June 13, 2014

The Web-Slinger versus The Big Kahuna: The Fight!

Took a bit longer than I'd initially planned to get this typed up and posted.  I've been quite busy the past couple weeks, between work, gaming, dealing with some minor tech inconveniences, and dinner a week ago Friday night with two charmingly wonderful ladies.

This turned out to a rather fun fight to run and to do the write-up for.  And while far from being the "perfect" comic book fight, I think it does a decent job of showcasing how the Mutants & Masterminds 3rd edition ruleset works and how it emulates the sorts of combats we see in the comic books.  It also helped me really get into the head of my character, which will come in handy in future sessions of Ogehn's M&M Emerald City Knights campaign.

And now, on with our show...

The Webslinger vs. The Big Kahuna
As is commonly seen in comic books, this will be one hero going up against a small group of villains.  I've chosen to break each round of the fight up into a narrative description and a mechanical description, so that folks more interested in the story or the crunch can choose to focus on one or the other.

As a heads-up, I'll be using "DC" as an abbreviation for Difficulty Class.  So anytime you see mention of "DC of some number or other," I'm referring to the difficulty of the check that character needs to make, not the comic book company.  Plus, when relaying the DC's of a resistance check that's determined by an opposing character's skill check result, I'll be leaving out the base value, which is a 15 for a damage resistance test or a 10 for any other type of resistance test.

The Set-Up
This fight will be taking place in downtown Emerald City, with plenty of tall buildings for terrain and a number of abandoned cars and parts of destroyed cars for use both cover and impromptu projectiles.  There are various civilians around, but for the most part they’re going to be focused on staying out of way.

Peter will be starting this fight off with 2 Hero Points, due to his Responsibility Motivation complication as well as a dash of his Secret Identity complication from having to ditch his friend Liz.  He also doesn’t have his super-hero moniker just yet since this is his public debut as a masked superhero.  The post with his stat block for this fight can be found right here

Professor Haywire has Miss Marilyn by his side, and has spent his Minion ranks a pair of Thugs as well as a Large Robot as detailed in the Gamemaster’s Guide.  To keep things a bit simple, only Haywire will be able to re-roll a check, with the GM treating it as a complication for Peter, thus earning him a Hero Point; that doesn’t mean the GM can’t invoke other applications of a Hero Point (such as recovery) for the NPCs as a complication however.  I’m also deliberately not allowing the usage of Haywire’s Plan B for this fight; he’s only recently arrived in Emerald City and is low on resources at the moment.  Haywire and Miss Marilyn's stats are here, while the Thugs ad Large Robot are from the Deluxe Hero Handbook and Gamemaster's Guide respectively.

Initial Predictions
While Peter’s got a full two power levels on Haywire and Marilyn, he’s still outnumbered 5 to 1.  So much like the comic-book character upon whom my character is based, he’s probably going to need a blend of luck and cleverness to win this one.  I foresee the big problem to be Miss Marilyn as she’s quite tough and has a good chance of making any Toughness resistance checks that Peter might force.  The Large Robot is equally tough, but since it’s only a Minion that means that all it takes is a single failed Toughness check to take it down.  The only real source of Hero Points for Peter is going to come from Haywire if he rolls poorly, which could spell more problems for Peter.

Initiative Results
Peter aka “The Arachnid” aka Mouthy Little Punk – 24 (die roll of 12, +12 Initiative bonus)
Professor Haywire aka The Big Kahuna – 17 (die roll of 15, +2 Initiative bonus)
Miss Marilyn – 9 (die roll of 6, +3 Initiative bonus; GM opts to not trigger Seize Initiative)
Toughs – 12 (die roll of 11, +1 Initiative bonus)
Large Robot – 14 (die roll of 14, +0 Initiative bonus)

“You know Legs, I think we’ll do just fine here,” Professor Haywire remarked to his leggy female companion, taking a long pull on his cigarette as he observed his assorted minions causing havoc; it was just the sort of statement that made it clear who this city was dealing with.  Even with the Silver Storm that erupted a few months ago, the hero factor in Emerald City was pretty small, especially compared to places like Freedom City.  The Stormbreakers would be something that Haywire was sure he’d be able to deal with down the road, but for the moment the big thing that Professor Haywire was in need of was funding, especially if he wanted “Plan B” as an option for that eventual confrontation.  “Babydoll, be a dear and go make a withdrawal from those ATMs across the street while the boys have their fun.”

Miss Marilyn, as shapely and stoic as ever, gave her master a nod of acknowledgment before calmly strutting towards her directive.  The two toughs were leftovers from Haywire’s last operation back in Nevada; they weren’t too bright, but they were good at working the crowds, if by working you meant terrorizing.  The large robot, simply called “Box,” was a poor substitute for the monstrous power of Plan B or the fine-tuned prowess of Miss Marilyn, but it certainly got the job done when it came to causing chaos.  Haywire winced as Box slammed an empty SUV into the pavement, causing the front end to crumple like so much tin foil.

“Just another fine day in Emerald City,” the twisted genius remarked as he took another puff of his cigarette.

Round 1: Narrative Description
Peter was now in full costume and able to take stock of the scene and the chaos taking place as it unfolded below him.  He saw that one of the pair of gun-toting thugs was about to shoot an elderly woman.  “Alright, time to get this party into full swing!” Peter said, more to himself than for anyone to hear as he leapt off the building’s roof, firing a web strand to alter his trajectory enough to bring him swinging just past the tough guy.  “Hey, didn’t anyone tell you to respect your elders?” Peter quipped as he grabbed a hold of the back of the mook’s leather jacket, letting go of his web strand and using the momentum to swing the bozo overhead and bring him slamming into the sidewalk with a pained grunt and sudden exhalation of all the air in the thug’s lungs.  Funny how a lame joke or three helps keep me from freezing up, Peter briefly mused as he turned to square off with the rest of the rabble-rousers.

Haywire had to do a double-take after seeing one his two mooks get slammed hard into the sidewalk by some guy in a dark blue bodysuit with red trimming that looked vaguely… “Box, get to work on turning the bouncing bug boy into a scorch mark!” he barked at the large the robot, pointing out the intended target with his technocane.  Out of habit, Haywire made to flick the trigger button that would activate Plan B, but scowled upon remembering that the giant robot was out of commission.  Instead, he backed up a few steps and drew the revolver at his hip, just in case.

“Oh here we go…” Peter said under his breath as the large robot tromped in his direction, its bulky left arm having noisily reconfigured into a rather formidable-looking arm cannon.  With a roar that was probably audible for several blocks, the robot fired a hissing discharge of superheated plasma, melting the stone that had been at Peter’s feet only seconds ago before he leapt out of harm’s way.   But Peter had no sooner landed a few feet away before his enhanced senses alerted him to more danger, allowing him to easily evade the other thug’s attempts to cave the young lad’s head in with a baseball bat.  “Nice try McGuire, but this just isn’t your season,” Peter snarked as he casually sidestepped the thug’s last swing, an over-the-shoulder chop that put the thug off-balance.  Better start thinking as fast as your mouth is moving, Peter thought, or this three-on-one is gonna get a whole lot uglier.

Having not been called back, Miss Marilyn set about making the unauthorized withdrawal from the bank ATMs as she’d been instructed.  With her strength, it was a simple matter to rip away the security panels that protected the stored money from more conventional thieves.  From there, she went about stuffing as much of the money into the large duffel bag that Haywire had ordered her to bring for this caper.

Round 1: Mechanical Description
Peter spends his move action to use his Movement (Swinging) power to close with Thug 1, using 50 feet of the 60 that his rank in Speed allows for.  Once within close range, Peter makes an unarmed attack as his standard action and chooses to use the defensive attack maneuver for 2 points, giving him a -2 penalty to his attack roll but a +2 bonus to his active defenses until the start of his next turn; he figures that he’ll have no trouble hitting this guy, but isn’t sure what the rest of Haywire’s crew are capable of.

Peter has an unarmed attack modifier of +12, with -2 penalty for using defensive attack, so that plus a die roll of 7 equals a 17.  The Thug 1 has a Parry Defense of 12, so Peter’s attack roll is more than enough to hit.  Peter’s damage rating for the attack is his Strength value of 7, setting the DC for Thug 1’s Toughness resistance check at a 22 (base 15 + rank 7 damage effect).  Thug 1 gets a 13 on the die roll, adding his +3 Toughness bonus for a total result of 16, which is two degrees of failure.  But since Thug 1 is only a minion, he suffers the worst effect of any failed resistance checks, which in this case means he is incapacitated.  Peter uses the rest of his move action to land 10 feet away from where Thug 1 was, placing him within 30 feet of Thug 2, within 30 feet of the Large Robot, and 45 feet from Professor Haywire.  Since there’s no skill check involved, Peter’s quip counts as a free action.

Haywire spends his Move action to direct the Large Robot, which the GM decides is worth a +2 circumstance bonus to the robot’s attack roll.  Opting to play it safe for the moment, Haywire draws his Heavy Pistol as a free action thanks to Quick Draw and spends his standard action to defend himself.

