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Let Me Tell You About My Character

Mark Meadowbrook, Evil Twin

by Chad Underkoffler
Feb 20,2003

 

Let Me Tell You About My Character...: Mark Meadowbrook, Evil Twin

by Chad Underkoffler

Mark Meadowbrook aka "Pollux" (Genre: Cyberpunk)

Quick Setting Notes: The world in 2025 is much like that of 2003, with the following changes:

  • The Baby Boomers -- by virtue of pushing legislation through Congress that boosted Social Security and Medicare -- assured themselves of great monetary and political entitlements.
  • Baby Boomers, from their position of power, crushed the GenXers and Millennials with taxes and their increasing paranoia of youth. Some Millennials responded by forming "Enfant Terrible" gangs, which played up the trappings of babyhood and terrorized senior citizens. The slogan of the Enfant Terribles -- "Just Die Already!" (JDA) -- was adopted as the name of the anti-oldster movement.
  • New technology made genetically-engineered replacement organs a viable medical option; while expensive, Boomers embraced it with fervor. The incredible costs for organ growth and replacement for seniors was almost totally covered by their new-forged health care guarantees.
  • With tremendous health insurance sums spent by Boomers for genetically-modified organs, the poor and the young were forced to make due with cheaper and less functional cybernetics.
  • In May 2019, a deadly epidemic began, eventually killing tens of millions. The Phage, a virus that targeted genetically-modified cells (that is, the Boomers' spiffy new organs), in due course mutated into a strain and affected everyone.
  • Recessions, the Great Depression II, and riots finally culminated in the Winter of Hate: three months (Nov 2019 through Jan 2020) where civilization stumbled and fell to one knee. Anarchy reigned. Chicago was sterilized by "clean" nukes, by order of the Surgeon General.
  • Treatments for Phage became effective, enabling a long, slow period of rebuilding over the next 5 years.
  • In 2025, almost every person has cyberware, usually organ or bone replacements. Cyberware is generally buggy, crash-prone, obviously artificial, and not particularly more advantageous than natural parts. Integral weaponry is almost unheard of; "combat" or "milspec" cyberware doesn't exist... but for the right amount of cash, someone could custom-build it. It would, of course, be even more unstable and obvious.
  • Society frowns on heavy chrome: the more realistic cyberware looks, the better.
  • There are few people over age 65, since nearly all Boomers died of Phage.
  • Personal wrist-comps and micro-cellphone earbuds are ubiquitous, and can be wirelessly networked together with softball-sized Holostations, which are home terminals for the Metawebnet.
  • All broadcast media (and a large portion of print media) has been subsumed by the holographic Metawebnet. It's a combination of chat, TV, radio, movies, newspapers, newsgroups, and telephones: an omni-media. Holo-icons are manipulated through keyboards, Surf Gloves, or Meta Link-modules slotted into cyberware (with a Meta Link, you think at your cyber-ear to click on holo-icons). Surfers are represented online by a holographic Avatar.
  • Being a Metawebnet hacker is more like being a private eye than a spy or thief, due to the existence of Utterly Private Networks (UPNs), which do not connect to the Metawebnet. So, instead of sliding into corporate sites for industrial espionage, console cowboys tail target Avatars online, observe their advertainment preferences, take incriminating holo-captures, go through Recycle Bins, etc., looking for blackmail material.
  • All food and water is put through the Clean Process -- a cycle of antiviral agents and radiation therapies -- to cleanse it of Phage virii. All food comes foil-wrapped, and unbottled water is heavily filtered before use.
  • Mega-corporations have been replaced by alliances between small, focused, powerful "family corporations" or "familycorps." Everyone in a familycorp is on the Board of Directors; that means that Joe Dishwasher's vote is worth as much as Jane CEO's.
  • The JDA movement is about half the size it used to be -- when the Boomers kicked off, many Enfants Terrible declared victory and moved on with their lives. The remaining punks turned their bile to the GenXers, and factions of the JDA have started moving in very unsavory white-supremacy/black-supremacy/chrome-supremacy directions. Currently, they fight more amongst themselves than with anyone else.

(NOTE - For more detailed information on this setting, Pyramid subscribers can look at my February Campaign in a Box column, "CyberSoapOpera." [Ed. - See forum, below.])

When they were teenagers, Jude and Mark Meadowbrook's GenXer mother lost her job as a legal secretary due to downsizing. All the other secretaries were old ladies coming up on retirement, and protected by Baby Boomer "anti-ageism" laws. Times were tough all over in Detroit, and she couldn't find any other employment... not even waiting tables. With all the cutbacks in Unemployment and Welfare, and having to support twin teenage boys, her savings ran out quick. She turned to the bottle, and died drunk before the Phage ever hit.

And where was the twin's wealthy grandmother, their only living relation? Living it up in Sarasota, with her Cuban boy-toys. She sent them a check for a grand, told them to get jobs, then forgot about them.

