Annotations: Heroes #14

by David Meadows 28. January 2017 13:06

In the absence of a proper update this week, here's something I wrote a while ago and wasn't sure if I should use: "annotations" for an issue of Heroes. It's a page-by-page run-through of issue 14, which is fully of cryptic references and call-backs that won't mean much to most readers. While the story ought to be entertaining on its own merits, I thought giving a bit of context to some of the references might be interesting. Plus it's an insight into how I put the story together, which is what I originally intended this blog to be for. 

I'm not sure if I should do something similar for every issue. I could, but it would be a lot of work and I don't know how interesting it would actually be to anyone. So for possibly the only time, here is the Annotated Heroes.


Heroes 14: Meanwhile ...



The Superiors was a superhero team we created as a break from using Strikeforce (we'll get to them around Strikeforce chapter 150). I wanted the group to be based in Toronto, Canada, and the geographically-challenged players decided (cleverly, we all thought) to call them "The Superiors", because of the lake.

The joke here is that Toronto is nowhere near Lake Superior.

So anyway, this opening scene features the three police officers from Heroes issue 12. They were never meant to be recurring characters, but here they made a convenient link to the on-going K-Men pursuit sub-plot.


Not much happens to advance the plot here, this is really just foreshadowing future developments and revelations about the K-Men.


This scene is really just an excuse to make some defining statements about Chi-Yun's powers. We've seen her shape-change into different clothes before, but I though the implication that she never actually *wears* clothes is pretty interesting. And much more logical than invoking "unstable molecules" that cause her clothes to change when she changes form.


Back in Heroes issue 6 Fred and Faith (both with psychic powers) became aware of each other without being aware of each other. 

Trust me, there's a lot more of this sub-plot to play out.

When I plotted the Game, the players were meant to investigate the Temple in Winnipeg, and learn more about them (and hopefully rescue Todd Jasen from their clutches). For some reason I don't now recall, they skipped the pointers completely and left town without doing anything about it. This happened fairly often in the Game. I can't force the players to do any particular thing, and so I have numerous ideas plotted that had to be abandoned. 

But the Game isn't a sequence of fixed encounters that wait, frozen in place, for the players to interact with them. I plot it as an evolving story, and if the players miss out part of it then the non-player characters involved in that story line will still play it out (in my head). Sometimes it peters out and isn't worth recording, other times it snowballs into something that the players can't ignore. the Temple was one of the latter, a major plot element that's going to keep pursuing its own agendas until the players step in and stop it.


And Parsifal, though barely seen in issue 7, was always intended to be a major character. I haven't given the players any opportunity to interact with him yet, but I'm constantly plotting what he's doing while put of sight. If the players don't eventually deal with the Temple (and thus get to Parsifal), he's going to become a significant problem for them.

I have a whole encyclopaedia entry to write on Black Zero, but I want to wait until I've revealed more in the story.


Ahh... Spirit. She's another of the links back to the Strikeforce era, she clearly knows a lot about what's going on, she's best pals with Don, and yet the players are still not directly aware of her existence. I had big plans for her in the Game, but I could never find a way to make her and the players' paths cross. So I give her the occasional scene in the story to remind readers she's there, but you're probably all wondering why. By rights she should have her own on-going story, but there's no way I could ever find the time to write it.

There are three vitally important non-player characters that run through the Strikeforce and/or Heroes stories, and Spirit is one of them (and you've actually met all of them).

PAGE 9 - 10

This may seem random, but it has a pay-off in a few pages. Read on ...


There's meant to be a big mystery over who James's father actually was, so it's gong to be bubbling along as a sub-plot until it's finally all out in the open. Again, if you're reading Strikeforce, you'll be coming to understand the origins of the costume and shield. 

PAGE 12-13

This is mainly me self-indulgently addressing a peculiarity in the the group being a "super-hero team" without actually adopting any of the trappings of a super-hero team (except for James, who half did, making it even more peculiar). This was the players' choice of approach, and it caused some problems for me as a GM trying to rationalise things. It cropped up in conversation occasionally as the players thought about changing the approach, but I think most of them struggled to see how any change would make sense for their characters. Attempts at adding "code names" always seemed artificial. (This may be a commentary on modern comics.)

