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MHR: 1990’s Excalibur Datafiles

May 1, 2017

Back in the mid-1970’s, writer Chris Claremont and penciler Dave Crockum took one of Stan Lee & Jack Kirby’s lesser creations, the Uncanny X-Men, and transformed American superhero comics in the process. Claremont and his collaborators would make UXM into the highest-selling American comic with vibrant characters, soap opera drama, long-simmering plots, and themes of bigotry and prejudice. If you’ve watched X-Men cartoons or movies, 80-90% of what you saw were adaptations of stories and characters written and created by Chris Claremont and the artists that worked on the X-books over the years.

UXM’s success spawned a slew of spin-offs. One of the quirkier ones was Excalibur, by Claremont and artist (later writer, after Claremont left) Alan Davis, whose work I adore. It was quirky in part because it took a few mutants from the X-books: Nightcrawler, Kitty Pryde, and Rachel Summers (the daughter of Jean Grey and Cyclops from the Days of Future Past timeline), and paired them up with the little-known Captain Britain and his partner Meggan, and sent them on wacky adventures far removed from the other X-titles. Most of the stories picked up plot threads and characters from old Captain Britain comics published by Marvel’s UK arm, which were created by Alan Moore (Watchmen, From Hell, etc.) & Alan Davis, rather than your typical mutant stories. It was an odd book. But a very charming and entertaining one, I thought.

Nightcrawler & Kitty Pryde were two of my favorite X-Men, and as I said I loved Davis’ art, so when I saw the book in the comic store back in the day I bought it, and followed the title when I could. As an adult I’ve gone back and read the entire Claremont/Davis and the subsequent Davis/Davis runs, and enjoyed them so much that I was inspired to stat up the characters in the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying game. I think they’re good examples of where MHR shines: with the authors’ penchant for distinctive characters, interpersonal drama, and long-running subplots, each character has several arcs that make for good personal Milestones; and as the characters are not much of a classic team, the Affiliations can really come into play in how the different characters will want to approach a situation.

Beyond that, this little slice of comic book history shows how ephemeral character writeups for superhero RPGs can be. Costumes, powers, motivations, and the status quo are constantly changing and shifting, making any writeup – especially one that focuses on character issues vs. just a plain accounting of powers – just a snapshot that will soon be overtaken by future changes. Captain Britain and Meggan now have different powers, Nightcrawler died and became a priest and came back to life (not necessarily in that order), Kitty grew into adulthood and got engaged to Star Lord and became headmaster of Xavier’s school. The terrain is ever-shifting, and no character is set in stone.


Captain Britain Notes
Brian Braddock was chosen to protect the British Isles by the mysterious Merlyn. Brian later discovered the infinite array of alternate Earths, and that each had its own Captain Britain. The Captains were part of a corps of super-powered protectors under Merlyn’s, and later Roma’s, control. His membership in the corps never sat easy with Brian; while he enjoyed having the power to protect his homeland and its people, he always wanted to do so on his own terms.

I weighted Captain Britain’s affiliations on the solo side. Part of that is that he’s always charging off on his own to fight foes away from everyone else, which is exactly what Affiliations are meant to encourage! But another part is that it’s revealed around issue #45 or so that Roma put a jinx on him to limit his effectiveness around others.

For Brian’s SFX, I borrowed the Thing’s doom pool-boosting SFX. Whenever Brian gets into a fight, massive property damage is the result. Every time!

His milestones reflect his continued unhappy interactions with Roma, Saturnyne, their agents (like the Technet), and other Captain Britains; and his out-of-control personal life.

Captain Britain
Brian Braddock [known to authorities]

Affiliations:
Solo D10, Buddy D8, Team D6

Distinctions:
Guardian of Earth-616
Hotheaded
Proud, Proper Brit

Power Sets:
Omniversal Corpsman
Enhanced Reflexes D8, Godlike Durability D12, Godlike Strength D12, Superhuman Stamina D10, Supersonic Flight D10

SFX: Collateral Damage. Instead of spending 1 PP, add a D6 to the doom pool to create an Omniversal Corpsman stunt.

SFX: Destructive Rage. Add a doom die to your next attack action. After your action, step up the doom die and return it to the doom pool.

SFX: Multipower. Use two or more Omniversal Corpsman powers in your dice pool, at –1 step for each additional power.

