Friday, July 24, 2009

Doc Savage Fortress of Solitude by Kenneth Robeson

"Seven Months later, John Sulight stepped out on the bridge of the icebreaker, and forty-six persons sank t otehir knees in craven terror. This pleased John Sunlight. He liked to break souls to do his bidding." (p.8)
"Queerly, too, Civan feared John Sunlight inifintely more than anyone else. John Sunlight saw to that. Terror was the rope that John Sunlight kept around men's necks." (p.9)
In standard combat encounters, the players are more likely to be interested in what the enemy can do as opposed to who they are. In order to bring some role playing to the table for the players, the Game Master should introduce details about the big bad long before the players are even aware that such an individual will soon be tangling with them.
In making the villain personal, the GM should look to the backgrounds of the players. If any of your players are like mine, you have numerous players with no family, all dead in some orc or bandit attack. Give the villain a specific name that mimics the action the player suffered. "The Slaughterer of Ticendia." or "The Unspeakable Slave Taker whose brands can never be removed.... even through magic!" Giving the players hooks, however small, can lead to them taking an interesting in stopping the big bad.
"Doc Savage's five assistants loved excitement and adventure, and that bound them to the bronze man." (pg. 20)
"Their credentials got them through the ring of police guards around the place." (pg. 21)
In many ways, the assistants of Doc Savage and the Doc himself, are a pulp day group of Dungeons and Dragons adventurers. All are the best they are in their field and can be called upon to show resourcefulness and cleverness to pull the entire operation off. When the party is a known quantity in a large city, while perhaps not given a 'pass' on any illegal activities, it should not be unusual for the city watch or local militia to seek out the party's assistance, or to allow the party assess to scenes that the party may be able to assist the government with. Adventurers are a powerful commodity and when possible, a wise ruler would due well to keep them close not only to keep as powerful allies, but to know what these potentially unknowable characters are actually up to.
"What were those things in the dome that you told us never to touch?" he asked....
"Things that the world was better off without," Doc said...
"I do not understand," Aput said..."
"If you found a seal that was poison, Aput," Doc said, "what would you do with it?"
Aput answered promptly.
"I would bury the poisoned seal," he said, "where none would ever find it." (pg. 58)
For some reason, there are times when a hero will gain something that is evil and foul and not destroy it. This can be as much an archtype as the One Ring from The Lord of the Rings to actual gaming material like Monte Cook's The Banewarrnes.
"They found John Sunlight's rifle, a little of his clothing. That was all...."If John Sunlight is not dead," the bronze man said, "we may have something pretty terrible ahead of us." (pg. 64).
Unlike a story in other mediums, such as television, books, or movies, the Game Master does not always have the option of bringing the villain back for another round. In many combats, the fights are to the finish, especially if the villain is trying to escape using a mundane means like his poor legs or a horse. Characters generally tend to have an awesome array of abilities designed to take down the prey at range.
However, even when the nemesis cannot escape, the theme of the nemesis can.
1. The villain was not the only one of his kind.
2. The villain planned for his death. This can involve something as magical as a resurrection carried out by his followers or slaves, or a bargain with some dark deity. In cases of the latter, the individual may come back in some form that the players do not recognize at first and latter learn the true nature of their enemy.
3. The villain has family. An interesting twist on this could be faimly members who personally believe what the villain was about was indeed foul but family honor demands that vengance be taken against those that slew a member of the clan. In 4e, you can have villains who perhaps are unaligned are are not murderous masters of evil themselves.
4. The villain was a lower level run in a high running chain. In such an instance as this, the players have only unearthed the tip of the iceburg and must now find out where the chain leads. In WoTC first 4e print adventure path, it's strongly tied to Orcus with numerous minions, necromancers, undead, and demons leading up to some type of final confrontation. The higher up the chain you can plan this event in the first place, the better off you'll be. In addition, be ready to throw some non-related events and encounters into the mix. No players want to be lead around the chain until the 'real' boss becomes evident.
5. The villain has followers. Perhaps not initially. Perhaps not even followers but those who admire the work of the villain. Those who are fascinated with the hows and wheres of what the villain did. In essence, a 'copy cat' villain.
Doc Savage and his crew can be good reading for those who want to see how a team of individuals equipment with goods and gear that no mundane force of their time handle menaces that no mundane army or watch can handle.