Once we had the initial concept of superheroes in the American Revolution, the next major mechanical question was how to model the superpowers. Savage Worlds offers at least three obvious alternatives for superpowers between Deluxe and Adventure editions – Arcane Background: Superpowers from Deluxe, Arcane Background: Gifted from Adventure, and the Superpowers Companion. Of the three, the Superpowers Companion rules are completely different from the other two, and our take on that ruleset was that it didn’t really suit a lower-powered, historical superhero game. Many of the powers had technological or sorcerous trappings that didn’t fit the concept, and the basic structure assumes the heroes have all their powers on day one, versus the setting concept of young superhumans growing into their abilities during the revolution.
With the Superpowers Companion put aside, that left the two Arcane Backgrounds. The major difference between the two is the skill used to invoke the character’s power. In Gifted, a single skill, Focus, is used for all powers; in Superpowers, each power has an individual skill. For the young heroes of the Legion, the idea that each could have wildly varying skill in various powers seemed to fit better. Further, distributing skill points among several superpower skills serves to slow the progression of the character’s abilities, keeping them more on par with musket-wielding foes.
Once we set the basic framework of the Arcane Background, we added some benefits for superhuman ancestry – extra skill and ability points to reflect the overall superiority of superhumans. These extras allowed for superhumans to start with, for example, higher Strength than would normally be possible for a Novice character without compromising every other attribute. Removing the maximums on attributes also provided the characters with the chance to grow into truly stupendous heroes if they chose to invest in specific attributes.
Two other decisions affected the structure of the superhumans, both Setting Rules from the core book. Born a Hero allowed Novices to take powers and Edges not normally available at their rank, setting them apart from the Extras around them. No Power Points both sped up the game by eliminating power point bookkeeping and also minimized “power stacking” where superhumans could buff up several abilities at once. No Power Points also mitigated the effect of allowing Novices to take extremely high level powers – the penalty for actually using the powers would be so punishing that the power would only work occasionally unless the player invested heavily in skills and Edges to provide bonuses.
Character Name: "One-Glove" Bernard
Profession: Gremlin pugilist and aspiring rocketeer
Very few Gremlins have ever seen the blue skies of Earth, Gremlin-kind being in general banned from Earth (and most polite company), but Bernard has made the crossing many times. When Walt Mannic, dressed in his purple sequined tailcoat and top hat, encountered “One Glove” Bernard in Edge Point, Breachside, he watched the Gremlin knock out a Bayou Pig with one mighty punch, all the while smack-talking the audience, the nervous Pig, and Mannic himself. without hardly taking a breath. Mannic knew in that moment he’d found his star attraction. Wooing the Gremlin with whiskey and fine food, which the diminutive green money-maker put down in amazing quantity while simultaneously yammering on the weather, the nefarious nature of Bayou Pigs, and the perfect target that is the human nose, Mannic convinced Bernard to go on tour with him Earthside. In return for a bountiful meal ticket, One Glove would fight any beast presented to him, from badger to polar bear, all with his mighty, rope-wrapped Fist of Doom. As they say, it was a match made in sucker-punching heaven, and now Mannic is returning to Malifaux to turn One Glove Bernard into the star attraction of a big tent, Malifaux Traveling Jubilee™.
Although he has to travel everywhere in a cage, Bernard is surprisingly good with this arrangement; when he gets bored (usually immediately), he simply picks the lock on his traveling cage and wanders around looking for things to punch. As beating creatures/people/anything into powder and drinking to excess on Mannic’s tab are his two favorite activities, many bars in California have hosted One Glove, treating the Gremlin in his tattered doublet and boxing shorts like a tiny, green, nose-less emperor – so long as Mannic keeps paying the bill.
