The Horned Saint & The Horned God

"There are no gods here"

The words floated to Kellan's ears like an icy whisper. They were cold, empty of everything familiar yet thick with the otherness that grew in the very soil of the Black Hallows. Here, the winds cried like human wails when they swept the barren lands, and an omnipresent wound bore it's black gaze down on him from the sky above. Kellan was dead, and his spirit a prisoner. Yet the thing - the impersonal monster who held it - had raised his flesh from the weeds, and dragged it to the bowels of the Grim Pasture. Ezra Strix, the Madweaver, had skinned him, used his flayed flesh to bind him to a tree, and nailed him to it's wood.

The white of Ezra's sweet grin glimmered from the shadows, and Kellan's stomach sunk, becoming a pit of asps. The lurid glow of ghouls bathed over faces as barren as gravestones, and they whimpered and wept ever closer, overcome with joy at the feast laid bare before them. Kellan's torture had commenced, and to his right, the Beast of Brass hung in a sack of his own skin.

Days became weeks. Weeks became months. And months became years. Time echoed dimly in the Black Hallows, flowing differently so as to drag seconds of agony into eternities of torture. Kellan had never prayed before. And as he stared in black, no gods would dare answer him here. All he heard were echoes when he called their names. There would be no cosmic intervention.

"I imagine you miss your woman", Ezra taunted, his - it's - smile so wide it seemed impossible for him to do anything else.

"Not your brother. Nor your...", the monster giggled, it's voice a sweet child's, "Friend? Only your woman?".

"She's... not.. not my woman", Kellan answered. Not anymore. The Black Hallows had spared him no moment of deep thought. For every day the mist rolled and the ghouls came to feast on every drop of positive emotion his soul dared flare here, he was in deep thought. And in death, he'd thought more than any soul would in a thousand lifetimes. And no thought sat heavier in his mind than Ashley. She had walked into his life a lesson, living and breathing. She had taught him goodness. It's strengths, and it's weaknesses. He had admired her, revered her, loved her, but as things came to pass, he found that he no longer did.

He remembered her promises of goodness, those from her passages of morality. And the truth had found him where horrors lay. His spirit was horned, and Ashley's anointed. And in time, her spirit would destroy his. They could never be. She was too good, and he didn't want to be.

"Her soul was promised to me", the Mad Strix whispered. Panic gripped Kellan's chest, but the urgency did him no good. For what good would begging do him here? He hung his head, and as the days passed, the Horned Saint's skull grew heavier, the air colder, and the sky grayer.

"Free me", Kellan demanded, voice shaking weakly. "And spare her soul".

Ezra laughed, and Kellan was made to eat the ashes and bones of those he'd slain.

Though as the days came to pass, the strength of his negotiations rose. And in time, the Blackdagger fell, betrayed by the man who had once freed them from the bondage of the Secret Masters. Hundreds of Orochi passed in their sleep. The Beast of Brass was severed - truly - from him. And the Brahma Bull was dragged to the bowels of the Black Hallows. Their souls belonged to Ezra now. Kellan was freed and Ashley was spared. Yet as he dared take his first steps, he felt the air soar out his lungs, but he still breathed. He felt numb.

Ezra had destroyed his soul.

It was no more. And should Kellan die once more, he would return to the non-existence from which all things came. With his second life, the Horned Saint returned to the one woman he had saved from the Secret Masters. Tessa.

7 Comments

The Blackdagger (CVnU Faction)

-I'd like to thank LL/Hawkshade for always being cool about letting me play off of her concepts to create off-shoots like this-

The Blackdagger of Grimm

Grimmwald & the Blackdagger
Grimmwald & the Blackdagger

There were legends among the Strigidae. Whispers of men and women who'd turn their backs on the death cult and went rogue on the Seven Secret Masters - yet still served them. Served them as assassins whose minds and bodies were held captive by the darkest of Strigidaesciences and the foulest of Arcani sorcery. They'd abandoned the Strigidae Order, and were made to pay. The traitors. The maggots. The scum. Forced into a life of secret servitude for their treachery. They were the Blackdagger. The unseen blade of the Strigidae. Until now.

The Unseen Blade - Origin/Background

In the icy peaks of the Alps, lay a stronghold of maniacs and extremists. A home to the most radical Strigidae. Nest 629. And it was where the Blackdagger - their humanity corrupted and mangled - spent their days. And there, they were shackled to the will of a dead man; Boresight. A tireless monster slain by the Son of the Shogun and raised from the dead by powers never meant for the hand of man, he was given the secret words that bent the Blackdagger to his will. There, in Nest 629, Boresight was their judge and their master. By night, the Blackdagger moved in the shadows, spilling the blood of Strigidae enemies and hunting down those who'd severed their ties with the Strigidae death cult. But by day, they learned obedience. Some of the world's great killers traded their weapons for broomsticks - and swept the courtyard.

It was their life. And it was to be their life. But the Strigidae had abandoned Nest 629, left them to spend the rest of their days under Boresight's watchful eye. Yet there came a day. When the Orochi climbed the mountains like a rising mist. Led by Grimmwald, they stormed the Nest, and Boresight stepped forth in neither fear nor surrender. He fought. Tirelessly. Tenaciously. Fearlessly. But for naught. His defeat was certain and sealed as he was skinned alive and his flayed skin given to the Horned Saint as a trophy - and warning to his enemies. The Blackdagger, were now Grimmwald's.

The Rogues - Members/Organization

Their blood oaths abandoned. And their minds bound to the hand of cruel sciences burrowed deep in their brains, the Blackdagger have no autonomy over themselves. They are forever held hostage by the control words passed down from the Seven Secret Masters to Boresight, and now Grimmwald. Stripped of their names and known only by codenames (Famine, War, Pestilence and Fury) they are as follows:

Famine

|| Real Name: Unknown, Height: 6'9", Weight: 496 lbs ||

Famine
Famine

A bestial mutant, Famine is the largest member of the Blackdagger. A savage killer with an eye for ambush, Famine's primary mutant power is the manipulation of biomass, which he consumes from the organic matter of other living things, specifically by cannibalizing other mutants and humans and converting them into biomass. This consumption process sustains and accelerates Famine's regeneration, enabling him to recover from injuries quicker when he is absorbing biomass. The more biomass Famine absorbs, the stronger, faster and more durable he becomes. In addition to simply growing in power from his consumption of biomass, Famine also gains the knowledge, skills and memories of those he cannibalizes, a condition that has seen him grow into a deadly warrior and further expand upon his power over biomass.

The chief reward from this condition is the versatility with which Famine can manipulate biomass. Specifically, he incorporates a form of limited shapeshifting to fashion parts of his body into weapons. He often hardens and sharpens the biomass around his hands and shapes them into large blades or talon-like appendages that can cut and shred through most materials. Or he may fashion extend-able tendrils with bladed edges or enormous hammer-like constructs by routing large amounts of biomass towards his hands. Because his power revolves around cannibalizing other mutants and humans, Famine's teeth are long and extremely sharp and designed to shred through both flesh and bone. His tongue also acts as a deadly appendage, able to stretch long distances and wrap round Famine's victims with great strength. Furthermore, Famine does not have a fixed jaw and instead has ligaments that allow his mouth to expand large enough for him to swallow human-sized victims whole.

