Sunday, January 2, 2022

The WASP War, an Atlantaverse Update

 Strap in, folks, this is the summary of 8 years of roleplaying. Back in 2013 I started a new Champions campaign with my oldest sons and many of their friends. They players have changed and everyone followed my 'every players has multiple characters' rule, and we ended up with multiple games with multiple GMs in a shared universe, so there have been a LOT of PC heroes! The 8 years of real time have equaled about 8 years of game time, for various fun reasons involving session timing. Because of a statement made by a player in 2014 we started calling this sprawling shared shared campaign the Atlantaverse.

  When I started the campaign I made a new, unique setting of an Earth like ours that had minor history divergences in 1801 and 1908 and a major one in 1938. By the time the first game started in-universe in 2013 the Atlantaverse had superheroes, supervillains, mages, aliens, and trans-dimensional visitors. The United States in-universe is a parliamentary system with 3 major and 7 minor political parties. And so on. All told with the contributions of players and other GMs the Atlantaverse grew so big, so complex, and so interconnected that my licensed setting book will be released in 2022.

  But one of the antagonists in the Atlantaverse, the first villains they ever faced, is WASP. WASP is a mysterious international organization that combines organized crime, terrorism, radical ideology, and cybercrime. Their uniformed agents are about on par with the soldiers of standing armies but armed with bleeding-edge weapons, allowing them to go toe-to-toe with any conventional forces and win.  Their elite troops are bionically and genetically enhanced and have even better armor and weapons, making them equal to low-level supervillains. Divided into cells that make it virtually impossible to attack the organization as a while WASP has been a thorn in the side of the heroes from literally Day One of the campaign. Their secret origin is available to my patrons on my Patreon page (see the sidebar).

  So the players all agreed that their long-erm goal was to take down all of WASP. This weekend, they succeeded. This is a summary of what the in-universe press calls the WASP War.

It all started in the Spring of 2013 when the superheroes Alien Hunter, Crusader, Gale, Kaleidoscope, Bone, and Nighthawk rescued the alien (and later superhero member of the party) Nova from WASP while they were attacking a local WASP cell. Beginning to grasp the size and power of WASP and the threat it represented they party, naming themselves the Champions of Atlanta, swore to take down all of WASP.

In the eight years since the only superhero currently a member of the Champions who ever worked with an original member is Flaming Hammer, but he faked his own death, redid his powers, got a new name, and can't tell anyone this! But the constant war on WASP continued, and spread to super teams in The San Fran Bay area, Hudson City, the Gulf of Mexico, and more. Cell after cell was hit, plot after heist after blackmail attempt thwarted.

WASP had agents *everywhere* and they weren't jokes. But the Champions kept hitting them hard and then they seemed to anger the Fourth Reich, which is a Bad Idea. Then, in a surprise move, WASP got their team of supervillains back. Insectus was a group of supervillains that worked with WASP in the 1980's to great effect, but they all left as a team to join a new leader, Black Scorpion, and work for themselves. In 2015 Black Scorpion died. The remaining members killed his wife, Black Widow, and returned to WASP. WASP promptly had several of their agents become new villains with gear. The new Insectus (Tarantula, Iron Wasp, Steel Beetle, Killer Bee, and Firefly) made things a lot more complicated for the heroes.

But then something unusual happened. During a side mission Crusader met a South American philanthropist and the two of them became friends. The philanthropist began relaying data about WASP to Crusader. fter a while (about a year) Crusader realized that the philanthropist was Oberst Sturm. Realizing WASP was a common enemy Crusader continued to relay the information helping to cripple WASP.

Various PCs all over the campaign world suddenly found themselves trying to solve two puzzles:
1) How to penetrate the WASP computer nodes, a sophisticated computer network no one had ever been able to access, and
2) how was the Fourth Reich so powerful and ubiquitous when no training, manufacturing, research, or residential base had ever been found?
Then a break came; a superhero team recovered some of the Fourth Reich's super-strong reichsmetall. NPCs were able to break it down and discovered that the two main materials involved were elements never before seen and that once separated the alloy could not be made. One of the players deduced that the Fourth Reich is no based primarily in an alternate dimension with slightly different physical laws.

What followed was a veritable explosion of side-missions, one-shots, solos, and more involving everything from vampires to propeller-driven bullet trains deep beneath the Earth, to time travel to meeting Sturm's daughter at a disco. All the while the various PCs kept hitting WASP and wiping out bases. Then very recently two major discoveries were made.

The one that has the biggest future implications is the Hollow Earth. The players now know that there are no less than 4 subterranean portals where you can travel to an alternate dimension ['Gamma Prime'] that is a perfect imitation of a hollow earth where North America is a vast sea but the Atlantic is a land mass. A long-range expedition found a variety of civilizations there including (which they learned of but did not visit) Neue Germania, home to the 4-7 million citizens of the Fourth Reich.