The Large Robot forgoes its move action, and uses its standard action to attack Peter with its Built-In Weapon effect, using the all-out attack maneuver for increased accuracy, sacrificing two points from its active defenses to gain a further +2 bonus to hit.  Its ranged attack bonus is only a +6, but it has a +4 bonus from the all-out attack maneuver and Haywire’s assistance, and with the die roll coming up 13 that gives the large robot a total of a 23 for its attack roll.  Normally, this would have been a hit as Peter has a Dodge defense of 22, but he’s currently enjoying a +2 bonus to his active defenses, meaning the robot needed a 24 to hit and so its attack is a miss.  The large robot does however suffer a -2 penalty to its active defenses until the start of its next turn.

Thug 2 now takes his turn, with the GM opting to use the remaining Equipment points to provide Thug 2 with a baseball bat (treated as a club).  The Thug spends his move action to draw the weapon, and then takes the charge action to close with Peter, adding in the all-out attack maneuver as well to offset the attack penalty from using charge.  The Thug has a base close combat bonus of +2, with the -2 from charging and the +2 from all-out attacking cancelling each other out, and rolls a measly 3 on the die for a total of 5 on the attack.  And like the large robot, the Thug will suffer a -2 penalty to his active defenses until the start of his next turn, and he’s right within punching range of a superhero…

Miss Marilyn is busy fulfilling her boss’ last set of orders, so she’s not actively participating in the combat at the moment.  As such, the GM doesn’t bother making any dice rolls.

Round 2: Narrative Description
“Sorry there A-Rod, but you’ll have to find a different partner for batting practice,” Peter snarked as he flipped over the burly goon and towards the giant robot.  Don’t know how tough that super-sized tinker toy is, but guess there’s only one way to find out, Peter thought, almost feeling sorry for the other mook… almost.  Reaching over his shoulder, Peter snagged the burly batter’s biker jacket with a quick burst of webbing.  The mook’s expression changed from anger to confusion to extreme concern in the space of a few seconds as Peter used his enhanced strength to turn the goon into an impromptu projectile that was aimed directly at the large robot.  As expected, the goon didn’t fare all that well, falling to the ground in a completely undignified heap, but the only thing the robot suffered was a very minor dent in its torso plating.  “Well crap,” was all Peter could say as he readied himself for the robot’s next attack.

Deciding that ranged attacks wouldn’t be effective; the large robot’s arm cannon converted back into a regular arm as the metal behemoth lumbered forward, massive arms swinging.  Its attacks weren’t as wild as the tough guy’s had been, but Peter’s superhuman reflexes were more than a match in evading fists that were bigger than his head and probably would have caused severe injury if any of the blows had connected.

“Figures that a costumed clown would turn a simple snatch-and-grab into a spectacle,” Haywire said derisively, taking a shot with his revolver in the hopes the scrawny hero would be too busy avoiding Box’s attacks to really be aware of Haywire’s shot; never the best of marksman, he typically relied on having the drop on the person he was shooting at.  But whoever that clown was, he was not only fast enough but agile enough to almost literally twist out of the way of the bullet like something out of that low-brow science-fiction movie that the simple-minded populace had gotten so worked up about.  “Now, I’m getting annoyed,” Haywire said in a low growl before turning his attention to Miss Marilyn.  “Hey Legs, drop what you’re doing and get over here.  Looks like there’s a pest that needs a woman’s touch in being dealt with.”  As instructed, Miss Marilyn dropped the half-filled duffel bag and made her way back towards Haywire, her cold blue eyes never loosing track of the blue-clad interloper.

Round 2: Mechanical Description
Peter uses his Leaping power as a move action to put himself about 10 feet away from the Thug and about 25 feet away from both the Large Robot and Professor Haywire, and again the quip is a free action since there’s no dice roll involved.  Peter sets his web shooter array to the Web-Slinging effect as a free action, and then makes a ranged attack roll as his standard action.  Figuring the robot is more likely to simply stonewall attacks rather than avoid them, he opts to use the power attack maneuver for 2 points in conjunction with the defensive attack maneuver, giving him a +2 bonus to his active defenses, a +2 bonus to the effect rank of his Move Object attack, but at the cost of a -4 penalty to his attack roll, which starts at a +12 since he is using his web shooters.

With a die roll of 12, that gives Peter a final total of 20 on his attack roll, which is enough to beat the Dodge defense of the Thug (normally a 12, but at a -2 from using all-out attack last round for a modified value of 10 and the Large Robot by a comfortable margin (normally a 13, but reduced to an 11 from also using all-out attack the prior round).  Both the Thug and the Large Robot need to make Toughness checks against a DC of 24 due to Peter’s use of Power Attack.  The Thug only gets a 9 on his die roll for a total result of 12, causing him to be incapacitated since he’s a minion.  The Large Robot however rolls a 15 and added to its Toughness bonus of +10 for a total of 25, just beating the difficulty by a single point.

Professor Haywire decides to delay his action, allowing the Large Robot to try and retaliate.

Deciding to try for big damage, the Large Robot closes in with Peter and makes a close combat attack, again choosing to use the all-out attack maneuver for a +2 bonus to hit, figuring that its opponent’s attack bonus is high enough that the penalty won’t make any difference.  So with a close attack bonus of +5 and the bonus from using all-out attack, the large robot gets a 9 on the die roll for a total of 14 against Peter’s modified Parry defense of 24.  Swing and a miss!

Haywire decides to get directly involved, lowering his slot in the initiative order to just after the Large Robot, and spends his move action to feint, suffering a -5 penalty to his Deception roll, which has a +7 bonus.  However, a 16 on the die roll sets the DC at 18 for Peter’s resistance check.  Peter has the option of using either his own Deception skill (+8) or his Insight skill (+6), and opts to use his Deception skill since it’s got the better modifier.  Peter only rolls a 12 for a final result of 20, beating the DC and not leaving him vulnerable (active defenses are halved) against Haywire’s attack.

In spite of his feint failing, Haywire makes a ranged attack with his heavy pistol.  Deciding to avoid anything fancy, he just makes a straight attack roll with his +7 ranged attack bonus for using a pistol, and rolls an 11 for a total of 19, which will miss Peter’s modified Dodge defense of 24.  He then spends a free action to call out to Miss Marilyn.

Miss Marilyn drops the money-stuffed duffel bag (hey, she was told to drop what she was doing!) and spends her move action to get within 20 feet of both Peter and Professor Haywire.  She then spends her standard action to Aim

Round 3: Narrative Description
“Hey, whatever happened to that whole one-on-one mook chivalry?” Peter asked sarcastically as he sprang away from the brawny robot, hoping to get some distance so that he could figure out some way to take it down other than sheer brute force.  “Don’t tell me that an entire generation of kung-fu movies have been lying to me all this time!” he added as he landed on the side of a building a couple stories above street level, well out of reach of the robot.  “Of course, with the Gingerhead Man’s aim, it probably doesn’t make that much of a difference to begin with,” he added mockingly.

“Well don’t just stand there you rivet-bound dolt!  Blast him already!” shouted Haywire, his face having turned red in the wake of this web-spewing, wall-crawling nuisance’s verbal jabs.  Box complied with its master’s orders, once again converting its left arm into an arm cannon… only this time when it tried to fire, there was a high-pitched whine and a series of sparks as some part of the weapon’s internal mechanisms suffered catastrophic failure.  The robot could only gawk dumbfoundedly at the non-functional weapon, which in turn caused an already incensed Hayware throw his pistol to the ground in frustration.

“Gee, I hope the warranty didn’t run out,” Peter chided, though the robot’s sudden malfunction gave him an idea, especially since he’d gotten a decent glance at the back of the metal bruiser.  Armored on the front, but not so armored on the back, and prone to breaking down, all of which is good to know, and knowing is half the battle, Peter thought quickly, a plan of attack coming together in his mind.

“Nobody gets away with mocking the great Professor Haywire, you crass simpleton!” Haywire shouted. “I’ll make damn sure there’s nothing left but a bloody heap of meat and bones once I’m done making your suffer for your mockery!”

“Hey, I mock, I’m a mocker, it’s what I do,” Peter shot back in the best nonchalant tone he could manage .  Back when he’d been a lot younger, Uncle Jay had told Peter that not being careful about shooting off his mouth could get him into trouble.  Now, it looked like shooting off his mouth was going to help get him out of trouble.  Funny old world after all, he thought.  Strangely, the buxom blonde that had strolled up wasn’t doing much, so either she was just a mix of eye-candy and errand girl, or she preferred to mix it up by getting up close and personal.

Of course, the only thing Haywire could do at this point was glare at this unexpected foe with an intensity that could turn ice into steam in an instant.

Round 3: Mechanical Description
Peter again uses Leaping to place himself well out of close combat range of any of Haywire’s group as his move action, and then decides to hurl some verbal jabs at Haywire.  Thanks to his Taunt advantage, Peter can use his Deception skill to use the Demoralize application of the Intimidation skill on his opponent.  Peter rolls a 19, setting the DC of Haywire’s resistance check at 27.  Haywire uses his Willpower bonus of +9, but rolls a 2.  Hoping for a better result, the GM invokes a re-roll (+1 Hero Point to Peter) and gets a 15 this time around, which leaves him with a 24 as his total.  That’s still one degree of failure, and it’s enough to leave Haywire impaired (-2 penalty on all checks) until the end of Peter’s next turn.

