Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Double Trouble

Some of you may have noticed I am starting to use more images and links in my articles.  It (finally) occurred to me that the people - all four of you, apparently, :D - may be ignorant of certain things I am talking about and may like a bit more background.  If as a reader you can think of any way to improve on article formats I am willing to hear them.

And no, "stop writing articles" is not an option.

A commonly seen staple of fantasy and science fiction as well as comics is that of the Evil Twin.  The Evil Twin could be from a parallel universe, or (s)he may be a clone or the manifestation of the character’s psyche.  Whatever the origin, the Evil Twin can be a fun introduction to the campaign either as a short term adventure or as a long term nemesis for the players to deal with.

New Spock, now with 50% more awesome.
The most common Evil Twin that I have seen (and there may be a more common one, such as the Evil Twin seen on soap operas) is that of the inhabitant from another dimension, the most famous of which is the Mirror/Mirror (A bit of a side rant here; DS9 writers completely botched the mirror/mirror concept.  For a good interpretation, read Diane Duane's Dark Mirror) universe seen in Star Trek (and to me the source of the Beard of Evil trope).  In these cases the worlds are similar but the other side has a more evil/twisted slant to it, and the PCs’ counterparts are just plain bad.  The best comic book example of this is DC’s parallel Earth where the Syndicate rules.  It was most recently seen in Grant Morrison’s Earth Two and the DC animated movie Crisis on Two Earths.  The bad guys were Ultraman, Owlman (James Woods did the voice of Owl Man, William Baldwin was Batman.  I am shocked Batman did not get his ass kicked within the first ten seconds of their meeting.), Superwoman, Power Ring, and Johnny Quick.  They had similar power sets to the principle DC heroes but their motivations were polar opposites.  There could be several ways to use this plot device.   Perhaps the PCs wind up on this alternate world and are mistaken for the bad guys?  Or their counterparts come to the good guys’ world in search of something.  There are many ways to go with adventures like this; do they have to pretend to be their alternate selves?  Are they hunted down by the authorities in a case of mistaken identity?  If their counterparts wind up on their world is it the right thing to do to send them back or would they be doing the other dimension a favor by incarcerating them on their own world?  Perhaps like the Earth 2/Crisis story someone from this other world is asking for the heroes' help.  Of course an original slant of some sort is highly recommended to avoid outright copying.

Speaking of original slants, what if the other world was the good one and the one the heroes inhabited seemed to be evil in comparison?  For example, in my Vindicators game there is a character named Vortex who has a history of infidelity.  What if his counterpart is still married to his first wife and had always been faithful?  Doctor Kinkaid devotes as much time to adventuring as she does trying to find a cure for a rare disease she and others are victims of, but perhaps her opposite number is a dedicated doctor?  Wolf is a former police officer and private detective who is a werewolf, but his foil refuses to allow the beast out?  Finally, The Box is an agent of Chaos, his twin could be an agent of Order.  Both fight for good but the former is much more fun, the latter incredibly uptight.  These characters could see the PCs not as heroes but as loose cannon vigilantes who lead immoral lives, and hence need to be reeled in, defeated.

Evil Twins from other dimensions do not necessarily have to be opposite or Evil, but their nature may be radically different.  Perhaps your heroes are from a sci-fi world and their counterparts are fantasy based?  Perhaps they hail from a Wild West world, or Noir world where men are hard boiled and dames can’t be trusted.  There is a Steam Trek game out there, perhaps your PCs’ starship winds up breaching a barrier and finds itself in a dimension where the laws of physics allow for such vessels to ply space?

Could be worse: Liefeld could have designed the costume
Setting aside dimensional travel and more fantastic plot elements, another aspect of Evil Twins is that of the clone or opposite number.  Spider Man is infamous for the clone concept, with him having at least two running around: Scarlet Spider, Kaine (because mis-spelling words is kewl) and...uh...Spidercide.  Wow, I had no idea that character existed before writing this article.  I would have been so much happier in my ignorance.  The former was a hero, the latter a scarred vigilante, the third...evidence of creative bankruptcy.  In both the former cases existed characters who felt out of place because they were copies, “inferior” to the original.  I have no idea what Spidercide was feeling.  Awkward, maybe, because of his stupid name. In Star Trek Nemesis, you had Shizon, a clone of Captain Picard who viewed his original with hatred because he had been created to replace Picard but was ultimately discarded when his usefulness was at an end.  Superman has Superboy, who is a hero (and yes, I know Connor also has Luthor’s DNA in him), but there is also TheEradicator and the Cyborg Superman.  In Lois McMaster Bujold's (warning: Spoiler heavy link ahead! I give this notice because this is one of my all time favorite series and do not want to ruin it for anyone interested in reading it.  You have been warned!) Miles Vorkosigan series the idea of the cloned replacement is touched upon (Years before Nemesis hit theatres, by the way.  And if you have not read the series I highly recommend it.). In The Vindicators Kinkaid has a clone that was ultimately created to replace her in a world-spanning plot to assassinate key heroes (I mentioned in an earlier post how this plotline resembled Bendis’ Secret Invasion plot, but I came up with it some five years earlier.  I have yet to see royalties).  What many of these examples have in common is, much like counterparts from other dimensions clones do not have to be evil but could be misguided, or even ultimately allies.

Going to the less fantastic route, in the Batman comics there was a character called The Wrath whose origins paralleled Batman’s own.  In Bruce Wayne’s case his parents were killed by a criminal, in The Wrath’s it was a police officer who shot his.  Chris at the Super Blog pointed out Bane in many ways is an even better counterpoint to Batman than the Wrath is.  So perhaps your players have evil opposites, characters who are similar in some ways but so radically opposite in world view and motives they are bound to be the PCs' nemeses. In these cases the counterpart is much more likely to be evil or selfish and hence naturally the antagonist.  In the early days of my Vindicators game there was a PC called Paragon, I created a character with a similar origin called Paradigm who was supposed to be his opposite number and see Paragon as a rival, a challenge.  Sadly Paragon died and Paradigm has over the years largely collected literary dust.

In the end, Evil Twins can be a lot of fun for players and GMs alike, so if you are stuck for ideas regarding a campaign or one shot adventure, or you wish to create a new antagonist to trip up the heroes, stroke you goatee, grin wickedly and get to plotting...

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