World of Freedom 2.5 (DVD Commentary)

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Charles Phipps
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Post by Charles Phipps » Wed May 28, 2008 11:52 am

Davies wrote:Unfortunately, the Green Ronin online store's maintenance has resulted in a delay in my writing. Maybe it's just as well. In light of recent events in the community, I'm not really in the mood to write anything, really ...

Chris Davies.
Oh, did something happen? And yes, I am saddened by that because I just got all my players to want to buy the ebooks.

edit: Found out, sorry.

*bows head*

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Re: The Scarab II

Post by Rhialto » Fri May 30, 2008 12:07 pm

Davies wrote:By now, of course, it's well known that the legacy of the orginal Scarab (Alexander Rhodes) has been passed on to a new champion, also called the Scarab (Bert Roland). What is not so well known is that there was a third man to use the name and iconography of the Scarab, in between Rhodes and Roland. Unlike either of them, he was not possessed of the ka of the great warrior Heru-Ra, and he had no unusual mental powers. Yet this Scarab was every bit as much of a hero as his predecessor or successor, and possibly more -- for he was a hero in a time when heroism was out of fashion.
You know, I loved the hell out of Scarab II, and just have to ask--where's Trygaeus, his amazing airborne vehicle?
"Eins andern knecht soll niemand seyn, der fur sich bleyben kann alleyn."--Paracelsus

Enjoy Castle Terribel! Now with iodine!

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Post by Davies » Sat May 31, 2008 9:57 am

You know, I loved the hell out of Scarab II, and just have to ask--where's Trygaeus, his amazing airborne vehicle?
Hm! You're right, that's a serious omission. I could say that I was aiming for a K-Mart version of the character, though ...

Chris Davies.

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The Seven Shadows

Post by Davies » Sat May 31, 2008 10:05 am

As has already been discussed (in "Seven in the Shadows") Serena Vervain acquired several new allies during her year-long war with Cabot, Cunningham and Crowley. When she chose them (or agreed to let them choose her, in some cases) she thought she was simply recruiting people whose talents could be useful to her, people about whom she wouldn't care as much as she did her friends and family, so that it wouldn't hurt if she lost them. As it turned out, they would be more than that. When it was all over, Seven wondered aloud whether she had been seeking out people who could teach her the lessons she needed to learn.

From Meg Richie, a former agent of AEGIS' "Sigil Branch" who'd become a "fixer" in retirement, she learned a number of things, most obviously certain of her skills in networking. But the most important lessons that Seven learned from Meg were about practicality and pragmatism. While she's never been an airy-headed idealist, Serena has usually focused on what ought to be, rather than what is. Meg's hardheaded focus on the material and the immediate could have clashed with Seven's usual approach to thing, but committed as Seven was to bringing down the enemy by whatever means necessary, she was also able to come to appreciate the fixer's perspective.

It wasn't until it was all over that she learned that Meg had another agenda. Cabot, Cunningham and Crowley had made quite a few enemies in the legal community, enemies who were willing to support efforts to humble the firm as long as they didn't have to get their hands dirty. Meg was, at least in part, acting for mercenary reasons, and received a large commission for her role in the firm's troubles. It's a testament to what Seven had learned from her that she didn't get angry about this when she found out the truth.

Anton Levesque, a scholar of the supernatural and an old acquaintance of Richard McNichols, was brought into the alliance by him. Seven found his book-based magic to be fascinating, but she soon realized that she outstripped him in most mystical respects. That could have been the lesson that her interactions with him were supposed to teach her - that she was already more powerful than the vast majority of magic-users, and shouldn't go seeking more power -- but she would also learn that from meetings with Doctor Li and Dame DeMaurier.

Instead, it seems likely that what she was supposed to learn from him was what real betrayal felt like, rather than the hurt that she felt when she learned that her grandmother and Eldrich were keeping secrets from her "for her own good". When Levesque sold the team out for a bit more magical lore, he wasn't acting in anyone's interests but his own. And he got away with it, too -- disappeared so effectively that neither Meg's vast network of contacts nor Serena's magic could find him. Yet because she now understood what it was actually like to feel betrayed by someone, Seven was able to find it in her to forgive her loved ones. For that reason, if she ever finds Anton, she's just going to burn his books to cinders, rather than hurting him.

Barbara Collin, a psychic investigator formerly associated with the district attorney's office, contacted the group as it was forming. She flatly confessed that she had a grudge against Cabot, Cunningham & Crowley, who'd caused her to lose her job, and wanted in on the attempt to bring it down. While Barbara helped Seven to develop her psychic sensitivities, the lessons that she inadverantly taught her about subtle use of paranormal resources were much more important. Seven has always imitated Eldrich's extremely flashy magical style, but now she's come to appreciate a quieter approach.