The one that was the most critical short-term was discovering that the WASP node network was reverse-engineered alien tech. Animus, the living mainframe, and several others (including TechnoShaman, the teen hero) were able to gain access and learned the secrets of WASP [see my Patreon page for a separate document about that]. Suddenly aware of every single WASP base in the world, including their headquarters, the players worked with NPCs to attack WASP HQ as every nest n the world was hit by police and military units.

But that was going to happen 'off-screen'. Yes, off-screen, in the background.

Little side tale. One of the original characters in the Champions of Atlanta was Flaming Hammer. His backstory grew organically but he was originally an agent for families that wanted a return of the Polish King working within the Polish Republic in 1936. The Republic sent him deep cover into the Soviet Union in 1938 where, while undercover, he was selected for the Soviet Super Soldier program and survived, going on to be trained in hand-to-hand fighting by Sturm himself. As a member of the Super Soldiers he passed on a lot of intelligence to the Allies. He also participated in the Fall of Berlin and killed the Ubermensch Eisinshark outside of Hitler's Bunker.
  When the war ended Stalin promptly had every super soldier but The People's Warrior put into suspended animation. Flaming Hammer was found and woken up in 2013 and sent to the Temporal Displacement Counseling Center in Atlanta. In 2015 he worked with ICICLE to fake his own death and returned with new power armor and a new identity as Silver Eagle.
  During the build up to the WASP HQ assault Silver Eagle met with two high-level ICICLE agents and realized they were Geist and Alptraum, members of Sturm's StormWolves! The two ubermesch scanned his mind and discovered al of the secrets of his past, including that he had opposed the Soviets.
  They explained to him that he could help. Sturm himself maintained contact with the surface world for three reasons: first, to protect Earth from alien threats like the Chak'Gur or extinction-level events; second, to oppose Communism; third, to find a way to return his wife, Valkyrie, to his side. But they also explained that a powerful faction inside the FR, the Technocrats, were still fiercely dedicated to conquering the surface world.
Unfortunately, the leader of the technocrats is Dr Wunder, the only surviving original Ubermensch other than Sturm, and with a very loyal following, including Donner. Further, the Technocrats would need a leader and that had to be someone they respected.

The cover story was that a platoon of Task Force Able (the American super-soldier unit) and some Champions were going to South America to strike at WASP. In reality they were heading to Antarctica to make sure the Fourth Reich didn't take advantage of the massive concentration of ICICLE and Superhero assets. Paladin, Squire, Botanist, and Silver Eagle accompanied them is a separate dropship.

  Tsk Force Able was ambushed by the Fourth Reich almost immeditely but were using non-lethal weapons and disabling attacks. Paladin, Squire, Silver Eagle, and Botanist faced Sr Wunder, Donner, and 4 bodyguards alone - until Amazing Man arrowed in at high sped and began dueling Donner! What followed as a few turns of intense super-fighting. Wunder's disintegrator blaster barely missed Paladin, but atomized a tank. Silver Eagle engaged the (effectively minor supervilains) bodyguards as Botanist and Squire helped back up Paladin. The bodyguards were very good at tying up Silver Eagle even if doing no serious damage. Wunder's superweapons were completely unusual and the PCs struggled to deal with things and ongoing intelligence drains, and Wunder was cackling with glee. Nearby the intense fighting between Amazing Man and Donner was causing sonic booms, earth tremors, and vast clouds of debris.

The Squire noted that Wunder's goggles were doing things and started using her technopathy on them. Wunder stopped laughing and got mean but Squire kept turning off his AI assistants and tracking gear, meaning his ability to fight was going down and down. 

Then she turned off the remote combat assistance he was giving Donner.

Wunder's emergency personal forcefield kicked in and it looked like he would escape when Oberst Sturm emerged from his hiding place and destroyed the shell, handing Wunder to the heroes. At about the same time Amazing Man arrived with Donner as his prisoner. Both of the brinks were in bad shape and each would need a month in the hospital to recover from the brawl.

Sturm congratulated them all, gave tokens of appreciation to the Champions, spoke quietly with Amazing Man, then left with his troops.

Player Quote: 

               Y'know, I think that what's so brilliant about Oberst Sturm as a character is that                 he is, very simply, a supervillain: he's also the most successful supervillain simply             because he knows how and when not to be evil

    Cause like, honestly, making the heroes his enemies would inevitably end in his downfall. Maybe it still should, honestly

    But he keeps maneuvering us into these spots where we think "nah its easier and better for literally everyone to just let him walk"

    And the end result is that he keeps getting us into spots where we HELP him.

Elsewhere the War on WASP was wrapping up. the results included, among other things, Four dead superheroes. Blue Blazes and Shadowman died in Indonesia, American Eagle and Crusader died in Switzerland. As American Eagle were members of the official United States Superhero team [the Sentinels] and died in the attack on the WASP HQ they were given a state funeral.