War

|| Real Name: Unknown, Height: 6'3", Weight: 784 lbs ||

War
War

Reserved and stern, War is a mutant born with a body made from an exotic organic metal. While three quarters of the human body is water, War's cellular structure is significantly different. His metallic cells host a tight weave of atoms that render his body far denser than a human's. And because of the higher density and enhanced quality of his cellular structure, War's cells are able to collect and store electrical energy. He is naturally superhumanly strong and durable, able to lift in the realm of 5 tons while his metallic skin is nearly impenetrable, protecting him from penetration by bullets, blades etc. However, while his external durability is remarkable, War is far more susceptible to internal injuries from blunt force trauma, explosions etc. despite his cellular density.

War often uses the stored electrical energy in his cells to replenish his stamina, however, in the event that his strength is not enough to overcome a physical barrier, he harnesses his stored electrical energy to generate a powerful alternating current that resonates through his body at very high frequencies. This alternating current allows him to weaken the molecular bonds of anything he touches, allowing him to bend materials too rigid for his strength, and break through barriers his punches would otherwise fail to dent. This ability however, is extremely taxing and depletes him of his stamina. Because of his great density, War's speed is of an average human's.

Pestilence (Defeated)

|| Real Name: Unknown, Height: 6'11", Weight: 194 lbs ||

Pestilence
Pestilence

One of the stranger members of the Blackdagger, Pestilence is a diseased mutant. A mute with a permanent and maddening grin, he is incredibly thin yet the tallest member of the group. Born with sharp needle-like teeth and long dagger-like claws, all of which can cut through flesh and bone, Pestilence's powers are peculiar and they are rumored to be owed as much to the cruel experiments of the Strigidae as much as his own mutant genes. Though he is neither superhumanly strong nor durable, Pestilence's body has been twisted close to the peak of human physicality. His greatest powers however, lie elsewhere. There is a perversion in his veins. A physical corruption he transmits to others through his claws and teeth, and the bladed chains painfully bound to his flesh.

By cutting, biting or lacerating his foes, Pestilence can infect his foes with an excruciating sickness that causes the bones to push out against one's skin until flesh breaks, the eyes into black sacs filled with rotting pus, and a wasting disease that consumes the victim layer by layer. Those with powerful immune systems however, can resist these effects. Still, Pestilence is dangerous. The chains bound to his flesh can stretch to a length of 20 feet, and are wielded by him with deceptive expertise. Additionally, their bladed edges can cut through most materials. Perhaps most disturbing is Pestilence's jaw strength. While he is not superhumanly strong, his jaw appears to be as he is able to crush bone and even chew through steel with a bite, while his small leeches in his mouth latch onto the flesh of those he bites and suck out their bodily fluids until they're nothing but dried and dying husks.

Fury

|| Real Name: Unknown, Height: 5'9", Weight: 164 lbs ||

Fury
Fury

Fury is a warrior, and her genes stem from a long line of formidable mutant warriors. With a genetic structure that is home to decoded genes related to a warrior's performance in her bodily systems, she is not only naturally equipped for battle but she is highly resistant to disease and toxins and though she lacks an accelerated healing factor, her endurance - her ability to fight with sustained injuries, in other words - is remarkable. Fury's primary power however, is owed to her muscle fibers. While the ordinary human body contains slow-twitch red muscle fibers and fast-twitch white muscle fibers, Fury's body contains a unique combination of both; pink muscle fibers. Her pink muscle fibers combine the larger number of mitochondria, superior local capillary density and higher ATP of slow-twitch muscle fibers with the glycolytic enzymes and power of fast-twitch muscle fibers.

Fury, therefore, is a perfect blend of freak endurance, stamina, explosiveness, strength, and speed. Beyond her superhuman athleticism, Fury's bones are much stronger and harder than ordinary human bones given their larger percentage of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, Vitamin D and other minerals. Furthermore, her body is also home to a secondary nervous system that uses an unknown neuroconductive fluid. In the event that her primary nervous system is damaged or disabled, her secondary one takes over. Finally, while Pestilence is armed with chains, Fury is armed with gloves and boots that contain retractable vibranium blades, with her boots holding one blade each at the tip, and her gloves holding two blades each on the knuckle areas.

21 Comments

The Orochi (CVnU Faction)

-I'd like to thank LL for being cool enough to let me use her Orochi concept-

The Red Mist of Grimm

Grimmwald's Orochi
Grimmwald's Orochi

Left directionless without the iron fist of the Shogun, purposeless without an ideology to guide it, the Orochi - a once legendary clan of ninja known for mixing murder with business - was lost. Lost until found by the horned specter of Grimmwald, and turned into a brutal cult of faceless avengers with ice water running in their veins and the torture and punishment of the unjust in their minds. Now led by the Horned Saint, the Orochi stalk the shadows as the authors of a reign of terror on the criminal element and those deemed guilty by their leader.

The Red Mist/赤い霧 - Origins/Background

An ancient shinobi order first founded during the Sengoku period in Japanese history, the Orochi were bred in chaos and turned a land ravaged by war and turmoil into their proving ground. Clad in crimson Keikogi, the Orochi came down upon their enemies like a red mist, taking their lives and bringing a swift and mysterious death to those who spoke ill of the clan, and making an example of those who defected from it. Lives spent in the shadows, lurking and listening where none dared to look, the Orochi eluded the quills and pens of historians, becoming myth and eventually a legend that struck fear into the hearts of those who'd hear it.

A legend that found common ground - and reward - with the feared mutant death cult; the Strigidae. Willing to slit throats and spill blood so long as the Shogunate honored their debt and filled their pockets, the Orochi found purpose and power under the leadership of Ivana Strigidae, the Shogun of Venezuela. Leadership that vanished like the Orochi so often did into the shadows. Ivana had disappeared, leaving behind legacy as much as mystery. And in her wake, the Orochi had lost their purpose. Fading into the shadows and leaving some to wonder if they ever even existed, they were found by the only one who walked the shadows better than they; Grimmwald. And he gave them purpose, a goal, and a code to live by.

A code that'd see them give their lives to spreading a culture of extreme brutality and fear to paralyze and castrate the world's criminal element for generations to come. To put the fear of the Orochi in the hearts of criminals, terrorists, and those declared guilty by the Horned Saint.

The Shinobi/忍び - Ranks/Organization

The Order of Orochi
The Order of Orochi

Disciplined and deadly, the Orochi are a well-oiled martial machine. And under the guidance of Grimmwald, they've grown more brutal and more manipulative. Armed with vibranium blades and carbon fiber compound bow with a variety of different arrows, the Orochi are warriors trained in every facet of combat, both armed and unarmed. They are intimate with grappling and striking in the clinch, from the outside, and on the ground. However, from heeding Grimmwald's advice, the Orochi exhibit an aversion to ground-fighting lest it to be stab an opponent and only when shielded by the numbers game. As a result, the Orochi often use their superior numbers in conjunction with ambush tactics involving neutralizing the senses and disarming and disorienting the enemy before engaging.

