Tuesday, January 19, 2021

31 Days / 31 Characters - THE HYBORIAN

The Hyborian

Character: The Hyborian

Early in the campaign we sometimes called him 'The Hyperborian'. It wasn't a mispronunciation or a mistake so much as we hadn't actually decided on his name. Eventually we settled on The Hyborian, jokingly calling him Hyperborian in the campaign finale for reasons you'll glean later.

Player: Andrew Frank Rodriguez

System: Mutants and Masterminds, 2nd Edition.
Campaign: Dynamos Unlimited

Gamemaster: Adam Dickstein

Circa: 2003-2004

Origins: I am going to let my good buddy Andy tell this tale, piping in only as needed. Take it away Andy:

I was about 20-something, the year was 2003 going into 2004 

I had heard that a friend of mine was going to be playing a new game with Adam [as GM] called The Dynamos. It was a superhero world of Adam's creation that’d been around for a few decades. This was years before I had started a career in comics and creating content for gaming myself.

So here I was, this 20 year old looking at a bunch of players that had all these great, heroic creations. Some that could fly like a laser beam, a paragon with phasing abilities, a man in a black suit with tactically applied, mental energy abilities, and even a circus clown styled character.

You had these amazing players, some of which were industry folks, some were young guys and first time gamers, all walking into the Compleat Strategist in NYC one Saturday a month and everyone really excited about this game. Now here's me, wanting to play a character that is not just bonkers but one hell bent build. I decide to create a Hercules meets Spartan type wrapped in the mindset of a Cimmerian but here's the kicker; they [the character] were not alive but a psychic imprint, a collection of heroes through the Ages of Mankind enveloped in a device that can be worn on your head.

Once activated, you get full battle armor and can summon weapons that are hand-held and of a martial nature. No guns. Just about every sword ever made, hammers, flails, pole-arms, clubs, and any ranged weapon before the gun. You also all this collective knowledge of the past wearers in a magical matrix database within this ancient helm that predates even the earliest of humanity’s history of warfare. When I created this, Images of Frank Frazetta and Sword and Sandals movies came into mind. Once I approached Adam this idea.. Adam, he just smiled and stated “Oh I know what we can do with this character!” 

Backstory: The story goes that during the Second World War, the uncle of the young man who would become The Hyborian witnessed a German Soldier take out dozens of allied soldiers single handedly. Observing him from a distance and behind cover, he realized the German soldier was garbed in a suit of armor not unlike a Teutonic Knight. 

When the soldier removed his helmet, his armor vanished. He was once more in the standard uniform of the German army and the helmet changed to resemble one more ancient and like something out of a Pulp magazine. Before he placed the helmet on his head once more, the uncle shot him with a rifle. He than retrieved the helmet and placed it in a duffle bag. 

It is unclear how the uncle returned to the United States with the artifact. The helm would disappear during bunk inspections and reappear later more than once. It seemed to have some peculiar power to hid itself when necessary. When the uncle got home to New York City, he had every intention of selling the strange helmet to a museum or auction house, yet whenever this occurred to him he would find he'd misplaced it. 

Some years later his son and his nephew were exploring the old family house when they discovered the helmet hidden in a box in the attic. One of the boys convinced his cousin to try it on, saying it looked like something out of a Conan movie or a game of Dungeons and Dragons. Donning the helmet and having that thought in mind, the cousin was transformed into The Hyborian! The two spent time testing out the powers and new body of the Hyborian when the young man wearing the helm first heard the voices of past wielders. 

Focusing on the one he could make out, he was rewarded with a bit of an explanation and tutorial. He also had to explain to his cousin why he was talking to himself as no one other than the wearer could hear the voice in the helmet. 

Not long after this, the Hyborian made his first crime-fighting debut and the young man was immediately contacted by his uncle. Now an old man, his uncle revealed how he came upon the item and warned that it was neither good nor evil. Clearly the helmet could be worn by anyone. The helmet disagreed. According to the spirits within it, many who've worn it have found it to be simply an ancient example of costuming and nothing more. The ghosts within determine the worthiness of the wearer though they have widely varying and mysterious criteria. The German soldier for example may well have personally been a man of honor, even if he served a terrible regime. 

Eventually, the young man and the helmet came to accept and to a small extent understand each other. His uncle and cousin are the only two people to know his secret identity until he befriends the Dynamos and key agents of I.N.S.I.G.H.T. (The International Suprahuman Intelligence Garrison Highly Trained).

Overview: So here's the first “Hero meet up”; all the players I knew from games past at the Compleat Strat, some new players I wish I'd met years before, and a few I didn't think I would ever get along with but are now my closest friends, gathered around the table. (Adam's Notes: We had somewhere between 7 and 9 players in the first session and by the end of the campaign there were around 10 or 11 players at once at maximum) Everyone kind of recognized each other from other gaming stores and game groups.

We made our heroic presentations (everyone introducing their characters to the other characters - that was key) and I took a deep breath. I made my hero's introduction “Heracles, Ajax, Achilles, Alexander, Genghis...They are all wimps compared to me! For I am the one who made them...I am of the time when heroes were legends and the very gods bowed in my passing! Call me...The Hyborian!”  