PAGE 14-15

So we pick up the K-Men sub-plot again. This is laying seeds of a plot that never actually played out in the game (whoops, I've given that away now...) and the Canadian cops will now fade from our story. 

But there's also a nod to the past buried here -- not that it will mean anything to any readers yet. Twenty years ago a younger Miller and LaRoque's father worked "in the forest". And they had an encounter with the team already mentioned, The Superiors. They were very minor guest stars, but I always liked them and wanted to use them more. So, when I needed some Canadian cops to use in issue #12, I remembered Miller and updated his history to put him Vancouver with the daughter of his old partner "Rocky" LaRoque.

I'm sure the players had completely forgotten Millar and Rocky, and never made the connection. But that's how I plot things.


Makepeace was a member of the Superiors. I don't think I'm giving any spoilers by saying that. But if you want Spoilers: unlike Miller, Makepeace will reappear soon.


Major foreshadowing alert! Elliot's "inter-departmental committee to study ways to contain superhumans" will be become very important, eventually.

This whole conversation (pages 9-10 and here) is an example of a scene that the players knew nothing about at the time, as their characters had no part to play in it. But I knew that these characters were meeting and why, as the committee thing was a major plot point. So this was part of the Game's story, even if not actually seen in a Game session. Again, this is how I plot. Everybody has a story, even if the players don't see it.

I could have ignored this scene in this narrative and just presented the committee plot as a fait accompli when the characters encountered it, but it fitted in this issue so here it is. And really, I just wanted to look at a couple of favourite characters (of mine), and show where they are now. If you're reading Strikeforce, you'll already know about the Defense League of America, of course. The "Event" (which has been mentioned numerous times though never really explained...yet) affected every super-human, including all the ones you've met (and will meet) in Strikeforce. The Defender (for it is he) obviously came out of it ok. We'll soon be looking at some people who didn't come off quite so well.


We know Sylvia, of course: Sara's mother and (in Sara's words) a gangster. We talked about Jacques as her rival in a different city. And now here's the Leopard, with "his own city". About now, I was starting to get the idea that there was a cartel of mob bosses each based in a different city around the US. I didn't flesh them all out, but the framework of the idea gave me a lot of hooks to base future plots on in different places.

Have I mentioned the name Sylph before in the story? I honestly can't remember. I think this is the first reference, and a deliberately cryptic one. Don't forget it, it's vitally important.


Paul Chant is another one that got away. He was meant to be a major player, and I'd worked out his whole shtick and backstory, but I just couldn't get his path to cross with the players'. So he's here in a fairly pointless, orphaned appearance, and will now fade away. 

Trivia: there's a very small mention of Paul Chant in one of the "LA Globe" news pages







Do Not Adjust Your Sets

by David Meadows 28. January 2017 11:33

There has been no update this week. This is because of things.


Week 29

by David Meadows 20. January 2017 22:33

After dealing with aliens, werewolves, gangsters and smugglers, staying the night in a spooky mansion should be no problem, right?


Panel 1

In CHI-YUN's bedroom, she's putting a chair beneath the door handle.

CAPTION (CHI-YUN's letter): Everyone was spooked by Fred's premonition. Even though they're not very reliable.

Panel 2

CHI-YUN lying in bed. The light is off (but we should still be able to make out her features). She's holding the covers up round her chin and her eyes are wide open.

CAPTION (CHI-YUN's letter): Anyway, I wasn't worried.

CHI-YUN (thought): Cat's eyes. Bat's hearing. Rhinoceroseses [sic] hide. Cockroach's poison immunity.

CAPTION (CHI-YUN's letter): I am the most powerful person in the team. Nothing was going to get me.

Panel 3

From outside, in the hall, we see a bedroom door opening and CHI-YUN looking out.

CAPTION (CHI-YUN's letter): Then I got the munchies.


What could possibly go wrong? Find out in Heroes issue 15, A Dark and Stormy Night.

It really should have been the Halloween issue, but I couldn't make the timing work.

Elsewhere in this week's update you'll find a mini-biography of Eileen Webster and the start of a timeline for the year 2322.