Trained, conditioned and drugged to the peak of Olympic athleticism and armed with the martial skill of professional mixed martial artists, alone the Orochi are well trained but unremarkable, but together as a unit, they are an army of legendary skill. And like all shinobi, the Orochi are no stranger to the art of ninjutsu, an array of tactics of guerrilla warfare, espionage, sabotage, disguise, camouflage etc. In accordance to the Togakure-ryū scrolls, the Orochi are well versed in the eighteen disciplines of ninjutsu:

  1. Bajutsu – Horsemanship
  2. Bōjutsu – Stick and staff techniques
  3. Bōryaku – Tactics
  4. Chi-mon – Geography
  5. Chōhō – Espionage
  6. Hensōjutsu – Disguise and impersonation
  7. Intonjutsu – Escaping and concealment
  8. Kayakujutsu – Pyrotechnics
  9. Kenjutsu – Sword techniques
  10. Kusarigamajutsu – Kusarigama (chain-sickle) techniques
  11. Naginatajutsu – Naginata (polearm) techniques
  12. Seishinteki kyōyō – Spiritual refinement
  13. Shinobi-iri – Stealth and infiltration
  14. Shurikenjutsu – Throwing weapons techniques
  15. Sōjutsu – Spear techniques
  16. Sui-ren – Water training
  17. Taijutsu – Unarmed combat
  18. Tenmon – Meteorology

Furthermore, the Orochi are followers of the Horned Saint's code of ethics. They are concerned with establishing a culture of fear that promises punishments of the utmost cruelty and brutality to those who engage in criminality, villainy etc. A culture of fear to shape the behaviors of generations to come by deterring them from crime. And to realize this, the Orochi have developed a razor sharp focus on ruthlessly eradicating injustice and evil, through coordinated efforts such as excessively violent ambushes, permanently crippling enemies, publicly displaying the flayed skin of living enemies, using fear toxins, psychological warfare, and employing all manner of terror tactics.

The Orochi will prey on those who interfere with their goals, and the progress and effectiveness of their culture of fear. They are proponents of justice without mercy. The following are the two separate class of Orochi found in Grimmwald's incarnation of the order, separated in accordance to specific skills:

Shinigami/死神

The Red Shinobi
The Red Shinobi

Named after death spirits of Japanese folklore, Shinigami are the Orochi's warriors and torturers, men and women whose minds and bodies are sharpened to kill like the sharp edge of a sword. Once assassins who stained their vibranium blades with the blood and guts of their enemies, Shinigami have bent to the Horned Saint's will and taken a no-killing vow. A vow taken only when one proves their loyalty to it by submitting to the Horned Saint, a ritual that sees a Shinigami's face cut off and their larynx removed, rendering them faceless and mute, a brutal price to pay to prove one's loyalty, and a measure to ensure that defectors reveal little.

Trained in Grimmwald's methods, Shinigami are skilled torturers, excelling in both physical and psychological cruelties. Experts in the Horned Saint's face-peeling skill but unfamiliar with his face-changing methods, Shinigami are fear mongers with a penchant for terror tactics, often leaving the flayed skin of living victims in elaborate and very public displays - an open warning to those who oppose them and refuse to bend to their whims. And while all Orochi are roughly as skilled as professional mixed martial artists, Shinigami are a level apart not in skill but their instinct for the very extremes of violence. All Shinigami wear the traditional red Keikogi of the Orochi, and all are either armed with vibranium katanas, daggers and all manner of bladed weaponry in addition to bows and arrows.

Faceless Ones/顔が見えない人

Whereas Shinigami are the Orochi's warriors and torturers, Faceless Ones are the Orochi's spies and are responsible for intelligence-gathering operations, altering sociopolitical structures through manipulation, and the use of mind games against the Horned Saint's targets. And though they cannot change their appearance as radically and convincingly as Grimmwald often does, Faceless Ones are taught by their leader on how to best alter their appearance enough that most will rarely notice one is the same person seen before. Their greatest talent however, is in social manipulation, a skilled owed to their insight into the nuances of human emotion.

Faceless Ones understand the ways in which people unconsciously like one another, the mere-exposure effect, reciprocal liking, persuasion, emotional abuse and how to wield it's effects. Furthermore, from their time spent in the political scene of the Shogunate, Faceless Ones are well versed in power dynamics. They understand that all manipulation is based on calibration, therefore Faceless Ones are masters at cold reading, at reading not only facial expressions but body language as well. They are skilled readers of the human condition and often adjust their course of action while simultaneously analyzing their environment. At times a Faceless One may fake authentic intuition and insight by acting like someone they aren't in order to manipulate values they themselves do not consider important.

They wear social masks and act differently to better understand how foolishly people can be in their observations and responses. A Faceless One will say something false to observe the reactions of others. They will act differently to simulate power. And they rarely ever break character. They are the Horned Saint's eyes and ears, lurking in pubs and hotel lounges, and by dumpsters in alleyways and seedy underground haunts.

The Shinobi Armory/兵器 - Weapons & Tools

The following are the various weapons and tools in the Orochi's arsenal:

Blades & Bows/Arrows/ブレードと弓

Armed with an assortment of bladed weaponry ranging from basic knives, shuriken and wrist-bracers from which vibranium blades extend, to bladed chains, polearms and katanas forged from solid vibranium. Orochi katana are constructed from durable and flexible titanium cores while the sides of the blade are made from a strong and wear resistant tungsten-steel alloy. Furthermore, the swords feature vibranium edges and carbon fiber wrapping.

In addition to bladed weaponry, the Orochi also carry carbon fiber compound bows with a variety of different arrow-types. Basic Orochi arrows consist of a carbon fiber shaft that holds a tiny injector powered by compressed air stored in the shaft's hollow rear. At the front of the arrow, botulinum toxin, an extremely deadly neurotoxin, is stored. The following are the different arrow-types available to the Orochi:

  • Net Arrow
  • Acid Arrow
  • Sonic Arrow
  • Explosive-tip Arrow
  • Cable Arrow
  • Smoke Bomb Arrow
  • Electro-Arrow

Fear Toxins/恐怖毒素

Though in possession of different chemicals, the Orochi have adopted the use of fear toxins learned from the Horned Saint. Often deployed through smoke bomb arrows, ordinary Orochi arrows, gas pellets, smoke grenades or through other means, these fear toxins cause the Orochi's victims to experience their worst fears, relive traumatic episodes from their past, and are consumed by feelings of overwhelming dread and hopelessness, and are as follows:

