It’s time for another part of the Invasion of Earth campaign for Mutants & Masterminds. Last time, I outlined the option to recruit allies and build up the defenses of Earth in the face of this invasion, but now I’m presenting the challenges to that. While the PCs are looking for friends and creating a strong Palladion Initiative, there are foes and enemy scouts constantly landing on Earth to drive home the danger.
The featured image here, by the way, is of Block, Captain Archon, Black Body, Warchild, and Viridian by Milos Slavkovic through Vigilance Press (http://www.vigilancepress.com). You can find some of these characters in that company’s Rogues, Rivals & Renegades books (and individual PDF releases) and the others are in Beacon City METAs, Issue 1. They’re characters are all awesome and when I get my hands on that book they’ll definitely be going in the Worldwide Supers sheets.
The Stopping Heralds Thread
As the Regent’s forces approach Earth, other threats ride out ahead of them and attempt to soften up the planet’s defenses. This is a more straightforward thread to follow so it makes for a good option to sprinkle into the efforts to find answers and recruit allies. Small scale raids and disruptive efforts begin the process but by the end truly dangerous “heralds” of the approaching general arrive.
|Phases||Thread: Recruiting Allies|
|Phase I: First Forays||Destructive Brute|
|Phase II: Dedicated Teams||Mystical Team|
|Traitorous Earth Team|
|Phase III: Terrifying Threats||Opportunistic Blackguard Attack|
|Harbingers of Devastation|
Just like with recruitment, the first problems are low-stakes and can probably be handled by the PCs alone. As the situation gets more serious, though, the enemies get tougher and the cost of losing gets higher. This intertwines the process with the recruitment of allies: tougher fights can only be won with powerful friends.
A powerful and violent alien menace lands on Earth courtesy of an Imperial shuttle. Jean-François D’Mage was once a citizen of Earth but the cybernetic alterations he underwent as part of the Varyans’ treatment shattered his mind. He is now a raving monster and the Regent lands him in downtown Emerald City with two death robots (use the template on page 123 of the Mutants & Masterminds Gamemaster’s Guide) to sow destruction and chaos. See the Players Guide to Emerald City and, potentially, Secrets of Emerald City for more information on the area.
In addition to being a challenging fight, this is an opportunity to learn something interesting about the Regent and his forces. For all his alterations and strangeness, Damage is human which means this isn’t the first time that the Regent has been to Earth.
A shapeshifting alien servant of the Regent replaces a headmaster at Claremont Academy (see the Freedom City and Hero High sourcebooks) or and releases statements to discredit the Freedom League and turn the public against them. This shapeshifter is a Varyan experiment but they use the statistics for the Mimic on page 110 of the Mutants & Masterminds Gamemaster’s Guide with an added Complication of Loyalty (The Regent).
If the PCs are not successful in exposing the shapeshifter, the Freedom League is too embroiled in their own issues to contribute to the Palladion Initiative and drop out, obviously a big blow to success. If the shapeshifter is exposed, however, the Freedom League will certainly join the Initiative if they haven’t already, both in gratitude to the PCs and because they see just how real the threat is.
Another tool of the Regent, a mastermind psychic, lands in Summit City (see the Watchguard Sourcebook for more information) and brainwashes the MICs to take down superheroes. He hopes to at least neutralize the WatchGuard but anyone else caught in the crossfire is a plus. The psionicist is a Varyan psychic that uses the Puppetmaster archetype on page 120 of the Mutants & Masterminds Gamemaster’s Guide with the Alien Soldier template on page 133 of the Cosmic Handbook (if you don’t have the Cosmic Handbook, just add another 40 points to the Puppetmaster to add military training elements).
If the PCs don’t expose the psionicist, Summit City is embroiled in chaos as MIC units indiscriminately target supers and imprison them. The city becomes a mini-warzone with superheroes being captured, allies breaking their friends out of security cells, and the cycle repeating. The Watchguard will be so overcome that they won’t be able to contribute as much to the Palladion Initiative to concentrate on their city, and all other superheroes (and supervillains) based in Summit City will be harder to convince. The DC for convincing WatchGuard members to join is increased by +4 and the DC for any other Summit City characters will be increased by +2.
If the psionicist is stopped, not only do these increases disappear but the WatchGuard will automatically join the Initiative. Lasting distrust from the incident could easily become an issue that potential Summit City allies will raise when the PCs approach them to join the Palladion Initiative.
After sending solo teams to Earth, the Regent is getting close enough to send whole groups to combat the planet’s defenders. The team is led by Ku Tu the Eternal (reskinned as a mummified servant of the Regent) along with a gravity mage (use the Gravity Elemental on page 88 of the Mutants & Masterminds Gamemaster’s Guide), a mastermind (page 108 of the Gamemaster’s Guide), and a crystalline spider (use the Spider Savage from page 125 of the Gamemaster’s Guide). They land in a city of your choice, although an important site for the supernatural such as Stonehenge, Machu Pichu, or Uluru.