Limit: Pride & Jealousy. Gain 1 PP and step up emotional stress taken (or take D6 emotional stress) from having your pride wounded or when another man shows interest in Meggan.

Limit: Merlyn’s Energy Matrix. When outside the British Isles without your costume, step down all Omniversal Corpsman powers and gain 1 PP. You can continue to activate this limit until your powers are all shut down. Recover power(s) by spending a Transition Scene back in the British Isles.

Specialties:
Business Expert D8, Combat Expert D8, Cosmic Expert D8, Menace Expert D8, Science Expert D8

Milestones:
A Spiritual Malady
1 XP when you deal with unwanted emotions in inappropriate ways (drinking, fighting, cheating on Meggan, etc.), or when you choose to resist those sorts of activities.
3 XP when your inappropriate actions or suppressed emotions cause difficulty for yourself or others, or puts others in danger.
10 XP when you realize that you have some issues to deal with and confront them, or when you decide that your problems are manageable and do nothing.

“I Am No One’s Pawn!”
1 XP when you fight or assist a ruler or agent of Otherworld, including other Captain Britains.
3 XP when you get in trouble with the Captain Britain corps, or when you accede to the orders of your superiors.
10 XP when you discover that you’ve been manipulated and confront your puppet master.


Meggan Notes
As a baby, Meggan exhibited the power to alter her body to environmental stimuli – growing fur to keep warm in the cold, for example. Her abilities were not understood and she was abandoned by her parents. She came to know and love Brian Braddock while staying at his mansion with others like her, and after transforming herself from a mousy young woman into an elfin beauty, he took notice of her as well.

This one was a bit tricky, as Meggan is a bit of a blank slate throughout those issues. It looks like she’s changed a lot since then and has gotten some powerups. But for a long time her powers and past weren’t clearly defined – from her first appearances, she was a “warpie”, someone born with strange appearance or powers because of extra-dimensional energies permeating the UK for a time. Now she’s a mutant, and she has also shown some random affinity for magic, etc. And at least back then she tended to take a back seat to the rest of the team. Even so, her eagerness to adapt to her environment – physical as well as social – and her curiosity about her past give the character some good role-playing material.

Meggan
Meggan [public]

Affiliations:
Solo D6, Buddy D10, Team D8

Distinctions:
Loves Brian Braddock
Naïve
Sensitive

Power Sets:
Empathic Metamorph
Empathy D8, Enhanced Stamina D8, Enhanced Strength D8, Mimic D10, Mystic Senses D6, Shapeshifting D8, Subsonic Flight D8

SFX: Multipower. Use two or more Empathic Metamorph powers in your dice pool, at –1 step for each additional power.

SFX: Natural Mimic. When creating assets with Mimic, add D6 and step up effect die by +1.

Limit: Eager to Please. Gain 1 PP when you step up stress or complications caused by manipulation or mind control.

Limit: Environmental Sensitivity. Change an Empathic Metamorph power into a complication and gain 1 PP. Recover the power by spending a Transition Scene in a healthier environment.

Limit: Mutant. When affected by mutant-specific complications and tech, earn 1 PP.

Specialties:
Combat Expert D8, Mystic Expert D8

Milestones:
Abandoned Romani
1 XP when you follow a lead to find your family of origin.
3 XP when you defeat a foe or obstacle preventing you from uncovering your past.
10 XP when you discover your true past, or when you decide that the past doesn’t matter and leave it behind.

Eager to Please
1 XP when you change your appearance and/or behavior to conform to the desires of another.
3 XP when your changes lead to conflict among those you’re trying to please, or you flee to prevent such a conflict.
10 XP when you decide to figure out who you really are, or when you double down on trying to please someone else at your own expense.


Shadowcat Notes
Shadowcat is basically the same as her datafile in the MHR Basic Game. What I would change for this time period is her Phantom limit and her milestones. At the time, Kitty had to concentrate to turn her powers off – by default they were always “on”. For her milestones, her main pre-occupations at the time were mourning the deaths of her former teammates and friends (Cypher’s death, the X-Men’s supposed death in Fall of the Mutants, and Magik’s de-aging in Inferno), and mooning after a scientist who was, in turn, mooning after Phoenix.

Shadowcat
Katherine “Kitty” Pryde [public]

Affiliations:
Solo D6, Buddy D10, Team D8

Distinctions:
Girl Next Door
Spirited
Whizkid

Power Sets:
Phasing
Airwalking D6, Intangibility D10

SFX: Disruption. When including Intangibility as part of an attack action against tech-related targets, add D6 and step up effect die +1.