  • Toxin-1: Toxin-1 consists of three chemicals. The first is a mixture of carbon dioxide and oxygen; carbogen. When inhaled, carbogen tricks the mind into thinking one is suffocating because the brain interprets the increase in carbon dioxide levels in the blood as a decrease in oxygen levels, causing one's breathing to quicken and deepen, and heart rate to increase. Furthermore, any fears and anxieties related to not breathing will arise in the victim's mind, and in addition to this, carbogen also causes hallucinations. The second chemical is Tea Tree Oil, a natural hallucinogen. And the third is Datura which is not only a natural hallucinogen as well, but a delirium (causes a state of cognitive confusion) as well. Toxin-1 is colorless but carries a distinct odor.
  • Toxin-2: Like Toxin-1, Toxin-2 also contains carbogen. However, it is different in that it also contains a corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) which is not only a peptide but a neurotransmitter that's involved in stress response. It triggers feelings of dread and anxiety. The next chemical is 3-Quinuclidinyl benzilate (BZ Gas), a hallucinogen and inhibitor of acetylcholine that is related to atropine. Instead of causing feelings of dread and anxiety, it causes hallucinations. The final substance however, is what is responsible for causing victims to experience their worst fears. By using a protein called the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which is encoded by BDNF genes and is a member of the neurotrophin family of growth factors, Toxin-2 can affect a victim's long-term memory. Irregularities in the BDNF protein can be linked to mental disorders like posttraumatic stress disorder. Toxin-2 tweaks the BDNF protein a certain way by using a chemical agent in order to cause a change in the BDNF levels in the basolateral amygdala which in turn brings up personal fears caused by past traumatic events.
  • Toxin-3: The third of the Orochi's fear toxins is a cocktail of a psychoactive herb called Salvia divinorum, a chemical called capsaicin, and a BDNF agent. The Salvia in Timoxotin affects the dopamine receptors d2 in the brain causing the victim to hallucinate, whereas the larger dose of capsaicin (which causes the burning sensation in chili peppers and pepper spray) causes panic and claustrophobia. Toxin-3 is colorless.
  • Toxin-4: The fourth and last of the Orochi's fear toxins is Toxin-4. A combination of dopamine and a BDNF agent, Toxin-4 is a serum that when injected (through an arrow or otherwise) in the nucleus accumbens of the brain, causes immense feelings of dread leading to a sensation similar to the fear that prey feel for predators in the wild. This is because the nucleus accumbens deal with both desire and dread in the brain. When dopamine is injected in the front of it, one experiences pleasure. But when injected in the back, it causes one to experience crippling fear. Unfortunately, Toxin-4 serum requires surgical precision when injected in a victim as the room for error is measured in millimeters. As a result, Toxin-4 is the only one of the four fear toxins that cannot be deployed in gas form.

Because the chemical agents that alter CRH and BDNF take time to work, the Orochi's toxins all contain an accelerating agent to ensure that every substance's effects take place at a much faster rate.

18 Comments

Greatest CV RPG Character Series: Abigail Aensland

--Previous Piece: Charlemagne LeBeau

The final piece of this series where I select the single best CV character written by one of CV's greatest ever character writers (Mercy, LL, Nova, Zauby and Gambler) and justify my claim that said character is said RP'er/writer's best and among the greatest in CV history, this piece will focus on Zauby's greatest ever character, and the greatest and most complex hero in nU history; Abigail Aensland. Few characters are as genuinely accomplished as Abigail, few heroes have the psychological complexity and emotional authenticity she has, and no character has faced and survived, what I consider to be, the three deadliest and most prominent antagonists in nU history; Ivana, Charlemagne and Satar. Few characters are as long-lasting, and even fewer as great as Abigail.

Character Introduction

Born in the daughter of Londoners, Atticus and Emilie Aensland, Abigail was raised in wealth as much as isolation. Praised by her parents for her talents but never given their warmth and affection to the extent that a child needs in their formative years, Abigail had no true bond. Instead, she was thrust into a situation that forced her to give up all sense of security when her father's attempt to help pass a law sympathetic to mutant-kind led to public condemnation. Accusations of being secret mutants, death threats, and riots dogged them day after day, culminating in a riot outside a movie theater that saw Atticus shot dead, Emilie critically wounded, and Abigail fatally wounded.

And though she and Emilie survived, Abigail's discovery of her mutant heritage and the madness it drew into her life, had scarred her. If being a mutant meant relinquishing the safety of family, home and herself, without which no child could find emotional peace, then she would settle for nothing but hatred of all mutants - and herself. But in time, Abigail's views changed as she enrolled in Oxford University, where the cultural melting pot gave her new insight and greater perspective, and where her role as a witness to the fatal beating of a shapeshifting mutant changed her forever. Though her self-hatred remained, the seeds of heroism were planted deep in her heart. Seeds that saw her abandon her undergraduate studies and take her first steps towards becoming the greatest hero in the world.

The hero who bested Charlemagne LeBeau, fought for Gothic City when it was abandoned by it's own government, poured her soul into saving Venezuela when no one'd dare face Ivana, the only hero to ever stop Satar and finally break his hold on Gothic City, became the leader of the League of Shadows and was one half of the most memorable feud in nU history with Ivana. Abigail is not only Zauby's greatest character, but one of the greatest characters and heroes in CV history.

Character Analysis

Typically, heroes - ideal heroes - are my least favorite characters because straightforward heroes who are virtuous, brave, just etc. don't challenge our ethical standards. They rarely ever force us to reconsider or at least reflect on our moral views or the nuances of the ethical standards that the world regards as ideal. Because, by their very nature, heroes embody all the beliefs and morals that are almost universally accepted as ideal. And because heroes are characters we're supposed to agree with from an ethical standpoint, they're usually not ethically complex. Or complex as a whole. But Abigail is one of the most complex characters, let alone heroes, in CV history. She is psychologically complex, emotionally rich, and she has redefined the role of not only the street level hero, but the hero overall on CV. Abigail is an ideal hero, but one who subverts the expectations and conceptions of what it means to be a hero.

She is brave, altruistic, compassionate, selfless and has a steely determination to be and do good regardless of the danger that poses to her. But she's also self-loathing, fearful, alienated, depressed and introverted when heroes are often thought of as fearless, extroverted, awe inspiring and worldly. Abigail, on the other hand, is not a representation of heroic perfection as ideal heroes often are. She is flawed. She is not a living breathing ideal. And because of these flaws, she's a different kind of hero. One with innate goodness yes, but one that's also self-inquiring and emotionally believable. What do I mean by emotionally believable? Most characters on CV are emotionally inert to external stimuli. Specifically, to things that should elicit fear. And that's because most characters on CV are fearless and not portrayed to be emotionally vulnerable, especially not heroes of the magnitude and greatness of Abigail. But Abigail feels fear. She feels anxiety. She is emotionally believable and authentically, wholly human. When forced into a situation that preys on our fears as humans, she isn't inert.

She fears but is brave enough to overcome those fears because as a hero, she recognizes that her fears do not supersede the greater good. In a world where so many characters are super geniuses with impossible technology bordering on magic, where there is magic for characters to wield, where heroes are gods and mutants and metahumans who can move mountains with their minds or fly to the sun and back, Abigail is a university dropout who loathes her mutant heritage - and yet she not only represents the best of humanity better than any other hero, she defends humanity better than every other hero. Furthermore, on CV RPG, there is a trivial link between heroism and violent conflict. Conflicts where the hero must use violence to overpower the villain they are in conflict with. Through these conflicts, themes about the hero's strength, literal and metaphorical, are explored. The hero is strong and virtuous. Unyielding and fearless. Bold and larger than life.

But Abigail deposes this standard of heroism, or at least complicates it, by exploring how emotional vulnerability and fear are also linked to heroism within the context of these conflicts. She's psychologically affected by the tragedies she's witnessed, she questions her own ethical standards, her confidence as a hero is shaken to the point of leading her into a self-imposed exile. And it's because of Abigail's inherent humanity allowing her to be a conduit for the shared vulnerability of both herself and mankind as it lives in a world where dangerous and vastly superior ultra-beings exist that she defends mankind better than any other hero. Because she understands who she is fighting for. And in doing so, understands why she is fighting, and who better to embody mankind's hope than a hero who understands their fears and feels their vulnerability. Who better than the world's greatest hero? Who, though flawed, is brave, extremely talented, resourceful, altruistic, a gifted fighter, compassionate, decisive, and has bested some of the world's most dangerous villains when no one else would or could?

