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#13424053 Sep 03, 2017 at 11:34 PM · Edited 10 months ago
1245 Posts
The two comic-book villain organizations in the title of this thread have been rather prominently featured in other entertainment media over recent years. DC's League of Assassins has been a major element of the CW television series based on those comics for several seasons. More recently, Marvel's Hand has figured heavily in Netflix's Defenders-related series. Because of that exposure, it occurred to me that some CO players might be interested in using a group similar to those as background for their PCs, as either their origin and possibly ongoing hunter, or as a nemesis-like recurring foe.

While you could certainly create your own custom organization to fill that role, there are a couple of groups already in the official setting which have strong similarities to the League and the Hand. Each one has distinctive qualities which might make one or the other more suitable to your purpose.

I should mention that both of these Champions groups are part of larger organizations. It would certainly fit with their style to assume they would want to deal on their own with a traitor, or someone having thwarted or specifically targeting them, as a point of honor; but if a PC hero eventually became a serious threat to them, one would expect their parent orgs to step in. However, that could be taken as an appropriate raising of the challenge to a CO PC as they level up with experience.

The Takara-Shinja are an order of martial-arts warrior-assassins worshiping what they call "the Great Snake," arising in Japan around the Tenth Century. Persecuted by lawful authorities, they survived in secret until the 1960s, when they offered their unconditional service to VIPER as the most potent incarnation of the Great Snake in the modern world.

The Takara-Shinja are rigorously trained from childhood in the arts of stealth, assassination, and various traditional martial-arts weapons, like most depictions of comic-book ninjas. They practice a distinctive martial art called Hebijutsu ("Way of the Snake"), with some resemblance to snake-style kung fu.

There are around two dozen Takara-Shinja agents active in the world today. Their headquarters is in Kyoto, Japan, with cells in Tokyo, Hong Kong, San Francisco and Vancouver; although they may be sent wherever in the world VIPER needs them. The five most skilled agents form an elite unit, Shehei no Habu. Retired masters train the next generation, as well as the bodyguards of VIPER's Supreme Serpent, and even the Serpent himself.

The Takara-Shinja are described in VIPER: Coils Of The Serpent pp. 64-65, although there isn't much more detail given than what's above, aside from Hero System game stats.

The Sekihara Clan appears to be a particularly clever and ruthless, but otherwise fairly typical Japanese yakuza organized-crime "family," with interests in the criminal world beyond Japan; although it's atypical in its use of ninjas as assassins and enforcers. Two other more important details set it apart; the Sekihara secretly serve the Cult of the Red Banner, fanatically worshiping Doragon Kingu (the "Dragon King"); and their ninjas are trained not only in traditional skills, but also in mystic disciplines giving them the equivalent of super powers, including the ability to control men's minds, to enhance their physical attributes, even to change their bodies into intangible mist.

The Sekihara have at most half a dozen fully-trained ninjas at their disposal at any one time; but may have others who have not yet completed their training and don't possess the full range of mystic powers. In fact, one such trainee decided he would rather serve his own interests than those of the Red Banner, and fled the Sekihara Clan to become an independent mercenary. Today he's a member of the supervillain team, the Brain Trust, under the code name, "Black Mist."

Martial Enemies Vol. 2: The Cult Of The Red Banner is a PDF book breaking down the structure and membership of the Cult, including the Sekihara Clan. Black Mist is written up as part of the Brain Trust entry in Champions Villains Vol. 2: Villain Teams.

Feel free to ask for further clarifications.
#13432175 Sep 09, 2017 at 09:02 AM
153 Posts
The Takara-Shinga sound particularly interesting for me-as far as how you think they would deal with a traitor, what are some ways that a individual could separate from the group and reform? And just how well trained are they?
#13432238 Sep 09, 2017 at 09:56 AM
1245 Posts
VIPER: Coils Of The Serpent p. 65 calls the Takara-Shinja "supremely skilled warriors." "Trained from birth to become 'the ultimate warriors,' culled by an education process crueler and more ruthless than anything practiced in the West, the Takara-Shinja boast that they know neither fear nor hatred, only purpose." Game-stat wise, even a basic T-S is at the level of Special Forces-plus, and could match a low-level superhero with the advantage of preparation and surprise.

