One of the things I love most about superhero gaming is the creation of the supporting cast. Specifically, the villains who would face off against our noble team. After all, part of what defines a hero is the villains he opposes.
This can be seen as early as Dick Tracy in the early 1930s. Dick’s enemies are almost always hideously deformed, indicating the strip’s stance on crime. Batman’s foes are largely insane, in a modern version of the frontier tale – the man who would ‘civilize’ a land cannot be part of that civilized society. And Iron Man almost always faces off against other technological geniuses.
With that in mind, I’d like to showcase the logic behind a few of my baddies. I always try to tie them either into the hero’s powers, the hero’s backgrounds, or what I know about the player.
Avalanche is one of our heroes. His powers are super-strength and earth control, his secret identity is a geology professor and football coach at the local University, and his player hates mind control (having run a low-willpower character in a D&D campaign before).
Sylph has powers of intangibility. She can phase through anything except a specific mineral, which will be revealed in play and allow Avalanche to use his earth control powers to trap her in that mineral. I like the idea of a random guard’s wedding ring scratching her during a robbery. She specializes initially in art heists, which lets me contrast the very down-home hero with swank and snobbish old money types. Future plotlines include trying to corner the market on the mineral she’s vulnerable to, and turning to international smuggling (by phasing into airplanes).
Mooncalf is a Hulk-type character, incredibly strong but with no foresight or self-control. He isn’t villainous, but can’t control his changes; and is – of course – a member of the University football team. While that’s not obvious in their first fight, Avalanche will have to decide what’s best for the student, for his team, and for society. Imprison him? Try to cure him? Monitor him closely? Any of these choices determines how Mooncalf develops in later sessions, from a tragic figure to a full-blown supervillain.
The Power Broker is a mastermind who develops a serum to bestow low-level powers onto normal humans. A biology professor at the University, he uses some of his students as unwitting test subjects, trying to perfect and increase the power of his serum. The intent is to introduce him as a sympathetic non-player character in faculty meetings, try to establish a friendship with Avalanche, then slowly unveil his involvement in these extra-curricular activities.
Finally, for basic all-out slugfests, Lord Grome is lifted straight out of Moocock’s Elric series, the king of all earth elementals. I really want to have a mirror of Avalanche who isn’t terribly complicated or difficult to understand, and I know the players will get a charge out of this blast from our collective pasts.
Other comic writers or gamers out there? How do you design your villains?