(Image property of Wyrd Games)
Character Name: Zai
Player Name: Lara
She is the Incomprehensible Butterfly, Master of Prestidigitation, Virtuoso of Dreams, Sovereign of Your Reverie. When she struts into the spotlight, Zai’s mussed pageboy hair might be pink, purple, or indigo; her sinuous arms draped with fur stoles, or silk kimonos, or glittering chain mail, or bridal veils spangled with Kusama polka dots; her face concealed behind a porcelain mask. After swanning around the stage, taunting the audience into a frenzy, it’s time to set the stakes, establish just how dangerous the coming feats are, and how brave she is, the dazzling magician. Shaking with fear, her first audience volunteer holds up his hat, which she skewers with a darting, razor sharp dagger, nailing his gambler to the wall. With a smile renowned as the most dangerous smile in two worlds, Zai juggles three knives (real ones), adding four, five, eight, twelve flashing illusory ones--dancing and leaping as she weaves them into rings of fire through which she elegantly flips, or showers of deadly rain through which she dances and spins. As the daggers fly, they sing like bamboo flutes, each with its own pitch and harmony, slicing the air with deadly, ethereal beauty. At the apex of the audience’s terror and jubilation, when they are most afraid that she might be torn to ribbons by the climactic tornado of fiery knives, she commands the weapons to settle around her feet, faces the audience, and finally, finally! takes off the mask. On the way out, one fan says her eyes were those of a golden dragon; another says her skin was black as night and spangled with galaxies; a third simply says she was the most otherworldly beautiful woman he’d ever seen. The only thing they can agree on is that they will never, ever forget her.
Her desire for the spotlight is so intense that Zai must perform regularly for an appreciative crowd or die of rage and heartbreak. Real fame, the pinnacle of prestige, she believes with all her heart, is to become famous not only on Earth (which was easy) but in Malifaux, where wonders (and terrors) are a dime a dozen. Because she knows well enough not to draw the attention of the Guild’s ruthless witch hunters, she hides her real magical abilities behind the glittering curtain of stage magic.
After their shared nightmare on Walpurgis Night, the students want nothing more than to bunker down and prepare for the Convergence (and ensuing demonic apocalypse). Unfortunately, instead of cleaning swords, firearms, and Zippo Lighters from Hell, they must smile and nod at their excited families, who are bubbling over with enthusiasm about graduation. After lunch, each student receives a text inviting them to a meeting with Jackson Green, and they tactfully extricate themselves to make the rendezvous.
Jackson and Paul (the Chupacabra still recovering from his injuries) pull up in Jackson’s battered Jeep. Jackson doesn’t know how to stop the Convergence, but his mentor GlenMac (Professor MacLanahan) has been involved with the Sweet Heart Foundation and might be able to help. As they’re not sure how involved GlenMac is with the hybrid super-Chupacabra breeding program, going to him for help feels risky, but at this point they must consider any source of information on the Convergence.
When they finally track GlenMac down to his off-campus apartment, the professor seems agitated. CP lays the team’s cards on the table. They know about the Sweet Heart Foundation, they were the ones who sabotaged the Chupacabra breeding program, and they know GlenMac is involved. Pressure from Jackson, Mariana, and CP eventually convinces GlenMac to reveal that Helen Lane, his girlfriend, was present at the last Convergence; having absorbed so much magical energy slowed Helen’s aging, and she is much older, apparently, than she appears. Helen and some other students closed the portal to Hell that time, but Helen was the only survivor, and she has been working for 60 years to find a way to stop the Convergence for good.
According to GlenMac, the conclusion of the last Convergence (back in 1947) left a huge ashen area outside Pinebox, called the Burn, which is where the ash demons have been occasionally originating. Through extensive research and magical experimentation, Helen has developed a complex and powerful ritual that can prevent the Convergence from ever happening again. The ritual involves the artifacts that the heroes have recovered during their time at ETU (de la Garza’s cross, the Lantern of the Deep, and the Dimensional Visualizer). GlenMac, apparently, has been helping Helen manipulate the students into obtaining these artifacts for her. Unfortunately, similar to a nuclear bomb, the ritual requires a powerful energy source—in this case, the life energy of tens of thousands of human souls. With an expression of guilt, but a glint of something darker, GlenMac says Helen plans to blow up the football stadium during graduation, killing everyone present, to stop the Convergence for good.
When the students express dismay, GlenMac asks, defensively, “Haven’t you see Star Trek 2?”
“Sure,” says CP. “You’re talking about The Wrath of Khan.”