The Large Robot switches back to its built-in ranged weapons, and again uses the all-out attack maneuver, but this time rolls a natural one.  The GM describes it as that particularly weapon having short-circuited and thus fizzled out.  Peter thinks about spending a Hero Point to disable that particular attack for the rest of the encounter, but decides not to, thinking he might need it for later in the fight, particularly with what he’s got in mind for next turn.

Haywire tries to use his own Taunt advantage to try and demoralize Peter by making him realize that the web-head is dealing with The Big Kahuna, but with that -2 penalty and a die roll of 12, that puts the DC at 17 for Peter’s own resistance check.  As per the advantage’s description, Peter can use his Deception skill and does so, adding his +8 bonus to his die roll of 16 for a total of 24, which is described as Peter just firing right back at Haywire.

Miss Marilyn doesn’t have a ranged attack, so simply readies an action so that the moment Peter gets within 15 feet of her, she’ll use the charge action to attack.  Sadly, her Aim action last round is wasted since her opponent is out of range.

Round 4: Narrative Description
“You know chuckles, this has been fun, but I’ve got other bozos in need of bashing,” Peter said as he sprung off the wall, his leap appearing to take him past the large robot’s right flank.  But at the last possible second, he fired a short web strand and managed to loop around, landing on the metal titan’s back.  “First order of business, Robot Dismantling for Beginners!” he said as he ripped off the back panel and proceeded to start tearing out anything that looked even remotely important to the machine’s continued operation.  “Yeah, you’re gonna need new batteries,” Peter added as he tore out what looked to be the main power source and hurled it as far away as he could manage, which these days turned out to be pretty far.  Catapulting himself off the falling robot’s back, Peter landed in a combat-ready crouch, attention centered right on Haywire.

Just as he was getting ready to pounce, his sense of danger alerted him to the blonde beauty as she ran (in high heels no less!) to get within punching distance.  “Hey, one dance par…” Peter began, but a blow that felt like a sledgehammer blow to his lower abdomen cut the retort short, which was quickly followed up by another powerhouse punch that sent Peter sprawling to the ground, struggling to get air back into his lungs after having the blonde bruiser literally knock him for a loop.

“Hehehe, that’s my gal,” Haywire sniggered.  “Babydoll, how’s about you twist that punk up like a pretzel while I tidy up a few loose details,” he added, casually strolling over to the discarded duffel bag full of money.

Round 4: Mechanical Description
Figuring that he’s sitting on three Hero Points, Peter decides it’s time to get creative.  First, he uses his Web Swinging effect to get into close range with the Large Robot.  However, instead of making a regular attack, Peter spends a Hero Point to assert a bit of narrative control, enabling Peter use his Technology skill to try and disable the Large Robot.  The GM likes this idea, and will let Peter use his Technology skill bonus to substitute for his regular unarmed damage bonus, however he is going to require Peter to make a successful grab attack first.  With a groan, Peter makes his attack roll using his base close combat bonus, which is his Fighting score of +6 as his ranks in Close Combat (Unarmed) don’t apply.  But it’s not a concern because Peter rolls a natural 20, resulting in a critical hit.  Knowing he really needs to take this robot down, Peter opts to increase the difficulty of the Large Robot’s Toughness check by 5, setting the DC at a whopping 30.

The Large Robot rolls its Toughness check, adding its +10 bonus to a die result of 12, leaving it with a 22 total.  This renders the Large Robot incapacitated (since it's a minion, it automatically suffers the worst result of a failed resistance check) and Peter is left with two Hero Point and two adversaries.  He then uses the rest of his movement from Web Swinging to place himself 20 feet away from Haywire and 15 feet away from Miss Marilyn.  He’s about to declare the usage of extra effort to take an extra standard action so that he can attack Haywire, but since he’s landed so close to Miss Marilyn, her readied action triggers.

Miss Marilyn chooses to use the all-out attack maneuver to offset the -2 attack penalty from charging, leaving her with her base close combat modifier of +6 on her attack roll against Peter. She could use her Power Attack feat, but decides that she needs every bit of attack bonus she can get.  She rolls a 17 on the die, for a total result of 25, which is enough to beat Peter’s modified Parry defense, finally forcing our hero to make a Toughness check of his own to resist a DC 25 damage effect.  Peter’s got a +8 bonus, but only gets a 13 on his die roll for a total of 21, just narrowly avoiding two degrees of failure (which would leave him dazed on his next action), but he’s still going to suffer a -1 penalty to any further Toughness checks until he heals up.  He does have the Regeneration power, but it’d take another six rounds before it would trigger and remove that penalty.  At this point, Peter decides not to use extra effort, since he might need those Hero Points for future Toughness checks if he rolls poorly.

Feeling that Miss Marilyn has things well in hand, Haywire decides to spend his move action to head over to the loot that Miss Marilyn dropped, and then spend his standard action to use the Machine Control effect on his Technocane array to summon the helicopter.  The GM isn’t going to have Haywire make any sort of roll, but even though he is technically stretching what the power can do, he decides that with between the Radio Communication power and having bought the helicopter with his Equipment points, this doesn’t really count as a complication for Peter.

Round 5: Narrative Description
Now son, the worst thing you can do in a tight spot is just give up,” said Uncle Jay’s voice in Peter’s head.  He was well aware that without the enhanced musculature that the spider’s bite had imparted to him, Peter’s vital organs would probably have been reduced to so much goo from the force of those punches.  Don’t think, just react, some part of his mind said.  You’re a spider, and spiders aren’t prey; spiders hunt.  With a quick shake of his head, Peter sprang back up to his feet, making to throw a series of fists at the super-strong blonde.  But just as the first punch would have come within striking distance, he instead darted to the side and unleashed both barrels of his web shooters, covering Marilyn in a net of the sticky substance.  No time like the present to give this formula an in-field tensile strength test, Peter noted.  Bound tight as she was, Peter took full advantage of the moment and started laying into her, the sounds of his fists ringing as it dented the woman’s metallic skin.  Man are my knuckles gonna look like hell after this, Peter thought, ignoring the pain as he lashed out with a powerful haymaker across the blonde’s jaw that caused her head to spin with a wrenching noise that would have been a lot more disturbing if she hadn’t been made of metal.

For her part, Marilyn struggled to break free, and for a few seconds it looked like the webbing might actually hold.  But with a final strain of effort, she managed to tear the sticky substance away, taking a significant portion of her powder blue dress with it.

“Geez lady, you do realize there are decency laws in this city,” Peter quipped, relying on the lame wisecrack to clamp down on the sudden surge of fear that threatened to overtake his rationale mind.  Still, it had slowed her down long enough for him to get in some really good shots, so hopefully he just needed a couple more to take her down.

Haywire was about to reach down to scoop up the duffel bag when he turned his attention back to Marilyn, excepting to see her following his orders to the letter.  There were times when her programming being quite so literal was an annoyance, but other times, like this, that it could be oh so charming.  Instead, he saw Marilyn’s chassis sporting a number of severe dents, most of her dress ripped apart, and several strands of webbing still hanging from her limbs, restricting her mobility.  For Haywire, this was the final straw.  Nobody, and he meant nobody dared to do that to his moll without paying a heavy price for it.  Thoughts of money and escape slipping from his mind, Haywire switched the technocane over to its electro-shock mode, with a savage bellow charged at the arachnid, fully intent on shoving the business end of the cane right down this cretin’s masked throat.

As if the loud yelp wasn’t enough of a tip-off, Peter’s danger sense flared up, allowing him to quite easily sidestep the initial thrust of Haywire’s cane, the tip of which was sparking with electricity.  However, he was off-balance when the ginger-haired crook brought the cane’s head around to connect with his left shoulder blade.  The pain in Peter’s knuckles was momentarily forgotten as a surge of electricity raced though his body, causing a full-body muscle spasm that was extremely painful but thankfully was also very, very brief.

“I said you were going to suffer, and the Big Kahuna is a man of his word, you wretched little arachnid,” Haywire spat.

Round 5: Mechanical Description
In spite of the description of last round’s attacks, Peter isn’t actually prone, though he could easily make the DC 15 Acrobatics check required to stand up from prone as a free action.  Instead, he spends his move action to use Agile Feint on Miss Marilyn, hoping to catch her off-balance, though he’ll suffer a -5 penalty to do so, reducing his +14 skill check modifier down to a +9, which is still pretty good, especially with a roll of 18 for a final result of 27.  Marilyn rolls her Insight bonus of +9, but only comes up with a 14 for a total of 23, which isn’t enough to match Peter’s result and leaves her vulnerable (reduce active defenses by half) against his next attack.  Peter spends a free action to change his Web Shooter array to the Web Snare effect, and decides to use the power attack maneuver for 2 points, increasing the effect DC by 2 while suffering a -2 penalty to his attack roll.  He considers also using defensive attack since he figures he’ll have no problem hitting, but decides not to, and makes his ranged attack roll of +12, -2 for power attack, and with a die roll of 16 for a total result of 26 against Miss Marilyn’s reduced Dodge defense, which normally is a 16 but is currently a 13 due to being subject to Peter’s feint.