The Meadowbrook boys drifted into a Enfant Terrible gang. They got their jollies -- and money to live on -- by dressing up in diapers and bonnets, then beating the hell out of old people with crowbar and bicycle chain "rattles." Sometimes, they'd pour gasoline on the Boomers, and roast marshmallows. Good, clean Twenty-First Century teenage fun. Through a combination of quick wits, brotherly support, and damned good luck, they were never caught by the cops.

When the "Just Die Already!" movement started, they believed in it fully. The wrinkled old bastards were squeezing the life out of them and the entire country. It'd be better if they all just curled up and died... or were kicked down the stairs. Whichever.

They convinced their gang -- the Baby Bangers -- to link up with several other gangs in the JDA movement. Their natural eloquence catapulted them to the head of the Detroit organization. They picked out from mythology a set of code-names to keep their public statements mysterious -- "Castor" (Jude) and "Pollux" (Mark), the Dioscuri. Together, they roused the Detroit rabble, and were instrumental in the Motor City Riots of 2017 (especially Mark, who killed two cops) and the Keelhaul Grampa! Metawebnet pirate broadcast of March 2018 (especially Jude, who hacked the Detroit node).

Due to injuries sustained in the Motor City Riots, Mark had to have his right hand replaced with a cybernetic one. His new prosthetic got him interested in cybernetics, and he began studying it avidly -- when he wasn't whipping crowds into a frenzy or kicking old people to death. He started tinkering with his hand, learning to disassemble, reassemble, and modify the prosthetic. He started up a relationship with a GenXer activist named Susanna Michiba, rapt by her tales of the WTO protests and San Diego riots. His brother didn't like the older woman, and thought that Mark was playing a dangerous game: after all, Susanna was a more like the Boomers they hated than Millennials like them. The fraternal relationship of the Dioscuri cooled, and they started to grow apart.

Then, in May 2019, the Phage blew in like a firestorm and burned all the old people up. The Dioscuri thought that this was great, and went wilding -- trying to help fan the flames even hotter. Kill 'em all so we have some breathing room! Yeah!

But then the already overstressed supply lines for food finally broke. People began hoarding everything, from toilet paper to gasoline. The economy crumbled -- and there weren't any more old people to rob. Downtown Detroit became a war zone: the Dioscuri and their JDA followers were forced to fight daily for survival. Then, they started getting sick as the Phage became transgenic.

As the Winter of Hate began, Jude and Mark tried to keep the dwindling numbers of their gang safe, fed, healthy, and organized. They didn't do so well. The JDA movement shattered under the stress, as people scrambled for food, shelter, safety. Jude was lost on a food raid in December; Mark assumed that he was killed by the military units swarming into the city.

It was much later before he found out differently, but at that time, his concentration was absorbed in keeping his JDA cadre together -- including Susanna, who was pregnant with their child. Unfortunately, Susanna and the unborn baby succumbed to the Phage. Something died in Mark at the same time. He threw himself into anarchy and destruction, trying to blot out the pain, heedless of the cost.

When order was restored, he was a wanted man, half-mad, and infected with a Phage "speed-cancer." He escaped into the Midwest wilderness with a handful of followers and a captured Humvee of medical supplies. Thanks to the Clean Process and iron-will, he survived the Phage... and picked up several new cybermods.

As he saw how the GenXers were rebuilding the world, he found he didn't much like their view of the future. (In point of fact, he didn't much like any thought of the future. Not without his brother or his lover or his child.) His resentment of the GenXers grew to match his earlier resentment of the Boomers. He started rebuilding his JDA organization as the famed Pollux, "hero" of the Motor City Riots. And the disaffected flocked to him.

In 2025, he discovered his twin yet lived, and was working for Irons Cybernetics. A familycorp owned and operated by one of the Surgeon General's military thugs during the Winter of Hate. Jude had turned traitor, choosing the other side in this new war.

So be it.

Pseudo-Stats Mark is:

  • A Master orator;
  • An Expert guerrilla fighter and leader of men;
  • A Good cybernetics engineer (self-taught);
  • An Average Metawebnet surfer; and
  • Poor at dealing rationally with individuals older or more "buttoned-down" than he is.

Mark possesses a cyber-hand (Master strength) that he's modified to extrude short spikes at his thought command. He also has a standard-issue cyber-eye, modified cyber-liver (he can no longer get drunk or poisoned), and modified cyber-stomach (he can eat almost anything organic without ill-effect). He's had to have most of the bones in his upper body reinforced with strips of cyber-metal (Good resistance to breakage, but makes him heavier and reduces his endurance for long, strenuous tasks).