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Preparing a game

by David Meadows 14. January 2017 13:37

Last week I was blindsided by the players voting to return to a segment of the Game I had never expected to re-visit -- the "Crusades" era we played about three years ago. I could remember the premise and the direction I wanted the plot to go, but I was very vague on details. So pretty much everything else this week was put on hold while I desperately tried to cram everything I needed to know.

First, I re-read the game rules, something called Chronica Feudalis:

It's 120 pages long, but I only needed to read the parts that were actually rule mechanics, so I could skip all the preamble and background material.

The main reason I thought we would never play this again is that I know the players hated the rules, but I'm not actually sure why. I think they have a really innovative and clever mechanism, and I actually remember them being very quick and streamlined in play. Oh well...

Next I read my notes from when I originally planned the game. In the process I discovered a lot of things I'd forgotten I had, such as this interesting map of Nicaea:

And the Game calendar:

I knew that to make the game work (because it was left with the characters split up and, honestly, in a hopeless position), I would need to move events on, narrate where the charatcers are "now", and pick up a new plot direction. 

But to do this would mean advancing the game calendar beyond what I had originally planned. So ... more planning. Back to my original reference texts, Runciman's A History of the Crusades

and Frankopan's The First Crusade

Thankfully not the whole books, just the chapters dealing with events around Nicaea in 1096/1097, as I'd decided to pick up with the characters stuck in the besieged city. This meant advancing to April/May 1097, a longer gap than I wanted but I can cope:

I already have the characters worked out (both player and non-player), and I have the non-player motivations worked out so I have a goal and a way to drag in the characters, so that's it really, the rest of the plot writes itself. 

Preparation finished early, with plenty of time to write this blog and have lunch before the game.

I'm pretty sure I haven't forgotten anything...

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Week 28

by David Meadows 13. January 2017 23:37

Only two new items this week due to unexpected stuff eating up my writing time. 

In the new Strikeforce chapter, Crossfire Part II, the alien invasion is in full swing:

On the ground, Scorpio was equally worried.

‘How many of these things do you think are on the ship?’ he called to Nightflyer.

‘Too many. It’s huge!’

‘We’re going to need a better plan,’ said Scorpio.

‘You mean better than no plan at all? Hold the fort, I’ll confer with the aliens.’

Nightflyer leaped clean over one squad of Krai, weaved through the blaster fire of another, and skidded to a halt near where the solid-looking Star Guard leader was defending Princess M’Krell from attack. He was pleased to note that the princess had seized a fallen Krai blaster and was enthusiastically joining the battle.

‘Singularity, this isn’t winnable,’ he said. ‘We’re looking for a better plan.’

‘Better than no plan at all?’ said M’Krell, Singularity’s translator making a good job of conveying her sarcasm.

Nightflyer grinned as he dropped a pair of Krai with spinning kicks. ‘We’re usually good with no plans,’ he explained.

And in the Encyclopaedia this week, an in-depth look at the Department of Intelligence and Counter-Espionage:

A high-level NATO meeting in 1980 laid the foundation for a concerted response to the threat, and the Department of Intelligence and Counter-Espionage was subsequently formed. The DICE charter included international extra-legal powers specifically to combat the Anarchist threat. DICE and the Anarchists were locked in covert (sometimes overt) combat for the rest of the decade and into the '90s.


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Plans for 2017

by David Meadows 8. January 2017 23:06

Yesterday, the "Edwardian" game (players as members of the Diogenes Club in 1907) drew to a conclusion and was a resounding success (by Strikeforce standards): European war averted and a spectacular Zeppelin explosion over northern France. So last night we held our annual Strikeforce summit (in the pub) to map out where we're going next.

My next historical era is the 1930s, a pulp adventure with lost cities, jungles, and probably Nazis (there are always Nazis). To give me a few weeks to properly plan the new game, we traditionally go back to an earlier game and pick that up again (something I have already created the background for takes much less work; if I've done it properly the first time then when we pick it up again it should virtually run itself, so it buys me a breathing space to develop the new era).

As we now have eight developed eras, from Ancient Atlantis to the Old West, I throw it open to players to vote on what they want to do. I was betting on either Atlantis or Victorian Africa, but they completely blindsided me by picking the Crusades. This went down so badly last time that I thought it would never come up again, so it's the one I'm least prepared for. I can't remember the rules, let alone what the plot is. So, a busy and stressful week ahead, before I can even begin to think about the 1930s...