Since this is an Affliction attack that is resisted by Dodge, Miss Marilyn needs to roll her Dodge score, reduced for being vulnerable, against a DC of 19 (effect rank of 7 plus 2 from power attacking).  Miss Marilyn rolls a 4, leaving her with a paltry 7 as her result.  While she failed by three degrees, Peter’s Affliction power is limited to only two degrees, which leaves Marilyn defenseless (active defenses are reduced to 0) and physically stunned (she can only take purely mental actions that involve no physical movement whatsoever on her turn), with both conditions lasting until she can make a successful resistance check against the difficulty.
However, Peter’s not done, and declares his usage of extra effort to take an additional standard action, and decides to physically unload on Miss Marilyn.  While he could make his attack as a routine action due to Marilyn being defenseless, Peter decides to roll anyway, which makes a successful attack into a critical hit, even if he doesn’t roll a natural 20.  The effects of his using power attack are still in play, and with a die roll of 16 and a modified close combat attack bonus of +10, he easily hits, forcing Marilyn to now make a DC 29 Toughness check.  However, Marilyn rolls an 8 on the die which added to her +10 Toughness bonus leaves her with an 18 for a total, which is three degrees of failure and leaves her staggered (limited to a standard and free action each turn, speed rank reduced by 1) until she is able to recover, as well as a suffering -1 penalty on any further Toughness saves.

Since Miss Marilyn is physically stunned thanks to Peter's Web Snare, she can’t take any actions.  The GM could invoke a complication and allow her to recover from the physically stunned effect, but decides not to, figuring that she’ll easily rip out of the webbing at the end of her turn when making the resistance check against Peter’s Affliction power seeing as how she has a Strength modifier of +10.  Unfortunately the GM rolls a 2 on the die, which isn’t enough to beat even the unmodified DC, and with a bit of grumbling the GM invokes a complication (+1 Hero Point to Peter) to allow Miss Marilyn to recover as though she’d spent a Hero Point, negating the physically stunned portion of his Web Snare power, but still leaving her defenseless as well.  Given this, the GM figures that Miss Marilyn’s dress has suffered some severe clothing damage in the process.  Probably just as well that she’s got the anatomy of a buffed-up Barbie doll.

The GM figures that this would be a good time for Haywire’s Temper complication to come into play, thus forcing the Professor into doing something rash and foolish.  So figuring that Haywire's still seething from Peter's mocking and seeing his sidekick get treated like a punching bag, Haywire decides to get physically involved.  He spends his move action to get within rushing distance of Peter, then spends his standard action to attempt a feint (he’d like to use Taunt for a penalty on Peter’s future checks, but that didn’t work out so well last turn).  Haywire adds his Deception bonus of +7 to his die result of 17, setting the DC of Peter’s own Deception check at 24.  Peter rolls a 13, and adding his own Deception bonus of +8 only gets a 21, which isn’t good enough.  He considers spending one of his Hero Points (he’s got two of them currently), but decides not to, and thus is vulnerable against Haywire’s next attack until the end of the Professor’s next turn.  He then spends a free action to switch his Technocane array to the Electric Stun effect.

But the Big Kahuna’s not quite done yet, and invokes extra effort for an additional standard action so that he can attack the webslinger.  Haywire uses the power attack maneuver for a +2 bonus to the effect DC but a -2 penalty to his attack roll, and makes his close combat attack using his Technocane attack bonus of +8 against Peter’s reduced Dodge defense of 16… and rolls a natural 1, which is an automatic miss.  The GM decides that since Haywire is incensed and really motivated, he’ll invoke a re-roll (+1 Hero Point to Peter), this time getting a 15 on the die for a total of 21 to hit, which certainly does.  Since Haywire used the power attack maneuver, Peter now has to make a Fortitude resistance check against a DC of 20.  With a Fortitude bonus of +9, he figures his odds are pretty good to make that DC with the way he’s been rolling… except the die comes up a 3, which would be two degrees of failure.  Figuring that’s not going to be good, Peter spends a Hero Point to re-roll that, and comes up with a 6 this time.  However, since he spent a Hero Point, he gets to add +10 to any die result that comes up a 10 or less, modifying that 6 into a 16 for a final result of 25, which is plenty enough to avoid the effects of Haywire’s Affliction attack.

Round 6: Narrative Description
“Alright then, next up on the all-you-can-stomach ass-kicking buffet,” Peter growled as he lashed out with a snapping kick aimed right for Haywire’s head.  In spite of her battered condition, Marilyn attempted to intercept the blow on her master’s behalf, only for Peter to suddenly lash out with his fist, driving it into the right side of her face.  The force of the impact caused the blonde bombshell’s well-crafted features to deform horribly as it caved under the pressure applied.
Haywire barely had time to gape in outrage before the incoming foot connected with the side of his head.

The Professor was able to avoid having his head knocked off, but he was still seeing stars even from what had been a glancing blow.  Screw this! Haywire cursed in his head, the attack having the useful side effect of causing his temper to cool and as such giving him greater clarity of the situation.  Box was scrapped, his two thugs were out for the count, and he could see the electronic life going out of Miss Marilyn’s eyes.  Normally he’d be looking to make a flashy exit from the scene, but he’d been in the super-villain business long enough to know that sometimes you just have to cut and run.  It pained him to abandon Miss Marilyn to the authorities… but then he always had a back-up or several that he could pull out of storage, just for instances like this one.  And as he was loathe as he was to even consider the notion… maybe coming to Emerald City wasn’t the best move he could have made at time given his lack of resources.  This was almost as embarrassing as being trounced by the NextGen of Freedom City, although that time it’d taken a full team of heroes, teenage or otherwise, to stop Haywire.
First thing he needed was a distraction… and the still-running econobox just up the road fit the bill perfectly.  “You’ve wasted enough of my time, you pernicious arachnid,” Haywire said, drawing more of the costumed hero’s attention to himself, “but I’ve got appointments with greatness to keep!” he finished, as he turned and ran.

Peter was about to give chance, but his enhanced senses made him aware of the incoming danger presented by the speeding automobile that was heading right for him.   Dumbfounded by the attack as he was, it was only thanks to his spidery instincts that Peter was able to react quickly enough to roll with the impact, picking up a few more bruises to add to the ones that the blonde bruiser had just doled out.  Man am I glad that I don’t have to be home for a few hours, Peter thought as he landed in a crouch, wincing slightly at the throbbing pain coming from the right side of his chest.  The car didn’t have a driver, leading Peter to conclude that Haywire had some ability to seize control of machinery, which could let the crackpot cause some real havoc if he wasn’t stopped.  And as there were no other heroes around, that meant it was up to Peter…

Round 6: Mechanical Description
Peter knows that he’s got Miss Marilyn on the ropes, and while it’s really tempting to turn his attention to Haywire, he decides to play it smart.  For his move action, he’ll attempt to trick Marilyn using Deception, making her think that he’s going after Haywire instead of attacking her.  Since he’s doing this as a move action, he’ll take a -5 penalty to his result, and with a die roll of 6, that leaves him with a 9 for the final result.  Miss Marilyn easily beats that however, rolling a 12 and adding her Insight bonus of +9 for a final result of 21.

Peter considers spending one of his two Hero Points to negate the fatigue effect from using extra effort last turn, but decides not to since both his opponents are at close range and his ranged attacks have some pretty good distance.  He makes his attack roll against Miss Marilyn, who is still defenseless even though she recovered from being physically stunned portion of Peter’s Web Snare effect last round, using both the defensive attack and power attack maneuvers for a total of +2 to effect DC, +2 to his active defenses, and a -4 penalty to his attack rolls until his next turn, and then makes his unarmed attack roll.  With an 18 on the die, Peter’s result of 26 is enough to beat Miss Marilyn’s modified Parry defense of 10, turning the attack into a critical hit because of her defenseless condition.

Miss Marilyn now has to make a DC 29 Toughness save as Peter opts to increase the effect DC of his attack as result of the critical hit; if she gets a decent roll, she could weather this attack.  Unfortunately, she only gets a 7, for a final result of 16, which is three degrees of failure.  Normally this would result in her being staggered, but since she’s already suffering from that damage condition, it instead gets upgraded to incapacitated, taking her out of the fight.

Peter however decides that now is as good a time as any to try and wrap this fight up, and so spends a Hero Point to remove the fatigued condition so that he can use extra effort again without being pushed to exhausted from all that effort; fatigued would just reduce his speed, while exhausted would do that and leave him impaired (-2 penalty to all rolls).  Peter makes his unarmed attack roll, using the same modifiers as before from defensive attack and power attack, and rolls a 13 for a final result of 21, which beats Haywire’s Parry defense of 19.  Haywire now has to make a DC 24 Toughness check, having only a +7 bonus, but he gets a 14 on the die roll for a total result of 21, which is only one degree of failure and leaves the mad scientist with only a -1 penalty to any future Toughness checks.

Haywire decides it’s time to flee the scene, but he still wants to make one last parting shot.  Switching his Technocane array to the Machine Control effect, the GM figures that there are usable cars around that can be targeted by the Move Object portion of the effect.  The GM also allows Haywire to recover from the fatigued condition that his own usage of extra effort imparted (+1 Hero Point to Peter) as a free action before spending a move action to put 30 feet of distance between himself and the webhead.  He then uses his standard action to make an attack with Move Object, sending it crashing into Peter as though it were a thrown object.  Since it’s an unexpected avenue of attack and the power has the Subtle extra, the GM figures it might just qualify as a surprise attack, which would leave Peter vulnerable.  However, Peter does have the Danger Sense effect as part of his Spider-Senses power, so he gets a free Perception check to avoid being surprised.  With a Perception bonus of +6 and a die roll of 7, that gives him a 13 which is enough to beat the DC 10 required to avoid being surprised, and thus he won’t be vulnerable to Haywire’s attack.

