“We need to be quiet,” hisses Raptor to his blue-and-yellow clad companion, another variant of himself known as Blue Jay, as they stroll through the gothic arches of the crypt. “Why?” Blue Jay asks, voice echoing through the subterranean depths, holding aloft the glowing base-ball sized Escort Sphere. Tapping the sphere, Blue Jay looks deep into it and smiles, “the Escort Sphere says there’s another version of us here, old Chum. Looks gloomy, but it can’t be bad.” “You’re assuming all of us are good,” Raptor hisses as shadows rush forward towards the unsuspecting Blue Jay. Diving forward, Raptor lunges at Blue Jay – sending the brightly costumed ally topping over and rolling across the crypt floor. The Escort Sphere drops and rolls forward, landing between the feet of a new comer. Blue Jay and Raptor gaze at the… thing before them. Twisted, lanky and gaunt, with a elongated head and low-dropping jaw sporting a maw of razor fangs below two arching, tattered crow-wings. “Looks like whatever killed this world,” Raptor begins, plucking out an array of razor-sharp boomerangs. “Also transformed us into some sort of carrion crow,” Blue Jay finishes, retrieving a pair of exploding throwing-discs from his belt.
As part of the development of Verge, we’ve developed similar yet distinct systems for managing the morality of both Superheroes and Supervillians. This system is divided into three sub-sections, Fortitude, Stress and Thrill.
Fortitude is an Iteration’s inner strength and emotional resolve. In this sense, Fortitude is a measure of the Iteration’s ability to endure Stress and carry on no matter how bad things get. When an Iteration’s Stress exceeds their Fortitude, the character suffers a two card penalty on all Draws, seeing the character physically exhausted and emotionally drained.
Most heroes possess a strong moral code, a sort of ad hoc and unspoken chivalry of the streets that sees the hero fight to protect the weak and innocent whilst reframing from engaging in the terror and murder that defines their enemy. When this code is challenged or outright violated – killing a foe, witnessing or realizing the death of an innocent by a foe, failing or refusing to aid an innocent in need – a character gains a point of Stress.
When an Iteration’s Stress exceeds their Fortitude, the character suffers a two card penalty on all Draws, seeing the character physically exhausted and emotionally drained.
Stress is for heroic characters only. For the villains, we have Thrill:
Villains always get a kick out of chaos and danger, a thrill-seeker urge and unfulfillable, ultimately selfish desire for conquest that blinds them to the plight of the weak and innocent whilst engaging in an aberrant morality of terror and crime. When this urge is fulfilled – killing a foe, committing or realizing the death of an innocent by their own hand, successfully committing a misdeed, undertaking a personal act of revenge – a Villainous character gains a point of Thrill. Thrill is rated from zero and upwards, seeing the character physically exhilarated and emotionally charged. Thrill is reduced by one per hour of rest or downtime. When a Villain’s Thrill is below their Fortitude, the Iteration suffers a two card penalty on all Draws.
On a sidenote, the Thrill is not just for non-player characters and the Game Master. Rather, Verge contains a special appendix for playing Supervillians.
The creature came at the bird-garbed Raptor, humanoid in shape but of a body wholly riddled with fungus – great, clammy hands outstretched. The vigilante, rather than darting away, dashed towards the monster’s grip – ducking and sliding feet-first along the shallow, muddy swamp between the beast’s legs. Whatever head the monster had before simply dissolved into its body and, as Raptor rose to his feet, appeared once again to face him – emerging wholly out of the monster’s former back. Plucking out an array of his boomerangs, Raptor hurled the instruments at the creature in a broad, open armed swing. Spinning, wildly, through the air at the creature, several imbedded themselves into whatever blasphemy passed for its flesh. Others cleaved off chunks from the shape of its shoulders and forearms. If the creature noticed it gave no sign, lumbering forward in advance even as its flesh regrew – enveloping the imbedded boomerangs. “Where’s my sidekick?” Raptor demanded, frustration welling up inside the normally stoic vigilante. In response the creature stopped its pace, vomiting out a emerald-masked skull from its stomach area. Stooping in shock to pluck up the skull, Raptor failed to notice the creature reaching for him once more. Abruptly, however, his concentration was broken by the sound of ferocious wings swooping for him. The winged figure bowls into Raptor abruptly, scuttling him from the monster’s grip. As the two pick themselves up, the winged new comer turns to Raptor, plucking out an array of boomerangs from his belt as he speaks; “We don’t have time to be sentinel, not yet, Raptor.” “Right, Eagle,” Raptor nodded in reply.
For some time now, I’ve been working on a Superhero role-playing game called Verge the Multiverse. Verge takes inspiration from stories like Crisis on Infinite Earths and Secret Wars and throws in a huge, healthy dose of Lovecraft-inspired horror. The premise of Verge is that the Multiverse is being devoured by the Irresolute Idols. To combat this threat, heroes of the same Archetype (that is, character) come together from across the Multiverse. While this game utilises the same system as Frankenstein Atomic Frontier and Artificial Exotics, it makes some interesting additions:
Often, Iterations that encounter the Irresolute Idols suffer some degree of corruption, a side effect of dealing with monsters from outside reality itself forced to be three-dimensional flesh and blood entities. At the end of any game session in which am Iteration has encountered one of the Irresolute Idols, their cults and servants, a relic associated with the Idols or other thing associated with Idols the Overseer should Draw a number of cards based on the table below. When determining cards in a Corruption Draw, the Overseer should use the highest quantity possible. For instance, if the Team encounter a cursed book (relic) and a Tri-Fold Hunter (monster), then the Overseer should Draw six cards. If this Draw is a success, the Iterations gain a single point of Corruption. The Overseer should Draw single card, the corresponding Suit of which is corrupted (i.e. if the Overseer Draws a Heart, the corrupted Suit is a Heart).
Relic, item, or totem of the Idols. 2
Cult or other servants of the Idols. 4
Creature, monster or other being born of the Idols. 6
Corrupted Iteration 6
An Irresolute Idol. 8
Inflict two points of Corruption if one or more Aces are Drawn, three for one or both Jokers.
Corruption manifests itself as a constant murmur and temptation: an offer constantly whispered in the Iteration’s ear, an outstretched hand in the corner of their eye. As a result, each point of Corruption grants a one card bonus on any Draws with the corresponding Suit. That is to say, three points of Corruption in the Spades Suit see an Iteration gaining three additional cards on all Spades Draws. The bonus is optional and does not need to be taken unless the Iteration wishes to do so. If taken, the Corruption bonus must be used in total. Should the Iteration choose to employ their Corruption bonus and manage to Draw an Ace during the course of the Draw, they gain an additional point of Corruption in the corresponding Suit. Should the Iteration have Drawn a Joker, they gain two additional points of Corruption.
An Iteration may have six points of Corruption in any one Suit and still be functional. An Iteration whose Corruption in any Suit exceeds six (seven or higher) has lost their mind, body and soul to the Irresolute Idols and is forever more their slave. At this point, the Iteration gains the Idol Corrupted Iteration Template and is removed by the Overseer as a non-player Extra and Villain.
Iterations may also attempt to rationalize or work through their experience of their encounters with the Idols. To do so, the Iteration should make a Clubs Draw at the end of the game session. If successful, the Iteration loses a point of corruption. If the Iteration has multiple corrupted Suits, remove Corruption from those least affected first so long as the Corruption bonus of the Suit has not been employed that game session. If the Iteration has employed the Corrupted Suit, it no Corruption can be removed. Additionally, creature, Cultist, Slave or other creature dedicated to the Idols is immune to the negative consequences of Corruption – having been Corrupted already.