Sunday, May 18, 2014

Character Preview: Marlene Barron (CR 23) from the upcoming Choicer Army Book

Sooner or later, I plan to release a Choicer army book as a companion to Closed: Monsters of the Army of God. Dr. Marlene Barron will be one of the central characters in this book. She's been in every version of Otherverse America, since I first started writing fiction set in the world in 6th-7th grade, and for a long time, she was the POV character. As the world transitioned from a would-be comic series into a RPG universe, Marlene Barron was literally pushed to the side lines, though I know I've mentioned bits and pieces about the character in several sourcebook.

Here's stats for her and some new insights about how Otherverse America, as a whole, works. The pic of Claudia Black is included simply because I've always thought that if this world were a movie, she'd be who I wanted playing Dr. Barron, and is something I used as reference for my artists.

Right now, I'm doing a ton of Heavy Future and Black Tokyo work. Monsters of Rock, the first of several Heavy Future bestiaries hit a few days ago. Another book, focusing on the Command and its various fascists and space-cops will be hitting soon, as well as two fantasy race books: Gravewalkers and True Beasts. After that, you'll see some more race books for Black Tokyo, and....getting back to the point of this post... a mid length sourcebook focusing on using Otherverse America as a modern-magic, rather than ultra-tech setting, focusing specifically on Choicer magic users. Will Dr. Barron's stat block pop up there first, before the eventual Choicer 'bestiary'? As Megatron once said "Here's a hint...."


Dr. Barron, Marlene (CR 23)
Medium LN Outsider (Lifespawn- lifecount 3, native, psionic)
XP 820,000
Init +1 Senses Perception +31, scent, Darkvision 60 ft, sense lifespawn 1 mile, true seeing
Languages Blackfoot, English, Halfgrey, Sioux, Spanish
Allegiances pro-choice feminism, traditional Sioux ways, self-doubt
Aura Black Probability Curvatures (see text)

AC 18 Touch 16 Flatfooted 17 (+1 DEX, +2 armor, +5 insight)
HP 37d10 -37 hp (166 HP)
Fast Healing 10 (ballistic)
FORT +12 REF +19 WILL +24
Spell Resistance 28 or 38 versus necromantic effects
Resist Cold 15, Fire 10, Negative Energy 10
Vulnerable ballistic damage

Spd 30 ft Flight 90 ft (clumsy)
Melee +37 unarmed strike (1d4 non-lethal)
Ranged +38 advanced 9mm pistol (2d8 ballistic, 20/x3, 40 ft range increment, full auto, 18 box)
Special Qualities Annihilating Spells, Black Probability Curvatures, Dream a Dark Future
Spelllike Abilities (CL 17th Concentration +23/+27 defensive casting)
Constant –true seeing
Witch Spells Prepared (CL 17th Concentration +23/+27 defensive casting) 
9th – gate
8th – cure moderate wounds (mass), like an iron maiden (F-DC 24)
7th – control weather, greater scrying, greater teleport
6th – cloak of dreams (W-DC 22), greater dispel magic (W-DC 22), mass inflict light wounds (W-DC 24), raise dead, slay living (F-DC 24),
5th – baleful polymorth (F-DC 21), banish (W-DC 21), cloudkill (F-DC 21), contact other plane, summon monster V
4th  black tentacles (R-DC 20), charm monster (W-DC 20), crushing despair (W-DC 20), eco-paganism**, geas (lesser) (W-DC 20), threefold aspect
3rd – clairvoyance/clairaudience, heroism, lightning bolt (R-DC 19), retroactive bulletproofing**, suggestion (W-DC 19)
2nd – augury, cure moderate wounds, daze monster (W-DC 18), death knell (W-DC 20), inflict moderate wounds (W-DC 20), shield other
1st – cause fear (W-DC 17), command (W-DC 17), comprehend languages, neverlock** (W-DC 19), inflict light wounds (W-DC 19), mage armor (not included in stat block above)
Zero – bleed (F-DC 16), fertility control*, guidance, touch of fatigue (W-DC 18)
* Modern Grimorie ** See Appendix