The Professor still gets to make his ranged attack roll at a +8 bonus, and decides to succumb to temptation and use the all-out attack and power attack maneuvers, but only at 1 point each, giving him a +0 modifier to hit, a +1 modifier to his effect DC, and a -1 penalty to his active defenses until the start of his next turn.  Haywire rolls, getting a 17 on his die roll for a total result of 25, which is just enough to beat Peter’s modified Dodge defense.  Peter now has to make a DC 24 Toughness check (effect rank of 8 plus the bonus from using the power attack maneuver), and has a -1 penalty to the check from Miss Marilyn’s attack a couple rounds ago.  However, Peter rolls a 13 for a final result of 20, which means he simply picks up another -1 penalty to future Toughness checks.

Round 7: Narrative Description
Haywire didn’t really bother paying attention to that econobox once he’d aimed it, and was instead now more focused on putting as much distance between him and that arachnid as possible.  It was a pretty short list of folks that could physically go toe-to-toe with Miss Marilyn, and with that scrawny build and agility Haywire would have pegged the costumed interloper as being on the weaker end of the spectrum.  A quick glance over his shoulder revealed that the car had crashed into the side of a building, with the spider-themed hero nowhere in sight; this wouldn’t be the first time that Haywire had resorted to gross physical injury to deter a hero from giving pursuit.  This certainly wasn’t the auspicious debut that he’d had in mind when launching his attack on downtown Emerald City, and it had left him even deeper in the hole than he’d been before coming to town.

“I’m sorry, but that appointment with greatness just got canceled!” came a shout from overhead.  Haywire looked up just in time to see the arachnid swing overhead, and was in the midst of turning to run in a different direction when Peter fired off a glob of webbing at the Professor.  The glob hit and exploded around Haywire, leaving him tightly wrapped and unable to move or do much of anything other than scream in incoherent rage and frustration.

Just then, the sounds of police sirens reached Peter’s ear. “Sounds somebody’s got a date with the local penitentiary,” Peter quipped before swinging away.  The main thing he really wanted to do right now was find someplace quiet where he could rest for a bit and let his body’s enhanced healing ability deal with the bumps and bruises he’d picked up.

Round 7: Mechanical Description
Peter decides it’s well past time to wrap this up, literally.  He spends his move action to catch up and pass Haywire thanks to the Speed rank on his Web Swinging power, and asks the GM if this would constitute a surprise attack.  The GM thinks about it, but says that it wouldn’t quality, though he will give Haywire a -2 circumstance penalty to his active defenses.  Peter figures that’s good enough, and makes an attack using the Web Snare effect of his Web Shooter array, choosing to use power attack for 2 points to make sure the villain is wrapped up.  Haywire’s already got a -1 penalty to his active defenses from using the all-out attack maneuver last round, putting his Dodge defense at a 16 instead of the 19 it’d usually be.  Peter rolls a 17, adding his ranged combat bonus of +12 for using his Web Shooters and the -2 penalty from using power attack for a total of 27 to hit, which is more than enough.

Haywire now has to make a DC 19 Dodge check, suffering a -3 penalty to the result, leaving him a +6 bonus.  Combined with a die roll of 7, that leaves Haywire with two degrees of failure on the check, causing him to suffer the defenseless and physically stunned conditions until he can make a resistance check to break free.  Having a Strength modifier of +0 and no weapons with a damage effect, Haywire’s only chance to get free on his turn would be to roll abnormally high on a Strength check.  Peter figures this fight is pretty much over, especially as the GM has introduced the sounds of police sirens fast approaching, and decides to spend the rest of his move action (which he can do thanks to his Move-By Action advantage) leaving the scene; Peter figures there were enough witnesses to the fight to make it clear that all the property damage was done by Haywire.

The GM makes a token Strength check for Haywire, who rolls a natural 1.  At this point, the fight’s over and the only things left to do for the authorities is to take the Big Kahuna into custody and see about getting the mess cleaned up.

The AEGIS agent in charge of the scene, one Senior Agent Keith Hardison, couldn’t help but smirk at the scene of seeing Professor Haywire, a professional pain-in-the-ass and self-deluded criminal mastermind, being unceremoniously hauled into the back of a secured van while the scrapped remains of Haywire’s fembot sidekick and clunky robot were being carted into an AEGIS van for further study.  When he’d gotten the call, Hardison had figured the Stormbreakers would have beaten him to the punch, but they were apparently busy elsewhere, and it’d been an unknown individual that had stepped up to the plate.

From what the witness reports said, the hero in question had a definite spider-theme going, being just as fast and agile while obviously boasting an extraordinary degree of physical strength if the damage done to Miss Marilyn was anything to go by.  One witness, an elderly woman whom this spider-hero had saved from being shot, had seen the boy (given the witness’ age, any male under 50 probably qualified as “boy” in her eyes) get hit by the compact car that was currently being towed from the scene and still keep going.  “Fast, strong, and tough… not exactly a combination you want to go up against,” Hardison mused.

“Definitely not,” said Agent Rudolph, a fresh-faced young Asian man just out of training.  “You think it’s another stomer?”

Hardison shrugged.  “He could be.  Guy was masked, so making any kind of positive ID is going to be near-impossible.  And he’s certainly not in it for the money or fame, given he didn’t stick around after leaving a gift-wrapped Haywire for us to collect and a duffel bag full of money that he could have easily scooped up along the way.  Stormer or not, either way it’s a welcome change to hear about a new super that’s out to help.”

Rudolph shrugged.  “You know, if I hadn’t read some of the reports of things that went down over in Freedom City, I’d say this sort of thing was way too amazing to occur outside of Hollywood blockbusters.”

Hardison had to laugh at that one.  “Yeah,” he agreed, “our jobs do present us with scenarios that are pretty spectacular.”

In the early going, things seemed to really be going in Peter’s favor, taking out the two Toughs in short order and the Large Robot on the round following that; I was frankly hoping they’d put up more of a fight.  What probably helped as well was Haywire’s unwise decision to not have Miss Marilyn right at hand, putting one of his heavy hitters on the sidelines for a couple rounds.  It did get rougher towards the end, with Marilyn simply too tough for Peter to take on directly without using some trickery on his part.  Rendering her defenseless with this Web Snare is what really gave Peter the edge, particularly with her getting a lousy roll on her resistance check to break free.  Under normal circumstances, as the GM I should have just let her re-roll the check, but I’d made the choice early on to cut the re-rolls down just Haywire to avoid dragging this fight out too long.

Although he had two Power Levels on them, Peter didn’t have that huge of an advantage over Haywire and Marilyn, particularly as Peter’s not at his offensive caps, although his high active defenses helped cut down on the number of Toughness checks he was required to make, which was probably just as well.

Admittedly, Peter using his Technology skill to take out the Large Robot was a total ass-pull on my part, but it seemed fitting and I wanted to let him do more than simply dole out damage and Afflictions each round.   But making it effectively a grab attack seemed a fair ad-hoc ruling.  There was probably  more elegant way to resolve that sort of thing, perhaps treating the Hero Point as being a power stunt off Peter’s Strength that capped at his Power Level, but it seemed cool and let Peter use an aspect of his character that otherwise really wouldn’t have factored into this fight.

For his part, Haywire worked pretty well, though I’m really tempted to boost him up to PL 9 to make him more of a direct threat, perhaps with a ranged attack effect on his Technocane.  I’m also not sure if Move Object by itself is capable of dealing damage by using the manipulated object to attack as second target without the Damaging extra, but I went with the general guidelines presented in the Throwing Things sidebar under Strength Powers in the Powers Profile supplement.  Miss Marilyn for her part worked pretty much as intended, though I may wind up tweaking her stat block a bit to give her more mobility (rank of Speed and an extra rank of Leaping at least).  She’s got the Fearless advantage as part of converting her from the 2e stat block she was given, but with her having Immunity to mental effects, I don’t think that’s needed.  Even without those changes, I still think that Professor Haywire makes an excellent “starter villain” for a group of PCs, particularly if the GM is starting them out at PL 8 “masked adventurers” level which is the point that Haywire would be more of a challenge and likely require some teamwork on the PCs’ part.

Still, the above mock combat helped me get a better feel how combat works in this edition of Mutants & Masterminds.  And while fun, it pales in comparison to actively playing Spider-Man.  But at least this helped me get a better grasp on how to make use of Spider-Man in a conflict, seeing as how he’s got a high enough attack bonus that he should frequently be making use of the defensive attack and power attack maneuvers from the Hero’s Handbook.

June 11, 2014

There's a new Big Kahuna in town!

As a prelude to the test fight that I ran a while back, I've decided to post the stats of the various participants prior to the fight itself.

On Monday, I posted the stat block for the novice hero version of Peter Reilly, who has yet to make a name for himself in Emerald City as the Extraordinary Spider-Man.  So now it's time to give the bad guys their due.

