Mutants of the Eclipse Part XVII – The Long-Range Teleporter, Power Duplicator, and Power Negator / Manipulator.

   To continue with Mutants in Eclipse, here we have a few of the more specialized character types – in particular, some of the ones with particularly awkward-to-accommodate powers.

   The Cosmic Traveler:

   The Long-Range Teleporter (or dimensional traveler, or whatever) tends to appear every so often, usually as an addition to an established team when the writers want to send them places that are a long way away from their usual base of operations or have some global-to-intergalactic plot in mind. Shortly thereafter they will take the team on a series of jaunts to bizarrely-random locations, and a little while after that, they will quietly vanish – not to reappear except in cameos until the writers come up with another super-scale plot.

   The reasons for that are pretty simple.

   If the Long-Range Teleporter can only travel by himself or herself, then either:

(a) The rest of the team can reach the location of the action in a timely fashion without him or her – in which case the power is really no more useful than short-range teleportation – or…

(b) The rest of the team cannot reach the scene of the action in a timely fashion, in which case, the rest of the team is useless – except possibly to arrive later to rescue the teleporter.

   Now, there’s nothing wrong with a solo story every so often, but we’re interested in campaigns with many players. About the only heroic campaign role a solo Long-Range Teleporter can serve is as a courier. That’s very useful – but not very interesting.

   As villains, Long-Range Teleporters are really frustrating, since they can just vanish whenever there’s trouble. That’s a dream come true for a thief or an assassin, but kind of limits the chances for superheroics; either the characters have forewarning and set a trap or they will probably never become involved.

   If the Long-Range Teleporter can carry other people along, things change. The Long-Range Teleporter is now serving the same frustrating role as Captain Kirk’s Communicator; whenever the transport specialist is available, the characters can simply vanish from whatever situation they’re in, or fetch supplies, or rush people back for medical treatment, or whatever. If they find out the location of something, they can arrive by surprise at a moments notice.

   Now it’s coming up with plots which that ability won’t ruin that’s a problem.

   The usual semi-sustainable compromise is to give the Long-Range Teleporter some additional powers – so that they have something else to do – and to make their long-range transportation power very unreliable, limiting how often it can be used and giving it a whopping margin of error.

   Call that “Lesser Gate” – a portal that cannot be used for summoning things, which other things can come through, and which only lasts for a round or so at most. Perhaps level eight, and otherwise pretty much identical to the Gate spell. The usual version crosses dimensions, but versions which work for space, probability lines, and time (if the game master feels like allowing that; special limitations WILL apply) are all available.

   Now… Say that every time it’s used it has a one-in-three chance of exhausting itself (x.5), a similar one-in-three chance of taking you to entirely the wrong place (x.5), and that it occasionally fails or causes bizarre problems (scattering the characters, unleashing some weird horror, stranding someone, running into some weird barrier, releasing evil duplicates, etc) on a similar one-in-three chance (x.5).

  • That’s a Level Eight Spell x Casting Level Fifteen x 2000 GP for Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x .5 x .5 x .5 for all of the above limitations = 30,000 GP.

   OK: For a +1 ECL or +1 Mutant Class modifier, you can have a semi-reliable method of getting yourself and your friends out of whatever trouble you’re in at the moment. You may wind up in some OTHER trouble, but at least it will be a change.

   All Your Powers Are Mine!

   The Power Duplicator is a favorite mega-villain. Unlike a Power Mimic (see Shapeshifters et al), a Power Duplicator isn’t restrained by a need to have made recent contact with the people with the powers he or she wants to copy, or to have “borrowed” those powers, or to have them in the immediate vicinity, or whatever. He or she can either duplicate or take powers from his or her victims on a pretty-much permanent basis.

   Sometimes the Power Duplicator can only “store” a limited number of power imprints and must give up old powers to gain new ones, or has to kill his or her victims to gain their powers, or can only manifest one set of powers at a time, or has to keep his or her victims available (or in a giant machine, or ready to be recharged from, or something) to keep using their powers – but those are only limitations on “I can do anything that the game master is allowing in the campaign once I find a source”.

   Ah. That’s an easy one; the Power Duplicator is a high-powered Adept with some limitations. A very high-powered Adept… Call it Spell Level Thirteen (to allow him or her to produce effects of up to level nine within a very broad theme) x Caster Level Twenty-Five x 2000 GP for Unlimited-Use Use-Activated = 650,000 GP. At it’s base, that calls for a Class-21 Mutant.

