Heroes & Villains Design Journal #2: Freedom Fighters

By Christopher McGlothlin, M.Ed.

Hi, I’m Christopher McGlothlin. You may remember me
from such sourcebooks as DC
Adventures
: Heroes & Villains Vol. I
DC Adventures: Heroes & Villains
Vol. II
, and the ones I did under my pen name “Steve Kenson.”

Line developer Jon Leitheusser — not to be confused with the Reverse
Leitheusser or Bizarro Leitheusser (always check to see if the uniform
colors are reversed before trusting “Jon”)–asked me for an after-action report
on designing the Freedom Fighters for Heroes & Villains Vol.
I
. This is the red, white, and blue result.

Some of you are no doubt going, “Freedom Fighters? Grant Morrison! Jimmy
Palmiotti! Justin Gray! Cool!” Others are exclaiming, “Len Wein! Totally
radical!” Somebody else is probably going, “Ah, the Quality Comics characters.”
The best part is, like a peewee league soccer game, everybody wins! You’re all correct.

That’s just a fact of life for most DC Comics characters: they’ve been around
since Fibber McGee & Molly ruled all media (and a most
Happy 75th Anniversary to Major Wheeler-Nicholson’s progeny,
while I’m at it!). Not only have the characters associated with the Freedom
Fighters
been around since rumble seats, they’ve been invented,
re-invented, re-imagined, and resurrected for each new generation of comic-book
readers.

Enter yon middle-aged game designer. Golden Age idolater that I am, any mention
of the Quality characters brought visions of Stormy Foster and Bozo
the Iron Man
to mind (no, that’s not Robert Downey, Jr. in
a clown suit). Then I was informed of the sourcebook’s sub-Rowling page-count,
and away went the obscurities, much to the Ghost of Flanders’ sorrow.

That still left the Bronze Age/Golden Age retcon version of the Freedom
Fighters
, the iteration that did red-shirt duty in Infinite Crisis,
the current team, and many, many more words than I had room for. So like an
afterschool special, I talked to some groovy adults, resisted peer pressure
from the popular kids, and made the right choices. And you know something? I
grew up a little in the process.

The first step was to make sure the Freedom Fighters’ whole history was
retold, from their big move to the DC metro area back in ‛42 to their
long-running feud with the Silver Ghost to JLA: Year One (did
you miss their cameos?), right on into the new millennium. So even when I
lacked the room to quantify a particular character, I made sure he wasn’t
erased from memory. The Red Torpedo would’ve wanted it that way.

This made escaping the love-square between me and
the Len Wein, Geoff Johns, and Morrison/Palmiotti/Gray versions of the team a
lot easier. You see, all these talented creators know well the Freedom
Fighters’
long history (Uncle Sam debuted in 1940) is part of their
appeal, and each rendition of the team took care to preserve their heritage.
Therefore, focusing on the game statistics of the current version of the Freedom
Fighters
still left enough room to include the most significant differences
between its present members and their predecessors. So whether you’re a Richard
Grey/Thomas Wright voter or a Ryan Kendall fanatic, it’s not too much work to have
your preferred Black Condor soaring through your DC Adventures series with the
information presented.

Now I know there’s no getting you into the tent without a little peek at what’s
inside, so peep this and get ready to buy your ticket. Yessiree, this book has
the Red Bee in it. Yes, the Red Bee–my personal test for how big
a DC fan someone really is. If you know Superman, that
just shows you’ve been alive since 1938, but the people who know the Red Bee
someday, Johnny DC himself will look upon you and call you his own.