"Dwight", who remembered no other name from the time before his transformation into a hideous creature, taught Seven a very valuable lesson about not judging by appearances. Not that she assumed that his horrible exterior was proof of his horrible interior; far from it. But assuming that horrible exterior masked a sweet, gentle interior was every bit as big a mistake. The sadistic side that he ultimately revealed forced Seven to confront her own tendency to go too far.

Satsuki's lesson was the strangest. Motivated solely by love for Richard McNichol, the cat-girl stood and fought alongside Seven despite the fact that she couldn't stand her. The notion that love can make people do strange things wasn't news to Serena, but it took her a while to come to grips with what Satsuki called love -- a decidedly carnal thing, with elements of domination and submission, and a far cry from Seven's own, more intellectualized passions. Understanding someone with emotional needs so different from her own was a challenge every bit as daunting to Seven as any physical conflict could be.

The hardest lesson was taught by the one casualty that the team suffered. Amy Madison, a beat cop with the FCPD, had been killed months before by one of the junior associates of Cabot, Cunningham & Crowley -- not as part of some elaborate scheme, but through simple negligence, when the lawyer was driving drunk and ran the off-duty police officer off the road. He escaped punishment for his actions due to legal maneuverings by the firm, and that drew Officer Madison back from the dead as an enduring guardian, who joined forces with Seven's Shadows in hopes of dealing with her unfinished business.

That business involved stalking the lawyer who'd killed her and terrorizing him. Seven found herself assisting Officer Madison in this pursuit, and was far along enough on the path of vengeance that she didn't even try to stop Madison from taking her murderer captive in preparation to execute him. But Madison surprised her; she didn't kill the man who'd killed her. She didn't want him to lose everything, just to think that he was going to lose everything, as she had thought the same thing. As it turned out, fate had given her a second chance, and it wouldn't be right to deny him that. That would make her worse than he was -- not as bad, worse.

Having done this, Madison commented that she felt tired, and lay down. As she wasn't alive in the first place, it can't be said that she died, but she definitely ceased activity. Seven and the others buried her in the grave from whence she'd emerged, months before, and Seven found herself musing on what she'd just learned about the difference between justice and vengeance.

The lesson came almost too late. Seven's ultimate plot to take vengeance on Lucius Cabot had already begun. The junior associate that Madison had tormented took back with him the information that important secrets of the Vervaine family were buried under Claremont Academy, and the information came into Lucius Cabot's possession. The plan was that Cabot would unwittingly walk right into the presence of the Vengeance Spirit, which would be satisfied with him. But at the last moment, Seven realized that it wouldn't.

Accompanied by her remaining allies, Seven set out to rescue Cabot from his confrontation with the Vengeance Spirit. Owing to some confusion involving Dauntless of the Alterniteens, they weren't able to do so -- but as the Spirit seized hold of Cabot, Seven found her second sight greatly enhanced, and saw the being clearly for the first time.

To her vision, it was as though one hand almost too vast to be perceived was holding onto Cabot, while another hand was reaching towards him, as though to remove him from that hold ... and she looked up, and saw that both hands were the hands of the same, impossibly vast being, which seemed divided against itself. And so, for good or ill, she had to choose to which part of that creature she owed allegiance.

She made her choice. And though Cabot was dragged away into the depths of the Abyss, screaming all the way, that was not by any choice of hers. Those were his own choices, coming back to haunt him. She would have protected him if she could. Instead, she had to settle for the lesser victory of sending the Vengeance Spirit back whence it came, ending its binding to this plane.

With Cabot gone, the senior partners of Cabot, Cunningham and Crowley have descended into infighting, and other law firms have started to fill the role that it once played in the city. Though most of them have less supernatural taint, they aren't really any better. Basically, what the Seven Shadows achieved with their heroics was a slightly different version of the status quo.

Seven decided that she was all right with that.

"Just one question," asked Richard McNichol, as she reflected on all of this in his presence, a little while later. "You've gone over what all of us had to teach you, except me. What'd you learn from me?"

"Some really bad jokes."

"Ah. Well, you're welcome."

"And one other thing. Why'd you help me?"

So he told her then, about how his father, an accountant, had once helped Cabot, Cunningham and Crowley cook their books, and had been cursed as a result, sending their entire family on a never-ending quest to restore the balance of supernatural power. He'd hoped that by demolishing the firm, he'd free his family from that geas ... but it hadn't worked out that way.