Professor Haywire 
Known Aliases: The Big Kahuna, Bowtie Bill, Master of Mechanical Mayhem
Power Level: 8 (150pp)

Combat: Attack +6 (Unarmed +0), Attack +8 (Technocane +8), Attack +7 (Heavy Pistol +4); Initiative +2
Defenses: Dodge +9, Parry +9, Toughness +7/+4*, Fortitude +4, Willpower +9
*without Defensive Roll

Abilities: Strength 0; Stamina 1; Agility 2; Dexterity 2; Fighting 4; Intellect 9; Awareness 4; Presence2
Advantages: Defensive Roll 3, Equipment 8, Minions 8 (spread amongst thugs and robots), Quick Draw, Sidekick 24 (Miss Marilyn), Taunt
Skills:Close Combat (Technocane) 4 (+8), Deception 5 (+7), Expertise (Science) 9 (+18), Insight 5 (+9), Perception 5 (+9), Ranged Combat (Guns) 5 (+7), Technology 9 (+18)
Equipment: Heavy pistol (Damage 4; 8pts), undercover vest (Protection 3, Extra: Subtle; 4pts), commlink (1pt), concealed microphone (bow tie; 1pt); 16pts to spend on either a helicopter or headquarters

- Technocane (easily removable array): Activate Plan B! [Continuous Summon Giant Robot 8], AE: Electric Stun [Cumulative Affliction 8, Resisted and Overcome by Fortitude; dazed, stunned, incapacitated), AE: Machine Control [Radio Communication 3 and Move Object 8 (Extras: Accurate 3, Subtle, Flaw: Limited to machines)]; 16pp

- Egotistical: Haywire is convinced that he's the greatest criminal mastermind and scientific genius the world has ever seen, and will go to great lengths to prove it.
- Temper: Haywire's got a very short fuse, and quickly loses his cool demeanor when mocked.

Abilities 48 + Defenses 19 + Advantages 46 + Skills 21 (42 ranks) + Powers 16 = 150

Summary:One of my favorite fan-made villains from the Atomic Think Tank, Professor Haywire is one of those cheesy villains that works so well in a superhero setting, the type of guy that players love to hate.  The brainchild of ATT poster Blake "BARON" Trebert, I used the M&M2e stat block that was listed in Amazing Lab's Roll Call '06 supplement (available on DriveThruRPG) as the basis of my conversion to 3e, where you can also find much of his backstory, both how he became a super-villain and some of his prior exploits.  While the 2e version of Haywire had him being a PL 9 foe, I felt that he made a better fit as a PL 8; he's a solid foe against a team of street-level or 'mystery men' heroes, but not as much of a threat against a PL 10 team of supers and in spite of his boasting he's not in the "big leagues" of super-villainy, at least not in the Freedom City setting.

Still, he's a capable opponent thanks to his Technocane, particularly since he can summon up a 120pp giant robot to reign havoc on the PCs while he stands back and enjoys the show, puffing away on a cigarette and generally confident that Miss Marilyn will keep anyone from getting their hands on him.  The heavy pistol is really there as more of a back-up option than being a major means of attack, and if things start getting hairy, he can use his Machine Control power to seize control of any vehicles and use them to attack the heroes.

Miss Marilyn (aka "Babydoll" or "Legs")
PL: 8 (119pp)
Combat: Attack +6 (Unarmed +10), Attack +6 (Thrown +10); Initiative +3
Defenses: Dodge +6, Parry +6, Toughness +10, Fortitude --, Willpower +6
Abilities: Strength 10, Stamina --, Agility 3, Dexterity 3, Fighting 6, Intellect -1, Awareness 1, Presence 0
Advantages: Attractive, Fearless, Interpose, Power Attack, Seize Initiative
Skills: Acrobatics 3 (+6), Insight 8 (+9), Perception 8 (+9), Ranged Combat (Thrown) 3 (+6)
Powers: Leaping 1, Immunity 40 (Fortitude effects, mental effects), Protection 10 (Impervious 10)
Complications: Mute: Miss Marilyn is unable to speak, Literal-Minded: Miss Marilyn frequently takes her master's instructions very literally.
Abilities 34 + Defenses 8 + Advantages 5 + Skills 11 (22 ranks) + Powers 61 = 119

Summary: Professor Haywire's constant companion and bodyguard, she's a lot more than just a pretty face.  She's quite the bruiser for her power level, able to shrug off most small arms fire with ease and her mechanical nature protecting her from a variety of otherwise disabling effects.  If up against a foe with a really low active defense she can use her Power Attack advantage to really lay on the hurt.  And with Interpose, she can put herself in between Haywire and an attack that might otherwise wreck him, adding to Haywire's longevity in a fight as well as player frustration as they try to take the Big Kahuna down.

 photo 4db442fc-0fa6-4fb0-aaf8-5adc80ae41d5_zpsc048518d.jpg
(art by Joe Crokono, owned by Amazing Labs)

June 9, 2014

Livin' on the edge, fightin' crime, spinnin' webs

Been a busy week since my last post.

I've got the fight between a rookie version of my Spider-Man character and a kook of a mad scientist pretty much typed up, but before I delve into that, I thought I'd post the stat blocks for the participants in this particularly fight.

And what better way to start than with the leading man of the "Tales of a Web-Slinging Hero" (which I hope I'll have time and inspiration to make a recurring thing), none other than....

PeterReillyCivies photo PeterReillyCivies_zps9fc0834c.jpg

Peter Reilly, Rookie Hero
Power Level: 10 (155pp)
Archetype:Totem (Arachnid)

Combat: Attack +12 (Unarmed +7), Attack +12 (Web Shooters +7); Initiative +12
Defenses: Dodge +12, Parry +12, Toughness +8, Fortitude +9, Willpower +7

Abilities: Strength 7; Stamina 7; Agility 8; Dexterity 4; Fighting 6; Intellect 5; Awareness 2; Presence 0
Advantages: Agile Feint, Eidetic Memory, Equipment 1, Improved Initiative, Move-By Action, Taunt
Skills: Acrobatics 6 (+14), Close Combat (Unarmed) 6 (+12), Deception 8 (+8), Expertise (Pop Culture) 1 (+6), Expertise (Science) 5 (+10), Insight 2 (+4), Investigation 1 (+6), Perception 4 (+6), Ranged Combat (Web Shooters) 8 (+12), Sleight of Hand 2 (+6), Stealth 2 (+10), Technology 5 (+10)
Equipment: Smartphone (2pts), costume (0pts), spider-tracers (Sense: Tracking 2; 2pts), backpack (1pt)

- Enhanced Metabolism: Regeneration 1; 1pp
- Spider-Movement: Leaping 2, Movement 2 (Wall-Crawling); 6pp
- Spider-Senses: Enhanced Advantages 1 (Improved Initiative; Flaw: Permanent), Senses 2 (Danger Sense [Mental], Ranged Tactile); 3pp
- Web Shooters (removable array): Web Snare [Ranged Cumulative Affliction 7, Resisted by Dodge, Overcome by Damage; Dazed & Vulnerable, Defenseless & Physically Stunned), AE: Web Slinging [Damaging Move Object 7]; Web Swinging [Movement 1 (Swinging), Extra: Linked to Speed 1]; 20pp

- Responsibility (Motivation): For Peter, it comes as part of having great power.
- Relationship: His Aunt Martha and Uncle Jay are by far the two most influential and important people in Peter's life, having raised him in the wake of his parents' tragic death.
- Secret Identity: Peter B. Reilly, high school senior and ASTRO Labs intern.

Abilities 80 + Defenses 16 + Advantages 4 + Skills 25 (50 ranks) + Powers 30 = 155

Spider-Man photo Spider-Manbyexhi_the_nobody_zpsfc14bcb9.jpg
(image by exhi_the_nobody)

Summary: While I probably could have trimmed this version of Peter down to a 150 power points, I chose not to.  Although if someone wanted, points could probably be freed up by reducing his Intellect and lowering a few of his skill ranks.  He is a point under his offensive caps though, which for me was more of a personal nod to his initial PL 11/165pp version in Ogehn's Emerald City Knights campaign where Spidey was also under his caps (mostly as I wasn't sure how much of an offensive and defensive trade-off I wanted him to have).  Much like the comic book character, Peter is something of a jack-of-all-trades; there are heroes that are stronger, heroes that are faster, heroes that are smarter, and heroes with a lot more social aptitude, but he's got enough of those bases covered that he can be useful in a lot of different situations.

Looking at his Move Object power, I could have quite easily saved some points by exchanging the Damaging extra for Throwing Mastery, since the crux of the power when used as an attack is "grab something and hurl it at the bad guy" but I wanted him to have the option of using that power as a direct attack, such as slamming a bad guy into the ground or a wall.  The physically stunned portion of his Affliction power is a semi-limited version of the stunned condition, limiting the target from taking any physical actions but still able to do anything that doesn't require movement.  The Snare power (which was the initial basis) has the second degree effect of immobile, which only stops the target from moving from their current location.  That works fine for Batman's bolas, but it doesn't really mesh with what we see Spider-Man's webbing do to foes, particularly the two-bit street hoods that he runs across during his regular patrols.

And as an added little bonus...