SFX: Reactive Power. Spend 1 PP to add a Phasing power to another character’s dice pool before rolling. If that character takes physical stress, take D6 mental stress.

SFX: Versatile. Replace Intangibility die with 2D8 or 3D6 on your next roll.

Limit: Phantom. Earn 1 PP and change Intangibility into a complication. Recover power by activating an opportunity or during a Transition Scene.

Limit: Mutant. When affected by mutant-specific complications and tech, earn 1 PP.

Lockheed the Dragon
Fire Blast D8, Flight D6

SFX: Hot Hot Hot! Step up or double Fire Blast for one action, then step back to 2D6. Recover power by activating an opportunity or during a Transition Scene.

SFX: To the Rescue. If Kitty is stressed out, spend 1 PP to have Lockheed remove her from the Scene.

Limit: Unexplainable Absence. Earn 1 PP if you have Lockheed the Dragon shutdown for the remainder of the Scene.

Specialties:
Acrobatics Expert D8, Combat Expert D8, Cosmic Expert D8, Covert Expert D8, Science Expert D8, Tech Expert D8, Vehicles Expert D8

Milestones
Survivor’s Guilt
1 XP when you mourn the loss of the X-Men and your friends in the New Mutants.
3 XP when you create a resource or asset based off of your history with your deceased friends.
10 XP when you decide to fully put the past behind you and dedicate yourself to your new team, or when find evidence of your departed friends and leave Excalibur to join them.

Teenage Romance
1 XP when you develop an unrequited crush on another character.
3 XP when you embarrass or humiliate yourself in front of the object of your crush.
10 XP when you confess your true feelings to the object of your crush, or when you decide to move on because you believe that your crush will never reciprocate your feelings.


Nightcrawler Notes
I really like this datafile! Nightcrawler was always one of my favorite X-Men, and I feel like these stats capture his character in a way other datafiles that I’ve seen have not.

At the time of Excalibur’s formation, Kurt couldn’t teleport more than once without hurting himself (per day? per scene?). A pre-Excalibur Nightcrawler wouldn’t have the Physical Strain limit.

As for his milestones, Kurt ends up being the de facto team leader/strategist for Excalibur. Which makes sense given that he’s pretty level-headed, smart, and has the most team experience. But it’s not a natural role for him. His other main plotline during this time is his attraction to Meggan, and his desire to “rescue” her from Brian’s boorish, callous, jerk-ish behavior. This obviously causes some issues for the group.

Nightcrawler
Kurt Wagner [public]

Affiliations:
Solo D8, Buddy D6, Team D10

Distinctions:
Circus Acrobat
Gentleman or Monster?
Swashbuckling Flirt

Power Sets:
Fuzzy Blue Elf
Superhuman Reflexes D10, Wall-Crawling D6

SFX: Shadowblending. When including a Fuzzy Blue Elf power in an action or reaction to avoid visual detection, step up or double Covert Expert. Spend 1 PP to do both.

SFX: Prehensile Tail. Against a single target, step up or double a Fuzzy Blue Elf die. Remove the highest rolling die and add use three dice for your total.

SFX: Rapier(s). Spend 1 PP to step up a Combat asset or resource.

Limit: Demonic Visage. Step up emotional stress inflicted by other’s fear of your appearance to gain 1 PP.

Mutant Teleporter
Teleport D8

SFX: BAMF! Add a D6 to your dice pool for an attack action and step back highest die in pool by –1. Step up physical stress inflicted by +1.

Limit: Physical Strain. Gain 1 PP and step up physical stress (or take D6 physical stress) for every use of Teleport past the 1st, per scene.

Limit: Mutant. When affected by mutant-specific complications and tech, earn 1 PP.

Specialties:
Acrobatics Master D10, Combat Expert D8, Cosmic Expert D8, Covert Expert D8, Vehicles Expert D8

Milestones:
Love Triangle
1 XP when you choose to flirt with a character or teammate that has another suitor.
3 XP when your flirting causes trouble for you or your team with the other suitor.
10 XP when you attempt to win the object of your affection for good, or when you decide to walk away from the romantic relationship.

Reluctant Leader
1 XP when you give an asset to a teammate.
3 XP when you defeat a foe without any team member becoming stressed out.
10 XP when you sacrifice something important to you to rescue a teammate or keep the team together, or when you leave the team yourself.