Seven nodded. "I figured it was something like that. What've I learned? That trying to make up or get vengeance for stuff that happened to your ancestors is a pretty lousy way to live. And that it might be better to focus on living so that your own kids won't feel that they have to fix your mistakes, or avenge your memory."

He looked at her for a moment, and then smiled. "I think I prefered the one about the jokes."

"Yeah, it had punch," she agreed.

"Mm-hm." Unexpectedly, he leaned forward and planted a kiss on her forehead. "Your kids are gonna have nothing to worry about," he said, voice strangely rather thick at the moment.

Serena blushed, got up, and headed for the door. "I'd better get out of here before you start getting all blubbery on me."

"Start?"

"Yeah. Anyway. Blessed be." And she flashed a V before she headed out.

It could still go either way, Richard knew. She could end up being a Master Mage so great as to make people say "Adrian who?" Or she could wind up being the first Dark Lord of the Tellurian. But her destiny was in her own hands now ... and he had a feeling she'd do just fine.

* * *

In the wake of the dissolution of the Seven Shadows, Seven had a brief confrontation with the corrupt sorcerer known as Nevermore, who -- for inscrutable reasons -- revealed to her what the Crime League was up to with the Olympians. She took that information to the Freedom League, and has been admitted as a member. With Siren now largely focused on New Orleans, she has become the core team's magical consultant, as well as acting as a liason between the League and Claremont Academy. She's working to mend the relationships that she broke off when her war began, with some success ... and is finally getting to know her grandfather as a person, rather than a living legend.

[Seven's updated statistics can be found here. Most of her team-mates were characters from the Street-Level Archetypes series of accessories; Richard and Satsuki's stats can be found here.]

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Post by Davies » Mon Jun 02, 2008 9:38 am

[Another trip to the 2050s and "Future Freedom" ...]

While Chase Atom (or Moon-Son, as he's still sometimes called, even though he's never really bothered to use a secret identity) has generally had to deal with the Psions alone in the years since his family disappeared, there has been one other person who's been of some help to him. Unfortunately, Chase has never had a lot of luck coordinating his efforts with this person, both due to his own tendency to treat her as a subordinate and her tendency to do exactly what she wants to do, without regards to anyone else.

Also, he really hates it when she calls him Chase-jichan.

Elly (in full Elizabeth Anne Atom-Psion, or Elizabeth Anne Psion-Atom, to use a pair of names that she never does) is the only daughter of Max Atom and Juliana "Empath" Psion, conceived during Empath's last seduction of Max, and born in 2029. Professor Psion exulted that he had finally added the psychic power of the Farsiders to his family's genetic arsenal, though his joy lasted only for a few moments, before the stroke that claimed his life. Empath watched her grandfather's final moments dispassionately, knowing that it would be trivial for her to heal the damage caused by the stroke, but doing nothing. She noted that the child kept reaching out towards her great-grandfather, but decided that was simply a stimulus reaction.

Over the next sixteen years, Elizabeth was indoctrinated with the Psion philosophy. There seemed to be no question that she would serve alongside her cousins, and later her half-siblings, when her powers broke out. When they finally did, in her early teens, Empath was pleased to discover that they were a slightly more powerful version of the set she'd possessed at that age. There didn't seem to be any of the problems that there'd been with some of the other Psions of her generation, no ... quirks of behavior that could jeopardize her performance on the mission. Her only oddity was her tendency to mix in Japanese phrases that she'd picked up off the worldnet, which seemed harmless.

And it was harmless. What wasn't harmless was the fact that she'd managed to keep her conscience a secret. In 2045, when Chase Atom first learned of the Psipher Academy, he made a frontal assault, and was -- to his shock and horror -- brought down by the Psions' superior organization. But when Empath ordered Elizabeth to join forces with her and make Chase feel the ultimate in despair, she was stunned by Elizabeth's refusal. "But why not?" she demanded.

"Because I don't want to," she said, and turned her powers on her former team-mates, giving Chase the moment he needed to recover his bearings. He was able to make his escape, accompanied by his unexpected ally and neice. Wondering aloud whether he'd just recruited the first member of a new Atom Family, Elly flatly asked him, "I just quit one team; do you really think I'm likely to join up with another one?"

She's walked her own path ever since. At least in one way, she has definitely adopted the Psion's philosophy -- she feels that, because of her powers, no one has the right to tell her what she should or shouldn't do. On the other hand, she also believes that it is always wrong to hurt someone, unless they are trying to hurt you or someone else. However, her notion of hurt is limited to physical injury, not damage to property or hurt feelings. When the law agrees with her notions of what ought to be, that's a credit to the lawmakers; when it doesn't, she'll violate it without blinking an eye.