Given how good the T-S are at getting into and out of places, keeping one in the group if he decides to leave would be the trick. I can offer you some of the rationales I like to use for a PC hero who escapes a villainous group he belonged to: being confronted with the true depth of the group's evil, e.g. a particularly cruel and horrible experiment performed on innocents; having been egregiously tricked, betrayed, or abandoned by the group in the name of "the greater good" or to "cut their losses"; falling in love with someone who wants him to change (for added motivation and drama, the loved one may die due to the group's actions, accidentally, or deliberately as a security risk).
#13432578 Sep 09, 2017 at 03:05 PM
153 Posts
#13432238 Lord Liaden wrote:

VIPER: Coils Of The Serpent p. 65 calls the Takara-Shinja "supremely skilled warriors." "Trained from birth to become 'the ultimate warriors,' culled by an education process crueler and more ruthless than anything practiced in the West, the Takara-Shinja boast that they know neither fear nor hatred, only purpose." Game-stat wise, even a basic T-S is at the level of Special Forces-plus, and could match a low-level superhero with the advantage of preparation and surprise.

Given how good the T-S are at getting into and out of places, keeping one in the group if he decides to leave would be the trick. I can offer you some of the rationales I like to use for a PC hero who escapes a villainous group he belonged to: being confronted with the true depth of the group's evil, e.g. a particularly cruel and horrible experiment performed on innocents; having been egregiously tricked, betrayed, or abandoned by the group in the name of "the greater good" or to "cut their losses"; falling in love with someone who wants him to change (for added motivation and drama, the loved one may die due to the group's actions, accidentally, or deliberately as a security risk).



I see. In terms of reference I feel like a Defenders era Elektra would be the equivalent of a T-S ninja-though she'd probably belong to the Sekihara clan as a Hand analogue with the mystic element.

Anyway, I kinda want to go with a former ninja on the path of redemption, or a teen in the midst of training who was recuse during a hero's operation of some sort. Once they're out, what are ways they could be set on the right path so to speak? Or how would you handle a T-S character of yours becoming a hero?
#13432924 Sep 09, 2017 at 10:02 PM · Edited 10 months ago
1245 Posts
Well, the implication of the Takara-Shinja's history is that their order is the only "family" they have, so leaving it would mean truly being on your own. It would be good if your character had encountered someone, probably on a mission, that he or she respected, to turn to as a mentor and/or friend, even a role model.

If you want to base your character in Millennium City, I would suggest Steve Chase, aka the martial-arts superhero Nightwind, and his mentor Zhu Hsiao, who runs a kwoon (martial art training hall) at which Chase also teaches. Zhu was one of Chase's instructors at the legendary Yengtao Temple. It's probably a bit cliche, but IMO it's the smoothest available bridge for a T-S to start a new life in MC. (Nightwind's background and history are laid out in the Millennium City source book.)
#13433989 Sep 10, 2017 at 02:21 PM
153 Posts
#13432924 Lord Liaden wrote:

Well, the implication of the Takara-Shinja's history is that their order is the only "family" they have, so leaving it would mean truly being on your own. It would be good if your character had encountered someone, probably on a mission, that he or she respected, to turn to as a mentor and/or friend, even a role model.

If you want to base your character in Millennium City, I would suggest Steve Chase, aka the martial-arts superhero Nightwind, and his mentor Zhu Hsiao, who runs a kwoon (martial art training hall) at which Chase also teaches. Zhu was one of Chase's instructors at the legendary Yengtao Temple. It's probably a bit cliche, but IMO it's the smoothest available bridge for a T-S to start a new life in MC. (Nightwind's background and history are laid out in the Millennium City source book.)



I like the sound of that. It provides a place in which he could further train or feel accepted and maybe remain hidden from the Tamara Shinga in the meantime. Wasn't Nightwind a member of the Champions at one point?
#13434021 Sep 10, 2017 at 02:49 PM
45 Posts
#13433989 Vesta~ wrote:

#13432924 Lord Liaden wrote:

Well, the implication of the Takara-Shinja's history is that their order is the only "family" they have, so leaving it would mean truly being on your own. It would be good if your character had encountered someone, probably on a mission, that he or she respected, to turn to as a mentor and/or friend, even a role model.

If you want to base your character in Millennium City, I would suggest Steve Chase, aka the martial-arts superhero Nightwind, and his mentor Zhu Hsiao, who runs a kwoon (martial art training hall) at which Chase also teaches. Zhu was one of Chase's instructors at the legendary Yengtao Temple. It's probably a bit cliche, but IMO it's the smoothest available bridge for a T-S to start a new life in MC. (Nightwind's background and history are laid out in the Millennium City source book.)



