Eclipsing Raven Trigonsdottir – Part I

There are quite a few requests that I’d like to make; the hard part is figuring out which of them I’d like to see the most. That said, there’s one that does spring to mind: in honor of her fighting Twilight Sparkle in the next Death Battle, I’m curious to see what DC Comics’ Raven would look like with Eclipse stats.

-Alzrius

Well, why not?

OK. It’s Raven, Daughter of Trigon, mystically trained by the pacifistic (also intolerant, self-righteous, arrogant, and quite often downright stupid) mystical followers of Azar in their private pocket dimension, That gave her a whole raft of abilities, made her extremely powerful, and turned her into a psychological basket case. She mostly hangs out with the Teen Titans when she isn’t being a demonic emissary of her father, or being a ghost, or being controlled by someone .

That kind of thing actually happens to her a LOT – probably for the same reason that Wolverine gets wounded a lot; you can’t show off Wolverine’s regenerative powers if he actually fights well enough to avoid being wounded and you can’t show off Raven’s ability to overcome her dark heritage and/or negative emotions unless she gets influenced by them. Ergo, the one with years of training in overcoming dark powers and controlling her emotions is the one who constantly falls to such things. That’s comic books for you!

Anyway, she’s pretty notorious for being a “roll a d6 at the start of the story” character:

  1. She’s a fabulously powerful asset to the team today, even if she IS a sarcastic snarker! You will wonder why anyone else is needed!
  2. She must greatly restrain her powers today, lest horrors be unleashed! Everyone else gets to do stuff!
  3. She brings dark tidings and will be crippled with struggles against her own inner demons today!
  4. She needs psychological support, and has likely created some mystical problem that will provide today’s narrative conflict, but will probably eventually do something useful if she gets enough hugs!
  5. She’s being pursued by Horrors From Beyond (TM!) today, and you must defend her even if magical horrors are in no way your field!
  6. She’s on Time Share with the Dark Forces today! You will have to find a way to stop her eldritch rampage or free her from their malevolent influence!

OK, that’s a bit of an exaggeration – it should probably be a d8 with the first couple of entries getting two numbers each – but it’s not that much of one. Raven really does fairly often go into NPC friendly enemy mode. Still, she’s one of the Titan’s, and is presumably worth putting up with (if only because peers with superpowers are scarce). It’s not like superpowered teenagers aren’t usually incredible pains in the ass anyway. NORMAL teenagers are bad enough about that.

Of course, a solid chunk of Raven’s plotlines and personal struggles revolve around her father Trigon – so you can’t really talk about Raven without talking about her father.

Trigon the Terrible. A dark god filled with the cast-of evil energies of the people of Azarath. At birth he killed everyone nearby, including his mother. At the age of six, he destroyed an entire planet. And by the age of thirty, he held dominion over millions of worlds in his dimension.

Hm… “Held Dominion”. “Millions”, and “Age Thirty”. So… in twenty-four years he conquered millions of worlds. Call it the minimum of two million. That gives him… six minutes and eighteen seconds per world in which to defeat all their heroes, conquer them, rule over them, and gloat, before departing, never to return – and that’s presuming that he never eats or rests or does anything else and takes no time to travel. He could be multitasking, but if he could do that… why didn’t he ever do it when he was fighting heroes? And didn’t he spend a fair amount of time on things like fathering children, gloating over his dominions, and scheming to conquer other planets? He certainly wasted rather a lot of time on Earth.

OK, he could be a more conventional warlord, and have “conquered” a lot of places by sending out minions and taking over political centers without ever getting near them, and be inflicting demonic misery across the galaxy by establishing a repressive bureaucracy enforcing obnoxious policies – but Trigon was never presented that way. The image was always of Trigon standing in the semi-ruins of a conquered city. gloating over it’s fallen defenders, not Emperor Palpatine contemplating Endor and considering whether to impose complicated income tax forms on the Ewoks to make them help pay for an extra Death Star.

Why Earth anyway? Wouldn’t his own dimension still contain an infinite number of worlds to conquer, some of them basically identical to Earth? Or is jumping dimensions easier than getting to other galaxies?