Goals

  • Hero: Mark's not really a hero (he is an Evil Twin, after all). It would take a stretch to make his violence and hatred both justified and heroic.
  • Star: However, perhaps Mark's a tragic figure: a man pushed to madness by a cold, unfeeling world. He kills his enemies, but not sadistically, and is nurturing to his followers.
  • Villain: Murderous. Cruel. Ruthless. Mark Meadowbrook is a Bad Man, willing to do anything and everything to destroy those who oppose or betray him. He will kick down the fragile house of cards the GenXers have managed to build, simply because he can. He wishes to be feared... and he is.

Adventure Seeds & Plot Hooks

  • Blackmail: Mark is blackmailing his twin, Jude -- the CIO and VP of Advertainment for Irons Cybernetics -- for money, information, or equipment, by holding Jude's dark past over him. Jude could contract the PCs to get his brother off his back... but he forbids them from just killing Mark.
  • Mark could be an unsavory contact of the PCs, known for his skill at modifying cyberware. Indeed, it could come as quite a shock to find out that their relied-upon "cyber-mechanic" is secretly the leader of a violent political movement.
  • Both Mark and the PCs get information on the location of a cache of pre-Phage bioweapons. It becomes a race between who can get there and grab them first: the PCs (as a security familycorp team, agents of the government, free mercs looking to score) or Pollux and his JDA henchmen.
  • Pollux is attempting to unify all the disparate JDA factions into a single army with himself at the head. Do the PCs fight, infiltrate, or flee?

Alternate Worlds

  • Fantasy: Instead of cyberware, Mark carries magical rune tattoos that overcompensate for his withered hand and wracked guts. He's a violent criminal runist, set against the Wizard Lords of the Duchy, dedicated to their downfall by any means necessary -- and the more bloody, the better.
  • Horror: As the subject of numerous experimental therapies to repair his body, Mark has become unhinged and destructive. He hunts alone, in the dark, silently... crushing the life out of his victims with a demonically-strong hand.
  • Western: The boy lost most of his fingers when the Texas Ranger shot the gun out of his hand. He spent months learning to ride, shoot, and fight with his mangled paw. Now he's better than before, and has gathered a little gang of cutthroats to come with him. He's riding for Texas and the Ranger that maimed him: his own brother. Ma was right to name him Judas, 'coz that's what he was.


Inspiration(s) & Miscellany Inspirations for Mark Meadowbrook:

I've been thinking about timing this past month. As you can see, I've written this column to go hand-in-hand with my other column. I think it's a pretty neat stunt, and hope you do, too. Let me know.

Anyway, timing is damned important in a game. Pacing an adventure is a tough skill to learn: if you go too slow, people lose interest; if you go too fast, people get confused. Some folks like to spend large chunks of time planning, while others like to just plow forward -- damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead. A GM has to be sensitive to where his players' interests lie. The best way to figure that out is to talk about it first. How many sessions do you want to spend at court? How long do you think the trip to Arcturus should take? Was that session too long? Then, the GM can make adjustments to his adventure plan, stretching out bits that are too short and collapsing things that are too long. Remember to then go back for more feedback.

On the player end, pacing and timing are a little harder to affect. I recall one adventure in which we the players spent 85% of a session following a horde of orcs, making tracking rolls. Great, but unless something nifty happens on the way, there's no real reason for that. (Even Aragorn found that lost cloak pin, and then got to interact with the Riders of Rohan.) A good method could be to broach the subject with the GM directly: Hey, Bob, it seems like this journey to the Dungeon of Despair is taking too long; can we just skip to the good bits?

Another idea: if a player feels like nothing's happening -- then he should do something. Not just anything (I juggle my knives!), but something that makes sense for the character (My poor but charismatic thief places his cap on the ground and juggles his knives, putting on a little show for passersby to get ale-money). Heck, if the character has friends, relations, patrons, enemies, or other contacts, he should go around and say howdy. Maybe something's going on that he could get in on (i.e., the GM can then drop that mad phat exposition on him).

Or, he could just sit there and build pyramids out of dice.

(I think that appropriate timing of game releases is important, too; but that's getting far afield of the character issues of this column, and I'm running a little long as it is. Feel free to respond with your thoughts on the subject, though!)


Chad Underkoffler is a freelance RPG writer. His "Campaign in a Box" column appears bimonthly at Pyramid Online. TQo0~^DҒt< ek&Ǿ$\۵ZFȃuwݝIŃU QYir2HR2.u3MFoعq]4#A`pP5(b& )b)ⰾp7(i<[-2gL#5[f g?*rVGf8*)s'+20ϟ̑F}KB<7wSL\gbvm9WiRބYŜvd y0'p2I_Fc2>#o A )VL[Qk?3`)<У[(*W.JH ?tXCt谙 X:@ \0w ~LqĤE-rFkYœj4q 5AQ6[AxG [>w|?( fХθY䝛$c=_qNĦoǸ>O_|&/_Mi7"宥CЧk0dӷLh;TmuCGU-!Ul{ h<\bQX.~"O2*yPcz!ŠGg

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