I like the sound of that. It provides a place in which he could further train or feel accepted and maybe remain hidden from the Tamara Shinga in the meantime. Wasn't Nightwind a member of the Champions at one point?

You're probably thinking of Nighthawk, the Batman-esque detective hero who has that peiodical event in-game. In the book "New Around the World" (or something like that) Nightwind is written as having joined as a semi-replacement who finalized his place on the team by punching Mechanon from the inside out.
#13434151 Sep 10, 2017 at 05:08 PM · Edited 8 months ago
1245 Posts
You're both right. 😌 Champions Universe: News Of The World p. 11 did state that Nightwind was inducted as a full member of the Champions, along with Kinetik, after Nighthawk left the Champions to form his own "Project Snakecharmer" anti-VIPER team. The version of the team that Cryptic Studios put forth doesn't currently include Nightwind, but he is listed as one of the team's auxiliary members on p. 89 of Champions Universe.
#13434153 Sep 10, 2017 at 05:12 PM
1245 Posts
#13433989 Vesta~ wrote:

#13432924 Lord Liaden wrote:

Well, the implication of the Takara-Shinja's history is that their order is the only "family" they have, so leaving it would mean truly being on your own. It would be good if your character had encountered someone, probably on a mission, that he or she respected, to turn to as a mentor and/or friend, even a role model.

If you want to base your character in Millennium City, I would suggest Steve Chase, aka the martial-arts superhero Nightwind, and his mentor Zhu Hsiao, who runs a kwoon (martial art training hall) at which Chase also teaches. Zhu was one of Chase's instructors at the legendary Yengtao Temple. It's probably a bit cliche, but IMO it's the smoothest available bridge for a T-S to start a new life in MC. (Nightwind's background and history are laid out in the Millennium City source book.)



I like the sound of that. It provides a place in which he could further train or feel accepted and maybe remain hidden from the Tamara Shinga in the meantime. Wasn't Nightwind a member of the Champions at one point?


I'm glad that works for you. But IMHO at this point you pretty much have to name your character, "Tamara Shinga." 😝
#13435007 Sep 11, 2017 at 08:22 AM
153 Posts
Speaking of names, are there any particular naming conventions used by the creators of the Sekihara Clan or the Takara-Shinga or the more eastern mystic side of the Champions Universe? I feel as if the character should have a name somewhat related to a snake, or maybe not?
#13435138 Sep 11, 2017 at 09:57 AM · Edited 9 months ago
1245 Posts
Well, if you mean a code-name for a character from those backgrounds, most of the official characters favor something thematic and symbolic in their culture's native language, which also sounds good translated to English. 😉

In the case of the Takara-Shinja (which according to Google Translate means "Treasure-Believer"), their more formal name for themselves is Shinja no Hebi, or "Believers of the Snake." Their headquarters in Kyoto is called Mayonaka no Shinden, which V:COTS translates as "Temple of Midnight," although the word order is reversed for some reason. Their martial art is Hebijutsu, "Way of the Snake," and practitioners of it are called Hebijutsuka, a common convention for Japanese martial artists. The five elite Takara-Shinja are known as Shehei no Habu; Google Translate renders "habu" as "hub," but I couldn't find "shehei" in any online dictionary.

The only named Sekihara ninja is the traitor Black Mist, who obviously took his name from his mystic power to change his body to intangible mist. Other notable Champions Asian martial artists have names that translate to English as "Green Dragon," "Spirit Fist," "Jade Phoenix," and "Iron Whirlwind."
#13435853 Sep 11, 2017 at 09:41 PM
153 Posts
#13435138 Lord Liaden wrote:

Well, if you mean a code-name for a character from those backgrounds, most of the official characters favor something thematic and symbolic in their culture's native language, which also sounds good translated to English. 😉

In the case of the Takara-Shinja (which according to Google Translate means "Treasure-Believer"), their more formal name for themselves is Shinja no Hebi, or "Believers of the Snake." Their headquarters in Kyoto is called Mayonaka no Shinden, which V:COTS translates as "Temple of Midnight," although the word order is reversed for some reason. Their martial art is Hebijutsu, "Way of the Snake," and practitioners of it are called Hebijutsuka, a common convention for Japanese martial artists. The five elite Takara-Shinja are known as Shehei no Habu; Google Translate renders "habu" as "hub," but I couldn't find "shehei" in any online dictionary.