Heroes are often deified and separated from their humanity. They become ideals. But Abigail overturns this. She shares the vulnerability of the people, the world she's trying to protect. She is symbolic of the world's vulnerability against the superhuman dangers that threaten it - and it's continued survival. Because as much as Abigail is a hero, she is, more than anything, a survivor. And the juxtaposition between Abigail and all these incredibly dangerous villains she faces, embodies the world's vulnerability and struggle against all the fantastical threats it faces day in and day out. Which is made all the more interesting because while Abigail almost shuns her own mutant powers, powers that are left latent and unexplored, she is still a mutant. She is no human. And yet, she is somehow the most human character of all. A counter to Nietzsche's views of humanity. In particular, that mankind suffers from it.

That humanity is a socially and culturally imposed sense of inferiority that destroys one's potential and consumes one's will. And though she "suffers" from humanity as Nietzsche asserts, Abigail has fulfilled - not destroyed - her own potential. She became the savior of Gothic City (though can Gothic City truly be saved?) when she destroyed Black House and defeated Satar when no else could. She bested Charlemagne LeBeau, the boogeyman of mutant-kind and the deadliest melee fighter in CV history. And she has faced and outlasted Ivana in her quest to liberate Venezuela from the Shogunate. And led the League of Shadows, turning it into a support structure to impose moral order wherever she went. All of which Abigail accomplished while disestablishing the conceptions of what it means to be a hero.

No other hero has done this. Has been this deep, rich, vulnerable and complex a character while rising to an almost mythical status in the metahuman community. Her history, behaviors and morals make her not only the greatest hero in nU history, and among the greatest ever in CV history, but she is the most complex and compelling hero that I've ever seen on CV, and Zauby's greatest ever character.

This is my last piece in what's been a fun series where I got to explore the greatest ever characters in CV history, or at least the ones I argue are the greatest. And though she doesn't know it, I was partly inspired to create this series by LL's past intention to do a P4P ranking of the greatest ever fighters/martial artists in the nU.

16 Comments

Greatest CV RPG Character Series: Charlemagne LeBeau

--Previous Piece: Zeon Liafador

Continuing the series where I select the single best CV character written by one of CV's greatest ever character writers (Mercy, LL, Nova, Zauby and Gambler) and justify my claim that said character is said RP'er/writer's best and among the greatest in CV history, this piece will be about the greatest and most ideologically complex character Gambler has ever written; Charlemagne LeBeau. Now, this was no easy to choice to make given that another Gambler character, Quintus Knightfall, is a very strong candidate as well. However, why I chose Charlemagne is because of the ethical complexity and ideological aspects of his characterization, as well as his key role in the most memorable and dominant conflict in nU history (mutants vs. humans), and his secure position as the deadliest one-on-one melee fighter in CV history.

Character Introduction

Before becoming the boogeyman of mutant-kind, Charlemagne was born in Saarbrücken, Germany to David Saint LeBeau and Josette Inez LeBeau of the House of LeBeau. Recruited by Red September, a secret society devoted to the formation of a New World Order, it was under their tutelage that the root of Charlemagne's strong anti-mutant ideology emerged. With the growth of the metahuman community, and in particular the growth of the mutant population, Red September's concerns quickly moved from world domination to ensuring that mankind's place at the helm of evolution never be threatened. A concern that became the precursor to what one day become Charlemagne's violent pro-human and anti-mutant/meta ideology.

As his hatred for the mutant population and metahuman community stirred, Charlemagne studied at the Swiss Institute of Technology, taking a special interest in evolution, biology and it's sub-fields. And it was at the Swiss Institute of Technology that Charlemagne's anti-mutant sentiments were empathized with by more morally ambiguous professors with whom his discussions of genetic warfare, evolution and molecular biology led to Charlemagne's intellectual and ideological justifications for his hatred of mutant-kind. Having learned what he'd set out to, Charlemagne abandoned his academic pursuits and joined the French Foreign Legion, quickly earning a transfer to the 13th Parachute Dragoon Regiment. Armed with a nurtured intellect, and the military and combat skills earned from his training on counter-insurgency, counter-terrorism etc., Charlemagne embarked on a lifelong mission to protect the interests, prosperity, self-determination and evolutionary trajectory of mankind - through control of the metahuman community and the genocide of mutant-kind.

To do so, Charlemagne formed the HALO Corporation and led a group of genetic supermen called the Ultra-Sapiens. He dove deeper into the realm of genetic modifications, arming himself with the necessary skills and abilities to counter carriers of the X-Gene. He spearheaded a Superhuman Registration Act that triggered a war within the metahuman community, brought Venezuela to it's knees, feuded with Knightfalls, with the most greatest hero in the nU (Abigail Aensland), and waged an indirect war against the Court of Arcani through his campaign anti-mutant violence. Now that we know who Charlemagne is, let's explore why he's possibly Gambler's greatest ever character.

Character Analysis

Like Zeon Liafador, Charlemagne is a complex outlaw/badass archetype. He is self-sufficient, uncompromising, embraces his own uniqueness, shuns conformity, and is driven by a personal code or ideology, his being one that's focused on securing the evolutionary dominance of mankind. Charlemagne however, is more morally questionable with the means he uses to achieve his ends. Not only does he engage in mass manipulation, but he is a mass murdering proponent of mutant genocide. So while his goal of protecting the interests and evolutionary dominance of mankind may have strong ethical reasoning and may even be noble, the means he uses to achieve this goal are not only morally questionable but morally abhorrent. And yet, Charlemagne is one of the most complex characters in CV history.

Firstly, Charlemagne is something of an homage to early 19th century character writing while simultaneously retaining key aspects of modern approaches to characterization through the exploration of his psychological disposition. Now, what about Charlemagne is a callback to early 19th century character writing? It's the fact that Charlemagne represents a metaphor or idea. He embodies an allegory, not entirely, because he does represent himself, but he also very strongly represents one, an idea, and two, a class of people. The class of people Charlemagne represents are humans - he represents mankind in opposition of mutants and the metahuman community overall. And the idea he embodies or communicates by acting as a narrative vehicle? Mankind's fear of evolutionary subservience. He represents ideas regarding the survival of humanity in unfamiliar situations, specifically humanity's survival in an environment with a growing population of fantastical and superior beings e.g. mutants. And this idea he embodies is best expressed through his pro-human/anti-mutant ideology. One that has a strong line of ethical reasoning.

Human history is rife with examples of the consequences of an inferior civilization crossing paths with a more advanced one. The inferior civilization is either destroyed, enslaved or conquered. And from an evolutionary perspective, each individual in an ecosystem needs resources to survive, prosper and reproduce. So there is competition. Intraspecific competition between members of the same species, and interspecific competition between members of different species that require the same resources. And two groups cannot occupy the same position of dominance in an ecosystem. One group will inevitably fall to the other. This is Charlemagne's fear. This is the root of his obsession with maintaining the evolutionary security of mankind. And it is how this idea or Charlemagne's nature as an allegory is reconciled with his internal characterization that sets the bar for his psychological complexity. It allows us to see the foundation of Charlemagne's actions and decision-making. With it, we can understand why he acts this way instead of another. We understand his motives, and his feelings of purpose.