Mostly, Elly wanders more or less aimlessly. She has no compunctions about using her powers for self-preservation. For example, she's quite willing to make someone fall in love with her and buy her food if she's hungry. To her credit, when she sees someone in trouble, she'll always try to help out if she can. In particular, she always tries to heal anyone she sees with visible injuries, unless they got that way trying to hurt her. Most of her effort is expended on helping ordinary people in ordinary troubles. Of course, in the process she has crossed a few supervillains, and they do tend to hold a grudge, so she ends up fighting the bad guys whether she wants to or not.

Elly also drops in on the students of the Psipher Academy from time to time, trying to break their conditioning by exposing them to some of the hypocrisies of her mother's philosophy. For example, she'll reveal to them the way that her mother keeps Ember, Aura and Argent in cryogenic storage because their powers have become too dangerous (or rather, in the twin's case, their gestalt's power has become too dangerous.)

She'll point out that there are other cryogenic capsules waiting for the students if their powers ever become "too dangerous". Elly sadly points out that continuing on their current course will most likely result in many of them ending up stuffed in boxes and forgotten. She hasn't had a lot of luck persuading any of the students to walk away, but she thinks she's sown some doubts. (Matters being what they are, though, that will probably just result in an attempted coup by the students. Oh well.)

Aside from her empathic powers, Elly also possesses an unusual form of teleportation. To her "passengers", it always seems as though she is travelling from one location to another by purely mundane methods, and that it takes as much time as it would ordinarily ... but in reality, only a few seconds are passing. (One theory is that she possesses potent illusion-casting abilities that only work while she's teleporting.)

[Stats for her are here.]

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Post by Charles Phipps » Tue Jun 03, 2008 4:21 am

I want to say, Davies, that I consider your Serena Vervaine post to be one of the best ones you've done. Given that, I'm going to be slightly longer in my response. First of all, you managed to do a wonderful set up with the various "lessons" that Seven had to learn in her quest for vengeance against Lucius Calbot.

Next, I'm going to say that I really enjoyed the idea that real betrayal is able to help her forgive Eldrich and her grandmother. It's nice to realize the kind of perspective that sometimes we lose on projects. Plus, you managed to turn Calbott's law firm into a nice Wolfram and Hart style organization. Seven's realization she was already one of the most powerful magicians on Earth was also grand.

Good show.

You also created a host of interesting characters here. Satsuki the BDSM catgirl was a favorite of mine (no surprise), likewise so was Richard McNichol. It's interesting to speculate if there's a love triangle ahead.

The Blessed Be business was the perfect way to end it.

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Post by dalai_rasta » Tue Jun 03, 2008 9:44 am

I have to agree with Charles on that. Excellent.

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Post by Davies » Tue Jun 03, 2008 10:01 am

Thanks, guys.

Charles -- No love triangles, though Satsuki thinks there is one. (It's just the way she's wired.) Serena reminds Richard of his little sister, and she thinks of him as a funny uncle. I'm actually considering pairing Seven up with either the new Scarab or the new Beacon in his male identity. She's going to be working with the two of them pretty extensively in the years ahead, after all.

Of course, that could create a different love triangle. Hmmm.

Chris Davies.

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Post by Davies » Wed Jun 04, 2008 10:05 am

Next Up: Back to the 1980s, for a look at another one of AEGIS' super-agents. Believe it or not, he was actually pretty cool.

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Post by Davies » Thu Jun 05, 2008 8:27 am

Gabriel Ahrens wasn't a big believer in heroes. A child of the sixties, he retained a certain distrust for authority figures -- as most heroes of the Silver Age were -- into adulthood. In 1980, after graduating from art school, he found a job as an assistant on a daily comic strip devoted to the Centurion's allegedly true life adventures, and had his opinion further lowered by the disconnect between what he was expected to draw and the frankly tyrannical treatment he received from his bosses and co-workers.

Despite temptation, though, he never tried to subvert the comic strip by drawing in "easter eggs" that would have revealed how he really felt about its subject matter. Someone would have found them, and then he'd be out of his job. So Gabe used the night time to create drawings that expressed his true creative vision.

In 1982, he was driving home from a date that hadn't gone very well when he saw a UFO descending to Earth just a few miles from the road. Despite the fact that he knew nothing good could possibly come from doing so, Gabe went off road to investigate it. He soon found the UFO, which looked to be too small to be a spacecraft, and reached out to touch it. Next thing he knew, he was lying on his back dressed in a ridiculous costume staring up at a rather irritated looking black man who was saying, "Oh great, another origin. Just what I didn't need."