This team can either be just a band of enemies that the PCs face or, if you want to emphasize the mystical side of things, you can create magical challenges in addition to the enemies above. This is a chance for a magical PC to get the spotlight or for you to hammer home the idea of needing allies in this fight (“You know, this would be a lot easier if you had an ally who knew about this magic stuff.”). The enemies’ ritual is intended to unravel leylines in the area of their attack, causing a tear that will weaken magic throughout the world. Such an event will repair in time, but not soon enough for the invasion and Earth’s mystical defenders will be at a disadvantage compared to the alien sorcerers. If this plot point is included, failure means a disadvantage in the final defense of Earth (see Phase III) while success gives a +2 bonus to recruiting any mystical heroes as word of the PC’s defense of Earth’s magical field will be told far and wide.
A team of the Regent’s wardroids land on Earth in an urban center for a mass attack to strike fear in the hearts of the Earthlings. The team is led by a Varyan scientist (use the Mad Scientist archetype on page 99 of the Mutants & Masterminds Gamemaster’s Guide, with the Alien Predator template from page 134 of the Cosmic Handbook added; if you don’t have that, just add 62 points of fast combat abilities to the Mad Scientist) with ten droid fighters (use the Large Robot minion on page 142 of the Gamemaster’s Guide). These enemies will target bystanders and buildings as much as the heroes in an effort to break the populace’s spirit and they don’t expect that this will be a return trip.
As an extra twist, you can include a secondary team you can add a team of five cyber-commandos that come to the city as well. In this case, you want to pick an important city on Earth like New York, the Hague, or Beijing. The main assault by the wardroids above is just a diversion to allow a small team to infiltrate a UNISON base and insert a computer virus into the network there. This team is made up of a cyborg leader (use the Assassin archetype on page 76 of the Gamemaster’s Guide with the Robot Archetype’s Datalink power found on page 123) with some backup cyborgs (use the Ninja Master minion on page 140 of the Gamemaster’s Guide the same modification) and they each carry the code for the virus. While part of the team (or some allies from the Palladion Initiative) fight the wardroids, the rest of the team will combat these infiltrators and make sure the UNISON network remains secure. If they succeed they gain a +2 bonus to recruiting the city’s thankful superheroes, but if they fail then the lingering computer security issues impact the Earth’s defense (see Phase III).
Traitorous Earth Team
The Regent uses subtle means to recruit selfish and (possibly) nihilistic heroes from Earth. Pick any of the criminal groups on Earth (see Criminal Teams in the last part for some options) and have them launch a disruptive attack against a UNISON base somewhere on the planet. This is especially good if it’s in an area where powerful groups who haven’t yet joined the Palladion Initiative operate, as it can convince them that there homes will suffer if they leave to join this worldwide effort. Appropriate cities include Tokyo (home base of the Seven Ronin and their rival initiative) or any of the “hidden nations” like Atlantis, Warrangina, or Dakana, but this attack can happen anywhere that makes sense for your campaign. If the traitorous group is defeated with minimum collateral damage the PCs gain a +4 bonus in recruiting the local teams while failure means that they are at a -4 penalty to such recruitment.
Opportunistic Blackguard Attack
With the Earth in disarray and many of its heroes otherwise occupied, the Blackguard (featured in the Cosmic Handbook) decides to make an attack. A band of the Blackguard lands in an Earth city (whichever makes sense for your campaign but Freedom City, Summit City, or Emerald City all make sense) to retrieve some cosmic artifact secured on Earth by Sri Maria Montoya (the human Star Knight). As the dark alternative to the Star Knights, the Blackguard has no real interest in protecting the Earth from invasion and every reason to grab something they’ve been coveting before the Regent can grab it himself. If the Star Knights are already assisting with Earth’s defense (something that depends on the heroes’ interstellar efforts) one or more of those might assist as well. The nature of the artifact isn’t terribly important (the classic MacGuffin) and thwarting the Blackguard attack won’t actually impact the defense plans. Failure to stop them, however, means that some of the Star Knights will need to leave and deal with the situation which means their bonus to Earth’s defense (see Phase III) is halved.
Harbingers of Destruction
The Harbingers of Devastation is a team profile in the Acts of Villain series, usually serving the destructive space-tyrant Devastator. This creature of Tartarian power challenged the might of Collapsar (detailed in the Emerald City Knights series and the Cosmic Handbook) when that entity was destroying the Lor Republic. Devastator saw a chance to settle his own score against the Lor but he didn’t count on the jealous rage of Collapsar. The fight between these entities is what saved the Lor Republic from total destruction, but also resulted in Devastator being lost in a distant dimension. Now Devastator’s former servants have followed Collapsar’s trail to Earth (where it is responsible for the Silver Storm that swept through Emerald City) and they intend to take the planet in the name of their old master to free Devastator from his distant prison.