This was an amazing character.  Everyone at the table felt it was kind of cool to have a 'Conan the Barbarian'-style Superhero in the party and I was welcomed right away. 

I loved the idea that throughout history, especially successful warriors both famous and unknown had worn this magical relic and their wisdom and skill were passed down into the helmet and then on to the next person to wear it. Those who had died while wearing it or holding it were not just psychic impressions on the helm but actually inside it, their spirits forever haunting the artifact. 

The look of the Hyborian - R.E. Howard inspired bare-chested warriors with pieces of armor, furred loincloth, and of course the epic, horned helmet itself - were revealed to be an unconscious side effect of the wearer. In past incarnations, the helmet had changed shape to be compatible with Samurai armor in Edo Period Japan or an antlered, Germanic helmet and hood during World War II. The current look was a result of the current wearers preference for Sword and Sorcery art and fiction. 

This is also why he didn't use guns. At first he thought it was because most of the helmets previous owners and many inhabitants had never used guns but that was only partially true. It was because that's how the current user thought things should be based on the way the helmet looked to him. Indeed it even took time and consideration for him to realize he could make a bow and arrow or crossbow. 

The Highlights:

Early on we knew that the Hyborian was one of our heavy hitters, though perhaps not as versatile as the density altering Mass Master, the psychic powerhouses Big Brother and Psychosis, or IMPACT!, our resident Juggernaut-like wrestler. It was really fun imaging his battles, using ancient Javelins, Bolas, and even Chakram to fight Robots, Supervillains, and other modern or even futuristic opponents. 

There was one instance where I got Hyborian but good in an uncharacteristically 'EVIL GM' move that the player absolutely loved even though his character totally did not. The team was trapped on a strange, other-dimensional planet called Nth World - a homage to Jack Kirby's Fourth World stories of Darkseid and the planet Apokolips. There they faced but four villains: Afterlife, The GAMMA MAN, The Relic, and the Sovereign (an evil doppleganger of the recently lost hero the Savior). 

Hyborian goes after Afterlife who has among his abilities the power to 'haunt' an opponent with voices and images of the dearly departed. Focused on Hyborian, the power caused the hundreds, if not thousands of spirits inside the helmet to all talk at once, many shouted advice to the overwhelmed wearer. As Andy describes it, "My Character had felt, heard, and saw every single one of the helmet's dead former occupants and was nearly rendered insane."

Another part well remembered by both Andy and I was in the final arc of the campaign when the Earth was invaded by an Alien Empire. We divided the team, along with a ton of NPC heroes we'd met throughout the series, into three teams. One would be on the moon protected a secret weapon being built there. One group would be in the Earth's upper atmosphere to take out as many alien ships trying to land as possible. Finally there would be a group on the Earth, ready for anything that got passed the aerospace team. 

As Andy notes...

So the question is who would you send to protect a Moon Base filled with Scientists and their families? A group of Space/Sci-Fi style characters or maybe a Science based hero with an assortment of Space Age high tech weapons? Nope! In an Adam Dickstein game you go full Pulp comic! I dubbed this chapter: BARBARIANS ON THE MOON! - Starring: The Hyborian! 

Legacy: I haven't used the Hyborian since that M&M campaign in 2004, largely because I haven't set a follow-up campaign in that particular setting/game universe. I would though and I would love to see a previous wearer of the helm in some earlier period RPG.

It would be really interesting to see an Ars Magica or Bushido version of him wouldn't it?

Game Info:

This one is tough as I can not find any of the original character sheets for this campaign. I believe that is because I let the players keep theirs this time. I do recall that we were running 2nd Edition Mutants and Masterminds and started with 10th or 12th level characters, so around 150-180 points I believe. We ended the campaign about 15th or 16th level. 

In addition to Super Strength, Super Endurance, and some kind of Invulnerability/Toughness, The Hyborian's main ability is Item Creation. He can, as noted above, 'Summon into Being' virtually any weapon that can be wielded by a single individual, needing no outside power source or ammo (although a loaded or connected power source or ammo is allowed), no more advanced than the year the wearer of the helmet is familiar with. 

This means that for a modern wearer, a Flamethrower or Rocket Launcher is possible but a Sci-Fi Laser Pistol or 'Laser Sword' is not. A Machine Gun is possible but once the clip or belt feed is empty the weapon can not be reloaded. A new one would have to be summoned. 

Furthermore, if the wielder is not knowledgeable about the weapon he must rely on help from one of the spirits/minds of previous wearers inhabiting the helmet to use it. If none of them are aware of the weapon, the current wearer receives no Skill bonus. For example, the last wearer prior to Andy's character was a German soldier during World War II. If Andy's PC watches the demonstration of a new-ish grenade invented five years ago, neither he nor any of his predecessors would be familiar with the weapon. 

It should also be said that while most of the previous wearers of the helm were soldiers or warriors of some kind, Andy's PC's secret identity was a researcher for a TV news channel. Helpful for investigations but not directly helpful in the use of his Super-Abilities. I always thought that was very cool. 

Next up, a character I have discussed before but never in full detail. He's another of my all time favorites and he deserves some love, so here comes the one, the only, IPPERIUS WITSPEAR!

Thanks for the help Andy!

Barking Alien

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