Through his internal characterization, Charlemagne's greatest conflict with himself is explored. Specifically, his fear of and anxiety over mankind losing it's position of evolutionary dominance to mutants and by extension, his fear of the metahuman community establishing a status quo of dominance. It's why he's obsessed with the idea of mutant genocide and poured so much energy into the Superhuman Registration Act. These are his solutions, his attempts at preventing his fears from being realized. So through his internal characterization, we explore Charlemagne's ethical decision-making and see a glimpse of the ethical complexity of the character. And that is because from an ethical standpoint, Charlemagne complicates things. Why? He is at the heart of an unofficial war between humans and mutants, a war founded upon the moral responsibility he feels as a human to the human race. A war based on the distinction between humans and mutants and the evolutionary conflict that inevitably arises between two similar and closely competing species or groups.

Charlemagne is spearheading the efforts of his side in a conflict more nuanced than most of the conflicts in CV history. CV RPG is comic book-based, so it follows the trend of comic books featuring ideological conflicts that are resolves through battles. And these ideological conflicts almost always embody the dichotomy between good and evil in that there is almost always a side you will and are supposed to agree with (the morally right side of the conflict) and a side you will and are supposed to disagree with (the morally wrong side of the conflict). This is the basis for the classic portrayal of superhero vs. super-villain conflict. Charlemagne however, is far more nuanced. He is not a morally straightforward character. He is morally questionable but not irredeemable because his goal to protect the interests and survival chances of humanity can be empathized and sympathized with, no matter how extreme his methods. To prevent the possible death of one's species/race is virtuous within the boundaries of that species/race.

In Charlemagne's mind, and this is expressed through some of his dialogue, his actions are justified because they are ultimately virtuous within the context of his efforts to save humanity from possible extinction or a future of subservience. And while Charlemagne's internal characterization is impressive, his external characterization is not lacking as he illustrates how an environment shapes a character. He is a human whose world views etc. are shaped in part by this new environment full of these otherworldly and super-powered beings. The greatest relationship Charlemagne has is not with other characters, but his environment. Because in him, we see a human who is part of a world where mankind's status as the dominant species is threatened by the existence of mutants etc. and the pro-mutant actions of the Court of Arcani. A human who must and has oriented himself to the unfamiliar situation he is facing.

And this all lends to his ethical complexity as he analyzes the humans vs. mutants conflict and evaluates what he as a human owes to mankind (the group he feels a moral responsibility for and obligation to) and what he can do to ensure it's prospects of survival and continued evolutionary dominance. Charlemagne's answer to that? Mass manipulation. Genocide. Forceful laws. And a bloody pro-human campaign fueled by a messiah complex that has seen him become not only one of the most self-sufficient characters in CV history, but one of it's most complex. Through his self-sufficiency, he became the deadliest melee combatant in CV history and alongside characters like Kratesis, expanded the scope of a character's effectiveness and efficiency in battle. He achieved prominence as one of the few human characters dominated by an era of mutants and nGods. And he is one of CV history's most psychologically and ethically complex characters.

Having done my piece on Charlemagne LeBeau, the next and final character for this series will be a Zauby character: Abigail Aensland

21 Comments

Greatest CV RPG Character Series: Zeon Liafador

--Previous Piece: Lena Dante

Continuing the series where I select the single best CV character written by one of CV's greatest ever character writers (Mercy, LL, Nova, Zauby and Gambler) and justify my claim that said character is said RP'er/writer's best and among the greatest in CV history, this piece will be about the greatest and most complex character I feel Nova has ever written; Zeon Liafador. Nova's catalogue of characters is impressive in it's diversity. Few RP'ers/CV writers have a more psychologically and ethically diverse cast of characters than Nova's. She and Zauby are quite possibly the two greatest character writers on CV. But in Nova's case, no character is as complex and fully realized as Zeon Liafador.

Character Introduction

Born to the Italian branch of House Liafador, Zeon is the only child of Marcos and Estelle Liafador. Raised in Sicily, Italy, Zeon's formative years were spent training and learning from the White Cardinals - the Cardinal branch founded by her parents during House Liafador's expansion of it's operations to Italy. And while it was those years that planted the seeds of Zeon's cold blooded warrior mentality, it was her early slight of her aunt, Ziccarra, that catalyzed it, causing Zeon to pull herself into a self-imposed exile where she trained in the hopes of gaining Ziccarra's respect and approval. And as though struck by a change of heart, Ziccarra soon called for Zeon's return and named her the next Matriarch of House Liafador, a position once held by Ziccarra herself.

As the Liafador Matriarch, Zeon commanded the family's Cardinals and saw to the entire family's protection, battling her father and uncle who believed her undeserving of the responsibility of leading House Liafador. It was during Zeon's tenure as the family Matriarch that she declared war on the Knightfalls for Quintus' torture of Isis Liafador. A war that never came into fruition as Zeon was forced to deal with the sudden collapse of House Liafador and it's power structures due to Ziccarra's betrayal of the family Zeon had devoted her entire life to. Branding Ziccarra an eternal enemy for her part in House Liafador's darkest days, Zeon has since acquired a power ring fueled by her own rage, poured every ounce of herself into a vengeful quest for Ziccarra's death - a quest that has seen her walk through battle after battle and even death itself. So, what's so great about Zeon as a character?

Character Analysis

Just as in my piece on Amaranth's characterization, the greatness of Zeon's characterization is determined by her psychological complexity. But furthermore, her characterization truly shines once we realize that she is the greatest revenge character in CV history. First and foremost, as a character, Zeon is some sort of amalgamation of the outlaw, the badass archetype, and the revenge character type. She occupies a space of moral ambiguity in that despite the violent (and even cruel) means she uses to reach her ends, her ethical reasoning does contain some kind of internal logical consistency. She rarely veers from a space of moral ambiguity to one that's morally questionable because Zeon is not a villain. She is actually altruistic.

Despite her negative qualities like rage, a lack of mercy, a tendency towards violence, Zeon still possesses heroic or at least noble qualities which are best expressed by the lengths she goes to to protect her family and it's interests. The prosperity, self-determination, security and overall well-being of House Liafador is Zeon's primary concern. And she is willing to eliminate anyone and everyone who she believes is threatening or has threatened the well-being of House Liafador. To protect one's family is a noble interest, and no interest is greater to Zeon. Like all outlaw/badass archetypes, Zeon challenges the status quo and customs of the world or culture she inhabits, and she did so in declaring a blood feud with a former Matriarch of House Liafador; Ziccarra. The Liafador Matriarch, former or acting, is to be respected by those within the family, not challenged. But in doing so, Zeon also embraces her own uniqueness relative to other Liafadors, she shuns conformity and social norms, instead welcoming her willingness as the only Liafador to seek vengeance against Ziccarra for her crimes.

However, because Zeon does not conform to societal expectations, she is a loner who rarely seeks assistance from others because of the ideological and ethical conflicts that often arise from her working with others. This is the reality of the outlaw/badass archetype, and why Zeon - like the archetype typifies - is so decisive and self-sufficient. All other Liafadors are either gods among men or powerful mutants in their own right. Zeon is human. A human whose unbreakable resolve and stubborn refusal to yield to the expectations and demands of others has seen her compensate for this lacking support structure (friends etc.) by becoming incredibly self-sufficient and highly capable as an individual. It's why she's so dangerously skilled, even as a human from a family of gods and mutants. Because she has to be. She does not compromise. And this is why Zeon, as most outlaw/badass archetypes are, is poor at forming or maintaining relationships with any meaningful emotional depth. Because she is self-referent to her own detriment, she does not compromise or change to fit the expectations of others.