   Ouch.

   Fortunately, there are those limitations…

  • Must find sources and tap before powers can be used (x.9 – this will become trivial over time. Maybe x.8 if it’s a really gigantic pain to tap a source).
  • Cannot exceed the limitations of the source individuals (x.8).
  • Can only “store” 1/3/7 power imprints at a time: x .6/.8/.9.
  • Can only use 1/2/3 sets of powers at a time: x .5/.7/.9.
  • Has to keep victims in storage to use their powers: x.7 if they have to be nearby and are easy to rescue, x.9 if they can be hidden a long ways away and regular contact isn’t needed.
  • Has to kill victims to get their powers: x.8 – mostly because this draws notice and opposition.

   If Cosmic Joe needs to get someone into his duplication chamber for three days to copy their powers but can let them go afterwards, that’s a real pain (x.8). He cannot exceed their limitations (x.8), and can only store three power-imprints at a time (x.8), but can use all of them at once if he wants to (x.9). That makes Cosmic Joe a Class-X Mutant, at +10 ECL with 11,520 GP left over to buy some modest permanent personal enhancements.

   Of course, if Cosmic Joe is copying a high-powered Exokinetic, a powerful Adept, and a Class-V Paragon, then Cosmic Joe may be nigh-unstoppable. Still, that’s pretty much expected of a Class-X Mutant of any kind. The game master may want to apply another limitation – perhaps not allowing Cosmic Joe to copy more than ten total levels worth of mutant powers at a time – but that’s not worth even a x.9 modifier. That’s just to make him playable.

   A few characters use the Power Mimic or Power Duplicator builds with the modifier that draining, borrowing, or “copying” someone else’s power gives them related-but-warped versions of those powers. While this is generally consistent – perhaps drawing on Firelord the master of flame always gives the user ice-related powers – it does make things a bit unpredictable at times, and is another x.9 modifier.

   Power Duplicators are very awkward to accommodate in a game – or in a comic book. Fundamentally, they tend to stomp on the other character’s shticks – leaving the players wondering why their character is along at all. People may enjoy playing the sidekick on occasion, but they rarely want to do it for very long – and the Power Duplicator has the potential to push every other character into that role, like it or not.

   The Power of Boredom!

   The Power Negator is more commonly known as the “Fun Damper”.

   Now, the way that I’ve been building “mutant powers” makes this easy enough; the Power Negator is a character with a high-powered dispelling or even “antimagic” ability.

   This is OK as an attack, even if it’s one of those “win the roll or be out of action” things. It’s a bit harder to handle as a longer-term effect. When that happens in a comic book, the action can switch to a bit of human drama, or focus on some other characters, or we can watch the characters meet some difficulty with their mundane skills.

   In a game it rarely works well unless you power down EVERYONE. Focusing in on human drama usually means leaving at least some of the players dissatisfied unless you have an unusually accommodating group. Focusing on other characters is usually leaving some players out of the game for the time being – and using mundane skills is pretty unexciting compared to those neat powers even IF the players all gave their characters some worthwhile skills to use.

   Besides, that means that power negation usually works best as an environmental thing; you want the players to focus on using their skills to solve the problems they’re confronting – not on seeing the power-negator as the problem to be solved.

   In any case, the basic Class-I Power Negator has Dispel Magic at Caster Level Five (for a total of 30,000 GP), and targets individual characters Mutant Powers / Innate Enchantments just like a Dispel Magic spell versus any other magic item. A Class-II Negator has it at Caster Level Ten for a cost of 60,000 GP. Next up; Greater Dispel Magic or Antimagic Field (sometimes limited to around the user). For a downgrade, make it a lower-level touch-only effect, or direct it against another special effect – a technology negator, or armor negator, or some such.

   For the classic dilemma, make the power-damping effect uncontrollable, attach it to a kid or someone that the player-characters will want to protect, and dump said character on them to defend. The players will either hate or love it, and sometimes both.

   If you want a character who can block AND boost “mutant powers”, we’re back to a minor Adept – in this case, one with a theme of boosting and suppressing mutant powers. For that kind of thing, I’d recommend consulting The Practical Enchanter, and the listings for Add Metamagic, Enhance Effective Level, Dispel, and Absorption effects. They tend to be dull as player-characters though, since they mostly boost their friends powers rather than acting themselves, and usually function best as special-purpose NPC’s – either as allies with relatively weak abilities or as targets for those who want to exploit their powers.

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