“Indeed. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”
The Wrath of Khan aside, the students are NOT on board with blowing up a stadium full of people, even if (somehow) their own families might be spared. CP persuades GlenMac to take them to Helen; maybe, just maybe, there is some alternate plan that don’t include mass murder. At that very moment, Helen calls GlenMac to warn him that ash demons have risen from the Burn and are headed for Pinebox. As the crowd has assembled at the stadium in anticipation of the graduation ceremony, Helen wants to do the ritual immediately, before the ash demons kill the people she herself plans to sacrifice.
GlenMac and the heroes head for the stadium. Panting, pushing through the joyful graduation crowd, the students and GlenMac jog up the aluminum stairs to the alumni boxes, toward the elevator to the Sweet Heart underground bunker where Helen is presumably just about to complete the ritual that will kill everybody. Before they reach the elevator, they spot an ash demon also approaching the elevator, but Helen’s personal Chupacabra bodyguard drops down on the demon from above to savage it in a sudden spray of blood and ash. Shoving against the panicked crowd, the heroes dodge the fight, hurl themselves into the elevator, and descend to the supercollider tunnels under the stadium.
The students exit the elevator into a bristling array of shotgun and rifle barrels wielded by six heavily armored mercenaries. The heroes hesitate -- is this their final battle? -- but the mercenaries recognize GlenMac, lower their M16s, and usher the group to a control room, where video monitors display feeds from all over the stadium. One monitor shows the battle between Helen’s bodyguard Chupacabra and the ash demon; they seem fairly evenly matched, and there’s blood and bits of ash flying everywhere. Other monitors show the waves of alarm moving through the stadium as the crowd realizes something is terribly wrong. The three staff members in the control room turn to GlenMac and greet him warmly. One notifies Helen, and Helen appears through a door marked Supercollider Tunnel G47.
Angry, confused, Helen asks GlenMac what the students are doing there. GlenMac explains that the students aren’t on board with the mass murder plan. Furious, Helen shouts at them that she’s been laboring all her life to stop the Convergence, working with scientists to breed the Chupacabra to fight the demons, and risking her own safety devising complicated and dangerous rituals. The students argue with Helen, demanding an alternative plan, but suddenly an alert klaxon blares. Helen dismisses them all with a gesture as one of the monitoring staff issues a report. “The Convergence has accelerated! Repeat, the Convergence has accelerated! Convergence now in one hour, repeat, one hour!”
For a moment, everyone in the control room freezes. Their lives are in Helen’s hands. Death is, all of a sudden, imminent and very real. Overcome with guilt and remorse, Helen blurts, “Wait! There may be another way. Some force in another reality, another world parallel to ours, is causing the Convergence. Through our research, we have found that the walls between worlds are thin. We might be able to open a small portal and send a team through to find the source of the Convergence and destroy it. The Sweet Heart Foundation can provide you with weapons and equipment. But this might be a one-way trip.”
CP nods slowly. THIS variation of the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few is acceptable. He says, “It’s Spock time.”
Ryo, Troy, and Matt nod. Marco says, “Let’s suit up.”
Mariana sighs. “I hate you guys.”
Name: Anna Mae Hawkins
Although short of stature, Anna Mae is a striking presence, with an elegant Gibson Girl hairstyle and a large pair of spectacles necessary for a life of squinting at footnotes in academic texts. The first woman in her family to attend college, Anna Mae studied anthropology at Bennett College in Greensboro, North Carolina. When the Breach reopened under the totalitarian rule of the Guild, Anna Mae applied for the crossing, stating her intent to study the native cultures of Malifaux and write the definitive text on the Gremlins, and, if she can find them, the Neverborn. Having to report her findings back to the Guild or become a target of their wrath doesn’t sit well with Anna Mae, as she definitely does not want her scholarship used as a weapon against the natives of Malifaux, so she files her reports carefully, with concealed but determined resistance. As a career academic, Anna Mae is an expert at bending bureaucracy to her formidable will.
Anna Mae is capable of handling a gun thanks to her upbringing in post-Civil War North Carolina, but her first line of defense is always dialogue and negotiation, in honor of her prime directive as a scholar who rigorously respects the cultures she studies. She comes to Malifaux eager to study what she hopes is an egalitarian frontier culture, and as she waits in Santa Fe for the train (Santa Fe, NM has been renamed Breachtown after the reality shattering event that opened the Breach in the first place) Anna Mae sits with a notebook, already taking down her observations, the epitome of scholarly diligence.
Character Image by Lillie