The other thing I've been thinking about is how I'm going to be updating the web site in the coming year. And my conclusion is, pretty much the same as I have been. Weekly updates have been manageable, and I can;t see any reason why I shouldn't be able to keep the same pace. Though I might build in a few deliberate "skip weeks" to let me get on content generation. I had the laughable idea that over the Christmas break I should be able to write at least a couple of months' worth of Strikeforce stories, and I failed miserably. I should be ok for the rest of January, and after that I'll reassess.

One thing I've wanted to do from the start is put some of the "historical" games into story form, with the Atlantean story being the obvious place to start. There are two things I need to work out first, though. Mainly, I need to make sure that I have an approach to writing the story in an entertaining manner. I'm still working on that. The other problem is that I don't know how I'll ever find the time to write a third long-form story. I think the only way I could do it would be to alternate it with Strikeforce and Heroes, so you get a chapter of Heroes, a chapter of Strikeforce, and a chapter of Atlantis, on three-week cycle.

So I'm still thinking that over, but if I can do it then I'll try to start it sometime in the middle of the year. I think I need to write a few chapters first, then if they seem any good I'll start putting them up on the site.


So, that's the plan. Probably nobody except me wanted to know all that.


Plot Books

by David Meadows 7. January 2017 13:43

My plan for this morning was to write an article of the Department of Intelligence and Counter-Espionage (DICE). Unfortunately, I can't find my notes on this anywhere on my computer. Which means they must be in one of my Plot Books.


These are my Plot Books:


This could take some time...


Week 27

by David Meadows 6. January 2017 22:49

The new issue of Heroes is a bit different from usual, because the focus is off the main characters. Instead we're looking at what some of the peripheral characters are doing while the main characters just ... hang out and go shopping. It's designed to show that there's a whole living universe surrounding the cast, and events don't just stop because Sara wants to buy a new coat. Everything is connected in the end, of course, and hopefully you'll see the links (or guess the foreshadowing).

The issue is called Meanwhile... , for obvious reasons.

Other new items are a bio of Luey, who you should know from both Strikeforce and Heroes, a timeline of 2348, and a gazetteer entry for the Troll Club

And if you've got any time left after that, I strongly recommend the extensive article on the Krai, who are currently making life difficult for Strikeforce in the Aliens story arc (to be concluded next week).

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We're back!

by David Meadows 5. January 2017 15:10

Coming tomorrow in Heroes #14: the girls go shopping!


PAGE FIVE. Five panels.

Panel 1

Daylight. A city. Specifically, the exterior of a shopping mall. If it's not obvious what it is, we can include a sign: "QUEENSTOWN MALL". (Name unimportant -- just something to set the scene.)

CAPTION (voice-over, continuing SPY's thought):

"Where are teenage runaways likely to go?"

VOICE (from inside mall):

This is absolutely perfect!


Winnipeg, Canada.

Panel 2

Inside the mall. It's a female-clothing store. SARA is wearing a big, sky-blue coat trimmed with white fur -- just the thing for the Canadian winter. (It's fake fur, of course. I know there's no way to convey this point on a comic panel, I just thought I ought to mention it.) She's examining the coat in a full-length mirror. CHI-YUN sits on a nearby chair, looking bored.


What do you think, Chi-Yun?


Sara, your power lets you find anything you need. Why does shopping take so long?

Panel 3

SARA turns an exasperated look on CHI-YUN.


You just don't get it, do you?

CHI-YUN (softly):


Panel 4

SARA is sorting through a rack of clothing.


Just try something on!


I don't need clothes. My skin can look like whatever I want.

Panel 5

SARA holds out a horribly cute pink jacket with flowers or hearts or something.


Don't you get cold?




And I'm never going to wear that.

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About this blog

The Heroes Universe is an ongoing work of fiction, conceived and chiefly plotted by David Meadows, with help from a group of friends, over a 30-year period.

I am slowly documenting the Universe on this web site.

This blog is a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of that history.

If you're new here, the series of posts listed below will explain what it's all about. I hope...

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