But as previously mentioned, the root of greatness in Zeon's characterization is in her effectiveness as a revenge character. Revenge characters are difficult to write because key aspects of their characterization (and good characterization in general) are sacrificed in writing their pursuit of vengeance. It's difficult to write complex revenge characters because in order to be effective, character complexity is often pushed to the background. With Zeon however, Nova has managed a difficult feat. She's written a complex, nuanced and perhaps the most fully realized revenge character in CV history. On the surface, it appears as though Zeon simply wants to punish Ziccarra for her crimes committed against House Liafador. After all, Zeon is ethically driven to protecting the interests of House Liafador at any cost. However, her obsession with vengeance regarding Ziccarra, is more personal than ideological, more emotional than ethical. And this is where we see character development and complexity come into fruition. Because while Zeon has always been disagreeable and willful, violent and short-tempered, she was not always as full of rage as she is now.

This psychological transformation came from Ziccarra's betrayal of House Liafador. A family Zeon has devoted her entire life to protecting yes, but the betrayal was done by a woman with whom she has her most contentious relationship. Zeon had spent her early years training in self-imposed isolation in the hope of one day earning Ziccarra's respect. She had abandoned her tutelage under the White Cardinals to focus on her own self-improvement to earn the favor of an aunt she felt she had slighted. For that very same aunt, with whom she never enjoyed a great relationship, to undo all of Zeon's work as the Liafador Matriarch by tearing apart the family (a family Zeon had spent her entire life protecting) and collapsing the political empire House Liafador had built in Spain, it was not simple betrayal in Zeon's eyes. It was Ziccarra doing what Zeon has always believed she'd done; belittle her, slight her, and diminishing her accomplishments. It became as personal as it was ideological. Ziccarra now represented the destruction of House Liafador, she represented all the forces that tried to take from Zeon everything she'd earned.

Zeon's answer was and is to make Ziccarra pay with her life. Because the core of their feud is more personal than ethical, more emotionally charged than ideologically driven. It's why Zeon wants to kill her instead of apprehend her. Because she isn't interested in Ziccarra taking moral responsibility for her actions. She doesn't want Ziccarra to atone for her sins, and she doesn't care that Ziccarra was under the influence of external forces when she had turned her back on her own family. Zeon does not want Ziccarra to take moral responsibility for her crimes. She wants her dead. And the dead have no responsibilities. Just as Zeon's anger and hatred for Ziccarra have no limits. She's gone to the ends of the world to see to it that the woman who represents all the forces preventing her from achieving self-realization and stability dies. Her acquisition of the Red Power Ring of Rage is the physical illustration of the rage and hatred she feels for Ziccarra.

And her hunting down Ziccarra in the Cardinal afterlife represents the lengths Zeon will go to to exact her revenge on Ziccarra. As a revenge character, Zeon's characterization emphasizes her own internal psychological conflicts as the driving forces of her external conflict with Ziccarra while also exploring the effects of external forces and events on her psychology. And the result is a highly efficient revenge character whose motivations are fully understood.

Having done my piece on Zeon Liafador, the next character for this series will be a Gambler character: Charlemagne LeBeau

17 Comments

Greatest CV RPG Character Series: Lena Dante

--Previous Piece: Amaranth Strix

Continuing the series where I select the single best CV character written by one of CV's greatest ever character writers (Mercy, LL, Nova, Zauby and Gambler) and justify my claim that said character is said RP'er/writer's best and among the greatest in CV history, this piece will be about the finest character I feel Mercy has ever written; Lena Dante. Like all of the RP'ers/writers behind the characters I explore in this series, Mercy has an impressive character catalogue. But no character, I feel, is greater than Lena Dante.

Character Introduction

Unlike most CV characters, Lena is entirely human with no tangible great equalizer to even the playing field between her and the more fantastical and over-the-top characters from Prime and the nU. She is a young woman, in her late 20s and a native of Rome, Italy. She has no extraordinary powers to call her own, be they from genetics, some exotic artifact, magic, a freak accident or impossibly advanced technology. She is an ordinary human with no outrageous skill like incredible genius or martial arts mastery of any kind. Her greatest attribute has always been her razor sharp perception, cunning, investigative eye, and silver tongue.

During her tenure as Mercy's then main character, Lena made her name in the nU as a public relations expert, a media "fixer". Someone whose role was in making those she worked with look good - and those she worked against look bad. And she did so to great effectiveness while working first for Kamelot before finding her way to it's eventual successor, Avalon. Though Lena appears to be fairly normal, her family does have questionable mafia ties and secretly operates in the weapons trade market. She's had personal feuds and encounters with a number of prominent characters from the time, many of which were enemies of Avalon seeking to slander the company.

So why do I say Lena Dante is Mercy's greatest ever character?

Character Analysis

First and foremost, to understand why Lena isn't just a good character - but a great one - we have to understand the kind of environment CV RPG is. The world we've created with CV RPG is one greatly influenced by comic books, comic book movie adaptations and to a lesser extent other movies, some animated series', TV series', video games and even anime. It's a fantastical setting with superhumans, mutants, aliens, gods, wizards, robots etc. And it's a setting whereby the overall narrative is focused on ideological and moral conflicts between the characters that inhabit the setting. Conflicts that are resolved through the most widely used narrative tool in CV RPG; battling.

Why Lena is great is because firstly, she is not a character geared for battle. She has no powers and no remarkable skills that are applicable to battles in any meaningful way, certainly not battles that involve superhumans and the like. Secondly, she is great because despite being a non-battle character, she achieved prominence in an era when battling had become a science. Lena became a prominent character with a crucial role in the overall narrative of the time, a time belonging to the era of the best battlers CV has ever seen. That time period in the nU was dominated by the elite of the elite as far as battlers are concerned. The competition was so fierce, the power-sets so deadly, the IC technology even more-so, that it was impossible for any character to achieve any meaningful form of prominence without being exceptionally adapted to battling. Impossible for all but one character; Lena Dante.

Now, whereas in my previous piece about Amaranth I dove into the ethical and psychological complexity of his characterization, with Lena Dante I'm going to explore why she (a normal human) managed the impossible which in this case is becoming such a powerful presence with regards to the narrative at the time during an incredibly difficult era of CV for any character to gain prominence, let alone one with no powers or outrageous martial skill. Mercy accomplished this with Lena by doing one of the most important things with regards to characterization; giving the Lena character purpose within the context of the story being told at the time. And doing so led to Lena becoming one of the most well-defined characters in the nU. Because Lena's purpose was to be a public relations expert, a fixer who makes her allies look good and her enemies (and by extension her allies' enemies) look bad.

Why is this purpose impressive as far as character writing is concerned? Because it doesn't end. It's easy to create a character with a purpose that can't be fulfilled consistently, and by that I mean a character who becomes useless after fulfilling their purpose because they can no longer have a purpose with which to drive their involvement in the narrative. Lena's purpose has an infinite pool of narrative potential because there are no shortage of allies and enemies (IC) in the nU, and because at the time she became a fixer for Avalon, Avalon had more enemies and would-be enemies than any other faction or character. So in her role as a fixer, Lena became a necessity for Avalon. So she wasn't only a useful character, she became one of those rare characters that are useful and necessary within the context of the narrative.