Phoenix Notes
Rachel Summers was a refugee from an alternate future where the mutant-hunting Sentinel robots had killed or imprisoned all super-powered individuals, and reduced the world to a ruin. In that future, she was the daughter of Scott Summers (Cyclops) and Jean Grey (Marvel Girl/Phoenix), a child they never had in the “real” timeline. She followed a highly advanced shapeshifting Sentinel back to the “present” – shades of Terminator 2, although the story in question actually predates T2 by 6 years – and never went back to her home timeline. Normally she has her mother’s abilities of telepathy and telekinesis, but she is also able to tap into the cosmic font of power known as the Phoenix.

Representing the Phoenix Force here is a bit tough, as its effects on a host have never been precisely defined. It’s also hard to gauge Rachel’s power levels independent of the Force, since she isn’t active for very long before becoming its new host. To me, the Phoenix Force powers listed here represent that she’s been holding back the whole time – it’s not until Excalibur #50 that she fully embraces the awesome power of the phoenix. At that point, I would step up some of the powers.

Phoenix
Rachel Summers [public]

Affiliations:
Solo D10, Buddy D6, Team D8

Distinctions:
Complicated Family Ties
Phoenix Force Host
Refugee of Futures Past

Power Sets:
Jean Grey’s Firstborn
Enhanced Durability D8, Psychic Blast D8, Psychic Resistance D10, Telekinetic Blast D8, Telekinetic Control D8, Telepathy D10

SFX: Area Attack. Against multiple opponents, for every additional target add a d6 and keep an additional effect die.

SFX: Multipower. Add more than one Jean Grey’s Firstborn power to your pool. Step back each Jean Grey’s Firstborn die in your pool once for each die beyond the first.

Limit: Mutant. When affected by mutant-specific complications and tech, earn 1 PP.

Phoenix Force
Cosmic Mastery D10, Superhuman Senses D10, Supersonic Flight D10, Transmutation D6

SFX: Energy Absorption. On a successful reaction against an energy-based attack action, convert your opponent’s effect die into a Phoenix Force stunt or step up a Phoenix Force power by +1 for your next action. Spend 1 PP to use this stunt if opponent’s action succeeded.

SFX: Nexus of Psionic Energy. If your pool includes dice from both Jean Grey’s Firstborn and Phoenix Force power sets, step up or double one Jean Grey’s Firstborn die.

SFX: Unleashed. Step up or double any Phoenix Force power for one action. If the action fails, add a die to doom pool equal to the normal rating of your power die.

Limit: Destructive Power. If your pool includes a Phoenix Force power, both 1 and 2 on your dice count as opportunities, but only 1s are excluded from being used for totals or effect dice.

Specialties:
Combat Expert D8, Cosmic Expert D8, Psych Expert D8

Milestones:
Dangerous Host
1 XP when you suffer complications or are targeted because of the Phoenix Force.
3 XP when you survive an action scene without using the Phoenix Force.
10 XP when you give up the Phoenix Force to another, or choose to embrace your role as the host of the Phoenix Force despite the danger.

Hunted
1 XP when you defeat a foe that is trying to capture or kill you specifically.
3 XP when you allow your hunters to escape, or yourself to be captured, to protect bystanders or teammates.
10 XP when you confront the figure behind the hunters and put an end to their search for you.

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3 Comments
  1. when you write ‘double’ for a power, is that “take these dice twice, roll and pick one” or “roll this die once, then double the result”?

    • Neither, actually. Everything gets thrown into a die pool, so it means to double the number of dice from that particular trait. e.g. D8 becomes 2D8.

      For an extreme example, if Phoenix were to cut loose while acting by herself, she might start with a pool like:

      Solo D10 + Phoenix Force Host D8 + Telekinetic Blast D8 + Cosmic Mastery D10 (representing the phoenix force) + Cosmic Expert D8 = 3D8, 2D10

      Then Nexus of Psionic Energy allows her to step up (D10) or double (2D8) Telekinetic Blast. Then she could use Unleashed to step up (D12) or double (2D10) Cosmic Mastery.

      Solo D10 + Phoenix Force Host D8 + Telekinetic Blast D8 D10 + Cosmic Mastery D10 2D10 (representing the phoenix force) + Cosmic Expert D8 = 2D8, 4D10

      Then she would roll that, pick two numbers for her total, and pick the largest remaining die by size for her effect.

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