Saturday Seed – 16 (Mutants and Masterminds)

Mystery Man

How can I be so sure I am the original?

The Perfect Imposter

This seed drifts down to us from a Kenson tree, and if planted might sprout some entertainment for some Mutants & Masterminds sessions.

In an awful lot of comics, there are issues of mistaken identities. This seed is one for one such story, wherein one of the heroes – preferably one who may be on the lower end of your group’s power scale – becomes aware of reports praising him for heroic acts which they did not perform. Local media have yet to capture the responsible party on film or video, but interest is heating up as more and more people begin talking about these heroic deeds.

It seems that not only has someone stolen the hero’s identity, they do a better job in that identity than the original. How can this be?

The Details:

Plain and simple, people around the city can’t stop talking about the incredible feats being performed by the hero. Social commentators admire the willingness to keep out of the media spotlight, city officials cannot offer enough praise for the quickness of action, speed and efficiency of resolution, and most importantly,  the minimal damage to public and  private property. The hero’s stock is rising, but not as a result of his own acts. Worse, actual exploits of the hero pale by comparison.

As time passes, some members of the media begin to catch on to the difference, and as bad luck would have it, begin to claim that the real hero is an imposter, or group of wannabees, trying to ride the cape of a real hero to fame and glory.  Each mistake by the original hero, should the story go on long enough, results in more and more public concern, or in some cases outrage. Authorities are put under pressure to stop these ‘amateur vigilantes’ from endangering themselves and others.

Two options are open to the hero: retire, or track down the perfect imposter.

Action and Interaction:

If the two should run across each other, by a stroke of luck for the hero, or the imposter’s choice to move to the endgame, the character will be shown every indication that this imposter outclasses him in every way. Worse, after any encounter, he will feel weaker and less confident. The game effect is to apply an effect similar to Despair (emotion control) after each encounter (Saving Throw: Will with a cumulative -1 for one or more significant setbacks between encounters with the imposter).

After each encounter, the imposter ‘saves the day’ and escapes without a trace.  It should be easy to hate him, and to want to bring him down… or to justice… but anyway… down.

Attempting to lure the imposter to act by staging accidents or other hero-magnet events, fails. If attempted more than once, or in multiple locations by allies, the imposter will act somewhere completely different, and receive great response from the people, while the heroes and their trap run the risk of being discovered by the authorities and making things worse.

During this entire scenario, crime rates are actually on the rise, and because of the success of the activities of the imposter, those who see themselves as the city’s legitimate heroes are being made to look incompetent.

What’s going on:

For maximum enjoyment, I think the GM should provide ample fodder for the players’ fertile imaginations to dream up a variety of ways and means for this all to be happening. If they figure it out, so much the better! If they cannot, you may have to move things on to one of the possible endgames.

Ideally you will have players speculating on motive and method as much as identity during this adventure. If you have a players up to the task, it might even be good to have the group suspect the original of being the imposter, or have the original suspect himself.

Is it some kind of doppelgänger? Is it a clone? Is it an android? Is it mind control? Is it hypnosis? Is it a new chemical weapon, or some other form of technological method? How is the imposter doing it? Why is the imposter doing it?

The answer is the imposter possesses keen insight into human psychology – particularly that of the heroic do-gooder, and is gifted with potent powers of illusion (phantasms, damaging), mind reading and subtle emotion control. He is motivated by a few useful points from your ongoing campaign, and by a deep-rooted boredom and desire to mess with people’s heads. If the hero cannot take the psychological pressure of being outclassed and replaced – what sort of hero is he, really?

To perform his deception, the imposter merely chooses a time and place where nothing is going on, weeds out obvious members of the media, and creates an illusory problem and illusory heroic resolution. If the actual hero should be encountered, the imposter targets specific areas where he believes the hero has doubts, fears, or past failures, and makes his illusory hero enhance those doubts by dealing with them much better than the original does- and with more flair. At the right moment in this carefully calculated and effective psychodrama/psychological attack… emotion control to slowly bring on feelings of doubt and despair. Little by little – bit by bit.

Bringing things to an end:

Endgames might include trying to push the hero so far that he questions his ability to go on. Alternately, the imposter might switch his attention to a different member of the group, or even to each member of the group. To add spice, he may stop impersonating the hero or the team and shift to creating illusory threats which the team cannot get to in time to foil, or which they cannot seem to foil no matter how effectively they work.

The rest…?  Why it’s up to you of course.

Why is the villain trying to demoralize and confuse the hero(es)? What can be accomplished by this psychological warfare? What needs to be done to bring this blackguard to justice?

Has he actually broken any laws…?


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