Str 11 Dex 13 Con 9 Int 22 Wis 26 Cha 10
Base Atk +37 CMB +37 CMD 48
Feats Arcane Strike, Armor Proficiency (light), Animal Affinity, Combat Casting, Combat Expertise, Craft Magic Arms and Armor, Double Tap, Educated, Forge Ring, Greater Disarm, Greater Feint, Greater Spell Focus (necromancy), Improved Disarm, Improved Feint, Personal Firearms Proficiency, Point Blank Shot, Self Sufficient, Skill Focus (heal), Spell Focus (necromancy), Starship Operations
Skills Appraise +13, Bluff +28, Climb +5, Craft (pharmaceutical) +31, Computer Use +16, Diplomacy +40, Fly +14, Handle Animal +15, Heal +54, Intimidate +40, Knowledge (arcana, earth & life sciences, history, the planes) all +29 Knowledge (religion) +33, Knowledge (technology) +30, Perception +31, Pilot +21, Ride +23, Survival +30, Swim +10
Gear armored work clothes (as leather armor), palmtop computer, advanced 9mm pistol and 2x spare clips, mwk medical kit, mwk surgical suite (in home), palmtop computer  

Environment any (currently in a self imposed exile to the Raxwire Sunward Plantation, a machine-tended farm on the Delight out-colony)
Organization solitary by choice- she doesn’t trust herself around humans anymore
Treasure standard (at her home, including combat gear)

Special Abilities
Annihilating Spells (SU): A creature slain by any of Marlene Barron’s spells is completely disintegrated, along with any object they are wearing or carrying.

Ballistic Vulnerability (SU): Barron almost died by gunfire, and for all her power, she has never overcome her fear of the weapon that almost murdered her. Her fate-warping powers makes that fear inordinately lethal. Barron takes fifty percent more damage from any successful attack that deals ballistic damage.

Black Probability Curvatures (SU): Unconsciously or not, Marlene Barron’s mere presence warps the destinies of those in her company. Her friends and allies die for the beliefs they both share, while Marlene’s lonely, immortal life continues.

Any character with any pro-choice affiliation, or who has chosen any neo-pagan (or traditional American Indian deity) as a divine patron who spends at least 24 hours in Marlene Barron’s company receives a +1 morale bonus on attack rolls, REF Saves, Diplomacy and Heal skill checks. This bonus increases to +3, if the person spends at least a month in Barron’s company.

This bonus remains in place for as long as the ally remains in Marlene’s company and for 1d6 days after a separation of more than 24 hours.

However, the likelihood of allies enhanced by this probability warping field falling to Lifer fanatics increases dramatically. Characters with any Lifer or conservative Christian allegiance automatically confirm critical hits against characters currently enhanced by Barron’s Black Probability Curvatures.

Dream a Dark Future (SP): Unless heavily sedated or knocked unconscious, Marlene Barron has a 50% chance of undergoing a precognitive dream. This dream functions as contact other plane, and reveals future events usually concerning Lifer terrorist or military activity within the next week or so, or pessimistic visions of the Covenant acting in ways that compromise its principles, violate the law, or commit military atrocities of its own.

Marlene Barron receives a +5 insight bonus on attack rolls and Armor Class if involved  in direct combat with anyone seen in these vision (a specific Lifer post-human, for instance), if she confronts that character within a week. However, she is considered fatigued for 3d6 hours after awakening from a precognitive dream.

Lifespawn Occulist (SU): Her near-death experience awakened vast superhuman power in Marlene Barron, and the science of Object Philosophies was designed around the study of her vastly changed neurological landscape.

Marlene Barron casts spells as a 17th level Witch. She may cast spells from the cleric list as well as witch spells; such spells are considered arcane spells when she casts them.

Necromantic Resistance (SU): The immortal physician’s body is weak- damaged by old ballistic trauma, but her soul and life force are incredibly strong. Marlene Barron’s Spell Resistance is increased by 10 against spells and effects from the necromancy school.