It’s a common writers failing, whether you call it “cannot do math” or “no sense of scale”. Entire planets and dimensions are written as if they consist of a couple of locations and a single environment and large numbers get thrown around with no thought for the consequences. In an Earth-style universe… to the best of our current understanding it’s infinite. As in an infinite number of identical copies of every possible variation. If there are two or more independent (as in “not connected to or seeking each other”) unique beings, effects, or sets of being in the multiverse the odds of two of them ever appearing in the same galaxy – even not at the same time – are literally zero. Is a devourer of universes so mighty and irresistible that it can attack everywhere in an infinite universe at the same time and only one galaxy in a hundred billion can hold out against utter annihilation for a single second? That means that there are an infinite number of holdouts. And there will be the same infinite number holding out against the next assault. and the next, and all the assaults after that. For equally infinite time. Infinity hasn’t got an end to reach.

If there are an infinite number of dimensions out there, then there are an infinite number of cosmically powerful entities out to conquer or destroy the multiverse and there always have been. It’s still here. Therefore attempts to destroy it either cannot work or it just comes back.

It doesn’t really help that the DC Hierarchy is pretty well defined. The Presence, Lucifer, the Archangels, and various others are all well above Trigon. And several of them hang around Earth a lot. Why did Trigon make such a point of invading one of the few places in the entire multiverse where he was guaranteed to get tossed out on his ear if the local great powers took him seriously? Could it be that he knew that those entities didn’t really care? Why not?

If a creature is a threat to even a single galaxy, wouldn’t every major hero who could detect it and reach the site show up to stop it? Even if that’s only a few per world… that would be billions or trillions of major heroes – plus similar or greater numbers of villains who didn’t want to be squashed with their worlds.

Yet that didn’t happen. Ergo… Trigon may be a personal threat to the solar system, or even a few solar systems, and to little one-city pocket dimensions like Azarath – but not to more than that.

Raven’s spirit – filled with the sacred inner light of a city full of pacifistic holy mystics – drove Trigon back or destroyed him (depending on continuity). Of course, to be fair… as a demonic figure made up of those same mystics cast-off darknesses, he was probably especially vulnerable to them even over and above the usual demonic weakness to sacred energies. Still, while Trigon had been “draining the souls” of conquered planets (whatever that was supposed to mean) even millions of them apparently didn’t give him enough power to stand up to one city worth of pacifistic mystics.

Personally, I’d build Trigon with Mystic Artist (Performance Art) with the ability to make himself seen and heard across immense areas and giving him the personal pocket dimension and environmental transformation effects – thus allowing him to twist a planet into a demonic hellscape and to be immune to almost all the heroes who didn’t wind up in his personal pocket realm. Then, if and when he is defeated… the changes he has made will quietly go away.

That also explains why he’s big on announcements, foreshadowing, overdramatics, hamming it up, making speeches, failing to kill his opponents, and going to new planets all the time. What’s performance art without new audiences? And dead audiences are of no use at ALL.

So Raven’s occasional reports of “Vast Power” can go into the same bin as Trigon’s; they’re basically illusory plot devices. I’d have doubts anyway given that most of the creatures crediting her OR Trigon with such powers had pretty clear agendas.

Next up, we ignore plot device Raven. That includes…

  • Possessed-By-Evil Raven and her ability to time stop the Justice League and contain her friends.
  • Channeling-The-Souls-Of-Azarath Raven and her ability to destroy Trigon.
  • Backed-By-Xavier Raven and her ability to blast a partial copy of Dark Pheonix created by Darkseid from negative emotions that HAD no positive emotions with love. (Said copy then got upset with Darkseid for doing such a half-assed job on the resurrection. Upshot; Darkseid permanently destroyed. If it wasn’t obvious enough, non-canon. And hardly the most absurd thing that happened in that particular crossover).
  • Golden Spirit Raven and her ability to transverse space, survive without a body, and apparently fade away into the afterlife.
  • Brother-Blood-Boosted Raven and her ability to break everyone free of his control machine.
  • New-52 Touched-By-Trigon Raven and her semi-omniscient ability to show up and mess with everyone the plot requires her to (Must… resist… “Bad Touch” jokes…).
  • And all the other variations on Turbocharged-By-External-Power-Sources Raven – as well as Informed-That-She-Could-Snuff-Out-Universes Raven (since it was by a demon with an ulterior motive – and those are notoriously untrustworthy anyway).

