adventurer. He created the ion engine. He studied the drawings of the Cult of Cleth and smoked a lot of opium. Bean is competent in martial arts, including severing one’s link to the unconscious. He stopped the Sinistar Simian and killed both Frankenstein and Dracula.
Luthor Bean, Jr.: Created a new line of male cyber-beings – the Elvis Ronin. He is the son of Luthor Bean and Madam Bat, a vampire known for her “vampire stag movies.”
The Blind Gunslinger: Named Emit Brown, the Blind Gunslinger wears the rag that they cleaned JFK’s face with after his death. The relic allows him to see, even in the dark.
Mr. Bridger: Kingpin of textiles in New Manchester. He’s also the Devil. Popbot killed his son when he attempted to capture him.
The Forth: Also known as the Punk King, a former punk singer who has become the king of the human universe. He wages war against Queen Mortis and has outlawed anything remotely linked to the Mortis. He may be a new incarnation of King Arthur, but is quite unpopular due to the strain of the war on his court. In his war, he is allied with the Tomorrow Kings. The Forth has “mystical super healing magic.” He has saved planets, made being good cool, and fights giant robots with a sword or with his fists.
Sherlock Holmes: 2000 year old gay sleuth, but somewhat disoriented without Watson. Has a fondness for lemon salad, which he invented.
Kitty: The roguish and irresponsible lead singer (screecher) of 2215 Funlicker, a famous punk band. According to Andy Warhol clone 13, he flushed out “the artifice of pretentious ‘70s prog-rock and insidious heavy-metal hair bands of the ‘80s” with his groundbreaking music. Also known as Mr. Paws, at some point he becomes vizier Dothan to The Forth and leads a campaign for veiling of women and to outlaw extramarital sex.
The Maxx: Titular character and superhero in Sam Kieth's the Maxx. Really needs no other intro.
Mo Prostate: Hardcore Canadian rapper. Intended for his name to be Mo Prostrate. He has collaborated with Kitty in the past and has mad respect for him.
Oyabun: A Tomorrow King lacking any signs of autism. He led the Tomorrow Kings in the Battle of IP6. Oyabun can sidestep time and teleport.
Popbot: A male robot that may date back to the 1930s. He has a hook for a hand. Popbot was a roadie for 2215 Funlicker and became Kitty’s bodyguard. Rumored to be an Alpha Teufel Bot, may be an incarnation of Excalibur.
Queen Mortis: Leader of the Mortis and possibly an incarnation of Morgana Le Fay. She organized the Mortis uprising and plans to conquer Earth and all of its colonies. She is nearly indestructible, has great reservoirs of rage, and powers of regeneration. She can also field divisions of male cyber-bot “deathbot” infantry.
Lady Sham: A rogue female cyber-bot that saved The Forth and swore loyalty to his people. She is a competent martial artist. She married The Forth and may be an incarnation of Guinevere.
Sinistar Simian: Mad Monkey who took over most of London with his monkey horde.
Sockpuppet Gangster: In life, the small time hustler and thug named El Gallo Rojo. He was known for his sock puppet on his right hand, his constant swearing, and his love of polyester pants. After a polyester pants combustion accident, he was reduced to only a sentient sock.
Gina Star: Lead singer in Manbirth and former bassist of Dracula’s Shepherd, IQ of 300. Outdrank Keith Richards on several occasions. She was a Mortis before her death at the hands of a group of Tomorrow Kings she insulted.
Andy Warhol clones: The list includes numbers 13, 18, and 34. They host the “Geee Bob” show, which is an art/music talk show that discusses (and scorns) celebrities. “Geee Bob” runs on the KOBD, the German Channel 696. They are fans/friends of Kitty and are responsible for the famous “Popbot way condensed Cat Noodle Soup” painting. Andy Warhol appears to be one of the Knights of the Round Table.
Cindy Winters: The great granddaughter of Julie Winters from Sam Kieth's the Maxx.
Brambleton Hardacre: Stocky military robots marketed in 1964. The average Hardacre robot is 12-13 feet tall, 6 feet wide, and weighs 1.2 tons. They are standardly armed with a 60 mm gun and a grenade launcher.
Brambleton Softacre: Physically designed to match the Hardacre models, they are not equipped with weaponry and instead enjoy software upgrades to be better bodyguards, dancers, and babysitters.
Devilbots: Robots of uncertain origin. Rumors and records place their origin before even 870 BC (when the 666th Teufel Bot was constructed), but this date likely revolves around a time ripple. The 666th Teufel Bot is known as the Totes Herz and is an implement of doomsday, committed to destroying all life in the universe, including that of robots. They are surrounded by a mysterious secret society known as the Teuful Schwartze Licht, who guard the knowledge of the Devilbots. The Mortis seem obsessed with reviving a group of 7 devilbots known as the "Teufel dark bots."
Nature Mortis: Human-sized and shaped robots that are exclusively female and originally designed for pleasure. They are active in terraforming, taking on the human directive of "explore, conquer, breed" in their own way. The Mortis can have highly developed consciousness and are capable of falling in love.
WBR Pipebomb: Pipebomb robots are later models designed by WBR in the early 1980s. They feature a revolutionary Task-Based Intellect (T.I.) which is capable of Artificial Evolution, rather than the standard A.I. The average Pipebomb robot is 9.5 feet tall, 4 feet wide, and weighs 1.5 tons. Their speed can reach 34-40 mph and they are equipped with either a 175 mm gun or a 200 mm thermal mortar.