Elizabeth "Liz" Allen, Regular Girl-Next-Door
Power Level: 1 (38pp)
Archetype: High School Student

Combat: Attack +1 (Unarmed +0); Initiative +1
Defenses: Dodge +2, Parry +2, Toughness +0, Fortitude +0, Willpower +2

Abilities: Strength 0; Stamina 0; Agility 1; Dexterity 1; Fighting 1; Intellect 3; Awareness 2; Presence 3
Advantages: Equipment, Fascinate (Persuasion)
Skills: Deception 2 (+5), Expertise (Pop Culture) 3 (+6), Expertise (Current Events) 3 (+6), Expertise (Sociology) 3 (+6), Expertise (Student) 3 (+6), Insight 3 (+5), Persuasion 5 (+8), Technology 2 (+5)
Equipment: Smartphone (2pts), backpack (1pt); 2pts unspent


- Relationship: Liz has a number of friends, but Peter is probably one of her best friends.  Even if he has gotten a bit weirder than usual lately...

Abilities 22 + Defenses 2 + Advantages 2 + Skills 12 (24 ranks) + Powers 0 = 38

Summary: The last place that Liz should be is in the middle of the action; she really is just a regular girl in a city with a growing population of super-powered beings.  Liz is really more charming than pretty, and thus no Attractive advantage but a solid Presence score instead.  Technically she's a better student than Peter with her ranks in Expertise (Student) but he cheats by virtue of his higher Intellect and Eidetic Memory advantage.

Next up, the antagonist and his posse...

Edit: Added images of Peter in both his "civvies" and his costume.  Haven't found the right image for Liz, though I kinda pictured her as resembling Allison Mack circa early seasons of Smallville.

June 1, 2014

Tales of a Web-Slinging Hero – Origins of a Hero

Wow, is it June already?

Not too much to say as far as new things going on, other than I'm coming off a fun session of Mutants & Masterminds.  It wasn't quite as action-packed as some of the past couple sessions, but that's fine as it gave the Stormbreakers (you know, Emerald City's greatest heroes, it's what the media calls us) a chance to catch their breath and be people instead of heroes.

So in that vein, here's a little something I wrote a few weeks back, pertaining to Spidey's history.  It's not something that would really be discussed during the campaign, but I still wanted to flesh out some of the details of how my character got into the superhero gig.  Plus, it's been a while since I did any sort of fiction writing so I wanted to try and get those creative juices flowing.

So without further preamble...

Tales of a Web-Slinging Hero – Origins of a Hero

 “Mister Reilly, if you would be so kind as to answer the question?”

Peter’s attention snapped back to the classroom, his thoughts having drifted off during the teacher’s lecture on some aspect of European socialism.

“Oh, uh, sorry… um… what was the question again?” Peter asked in his usual fumbling manner of speaking, drawing a collection of derisive snickers from several students.

The teacher simply gave Peter a disproving look before shifting his attention to one of the students that had laughed.  “Mister Potts, perhaps you can enlighten the class as to the primary faults of socialist policies outside of theoretical applications?”

Peter breathed an inner sigh of relief, more due to the attention being taken off of him than any worries about not knowing the answer.  One of the big perks of having such a great memory was that he could just read an assigned chapter once and retain most of what he’d read; it was part of the reason why he was in the Honors Society for several years running with a 3.9 GPA.  His relief was short lived as after Jacob Potts, one of the top jocks in the school, had fumbled his way through an answer, the teacher turned his attention back to Peter and asked him to elaborate.  And one of the downsides of being so brilliant, Peter thought briefly, is that the teachers expect you to have most of the answers because you probably do.

As the final bell rang and school let out for the day, Peter barely paid attention to the various insults made as he passed; mostly referrals to his scrawny build or that he was such a know-it-all.  Downside number two to being so smart, Peter mused.  Of course, if anyone at the school had the faintest idea why he’d started showing up to school looking like he’d barely slept, or why he was far less attentive in class than he’d been just a month ago, they’d probably be amazed.  Heck, he was still amazed at how his life had changed, and Peter was the one living it.

Truthfully, it had all started just under two months ago, when Peter had gotten accepted into ASTRO Labs’ junior intern program.  While the program was typically reserved for students of at least the collegiate level, Peter’s GPA and high score on the application tests had earned him a spot on the spring schedule.  Since he was still a minor, that meant that he had to get his Uncle Jay’s permission, which the older man did without hesitation; while Uncle Jay may have been a simple repairman by trade for most of his life, he had always encouraged Peter’s interest and passion for all things science, even if his Aunt Martha sometimes fretted that such enthusiasm came at a cost of having a social life.
The first few weeks working at ASTRO Labs was almost like a dream come true, as Peter was surrounded by and working with people that appreciated him for his smarts and couldn’t have cared less about his physical appearance; he was a science nerd in a building devoted to scientific research in the company of other science nerds.  Sure, there were a few nights he’d get so wrapped up on the experiments he was assisting with that he’d missed the last bus home and had to take a cab instead, but it was worth it.  The on-staff researchers had nothing but praise for Peter’s dedication and intuitiveness regarding some of the higher theoretical principles of the projects he assisted with; one of the department administrators had even suggested that Peter could very well have a job waiting for him once he graduated college if he kept up the good work.  But then came that fateful day late in the month of April when everything changed.

On that particularly day, not that much different than today actually, Peter had been let out of school early due to his reduced class schedule (technically he’d met all but a few academic requirements to graduate) and had headed over to ASTRO Labs to see if there was anything he could help out with.  Things had gotten a bit chaotic with the advent of the Silver Storm and the creation of “stormers,” people who’d been altered in various ways while often gaining superpowers of some sort or another.  On that particular day, a stormer of unknown identity (not that he’d wanted to know at the time) had decided to stage a raid on the labs for reasons unknown.  The raid was violent, destructive, and caused a significant panic amongst the staff, Peter included.  In the rush of that panic, Peter had stumbled into a highly-restricted area that he was definitely not cleared to be in.  His curiosity got the better of him though once he noticed that an active experiment was in progress, one that at first glance seemed like something right out of those B-grade mad science movies that he’d seen on many a Madame Macabre show while growing up.  And if he was reading the monitor display correctly, the experiment in process was attempting to splice the genetic material from one species into a different host species while using various degrees of radiation in low-degree bursts to merge the two individual DNA strands into a single stable strand.  Having enough knowledge about bio-chemistry to grasp the fundamental concepts, Peter was so engrossed that he didn’t notice that in the commotion one of the subjects of a prior attempt, this one a spider that had been infused with the traits of several different breeds, hadn’t been properly returned to its storage cage.  He only became aware of the spider after it crawled onto the base of his neck and bit him, but a fresh round of alarm klaxons put it out of his mind until much later, when he’d gotten home.  In hindsight, he realized he probably should have been a lot more worried when the spider that bit him didn’t match the description of any known genus of the species, but at that point he was simply too fatigued.  Or at least that’s what he’d thought at the time.

The next couple days had certainly been weird as the spider’s irradiated venom worked its way through his system, but to say that Peter was a changed man afterwards would be a gross understatement.  For starters, slamming the snooze button on his alarm clock usually didn’t result in said clock being smashed to pieces, and a look in the mirror while dragging himself to the shower revealed that Peter was now sporting the kind of build that would put most pro athletes to shame.  After a brief yet perfectly understandable freak-out, Peter put his scientific aptitude to work and came to the only conclusion that made any sense, no matter how unlikely or improbable it seemed… the spider’s bite had granted him abilities very much like those of a spider, running the gamut from enhanced agility and strength to a reaction time that bordered on precognitive thanks to a heightened sense of awareness of his environment, especially in regards to immediate danger to his person.  Naturally, Aunt Martha had been worried that Peter has been exposed to something during the attack on ASTRO Labs, but they were at least willing to accept his rationalization that it was simply the shock of the event and the psychological comprehension of just how much danger he’d potentially been in finally catching up with him, and that even his increased appetite wasn’t anything to be too worried about.

Once his body had found its new biological equilibrium, Peter had set about testing what his new limits were; since ASTRO Labs was closed due to damages incurred from the stormer’s attack, he didn’t have much else to do with his free time.  Before the spider bite, it’d been pretty clear what his future held; graduate from Emerald City University, get a job at ASTRO Labs or some other high-end research company, work on getting his doctorate.  But with these new powers came new opportunities that he had to at least consider.  He’d overheard talk at school about some kind of “secret underground stormer fight circuit,” but Peter quick dismissed that notion, mostly since the notion of becoming a glorified pro-wrestler was patently ridiculous on top of the fact he wasn’t a stormer to begin with.  He could just keep his powers a secret and continue on with his life the way it’d been going, but Uncle Jay had instilled in Peter the notion that people owed the world their gifts, even if it took them a while to figure out how to best use them.

Five days after the bite, Peter had been on an extended late night walk when he heard a woman call out for help from an alleyway on the other side of the street; without even thinking about it he made a quick leap across and found himself facing several gangbangers, behind them a lone woman cowering at the alley’s end.  Lucky for him the lighting was pretty bad, not that he really needed it as much, but the gangbangers wouldn’t be able to see his face.  One of them snarled a warning to turn away and get lost, brandishing a vicious-looking knife while another grasped what was probably the poor woman’s skirt.  Peter’s response was a pretty lame quip about them being in the wrong part of town for the urban poetry slam and dance recital, but that was enough to incense the thugs to forget the woman and focus on him.