That leaves us with the stuff that she actually normally does. To compile a list…

  • Raven is a powerful empath, able to sense, project, and drain emotions. In at least some sources this also lets her project stunning mental blasts.
  • She can heal people, but it’s a strain and she’s pretty limited in how much she can heal. That’s pretty standard for heroes: being able to heal everyone messes up a LOT of dramatic scenes and plotlines amd opens up the question of why you aren’t spending your time on a hospital assembly line healing a steady stream of dying children and leaving the adventuring to characters with less miraculous powers.
  • She can call forth a formidable psychic construct she calls her soul-self, although the duration is somewhat limited. It can hold things, fly, wrap itself around people to protect them, and withstand a lot of damage, but if it’s disrupted there’s a substantial backlash against her and it takes some time to get it out again (I seem to recall that getting it out too soon leaves it weakened, but it’s been a long time). She is usually aware of what her soul-self could see and hear. I can’t recall it ever being shown to taste, smell, or feel much though. It is often portrayed passing through things (and possibly acting as an astral form), so it may be selectively insubstantial.
  • She can envelop people or groups in her soul-self and teleport them across space (it’s unclear as to how far, but it’s apparently not interplanetary), dimensions (at least to a limited set of mystic ones, sometimes using minor rituals, and with only partial control of her point of arrival), and time (well, during a special time of crisis anyway, and only to appear in quasi-historical and possible future settings. She never – say – drops back an hour to see who committed a crime. Her actions in the past never seem to change the present either, so this might be best represented as another subset of alternate dimensions). As a side effect she might or might not be resistant to disruptions in the timeline.
    • Overall, Raven’s soul-self is one of her most potent abilities – capable of restraining even truly major enemies at least briefly.
  • She has good mental defenses, but they’re not a lot of use against her own inner nature. Against general mental control they are, however, almost impregnable.
  • In the 2003-2006 television series she was a powerful telekinetic with a “dark force” power signature, presumably because it was a lot more visually dramatic than empathy – and so telekinesis has leaked into later depictions. She can throw things around, animate objects, and project a variety of telekinetic blasts.
  • She dies a lot and keeps coming back. Comics are notorious for the revolving door of life and death, but Raven sometimes seems to spin it fast enough to run a generator.
  • She often appears wrapped in shadows, her room is sometimes filled with darkness, and so on. This mostly seems to be special effects, but it’s ambiguous enough to count “turning off the lights” amongst her talents. She might be able to generate simple illusions – or at least make her soul-self look like her.
  • She might be able to sense souls or mystical energies and is apparently good at sensing minds. That’s pretty basic for semi-demonic psychic / magical types, but is pretty ambiguous in the source material.
  • She can imbue other people with some of her power. That’s usually a plot device power, but it’s worth mentioning since it’s a classic demonic ability.
  • She has undefined access to various magical spells, although most of them appear to be demonic (and only used when she’s evil) and she doesn’t often use anything but preset rituals.
  • She can variously levitate while meditating, fly using her soul-self, fly using dark telekinetic disks (or perhaps by just standing on her malleable soul-self), or just hover dramatically without explanation. On the other hand, she’s also known for being knocked out of the air.
  • She speaks English, German, Latin, Romanian, Ancient Sumerian, and Sanskrit (along, presumably, with Azarathan). That may not be a superhuman power, but it’s not easy either.
  • She had prophetic dreams about Trigon, but that might just be because she was going to become his gateway into Earth’s dimension and was deeply linked to him and the subject of prophecies that she knew about. She’s never really shown any general precognition. This probably isn’t really a power.

On the other hand… her powers run wild when she loses control of her emotions, will not work if she is afraid and unwilling to admit it, leave her vulnerable to possession by Trigon or her own demonic nature if she gets too angry, are erratic at best (at least in some depictions) if she can’t incant (usually, but not always, “Azarath… Metrion… Zinthos!”), call for spending a LOT of her time in meditation, cause many good magicians to consider her inherently corrupt, and isn’t especially good at fine control.

To be blunt… Raven is a good character, a great plot catalyst, and brings a lot of deep background and heroic struggle into a comic. She’s a LOUSY player character though. She’s often out of play while being evil and places the game master in the position of having to decide when she’s going to be suddenly crippled, leaving the player bored, or when she’s going to be able to use her vast array of powers freely – usually overshadowing the rest of her team. That really does not make for a good gaming experience. Still, she makes a fine NPC.

So next time on Raven… it will be converting her into d20 statistics.

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One Response

  1. […] For Part One – Raven’s general background and powers – click HERE. […]

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