The only named Sekihara ninja is the traitor Black Mist, who obviously took his name from his mystic power to change his body to intangible mist. Other notable Champions Asian martial artists have names that translate to English as "Green Dragon," "Spirit Fist," "Jade Phoenix," and "Iron Whirlwind."



I see. Regarding Black Mist and his abilities, are all T-S ninjas mystically inclined? Or at least given their training are capable of supernatural abilities and such?

And noted-something with a snake would make sense though if he split from them he may not be fond of the creatures. Jade Serpent sounds nice but it seems a bit too evil personall~
#13435907 Sep 11, 2017 at 10:55 PM · Edited 9 months ago
1245 Posts
#13435853 Vesta~ wrote:


I see. Regarding Black Mist and his abilities, are all T-S ninjas mystically inclined? Or at least given their training are capable of supernatural abilities and such?



Just to make sure we're on the same page, we've been using "T-S" as shorthand for the Takara-Shinja. Black Mist was Sekihara clan. All Sekihara ninjas are trained in mystic disciplines yielding their remarkable supernatural abilities. Takara-Shinja mostly have high-level but otherwise mundane skills; although their training does result in extraordinary leaping ability, and immunity to any snake venom, which may have a mystical component. That said, if your character does hang around Nightwind and Zhu Hsiao he might eventually learn from them some of the unique techniques once taught at Yengtao Temple, which rival the powers of martial artists of legend, or some of the wilder Asian action movies.

#13435853 Vesta~ wrote:


And noted-something with a snake would make sense though if he split from them he may not be fond of the creatures. Jade Serpent sounds nice but it seems a bit too evil personall~



In that case, might I suggest a name with "Mongoose" in it? 🐹
#13448734 Sep 20, 2017 at 05:26 PM
1245 Posts
I've thought of another lore-based route to developing an organization like these for use in role playing, one that requires more agreement among players, but leaves more room for creative additions.

The Kokyurukai, known in the West as the "Black Dragon Society," claimed to trace its origins to the Seventh Century BC in Japan, but went through a long period of dormancy before being revived in the mid-nineteenth century. A mostly-secretive, mystically-oriented group, the Society gained public political support and influence in the early twentieth century, pushing Japanese nationalism and expansionism. They conducted espionage on behalf of the Japanese government around the world, using ninja shinobi and magic as well as more conventional methods.

The Society was traditionally led by a council of elders and advisors. The head of its secretive magical branch carried the title, "Iron Father." After the Walpurgisnacht Working of 1938, the sitting Iron Father's sorcery grew so powerful, he became the de facto leader of the Black Dragon Society. The Iron Father was one of Emperor Hirohito's closest advisors, and was given authority over most of Japan's superhuman assets through WW II.

The Iron Father refused to accept the surrender of Japan, and attempted to recreate a divine weapon, the Ame-no-nuboko, or "Heavenly Jeweled Spear," with which the kami supposedly created the world. A large assemblage of Allied superheroes defeated the gathered Black Dragon Society and destroyed the Spear. The Society was formally broken up by American occupation forces, and most of its mystically-oriented members vanished into the occult underworld.

The above is summarized from the new Golden Age Champions book. No official source dealing with the present-day Champions Universe mentions the Black Dragon Society. However, the Society has publicly disappeared before, only to return renewed. There's no reason it couldn't do so again. If used in a story for a game group, it can be as small or large as the plot requires. The precedent of creating the Heavenly Jeweled Spear could make for a plot of world-threatening proportions, if desired.
#13655535 Feb 14, 2018 at 01:50 PM
1245 Posts
The Chinese mercenary assassin named Xiu Kwan was told that he's the last to be trained in the arts of the lin kuei, the legendary Chinese counterpart to the ninja. (Yes, I know the provenance for the real-world existence of the lin kuei is probably apocryphal. On Champs Earth they were real.) 😜 Xiu Kwan has never met another lin kuei, but that doesn't mean there are no others. He'd also like to find a worthy Chinese student to pass his skills on to.

Xiu Kwan has great martial art and stealth prowess, and is a particular master of throwing weapons, able to turn almost any throwable object into a deadly projectile. He has also mastered a variety of mystic disciplines granting him extraordinary powers of body and mind.

Xiu Kwan is written up in a PDF mini-book, Martial Enemies Vol. 1.
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