Heroes & Villains, Volume 2 is making good progress, so this seemed like a good time to kick off a series of design journals by the authors of the book. This time around we have Alejandro Melchor discussing his write-up of Terra!
A Terra by Any Other Name
Hi; I’m Alex Melchor, although I started going by the nickname of "Al-X" to tell myself apart from the dozens of other Alexes I was cursed to share classrooms with from kindergarten to college. And that brings me to the subject of one of the write-ups I was assigned for the 2nd volume of Heroes & Villains: Terra.
Now, I’m a long-time fan of all things Teen Titans, and so getting to work on the character responsible for one of the biggest debacles and heartaches the team has ever faced got me all giddy. However, as soon as I pasted the statblock template on a blank document, I was faced with a huge question: Which Terra?
There’s the original buck-toothed sociopath Tara Markov, then her future/alternate self who was so nice and good she died a pointless sacrificial death, and then there’s Atlee, who is naïve and awesome enough to hang out with Power Girl. It can be argued that the first and second are the same girl with different backstories, but the third is a very different character, and I had a limited wordcount and a single statblock to represent all three.
So I perused old comics and blogs, distilling what was essential for all three characters in terms of stats and hit an almost literal dirt wall: all three are powerful geokinetics, all three fly in hunks of rock and throw said hunks of rock at people’s faces. Their only difference was in method.
And the solution was right in front of my face: in terms of stats and powers, they are the same character.
The statblock in Heroes & Villains, Vol. 2 corresponds to Tara I, and her ranks in Deception prove that, since the little psycho was able to fool the Teen Titans into trusting her, and her Skill Mastery in Deception means how easily lying comes to her. Obviously, Tara II would not have that, much less Atlee (including all those ranks in Insight).
It was a simple matter of subtraction: Start with the most complex character, and representing the other two is all about taking stuff away. Maybe a thing or two would have to be added, but that is a task for each individual GM’s interpretation of the character, since the important part, the core of the character, is already done.
Both Tara II and Atlee would have no Deception ranks, while Tara II would be heavier on the Stealth and Investigation as her mission was to find Donna Troy in our time. Atlee has higher Will and a rank of Attractive and Fearless, plus she is quite probably PL14 even if she keeps herself within PL12 to avoid hurting people unintentionally.
Adjustments in ranks, however, are just a minor adaptation that could simply mean different stages of the same character’s career; what can really individualize two characters are their Complications, and the three Terras couldn’t be more different.
Flying Rocks: Flight 6 (120 MPH), Subtle, Platform (chunk of rock) • 7 points
Geokinesis: Dynamic Array (28 points)
- Shift Earth: Create 13 (Rock/Earth), Continuous, Extended Range, Innate, Limited: Needs ground or rock • 29 points
- Catapult Strike: Ranged Damage 14, Limited: Needs ground or rock, Linked to Ranged Affliction 14 (Resisted by Dodge; Dazed and Vulnerable, Immobile and Prone), Extra Condition, Instant Recovery, Limited Degree; Dynamic • 2 points
- Drill Through: Ranged Burrowing 9, Affects Others • 2 points
- Jagged Earth: Environment 4 (250 foot radius, create uneven ground conditions; Impede Movement 2), Selective • 2 points
- Sinkhole: Ranged Affliction 14 (Resisted by Dodge; Hindered, Immobile, Paralyzed), Continuous, Cumulative, Limited to targets on the ground, Resistible (Fortitude) • 2 points
- Stone Barrage: Ranged Damage 14, Multiattack, Limited: Needs ground or rock • 2 points
- Tremors: Area Burst 2 (60 feet) Affliction 12 (Resisted by Dodge; Hindered and Vulnerable, Defenseless and Prone), Extra Condition, Concentration, Instant Recovery, Limited Degree, Limited to targets on the ground • 2 points
- Undermine: Area Burst 2 (60 feet) Weaken Toughness 12, Affects Only Objects, Limited to targets on the ground • 2 points
Rock Shields: Dynamic Array (12 points)
- Stone Defense: Impervious Protection 12, Sustained, Limited: Needs ground or rock; Dynamic • 13 points
- Rocky Fortress: Perception Deflect 12, Limited: Needs ground or rock, Dynamic • 2 points
All-out Attack, Evasion, Great Endurance, Improved Defense, Instant Up, Languages (Markovian, English), Power Attack, Skill Mastery (Deception checks), Taunt
Deception 12 (+16), Insight 8 (+9), Investigation 5 (+6), Perception 4 (+5), Persuasion 8 (+12), Ranged Combat: Geokinesis Ranged Powers 7 (+10), Stealth 6 (+9)
Geokinesis +10 Ranged, Damage 14 or others
Unarmed +2 Close, Damage 0
Dodge 8 Fortitude 7
Parry 6 Toughness 14/2*
*Without Stone Defense.
Abilities 32 Skills 25
Powers 65 Defenses 19
Advantages 9 TOTAL 150
Unbalanced: Behind her rough but likeable personality, Tara is amoral and a borderline sociopath; while she can control herself in order to complete her objectives, she can fly into destructive rages. Her Geokinesis increases exponentially while in this state, but she can’t control it as finely.
Immoral Loyalty: Tara is Deathstroke’s lover, despite the large age difference between them (and her being underage as well). She is only loyal to him, and his manipulations always succeed with her.
Markovian Bastard: Tara is the unrecognized daughter of the King of Markovia and half-sister to Geo-Force, the legitimate (if abdicating) heir. She is very resentful of being exiled along with her mother.
If you want to use this same statblock for her other incarnations, the following Complications are appropriate. These Complications aren’t included in Vol. 2, but this illustrates how easy it is to customize characters depending on how you want to use them.
Tara Markov (Team Titans)
Displaced: Tara’s origins are muddy; all she remembers is a future that is now destroyed, and her attempts to reconcile her presence and the existence of her previous evil self can drive her to moody depressions.
Self-Sacrifice: Unlike her predecessor, this Tara is willing to give her life in the defense of others and fighting for what’s right.
Estranged Sibling: Tara is afraid to be close to Brion Markov (Geo-Force), fearing that if she accepts her identity as his little sister, she might fall prey to the same psychosis that undid the previous Tara.
Mole Out of Underground: Atlee belongs to a different culture and has trouble adapting to life in the surface. She can be dreadfully naïve.
Unfortunate Legacy: Atlee’s appearance was taken from the genetic template of Tara Markov. She wants to do all that she can to distance herself from this tragic legacy.
Grandiosity: Heroism is the main driving goal of the new Terra, all she can do to help others, she will, and she will have fun doing it.
Sidekick: Her role model and closest friend is Power Girl. This can be both a good thing and a complication.
There we go; all of these are Terra, and the statblock as published can represent any of them in a game–just as with any number of other characters in the Heroes & Villains volumes. What tells these characters apart is more than their numbers, it’s their… well, their character.
Keep your eyes peeled for new design journals coming soon. Future entries will each feature a different writer and character from the new book! Also, watch this space for an announcement regarding the book’s release!