Super News Network
Broadcast from December 31st, 2021

[The SNN logo appears, but instead of gold on blue, it is black on white. The music is much more somber than usual]
[The scene cuts to a live feed of a cemetery packed with people. Two open graves, each with a casket suspended over them, are visible. There is a large steel box at the head of each casket]
[The caption reads: “Fallen Heroes Laid to Rest”]
[The voices of the anchors can be heard. Both are hushed and subdued]
Annie Smith: “Permission for cameras was just given, so we are joining the funeral of American Eagle and Crusader live.”
Eric Davies: “The Head of the UN has finished his remarks, following a quiet but moving speech from the American President.”
Annie: “This is the first time two members of the same superteam have died at the same time since the Chak’Gur invasion and the first time two Sentinels have died since WWII. Some have said that the defeat of WASP is an event as momentous as the repulse of the Chak’Gur and an event only made possible by the great sacrifices made.”
Eric: “We showed you footage of the funerals of the soldiers killed in the same battles earlier in the week and today, also laid to rest as heroes. But today’s funeral at the Chak’Gur Defense Memorial is also the first time since the funeral of Amazing Man that two heroes have been laid to rest here.”
Annie: “Both superheores are being added to the Field of the Fallen, making them only the 9th and 10th burials here.”
Bob: “The chaplain of the UN is now giving the brief eulogy for both men.”

[a 20 minute eulogy follows]
Annie: “After those words you see the Heads of State of 9 nations join the Head of the UN speaking to and comforting the family of American Eagle. As Crusader has no known family instead the world leaders are speaking with the surviving Sentinels and the members of the Champions, Crusader’s first team, that could make it.”
Bob: “Thuderclap is here from San Francisco, and so is Mandible. Gale, who last week re-released her iconic dress but in black, did not attend.”
Annie: “Many of the Champions are still recovering from injuries they sustained as they fought alongside Amazing Man in Antarctica. Amazing Man himself was not released to attend by his doctors due to the extent of his injuries.”
Bob: “Now you see the Sentinels Lady Liberty and Amazing Woman bringing large bags of mail to the grave sides. As has been tradition since the funeral of Amazing Man in 1986 the many letters sent to the fallen heroes are buried, unread, in special cases that will be buried beneath the heroes caskets.”

Annie: “All electronic messages are, likewise unread, added in flash storage and placed with the letters.”
Bob: “Now those in attendance can add their letters to the two boxes.”

[15 minutes of attendees adding letters]
Annie: “As usual, the caskets will be lowered into concrete-encased infragilis casements, then sealed with an infragilis cap, then more concrete will top the casement to prevent desecration of the bodies.”
[20 minutes of the caskets being lowered as jets fly overhead and cannons are discharged. A military band plays “Amazing Grace” with bagpipes.]

Bob: Now as the attendees we can see just how respected these heroes were and remain. 6 members of the Amazing Family, a representative from virtually every superteam and nation on earth, and many billionaires and industrialists.”
Annie: “Among well-wishers and attendees were three surprises. First, Hashimori Namanato, the second superhuman named Kamikaze and who fought the fist American Eagle in 1944 and 1945, attended and placed a bouquet of flowers on both caskets as symbols from the Japanese Emperor. Hashimori is 106 years old, and the oldest person here.”

[scenes of an extremely old man in a wheelchair. He has oxygen hoses into his nostrils]
Bob: “The second surprise was Zephyr, the last surviving member of the Fab Five.”

[scene of a woman in her late 70’s in costume and using a cane]
Annie: “And last was the attendance of Ben Talbot. The billionaire industrialist and inventor has not been seen in public since March of 2009 and the funeral of his business partner Aaron Aames.”

[Scene of a handsome man of around 60 in an expensive suit]
Bob: “coming up nest, we interview people that worked with or were saved by American Eagle and Crusader. Then our analysts will discuss the changes facing the Sentinels as America’s National Team.”

But someone knew a secret.

Silver Eagle, the man that has spent almost 100 years living under false identities, received a letter the day of the funeral. A letter from Crusader. After corresponding with Sturm for so long, getting to know the details of the Reich, he had cut a deal.

Crusader was the one that arranged for the Champions to ambush and capture Wunder and Donner. Crusader had tipped off Amazing man that Donner would be there. Crusader was the one that ensure Silver Eagle was known to the Reich as never being a soviet. 

Crusader had cut a deal with Sturm. Crusader faked his own death and joined Sturm in the Hollow Earth. He is taking over as head of technology under the promise that Neue Germania will only go to the surface world to fight aliens or prevent mass extinction. He is also joining the StormWolves to replace Wunder. And he is getting his superhero contacts to try to get Valkyrie back from the Realms of Legends. The price of peace is the death of Crusader and the birth of Der Sturmritter, and he paid it.

GM's note: When Cruader's player told the others what his character had done there were multiple audible gasps at the table!

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