There are five Harbingers, each of which is a PL 13-15 threat. This is a lot to throw at the party all at once so pick two or three out of the following list to spring on the heroes while the others are confronting other heroes in another location. Most likely this confrontation will take place in Emerald City where the energy signature of Collapsar is strongest, but it can really happen anywhere (particularly if one of the player character heroes is a high-level hero empowered by the Silver Storm).
- Blotch is a horrible-looking creature of oceans and seas, able to drown and dehydrate with ease. While he can certainly operate on land, but he’s best used at a fight along a city’s waterfront.
- Hollow is a multi-limbed alien granted with gravity- and vacuum-control powers, which are obviously useful everywhere. His teleportation power actually means that he could potentially split the party and draw some heroes to another part of the city.
- Pneuma is a mind-controller so she provides some interesting options in a fight. Her Illusionary Warriors power can create a horde of minions at will and she can also make any human crowds in the area turn on the heroes.
- Sunscorch is a heavy hitter with (obviously) heat-based powers. Use him as a central combatant in the fight, particularly if you can put him side-by-side with Blotch as a steamy fight.
- Uproot has plant-based powers so he works best in a park in the middle of a city, possibly with a giant fountain and/or flammable artwork to mix him with Blotch or Sunscorch. If he mixes with Pneuma, just know that this will make a lot of minions.
This is a straight-up fight for the heroes which might be a refreshing change of pace from more political threads. Halfway through, though, an NPC ally or one of the Harbingers calls for reason since both parties are getting very bloodied by the fight. The Harbingers have no real quarrel with the heroes, after all, they just want to get Devastator back from his dimensional prison. They need to study the remnants of the Silver Storm to learn about Collapsar’s power, why not let them aid Earth in the fight against Regent? Well, the obvious answer is that allowing evil and cosmically powerful aliens free access to Earth is no small matter and it seems dangerous to make this deal. Can they really afford not to?
If the Harbingers are allowed to stay, they will aid in Earth’s defense during the Endgame portions of the campaign and can truly change the balance of whatever fight they’re engaged in (particularly space battles). After the threat of Regent is gone, though, the Harbingers are not likely to be pleasant neighbors and Earth may well face a second crisis when the world’s heroes are at their weakest. On the other hand, rejecting the deal means that the heroes have to pound these guys straight into the ground to settle the matter definitively.
The Starbreed (split into Part I and Part II) are another band of very powerful threats, all between PL 13-15 (and a PL 12 servant). They come from an alternate Earth destroyed by Omega the Lord of Terminus (as seen in Freedom City). They were “born” there, told by their evil creator that they were destined to rule the Earth. Since they are so powerful, feel free to use only a portion of the team to spare the PCs from a horrific fight. Since they all arrive in the same flash of scintillating light, this necessitates other nearby heroes to distract them.
- Erebus is the leader of the Starbreed, a dark figure of telekinetic mastery. Since he’s the main face of the Starbreed, it makes sense that the PCs should face him instead of other heroes.
- Drakko looks like a big, dumb brute and he has venomous and deadly powers to back it up. In truth, though, he’s a sadist who excels at causing emotional distress in his opponents which will come in handy later (see below).
- Ironmonger, dressed in spiked armor, is the Starbreed member least prone to widespread destruction so he makes a good choice for this fight. After all, you don’t want the city leveled before Regent can level it.
- The Sisters-in-Scarlet are actually one person, split between four very different personalities. They are also not likely to level the city during the fight and the personality-switching makes changing this to a negotiation possible (see below).
- Skulk is the cowardly servant of Erebus, relatively low-level and only useful in his ability to suppress energy and psionic powers. If any of your players’ heroes have these powers, add Skulk as a complication in the battle to up the challenge.
As with the Harbingers of Devastation, it’s possible that this fight doesn’t go right to the end. The Starbreed want to rule Earth, after all, and the planet is destroyed by Regent they won’t control it for very long. In fact, in their home dimension the Earth was destroyed when the Starbreeds’ bid for power distracted Earth’s heroes and prevented them from fending off Omega. The same situation could very well play out here but it will take some expert appealing to get through the Starbreeds’ planet-sized arrogance. This situation isn’t really about a temporary alliance like the Harbingers of Devastation, the Starbreed will only accept the role of rulers in the defense efforts. If the PCs aren’t willing to hand over authority (likely) then their options are taking this fight to the bitter end or convincing the Starbreed to go into space to meet the advancing forces of Regent. They can do a lot of damage to Regent’s invasion fleet but they will definitely arrive back on Earth after Regent has been dealt with and they will expect the keys to the planet.