As introductions go, Gabriel's first meeting with Horatio "Harry" Powers could have gone a lot better. The agent of AEGIS had been following up a lead from his investigation into a saucer contactee cult which claimed that their messiah would be descending at this location, at this time. And what should he find there but some dumb kid at the wrong location, at the wrong time?

Fortunately, it soon became apparent that Gabriel hadn't been changed by the experience, except for his clothes. Unfortunately, those clothes now conferred upon their wielder superhuman powers. Fortunately, they could come off, and Gabe promptly took them off and handed them over to Powers and AEGIS. Unfortunately, it quickly became clear that they didn't work for anyone else.

"Boy, your life is just a never-ending cycle of heaven and hell, isn't it?" Harry asked after all this was clear. As Gabe saw things, none of this meant anything. He didn't have to use the suit. He would have quite happily dropped it in the very back of his closet, never even looking at it for the rest of his life.

Sadly, Harry didn't see things that way, and kept showing up at the most inconvenient times to talk Gabe into using his powers for the nation's benefit, with the expression that Gabe came to dread -- "This is the one that the suit was meant for!" He was dubbed True Believer after a TV reporter who got too close to him asked him if the red, white and blue elements of his costume design indicated a deep sense of patriotism. He made what should have been taken as a sarcastic retort.

Yet something very strange happened to him over the years. Gabe found that he liked the feeling that he got from helping people. And his conflicts with genuinely evil people made him either more tolerant of the people in what he thought of as his real life, or gave him the courage to stand up to them and make them back down. After all, when you've stood against Kreuzritter and held your ground, even if he escapes due to diplomatic immunity, then suddenly the thought of being fired by a pointy-haired boss doesn't hold a lot of terror for you.

His antagonistic relationship with Harry Powers gradually -- very gradually -- mellowed into friendship. (He's one of the few people who knows Powers' secret powers.) When the AEGIS Super-Squad was put together in 1986, True Believer was one of the first recruits, and put in charge of the group -- more because of his longer experience working with AEGIS than any leadership capabilities. He came to rely on Lady Liberty for advice and guidance, much like Captain Thunder would much later.

Unfortunately, even when Harry Powers became AEGIS' new director, he wasn't able to do much more than delay the Super-Squad's dissolution for a few years. With SHADOW apparently gone, and superheroes still very unpopular in many parts of the US (not just Freedom City) it was really inevitable that the program would be shut down. And Harry's new responsibilities meant that he wasn't in a position to have adventures with Gabe any more.

The Terminus Invasion could have changed everything, but the formation of the new Freedom League rendered the Super-Squad superfluous. Captain Thunder promptly invited True Believer to join the League, but Gabe declined politely. "You don't need me," he explained. "Anything I can do, you can do ... better, probably."

Since then, True Believer has entered semi-retirement. He still comes out when he's needed, during crises and so forth, and he tries to keep in fighting trim. But he mostly thinks his day is past, and he's okay with that. He has also studied his suit's capabilities extensively, and thinks that he could possibly reprogram it, though bio-feedback, so that it would work for someone other than him. (He's also learned that if he dies while wearing it, that will reset it to a "neutral" state where the next person who wears it will become the next authorized user.)

In light of that, he's seriously considering passing it on to another young would-be hero, possibly one selected by AEGIS. (Or maybe not.) After all, the suit still hasn't been used for the one that the suit was meant for ...

[Stats for this great American hero -- maybe the -- um, never mind, they're here.]

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Post by Davies » Thu Jun 05, 2008 8:40 am

Special bonus type thing! In the Stories forum, I have posted a vignette featuring characters from this thread. I hope you all enjoy "Loves and Other Madnesses"

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Post by tylrlsaa » Thu Jun 05, 2008 10:26 am

Davies wrote:[Stats for this great American hero... ]
I thought you were doing a send of him. I always loved that show. You just made my day. :)
There are three kinds of lies.
Lies, damned lies, and statistics.

-Mark Twain

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Post by Davies » Sat Jun 07, 2008 11:58 am

Well, I'm glad that someone else has the theme song playing in their head constantly now.

Oh, you didn't yet? Boy, I'm evil.

Chris Davies.

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Post by Charles Phipps » Sat Jun 07, 2008 7:10 pm

Bravo.

I always liked the concept of AEGIS super teams.

But they'll ALWAYS be a need for AEGIS super hero teams!

Freedom League or not!

;-)

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Post by Libra » Sun Jun 08, 2008 8:56 am

Pah! What kind of cissy-boy AEGIS Agent needs superpowers?

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