Dr. Marlene Barron looks nearly the same today as she did on that day in 1992 when she got shot, died twice, and became Earth’s first recognized post-human. She’s a serious American Indian woman of the Oglada-Souix Nation, who rarely smiles. She’s remarkably fit, but the pain of her old injuries never left her. She fatigues easily and limps when she’s over tired; she stubbornly refuses to quit or rest and just pushes, clench-jawed through the pain.

A woman of nearly a century and a half, there’s a long ribbon of grey beginning at her temple and winding down her braided oil-black hair. Her eyes are grey, washed out and tired, and there are deep circles under her eyes. Dr. Marlene Barron dresses in practical working clothes, suitable for the rugged life on the Delight out-colony and lightly armored. She makes it a point to look nothing like a Covenant elder-priestess; if you didn’t know her history, you might think she’s nothing more than a migrant worker.

Barron is world-weary, grim and cynical beyond measure. She rarely has a kind word for anybody, though she is grudgingly polite to the locals. She loathes the Lifer nation with every fiber of her being, but alternately dismisses the Covenant as a collection of New Ager fashion witches, or rails against its callous elitism and superstitious theocracy.

She’s always feared becoming the stereotypical Amer-Indian drunk, so she’s never touched alcohol. There isn’t any booze anywhere at Raxwire Sunward, but she smokes massive amount of locally produced weed in the evenings so she can sleep at night. She sits on her porch, wreathed in a cloud of smoke, looking up at alien stars, and hoping that her hermitage has kept Earth safe.

Exiled In Delight
Delight is the current home of Dr. Marlene Barron, one of the founders of the Covenant and hero of the Second American Civil War. Dr. Barron lives on the Raxwire Sunward Plantation, in a tiny villa rented from an old ally, and cracks bitter jokes about her rural exile and about trading her guns for plowshares. After the Treaty of Boston was signed, Dr. Barron left Earth, fearing that her continued presence would only inflame tensions and reignite the Abortion War. Her departure from Earth was also a way of protesting what the nation she helped found had become.

Despite her deep pro-choice credentials, Dr. Barron as never much of a friend to the Nicellos clan, and remains deeply ambivalent about the Covenant’s neo-pagan superstitions. As the Abortion War drug on, Barron openly criticized the Choicer Covenant for expending more resources to protect pagan-run abortion clinics and facilities than their secular counterparts… a criticism the cranky near-immortal keeps up to this day. She is one of the only modern Choicers to criticize the Covenant for consolidating gynecologic expertise under their umbrella, and worries that the Covenant has become as big a threat to reproductive liberty as the Lifer terrorists they defeated.

Marlene Barron remains active in Choicer politics, albeit at second or third hand. Her quarters in the sprawling, machine-run plantation have been turned into an impromptu medical school. Here, in outwardly placid Delight, Dr. Barron offers medical and gynecologic training to anyone with the brains to learn. She has trained several male gynecologists and potential abortion providers here, to roughly the same standards she was held to when she began her medical career, standards that seem almost quaint in the early years of the 22nd Century. None the less, if the Covenant ever changes its policy and allows medics other than its own Midwives to provide reproductive care, these students have the edge of long training.

The Secret History of the World and Everything In It
“My story?

Okay, once upon a time there was a girl named Marlene who grew up on the Rez. High school, she got turned onto reproductive justice, more out of necessity than ambition, but it stuck with her. She graduates high school, which a lot of her friends didn’t, and gets a merit scholarship to med school. Does a residency out in Cali, and comes back to work on the Rez- the one abortion clinic for 250 miles in any given direction.

In 1992, Marlene gets shot four times in the upper thorax. She loses 25% function in one lung, more than 50% of her blood volume, one kidney and her spleen and she dies twice on the operating table. She dreams of some thing out in space, something that even HP Lovecraft would  ashamed to write about, because it’s that unlikely. She wakes up, does nine months of rehab, but she can’t go back to the clinic on the Rez. Too scared….

But the reproductive rights bug has got her good. Scared as she is, she just can’t give up the work, so goes back to the city she did her residency in, and Marlene starts back up as an abortion doc, only this time in San Francisco. Nice, liberal, intellectual, California, where they don’t shoot docters four times in the chest. Marlene buddies up with some neo-pagan and New Ager kids who volunteer as patient escorts and phone consolers. She sticks to the traditional Sioux ways, but she likes these kids- they’ve got enthusiasm, they’ve got compassion, they’ve got new ideas, and they’ve never once tried to convert her.