The Red Bee(s–there’ve been two so far) has
appeared in three RPG books. I’ve written two of them. That’s what I call an
accomplished life, and herein lies the proof:

The Red Bee II                                                                                      PL10
150 points

Abilities Str 7, Sta 3, Agl 4, Dex 3, Fgt 4, Int 4, Awe 4, Pre 3

Powers Exoskeleton (40 points, Removable, -8 points): Stinger Blasts
(electricity; Ranged Damage 8), Flight 5 (60 MPH; Wings), Impervious Protection
5, Enhanced Strength 4, Senses 1 (Communication Link with Robot Drones)

Advantages
Beginner’s Luck, Inventor, Minion 6 (2
Robot Drones)

Skills Close Combat: Unarmed 7 (+11), Expertise: Entomology 9 (+13),
Expertise: Robotics 9 (+13), Expertise: Science 8 (+12), Perception 7 (+11),
Ranged Combat: Stinger Blasts 9 (+12), Technology 7 (+11)

Offense
Initiative +4, Stinger Blasts +12 (Ranged
Damage 8), Unarmed +11 (Damage 7)

Defense
Dodge 12, Parry 10, Fortitude 9, Toughness
8, Will 10

Totals Abilities 56 + Powers 32 + Advantages 8 + Skills 28 + Defenses
26 = 150

Complications

Thrills: Freed from the laboratory, the Red Bee quickly found
the excitement of costumed super-heroics to her liking.

Relationship: The Human Bomb’s hatred towards her drove her away from
the team. She apparently harbors some degree of attraction to Andre Twist,
but guilt over her actions while under the control of alien insects caused her
to abruptly cease all contact with him, leaving their mutual feelings
unresolved.

History

Jenna
Raleigh
is the grand-niece of Richard Raleigh,
who fought crime and Axis saboteurs during the early 1940s as the costumed Red
Bee
. Uncle Sam saw to it her grand-uncle’s notes and crime-fighting
gear found their way into her hands, and coupled with her extensive knowledge
of insects and robotics, she was able to outfit herself as the second Red
Bee
.

The new
Red Bee made her public debut helping to free Uncle Sam and the Freedom
Fighters
from the clutches of S.H.A.D.E., and with that accomplished
accompanied the team back to its extra-dimensional base “the Heartland.”
Excited by her first super-heroic outing, Jenna eagerly accepted Sam’s offer to
join the team, and remained steadfast even after witnessing the Invisible
Hood II’s
slaying by the traitorous third Ray.

Jenna’s
assumption of the Red Bee mantle changed her life entirely. She experienced
the first sparks of romance with her teammate Andre Twist, and was
groomed by S.H.A.D.E. to become the team’s public face after Stormy
Knight
became a drunken embarrassment. The greatest transformation of all
occurred as a result of her encounter with a swarm of alien invaders which
secretly took over her mind and forcibly mutated her body into a more
insect-like form.

Under
their domination, Jenna seized control of the Freedom Fighters and
forced them to do her bidding in preparation for a full-scale invasion of
Earth. Eventually Jenna regained her free will and normal human form with the
help of her teammates, and was instrumental in defeating the insect conquerors.
Despite her redemption and other mitigating factors, Jenna’s relationships with
Andy Franklin (whom she forced to mate with her) and Andre Twist
were strained to the point she felt compelled to leave the team. She returned
to her research, and it remains to be seen if she will ever resume her career
as the Red Bee.

Richard
Raleigh

The original
Red Bee had no super-powers, but relied on his hand-to-hand combat
training, swarm of trained bees, and “stinger gun” (Damage 8) to fight crime.
Unlike Jenna, his Expertise was in practicing law and bee-keeping.

Robot Drone                                                                                      PL6
Minions • 46 points

Abilities Str -5, Sta ―, Agl 4, Dex -2, Fgt 0, Int ―, Awe 0, Pre ―

Powers Stinger Blasts (electricity; Ranged Damage 6), Shrinking 8
(Continuous, Permanent, Innate), Flight 5 (60 MPH; Wings), Immunity 40
(Fortitude Effects, Mental Effects)

Offense
Initiative +4, Stinger Blasts +6 (Ranged
Damage 6), Unarmed +8 (Damage -5)

Defense
Dodge 12, Parry 9, Fortitude Immune,
Toughness 0, Will Immune

Totals Abilities -26 + Powers 71 + Advantages 0 + Skills 0 + Defenses
1 = 46

 

I can hear the scoffers in the back snorting, “So yer game kin
handle a guy who wears a belt full o’ bees! What about a guy who can level
Manhattan with his sweat, huh? Stat that, nerd boy!” So without any
further ado, here’s the new Human Bomb:

 

The Human Bomb
II
                                                                           PL12
234 points

Abilities Str 3, Sta 4, Agl 2, Dex 2, Fgt 2, Int 4, Awe 4, Pre 2

Powers Explosive Physiology: Array (132 points): Nuclear Blast (Burst
Area 12 (16 Miles) Damage 12, Side Effect (same as base effect, always
occurs)), AE: Tissue Grenades (Ranged Burst Area Damage 10,), AE:
Thunderclap (Cone Area Damage 8); Fibro-Wax Containment Suit (Protection 6)

Advantages
Extraordinary Effort

Skills Expertise: Chemistry 12 (+16), Expertise: Science 7 (+11),
Technology 7 (+11)

Offense
Initiative +2, Explosive Physiology
(Damage 12, 10, or 8), Unarmed +2 (Damage 3)

Defense
Dodge 12, Parry 12, Fortitude 8, Toughness
10, Will 14

Totals Abilities 46 + Powers 140 + Advantages 1 + Skills 13 +
Defenses 34 = 234

Complications

Acceptance: The Human Bomb feels almost completely cut off from
humanity, and hopes his heroism will somehow overcome the fear he engenders in
others.

Temper: The highly emotional Andy has a tendency to overreact when he
believes his teammates have been harmed, retaliating with extreme (sometimes
lethal) force.

Accident: If not immersed in a fibro-wax bath or given special daily
medication prepared by S.H.A.D.E., Andy’s explosive physiology reaches
critical mass in 24 hours and uncontrollably explodes at maximum Damage rank.

Honor: Though his Temper complication sometimes overwhelms him, Andy
is normally governed by a strong moral concern for the well-being of others.


Andrew
Franklin
was a young research scientist working in
Blüdhaven when the villain Chemo’s exploding poisonous form
ravaged the area. Like other city residents, Franklin gained meta-human
abilities as a result, and his entire physiology become dangerously explosive.
Contact with his bodily tissues, even his perspiration, could level cities. The
government agency S.H.A.D.E. kept Andy immersed in liquid fibro-wax to
keep his power in check until, at Father Time’s behest, he was equipped
to serve the organization as the new Human Bomb.

Of the
various meta-humans working for S.H.A.D.E., Andy had the most qualms
about its aims and means, and eventually deserted it to join Uncle Sam
in forming a new Freedom Fighters. In time, his teammates lost their
trepidations about his volatile abilities, and his awesome powers were a major
asset in defeating Gonzo the Mechanical Bastard and its corrupt allies
in S.H.A.D.E..

Later
incidents threatened Andy’s new hard-won friendships with his teammates. While
both under the influence of invading alien insects, Jenna Raleigh forced
Andy to mate with her, something he has yet to forgive her for. Andre Twist
in turn harbored a grudge against Andy for the incident because of his feelings
for Jenna, but the two have since reconciled. With the Freedom Fighters
in abeyance, Andy ponders his future in the team’s “Heartland
sanctuary.

Roy
Lincoln

The
original Human Bomb’s abilities were similar to Franklin’s, but with a
top-rank Damage 9. Lincoln also did not have the Accident complication.

And that, gentle readers, is my testament to a
legacy handed down from Lou Fine to Travis Moore & Trevor Scott, with many,
many other talented folks involved along the way. It’s equally humbling and an
honor to have chronicled them, and I am left with but two words for the DC Adventures-buying public: En-joy!

***

Join us
next time as Seth Johnson takes a look at what it’s like to create different versions of a legacy character… just like Blue Beetle!

 All characters, their
distinctive likenesses, and related elements are trademarks of DC Comics © 2011.
All rights reserved.

Jon Leitheusser

Jon Leitheusser is the developer for the Mutants & Masterminds game. He started gaming at the age of 12, has worked in the industry at a game and comic store, two distribution companies, as a publisher (where he originally published the Dork Tower comic book), as a game designer for HeroClix, as a freelancer, and finally for Green Ronin. He's originally from Burlington, Wisconsin and now lives in Renton, Washington with his wife and a really unfriendly cat.