And Lena became so useful in her role as a fixer that she was being routinely targeted by Avalon's enemies because she was an extremely effective component of the public support structure she helped create for Avalon to combat it's enemies. She was instrumental in defending Avalon against the claims that it was engaging in terrorism, and became an investigative nightmare for Avalon's enemies. But why she is so great (and this is also a testament to Mercy's character writer) is because Lena expanded the scope of usefulness for completely normal human characters in a setting dominated by the uncommon and fantastical. No other normal human character with zero combat skills and no powers or gadgets had influenced the overarching narrative of CV RPG with the degree of prominence that Lena had. And no ordinary human character has since. Along with Antonia herself, Lena was the most prominent member of Avalon.

This is phenomenal character design from Mercy because what she managed with the effectiveness and usefulness of the Lena character without ever falling into the trap of stealthily making her a borderline superhuman either through insane tech or impossibly inhuman martial arts skills or super-genius is not ever going to replicated. And that's because Lena followed a different format from almost any normal human PC (playable character). Most "normal" human CV characters follow and have followed a similar format whereby their vulnerable human qualities are accounted for by improbable and unattainable skills or tech or physical attributes that make them borderline superhuman or overtly superhuman, and the result of that trend is that most of these characters tend to all feel the same.

Lena however, was different, and was still never overshadowed by the more fantastical characters she was surrounded by. She set the bar for the scope of usefulness and influence for ordinary human characters. She set the bar for doing so much with so little in a setting that's too much from an era that was so difficult.

Having done my piece on Lena Dante, the next character for this series will be a Feral Nova character: Zeon Liafador
13 Comments

Greatest CV RPG Character Series: Amaranth Strix

I've had this series in mind for some time now, one where I select the single best CV character written by one of CV's greatest ever character writers (Mercy, LL, Nova, Zauby and Gambler) and justify my claim that x character is one of the best in CV history's and the best ever written by said RP'er. Because I'll be going very in-depth with my analysis of each character, I can only do one character at a time, and I've chosen to begin with an LL character, the character I've thought most about regarding this series and the greatest character I feel she's ever written; Amaranth Strix.

Now, is this series necessary? No it's not, but I want to do it, so I will.

Character Introduction

Most people are familiar with Amaranth but there are those who aren't. LL began the pro-mutant narrative that's dominated the better part of the nU with Kratesis, but she truly brought it to life and gave it prominence with Amaranth. Amaranth was an immortal mutant born in a bleak and cruel future where mutant-kind had been forced into slavery. His physical immortality made him a boon to his slave owners who exploited it by forcing him into gladiatorial battles he would win through skill and his inability to die. He was an invaluable circus animal to his human slavers, but eventually found the courage to take part in a failed mutant rebellion.

Crushed by defeat and faced with the promised horrors of human slavers, Amaranth and his mutant contemporaries left their cruel future and traveled back in time to the first days of mankind. How he did so remains unknown, but it's implied (not confirmed) that among the mutants he traveled with was Kratesis, a mutant who sacrificed every shred of her own humanity in her founding of the Court of Arcani, an organization joined by Amaranth - and his first step towards becoming the proclaimed mutant messiah to save mutant-kind from the future he was born into. Amaranth feuded with many, befriended Knightfalls, popularized regeneration as a power-set, set the current tone for mutant-kind in the nU and was eventually felled by Antonia and Avalon. So the question(s), why is Amaranth the greatest character LL's ever written? And why is he one of the greatest characters in CV history?

Character Analysis

What makes Amaranth such a good character is the amount of moral and psychological complexity that goes into his characterization. At first glance Amaranth appears to be a villain, and in fact he is. But he is not a basic villain. And by basic villain I mean a character that is wholly evil. And that's what a villain is, a character that is irredeemable/morally abhorrent/evil. And a character can be irredeemable in two ways, either in their means or their ends, and by that I mean a character can be considered irredeemable either through their goals or the means they use to realize/achieve those goals. Basic villains or rather normal villains are villains that are irredeemable in both their goals and the means used to achieve them, but they also (not always) tend to be evil by choice.

Amaranth is not evil by choice. Which is why he is not a normal villain. For one, he is a victim of circumstance. He was born in a horrible future where his kind weren't even second class citizens, they were tools for the amusement of their human slavers. This warped Amaranth both morally and psychologically to the point where he very deeply felt that in order to prevent such a future from coming to be, he would have to take this envisioned position as a mutant messiah to lead a violent revolution against humankind in the name of mutant-kind's future. Amaranth was kind and peaceful and if not for being forced into slavery and seeing the cruel injustices faced by mutants in his future, he would have never been who he became. He'd have never committed all those horrible acts. But his environment forced him to. And he is completely aware of the irredeemable nature of his actions, and he takes no pleasure from it.

But Amaranth is compelled to do so because of circumstances that were beyond his control. He never intended to be what he became. These are not the traits of a normal villain. What Amaranth is is a tragic villain. However, Amaranth isn't only a tragic villain. He is also an anti-villain. And why Amaranth is an anti-villain is because he is irredeemable only in his means not his ends. Furthermore, like an anti-villain, Amaranth still retains some heroic qualities despite his morally questionable actions. For one, Amaranth's goal was always to eliminate the sociopolitical injustices faced by mutant-kind. He was noble, empathetic and even honorable. Of course this isn't to say Amaranth was not morally questionable because he was, he was a violent mass murdering revolutionary. He was willing to commit genocide. But as morally questionable as his means were, Amaranth's ends - his goal - never changed. It was always to create a better future for mutant-kind. To fight against the discrimination and injustices faced by one's own people is an honorable goal.

Tragic villains on CV are rare as it is, and they typically end up devolving into normal/basic villains. And anti-villains are even rarer. But a tragic villain/anti-villain hybrid? It's never been done, at least not that I know of. Amaranth thus far is the only one and this hybrid is an incredibly difficult character type to write with the amount of psychological and moral complexities that go into this kind of characterization. Now, in addition to being such a complex character, what made/makes Amaranth so great is the fact that firstly, he's one of the best examples of the "choice of identity" theme where a character is stripped of their preferred choice of identity. Amaranth would have never chosen to become a mass murdering revolutionary had the circumstances not forced him to. He did not enjoy killing, and he was haunted by the amount of blood on his hands. He would have probably been a scholar. But that is not the identity that his circumstances allowed him to have.

His circumstances forced him to pursue a realized self that did not align with who he wanted to be, and who he probably would have been otherwise, and consequently this denied Amaranth true self-realization altogether. He was forced into a path where he had no choice but to give an almost religious credence to an extremely violent anti-human/pro-mutant ideology that he was never comfortable with. Amaranth is a character who recognizes his personal ideal identity, his true self-realization, but cannot pursue it because he must be this mutant messiah who spearheads the revolution against mankind. He must construct an identity and a self that defies who he actually is as a person because otherwise mutant-kind will die. He made the decision to never allow his own personal feelings to supersede the fate of his own people, and that decision was detrimental to his true self-realization. This is an enormous amount of complexity for one character.

And the final reason why I consider Amaranth to be LL's best character and one of the greatest on CV is because he has one of the hallmarks of great characters. And by that I mean that despite how morally abhorrent Amaranth's means were, his goal and motivations combined with that to make him a character that forces you to reevaluate or at least think about your morality and ethical principles and what you consider to be good and bad. It's for these reasons I believe Amaranth is LL's best character. He's an incredibly complex character, one of the most complex in CV history, and he's a hybrid of two rare (at least on CV) literary archetypes that are difficult to write well.

Having done my piece on Amaranth, the next character for this series will be a Mercy character: Lena Dante

44 Comments