And Marlene works San Fran for twenty or thirty years before she realizes she’s not aging anymore and that things are getting weird around here. NASA finds alien artifacts on the Moon, and the first crop of Half Grey refugees start arriving, and they need Marlene’s help. Not with abortions- their problem is sterility, and their race is dying, so Marlene dives right into that conundrum. It keeps her mind off the fact that she’s 20 years younger than she should be, and she dreams every night of a black tower out in space longer than 20 solar systems.

And the next time Marlene looks around, those New Ager kids she was palling around with… they’re a government with a capitol, with a national anthem even! But so are the same fanatics who shot her in the chest, and they’re getting bigger and meaner and bolder by the day. All of a sudden, they’re shooting abortion doctors by the dozens, even in nice, liberal, intellectual Cali. And all of a sudden, other people are having the same dreams Marlene has had for 20 plus years now, and people can work miracles. Science calls them post-humans, but Marlene’s realizing they’re pretty much Joss Whedon superheroes. And so is she.

So Marlene gets a new job. Somehow she falls in with the new Choicer government as some kind of advisor, in some billet with a fanciful title that basically boils down to surgeon general plus with a little Catholic cardinal on top. And when she finally gets around to studying them, to really exploring her powers, Marlene realizes that not aging is the absolute least of what she can do. So when it comes time, she fights. Saves some lives, ends some others, doing what needs done to protect the New Ager kids and their new country, or to keep the clinics open.

And in 2061, when she’s in her nineties and still looks 30, it all goes to shit.

Thirty years of the worst war this planet’s ever seen, and Marlene sees the Choicer Nation almost annihilated. Genocide. Theocide. Ideocide. And when the good guys finally win, it’s by the narrowest of margins.

So Marlene realizes that for all her power, all that age and wisdom she’s supposed to have, she’s accomplished nothing. Everything she fought for, just made things worse. Got more people killed, screwed over women worse. Utterly destroyed the country she grew up in. Even turned her Rez into a war zone. Remember those New Ager kids she befriended? They turned out to be as big of idiots as the militia-morons who shot her in 1992. They turn what’s supposed to be feminism into this distorted monarchy. She can’t even look at them anymore.

So Marlene does what she does best, and buys herself a one way ticket on a starliner headed for one of the farm colonies.

So, away from the distractions and the crisis and the noise of Earth…. Marlene starts thinking things over. Nearly a century too late, but boom, the twist ending at the end of the movie finally clicks for Marlene. She’s always been able to play with probability, transmute matter. Her New Ager friends called it witch craft back in the day, but it was quantum science. Either way, it was ‘change in accordance with will’- Alistair Crowley got that much right, at least.

And all alone on her big robot-tended farm, Marlene starts thinking about all the things she willed, or at least all the things she feared. About an abortion doctor bleeding out on the floor of her clinic and touching the mind of God, and getting power over time and space and matter.

And when Dr. Marlene decides to move, it’s to a city where a bunch of New Ager kids are about to build their own nation dedicated to being pro-choice, and they just all happen to volunteer at Dr. Marlene’s new clinic. The same clinic where an alien race with a race wide fertility issue, comes for care, and networks with the New Ager kids and starts trading tech.

And when the big war of the 21st century finally kicks off? What’s it over? Oil, or fusion or disputed islands between China and Japan? None of that. When the Big War kicks off, it’s about abortion. And the first shot is fired by a psychopath in the same clinic, on the same reservation in nowhere South Dakota, that Marlene almost died in. The same fake wood converted HUD-home that she never had the guts to go back and face.

There it is.

Marlene’s story.

The moral? That asshole back in 1992 should have fired five shots, not four, and maybe all this could have been avoided.”

-Dr. Marlene Barron, interview with Time Galactic, December 2103 issue, interview suppressed at the request of the Covenant internal security apparatus, PERSEUS, and remains unpublished

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