Five days ago, Peter would have gotten overwhelmed and butchered… but thanks to his recently-acquired powers, in less than minute the gangbangers were scattered in a heap of fresh bruises and smashed-up faces, with Peter only suffering a very minor cut that was already healing by the time the fight was over.  When the young woman stammered a quiet ‘thank you’ for coming to her rescue, Peter had that flash of clarity.  Naturally, his uncle had been right, and now Peter knew how to best make use of his new gifts; it not only felt good to help someone in need, but it felt right.  The fight had drawn the attention of others, and noticing that one of the approaching parties was police officer, Peter figured it was in his best interest not to stick around.   He was almost out of sight, having literally climbed up the side of the building in moments, when he heard the woman ask who he was.

 “Just a friendly neighborhood hero,” was Peter’s reply before vanishing into the night.

With the outbreak of the Silver Storm and the advent of so many new superhumans appearing in Emerald City, Peter felt that maybe there had been something more than just random chance at play at here; he had never been big on religion due to his preference for hard facts over something as intangible as “faith” but sometimes you just don’t argue against providence.  Opting to run with the theme, Peter set his considerable intellect and tech-savvy to creating the tools he’d need to complete his spider-powers, those being a bio-degradable web fluid and a pair of pressure-activated wrist-mounded devices to store and launch the substance in tightly controlled bursts.  A few days of further practice and Peter was ready to hit the streets as a super-powered crime-fighter… except that he’d lacked a decent costume.

His initial attempt at a costume was pretty laughable, being little more than a glorified ski-mask, sweat pants, light gloves, track shoes, and a silk-screened shirt with a spider emblem, but it did the job until Peter could save up enough of his allowance to put together something that wasn’t quite as embarrassing.   His new costume was a spandex bodysuit in dark blue with red spider-theme designs on the chest, shoulders, forearms and ankles; not only did it have the advantages of fitting better while providing far less loose fabric for any bad guys to get hold of, it also looked pretty cool, especially with the mask’s enlarged eyepieces giving him a slightly creepy look that had been quite unnerving to some of the hoodlums that had the rotten luck to cross this spider’s path.  The whole ensemble made it a lot easier to do a full costume change since all he really had to do was slip on the gloves and remove the outer layer of casual clothes he wore.  With a proper costume, Peter felt as ready as he’d every be to take on whatever the seedy underworld of Emerald City could throw at him…  now he just needed to figure out an appropriately cool and intimidating name.  Peter had come up with a handful of ideas, but none of them really clicked or had the right flair.  There was the blatantly obvious option, but he really didn’t want to be that unsubtle.

“God Peter, you have been such a space-case lately, you know that?” said a very familiar voice that instantly snapped Peter out of his reverie.  Peter flinched as though he’d been slapped, ealizing that without meaning to, he’d walked right past the Starbase Coffee shop that had been his destination this particular afternoon.  He knew what was coming and that he deserved it, so with a muted groan and slouching of his shoulders, Peter turned around…

Standing there was Elizabeth “Liz” Warren, arms crossed and giving him a look that suggested she wasn’t quite as upset as she had sounded.  Liz was probably his best friend, the two having met during middle school, when Peter had wound up being volunteered as an assistant stagehand for the drama club’s presentation of Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream.’  Most girls, especially the really pretty ones, had generally ignored Peter, but Liz never had.  She was more in the “approachable girl-next-door” type of pretty than “curvy bombshell” or “slender yet haughty” types, especially with the glasses she wore, her slightly up-turned nose, and reddish-brown hair that was worn short and seemed to be in perpetual need of combing no matter what she did.  Her expression softened at Peter’s physical act of contrition.  “Just so you know, I’ve been trying to get your attention for the past two blocks,” she said, her face softening into that smile that had always made Peter feel better when he’d had a particularly rough day.  They went to different high schools, but had still tried dating for a brief time during their sophomore year before agreeing they worked better as “just friends” rather than being an “item.”

“I’m really sorry Liz,” Peter said sheepishly.  “Just, you know, had a lot on my mind, what with the internship at ASTRO Labs and college starting next fall,” he offered in what he hoped was a properly apologetic tone.  As understanding as Liz could be, the fact remained that Peter had little experience in talking with girls of any stripe outside of very limited circumstances.  “Um, how about, um, about it being my treat, to make up for up?”

“You think you can get my order right?  Because last time…” Liz inquired teasingly.

“That wasn’t my fault, the guy at the counter used two-percent instead of skim and only added two packets of sugar instead of two,” Peter replied defensively.  “And it’s not like the owner didn’t give you a freebie by way of apology.”

Liz shook her head before giving a quick little laugh. “Why am I not surprised you remembered exactly what they got wrong.  C’mon Pete, I left my backpack at the shop and I’ve got a school laptop in there.  And you did promise to help check my pre-calc homework.”

As usual, Peter didn’t have to do much in terms of checking Liz’s homework; while not in Peter’s league academically, she was still quite smart and good with numbers.  Still, it was a chance for them to hangout and just talk about “stuff.”  For Liz, it was about the issues the high school drama club was facing, both in getting a production of MacBeth (or “the Scottish play” as she kept calling it as part of what Peter felt was an utterly ridiculous superstition; not that he’d ever say that within earshot of Liz) off the ground and how the cheerleading squad was trying to get their funding increased at the expense of the drama club’s already limited budget.

For Peter, it was about the interesting stuff going on at ASTRO Labs, as Liz got a kick out of hearing tales of “beneficial mad science.”  More than once, he’d seriously considered telling Liz about the lab accident and his powers, but for some reason the words just wouldn’t come out.  His aunt had always told him that secrets come with a cost, and it was hard enough keeping his nocturnal activities a secret from his adoptive parents; if they knew what Peter was getting up to, he was certain that neither of them would take it well.  He was pretty sure that Liz would have a similar reaction, and knew that she was really trying hard to secure at least one scholarship to pay for her tuition to Emerald City Community College.  He really didn’t want to distract her from that with worries about his new hobby; smart as he was, Peter knew that not everyone was going to be lucky enough to have their tuition costs to Emerald City University completely covered by academic scholarships.

Still, he thought about testing the waters; Liz had made it clear that she was all for new heroes cropping up, having even gone so far as to indulge in some very fangirlish gushing over the plant-based hero Nature Boy on a couple occasions, not that she’d ever admit to it.  He was about to broach the subject of the surge in Emerald City’s population of superhumans when a loud crash followed by several screams grabbed both their attention.  Well of all the rotten…, Peter thought briefly even as he got to his feet to see what the cause of the commotion was.

Standing some distance down the street was an oversized robot, built like a linebacker and having just smashed somebody’s car front-end first into the street.  Just behind it were a pair of men wearing leather biker jackets and wielding pistols, and standing not far off from them was a guy with crazy bright-red hair in a white labcoat leaning on a cane, flanked by a statuesque blonde in a short pale blue dress.  The two guys with pistols were shooting in the general direction of pedestrians and motorists alike.

“Peter!  We need to get out of here!” exclaimed Liz, and Peter was suddenly aware that she was tugging desperately on her arm.  She was on the verge of panic; made sense as she didn’t have the benefit of super-powers like he did.

Peter nodded his consent and scooped up his backpack.  “Uh, yeah, let’s go,” he said as Liz started guiding them away from the commotion.  Gotta find a way to make sure she gets to safety before I go back and do the hero thing, Peter thought.  A group of panicked shoppers rushed past, bumping into the two teens, and Peter took this as his chance.  It wasn’t hard to pull his shirt sleeve free of Liz’s grasp while making seem like it wasn’t a deliberate action on his part.  “Keep going, I’ll catch up!”  Peter said as a portly middle-aged man cut between them.  He heard Liz cry his name, and the obvious tone of worry in her voice made Peter feel even worse about lying to his best friend like that; she was going to be furious and frantic when it became clear that Peter wasn’t going to be catching up to her.  But the his deceased father’s mantra of “great power carrying with it great responsibility” was something he’d grown up with, and compared to the scrawny geek that he’d been just a few weeks ago, it was clear where Peter’s responsibility was…

A quick leap up to the side of a building followed by an even faster scramble to the rooftop, and Peter had a pretty good view of the chaos.  Yeah, it was possible the Stormbreakers might show up, but there was no telling how long it’d take or how many people would get hurt in the meantime; for all he knew they could be busy, maybe even on the opposite side of the city.  Taking a second to calculate the angles and determine the best way to approach the mad scientist-looking guy and his coalition of rabble-rousers, Peter quickly ditched his regular clothes.  Oh man, am I ever glad I’ve got the new suit for this fight, otherwise I might die of embarrassment.  That is if I don’t die of a severe case of acute iron poisoning first.  Taking a final moment to steel himself for the fight, Peter sprang into the air and triggered his web-shooter… he might not have much experience with this sort of thing, but sooner or later he’d have to tangle with a member of the super-villain crowd.  In the back of his mind Peter wished he’d managed to settle on a cool hero name, but maybe something would come to him in the midst of the fight.  Provided he didn’t get squashed in the process…

*** *** ***

Yeah, bit of a cliff-hanger ending, as it's the as-yet-unnamed Spider-Man about get into his first fight with an actual super-villain.  Astute members of the Atomic Think Tank will probably have sussed out who the villain is.  Of course, since Spidey's gone on to become a member of the Stormbreakers it's pretty clear that he survives.  But the question is, does he win?  Or does his first public outing as a super-hero end in an embarrasing defeat?

Sadly, the details of that fight will have to wait for next week's post.  Hopefully, you found the above tale to be some flavor of entertaining, and that you'll find the my write-up of that first villain fight to be of similar enjoyableness.